Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolution for 2011 - Watch Less Reality TV

I have some great books unread on the shelf, and have maybe seen only 3 or 4 Hitchcock films in my time.

I usually like to give something up for Lent, and this year, considered ditching crisps or Facebook, but decided to obliterate any Hollyoaks related programming from my life schedule. Oh how the family Lepki rejoiced in the additional two hours of parlour games and home baking. Well, not so much on the parlour games, but the bread making has come on leaps and bounds in 2010.

The start of 2011 marks a good opportunity to review some of the other time filling crap that filled slots in between work and bed. After a tough-ish day of bringing home the bacon, I have to set expectations with some relative sanity and am unlikely to thrash out a quick screenplay between 9 and 10 when the firstborn teases between cosy sleep and wide eyed attention seeking.

During the last few months of the year, I found myself watching the time sapping drain of the X-Factor, as Simon Cowell and Cheryl Cole paused and manipulated the proles into buying and voting and eating up column inches for 12 weeks and made names of the lesser talented participants such as Wagner and Cher Lloyd who made good copy that was constantly referred to in the show, but I ignored out the context of the 4 hours I was already watching. This spring, Michael McIntyre is added to the BGT panel, but I am not going to get sucked in.

I have managed to steer clear of Strictly and anything on Ice, long may that continue.

On the BBC, I also tuned into Alan Sugar's The Apprentice which whittled down another 12 or so candidates and padded an hour with a couple of well edited points and lots of nice HD flyover shots of London. I bought the bagels in Kingston and they were stale. the show can probably disappear from my schedule in 2011 too.

I doubt that I need to see another season of models move into house, bounce on beds, get makeovers, have a few ups and downs and one eventually gets some contract but you never seem to ever see again. I learnt that lesson from the Search for the New Pussycat Doll. The winner, Asia, never actually got to be that Pussycat Doll, but the 12 week elimination process had enough dips and grinds in branded PCD booty shorts in between time lapse shots of LA and painful renditions of Lady Marmalade to keep viewers intrigued.

I have probably seen enough The Hills for one lifetime, and on some occasions, have seen the same episode several times. I no longer spend Sundays in a hungover trance, so Lauren, Spencer and Heidi can do one, and take their accompanying The City with them.

Two reality shows that I am more reluctant to lose are sewing show Project Runway which actually showcases some kind of talent, and the Amazing Race for the semi-selfish travel bragging opportunity to see speeded up slowed down shots of nice places I've been to.

E4 and More4 staples Location Location Location and Relocation Relocation seem so pointless now considering they were all filmed in 2005 and feature conveniently indecisive couples who fill and hour, or rather about 30 minutes of original content as they ponder neighbourhoods they would consider moving to with the profits from their one bedroom flat in Balham which tripled in value between x and y in the early zeroes. Rather than the speeded up footage, the Kirsty and Phil shows have slanted angles of a tube station, and zooms into coffee shop signs to show the product of early decade E4 gentrification.

Supernanny and Wifeswap are another couple of tired E4 shows which tantrum their way through empty slots in the schedule.

So, unless any great new reality shows come along like Rollergirls, The Tourist Trap or The Town That Wants a Twin, I plan to steer clear or pretty much all of this stuff.

Unless it is about home baking that is, like the best show of 2010, The Great British Bake Off, which maybe in some way helped me kick the reality TV habit.

Pop may indeed eat itself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

2010: The Lepki Musical Review of the Year

In a predictably highbrow twist, in a year where the impact of being featured on the X Factor could recycle a flagging career, being featured on a BBC4 documentary led to a glut of plays on the only chart that matters - The Lepki Chart.

Neu burst into Lepki consciousness in 2010, years after their influence seeped through countless Stereolab albums. Masters of the sparse 1 chord marathons, Neu featured on BBC4's excellent The Birth of Krautrock documentary. This view of the genre also led to the discovery of Faust, Popul Vuh, Kluster and a renewed appreciation of Kraftwerk, and only the second ever David Bowie song to make an impact (A New Career in a New Town finally toppled Lets Dance as the most played Thin White Duke song).

BBC4's Dennis Wilson documentary followed the Karen Carpenter story, and both detailed the lives of ultimately doomed figures from the 60s and 70s. Pacific Ocean Blue provided a soaringly inconsistent but occasionally magical backdrop to the spring, and the drum breaks on the Carpenters All I Can Do will surely come in for plundering when LTJ Bukem launches his long awaited return from DnB exile.

Bradford Cox ended the year as the top composer, with his double whammy of Atlas Sound and Deerhunter. The bands have a definite common thread of dreamy sonics.

All of this material is from before 2010... 

Looking at the iTunes play counts, an intriguing thing becomes apparent when looking at plays by year.
The 80's were shit.
1983 only just managed to register as one listen through the Final Cut was deemed to be a necessary requirement for a Pink Floyd completist. 

Probably the best year for music ever was 1970, as tunes from this year are still being played in their droves. Os Mutantes A Divina Comédia ou Ando Meio Desligado, Pink Floyd's Zabriskie Point, and Doris's Did you Give The World Some Love Today were all released 40 years ago. Blimey.

As the years roll by, it is in 1997 that music really starts to have a decent significance again, and this is largely down to Broadcast and Yo La Tengo and the release of various David Lynch soundtracks by composer Angelo Badalamenti. These artists are yearly mainstays.

My Gig of the Year would have to be Broadcast at the Royal Festival Hall a gig the Guardian called "Hypnotic, lulling, yet faintly unsettling". I would have gone for loopy myself with all sorts of swirling patterns and trippy visuals.
Less exciting was Rufus Wainwright who played a solo show in Sadler Wells on a boiling hot evening.
Oh and Screamadelica live was excellent too. Musically superb, though the sound was a bit crummy in places, right by the speaker.

Most Played Artists of 2010 - by number of tracks played

Yo La Tengo 642
Atlas Sound 541
Angelo Badalamenti 522
Pink Floyd 360
Iron & Wine 336
Broadcast 322
Stereolab 296
Broadcast & The Focus Group 280
Deerhunter 275
The Aliens 234
Caribou 221
Leonard Cohen 206
Massive Attack 198
Os Mutantes 198
Quantic 179
The Velvet Underground 125
The Beta Band 124
Dennis Wilson 111
Fleet Foxes 110
XX 102
Sparklehorse 101
Lou Reed 94
The Bees 94
Neu! 94
Rufus Wainwright 90
Spacemen 3 90
Animal Collective 89
Neil Young 88

When looking at the most played artists, you need to go all the way down to Caribou for the first 2010 album in the list.

"electro heavy, slightly disintegrating melodic trance packs a punch of intruguing non-resolution."

Melodic and largely acoustic music was flavour of the season, with Iron &a Wine springing in from nowhere with their 2007 album The Shepherd's Dog accounting for most plays.

Early days of having a child in the house meant gentle songs were the preferred accompaniment.

Doris - Did you Give the World Some love today baby is a lovely timepiece from the late 60's which is a little bit of European Motown. I think of Doris Svennson as a cross between Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, with a little bit of Cardigans/Carpenters thrown in.

Finally, the Dark Night Of The Soul was the token melancholy album of the month, with the Sparklehorse collaboration heavy piece of work mixing up catchy lyrical hooks with moody menacing nightmares.

You can listen to highlights on Spotify here...

Overall quite a good year, and due to the continued appropriateness of the music, I would give IRON AND WINE my artist of the year award.