Previous month:
November 2020
Next month:
January 2021

The Devil Set My Takkies On Fire: Pick Of The Year 2020

#BLMtackie
/ˈtaki/
noun, informal, South African
plural noun: takkies
1. a rubber-soled canvas sports shoe.
2. a tyre.

Hopefully that clears that one up. (Although it's possible it might be trackies - I tried asking one of the songwriters on Twitter, but never heard back. Still, the newly topical cover photo works either way.)

Anyhoo, merry Christmas, such as it is. It looks like we've got ourselves a tradition now, as 2020 is the third year in a row that my Pick Of The Year compilation has dropped on Christmas Day. But what does my 39th POTY look like at the end of the most messed up year in living memory? Well, it's a lot more insular - no travelling means no foreign language songs, and the only nations represented are the British Isles and America (I'm choosing to assume Nick Cave is ours now). Emotionally, it's even more of a see-saw than usual, with a mixture of the happy, the sad, the angry and the topical (with those last two categories overlapping somewhat).

As ever, it's all yours to hear right now in both video and Spotify formats. And also as ever, at the end of this piece we have a competition (closing date January 31st 2021) to win a CD of The Devil Set My Takkies On Fire for yourself. Will it be Dave, or will it be not Dave? The answer is in your hands. (Particularly if you're Dave.) Anyway, here we go.

Continue reading "The Devil Set My Takkies On Fire: Pick Of The Year 2020" »


Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Tenties

A big hello to those of you who've been waiting for three years to see the finished version of this image.A version of this article was originally posted on this site on January 9th, 2018. Although I've been tweaking and updating the text at various points in this four-part series of reposts, I'm going to quote the opening of this final part exactly as it stood nearly three years ago.

When historians look back at the deeply troubled period between 2010 and 2019, I suspect they'll say that one of its major problems was that we never really agreed what to call it.

Look at the decades we've covered in the rest of this series. The Eighties? The Nineties? Spectacularly uncontroversial: everybody calls them that. Things got a bit more uncertain at the turn of the millennium, but there was eventually an unspoken agreement that the cheeky double entendre of the Noughties would have to do. But what about now? We're four-fifths of the way through this garbage fire of a decade, and still nobody can come up with a name for it, other than the basic facepalm gesture. So I'm proposing the Tenties as the logical choice, even though it sounds bloody daft. Roll on 2020, when at least we're back into a pre-existing naming convention.

Just to recap: the Tenties was a garbage fire, and it will be a relief when 2020 comes around. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Anyway, the fourth and final part of this feature is structured in the same way as the other three, and this time round it includes details for 2018 and 2019, which I couldn't do on the previous occasion because of the linear nature of time. Once again, I've taken the Pick Of The Year CD compilations I've been creating every year, and attempted to recreate them as Spotify playlists. You'd assume that as Spotify's been running since 2008, pretty much every record released this decade would be on there, but you'd be wrong. The gaps on these last few playlists tend to fall into three categories: limited web-only releases via sites like Bandcamp, music from foreign parts (though Japan seems to have embraced international releasing for its bigger artists), and acts who've simply decided that streaming isn't something they want to do.

As always, I've noted the omissions for each year (including a few that have dropped off Spotify since January 2018), and included links to the original discussions of the tracks. The more alert of you may have realised that the playlists for 2014-2016 have been around for a while, and were set up specifically for MostlyFilm's end-of-year roundups (though the embedded players are all buggered now, as they were updated some time ago). The others, though, have been set up specifically for this page. Happy streaming, or whatever it is that the kids would say.

Continue reading "Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Tenties" »


Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Noughties

Hard to believe, I know, but none of these covers was made using Photoshop.We're now at the halfway mark in this project to recreate all of my Pick Of The Year compilation CDs and cassettes as Spotify playlists - see also 1982-1989 and 1990-1999. And if there's one thing this exercise has taught me so far, it's that anyone who says streaming will eventually completely replace the physical ownership of music deserves a good slap. As you've probably noticed in the previous two articles (as well as the one that's due to follow shortly), most of these playlists are missing at least one song, if not more.

It's particularly noticeable here in the early years of the 21st century, largely thanks to my discovery of J-Pop in 2001. With a lot of Japanese music, it seems like nobody cares about granting the rights to stream it internationally. Things began to loosen up a few years ago, it's true - Ringo Shiina eventually made all of her records globally available, and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has released everything worldwide from the moment Pon Pon Pon went viral. But all too often, you end up with bizarre situations like the Vanilla Beans collection, VaniBest II, where the iTunes export version was been stripped back from 18 tracks to five, and the Spotify version restricted even further to two.

So there are a few Japanese songs on these compilations that I can't track down on Spotify. In addition to that, this was a decade when I picked up a lot of music in all sorts of contexts outside regular albums - downloads of mashups that were too copyright-infringing to go on regular sale, CDs only available at gigs, even one track given away with a book. None of those are available for streaming, as you can imagine. And most frustrating of all, it's impossible to predict when songs will be removed from Spotify, or indeed added to it. There's at least one track here that wasn't available when I first started assembling these playlists back in 2017, but subsequently showed up a month later because the album it came from had just got a tenth anniversary rerelease. (It's Glamur by Amiina, from 2007.) And that's happened a few times over in the three years since I last wrote about these playlists, either because of changes in rights ownership or because the rival streaming service set up by one particular artist died on its arse.

So, in short: these playlists may have gaps in them, but I'll try to warn you here what's missing, and link to my original track-by-track discussions of the compilations as well.

Continue reading "Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Noughties" »


Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Nineties

New feature for this decade: sleeve art! Well, sleeve design. Okay, pictures on the sleeves.In the second of a four-part series - and it pulled me up short when I realised that before too long, this could become a five-part series - anyway, I'm continuing my decade-by-decade run through my Pick Of The Year compilations, this time presenting the ones from the 1990s as almost completeish Spotify playlists.

There's a major difference between these ten compilations and the previous set from the 1980s. Those earlier ones were purely made for my own benefit. The ones in the nineties, however, fall into three groups. The cassettes I made from 1993 to 1997 were specifically targeted at my mate Lou, following a session in a pub once where he grumbled that he couldn't find any decent new music any more. The CDs burned in 1998 and 1999 were also primarily made for him, but I now also had a website where I could tell the world about these favourite songs, so I was aware that I had an even wider audience. That also applies to the CDs for 1990-1992, the three years when I didn't make compilations at the time, eventually bashing them out nearly two decades after the fact to fill in the gap.

These selections may be a little more self-conscious as a result - not deliberately so, I think, but I'm sure there was some influence in my track selections because of that. There's still plenty of stuff on these lists that I can be embarrassed about now, though, so don't you worry about that. As before, some of the tracks aren't available on Spotify (and some have dropped off it again since I last wrote a version of this page back in 2017), so I've indicated that where appropriate and included links to the original pages discussing the compilations in full. In short: not so much the nineties, more the ja danketies! (One of my favourite Chris Morris gags of the period, there.)

Continue reading "Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Nineties" »


Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Eighties

Just think, you could write this lot off completely with one big magnet.Some days, it terrifies me to realise just how anal I was as a teenager. But not today. Because it means I can tell you with absolute certainty that I spent December 14th-15th 1982 recording my first ever Pick Of The Year compilation. (It's written in biro on the cassette sleeves, along with the detail that it was recorded on an Amstrad 7090, the ghetto blaster that I'd bought earlier that year.)

Did I imagine at the time that NEARLY FORTY YEARS LATER, I'd still be making these compilations? Probably not. Still, here we are. Long-time readers may remember that around the 35th anniversary of those first tapes, I copied all of my Picks Of The Year to date onto a new medium: streaming Spotify playlists. Over the next few weeks, I'll be reposting those lists up here, decade by decade.

Why am I reposting a series of pages I first published here in 2017? Well, three reasons. First of all, Spotify have completely changed the HTML embed code for their playlists, so the pages needed updating to include that anyway. Secondly, I can finally complete the page dedicated to playlists for the Tenties, to include the lists for 2018 and 2019. And thirdly, the world of streaming is a ridiculously fluid one, if you’ll pardon the pun. Tracks that were missing from the playlists three years ago are now available: but also, tracks that were available three years ago have now been withdrawn by the artists and/or record companies. The latter is a particular bugbear of mine, and is why I keep yelling at young people in the street that physical media will never die.

So these pages will never be definitively completed: much the same as their YouTube equivalents, the Spotify playlists are always going to have holes in them, and those holes will change every so often. But I'll highlight what the missing tracks are currently for each year, and there'll be links to the full track listing and description as well. So with that caveat in mind, welcome to my favourite songs of the Eighties, with the other decades to follow shortly. Don't judge me.

Continue reading "Spotify Picks Of The Year: The Eighties" »


Simian Substitute Site for December 2020: Christmas Monkey Bread

Christmas Monkey BreadMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2020

Comedy: November, predictably, has seen us all locked back in our homes looking for online things to do. Well, I say all: Daniel Kitson, equally predictably, had other ideas. Dot. Dot. Dot. is another one of those Kitson shows built around a slightly ludicrous set of constraints: for the whole of November he toured theatres around the country, performing nightly to empty auditoriums, and broadcasting the results in a series of pay-per-view livestreams where the maximum number of attendees was capped at the capacity of the theatre he was in on that day. It'll come as no surprise that this is a show specifically about the pickle we currently find ourselves in: over the course of 90 minutes, armed only with a huge collection of Post-It notes, Kitson tells a series of stories about how he coped during the first six months of the pandemic. It helps that he's found himself in many of the same situations that we have, though it's slightly distracting that most of his friends are people from the comedy circuit you end up trying to guess from first name references. ("I met up with my old friend Ivor... I haven't known him for that long, he's in his late 60s.") It's a lovely souvenir of a peculiar half-year, and you've missed all the performances on the tour (including a sold-out one at the Union Chapel tonight): hopefully he'll find some way of doing something else with the show, as it deserves to have a wider audience than the usual Kitsonheads.

Food & Drink: Regular readers will know that there are regularly occurring milestones in this site's year, and the one for November is usually Collabfest - the annual binge in which 80-odd BrewDog bars each get together with a local brewer to make a beer, and then as many of those beers as possible are released into all the bars over a single weekend. You'd think that all the bars in England being shut this month would have put a crimp in that plan, but you'd be ignoring the tenacity of BrewDog's management and staff: over a period of five days, they took the kegged Collabfest beers, filled 30,000 cans with them, and sold them all to punters via mail order. The kegs left over were sent to the various bars, who canned them up on demand for delivery to home drinkers by courier. So over Collabfest weekend The Belated Birthday Girl and I sampled 20 beers, and as usual drunkenly documented them on Moblog as we went: follow the links to read about the collaborations with the bars in (deep breath) Brighton, Manchester, Tallinn, Castlegate, Tower Hill, Shepherd's Bush, Brussels, Glasgow, Newcastle, Southampton, Sheffield, Dublin, Nice, Seven Dials, Lothian Road, Old Street, Carlisle, Le Marais, Sodermalm and Swansea. (I'd also recommend that you take a look at the Collabfest online beer tasting, which is possibly the best attempt I've seen at doing one of these things virtually.) We might fit in a few more yet, as there's still some beer left in those kegs in the bars, and they're still delivering. But twenty should do for now, I think.

Music: Let's define 'lockdown gig' as meaning 'a live musical performance filmed in an empty auditorium for subsequent transmission across the internet.' That way, the sweeping statement I'm about to make doesn't need to include Grace Petrie, whose livestream from her house in aid of Bush Hall was the most blissfully energetic online show I've seen this year. Put that aside, and there are three lockdown gigs that have made 2020 that bit more bearable. Nick Cave's Idiot Prayer, featuring him, a piano and nobody else in the middle of a deserted Alexandra Palace: Jarv Is... Live From The Centre Of The Earth, with Cocker and co performing his album from inside a beautifully lit cave: and now, Roisin Murphy's Roisin Machine, a one-off show presented via Mixcloud this month. If Nick and Jarvis were aiming for stylish minimalism in their staging, Roisin has gone completely in the opposite direction: occupying a giant warehouse, her set includes multiple costume changes, massive video screens, a dancer and an excellent four-piece live band. She's a full-on disco diva these days, and the set covers her whole range from a percussion-only version of Jealousy to a surprisingly effective acoustic reworking of Moloko classic Familiar Feeling. Unlike Cave and Cocker, who were planning brief cinema releases of their shows in November before the shit hit the fan again, Murphy has no plans to make this one available in any other form following its one-day-only transmission - "it is what it is," she says - so it's simultaneously disappointing and useful that this link was still working at the time of writing.

Continue reading "Simian Substitute Site for December 2020: Christmas Monkey Bread" »