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22 December 2007

happy christmas i guess



"when the gods wish to punish us,
they answer our prayers"
- oscar wilde

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every year i spend weeks in the run up to christmas preparing my christmas mix tape. i become obsessed with it and it's all i can think about. one year i went mental and made a box set of three tapes. usually i finish them off on christmas eve, and then it gets to christmas day and no one ever wants to listen to them anyway and i end up wondering why i bothered. it's different every year but there are a few songs that go on it every year without fail. 'when the river meets the sea' by john denver and the muppets, which isn't really about christmas, but it's on the john denver and the muppets christmas album so it must count. and then i always put 'just like christmas' by low on, because it's one of the best christmas songs ever. and i usually include lauren laverne's version of 'in the bleak midwinter' because it's the closest thing i'll ever have to a kenickie christmas song. and i like donna and blitzen by badly drawn boy. and the fairytale of new york always has to be on there. as does last christmas by wham. and this year i will be adding a couple of new christmas songs to my mix tape. the voluntary butler scheme's version of the wombles classic 'wombling merry christmas', and 'kiss you in the snow' by the school. which i stole for nothing from their myspace pages. and i'll try and add emmy the great’s version 'christmas in prison' too, but i can't get that until christmas eve so it might be too late or i might forget. my favourite christmas song ever though is little donkey, but i never have it on any of my christmas mix tapes cos i don't have any versions of anyone singing it except for us, and i'd be too embarrassed to put our own song on a mix tape. even if it was christmas.

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as it's nearly christmas i started thinking about my favourite records of the year. as i always do around this time. and i sat and thought for ages and tried to put together a top ten of albums that came out this year, but i couldn't do it. i only liked about ten albums that were released this year so it seems a bit pointless just putting them in order. it's been a bit rubbish really. so instead i thought i'd just mention the few albums i did like. in no particular order. i loved 'this fool can die now' by scout niblett, and i had lots of fun listening to 'kala' by m.i.a. when i was in the car going somewhere. and 'noise won’t stop' by shy child reminds me of bestival and the end of the road festival so that ended up being one of my favourites too. and twelve tales from winter city by the young republic was good and i liked the shins album. and can i keep this pen by northern state. and i still haven't got round to buying the monster bobby album yet, but i think i'm going to like it so i'm putting it down as one that i liked anyway. and i liked the royal we album too. in the end though, two of my favourite albums of the year were ones that didn't even properly come out. although i've just found out that one of them did actually, but when i was thinking about my favourite albums i didn’t think it had. i thought it was a j xaverre album called 'on the night plain' but it turns out it was released under the name george washington brown on vinyl on static caravan. it's a really lovely mess of lo fi indie pop and psychedelia, and it really cheers me up when i listen to it.

and my other favourite record of the year has been 'oh how i wish to be a small japanese car' by we show up on radar. it's got some of the songs off the growing a girl ep on it and some other songs that weren't on that. it's been the album that has suited my mood most perfectly all year. the perfect soundtrack for hiding in a cupboard under the stairs looking out at the world through a gap in the door, and wondering why it always has to be so cold and evil. it's all to be about the little things. and i still think the little things are the most important. it sounds perfect and magical and unreal, and reminds me of snow globes and glow in the dark stars, and other things like that. i don't know if it ever properly came out, i just know it's available for nothing from their website and myspace page and you can get the whole album by clicking on the picture of the cover below






my favourite single of the year was probably foundations by kate nash. just because i thought the chorus was really beautiful and sweet. and i think all the los campesinos singles are amazing too.

i might not have found many new albums that i liked, but there were some good reissues released this year. at the moment i'm particularly enjoying the soundtrack to ivor the engine and pogle's wood that's just come out on trunk records. and the young marble giants three cd reissue of colossal youth kind of made up for there not being many new records that i liked. and i picked up a copy of an even as we speak compilation last week, with lots of the stuff they released on the sarah label on. their version of new order's bizarre love triangle is so beautiful. and now i can listen to it on my ipod. and the two dexys reissues that came out this year were great too. which reminds me, this is my favourite bit of journalism from last year. it's from plan b, from the everett true review of the projected passion revue.


“sure, you can be my friend if you don’t love dexys,
but i’ll never be able to understand you.”


most sadly missed will be lee hazelwood and tangents.co.uk

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i picked up a copy of heart's needle by wd snodgrass last week. it's a book of poems he wrote which finishes off with the ten verse poem that's in the title of the book. the poem 'hearts needle' is about spending time with his young daughter after he and his wife had broken up and he'd moved away. it's very beautiful and quite sad. my favourite verse is the second one.


Late April and you are three; today
We dug your garden in the yard.
To curb the damage of your play,
Strange dogs at night and the moles tunneling,
Four slender sticks of lath stand guard
Uplifting their thin string.

So you were the first to tramp it down.
And after the earth was sifted close
You brought your watering can to drown
All earth and us. But these mixed seeds are pressed
With light loam in their steadfast rows.
Child, we've done our best.

Someone will have to weed and spread
The young sprouts. Sprinkle them in the hour
When shadow falls across their bed.
You should try to look at them every day
Because when they come to full flower
I will be away.


it reminds me of the poem 'double image' by anne sexton, which i've always loved. i guess because it's kind of about the same thing. except without the hospitals.

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last week i went to the rough trade shop christmas party and there was a live karaoke band. it was a bit like the last waltz, but a bit more shambolic. highlights included will from treecreeper's powerful rendition of i fought the law, ana from the raincoats doing lithium and sean's incendiary performance of the kids are united. and also this rather moving closing performance of killing in the name of that someone has put up on youtube.


i had a lovely night.

i've done most of my christmas shopping, but just in case there is anyone reading this (is anyone reading this?) who hasn't finished yet and is stuck for what to get an indie pop loving friend or relative of theirs, perhaps i can suggest going to top man to pick up a pair of underpants patterned with an orange juice cassette print. i know i should probably be incredibly angry and disheartened by this, because it means that something i love and feel passionate about has been appropriated by the mainstream, emptied of meaning and repackaged as a stocking filler. but i don't really care, cos i've got orange juice underpants.

i've been writing for most of the last few weeks, and then we've been in the studio for a couple of days, just redoing some of the vocals because i changed some of the words again. which is incredibly annoying of me. i have to apologise to both pete and jamie for putting them through this again. i promise that if we ever get to make another record after this one, i will make sure i am happy with all the words before i go to sing them.

also i have become morbidly fascinated with the work of the victorian taxidermist walter potter. even though i know it is wrong. i don't think it's cute or anything. i find it quite disturbing. and i am fully aware that the animals didn't die naturally or in accidents. walter potter killed them. or had them killed. and that is obviously wrong and bad. and if he was doing this sort of thing now it would probably be a bit weird, but it was the nineteenth century and there were no blue screens or camera trickery or cgi or whatever else people use to make animals look like they're doing things they couldn't possibly be doing, like in that country life butter advert or that film about a baby pig that wants to be a sheep dog. so i guess if walter potter wanted to have some kittens having a tea party he didn't have much option but to kill them and stuff them and then pose them around a miniature tea table with tiny cups and tiny saucers. which is sad, but i can't stop looking at them and imagining what it would be like if these things really did happen.

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and that's all for now. another year nearly over. i'm looking forward to the next one.


“despite every resolution of optimism,
melancholy occasionally wins out.”
- andre gide


happy christmas

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