life is beautiful, and yet….

It’s all about words now. I’ve just started a 2 year writing course, and as if that wasn’t enough I’m doing the final writing course on offer at my local adult educational school, and I’ve just got a new job working at a school. Helping kids to read and write, writing my poems, and putting together a book of short stories. That’s what I’ll be doing for the next couple of years, so stay with me. For now there are a few songs to talk about.

I once again had to defend my lov..sorry, admiration, for Norah Jones’ music. “How can you like such shit when you’re into sonic youth and Mark Kozelek?”. I tried talking about how amazing her voice is, how her lyrics are incredible, and just how relaxing the music is but it didn’t get me anywhere. Come on, the guy from Belle and Sebastian asked her to sing on his record! She’s touring the US now, and if you live there or are able to go, please go and tell me what the concerts are like because I’ve never seen her live. You can see the full list of those tour dates here. Meanwhile here’s that Belle and Sebastian/Norah Jones from a few years back

There’s another band out there called Stars, a Canadian band. They’re also not particularly “cool” but they write the coolest little songs. Poppy-love-trash songs about hope in a broken world. Anyway, they made a little film which is fun. You can watch it below.

In case you think it’s all too boring, and you need something to impress the hipsters down at the beat cafe, there’s a band called Algiers who are the music press are calling gospel-political-punk. They make really cool videos too, like this one here.

Last of all I got the new album by ANT. A few years ago when I did proper music journalism, I gave his cd 5/5 and had it down as album of the month. Despite this enthusiasm, for some reason it didn’t go platinum. This new one is lovely too, perfect for cold nights tucked into your blanket drinking hot chocolate. Oh but wait, there’s whiskey in the hot chocolate, because love has gone away and these songs will melt your heart. Please support this guy and buy this, he’s brilliant and we need music like this.

Finally, I need to let you know my German friend Daniel Benjamin and his ace band sea and air are currently touring the UK. Sadly no-where near me, although they are playing in Bury St Edmunds, a little small well off market town where I went to school and I don’t recall a single band ever playing there before. I hope they tore it apart. Catch them if you can on the dates below

Oct 15 UK – BURY ST EDMUNDS, Apex
Oct 16 UK – MANCHESTER, BOTW
Oct 17 UK – OXFORD, Oxjam
Oct 18 UK – YORK, Fibbers
Oct 20 UK – DERBY, Flowerpot
Oct 21 UK – BRISTOL, Louisiana
Oct 22 UK – WARWICK, Copper Rooms
Oct 23 UK – GUILDFORD, Boileroom
Oct 24 UK – CONVENT, Stroud
Oct 25 UK – PORTSMOUTH, Wedgewood Rooms
Oct 27 UK – LONDON, Funsbury Pub

I care about you. More soon xo

seven films for broken hearts.

I’m back from an intoxicating, somewhat exhausting but very fulfilling trip to Romania for Open Hands and I think I’m not quite ready to talk about music yet. Sure I could go on about Mark Kozelek and his latest diss song about some idiots in a Canadian festival , but I can’t be bothered. I could talk about how excited I am the 90’s indie pop band lush are reforming. If you never heard of them, check this video out, “The boy has such an ego, he loved to talk about himself every day and every night”. I last saw them in Northampton I guess in 1997… Huh, life moves pretty fast.

So I’m going to stop a while here, and talk about films. I’m not going to think too much about it, but here are 7 films to watch this week that are perfect for autumn nights, wrapped up in your blanket sitting by the fire, eating crisps and chocolate. They’re not in any order, not necessary the best or my favourite films just what’s on my mind. You can watch one a day for a whole week, and life will feel pretty good again afterwards I guarantee it.

MONDAY – What If – it’s got the kid from Harry Potter in. Don’t let that put you off. he also somehow played Alen Ginsburg (and was somehow tottaly authentic and belieable). This is, I guess, a grown up love film that’s kind of funny, kind of silly, but kind of believable too. Sorry,  all I watch are love films, don’t know why, don’t know why….

TUESDAY – What Maise Knew – Some rich parents are splitting up, and you see it all from their little girl’s point of view. Sad, true, but it’s not depressing trust me, it’s full of hope and beauty. The ending is perfect too.

WEDNESDAY – Lore – I tend to spend a lot of time watching foreign films, either French or German normally. The French one’s are always great, and most of the German one’s aren’t bad either. This one, being German is of course about the Nazi regime, and ok this one is a tad depressing, but it’s a good story too and it won lots of awards. Don’t worry tomorrow we’ve got a comedy coming up.

THURSDAY – Funny People – ok bare with me, this is an Adam Sandler film. It’s kind of pathetic really, but this one is a little bit different. For once it’s written and directed by good old Judd Apatow. It’s about an older comedian who is a complete idiot, but somehow it’s sweet too. Hey, I never said this was a list of the best films ever made! Ether that or watch “knocked up”….

FRIDAY – Liberal Arts – there are a few films of this type I really like, but this is pretty good. It’s about a guy in his mid thirties who is kind of drifting along feeling empty with his life then he falls in love, kind of, with a college girl. Things get complicated as you expect. It’s like a soundtrack to a song by the wedding present

SATURDAY – Leap Year – I told you I only watch love films like this. Sometimes life is hard, things are stupid and strange, that’s why films like this are perfect.

SUNDAY – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – So many great 80’s films, this is one of them. It’s Sunday, allow yourself to just enjoy this and don’t think too much about it.

space man save earth and album of the year

Summer news is always silly, even though I took a few weeks on holiday away from British media-consumption, the most interesting news stories of the summer appear to be some nasa astronaunt who was the 6th person on the moon telling everyone a big military secret, get ready for it…space men came to Earth during the cold war to dismantle some nuclear weapons that would have caused world war 3. I like this story, as silly as it is. The idea somewhere far away some aliens care enough about us to bother to come to Earth, and help us out in our crazy ways somehow comforts me.

On a similar “totally nuts” theme I read some big-shot scientist is convinced we aren’t real, we are all part of a computer game some alien kid put together for his school science project! He said because the universe and everything seems so perfectly formed, almost like a computer program, we’re all just robots or computers unaware of the “real world” outside. I guess he’s half there, see I think God made the universe perfect, not some alien bratty kid making it up to pass his school GCSE science class and to impress some nerdy girl. Funny idea though.

The good good great news is Jeremy Corbyn looks set to be the Labour leader, “Our timeless task in the Labour Party is to stand up against injustice wherever we find it”

I’m so bowled over by the new sun kil moon album. Mark Kozelek is the most interesting and talented songwriter around at the moment. I don’t think anyone can touch him at the moment, and if you only get one album this year, please make it “universal themes“. It will knock you out, blow you away, all that good stuff. It finishes with this hypnotic beauty, which you lucky people can listen to below: “Traveling and playing and writing until I’m fucking dizzy, some people love what I do and some get fucking pissy, but I don’t give a fuck, one day they’re all gonna miss me”

Next week : a new poem called “whatever is pure”

i think you’re awesome

I’m back from summer adventures overseas, boat trips and lost car keys, overheated coffee and a 48 hour fever in Berlin, reading the New York Times and drinking sparkling water, 9 hour car trips and table tennis, letters to Salinger and peppermint ice cream. Yep, that’s how we roll.

Then there’s the music. I’ve been away, I don’t know what’s going on. It looks like those of you who stuck around saw some amazing live music.

Mark Kozelek with Thurston Moore which really seems crazy, and a couple of years ago an impossible match. But with x-sy drummer Steve Shelley working with MK, somehow this now makes perfect sense. A great song, Thurston plays the part perfectly and Kozelek is as cool/crazy as ever.

Then there was this. Kathleen Hanna played some songs at a music festival too, and everybody went nuts. I saw her a few months ago in Brighton, and I’m just so happy she’s getting better, she’s healthy and she can still write songs like this.

Kathleen Hanna is also re-releasing the Bikini Kill demos, first out back in 1991. It’s out on cd, record and cassette. I cant wait to hear this. You can find out more info here. Oh, and next year there is a new mark kozelek album…of course there is…here are the tracks for the Jesu/Mark Kozelek album out Feb 2016, that’s just half a year away now 🙂

Good Morning My Love
Carondelet
A Song Of Shadows
Last Night I Rocked The Room Like Elvis And Had Them Laughing Like Richard Pryor
Fragile
Father’s Day
Sally
America’s Most Wanted Mark Kozelek And John Dillinger
Exodus

songs and books

Aside from collecting first edition Richard Yates books, I’m also enjoying Dave Eggers. I’ve occasionally read his magazine, and ended up listening to some of his novels on cd back when I was driving for hours all over the place for a fun but temporary job I did a while ago. Now I’m reading “the circle” and it’s the best modern book I’ve read in a long time. It’s a book I find myself thinking about when I’m away from home, working or doing shopping or walking the kids to school feeling excited for the evening to come so I can read the next page. Like a modern 1984 a stark warning about the dangers of internet obsessed society, and it’s funny/sad and makes your heart beat super fast. The writing is crisp, clear, intelligent and the dialogue is spot-on. I’m reading it along with a non-fiction book called “the internet is not the answer” and those two books together make a pretty compelling case for just dropping out of internet life and trying to find Walden Lake in 2015…

There are three songs I listen to over and over again at the moment that I hope to get you into too. The latest NOW music compilation is the biggest selling album of the year so far here in the UK, but I say forget the boring repetitive crap you hear in the charts, this is where it’s at.

1. Lily and Madeline “blue blades” – I’m so in love with everything about this little band. The words, the melody, the lush harmonies and sad reflections of nature and broken hearts. I’ve just downloaded their new EP too.

2. Puss N Boots “down by the river”. Ok, so I own the entire Norah Jones back catalogue, and not many people bought her folky-country band puss n boots, but guess what? I did and this is my favourite song on it.

3. Libertines “Gunga Din” Ok, so they are pretty much on the cover of NME every week, and will outsell most albums this year, but this song makes me happy. Maybe it’s because those last two songs are kind of depressing that you’re ready for the party to begin. And I know I want to go a party put together by Pete and Carl….

4. Mark Kozelek “Caroline” – If I had to throw away my record collection and never restock it, but could keep one thing it would be my Mark Kozelek records and cd’s. This song is about as perfect as it gets.

voice + melody = love

I must begin by apologising for long delay in writing. Political (dis) engagement, trips to Sheffield, quick trip to Romania, fun family weekends in London, visits from relatives, working at the school, watching cool films. late night conversations and the like that I’ve simply just had no time to write about how rad the new girlpool album is! 😉 So click on those links if you’re bored, but do come back because I’m addicted to making lists like this :

1. The new girlpool album really is rad. Play it loud and dance away.

2. But the new sun kil moon album is even better. Play it soft and cry.

3. I saw Kathleen Hanna’s band Julie Ruin in Brighton a couple of weeks ago. It was so much fun, the music is so infectious my 9 year old son and I are driving around the sleepy Sussex villages blasting it out at the moment. She’s also, apparently, making a new album and just this week there’s a brand new fascinating interview with Ms Hanna in Pitchfork where she talks about the challengers of making music with a chronic illness and why she’s sick of hearing about her “supportive” husband. She makes a pretty good point really that everyone tells her how cool and great her husband is because he pretty much had to be her full-time carer, and although she says he is of course supportive and totally cool, she said if it was the other way round everyone would expect the wife to be the supportive one for the sick husband, but when it’s the other way round everybody makes a big deal about the “supportive and caring” husband, when it should naturally be this way. She says it a lot better than I have just now. Check it out.

4. I sent my first payment for the Brighton Writers 2 year course. It gives me two years to write a book. It’s suppose to make-or-break writers, and some have gone on from this course to win the booker prize and all that. Others have faded into obscurity

5. I was reminded of just how epic Norah Jones is. I listen again and again to her cd’s, and I’m often so transfixed by the sheer beauty of her voice and the brilliant love-gone-sour lyrics it just gives me goosebumps. She was on David Letterman a few weeks ago, when he did his final shows, and she played an old song that was simply gorgeous. So gorgeous I’ve put it below. Sorry those hoping for the Kathleen Hanna girl punk, or the hipster lo-fi indie of girlpool that will have to come another time.  I’ve always been a sucker for voice and melody and you can’t beat Norah Jones at that….

Mark Kozelek Round 10.

RecordSome things you can predict. I was reading the newspaper the other day, and saw a tip for a horse that, apparently,  “can not lose”. I don’t gamble at all, so I thought I might as well throw away £20 and see what happens. I was already planning on spending my winnings on the new Kim Gordon book, or maybe I’d take Rebekka out to the fancy hotel du vin for a nice meal.

Silly. The horse came 5th. I lost. Yep, I’m an idiot. I’m not doing that again.

Other things are more certain. Day follows night, and every year there’s something new from Mark Kozelek, a guy I keep on feeling compelled to write about here about how crazy good he is and he’s often the only music I really listen to, how whenever I hear him sing I have to stop whatever I’m doing, lay down on the sofa and just soak up all that beauty and wonder.

sunSo, here’s the deal. Sun Kil Moon have a new album out in June.  It’s called “Universal Themes”, it’s got Steve Shelley (x sonic youth) on again. It could well be my album of the year.  Kozelek plays a huge world tour to promote it. People will probably walk out of his concerts in disgust. Others, like me, will melt in the sublime music he performs seemingly so effortlessly.

Anyway, this is not a mark kozelek song. It’s by a band called “the frank and walters”, it’s very sweet and as winter fades into spring it seems appropriate. Bis bald.

Band of the year

It’s been an astonishing 12 months of music, and no doubt you’ve read most of the highlights in the music press, butI found it really hard this year to choose a favorite album of 2014. I suppose the obvious choice is Mark Kozelek. Sun Kil Moon had a wild year, Benji is featured in all the end-of-year round ups (but usually beaten by, err, war on drugs) yet somehow, despite this public affection – at least of the music if not of Kozelek himself – it’s not my favorite. I prefer “Among the Leaves” and “Perils from the sea” both from 2013 which I think are the best things he’s done in years. I saw Kozelek play in Brighton earlier this year and the show was so enchanting it was easily the best concert of the year. But best album? No.

I am giving another kind of award this time. The best band of the year, and it goes to Kathleen Hanna and her band Julie Ruin. If you have not seen the incredible documentary “the punk singer”  (released this year in the UK) you’re missing a rare glimpse in the sheer awesomeness and determination of this American lady. feminism is still all important, but the Julie Ruin now have broadened that to fight for human dignity. She suffers from a major health problem, in fact had to cancel a big tour this year due to it, but her husband looks after and stands by her. She is married to Adam Horovitz and I don’t know, after Thurston Moore turned out to be such a phony, she and Ad-Rock are quite an inspiration for people like me who have been happily married since the early 00’s. 🙂

Here’s “one of my kind” which came out in March. Love songs still matter in 2014.

See you next year.

EP of the year

We’ve gone into the woods today and I cut down a beautiful Christmas tree, it might not survive until Christmas but it’s only  4 weeks until we fly away for a week from Southend Airport (I don’t get along with big airports much), and only 4 weeks until 2015.

So it’s time for my little musical review of the year. Suffice to say there won’t be any lameness like war on drugs (“I hate that beer commercial shit”) who for some reason seem to be everybody’s number one this year. Yawn. If you prefer something a little more sublime, something that will give you goosebumps and give you a little bit of hope then you’re in the right place! Every week I’ll be choosing my favorite EP, video, single, and album of 2014 and writing a short paragraph about why, and far more importantly, give you a chance to listen (or watch!) and indulge yourself in radical sounds.

So, first up – EP of 2014. This year it actually could be contender for album of the year, if not best EP I’ve heard since Belle and Sebastian “Dog on Wheels”. It’s Sarah Winchester “Northeast Kingdom” which came out this year on Team Love/Mt Home Arts and I think it’s the most played piece of music I’ve bought. Six songs, each one a masterpiece. This doesn’t happen very often, believe me. Sarah use to be in a weather (who, probably not surprisingly, released my favorite album of 2009) and these tender songs just capture the essence of human fragility and the need for emotional warmth and loneliness in a way not that dissimilar to Mark Kozelek. I think there’s some a few cassettes left, if not you can download it, and just let her sweet voice and melodies take you far far away to a place where the herons fly free. More info here.

https://soundcloud.com/mthomearts/sets/sarah-winchester-northeast

next week – video of the year.

the mark kozelek show featuring war on drugs

It’s crazy warm here in Sussex, pretty much November now but the leaves are still all green and aside from the usual rainy day wipe outs it feels more like July…wait a minute, isn’t that a Dashboard Confessional song?  Anyway, autumn’s a good time to reflect on change and I usually write a few poems about hope falling fast, just to cheer myself up…

Which brings me nicely to Mark Kozelek and that whole thing with war on drugs. For those lucky enough not to know anything about it, I won’t bore you with the details here, but Kozelek’s released two “diss tracks” about the war on drugs guy who in turn seems to be super offended and music websites which are silly enough to allow comments are full with people saying how much that hate Mark Kozelek and make some awful remarks about him having “mental health issues” and that they won’t ever listen to him again.

Still I said it before and I’ll say it again, Kozelek can do whatever he likes because he is the most interesting, creative and talented musician of our generation. Nobody can touch him, if I could only listen to one cd it would of course be a red house painters or sun kil moon one (the bands he’s fronted). I even paid a ridiculous amount of money on ebay to get an out of print Spanish edition of his poems/songs. I listen to his msic more than anything else.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not an asshole. Back in 2001 I went with a girl to a red house painters concert. She was shocked and offended by his stage antics and the way he talked about “chicks” and going to bars to “pick up girls”. She said afterwards she would never listen to his sweet lullaby tender love songs anymore. I have no idea if she’s kept that up because shortly afterwards I met my future wife, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I don’t know why though. Back in my freelance journalism days I wrote a few pieces about literary heroes of mine – Jack Kerouac and William Faulkner. They weren’t the “nicest” people. I’m reading this biography of JD Salinger, he also wasn’t a nice guy but any stretch of the imagination. Then there’s Hemingway, a guy I wouldn’t want to cross he’d tear me apart.  Where does it say your heroes have to be nice, friendly, kind, caring, loveable?

So you could say all those examples are men, and you might have a point it can get too much. I never got that macho stuff, it bores me, and as much as I like to pretend I feel “connected” to these writers I couldn’t see myself hanging out with them as such. Not even Kerouac. I’m way too soft.

It’s like that with Mark Kozelek. He’s a complicated person, he can’t fit into some box of what’s “cool” or what’s “socially acceptable”. He’s been an outsider all his life, and just listen to any of his songs to get a glimpse of his genius. Like the best writers and artists though he’s troubled. I do think it’s funny the way he responds, but it’s also kind of nuts too, but it’s the way it has to be.