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Sunday, 25 December 2016

A year in music: eight random things

There's not a lot worse than a self-indulgent "Best albums of the year" list from a big-name music journalist who probably writes reviews of Wembley Arena concerts for the Daily Telegraph and appears on the Today programme to tell you how amazing Prince was and why David Bowie’s Blackstar is "hands down the best recording of 2016" … but hey, there are probably a few worse things. Including, some would say, my year in music eight random things list.

But hey, give it a chance. You haven't even read it yet! Anyway, here we go …

Bands I didn't see most times in 2016
The much-coveted Niluccio on noise anti-award goes equally to The Wharves and Monster Island, a pair of bands that in each case I made two attempts to see during the year and in each case (each of the four cases that is) completely failed to see. I won't bore you with the details, but these two bands can now be added to my extremely impressive list of Bands I Nearly Saw. I'm sure there'll be some other good artists I can add to the list during 2017.

Best on-stage comment
Not a vintage year for off-the-cuff humour or out-and-out oddness, but I did quite like The Hairs' singer's rambling anecdote about how, aged about eight, he once microwaved a meal complete with steel cutlery which caused some kind of explosion in the microwave. After regaling a stony-quiet Brooklyn audience with this riveting tale there was … profound silence. You could have heard a knife and fork drop. "Hey guys. Are we on the same wavelength?", he asked. Answer: apparently not.

Songs I played a lot
This completely meaningless category potentially comprises about 50 or 75 tunes, but as I write I can think of a handful of things I particularly enjoyed playing and replaying, so:

Dirtygirl's Never (emotion-packed grunge-pop)
Radical Boy's Milk Miracles (grunge again, though more up-tempo)
Special Request's Request The Style (superb contemporary drum and bass)
No Form's Side B (a juggernaut of drums, moaning and squealing feedback)
The Dynamic Four's Let's Make Love (beautiful roots reggae)
Sparkle Blood's Denim Convention (a dynamic shimmer of power-pop excellence)
Kode9 & The Spaceape's Nine Samurai (the majestic best track off the Memories Of The Future LP)
The Degs' Here They Come (a stomping garage rocker)
Dune Witch Trails' White Pickets (ominous downbeat weird rock sounds)

And … er, many others.

Shout out for classical
You wouldn't know it from perusing my blog, but one way or another I listen to quite a lot of classical music. This comes courtesy of my esteemed partner, who has a penchant for Mozart, Bach and all things early and baroque. During 2016 I must admit I went to only a handful of classical concerts, and though none of these made it into my extremely exclusive 20 Best Gigs Of 2016 list, this little bunch of classical experiences did include a storming concert at the OpĂ©ra Bastille in Paris (geddit?). My point (one that's quite commonly-asserted but maybe not that much followed through on): Mozart sits nicely alongside Magazine, just as Bach complements Beefheart. Ya dig me? In a nutshell: my year in music wouldn't have been as good without regular injections of classical stuff from 250 years ago.

Best comment from someone when I was DJing
Yes, I do dabble in a bit of DJing, strictly amateur stuff to fill the space between bands in a small pub venue, don't you know … Anyway, humble though it may be, I always like receiving small morsels of feedback on my carefully-chosen virtual crate of MP3s. It keeps you going. Makes you feel valued. And it certainly makes a change from hearing the next band due on stage tuning up all over your music. Anyway, the one I'll cherish from this year is a guy with a fascinated expression all over his face coming up to ask "Was that last tune you played by Yello? Sounded like them. Was it?" Er, no. That was in fact the first one of the evening I wasn't playing, I told him. It was from the compilation CD in the pub's CD machine that I switch over to at the end of the night. Great feedback though.

Venue I struggled most to find
This has to be Sound Savers in Hackney. For the second time in about 18 months I looked for this invisible venue, completely baffled over where the hell it is. Ducking down pitch-black alleyways at the back of car-repair places and African restaurants in deepest, baddest Homerton, I was … nonplussed. I did eventually find it this year (thanks to cigarette glows from the outdoor smokers), which is an improvement on 2015 when I looked for a full hour before giving up. It might be only five minutes' walk from where I actually live, but … er, I doubt I'll ever find it again.

Gigs my partner refused to go to
I recently referred to my partner's peerless ability to turn down the opportunity to accompany me on exciting nights out watching music. She's a past master. This year there weren't in fact many additions to the Great Refusal canon (it's usually understood she's not coming), but there was at least her non-attendance at the Sean Henry/Box Fan/Flea Bite gig at the Silent Barn in Brooklyn. This seemed to happen because I got us lost walking back to our hotel in the Bowery in Manhattan. There you go: one wrong turn and it's … a long subway ride out on your own for the evening.

Best second-hand record purchased
I only buy second-hand stuff these days (in fact it's all I’ve bought music-wise since er, 1987) and not much of it at that, but I did buy a four-CD Cleaners From Venus compilation (one disc missing) from Crocodisc in Paris. I still haven't listened to most of it but I do like Follow The Plough (track four from Living With Victoria Grey). Also, I bought (amongst other things) a 12" of Grandmaster & Melle Mel's amazing White Lines from Bleecker Street Records in New York. Seems the shop has since closed down. There you go! I should have spent less time fussing over the resident cat and er, splashed out rather more than my pathetic eight dollars at the counter.
You want what, mate?
The Velvet Underground & Nico? Nah, we ain't got it. 

And that's it. Eight random things. I should really come up with another two (ten sounds so much more considered) but I can't be bothered. That’s how I feel about music as well sometimes. I'm really keen on it most of the time. Then at others I can't even be bothered to turn on the hi-fi. Weird, eh?

But mostly I'm ridiculously enthused by it. Here’s to 2017 and lots more random music for random people. Now stop reading, step over to the music player and put it on shuffle mode …

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