Täähä Menöö Hyvi! Pick Of The Year 2016

"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. Well, maybe a little bit more."It's a controversial opinion, but I'm going to say it anyway: as years go, 2016 was absolute dogshit. Massive upheavals throughout society, combined with the death of apparently every famous person ever - against a backdrop like that, any personal problems of your own seem magnified as they become part of the overall global catastrophe.

My pal Lou, who's effectively been the patron of these Pick Of The Year compilations since 1993, has always suggested that they provide an insight into what my mood was like each year. Looking at Täähä Menöö Hyvi!, my compilation for 2016, that mood would currently appear to be swinging wildly: downbeat or angry songs interspersed with bursts of unexpected joy.

So, are you ready for one of the most manic depressive collections of music I've put together since I started doing this in 1982? Let's hope so. Here, in a simultaneous broadcast with MostlyFilm (who are including this as part of their general end-of-year roundup), is a CD's worth of tracks that defined 2016 for me. And stick around to the end if you want the chance to win a copy of the CD for yourself (as long as you're reading this before the end of January 2017).

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The Lexica Of Love

Watch out, Young Martin Fry Surrogate! Actual Young Martin Fry's got a shooter!Back in 2006, I wrote a review of the first three Ultravox albums - the ones recorded in the John Foxx/Island Records/pre-fame period of their history. At the time, they'd just received a 30th anniversary re-release with bonus tracks added. This made me feel very old. Not as old, though, as when I discovered recently that later this month, they’re getting a 40th anniversary re-release as a box set called The Island Years. It’s virtually the same material, but with the bonus tracks shunted off to a separate disc and supplemented by a couple of previously unreleased BBC sessions (including the OGWT set mentioned in my review).

They won't get me this time, but only because they got me last time. Still, that’s how the music industry works these days – they find the stuff that hooked you as a teenager, and keep reselling it to you every few years. Last week saw another example of this, as ABC released an album of new songs called The Lexicon Of Love II, some 34 years after their world-conquering debut of almost the same name. From a distance, it seems like a grossly cynical attempt at prodding the nostalgia glands of people my age. Which is why we need to get in close.

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BrewDogging #30: DogHouse Glasgow

Doghouse (late Sunday night, it's not always this quiet)[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell]

Last year, at the 2015 BrewDog AGM, a lot of big plans were announced. Many of them involved BrewDog opening new premises that weren't just straightforward bars. A press release listed the following: the ShuffleDog games room, a chain of Dog Eat Dog hotdog diners, the Newington Fix coffee bar, and a restaurant/bar/bottleshop combo called DogHouse.

One year on, let's check on their progress. ShuffleDog has been up and running in Leeds since last July. The Newington Fix has spent a year in planning permission hell, and it's still not certain whether it's going ahead or not. Dog Eat Dog - or at least the initial Angel branch - has been and gone. That leaves us with DogHouse, which opened in Glasgow last autumn to a few grumbles which I noted at the time the Soho bar opened. A few months later, at the end of last January, The Belated Birthday Girl and I headed up to Glasgow ourselves to see if they'd been resolved.

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BrewDogging #29: Clerkenwell [inc. Small Venues 2015 exit interview]

It's literally only just occurred to me that BrewDog Clerkenwell is a Small Venue in its own right.[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stockholm, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona]

Clerkenwell! To be honest, it's not a part of London I've needed to visit for decades. But when I initially moved here in 1984, my first job was based in a Clerkenwell office. Coming up above ground at Farringdon station in December 2015 gave me all sorts of weird flashbacks, tempered by the fact that there's been a huge amount of development in the area over the last three decades. In the course of researching this piece, I decided to check up on my old work boozer from those days - the Sekforde Arms - only to find that it closed down as recently as last July.

Still, that's not the bar I've come here to visit. I'm here with The Belated Birthday Girl to check out BrewDog's latest London opening, and then move on to another bar to see a comedy show. Which has a major bearing on the rest of this article, as you'll see.

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Fat Child In A Pushchair*: Pick Of The Year 2015

The worst thing is, I actually know this child's name now.I'm not gonna lie to you: even I think this year's Pick Of The Year compilation has an awkward title. Nevertheless, the first time I heard the song it comes from (at Everything Everything's Oval Space gig back in April), I suspected it was always going to be the one: an otherwise lovely track centered around the single most ridiculous line to appear in a song released in 2015. Which is a major achievement, considering that New Order also released songs this year.

Awkward or not, we're committed now. The CDs have been burned, and the track listing is being announced simultaneously both here and on Mostly Film, as part of their roundup of the best bits of 2015. We've got sixteen tracks, over 79 minutes of music, a surprisingly unequal amount of video, and the chance for you to win your own copy of the compilation in our usual competition (closing date 31/1/2016). Get ready, because here we go for the 34th time...

 

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Everywhere Is Monsters: Pick Of The Year 2014

...tits out, wet-mouthed, heads back, shouting and screaming just to prove they exist...No round numbers, no meaningless anniversaries to celebrate: it's just another standard one of those Pick Of The Year compilations I've been making since 1982, cramming my favourite tunes from the preceding twelve months into an arbitrary 120/180/90/80 minute framework depending on the storage medium used. (It's 80 minutes this year, as it has been since 1998. Although for the first couple of those years I was using a crappy CD burner that gave up after somewhere in the low 70s.)

Once again, there's going to be a competition (closing date 11.59pm GMT on January 31st 2015) for anyone who wants to win a CD copy of this compilation: and to give you a bit of a heads-up, passing familiarity with the previous 32 may be helpful to you this year. But we'll get to that eventually: for now, here are my 17 favourite songs of the year, with videos for the 16 of them whose rights aren't being administered by over-zealous Japanese record companies. For example, this first track coming up below.

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A Man (or two) From The Future

Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Well, at least *one* of them made an effort to dress up.One of the occasional features that appears in Private Eye is National Treasures, in which they highlight misuses of the title phrase in the UK press. It's the sort of thing that's made Private Eye a national treasure itself, albeit one with a slightly queasy attitude towards homosexuals.

Like one of those people who writes a 400-word sentence that concludes with the clause “and I bet this ends up in Pseud's Corner,” I'm going to grit my teeth and call it: the Pet Shop Boys are a national treasure. They'd deserve the title even if all they'd done was produce the most consistently excellent British pop music for three decades straight. But they've never been afraid to stretch out into areas way beyond their comfort zone: a West End musical, a silent movie soundtrack, an operatic arena show, a ballet score, and the most pretentious pop film of all time. Their latest experiment is A Man From The Future, a concert piece for orchestra, choir, electronics and narrator, given its world premiere last night at the Royal Albert Hall as Prom number 8. And to bring us full circle, it's a piece about the making of another national treasure.

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Pika Pika Fantajin

Click here for official proof that I'm cooler than you. (I'm going to need it once you see the 1998 version of the site.)It's July 14th, 2014: this website is exactly sixteen years old today. (If you weren't around for day one, this - horrifyingly - is what it used to look like.) It's also exactly eight years since I moved the whole operation over from Demon Internet to Typepad, as discussed at the time. So, happy birthday to me twice over, I guess.

A website that's effectively reached the age of consent (ew) should be far too grown-up to be thinking about fluffy pop music for kids. But here we are, noting that J-pop icon Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has just released Pika Pika Fantajin, her third album, across most countries in the civilised world. This is incredibly unusual, considering the Galapagos-style environment in which Japanese pop music traditionally operates. It may also be partially my fault.

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Riff-Raff Competition Update

It'll be with you in a Jiffy, Dave.Just under a month ago, I revealed the track listing of my Pick Of The Year 2013 CD, Hanging Out With Various Riff-Raff, a compilation of my seventeen favourite tunes from last year. And as is now traditional, I also set a small competition to give all of you the chance to win a physical copy of the CD. The closing date is February 28th, so there's still plenty of time to get your entries in and

Nah, just kidding. Dave's won it. Again.

Dave's been entering the CD competitions almost as long as they've been running, and has walked away with the prize in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 and now 2013. If he'd been twice as proficient at winning these things, I could have titled this page 12 Years A Dave, but we'll have to wait a bit longer for that one.

Anyway, congratulations to him. But it annoys me a bit that we've got into one of those ruts where it's the same one or two people - oh, all right then, one - who enter every time I do one of these things. So! How do you fancy competing for the SECOND PRIZE of a NOT QUITE AS GOOD COPY OF THE CD? Yeah? Yeah?

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Hanging Out With Various Riff-Raff: Pick Of The Year 2013

Not riff-raffTechnically, this is the twelfth time I've had to do this in 2013. Sit down with one of my compilations of favourite songs of the year, listen to it from start to finish, make detailed notes while it's playing, and convert them into some sort of readable analysis.

Regular readers will know that this year, out of a misguided desire for completeness or something like that, I've been revisiting my earliest ever annual compilations, from 1982 to 1992. Along the way, I've had quite a few surprises: some records that I'd completely forgotten in the intervening decades, others where I have no idea nowadays what I ever liked about them. It's been fascinating, but it's time to get back to the present day and remind myself what grabbed my attention from 2013's releases.

The usual rules apply - I've burned an entire CD's worth of tracks from the year in question, and will attempt to justify their selection below. If you fancy listening to them for yourselves, there's a YouTube playlist at the bottom of the page. If you'd rather get your hands on a physical copy, then look out for the PRIZE COMPETITION towards the end of this article (closing date Feb 28th 2014). So with all that out of the way, onto the songs...

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