Top Albums Of The Decade Or Something

Regular Bzangy readers, if there are any, will know that I was posting up a best album of the year list since waaay back when.

I say was because my life and mental state for the last few years, since my Dad died, have conspired to make me not get this done. I realised this year that I miss my best album list, purely for selfish reasons: it was a great way for me to keep track of bands I love and also check up on them to see what they’d been releasing lately.

So, as it’s the turn of the decade and we’re now heading into the ROARING TWENTIES, old sport, I thought I would present my ALBUMS OF THE DECADE OR SOMETHING. What I’ve done is to compile all the number one albums I’ve listed for the first seven years of the Tens and present them for you below, in one handy list. The last three years, sorry, you’re on your own there.

The albums below are in not particular order because they are all, frankly, stunning. There’s a mix of genres, of course but that’s because I bore easily. But I do think if you make a playlist of these albums, you’ll have some of the best music of the last decade.

1. Gojira – Magma

SO… 2016, eh?

What a fucker of a year. 

So many famous people we loved died. Then B R E X I T. Then Trump and his supporters actually sieg-heiling and the President Elect not condemning them for that.

I had all that and my Dad died in April. 

I can say that 2016 has been the worst year in my life this far. Many, many times, I’ve felt like walking into traffic or jumping off something. And one of the reasons I haven’t is this album.

That may sound like hyperbole if you’re not a music fan, if music doesn’t hit you like pure heroin, like it does me. But this year was so dark for me, so relentlessly, meaninglessly horrible that I reached out to music to make a connection. I couldn’t burden the few humans I know with the truth, the whole ugly truth of my emotions. But ‘Magma’ was waiting. ‘Magma’ didn’t require me to censor the worst parts of myself. 

I’ve loved Gojira for years but on ‘Magma’ they take all their prog skill and focus it like a laser. When they’re simple, it’s with an authority, a gravitas that is undeniable and based on their ridiculous technical prowess. You can feel that weight in the title track which pounds along after the eerie tube harmonics opening. They get pretty close to a heavy Floyd vibe here, massed monk vocals and all. 

I love that this record isn’t cartoon heavy; it’s not blast beats and invocations to silly non-existent religious entities. It’s not some Nazi fuckwit gibbering over Pro-Tools. The heaviness is adult, is real, it is comprehensible and that’s how I could connect to it. The pain in this record is where I found solace. The silence is where I found respite.

So I drove round for hours listening to it because I can have it as loud as I want in my car without disturbing neighbours. I could have it loud enough that the kicks shook my guts and that every lead line was like sheet metal being ripped next to my ear. My ears would ring afterwards but, fuck it, I’d damage myself for a hit of that shit. 

‘Silvera’ pummelled me and made me feel better. ‘When you change yourself, your change the world,’ they shouted at me. So I reversed this and changed my world, hoping to change myself. Little by little, this stopped being an album, stopped being a collection of songs recorded in a studio and became the sound inside my head. I would be walking in town and hear the double kicks inside me, I came to need to hear them to stop from panicking if I actually had to talk to a human. 

Yes, this is epic metal. It’s more machinelike than Mastodon, more melodramatic than Pelican but it shares the same blunt, calloused hands, the same familiarity with pain. When ‘Pain’ actually starts, it’s with a chirp of flute and it could be an old rave track about to kick in, under the eighths. Then the staccato kicks hit along with the toms and you’re gone. After the relatively sedate verse, the chorus is flailing fucking mayhem again, the sense of controlled violence erupting into that moment when you know you’re going to punch the wall just to see if you’ll leave a mark. Just to see if you actually fucking exist to anyone or anything any more. 

Thank you, Gojira. Thank you for keeping me alive. 

Andrew Combs - All These Dreams

1. Andrew Combs – All These Dreams

When it comes down to it, I love pop songs. And that’s why Andrew Combs is the top artist in this chart, because he’s written the best songs I’ve heard in 2015.

What’s the album like? Well, it’s pure country. It’s not alt, it’s not indie, it’s not some hipsters in Brooklyn who’ve put on stetsons and ridiculous drawls and “gone country.” Combs is a  kid (he’s only 29, recorded this when he was 27/28, I’m guessing) who’s country through and through, moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a proper writer.

Unlike a lot of his generation, his inspiration is classic songwriters, whether that’s Kristofferson or Paul Simon or Guy Clark. The result is an album of songs that are melancholy gems. This is the country that also the blues, it lifts you up by helping you see you’re not alone, not that strange, not as fucked as you think you are.

Here’s the end refrain from ‘Foolin’ :

I do a line have a drink

Tell the world what I think

Keep it fast keep it mean

I don’t mean what I’m saying baby

Somebody save me…

Well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we, even without the coke and JD?

When I listen to this album and Combs assured, soulful delivery I’m reminded of Nilsson and Fred Neil. When I listen to the songs, I’m reminded of Newman and Nesmith. And, sometimes, at his most keening and sorrowful, Combs channels Orbison which I would never say lightly.

This is a singer and songwriter who is already gold and only going to get more golden. And that’s why ‘All These Dreams’ is my top album of 2015.

martha


1. Martha – Courting Strong
I had the privilege of seeing Martha rule the Main Stage at Indietracks last year so I know they are one the best live bands I have ever seen. Their frantic, often ragged punk polemics are as warm and funny as they are totally, completely serious. And I love their politics, I love their straight-edgeness, I love their stupidly posicore spirit. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can deliver a brilliant album. Will all that energy translate, will it captivate when we can’t see them jumping round like knobheads?

Yes.

Courting Strong is the best  album of 2014 because it is the complete, auteurist expression of intelligent, awesome people. Compromise, zero. Pandering, zero. Weird, fake American accents, zero. Heteronormative cliches, zero. Here, fucking finally, is an indiepop band, a punk band which remembers that those genres were founded on political bases. I see so many indiepop bands who ape the aesthetic or instrumentation of the C-86 era while conveniently ignoring everything political about those times. And, truly, who wants a bunch of Tory fucks in cardigans mewling about some imaginary girl who wouldn’t suck them off?

Take the last bit of Present Tense:

You lost your lucky purple lighter/On the Megabus to Brighton/But on the way you read a zine that made you think/You’d be a good Anarcho writer/But not even Voltairine de Cleyre/Could successfully get you there/Without a list of aspirations gushing out of your pen/As you stewed in that sticky chair/Regretting the choices that we made, 

You’re wishing your life away/Or longing for bygone days/Oh would you give me a fucking break? Cause they won’t come back/ 
So give me something that lasts/You’re searching for answers in tough circumstances but I just need something that lasts/so give me something that lasts.

It’s hardly “boo hoo, some mean girl fucked someone who wasn’t me” is it?

Couple Martha’s lyrical prowess with a gazillion pop hooks that any living motherfucker would find irresistible and you have this rare thing, a niche record that is also a proper pop record.  If Dust, Juice, Bones, Hair made it onto an advert or primetime Radio 1, it would be an instant hit. I have no doubt.

This is the pop music I love: I can sing along to it, I can dance to it and it makes me think. Most stuff I hear can manage two out of three at most. Chart pop, generally one, if that. But how often does pop music leave you musing for days after, trying to pick out what was being said or, more importantly, why?

Courting Strong is flicking vs at your mates, it’s rolling up your skirt at the waist as soon as you’re in school and your Mum can’t see, it’s oinking when you pass a copper, it’s telling the rest of the world to fuck off because this, right here, this is important. It’s as fundamentally British and Durham as it is Internationalist and intersectional. Buy it now, here.


1. Baths – Obsidian
Okay, I’m a sucker for synthpop, electro, whatever you goddamn kids call it this week. I’m also a sucker for immaculate, perfect pop songs that are as unsettling as they are catchy. That’s why Baths’ ‘Obsidian’ is my number one album of 2013. Will Weisenfeld, the genius behind Baths wraps the most painful of private confessions in the most perfect sugar coatings. If there is a modern-day heir to Gore’s ‘Black Celebration’ electro-goth noir, it’s Baths. Look, if you really want a cookie-cutter, easy-sell handle about it, imagine a very depressed, maimingly honest Postal Service with 100% more lyrics about needy erections.

This is my top album partly because it’s been the key to my lock. When you’re walking around your suburb hoping you’ll be Regina Georged by a passing bus, you need lyrics in your ears that aren’t facile. You don’t care if they’re uncomfortable or scratchy, crawling into your head and tickling alive memories you thought you’d drowned, as long as they’re real. You need lyrics like this:

“You don’t do anything with your life
Fascinating, terrible – your stupid idling mind
I can prod your hurt all night
Or resign and find
Any other stupid thing to do with my time
I was never poetic and never kind

Scared of how little I care for you
Scared of how little I care for you
Scared of how little I care for you
I am elsewhere.”

Please check out ‘Miasma Sky’ if nothing else from this album. I cannot believe any human who has ever loved pop music will be immune to its skittering, baleful charms.

Apart from that, I find it hard to single out what to recommend from an album of such riches. A lot of people have and will call this a depressing album. I don’t feel it to be. On the contrary, at my lowest ebb, this album has come to me at random times and punched me on the arm and made me feel a little less ridiculous and ugly.

“It gets all in the way, the pit in my throat
This isn’t the adulthood I thought I wrote
And I never see your face, but I just might be okay with that
I have no eyes, I have no love, I have no hope

And it is not a matter of
If you need it
But it is only a matter of
Come and fuck me
And it is not a matter of
If you love me
But it is only a matter of
My fix.”

A little.


1. Diamond Rings – Free Dimensional
If there was any justice, DR would be bigger than Lady Gaga and Maroon 5 put together. He’s got fabulous synthpop songs, a voice like a charming, adolescent bear and he’s cute too. ‘All The Time’ is pure, pure, purest pop: intelligent verses matched with seductive, let’s-take-our-clothes-off-now-please choruses. ‘Runaway Love’ was obviously a massive ‘80s anthem in some parallel universe. Why can’t we make it come true in this one? But this album if you love pop music, choruses and shaking your ass in an outrageous fashion.

EDIT:

Gojira‘s ‘L’enfant Sauvage’ should be in there somewhere but for some reason my iTunes 2012 smartlist excluded it. DAMN YOU, APPLE! Well, I’m a long-time fan of Gojira and their newie is deft, powerful, passionate metal. It’s certainly a worthy successor to 2008’s ‘Way Of All Flesh,’ which is one of my fave metal albums ever. Buy it!

1. Yelle – Safari Disco Club


I have listened to this album more than any other this year. I have driven mates barmy by hitting repeat in my car. I have watched all Yelle’s vids and of course, I’m in love with Julie and would like her to have my fat, brown babies.

This is a perfect electropop album. Nothing is wasted, everything works together. Every note hammers home Yelle’s agenda of (primarily) sexy dance fun. The synths weave around Julie Budet’s incredible voice like lovers’ arms, tickling and teasing. The beats are undeniable, every fibre of your body starts pumping in resonance.

I’ve sung along so many times to ‘Comme Un Enfant’ in my terrible French, it’s ridiculous! How can you not love these lyrics:

“J’aime les fraises tagada et je rêve d’un
Wayne’s world 3, je veux une méga happy
End enlacée dans tes bras
J’en ai pas de dents de sagesse, ça ne me
Manque pas, quand je mords la nuit à
Pleines dents pour faire la nouba
Je suis un enfant, comme un adolescent
Je suis un adulte, comme un adolescent
Faut-il vraiment choisir son camp (choisir son camp)
Le faut-il vraiment, comme un adolescent
Je chante et je pleure, comme un enfant

Je joue à me faire peur,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant
Je pense tout et son contraire,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant
Je danse, j’ai le coeur à l’envers,
Comme un enfant, comme un enfant”

Here, sing along for yourself:

Yelle have made the best pop album of 2011 and they have made me sad with their mastery of electropop. It means I have to try much fucking harder!

Enjoy Yelle and the rest of my 2011 albums. But hands off Julie, she’s mine! ? ???

1. Everything Everything – Man Alive


I went to see this band (click here) and even though I already loved the album, it came alive in a special way.

‘Man Alive’ covers such an enormous gamut, both musically and lyrically. Yes, it’s all indie rock / pop but there’s so much else going on here. The harmonies, the integration of the electronics (never showy, always organic), the energy that seeps out of every tiny, non-repeated noise. I hear all those things that the band have put in. And I appreciate them.

They make ‘Man Alive’ the best album of 2010. ?

My Very Short Review Of The Sony Xperia 5

I had high hopes for this phone, I’m looking to replace my Samsung Note 10 Plus because the in-screen fingerprint sensor basically is shite.

So, unboxed the Sony, lovely lovely, booted aaaaand…

What a wonderful start!

Okay… let’s reboot. Hmmm… seems a bit hot at the back. Ah, I’m sure it’ll be okay…

…..aaaaand back in the box you go, Sony Xperia 5, you dodgy piece of crap…

Creepy Old Man

That’s me when I was a kid.

Around the time this pic was taken, my Mummy tried to have a birthday party for me and my schoolfriends. Bear in mind that both my parents were doctors so we lived in white neighbourhoods, upper working class ones as white middle and upper class people would not sell houses to Asian immigrants in the 70s, no matter what they did for a job. We lived in Hellesdon, Norwich, in a little bungalow. None of the neighbours on the actual street spoke to us – they had, in fact, lobbied the vendors not to sell to ‘Pakis.’

So I was at Primary School, fully immersed in racism from the teachers every day and my schoolmates more sporadically. But I had a cohort of… associates? We’d play at playtimes, open-mouthedly examine hirsute caterpillars, normal kid stuff.

So, my lovely Mummy organised a party. She wanted it to be fantastic, obviously, what parent doesn’t? She gave me little invites to hand out to my friends and she bought English party snacks. She deliberately did not make Indian treats as she wanted the kids to see how ‘normal’ we were and that we didn’t stink (‘smelly Pakis’ was a big racist trope around then and another reason I’m still paranoid about how I smell).

The day of the party, my Mummy got everything ready. And we waited.

No-one turned up.

I didn’t really know how to feel, I was surprised but… maybe this was simply what parties were like? But my Mummy got upset and she started crying and clearing away the crisps and chocolates she’d put out. She’d never wanted to leave India, never wanted to be forever seen as an outsider and be forced to be four times as talented as any white person to get half as far. She’d never wanted to see her small son come home from school every day covered in bruises and confused and crying. I tried to comfort my Mummy by hugging her but I remember this made her more upset. So, I think I took my cue from her and started crying.

The next day at school, various kids I’d given invites to came up and made excuses which I found puzzling. Then one kid said, “I wanted to come cos I love parties but my Mum said I can’t play with dirty niggers.” (Yes, I’m Indian, not black but racists are nothing if not stupid.)

A girl called Catherine took me round the side of one of the buildings. She said she was my friend but not to tell anyone as her parents hated wogs. Then she gave me a hug. Later that day, she laughed and joined in when the lad who’d called me a ‘dirty nigger’ tried out ‘coon’ for a bit of variety. I didn’t realise it then but that moment set the pattern for a lot of my adult relationships.

All my fucking life, for varying reasons, people have been ashamed or embarrassed or fearful of being seen to be my friend. Sometimes because I’m fat. Sometimes because I’m uncool. A lot because of my colour. They have racistly bullied me in public then privately apologised, saying they’d know I would ‘understand.’ I have had two girlfriends who claimed to love me but I had to carry out secret relationsips with because one or both their parents were virulent, violent racists and they were ‘worried for my safety.’

I entered a third relationship like this decades ago and realised something.

I’d had enough.

The first ever White Town song was about that realisation, specifically in the lines:

Well it’s a white town with green trees
And nothing in love is free
So if it’s not worth fighting for
It’s worth nothing at all

When you realise that someone you love sees you as embarrassing, as an awkard fact to be explained away, to be minimised and hidden, that they’re ashamed to be seen in public with you… in that moment I’m that kid at the party again. I’m pulling up three streets from a girlfriend’s house so her BNP Dad won’t see me. I’m looking at Catherine and being confused because she was hugging me earlier but now she’s calling me a fucking coon. She’s not sticking up for me… at all.

My heart is broken.

I feel very lonely.

Fizzing

So much has been happening to me.

So much loveliness.

I’m fizzing.

Do you know those times when you are so terribly excited that you start to lose the ability to speak lucidly or slow down enough to be intelligible? Those times when all the tiny hairs on the back of your neck seem to join the same army and, as one, they rise up and fuck-up your usually debonair and enui-laden persona.

Those times when you see someone and you want them so much you feel yourself actually growling. Growling with the hunger of needing them so fucking badly, of needing to feel their naked skin to yours. Needing to be inside them, to feel them around you but also for them to be inside you, for them to feel how much you trust them and love them.

Those times are now.

I’m going to make sure I’m in them forever.

The Fat Trekkies Guide To DST

I’m a huge, fat Trekkie. I am not merely plump, I am massive. My weight wanders, as with a lot of very obese people but it’s always in excess of 350lbs / 25 stone / 159kg. I’ve loved Star Trek since I was a fat nipper and so I feel qualified to write this.

Going to Destination Star Trek has become one of the highlights of my year since it’s gone annual. There is this warm sense of family, of being with other absolute geeks and, in that, a feeling of belonging, a community. But there are a few things us more oblately spherical Trekkies have to be aware of, in order to have the best possible DST experience. 

  1. COSPLAY

First, you DO NOT HAVE TO DRESS UP to go to DST. I’ve suggested going to so many people and had the response that they can’t / don’t want to cosplay and so cannot go. And it’s equally fraught if they do want to dress up. If they’re on the larger side, there’s the added pressure of knowing they won’t be able to wear off-the-peg uniforms. Or they worry how they’ll look because, let’s be honest, some of those Trek uniforms are not the most flattering for those of us without gym-bunny actor bodies. And we can’t all go as Morn, as amazing a con as that would be. 

Wear what you feel most happy and comfortable in, no-one at DST will judge you. We’ve all paid to be there, we’re all equal, there is no hierarchy of Trekness and you should not feel even slightly out of place wearing your ordinary clothes. 

NOW… with that caveat out of the way, I say this to my larger Trekkies: DRESS UP! I was sooo scared for so long, knowing that my weird-shaped body would not look like anything ever seen in Trek TV or film. To add to my worries, I now have an abdominal hernia which most resembles Kuatu out of Total Recall. This makes me very lopsided in an obvious way. 

But I still cosplay! 

I have so much fun in the two uniforms I have. Sometimes, I’ve gone Vulcan Starfleet but mostly I’m human. I like wearing my uniforms because I feel that I’m representing not just Indians or fat blokes or, indeed, fat Indian blokes but because by cosplaying, I’m adding a little bit to the diversity of DST. How dull would it be if DST was full of only slim, young cosplayers? How does that fit in with IDIC at all? Star Trek is such an important part of my life and I first stretched an engineer’s shirt over my tubby belly when I was around seven or eight. Decades later, it feels only right to wear Starfleet uniform. 

As for where to buy – there’s still time to order a uniform from one of the overseas suppliers. Take down all your measurements, get online and get ordering. You may have to roll up the sleeves, as I do, or do a couple of alterations but you will look and, more importantly, feel wonderful. At first, you *will* feel a little silly, but the word is cosPLAY not cosSERIOUSBIZWORKTIMEFROWNFACE.

Like Spock on Talos IV, HAVE A LAUGH!

  1. BE PREPARED TO BE KNACKERED / KEEP HEALTHY!

DST is fabulous but it can be very, very tiring, even for thin / physically fit people. For us bloaters, this can end up with us missing out on things we’ve paid for because we overdid it earlier (or at one of the Bacchanalian night parties). 

So… PACE YOURSELF. It’s a huge venue, everything is bloody miles apart and you’ll be trudging to and from the same areas myriad times. You’ll probably be doing the most walking you’ve done in ages, all crammed into a few hours. If you’re a thin enough fat person, take a collapsible chair or stool with you so can take the weight off when you’re queuing for something. Sadly, I’m too heavy for any of those travel chair options so I simply have to stand when I’m not walking. Yes, there is seating but it’s really only around the food areas so it’s often too busy to find a place and it’s miles from where you might want to be. 

(SIDE NOTE – hey, DST organisers! It would be lovely if there were more general seating areas scattered around. And I DO NOT mean bean bags. They are the worst thing for fat people to try and get up from.)

Also majorly figuring into this: SHOES. Do not make the mistake I made and sacrifice comfort for how things look with your cosplay. I wore my Doc boots because they looked more uniform-y and at the end of that day, I had blisters and I was hobbling severely. It very much curtailed what I did for the rest of the weekend. Soo, don’t be stupid like I was, wear the comfiest shoes you have available. 

With all the walking, queuing, ogling of merch and suchlike going on, it’s very handy if you have your own water with you, even if it’s only a small bottle. Ideally, pack some low-carb, long-lasting snacks too. Some of us can get trembly with low blood sugar and so emergency food is essential because you don’t want to be walking all the way across the hall in search of a burger and then end up at the back of another queue!

  1. PLANNING THE ACTIVITIES

There’s a crapload of stuff cracking off at DST, over the three days. When I first went, I’d look up the timetable online each time I wanted to check anything. Yeah… no. So fiddly, so faffy. Then I thought, ‘OH HO, I AM A GENIUS, I’LL PRINT IT OUT.’ 

Then I was the fat bloke squinting at a piece of A4, trying to work out what I wanted to see, could I see it, when was it, WHERE THE HELL WAS IT? I ended up walking around and around… tiring myself out for no reason at all and then missing things I dearly wanted to see. Now, if you’re thin, you can leap around the hall like a young gazelle, no worries. But I got irritated, tired, a bit trembly and ended up going back to the hotel and being sad. 

Now, I’ve solved this by over-planning ahead of time. As soon as there’s anything like a complete timetable available, I’ll download it and then pick out everything that I’m allowed to see / listen to (I only buy the basic, three-day ticket) and cut and paste all that info to a new, separate doc. As I’m doing this, I’ll try to make sure I’m not making myself ping-pong around the hall un-necessarily because I *know* I’ll get tired and then I’ll end up missing stuff. I also print out a full timetable to keep general track of things. But, typically, I’ll stick to my edited version. Doing this saves me so much time, hassle but, most of all, I can prioritise events and balance each day’s activities so I can make the most of them. Job done! 

So, that’s my three tips for Fat Trekkies. Some of it may apply if you have other health or accessibility issues. The main reason I’ve written this is that I think people are afraid of being judged on what they look like, their size or how they look in cosplay / lack of cosplay. And so, they end up not going to DST and other cons and they miss out on some seriously stupid fun. Don’t be that person missing out.

Whatever size you are, live long, prosper and be happy at DST!