This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 1 of 3)

It's not a particularly exciting poster this year, but at least it's not the eyeball-inside-a-mouth horror that 2020's was.It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past.

I said that back in June last year, when I was writing about the 2020 iteration of the film festival (which I'll be calling JFTFP from now on, because life's too short). After more than a decade - we'd been going there since 2008 - of indulging in their annual collections of recent and classic Japanese cinema, finally the sheer cost of seeing these things at the ICA had just become prohibitive, with every single discount we used to get being whittled away. There were times in the past when the number of films we saw at JFTFP went into double figures, and that's not even counting the years when I was getting freebie screeners from the Japan Foundation so that I could preview them for MostlyFilm. But not any more, it would seem.

Unless, of course, there was some sort of catastrophic chain of events that resulted in the 2021 JFTFP shifting online and becoming free. So here we are.

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Simian Substitute Site for February 2021: Miss Monkey's Valentine's Day Problem

Miss Monkey's Valentine's Day ProblemMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JANUARY 2021

Books: For the first time in my life, I own a device that’s capable of purchasing and playing audio books. It’s the Nokia 8.3 5G, a phone so cutting edge that it features in the new James Bond film. (Well, it used to...) So, for 2021 we have a new pre-bedtime routine: listening to 20 or 30 minutes of an audio book per night. Our first one is Ramble Book, a sort of memoir by Adam Buxton. In part, it's a look back at Buxton's childhood in the 1980s, focussing not just on his school and work experiences but also on the films and music that shaped him (the latter augmented with a glorious set of Spotify playlists). But it keeps switching between that period and the present day, looking at his relationship with his father during the last few years of the latter's life. Buxton seems determined to portray himself in as bad a light as possible - a constant theme throughout the book is his frustration at how his schoolmates (notably Joe Cornish and Louis Theroux) are achieving much more than he seems to be. And there's a niggling suspicion that his life isn't quite as interesting as he thinks it is, particularly as the book takes pains to largely avoid the period of time when he was properly famous. But he uses the audiobook format well, bringing his expertise as a podcaster to make it sonically interesting (for example, when he goes outdoors to record the sidebar digressions or 'rambles'). It's an enjoyable bedtime listen, and that's all we were looking for at this early stage in the year. Will we go for more challenging choices as 2021 progresses? Watch this space.

Comedy: As reported here three months ago, we came to Taskmaster ridiculously late, and are currently spending a couple of evenings every week catching up. But now we also have to catch up with a YouTube gameshow called No More Jockeys featuring three Taskmaster alumni: creator Alex Horne, collaborator Tim Key and contestant Mark Watson. The rules are, when you think about it, simple: "On each turn, players name a person plus a category they fall under. That person and category are then eliminated, and subsequent people must not fall under that category. As more categories are added it gets harder, and eventually impossible, to name anyone new." You might just have to watch an episode if that explanation didn't make much sense. As the games progress, the discussions and challenges become more and more digressive - ultimately, Jockeys is more of a bants-generating algorithm than an actual contest. But it's a very good one, with the same delightful edge of silliness to it that Taskmaster has. We've joined it just at the start of the third set, with new matches appearing online every Friday.

Theatre: We've seen a few pre-recorded theatre shows online over the past year or so, and they've been fine. But somehow, watching a play that you know is being performed right this second has more of a dramatic edge to it, and I really can't explain why. Hence my joy at Project Arts Centre's livestream of The Approach a couple of weeks ago. It turns out to be a pretty good play to stage in a pandemic: three characters who only ever appear two at a time, holding conversations at opposite ends of a subtly extended cafe table. Writer/director Mark O'Rowe has been mentioned here before in the context of his 2008 Edinburgh Fringe hit Terminus, and this new play is a similar slow-burner which requires you to hang onto its every word to catch the secrets buried underneath. (Its final revelation turns out to have been there in plain sight since the first scene.) The three actresses involved - Cathy Belton, Derbhle Crotty and Aisling O’Sullivan - play it to perfection, and it's just a shame that you've missed both the livestream and the week-long period after it that a recording was available as video on demand. Sorry.

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Picks Of The Year 1982 - 2020: The Video Playlists

Picks Of The Year 1993 - 2008 inclusive. There isn't enough image space on the page to include them all, sorry.[Updated 21/01/2021 to include the playlist for 2020.]

At least one of the links below tells you the full story, so I won't go through it all again. But in brief: since 1982, I've been producing an annual series of Pick Of The Year compilations, collating my favourite tracks from that year's music releases. From 1982 to 1989, they were gargantuan twin-tape affairs: between 1993 and 1997, they were single 90 minute cassettes: and since 1998, I've been burning them onto CDs. (I didn't make compilations at the time for 1990-1992, but two decades later I created some CD-length ones as a best-guess approximation with the benefit/hindrance of hindsight.)

1998 was the year that I started writing about these compilations on the interwub, as they were being produced. The years before then have been subsequently been documented on this site, with a lot of ironic pointing and laughing at the sort of junk I used to listen to. Put all that together, and you've got a hefty collection of tracks covering my musical interests from 1982 to the present day.

And thanks to YouTube, you can hear most of them right now. The playlists below aren't complete, inevitably: some artists are less happy than others about letting their product be heard for free. But the vast majority of the songs I've chosen are there in some form or other - from official record company videos, to slapdash fan-made tributes consisting of a single still image with the song playing over the top. (I guess my own Felix Project videos fall somewhere in between those two stools.)

Anyway, you've got a couple of days' worth of music here that I've liked at one time or another. And I'll be updating this page each time I produce a new POTY compilation. Enjoy.

For those of you who don't want to look at videos, there are also Spotify playlists available for each year, although many of them have at least one track missing. See the relevant pages covering the years 1982-1989, 1990-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2019. And if you make it all the way to the bottom of this page, you'll be rewarded with a single 739-song, 59.5 hour playlist of the whole damn lot (though the widget only displays the first hundred tracks, the coward).

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Simian Substitute Site for January 2021: Year Of The Monkey

Year Of The MonkeyMONTH END PROCESSING FOR DECEMBER 2020
[one-line despatches from a lockdown Christmas]

Comedy: Just the Tonic New Year's Eve Special: the closest thing available to our usual NYE night out, a fine collection of comics both big (Al Murray, Romesh Ranganathan) and small (Daliso Chaponda's only really come to my attention through online gigs like this), with Ivan Brackenbury's hospital radio DJ schtick proving a surprisingly smart choice to lead us into the final countdown. The Bugle Relives 2020: Andy Zaltzman, Alice Frasier, Nish Kumar and Nato Green's overview of the year (livestreamed to a paying audience, available soon as an edited podcast) didn't have the budget of Charlie Brooker's Death To 2020 so had to make do with decent gags instead.

Movies: The Right Stuff: selected from our DVD shelf as a tribute to the late Chuck Yeager, we discovered shortly after viewing that it was recently remade by Disney and National Geographic without the Yeager bits, which seems insane. The Muppet Christmas Carol: it's only when you watch the film with someone who hasn't seen it before (really, she hadn't) that you realise how many things in current Christmas culture reference it nowadays. Soul: I suspect Pixar's newie got a lot of free passes from me thanks to being watched late on Christmas Day under the influence of everything, but sadly we never got to arrange a control group to test that.

Music: Thommo's Christmas Music Show: one of the surprise delights of Christmas Eve, as Mark Thomas made live Zoom calls to loads of his comedy chums and played their favourite Christmas songs - the biggest surprise being that a show that was scheduled to last three hours ended up running for five. United We Stream: the Mancunian charity livestreamers had a couple of epic shows for the festive season: a six-hour recreation of Wigan's Boxing Day fancy dress party, and a twenty-four hour bloody monster from the Hacienda mob covering New Year celebrations in every world timezone.

Telly: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2019: shit, what are all those kids doing crammed in that room like that? Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2020: ah, that's better. The Mandalorian Season 2: still more fun than most things in the modern Star Wars universe, but it'll be interesting to see if it stays that way given how this season ended. The Little Drummer Girl: sitting on our Sky box for over two years until the death of its author spurred us into bingeing it, Park Chan-wook's adaptation has all the sheer narrative drive that I can remember from when I devoured the novel in a single day back in 1984, and makes me wonder why the movie version with Diane Keaton ever seemed like a good idea. Death To 2020: how the hell does a comedy show with eighteen credited writers have so few jokes in it?

Theatre: The Long Goodbye: Riz Ahmed's online-only dry run for his 2021 Manchester International Festival show, taking the themes from his film Mogul Mowgli and brilliantly distilling them into a thirty minute monologue with music. Kid Carpet And The Noisy Animals Totally Normal Christmas Party: we finally got to see one of the Kid's shows for kids, and this crazed fifty-way Zoom call was the perfect blend of inspired daftness with a crafty bit of satire thrown in for the grown-ups.

P.S.: In the half hour between finishing breakfast and starting work on lunch on Christmas Day, I made one of these things - maybe you'll find it useful next year.

P.P.S.: One day after putting the above ridiculously long list of items onto the internet, I suddenly realised that I'd forgotten a couple of other things I'd done over Christmas: specifically, I'd also watched two complete online pantomimes. So. Cinderella And The Beanstalk: the Newcastle branch of the Stand comedy club put on a surprisingly traditional livestreamed affair with a cast of four, some neat use of pre-recorded video and some rather fine jokes (including a reference to Tier 4 a mere half day or so after it was first announced). Jack And The Beer Hops: a rather less traditional panto put on by the Brewgooder brewery in aid of the Theatre Artists Fund, consisting of a beautifully packaged set of four beers delivered to your home, a ten minute video panto featuring characters named after the beers (or vice versa), and a whole Google drive full of activities including colouring in sheets, a quiz, a Spotify playlist of Christmas songs and a video tasting session for the beers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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