Things That I Love Today

“And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of colour across the sky – so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quite frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime” – Karl Ove Knausgard

Not Being Funny But…

…what is really worse?  Biting somebody in the heat of the moment when the adrenaline is pumping or deliberately putting your studs into somebody’s leg in a manner that could break a bone/finish a career?  I find this whole Luis Saurez thing weird.  Biting is primal type of behaviour.  It’s almost an involuntary act that can happen in the heat of the moment.  I don’t believe what Saurez did was calculated in any way.  I am obviously not condoning it but at the same time I truly believe there are far, far worse things that happen on a football pitch, and in other sports, that deserve far worse punishments.  Roy Keane admitted that he tried to end Haaland’s career for example.  That was a far worse thing than Saurez biting Chielini.  The over-reaction from the media has been hilarious.  Alan Shearer for example calling for major punishment – well he kicked Neil Lennon square in the head when playing for Newcaslte against Leicester.  Totally deliberate, exceptionally dangerous…nobody called for his career to be ended.  And what about Stuart Hogg during Scotland v Wales rugby this year.  One of the worst, life threatening challenges you could see – he just played on Scotland’s tour of the USA.  I say we get a little perspective.  Saurez has biten somebody on the football field.  Fucking stupid but like the Daily Mash said – he’s not a Sumatran Tiger…Chielini will be ok and play on.  I know it’s the third time he’s done it BUT how many times did Roy Keane, Patrick Viera and many more deliberately hurt other players?  And what about Pepe’s headbutt on Mueller…how is that less of an offence!?  I am so confused.

World Cup So Far

Man it’s been good hasn’t it?  I don’t know what I expected from this World Cup but it’s just been packed with good games, great goals and a few surprises so far.  Out of everyone so far I have most enjoyed watching France.  They have played some sensational football but then with no disrespect to the teams in their group, they really should be beating them.  Still, the way they dismantled Switzerland was pretty impressive and I look forward to seeing more of them.  Will be interesting to see when they have to face a proper good side how their defence holds up.  But so far, they have played lovely football and players like Matuidi, Pogba, Griesmann and Benzema have been excellent.  The Dutch have also looked good in the sense that they have great flexibility.  Australia gave them a right good game/scare but the way they adapt formations and personnel for different teams bodes well for them.  Otherwise, there have been no real stand outs so far.  Brazil have not hit top gear.  Argentina have been poor and lucky to have the group they have and Messi.  Germany were not tested by Portugal and looked vulnerable against Ghana.  Spain are gone.  Italy too.  So it’s wide open as far as I can see.  And that is what has been most enjoyable to be honest, the simple fact that there are no clear favourites to win this tournament.  Costa Rica have impressed.  Chile have really impressed.  Colombia have impressed.  Everyone is capable of beating everyone and that makes the whole tournament all the more interesting and exciting.

As for England.  Well, I am honestly disappointed that they are out.  But I don’t think it’s as much doom and gloom as the pundits have been making out. I think the future looks bright with a whole batch of young, talented players coming through.  However, there are a few things that have stood out for me in this tournament.  Firstly, whilst I truly admire Roy Hodgson for taking so many young players, the truth of the matter is that had John Terry and Ashley Cole been in that starting line up England would not be going home.  They lack a dominant centre half and, whilst I despise Ashley Cole, he is a far better defender than Leighton Baines and the defence was the problem for England, without a shadow of a doubt.  The other thing they lack is a Pirlo type player.  If they had somebody who could control the play and dictate a match they would also be through.  Gerrard is quality but not that type of player and Henderson – under rated and super hard working – is not a ball player.  Finally, they need a Saurez, not a Rooney.  Sturridge looks like he could fill that role, eventually, and Sterling looks like an incredible player but Welbeck played ahead of Barkley and Lallana…ridiculous.  So whilst I thought England played ok – especially going forward there are still questions to be answered.  And, whilst players coming through like Barkley, Sterling, Sturridge, Lallana, Shaw look excellent prospects, where are the young, dominant centre halves that are needed?  Terry/Ferdinand – there is nobody coming through, from what I can see, in the same mould/quality.  I do truly hope Hodgson has some success as manager because I think he’s a good manager and has been brave in his decision making but they do need to sort themselves out as a defensive unit if they want to win anything in the near future.

So yeah, great tournament so far and I cannot wait to see what develops in the next round.  Still think Germany or Argentina will win it but so far the stand out team has been France.  And they have the best strip too.  Fact.

Not Sure How I Feel…

…about Young Fathers winning the SAY Award 2014.  Part of me is delighted because they are incredible live and their new album DEAD is immense.  However, part of me feels like they were squeezed in to this competition with Tape Two, which is not as strong as Tape One and also feels a little bit like they were building towards their first album proper in DEAD.  So yeah.  On the one hand I am delighted for them because they deserve an award for all their hard work and talent.  On the other hand I am not sure this is the right award.  Then again, I think the SAY award misses a trick.  Hector Bizerk and Young Fathers aside it was made up of a huge number of big acts.  And if Biffy Clyro’s album is truly one of the best records to come out of Scotland in 2013 then our music really is not in great shape.  For all I love some Biffy, it’s not really worthy of an album of the year award longlist or shortlist.  And surely, an award of such magnitude would serve acts such as Hector Bizerk much better than it would Mogwai, Edwyn Collins or Biffy?

Just some thoughts really.  Congratulations to Young Fathers all the same.  Amazing act.

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There


There is a distincitve quality in the voice of Sharon Van Etten that takes her to a different level in my ears.  As has been documented on these pages many times, myself and female vocalists have a chequered history.  This has nothing to do with the quality of the music on offer but more the fact that with all my music, I need a voice to be distinctive, imperfect and interesting.  The problem with a lot of female singers is this – they really can sing fucking perfectly.  The men in bands I love tend to not be the best singers – Jeff Tweedy, Ian Felice, Wayne Coyne, Mark Linkous, Bob Dylan, Neil Young – none of them could be classed as brilliant singers.  However, they do all use their voices as instruments and there is something in the quality of their voices that makes it all work.  I don’t want to hear Russel Watson-esque vocals, and there lies the problem.  Female vocalists I am drawn to – Bjork, Beth Orton, Martha Wainwright, for example, have all got that something distinct, impure and interesting in the tone and delivery of their words.  And Sharon Van Etten is another one.  And fuck me I am a bit obsessed with this new record.  Like The War on Drugs this album is kind of consuming my listening habits in the past week or so.

And it is odd because when I heard the first single from the album I thought “shit” because it felt really dull, safe and uninspiring.  After the brilliance of ‘Tramp’ my hopes were high for album four and so I was worried.  No need to be though.  Sharon Van Etten delivers a fourth album of real raw energy and takes on producer duties in the process.

Not that there is anything majorly different or ground breaking going on with album four but the focus on her voice, her words is even more prominent than on previous outings and, this is where the strength of the record lies.  I have always admired artists who can tackle the emotional strain of relationships in an honest and open manner.  Van Etten’s chosen subject matter tends to be love.  However, the slant is different.  It’s not all heart break and love songs about hurt and betrayal.  No, the focus is on the small things.  The things that make relationships work.  The minor acts.  For after all, sharing a life with somebody is a big thing filled with little things that make it special.  It’s not all high gloss and excitement.   And Van Etten gets to the heart of this on this record.  Never more so than on album closer “Everytime the Sun Comes Up” where she states “I washed your dishes, then I shit in your bathroom.”  It’s an amusing line but one we can all relate to.  And this is where the beauty of this album and Van Etten lie.  We can all relate to her words.  And we should all embrace her music.  She’s growing as an artist and I am loving being along for the ride.

Congratulations Matthew Collings

Delighted to say that my friend and partner in Graveyard Tapes, Matthew Collings, will be releasing his new solo album via the awesome Denovali records. ‘Silence is a Rhythm Too’ is a brilliant piece of music.  And to make things even sweeter, Denovali will be re-releasing his debut record ‘Splintered Instruments’.  Both these records will be released on CD and vinyl and will hopefully see Matt finally get the recognition that his work deserves.  Following on from his beautiful ‘Fireworks and the Dead City Radio’ under his Sketches for Albinos moniker.  If you are not familiar with the work of Denovali, then do check them out because they release some superb records and it’s wonderful to see Matt added to their roster.  So a massive congratulations to him.