Speakers Push Air

It’s Competition Time
November 30, 2011, 5:07 pm
Filed under: 2011 Top 25, Admin, Tune Of The Day | Tags: , ,


Yes, popkids, it’s the annual Speakers Push Air competition. Each December I post my Albums Of The Year chart (it’s a Top 25 this year- ironically because there’s too much good stuff to do a top 30 that doesn’t hurt my brain). It starts next week on Wednesday December 7th.

All you have to do is guess what album will be number one. One guess each, and whoever gets closest wins a disc full of the very best music of the year and whatever other mixes and stuff that will fit. Last year Pete Hart guessed the actual number one (Buried Behind The Barn by Slim Cessna’s Auto Club), but I think this year is going to be harder. Mainly because I don’t even know what it is myself yet. I’ll be posting a tune a day up to NYE.

Message me your guess via Twitter or Facebook or the comments box right here.

Need your entries by December 7th

Bring it on.

For reference, here’s last year’s top 25 rundown:


1              Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Buried Behind The Barn

2              Four Tet – There Is Love In You

3              Swans – My Father Will Guide Us

4              Los Campesinos – Romance Is Boring

5              Caitlin Rose – Own Side Now

6              Mogwai – Special Moves

7              Grinderman 2

8              Drive By Truckers – The Big To Do

9              Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy

10           Forest Swords – Dagger Paths

11           Frontier Ruckus – Nightmalls & Dead Falls

12           Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers – Agridustrial

13           Living Sisters – Love To Live

14           CW Stoneking – Jungle Blues

15           LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

16           Warpaint – The Fool

17           These New Puritans – Hidden

18           Zola Jesus – Stridulum 2

19           Sleigh Bells – Treats

20           Demdike Stare – Liberation Through Hearing

21           Charlie Parr & The Black Twig Pickers – Glory In The Meeting House

22           Salem–  King Night

23           Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi

24           Bill Callahan – Rough Travel For A Rare Thing

25           Dan Sartain Lives

Narc Magazine December 2011
November 30, 2011, 10:30 am
Filed under: Bands, Narc | Tags: , , , , ,

Okay, the new Narc is out, with my first published writing for many years. Here’s what I wrote.

Various Artists – New Heavy Sounds Vol 2 (New Heavy Sounds)

Daniel Higgs (Skull Defekts)

Compilations are almost invariably patchy as hell, but any album that manages to include the flat out fucked 80s hardcore of The Computers, the crushing drone of NYC’s mighty White Hills AND the manic, motorik No More Always (from Skull Defekt’s album of the year contender Peer Amid) is clearly onto something. As you’d expect from a label with an actual manifesto (you’ve gotta love labels with manifestos, right?) that includes lines like “We say destroy indie, destroy glamour and destroy your ears”, there’s not much messing around here. Riffs are to the fore, be they drone, metal, hardcore, stoner, even synth (the frankly batshit Tannkjott by Gum Takes Tooth). Angst and stroppiness and doom are turned up all the way and there’s not a ropey ballad in sight. It’s a shame there are no desert highways round here to barrel down listening to The Swords unapologetically 70s Southern Rock. Props also to the almost punkabilly Mother Destroyer and the galloping Black Moth, but there’s not really a bad track on here. If this super-rare compilation is supposed to testing the health of the multi-headed, multinational hardcore scene, everything seems to in rude (as fuck) health.

Tunng – This is Tunng… Live From The BBC (Full Time Hobby)


I’ve got a lot of time for Tunng (I think Bullets is one of the greatest singles of recent years), which is why it pains me to wonder quite what this album is for. It has a stopgap feel about it, which is a shame. It doesn’t feel ‘live’ in any significant way, nor for the most part does it have the qualities of a great radio session: showcasing new songs, reinventing old ones. It does have all the things I adore about Tunng: poignant lyrics, gorgeous harmonies, wonderful samples, brilliantly inventive music. But the odd acoustic take aside, nothing is really added, so I don’t know when I’d ever choose to play this rather than the albums. The exception is the excellent Tinariwen collaboration Tamatant Tilay, but that’s never been available before. Meanwhile, the Blue Pearl cover is fun but inessential. If you’ve never listened to Tunng, you really should and this would be a decent introduction; but personally I’ll just wait for the new album and hope they play up here soon. And maybe they’ll see fit to recording a whole album with Tinariwen. Now that would be essential.

The Bevis Frond – The Leaving Of London (Woronzow)

Nick "Bevis Frond" Saloman

The cult artist’s cult artist; the acidhead’s acidhead; Nick Saloman has been making music for 40 years now, and he’s back after 8 years of silence. Nothing has really changed, which if you’re a fan is no bad thing: he’s still making acid rock which manages to actually rock. Guitar solos dominate, but as always Saloman manages not to sound indulgent – there are strong songs throughout and he’s still as much Husker Du as he is Hawkwind. Opener and highlight Johnny Kwango shows why he’s as beloved of bands like Dinosaur Jr as he is the psych-rock crowd where he’s most recognised, especially in the States. His voice has always been a little thin and it can be wearing over 18 tracks, but his vulnerable Walthamstow twang makes some of the more jaded or melancholy songs more affecting. There are quite a few of those, especially lyrically, and you get a sense his hiatus hasn’t been a particularly happy one. As with any Bevis Frond album, intricate folk songs and piano ballads (True North is particularly lovely) slot in between the freakouts to good effect. The Leaving Of London may not be Saloman’s best, but it’s a solid return.

Laura Gibson La Grande (City Slang)

Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson‘s last album Beast Of Seasons was a lovely, delicate affair that finally saw her getting significant interest outside the Portland, Oregon music scene in which she plays a significant part. La Grande doesn’t exactly see her skatepunk side get an outing but from the filmic, Calexico-style opening title track onwards, it’s clear that this album is more varied and innovative, using some fantastic arrangements (I swear I heard an oboe) and engaging production touches as it moves between sweet, fairly straight trad country, haunting torch songs and (comparatively) uptempo material. Slow, melancholy, slightly eerie numbers do still dominate: if you imagine Patsy Cline playing in a haunted 50s ballroom you’ll get the general vibe. Of course, how much you like the album depends on how you feel about Gibson’s voice: there’s a childlike quality that vaguely recalls Joanna Newsom, even a little early Kate Bush. Gibson’s is not a strong voice but it’s a lovely one. It’s a great time to be a fan of female country/folk artists, and on the evidence of La Grande, Gibson deserves to be ranked alongside the likes of Laura Viers, Maggie Bjorklund, Abigail Washburn and the rest.

Ones To Watch – Laura Gibson

Laura Gibson

After a trio of albums on Hush, Laura Gibson’s excellent new release La Grange arrives in the new year on City Slang, which seems a very good fit. After years playing the fertile indie / folky scene in Portland, Oregon (alongside The Decemberists et al), Gibson started to get wider notice with 2009’s lovely, understated Beast Of Seasons album. Since then, as well as touring constantly and turning a vintage trailer into a studio, she self-produced and played almost everything on La Grange, while members of Calexico, The Decemberists and The Dodos guest. Consequently, La Grande is a stronger and more innovative album than previously, touching on country, folk, torch songs, even conjuring up a Calexico-esque jazz / soundtrack feel in places. The closest comparison would be with Maggie Bjorklund (another Calexico collaborator) but Gibson is doing it her way and deserves to be heard.


Ones To Watch – Laura J Martin

Laura J Martin

Anything on Static Caravan is worth your time, and this definitely the case with Martin, who sees her debut album released by the label in January. Even for the flute-averse like myself, Martin is something pretty special. Folk in only the very loosest sense, there are hints of hip hop, soundtracks and more amid the more traditional elements . Building tracks from flutes and mandolins on the one hand but loop stations and programmed beats on the other, she manages to invoke everyone from Psapp to Kate Bush to Tunng but still sound entirely original. With a list of acclaimed sessions, support slots and collaborations (in particular as part of Jonny with Euros Childs and Norman Blake) already in the bag, it looks likely that 2012 will see her make quite an impact. And the cover of Tease Me on the album is a gem!


No print Narc next month, but I am reviewing gigs by Hot Snakes with The Computers and B>E>A>K> for the website.

all content from Narc Magazine

Read: When The Killing’s Done
November 29, 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Bookshelf, Reading | Tags: , ,


TC Boyle has written one great book – Riven Rock – and a fair few very decent ones (Drop City and The Road To Welville especially). Even his weaker books have been interesting or fun or worth the time, one way or another. Peripatetically jumping between genres and eras and styles, he’s always been my version of an airport thriller writer, well written narrative driven novels with nothing too challenging.

But oh my, When The Killing’s Done is awful. Canal Dreams awful (I clearly remember getting nearer and nearer to the end of that slight but appalling book thinking “but this is an Iain Banks book so any minute now there’ll be a clever twist or something bizarre and wonderful which justifies this sub-Alistair MacLean toss…” Of course, it never happened).

WTKD is about a conflict between environmental policy and animal rights embodied in a government scientist and an activist and fought over some islands off the coast of Santa Barbera. A pretty dry topic but if anyone can pull it off, Boyle can. Except he can’t.

His scientist is a neurotic dullard, his activist a nasty, angry, pretty much racist fucknut. The plot is both stupid and, especially in the latter half, dull as hell. The narrative depends on a series of totally predictable maritime mishaps to move along. Nothing happens, very slowly. Everybody’s a poorly characterised arsehole and I want my time, and my money, back.

Coffee & Separatism & Anti-Litter Campaigning
November 27, 2011, 10:47 am
Filed under: Photos | Tags: , , ,


Buy Your Baloney
November 24, 2011, 6:38 pm
Filed under: Art, Miscellaneous | Tags: , ,

My mate and all-round art maverick Mark Stafford is in a bit of a fix, couch surfing keeping wolves from the door he doesn’t have. As a consequence, he’s selling lots of his art, including stuff he’d rather not sell, I imagine.

So take a look at his site – http://www.hocus-baloney.com – and see what you fancy. Most of it is for sale, even if it’s not listed as such. Then make the guy an offer. Go on, be a mensch.

Still Going Up
November 24, 2011, 10:40 am
Filed under: Miscellaneous, Videos | Tags: , ,

Sleazy P, passed a year ago today.

November 22, 2011, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous, MP3 | Tags: , ,

A very sizeable part of my musical awareness started from the kind of NME tapes archived almost in their entirety here.

Back In Black (And White)
November 22, 2011, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Miscellaneous, Narc | Tags: , ,

I haven’t been a proper published writer for a while, since my music journalism days back in the 90s, it’s all been blogs and such since then. But I’ve started doing some writing for Narc, one of the ace free mags covering the music scene in the North-East. Early days, but I’ve already reviewed some great albums and written a couple of “ones to watch” style pieces. Once they’re in print, I can post them up here too…

Read: The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex
November 22, 2011, 1:51 am
Filed under: Bookshelf, Reading | Tags: , ,


Kermode is a dude. Good taste, endearingly curmudgeonly and bloody minded, great hair, decent band. The Christianity irks, as it does with anyone who I think is too smart for that sort of nonsense (sorry if that sounds arrogant, but c’mon…) but he doesn’t go on about it much.

I really enjoyed his first book: funny, smart, honest, interesting and a little bit obsessive in all the right ways. This new one is a bit of a mixed bag and a frustrating read as a result. There are almost two books here: one is a kind of anecdotal ramble similar to the last; the other an insightful, impassioned, cogent and fascinating look at the state of cinema.

Maybe the publisher impressed on him the need to keep it light, maybe it was his own decision, but too often a carefully constructed argument digresses into an anecdote which might well be amusing but doesn’t advance the argument much. Perhaps he was wary of producing something a little too specialist and ‘Sight & Sound’ but if that’s the case then I think, ironically given some of the book’s themes , he’s underestimated his likely audience.

That said, I learned a lot about the economics of movies, the projectionist’s art, ratios, subtitles and suchlike without ever getting bored and often whilst being greatly entertained. I love the fact that he doesn’t see populism and quality as natural enemies (in theory at least).

I just wish Kermode had trusted his readers to absorb his arguments straight, without the need of anecdotal softening. Oh, and I could have done without the lazy reference to the ‘politically correct community’ too – he’s too politically savvy to play that game.

Mark Kermode: The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex

Read: A Visit From The Goon Squad
November 18, 2011, 10:07 am
Filed under: Reading | Tags: , ,


A rare instance of me picking a book off the Waterstones slush pile (I think I’d glanced at some reviews, some time, but the title put me off). I’m glad I did: although it seems like an unlikely Pullitzer winner, it is a very good read.

In a way it’s the usual contemporary US novel: everyone’s lost or disappointed or broken or compromised. At times, it reads like a less zeitgeist-fixated Coupland, at others a less self-important Franzen. Crucially, it uses a complicated, multi-narrative structure very well without making a fuss about it. Narratives shift in unexpected ways – a minor character from one chapter takes the lead in another, sometimes in such a way that you’re not immediately sure who’s narrating for a while. But of course it’s all beautifully linked, all these lost souls recur again and again, without being *too* contrived.

This kind of book only works if all the characters engage, if all the narrative styles suit (Colum McCann’s terribly patchy Let The Great World Spin serves as an example of what happens when they don’t). Apart from what I thought was a very disappointing and pat final chapter, Egan totally pulls it off, even the seriously moving chapter consisting entirely of a child’s PowerPoint presentation.

It’s a strange book in a way, everything from the title to the various book jackets to the subject suggest an enjoyable but not particularly essential book, and yet it’s one of the most moving and stylistically inventive books I’ve read all year.

Jennifer Egan – A Visit From The Goon Squad