We’re only six weeks into 2011 and it’s already shaping up to be the finest vintage year for album releases in half a decade, probably longer.
Time after time in the past month, bands and artists I love have produced the goods, headed towards their peak form or returned with true passion and creativity after a gap.
In fact, I have heard almost enough albums in January alone to equal my 10 favourites from the whole of last year.
For me the clear masterpiece so far is PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, which repositions her as a world-class outward-looking war artist.
I might not be the person you’d expect to call for more measured rhetoric from “our side” in the current escalating cuts conflict but I’m going to.
Last year, when Camilla Parker Bowles’s terrified face was splashed across the tabloids to much hilarity after she was “poked with a stick” by protesters who attacked the royal car, an unexpected reaction I felt was sympathy for the old lady.
Of course the Establishment press ran with the story, a convenient rug under which to brush far worse abuses of peaceful demonstrators by police officers, as well as the wider and quite appalling hurt caused by the kettling tactic.
Even this week, after a weekend in which non-violent protesters were assaulted with CS gas on Oxford Street, the mainstream media will under-report and equivocate.
I think Twitter is very important; the most important web-based communication tool yet developed. I don’t need to tell you (whether you use it or not) that it has had a profound effect around the world, created an accessible, robust new route for contact and real-time search. We’re only beginning to learn the benefits it could bring.
If you live down a well with no radio, on Desert Island Discs famous/important people pick eight pieces of music they’d take to a desert island. Then at the end of the programme they pick a book* and a ‘luxury object’, meaning something that won’t help them escape or communicate with the outside world but will improve their stay on the island.
In a conversation with Anth Melton a couple of months ago about augmented reality, Anth said something that turned my view of the technology on its head. It’s stuck with me, got to be shared and he won’t be bothered, so here goes.
We tend to come at augmented reality from the point of view of the benefits ‘within’ it, ie. what it does for you once you’ve got your Google Goggles or iSpecs on and you’re wandering around a world you’ve programmed, seeing a range of content and adverts picked out and filtered for you. But Anth suggested we should regard the development of AR from the other direction, from a town planning / eco-improvement perspective. Perhaps it offers an incredibly powerful tool (or at least impetus) to sort out the real physical world. I honestly haven’t heard this perspective on AR anywhere else and it amazes me, the more I think about it, it’s almost Mayer Hillman counter-intuitive.
You know the way that sometimes urban spaces look suddenly, unexpectedly beautiful if you look up above the ground floor? The truism that if you’re walking around a shoddy town centre, overcrowded with consumers, full of advert hoardings and with every building covered in shop signage, that the buildings themselves are actually gorgeous? You just have to look slightly upwards – to the first floor and above – to get smacked in the face by how lush these streets of varied historic architecture are, especially at a quieter time of day. For me Oxford Street and in particular Charing Cross Road are like that early morning, when there aren’t the usual bucketloads of numpties. Brighton is like that too because we have ramshackle, alleyway architecture which fades into the background when the town is rammed brimful of tourists and shoppers.
With foreign films I guess the assumption is always to watch the subtitled version, not the dubbed version. But with animation I’m only just now realising this is dead wrong. Late to the party, I know. My logic has always been: I want to hear the ‘original’ voices and follow the script on the subtitles, not listen to a bunch of jobbing Hollywood b-listers chew microphones through some kind of Disney-ised, morally compromised script?
But now I’m forced into a rethink, thanks to a conversation with a spectacularly well-informed barman in the upstairs coffee shop at the Duke Of York’s in Brighton. They have posters up for the new Studio Ghibli animation Ponyo, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, which opens in two weeks. It’s profoundly exciting news for anyone into Ghibli animation, and will hopefully rebuild my faith in the studio after the disaster of Tales From Earthsea, where Miyazaki’s inexperienced son Goro was given the film of Ursula Le Guin’s classic pioneering fantasy novels, after Dad had chased them for years. Goro fucked it up big-time.