Dec 31, 2010

The best movies of 2010: Jonathan King, Justin Bieber and Junior (Robert Downey)

My life is very much like Inception. Despite the many onion layers of reality that comprise the depths of my ever-expanding brain, all it really amounts to is one slow car crash.

And so the cinema is where I escape from the vagaries of being your favourite blogger. I descend into the dark (row D, centre) with my Justin Biebpipe book* and my lifesize cardboard cutout of Italian Racing Driver Jarno Trulli** to enter worlds unknown to me; the flicks are my safety place, my padded celluloid.

This does not make me a cinema expert like, say, Claudia Winkleman*** or Peter Bradshaw****, and I should point out I have missed an awful lot of notable films this year including Shutter Island, Tron Legacy and Alice In Wonderland (I will see at least two of them in the next few days), but it does give me a right, I think, to foist upon you my top 30 favourite films of 2010.

Actually, it's a top 32 because I'm pretty sure a couple of these are technically oh-nines. The word 'favourite' is also a misnomer, because the ones at the bottom of the list are pretty crud. Think of this, then, as the Top Not-30 Favourite And Unfavourite Films Of Not-All-2010.

I think I'll start at the bottom of the barrel...

32 - Robin Hood

Never mind Men In Tights. I'd rather this have been Men In Tight Nooses, as Russell Crowe brought as much life to our national crook as a Clannad track. And what was going on with the mysterious Lord Of The Flies kids in the trees? Daylight Robinery.

31 - Shrek Forever After

Shrek cannot face up to the distance he has engendered between him and his family, so he is sent into an alternate reality. This is Inception for idiots.

30 - Nine

Daniel Day-Lewis plays a convincing Italian lothario, and Queen Judi of Dench flaps out her pair of lungs in an excellent musical performance. Shame then the songs are as compelling as being stuck inside a cement mixer with Kid Rock.

29 - The Other Guys

I read today that Will Ferrell is now the most unbankable actor in Hollywood. For every dollar he is paid, the KLF burn a million pounds, or something. Anyway, it's a buddy movie and it's quirky and it made me want to watch Anchorman again.

28 - I Love You Phillip Morris

This utterly unbelievable true story zips through the plot too quickly to really make me care, but it's still better than you'll think it is after I've described it as Brokeback Mountain meets Shawshank Redemption meets Liar Liar. No really.

27 - The Ghost

Yesterday, I ate a lovely ice cream sundae, but just before I finished eating it, I smothered it in steaming cat vomit. And today, I constructed a complicated house of cards, ensuring that the last card I placed was encased in five tonnes of petrified excrement. A solid thriller with an ending that I may, possibly, have issues with.

26 - Death At A Funeral

Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan walk into a bar. You already know the conversation they'd have. This film is like that all the way through. With added HILARIOUS COFFIN JAPERY.

25 - Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Junior.  Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Junior. And some other people. A truly spirited remake of a tired classic.

24 - Cemetery Junction

Gervais and Merchant reach for Shane Meadows' sentimentality and deliver one of the strongest British films of the year, although I think I only like it because I am old and crumbly like a well-squeezed cheese.

23 - The Road

I stood up at a film lecture thing earlier this year and derided The Road as like driving on a motorway in the rain. I was beaten up and left destitute on the side of the M6, and so I resorted to cannibalism to survive. Fact. Still, despite the lack of emotional pull, it's a strong adaptation of a cracking book.

22 - Four Lions

As a piece of art, as a piece of ART, this film is a devastating commentary on noughties society, as a piece of ART. But as a film, I expected more dark thrills from the man who brought us My Wrongs 8245-8249 and 117, Blue Jam and something about cake.

21 - Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans

I should really hate this. It's a cop film, it's Nicholas "Nic" Cage doing kerrrrazy, and it's an entirely unnecessary remake. But it's has been drizzled with Coen Brother magic, or at least, a passable impression of the Coens. Hence the lizards. Yes. Lizards.

20 - Hot Tub Time Machine

Oh screw you, this was good, I tell ya. Yes, I like Miranda and I like Not Going Out and I like Ronnie Corbett. I have cheesy taste in comedy. Worth it for the moment when the film's title is said to camera. I actually clapped in the cinema. Strangest cameo of the year too.

19 - Let Me In

The boy was a little less fragile, the girl was a little less strange, and the title was a little more palatable than "Låt Den Rätte Komma In". This was still a remake you could get your teeth into though, hur hur, and you'll fang yourself for watching it, hur hur.

18 - Up In The Air

Sixty-seventy-two-hundred times better than Come Fly With Me and twelvety-pi-squared times worse than Airplane, George Clooney walks a fine line between a smug git and a compelling shell of a man. A fine film: maybe one for a DVD watch somewhere over Newfoundland.

17 - The Social Network

Like.

What? You wanted more? *****

16 - Buried

A big budget, action-packed thriller played out inside a single box, this was a flawed but enjoyable edge-of-your-seat spark of genius. Think of the first time you saw Falling Down. Now bury Michael Douglas alive and play out a similar kind of film. There. That's Buried.

15 - Winter's Bone

A hilarious comedy in which a resident of the barren Ozark Mountains gets into all sorts of scrapes with a wayward father, weird neighbours and a zany caper involving a boat and a chainsaw. Best watched between Married With Children and Only Fools And Horses.

14 - Youth In Revolt (spoiler alert)

Michael Cera appears three times in this list, two of which were in Youth In Revolt. Kind of like Fight Cl-- wait, that's a spoiler. Try again. Kind of like Psyc-- wait, I've done it again. Kind of like... Being John Malkovich but with only two Malkovich-Malkoviches.

13 - Cyrus

So many comedies have me waiting until winter so I can wee the word "MEH" in the snow, but Cyrus' story of a jealous son delivered buckets of punchlines and pathos in equal measure. It's not only the surprise comedy hit of the year, it's a must-see for anyone with a home studio.

12 - Crazy Heart

So the guy with the fish lips did the wrestling thing, and now the guy with the White Russians does the country singer thing. And yes, he treats women like objects and yes, I've had a rough night and I hate country music. It may be played for Oscar, but it still pulls the rug from under most films in 2010.

11 - The Town

Ben Affleck churns out a slushy romance story whilst constantly bitching at the success of his peer Matt Damon. Wait a second, that's all wrong. This is a gritty heist movie from inside the raw heart of Boston. What have you done with the real Ben Affleck?!

10 - Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

CUT TO: Edgar Wright's snappy directing style is pushed to maximum effect here. CUT TO: It's the best reimagining of a comic book I've seen, although I'm not really a graphic novel reader. CUT TO: It's laugh after laugh, it's just a shame when the plot gets in the way. FADE TO BLACK.

9 - Ponyo On The Cliff

Every bit as visually thrilling as Avatar (my thoughts on James Cameron here), Ponyo was a mesmerising, watery animation that was as weird as it was a political commentary. Think of Andrew Marr dressed as a fish. That's nothing to do with this film. just think of Andrew Marr dressed as a fish. There. Nice, isn't it?

8 - A Single Man

A grieving man plans his death whilst surrounded by the most beautiful actors and the most beautiful film set and the most beautiful acting you have ever seen. You'd think Colin Firth would be grateful, but no, it's all me, me, me. Don't get arsey, Darcy.

7 - Precious

If I said this was a film starring Jonathan King and brought to you by Pat Robertson, you'd not be interested. If I said this was a film starring Westlife and brought to you by the cast of High School Musical, you'd ignore it. Good job then this brilliant film stars Mariah Carey and was brought to you by Oprah.

6 - A Prophet

Things I don't intend getting locked in a room with: showering prisoners; an advice-dispensing apparition; a deceased deer; a prison 'don'; warring religious types; and definitely, definitely not a prophet with a razor.

5 - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This film looks, sounds and smells great, and it produced the best heroin(e) of 2010 in the form of Lisbeth, the female with the mythical markings. I'm going to don my bike helmet and start hacking my computer immediately gh^(78WIO8--ggG2#p dammit, this is harder than it looks.

4 - Kick Ass

Look at the badger! This is a tremendously entertaining film that -- look at the badger! -- doesn't necessarily mean anything but -- look at the badger! -- packs so much punch per pound, I don't think I've been as easily entertained by anything else for a long time... ooo, look, a badger.

3 - Toy Story 3

A dog, a dinosaur, a donkey, a pig, two potatoes, a cowboy, a cowgirl and a Buzz Lightyear walk into an incinerator, and then... no, I'm not going to say. It's a scene that evoked tears and applause across the country and rightly turned the third Toy Story instalment into something much greater than its (warning, choking hazard, may contain small) parts.

2 - Inception

Jack from the Titanic dives into some fat orchestral chords and goes on a skiing trip to a dilapidated Venice whilst a girl who can't draw mazes folds up reality so she can fit it neatly inside a pocket inside a pocket inside a pocket. The end.

1 - Another Year

Mike Leigh and Ruth Sheen would be enough to get me watching this film (I'm a sucker for Leigh), but when you throw in Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton and THEN have the entire ripped heart of this masterpiece carried on the shoulders of Lesley Manville's tragi-comic turn, you have a meditation on ageing that nudges perfection. It looks exquisite, it twangs your funny bone as well as tickes your heart strings, and it has more to say than half the top ten put together. A true, deadpan, slightly-wrinkled British classic. (Read more here.)

Thank you for reading in 2010. I already have a good feeling about 2011: I'm gonna love it and hug it and pet it and call it George******.

* I got a Biebpipe book for my birthday. That's not really an excuse.
** I won Jarno from Ning Restaurant in Manchester, which also happens to be my favourite restaurant.
*** Is Winkleman any good? Seriously? I don't have a telly.
**** Pan's Labyrinth, Bradshaw once said, was "almost sort of late period M Night Shyamalan".
***** Social Network is not the golden egg the critics are saying it is, but still great. Read more on the Social Network here.
****** Wow, it's nearly two years since I've used an abominable snowman reference on my blog. You don't think you're reading anything original, do you? It repeats and repeats like the Beano, Iyaz's i-pod or your Christmas dinner. Happy new year!

Dec 30, 2010

Top ten best electronica albums of 2010: part four of four

This is part four. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part two and part three.
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.


1 - Mount Kimbie – Crooks And Lovers

Mount Kimbie have been a fundamental element of the journey of dubstep over the past few years, but while the purists were polishing their wobbly basslines and pressing thinly sliced beats, MK were busy widdling in the sink and toking on any old influence they could find.

2009's Maybes EP was their first big airhorn in the face of the music industry, all taut summer guitars, plunging beats and r'n'b vocals. The duo dipped from some people's attentions when their second EP Sketch On Glass was released, but by then they were shining lights in a scene that encompassed the likes of Martyn, Burial, Joy Orbison and Bibio.

And so it came to pass that Crooks And Lovers was one of the most anticipated albums of 2010, and I really don't think anyone quite knew what to expect. They were hailed as post-dubstep and their music spouted the language of ambience, house, glitch, post-rock, techno and hip hop.

The album opens with a gliding guitar mantra that quickly descends into the first real rhythm hit of Would Know, its slow wooden beats underpinning epic filter drops that spin your brain 720 degrees. A discordant three-chord theme adds sadness to a Hudson Mohawke-like jam for Before I Move Off, then we're moved into acid techno and minimal click-house territory - but not without being licked in the face by the fret-scraping guitar melancholia of Adriatic in the middle of it all.

Ode To Bear could be a Flying Lotus track, but before you start mentally noting comparisons, you're blasted by Field's proper rock guitar (played rather badly, it has to be said). Mayor is some kind of manic toytown rave stripped down to the barest of beats - then before you know it, it's over. Mount Kimbie have pissed in your post-dubstep sink and they're halfway down the road, their pockets bulging with most of the contents of your booze cupboard.

To understand why Mount Kimbie is my number one electronica album of 2010, you need a smidgen of context. For years now, I've been banging on about Warp Records this and Warp Records that, harking back to a time when phrases like "IDM" and "warehouse techno" meant something.

Meanwhile, the music scene changed around me. Some crusty danceheads got guitars out or started moving Beyonce to the front of their record collection, and the electronic world became a lot more eclectic. Someone somewhere invented "folktronica". This new freedom allowed the likes of Bibio to get away with pastoral, emotive real instruments disguised as proper techno, or the likes of Burial to wedge proper MOBO vocal slices into his work.

I fought against it. If I saw a guitarist, I would regularly break his or her fingers. If I heard an album with vocals, I'd chuck it in my Hasbro woodchipper. But then Clark (last year's best album) started using vocals, as did Bullion. Matthew Dear made guitars, like, totally lake superior, as did Battles. Crikes. Then there was the moment when Mount Kimbie's Maybes came out and the penny in my brain dropped with a pleasant clang.

The Mount Kimbie sound, all those clanks and thuds and strums you can hear on Crooks And Lovers, went on to define much of this year. With that album, Hotflush Recordings hit the stratosphere, already rocket-powered from the likes of Search And Destroy, Untold and Joy Orbison.

And most crucially of all, it laid the eggs that would hatch two words that look set to define 2011:

James Blake.

Blakey's CMYK is undoubtedly the tune of 2010: its flurry of mixed up vocals ("found her... red coat"), fast-step garage and bubbling atmospherics sounded like it either came from deep within the earth or from another galaxy altogether. What's annoying about James Blake is his failure to produce an album this year (it may well have featured in my top ten), but the anticipation of that record (February 2011!) has set musos, journos and fashionistas equally ablaze with excrement-- I mean, excitement.

James Blake would not exist without Mount Kimbie. Well. I don't mean literally. Kai and Dom from Mount Kimbie didn't give birth to James. Well... they may have done, but it's not mentioned on discogs.com. If you're reading, boys, you may want to clear this one up in the comments section.

And so, there we have Mount Kimbie's place in history, their moment defined, their ouvre, um, ouved. It's a sound that has weedled its way into the eardrums and quietly nags at 2011 to come up with something better. MK's rise to success has been rapid: two EPs and suddenly they're my album of the year - which, may I remind you, is much more vital and era-defining than any Mercury, Grammy or swimming certificate.

Thank you for joining me for my top ten albums of 2010. Buy Mount Kimbie's Crooks And Lovers from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly and stay chooned for my round-up of this year's best films, and then my spectacular uber-preview of 2011, which I will slam onto this blog just as that Auld Lang Syne hangover's kicking in.



This is part four. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part two and part three.
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

Dec 29, 2010

Top ten best electronica albums of 2010: part three of four

This is part three. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part two and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

4 - Four Tet – There Is Love In You

Kieren Hebdon's strongest album had 2010 skipping to the dancefloor while it was still in short trousers. It is probably the only album in my list that has nudged the top 40, a deserved success after he lit the Burial touchpaper with the Moth / Wolf Cub 12-inch last year. In the modern parlance of today's youth, this album is definitely double-rainbow.

I had been lazy writing off Four Tet as coffee table electronica for people too afraid of Venetian Snares. There Is Love In You is sardine-full of outstanding tracks (the fractured vocals of Angel Echoes, the soaring simplicity of Circling, the thundering energy of Plastic People), but it works best an emotional journey start to finish, especially when topped with heartbreaking Bibio-like finisher She Just Likes To Fight.

A ten-out-of-ten for Four Tet. Buy There Is Love In You from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.



3 - Luke Abbott – Holkham Drones

Is it really four years since Luke's stupendous 8-bit single b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b,b? Holkham Drones is Abbott's first album and appears to be named after a posh place in Norfolk. Even though it appears to be the Border Community label's only album release of 2010, it arrived on the electronica scene with less of a fanfare, more of an enthusiastic trumpet fart (check my own fartings here).

Holkham Drones needs to be rediscovered immediately. Taking its cue from basic frequency modulation, the cymbals hiss and the bass rings hollow and the whole thing appears as if it may fall over any second. But as the beat grabs you by the badgers, your mind is transported into a grey fluffy analogue world belonging to Boards Of Canada and Cluster (the band not the cereal). This meditation on ambience through repetitive beats is the greatest noise since early days of techno, or since I knocked on Timmy Mallett's door for a solid week because he owed me a fiver.

The best Abbott since, um, Diane Abbott. Buy Holkham Drones from Bleep or Boomkat.



2 - Gonjasufi – A Sufi And A Killer

A Sufi And A Killer sounds like Mark E Smith, Timothy Leary, Seasick Steve, George Clinton, Marc Bolan and Flying Lotus using their teeth, yellowed from chewing tobacco, to rip open time itself, then having a jolly good toke on apple tobacco in a shisha cafe. This is a debut album, don't forget. Despite its dizzying array of influences, this is as complete a sound as you're ever going to get.

"You came with weapons: I came with God," says Sumach, and you don't doubt him. The billion or so tracks on the album buzz with a shamanic intensity: the eastern impact of Kowboyz And Indians, the vintage jam of She Gone or the imposing beats underpinning his fragile vocals (an ancient Method Man?) on Ancestors. I don't know where he's coming from or where he's going to, but Sufi, so good. Sorry.

An incredible achievement for Warp and Gaslamp Killer and the rest. Buy Gonjasufi's Sufi And A Killer from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.



Not quite in the top ten (part three)

My top ten is chock full of artists who have embraced the 4/4 rhythm, something which I wouldn't have done a year ago. And so it's a shame to lose Lone, whose Emerald fantasy Tracks evoked the spirit of classic Detroit. Shame to lose Underworld's Barking too. Matthew Dear's Black City didn't dance its way into the top ten either.

The Chemical Brothers got back to techno basics on Further, but it wasn't enough, while One Life Stand from Hot Chip was quite good but, frankly, a bit annoying. iTAL tEK's detailed Midnight Colour was definitely in my top half of the long list, while Susumu Yokota's Kaleidoscope didn't see its way into the final reckoning.

Dan Le Sac, Teebs, The Orb and Kode 9 (he did a DJ Kicks) also didn't make the cut. I was disappointed with Skream's chart-baiting Outside The Box. He needs to start thinking outside the, um, yeah, anyway. Royksopp's Senior had early retirement in the reckoning for this list.

And finally, some artists were excluded because they were probably too guitar-y and not electronica enough,. They include Denis Jones' Red + Yellow = (you must see him live), the Klaxons' Surfing The Void (and yes it was a good album cover) and the electrifying Nerve Up from Lonelady.

This is part three. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part two and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

Dec 28, 2010

Top ten best electronica albums of 2010: part two of four

This is part two. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part three and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

7 - Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

There's something about the great nephew of John and Alice Coltrane that enables him to kidnap heavyweight vocalists with Guru-like ease (Erykah Badu, Thom Yorke, Outkast, Laura Darlington) and yet still beguile the casual listener with the strangest cacophony of polymathic twiddling whilst provoking bemused reviewers into penning juxtapositional metaphors of space travel and smokey 1970s jazz clubs. That and his beats are well phat.

So, among the laidback hip hop of Zodiac Shit, the shuffling funk of Dance Of The Pseudo and the swirling headnodding of MmmHmm, we have a multitude of influences: jazz, garage, hip hop, techno, classical, folktronica and Enrique Iglesias. Despite all of this, I can't help feeling Cosmogramma is an album none of us can quite understand yet and perhaps it should be enjoyed more some time in the distant future, maybe in a smokey jazz club in space.

FlyLo isn't just a comedy airline created by Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Buy Cosmogramma at Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.



6 - Autechre – Oversteps

The Wills and Kate of Manchester electronic music produced three records in 2010. 3 Telepathics Meh In-Sect Connection was a banana-themed collaboration by Sean from Autechre, Move Of Ten was technically an EP (although it's longer than the Flying Lotus album, above), while the release featured in my top ten, Oversteps, gave notoriety to Altered:Carbon who dressed their own LP as Autechre.

Listening to Oversteps is a bit like cuddling up to your favourite hedgehog: it's sharp and awkward, yet you're allured by the familiar scent. I don't get the detractors who write this off as difficult. known(1) has harpsichord, qplay is as delicate as my tummy after a night on the rohypnol, whilst see on see and Treale (oh NOW they use capital letters) are bonafide Autechre hits. Kind of. Warmer than Quaristice, this is music that spikes the bloodstream.

Buy Autechre's Oversteps at Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.



5 - Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise

Arriving on Rough Trade Records like a supercharged Sosumu Yokota, Pantha Du Prince produced eleven minimal techno masterpieces that were so fluid, so organic, they could only have been harvested as they were literally dripping from the trees. Minimal techno often bores me, so why on earth is this several leagues above places six to ten on my list?

Maybe it's the snarling acid on Behind The Stars, the heavenly rave chords of Satellite Snyper, or the clanks and bells and feedback and heavenly choirs of synthdom that eddy and whirl around crisp beats that couldn't beat more crisply even if accompanied by a Walkers advert starring Gary Lineker being thumped to a pulp by sixteen heavily-armed packets of Seabrook. I'm not sure if Black Noise can be topped, but there are four albums on my list that have done just that. Stay tuned.

Bring the Noise: buy Pantha Du Prince's album from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.



Not quite in the top ten (part two)

I'm pleased with my top ten, although excluding any amazing album is a bit like shepherding your ten favourite sheep into the pen then shotgunning the rest into blasted pulps of smoking mutton. Here are more lambs that have been silenced.

Gold Panda's glitchy Lucky Shiner (pictured) probably got bumped because a couple of artists in my top ten are doing similar things. Massive Attack's Heligoland probably got bumped because, although the album was an improvement, it still sounded like veterans keeping the life support going. Also on a mainstream tip, I never quite connected with LCD Soundsystem's swansong This Is Happening.

A notable omission from my top ten is Squarepusher's Schobaleader One project, but I couldn't separate how he could make some tracks on d'Demonstrator sound like Royksopp and then not expect to be compared to Royksopp. He's excluded because he sounds like Royksopp. There, I said it. Squarepusher sounds like Royksopp. Royksopp's funnier the more you say it.

Actress' Splazsh is an essential album for 2010, and I feel pained to exclude it. Oneohtrix Point Never received major acclaim for Returnal and again was a close call. And Starkey's Ear Drums And Black Holes, bringing ballads and grime to Planet Mu Records, also just missed the cut.

This is part two. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part one, part three and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

Dec 27, 2010

Top ten best electronica albums of 2010: part one of four

This is part one. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part two, part three and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

10 - Lorn – Nothing Else

Marcus 'Lorn' Ortega teased us with the track Until There Is No End on Fat City Records some time ago, a deeply moving slice of apocalypto-funk. Clark, the recipient of my Best Album Of 2010, then went on to master his debut album Nothing Else. You know it because every city in the UK has been plastered top to bottom with stickers promoting the record. In the process, the Brainfeeder sound (crunchy cut-paste J Dilla beats) was quickly knocked several days left of Tuesday with the label's first signing outside of Los Angeles.

It was also Brainfeeder's second album proper, and with Lorn quoting Milton all about the place, you knew it would be something special. Before now, I have praised his testosterone retro and made comparisons to Animal Farm and Bladerunner. The album sounds like Knight Rider having a breakdown: maybe it takes itself too seriously, but Nothing Else soaks you like tears and rain with a sound defined by no-one else but Lorn.

Embrace the synth melancholy. Buy Lorn's Nothing else from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.


9 - Venetian Snares - My So-Called Life

Like a naughty boy, Aaron Funk ventured away from his natural home at Planet Mu and set up Timesig Records for the (arguably) 22nd studio album from his interior decor / percussion-inspired moniker. Because it was recorded quickly - Snares sees this more of a diary entry than a year's work - My So-Called Life shifted the game somewhat. Well. Slightly. Its still a (detri)mentalist cavalcade of dirty junglism.

The quick recording process lightened the music by precisely nought-point-seven degrees: for example, pastoral string-picking gives way to a beautifully melodic 8bit 'n' bass on title track My So Called Life. But it's the vocal samples that are leaned on more heavily than usual here - and what horrible vocals. Grossly non-PC Welfare Wednesday contains a hilarious jibe at Planet Mu label boss Mike Paradinas, while Who Wants Cake? and Posers And Camera Phones say things that would make Jerry Sadowitz blush.

The most accessible and disgusting Venetian Snares album for a while. Buy it from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.


8 - Caribou – Swim

Caribou doesn't need any more praise heaped on his handsome locks. Resident Advisor has already pronounced Swim as the album of the year (please don't look at that list too much: mine is horribly and coincidentally similar). And Sun's dizzying refrain ("sun, sun, sun, sun...") loomed heavily over 2010.

I have an entirely personal reason for including Swim here. Opening track Odessa was playing in the bar in which I was getting drunk after my blog awards win, and it kind of became my soundtrack. That's not to downplay the rest of the LP though: crisp, driving house music, chiming hypnotica on Bowls and a nod towards indie pop on Kaili. But really, it's all about Odessa and it's all about the Sun. Sun. Sun. Sun. Dammit, there I go again.

Hunt yourself a Caribou: buy Swim from Bleep or Boomkat or Piccadilly.


Not quite in the top ten (part one)

I will not pretend my list - or indeed any element of my blog - is comprehensive. I also don't think this has been a classic year for electronica, nor that all of these artists are electronica. Crikes. This is like a minefield. Anyhoo, here are some of the albums that didn't pass muster.

I'm astonished at how commercial some of my top ten is this year, although Magnetic Man's eponymous debut album pushed the pop too far to be included, despite MAD and despite it being one of the most important electronic music collaborations of recent times. The same goes for Plastic Beach by the Gorillaz, although that was still a glorious album.

Daft Punk's Tron Legacy soundtrack came very close; maybe it would have helped if I'd bothered seeing the film. I found Darkstar's slow mosh-hopping North difficult to love, while Salem's King Knight didn't tug the earstrings enough for a top placing. Meanwhile, UNKLE bored me to sleep with Where Did The Night Fall.

I was gutted not to include two albums at the opposite end of the electronic sonic spectrum: Ikonika's gamer-baiting Contact Want Love Hate and Brian Eno / Jon Hopkins' Small Craft On A Milk Sea (which is not a great ambient album: it is a great techno album). Any top ten without them would be a crime. It's a fair cop, guv.

This is part one. Please do read the other parts of this blog post: part two, part three and part four
To read last year's top ten best electronica albums, click here.

Dec 25, 2010

Fat Roland's Christmas message

As that annual torrent of reindeer excrement suffocates our financial stability and any remnants of family happiness, let me wish you one and all a devastatingly happy yuletide.

Even if the three wise men weren't smashed on ketamine and listening to breakcore on their journey to Bethlehem, I still think Christmas is a pretty interesting time.

It's ecologically interesting because everyone starts pimping their own personal trees with shiny plastic crap, as if trees weren't pretty enough already.

It's a true family time because thousands of people worship a new born baby by spending entire days gorging and spending money, when normally they'd pay lip service to new parents with a half-cocked "oh isn't your baby pretty" whilst secretly comparing the nipper to a sack of potatoes.

And it's a wonderful time for music, what with Simon Cowell personally escorting the Archangel Gabriel by gunpoint to buy the new CD by The Powerpuff Boys / Tammy Teenporn / Insert Generic X Factor Winner.

Who am I kidding? If life is an elixir to be drunk, Christmas is a slopbucket steaming next to an overflowing drain. The seasonal tackiness I can cope with, but it seems if you are without family or friends or money, yuletide is a time of sadness, of loneliness and of gnawing off your own legs in boredom.

And then, even if you do get to hobble to church without breaking your face on the snow, Christmas doesn't even do religion right: the image of Jesus as a baby does much less for me than the revolutionary aspect of the biblical stories. Babies are rubbish at turning over tables in temples, rubbish, I tell you. I know because I've carried out experiments.

So please, switch the telly off, put the turkey in the dustbin, and let's all sit in silence and not enjoy ourselves. If we blink really fast and pretend we're in a club with strobes, Christmas will be over before we know it.

(While you're doing that, I will be spending the day getting fat and merry with friends. I love Christmas just for that, although don't tell anyone because it would undermine the essential grouchiness of this blog post.)

2010 was a year of collosal highs and lows. I was hospitalised when my internal organs went on strike and I still see the scars everytime I catch my reflection in people's windows on my daily morning streak. But I also won accolade for my blog, which seems to have shifted my creative life several degrees in an unusual and exciting direction.

In the dying embers of the year, it's all about to flare up in Fatro Land. I need to tell you about my top ten best 2010 electronica albums (see last year's waffling here), and also my favourite films (again, here's last year's). And then, one of the annual highlights of Fat Roland On Electronica, my stupendous preview of the upcoming year in electronic music (here's last year's).

None of it is written yet, but I have to get it done. Good job I'll be spending all day writing instead of getting fat and merry with-- oh, wait. Damn you, Christmas, you've foiled me again...

Dec 18, 2010

Flying Lotus, the Grammys and the genitalia of Equus africanus asinus

Twitter spats are not the de rigueur footwear accessory for the microblogging generation, but are what happens when tweeters lose it with each other.

Whether it's David Cameron and the Smiths or Mark Thomas wanting to kick the fluff out of a allegedly corrupt alleged journalist, fights on Twitter are extra entertaining because its not just the school playground gawping in on the action: the whole world is watching and there is no teacher to break it up.

I missed this one completely, though. The Grammys announced their usual brown wash of inanity earlier this month. Their nominations are usually as cutting edge as Westlife using a cardigan to slice into Peter Andre's brain. Flying Lotus (pictured), though, wasn't going to take his lack of nomination lying down, and here's what he tweeted on December 2nd:

- "BT, Chemical Brothers, Groove Armada??? are you serious??Grammys are a joke. FUCK YOU." (Original tweet here.)

And then, just in case his message wasn't heard, he followed it up with:

- "FUCK YOU" (Link.)

- "You are jokes" (Link.)

And then he got his sass on because, y'know, this is Flying Lotus and he's one hard-ass muddyfunster.

- "PussyAssNotknowingShitaboutREALmusicBitchMadeMotherfuckers" (link) which sounds like a Prince album.

- "you better hope I don't get a ticket to the party bitch" (Link.)

- "suck a donkey dick" (Link.) Two words: Shrek porn.

Remember. This is one of the world's most highly respected producers with a penchant for J Dilla beat devastation and the occasional freejazz cigarette.

- "I know the people got me. The real heads got me. They won't catch me in a dress or a fucking afro. Fuck you pop ass pussies" (Link.)

Which probably resulted in a humble letter of apology to Gaslamp Killer, the turntablist who releases beats on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder record label and has been known to sport impressive hair explosions from time to time.

I wouldn't dream of attacking anyone on Twitter, so I dribbled in jealous glee at FlyLo's boldness. And he is right. The Grammys are awful... and I wouldn't want to catch him in a dress either. Unless it's a Wednesday night when it's knob-tweakers' tranny night at my place.

Good job Mr Lotus made it up to the Grammys the following day, with this heartfelt apology and the cherry on top of this Twitspat pie:

- "I was drunk last night. My bad. You still suck though. BIGBANGATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Link.)

As for the actual Grammy awards, here's a picture of Tom Baker holding a puppy. Forgotten about the Grammys yet? Good. I'm working on a cover version of a St Winifred's School Choir classic and rewording the chorus "Grammy, we hate you".

Dec 12, 2010

Dec 9, 2010

Welcome to the Boy Band Family Tree

Boy bands. Where would we be without the curtain-haired, squeaky-voiced, smooth-abbed, white-teethed, non-sexed, freshly-pressed, short-lived torrents of snot?

Bright Club returns to Manchester next week. Hailed as the 'thinking person's variety club', it presents various experts waxing lyrical about their field of expertise, hopefully in an entertaining way.

The theme this time round is 'family'. And so, on Thursday December 16th, 7.30pm at Nexus Art Cafe, you'll hear talks about families of particles, attachment and the early years, families of galaxies, and biotechnology and familes, and entrepreneurship and families.

Then there will be me. Talking about boy bands. They have no idea I'm an imposter. They haven't the first clue that I am, basically, a dribbling fat man ranting through a haze of crystal meth at an imaginary image of an axe-wielding zombie corpse of Thora Hird.

My Boy Band Family Tree will take the entire history of pop's most steam-cleaned phenomenon and bottle it through a fictitious family tree. All in eight minutes.

Of course, I haven't written it yet. I'll probably start scrawling some notes about five minutes before I'm due on stage. It worked with my last appearance when I presented my Gospel According To Aphex Twin.*

While I'm updating you on my whereabouts, it seems right to let you know about a couple of internet things. My increased activity in the wonderful world of fiction is being taken off this blog, and instead you can catch updates on Bionic Matthew's Pen Of Doom. This is a secret blog that I'm now making public. It contains a fair whack of poorly written material from the past.

I'm also keeping videos off this site. Instead, you'll find them at my third blog, Fat Roland's Oozy Bleeps.

So then. Fat Roland On Electronica. Fat Roland's Oozy Bleeps. Bionic Matthew's Pen Of Doom. Three in one. The internet trinity. The holy family. Maybe I should have done a talk on that.

*this is called false modesty. It's at least ten minutes.

Dec 3, 2010

Fat Roland's Oozy Bleeps playlist #1

Let me make you a mixtape. It's ten hours of drills recorded on wax cylinders then sellotaped to the back of a badger.

Mixtapes make me sick. Fawning couples foist these things on each other when in fact real partners don't give a flying bloodhound about each others' music tastes. Mixtapes only exist to make break-ups harder.

I am, of course, living in a sepia-stained heaven when cassette tapes ruled the world and it was acceptable to pleasure yourself to posters of Tears For Fears on public transport. These days, mixtapes are amazing because they are digital and they are cool and they are the future.

Which is why I am instigating a new thing here at Fat Roland towers. Fat Roland's Oozy Bleeps Playlist is an hour or so of music noises that have blown their sweet beats into my ear over the past 30 days. Most of it is fairly new electronica, although there will be a fair few imposters too.

I'll update the playlist on Spotify as the month goes on, although around once a month when it reaches something attaining perfection, I'll link it on my blog and say "Hey! Everyone! Look at my playlist!"

Hey! Everyone! Look at my playlist! Thanks to knob-twiddler Tom Davenport for starting this idea off in my brain.


Launch the playlist in Spotify

Oneohtrix Point Never - Where Does The Time Go from the album Returnal (Mego 2010)

Nosaj Thing - Fog from the album Drift (Alpha Pup 2009)

Lukid - Chord from the album Chord (Werk 2010)

Lone - Once In A While from the 12" (Werk 2010)

Luke Abbott - 2nd 5th Heavy from the album Holkham Drones (Border Community 2010)

Joker - City Hopper from the 12" (Tectonic 2009)

Rockwell - Underpass from the album Various: Critical Sound (Critical 2009)

Actress - Maze from the album Splazsh (Honest Jon's 2010)

Matthew Dear - You Put A Smell On Me from the album Black City (Ghostly International 2010)

Weiss - 01.rephlex from the album Rephlex (Electroton 2007)

Simian Mobile Disco - Thousand Year Egg from the album Delicacies (Smalltown Supersound 2010)

Joy Orbison - The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow from the 12" (Aus 2010)

PVT - Window from the album Church With No Magic (Warp 2010)


Launch the playlist in Spotify

Dec 2, 2010

Ten plaudits Bleeping


Online retailer Bleep.com has hit December running with a series of top tens of 2010.

The other day, they posted their top artists of the year, which included Oneohtrix Point Never, James Blake, Roska and Caribou. In Oneohtrix, otherwise known as Brooklyn's Daniel Lopatin, they saw a "prodigal, prolific exponent of the synthesiser."

And if your order his album Returnal from Bleep, or his other records, you get his exlusive mix CD Objects In Mirrors.

Yesterday, Bleep.com revealed their top ten labels of the year. Their record label of 2010 is Numbers, a Glasgow outfit whose mission to "melt together the seemingly disparate sounds of R&B, techno, electro, house, dubstep, UKF and 80s funk under one glorious groove" was lauded by Bleep. The imprint's output this year included Deadboy, Untold and SBTRKT.

Because they're well chuffed and that with such high praise, Numbers have launched a compilation featuring every bit out output on their label along with a couple of new t-shirt designs.

Over the next few days, expect more 2010 from Bleep in the form of best albums, favourite EPs and most recommended reissues and compilations. I'll try and match them when I do my usual end-of-year round-ups later this month.

Meanwhile in another corner of the internet, Radio Scot Void has released some older tracks for free in a special mixtape that's worth getting simply for Shlohmo's Socks. The track, not the underwear item.