Saturday, 27 December 2014

Albums I've Listened to This Year

Been a bit of a shit one really - I haven't discovered or learned much either about myself or life, and what I have learned hasn't actually been inspiring. For the sake of getting myself to write again, I present the new albums I've tried in 2014.

1000 Forms of Fear - Sia
I remember Sia doing a weird song sampling some classical music back when I was 15. Hearing 'Chandlier' and being struck by the weirdness of the video, I wondered what magnificent singer possessed that demented, otherworldly voice. To my surprise, it was Sia - and, having heard Titanium was also by her, I decided Sia was a pop guru. Turns out, she is. Her newest album is melodic, raw lyrically, and her voice ranges from a growl to a piercing shriek, but it never goes anywhere beyond pop. No screams of insanity here - only a managed, careful approach to her dissection of her mind's fragility. A voice like Rhianna's, the writer of many of Rhianna's songs - Sia is Rhianna, but because she isn't beautiful, she has never gained that level of fame, a point she is currently in the habit of brilliantly depicting, by never appearing in live performances, frustrating audiences who only get to see her back whilst dancers such as the girl in the 'Chandelier' video dance along to the track. The hypocrisy of most the audiences that demand to see her face are the same people who would point out her physical flaws, because that's the culture we live in. Women who perform are judged on criteria that men are not. Sia is a brilliant artist, a talented, imaginative and original voice, who has chosen to go down the private path in order to let the music speak for herself - this, like Kate Bush's career choices, endears her to me and gains not only my respect, but the respect of those who can look beyond the pettiness surrounding the world of modern pop culture.

Choice tracks: Chandelier, Free the Animal, Elastic Heart, Straight for the Knife

Er, so well, having pledged not to write much, seeing as it's nearly three in the morning, I'm now surprised at the eruption of words. Still... I'm not planning to write this for much longer than half an hour.

Entire Daniel Johnston Discography... I never bothered with it yet.

AM - Arctic Monkeys

I'm not even sure if this is part of last year's round up, so I'll keep it short... the singles are good but I'm starting to forget why I liked them in the first place. A band that functions like a pack of Jaffa Cakes: they seem for a minute to be the most awesome thing you've ever eaten, but once digested, you wonder why you somehow feel worse for it.

An Awesome Wave - Alt-J
Oh, this was a fabulous listen. Quirky as fuck, but catchy. I didn't realise this was first listened to this year - must have been quite early on. Probably my favourite discovery. Hard to say what it is specifically I enjoyed about it, but it seemed so new to listen to. Skewed beats, garbled melodies, harmonies. The primal feeling I get from this is a bunch of sounds smashed together in irregular weirdness, but emerging is a record as refreshing as an unfinished simile.

Choice tracks: Dissolve Me, Matilda, Tessellate

Axis: Bold as Love - Jimi Hendrix
Only listened to it once, but I really enjoyed what I heard. The point where Hendrix started becoming a storyteller, seeing strange visions and following his muse. Fortunately the music came with him - the sound developed into something more like jazz, but never straying into wank.

Choice track: Spanish Castle Magic

The Best of Focus - Hocus Pocus
Demented as fuck but somehow great to listen to. Never quite gave this group much attention, although they're pretty cool.

Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
Only listened to it once, but it was a memorable listen, driving through France and so I had nothing to do but listen. I don't like hip hop generally, but this was a decent listen. Shame how every hip hop album ends up going on too long and descending into tracks featuring other cunts which have nothing to do with the album.

Deathconsciousness - Have a Nice Life
Best album I've heard this year. Listened to it over summer, drinking my year away, forming a habit that seemed to go hand in hand with this album. The sound is beautiful and heavy, almost ambient but never comfortable. The final track is like being driven a hundred miles an hour down a motorway before crashing headlong into traffic coming the other way. If you turn it up and have headphones on, all your thoughts get erased for about two minutes straight when this onslaught of perfect noise hits.

Brian Eno Discography - all of it is pretty.

For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver
The sound of a guy who has gone into a shack in the winter to record songs. Can't ask for more than that. I prefer his second album - it's one of my favourite albums - but this album is clearly strong too.

I guess now you're starting to see the pattern emerging... I will give an album a listen and then stop caring enough to keep listening. I'm not bothered by music that much anymore, because it usually exists as a soundtrack to my life, and I've not got anything resembling a life now.

Coheed and Cambria Discography - I ought to give them a go I guess.

I Was Once (Oh) - Lacrymosa - Unique and pretty. A classically trained singer, this obscure as fuck album is really rather splendid. This song is the embodiment of cuteness.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-mvOvHuCwM

They Might be Giants Discography - only got it because of Ready Player One. What a tool I am.

Love is a Stream - Jefre Cantu-Deisisdjfosidjfodsjfdsf
Although I got bored of writing his name, this album's not boring at all. It's distorted and fluffy - like My Bloody Valentine if they'd more towards ambient and drone. Really cool listening. Recommended.

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane
A piece I'd been meaning to listen to for ages. I still don't get jazz, but I appreciate how he took a simple refrain and messed about with it. But yeah jazz is wank.

Mosquito - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Disappointing and basically a bit shit. The final death knell of a band who should have made it with their last album, but didn't, and this is what happens. They ought to call it a day now.

Rush Discography - See They Might be Giants above

The Lemon of Pink - The Books
Another one I'm sure I didn't listen to for the first time this year, but fuck it - needs writing down. Awesome album.

The Silicone Veil - Susanne Sundfor
By this stage if you're still reading you may think I'd given up the ghost. But actually, I'd forgotten about this album. I've probably listened to this album more than the others on this list combined. Amazing voice - I first heard her through the Oblivion soundtrack; she provided the title song. I wondered who possessed that piercing, ethereal voice, and sought out her work immediately. I wasn't disappointed. This album is lovely - her voice is so clear and pure. Comparing her to Sia is like comparing black to white. Both are great in their own different ways. Sundfor's strength is her ability to swoop and dip in her range, and sustain long notes for an incredible time. The songs are hard to imagine being sung by anyone else. In fact I love this album so much I need to link to a video of one of the songs that I find exquisite.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCIaj-oLi28

"YOU GAVE ME MY VERY FIRST gunnnnnnn"

Reflektor - Arcade Fire
Wanted it to be as good as Arcade Fire thought it was. Turns out it was nothing but a big pretentious pile of poo. I really like Afterlife, but for reasons I can't fathom. The title track promised so much, but the album was just... boring. Whatever big statements they thought they were making about the nature of postmodern living were lost in the uninspired songwriting. Not a memorable chorus to be found. The song about the guy who's a transsexual featured Andrew Garfield in the video. The video for Reflektor featured a gimmick whereby it uses a webcam image of you as part of the video. Ironic for a band who seem to rage against the bombardment of screens on the user, they use screens and video as part of their big, self-defeating statement. What is this band for, now? They used to be a big anthemic stadium band, providing the soundtrack to banal suburban living, elevating it to something more glorious than anyone had done before. Now, with this album, they've decided to try and tackle... what? Everything? Whatever it was, they failed, because they forgot they were nothing more than songwriters and pretending to be anything other than that would result inevitably in failure.

Plus, it had Jonathon fucking Ross in it.

Revolutionary Vol. 1 and 2 - Immortal Technique
For one boozy night, I listened to this fucker for about three hours straight. I lived alone, and during those two weeks of psychic terror, I tried new things, like a prisoner trying his best to face the world outside, and knowing he's failing to do so, decides to try and do whatever it took to get himself locked up again. My sins were smoking, drinking and listening to hip hop. This guy's admittedly a lyrical genius, but all I can think of looking back at that night is how pissed I must have been to listen to the guy for the whole evening. What a shit year it's been.

Tactical Neural Implant - Front Line Assembly
I really like this but I have no idea why. It tends to just be on in the background and I never truly listen, but I think maybe that's why it's good - it's industrial, but surprisingly chilled.

This is All Yours - Alt-J
Somewhat boring as fuck follow up to their previous great album. This sums up this year. Full of shitty re-releases on old themes, rust piling on top of rust.

Valerie and her Week of Wonders - Lubos Fiser
Fucked up but pretty soundtrack to a fucked up but pretty film. Well it's a film I don't need to watch it again, mostly because it was fucked up, but anyway. I can't even write words anymore.

XX - The XX
The opening track 'Intro' sounds immediately iconic. It's brooding, exciting, and cinematic. The kind of track that, however, tends to be used in more banal settings such as adverts for upcoming sports events on the BBC. But the track itself is sublime. The entire album is pretty much a diminishing set of returns on that original theme. But, as an overall sound, it's decent listening. The album is fairly old now, but it was influential on other bands, which is why now perhaps the XX album is to me quite unoriginal sounding, but knowing they were basically the first to invent that low key modern... blah blah blah shut the fuck up and go to sleep.



Monday, 8 December 2014

Boring a Black Hole

You know when you’re bored to the point where your boredom overreaches itself and ends up boring itself by default. Boredom devours everything around it. The irony of boredom is that boredom does not come from lack of stimulation. If anything, it comes from overstimulation. Overstimulation breeds contempt for time spent away from stimulation. Time spent away from stimulation leads one to return back to the nirvana of the self. But in this desert landscape, nobody wants the oasis to show us the meaningless of the entire enterprise. We’d rather die of stimulation-thirst. I was going somewhere with this but nevermind. Yes I meant to put those two words together - anyone with half a brain would understand why.
Boredom is when you are given a plate full of food but you are full, therefore leading one to feel apathy and a degree of hatred towards the person who insists you ought to enjoy what is on the plate. Boredom is a room full of toys given to a paraplegic. Boredom is a book given to a dyslexic. Boredom is education given to the man with all the answers. Boredom is the lonely heart in a room full of people. Boredom is the extrovert in a room full of readers. Boredom is a sportsman in a room full of dorks. Boredom is a child in a room full of dinner parties. Boredom is a frog in slowly boiling water. Boredom is a cat in any room, ever. Boredom is a pub full of drunken patrons. Boredom is a record player spinning without a record. Boredom is not knowing whether boredom has even been defined properly and not caring. Boredom is the moment language dies and all that’s left is to pick up the ruins.
Children moan about being bored. They’re not bored - they’re just depressed, but their minds are still too active for them to accept that. It is when they start thinking that their minds become passive. To think is to be passive, that’s for sure. Active people don’t think about things - they do them. These are the movers of the world’s wheels. Cogs thriving on their meaningful contribution. The bored do not contribute. They do not know if there is anything worth contributing to. They are aware that by not contributing, they are failing the system. They are aware that by not caring they are failing the system, they are failing themselves. They are aware that the criteria by which they feel they fail themselves may only be the result of indoctrination by the system. They are aware that thinking in such a way is antisocial and is possibly a cause as to their apparent rejection of, or by, the system (at this stage the two are interchangeable).
Boredom is depression wrapped in silver foil. Nobody who is bored has ever managed to feel happy. Boredom is the end of the line. There are no more ideas, only passive demands for satiation of the void. The void is where the thoughts should be, but in the bored mind, there is only tortured awareness of the lack of substance there. The void is without potential. It stares at itself and shakes. Boredom is the mind and body bowing its head and accepting defeat. And them blaming others for this because ultimately there wasn’t a fight to lose until the fight was lost.
Boredom is never done with - it is only ever staved off. The lonely are no more than clinically bored patients in the waiting room of life. One minute you’re in the doctor’s room, the next you’re being made to wait for your next appointment. And the next. And the next. We never leave the hospital because the disease is the cure. We need fake stimulation to stop our boredom which is in itself counterproductive to creating a self-made mind capable of putting up with itself for more than five minutes at a time; five minutes before sleep in which the fatigued mind, plagued all day by notions of productivity without thought - a self-defeating and paralytic paradox, surely - wakes itself up to find that upon this new alone time, there is nothing to greet its awakening but slumber. And then it lives out its life in a dream, forgotten and dismissed upon waking as no more than the mad visions of phantasmagoria. A word I have never used before, and will fail to spell properly I’m sure the next time I write it. You of course must be aware by now that there are no misspelled words, only corrected words. The God of Word looks upon all works now and nods its head, underlining the mistakes for the pathetic fallacies they are.
Not sure why I used that phrase. I think I’m bored. I haven’t been thinking at all whilst writing this, merely functioning. The aspect of the phrases come born to my fingers, filtered through the hazy subconscious gauze, bypassing most of my emotional glands, until at last they find their home in this dusty attic that I used to call my own: the blank page.
Words in the vast cosmic radius of the spacetime continuum seem so petty now, so meaningless. We have our artists who become gods, we have our writers, and musicians... but the universe doesn’t care. In the face of unfathomable space, none of these works are important. We are nothing more than the equivalent of a Sunday afternoon in the life of the universe.

In short: we have been, are, and will continue to be, boring.