Audiophile, Terminal Communications

Ten LPs That Changed My Life

YOUTUBE PLAYLIST

By Robert Maisey. In biographical order…

afa7b61787f4ae5ea245b927aa301ab3a1f263c7Queen – A Night At The Opera

Queen were the first band I ever loved. At about age 13 (around 2002) they ignited my joy in music. My parents bought me the Platinum Collection after I came home singing the Bicycle song after hearing it at school. A Night At The Opera was the first album I tracked down and bought for myself and it was my best friend for years. I listened to this album the way only a teenager can listen to an album, lovingly pouring over every detail – which in the case of this monumental rock epic is rather a lot of detail! I’d probably cite the harder rocking Queen I and  Queen II as my favourite Queen albums now, but A Night At The Opera gets the spot for how throughly it rocked my world when I first heard it. I also loved to listen to A Day at the Races alongside it, which had obvious aesthetic and musical similarities, but also felt like a more mature piece to enjoy after one had been thoroughly inducted to A Night at the Opera. I was very lucky to have an older friend named Luke, who kept a big brotherly eye over me and would lend me CDs whenever I showed curiosity (including the entire Queen back catalogue). He lives in Plymouth and has a family these days and I don’t see him as much as I’d like too, but I still consider him a great friend and a very formative influence.

 

 

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The Darkness – Permission To Land

This record followed pretty hot on the heels of my discovering Queen. Coming out in July 2003 it seemed like manna from heaven for a kid with a new found mania for screachingly camp hard rock. In hindsight, Permission To Land is naff as hell and utterly derivative – but lacking the context of any wider musical knowledge at the time, I loved it. I still love it to be honest and regularly return to it, guilt free.

Honourable mentions at this point go to Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell – which I pilfered from my Mum’s record collection – and to my new (at the time) friend Shelley, who was already an expert in all forms of music ever made in my eyes. Spotting a burgeoning rock fan, Shelley introduced me to loads of albums that would be on constant rotation for me in my early teens, including  Nightwish – Once and Mortiis – The Smell of Rain, the last of which I still listen to all the time and maintain is one of the best electro-goth albums ever made. I didn’t have very many friends at school to be honest and Shelley was the first friend I ever made based on shared interests. I was in awe of him then – and very grateful to him for sharing his musical knowledge with me – and I’m in awe of him still. He’s grown up to be a very refined, complicated and good humoured man who I still learn from all the time.

 

 

first-and-last-and-always_1426323527_crop_560x550.0The Sisters of Mercy – First and Last and Always

This was probably the first album I got into that Shelley hadn’t vetted first, and really set the tone of my own personal musical self identity. The older I got, the deeper my appreciation of this very fine record became. What started out as theatrical gothic soundtrack evolved into druggy invitation into subculture, which become a complex criticism of rock music and then finally morphed again into just a solid pop record, as I started to level out as a human being. Honourable mentions at this point go to The March Violets – Natural History which I never found as emotive, but did find more fascinating, The Mission – God’s Own Medicine, which probably pushed the same buttons in me as The Darkness, Fields of the Nephilim – The Nephilim, which I found extremely immersive with its rich production and occult obsessions, Ghost Dance – Gathering Dust which, like First and Last and Always, hides a heart of pure pop brilliance under fuzzy post punk pretence and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Talk About the Weather, which still feels intimidatingly strung out at the end of its tether. Another honourable mention here goes to one Robert Cowlin, who I first met in 2006 in the queue to see The Sisters at the London Astoria and who has been one of my closest musical allies and respected friends ever since. He and I are in the habit of jumping into Hussey and Eldritch personas when we’re together – which is occasionally tortuous for us both, but mostly good fun and artistically fruitful.

 

 

1f60f2e8458d86411d7810fd50daf12d.jpgVNV Nation – Empires

My gang of collage friends was about as much like Breakfast Club gang as you could possibly wish for in the mid ’00s. There was my first love, Hazel Kenway, who was avant-garde as fuck for a 16 year old, there was Cyber Chris, who was the most thrilling person I had ever met (not only was cybergoth  – a brand new idea at that point – but he was also the first out-of-the-closet homosexual I’d ever been friends with) and there was Tara Allen, the ultra cool girl who dated older boys, was already tired of “the scene” and knew literally everything about sex and drugs that it was possible to know. I shared my love of 80s goth bands with them, Hazel taught us all about Kraftwerk (I lost my virginity to Minimum/Maximum!) and Chris and Tara introduced us all to pounding pounding EBM music and nightclubbing, by way of the infamous Slimelight.  Of all the stuff I listened to in this period, Apoptygma Berzerk‘s first two albums, Soli Deo Gloria and Seven still get regular rotation and pretty much everything VNV Nation did up to 2005’s Matter+Form I still regard as essential, although Empires is by far my favourite.

 

 

R-27704-1284252029.jpegThe Human League – Reproduction

By this point (I guess around age 17) I was starting to develop a pretty inflated sense of self regard, in the way of all young people who have had their first taste of serious drinking, consumption of illegal drugs, a small variety of sexual partners and have stayed up all night on more than one occasion. I was ready for music as clever as I was, and The Human League was definitely it. I’d started buying music on vinyl, in accordance with how clever and refined I was definitely becoming – and the proprietor of 101 Records in Farnham had my number straight away. He recommended I purchase this weird and wonderful album – which I believe is the the original and best British synth pop record ever made. Honourable mention also goes to The Human League – Travelogue, their second and equally bizarre album, and final LP before they disbanded; Phil Oakey carrying the name forward to make a breakthrough alongside Martin Rushent with DARE. This period of ego inflation also saw me getting wildly into Depeche Mode – Violator, which was the most sophisticated thing I’d ever heard.

 

 

Rosetta_Stone-An_Eye_For_The_Main_Chance-FrontalRosetta Stone – An Eye For The Main Chance

My deep, deep obsession with Rosetta Stone started around the time I started my first band. It was the distillation of all the things I’d grown to love over the previous 5 years or so and it consumed me for a very long time. I would listen to Rosetta Stone every single day, and did my best to track down live recordings and demo versions so that I could listen to every possible iteration of every track. An Eye For The Main Chance is the greatest purposefully recorded Goth Rock album ever made. Every single note is sculpted to absolute perfection. Choosing to create music within a genre often draws critical scorn (“have they no ideas of their own?!”) but the results are immensely satisfying to enthusiasts. The love and dedication that plainly went into every single aspect of this LP is bolstered by the awesome technical ability of the musicians. This record doesn’t do much, but what it does do, it does better than anyone else. This marks the beginning of several years of committed goth rocking on my part, which lasted my entire period studying at university. Other records I was into during this time that still receive near constant rotation include Children On Stun – Tourniquets of Love’s Desire and Dream Disciples – Asphyxia. A very special mention goes to Pretentious, Moi?, who’s self titled album inspired my first tattoo and who’s mastermind, Tim Chandler, produced the first Terminal Gods 7″: Electric Eyes/God Child.

 

 

thestooges-rawpowerIggy and the Stooges – Raw Power

Towards the end of university, around the time I moved to London and formed Terminal Gods I had something of a revelation. I discovered, for the first time since I was a school kid, ROCK MUSIC. I’d gone along with the post-punk view that all-out rock and roll was passé nonsense, but Iggy Pop changed all that. This album reset everything and sent me spinning back to first principles. This revelatory moment goes a long way to explaining the persona of Terminal Gods as a struggle between a snobbish goth band and an extremely obnoxious rock band. Around this time I also got heavily into Motörhead and The Ramones, the latter introduced to me by Jake Griffiths, the bartender at the restaurant in which I worked for my first full time job after graduating. He couldn’t believe I’d got to something resembling adulthood and had never even listened to The Ramones, so he leant me their first 4 albums there and then. Needless to say, Jake is now one of my most trusted friends. My favourite Stooges album is actually Funhouse, and my favourite Iggy Pop album is Blah, Blah Blah, but Raw Power was the record that blew the world open for me, yet again.

 

 

a1487697532_10Ulterior – Wild In Wildlife

I discovered Ulterior in 2009, around the time they released the 10″ single Sister Speed. Up till then, my music taste had been entirely retro – I’d come to terms with being an anachronism and that modern music just didn’t do it for me (although looking back, there’s loads of stuff that came out around those years that I overlooked because of this retromania). Ulterior were the first band in the here and now that I became really obsessed with. They had such awesome power and attitude and were just everything I wanted to be. They screamed into my life like a great leather and chrome juggernaut and their delirious machismo informed nearly all my tastes over the next few years. They turned me on to all sorts of amazing electro rock n roll, especially Suicide and A.R.E. Weapons. I also developed a serious hard-on for Big Black and James Rays Gangwar around this period, both of whom embodied a particular brand of techno and amphetamine infused guitar noise that I have loved like an addiction for the entire subsequent decade.

 

 

R-483725-1124699640.jpgLeonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate

My infatuation with Leonard Cohen began in earnest only a few years ago, and represents something of a coming down from the extended high that filled the 10 years between my Rosetta Stone and Ulterior obsessions. Cohen’s songs were the first that didn’t have to have a solid backbeat going at 110mph for me to get sucked into them. I also simultaneously started getting seriously involved with Nick Cave and David Bowie around the same time. Although this period represents a serious mellowing out in my tastes and lifestyle in general, it also represents the introduction of complexity into my artistic horizon and self doubt into my self perception. Everything before this point had, more or less, been simple. I was into bold colours, high contrast, metal and monochrome. I was into self satisfaction, self realisation and ignoring the opinions of others. Although I sometimes miss being that guy,  I’ll happily sacrifice a bit of lunatic self assurance for a bit of dignified introspection if that’s what it takes to be an adult.

 

 

R-101831-1445625302-3074.jpegLaibach – Nova Akropola

You’re not going to like this album at first, its really unmusical, but I want you to persist with it“.

Forewarned is forearmed! I’ve listened to this album several times a week, and some weeks daily, since it was bought for me as a Christmas present by Stacy Picard in 2016. It’s not only opened my mind to how much enjoyment can be got out of seriously abrasive music, but how perfectly a band can be grafted onto a much larger artistic and political message. Over the last few years, I’ve begun to have a serious crisis of faith in rock music as an answer to complicated questions posed by society and politics. Having invested a lot of my personal identity in my artistic choices, I find myself wanting and at a loss to explain the world. Consuming niche cultural products in an attempt to accumulate social capital is hardly a heroic achievement in the great scheme of things. I’ve been finding both Laibach and Einstürzende Neubauten incredibly soothing in this context, as I feel like their struggle to make sense of the late Cold War world mirrors something of my own confusion at the late capitalist one. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Public Enemy, who’s assaults on the racial and class fault lines in American society are equally compelling. My top recommendation for an album which suits the mood of our current moment is Alex Cameron – False Witness (which I talk about in depth here), which captures the ironic self awareness and earnest radicalism of the social media generation.

 

 

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Cognitive Dissonance: On being post-goth

I’m not ashamed to admit I have a difficult relationship with Goth. I saw the Sisters for the first time at their infamous worst-show-ever (Astoria 2006) and still loved it. I discovered half of my favourite bands as a late teen off Mick Mercer’s Gothic Rock compilations. I’ve crimped, I’ve backcombed, I’ve worn a cowboy hat. I still go and watch The Mission every single year without fail.

Some of the artists and characters that inhabited the goth scene when I first started to become involved were the most supportive, encouraging and comradely figures I had in my life throughout that period. The herculean effort put in by the goth scene’s champions is an example to all of counter-culture, and the longevity of the scene is a testament to it’s self belief and authenticity.

This being the case, why do I insist on denigrating all things goth? Why the crisis of faith? Why refuse to accept kinship with the culture that raised me, when the music I make and the articles I write are so clearly grounded in it?

The answer is simply that despite all of its merits, the goth audience became a vehicle for conservatism. The inhibiting influence and circular logic it imposed upon the artists it claimed for its own prevented ambition and evolution. Like the way a corporate monopoly stifles an industry, the goth scene’s grip on goth music was slowly killing it.

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The writer of this article aged 22 in 2011. Taken in a well known North London Goth Club.

Post Y2K, goth bands have been increasingly been out-competed in their own field by artists from outside the genre, starting again from first principles.

People often say that the “I’m not goth while being plainly gothic as fuck” affectation is a simple pastiche of Andrew Eldritch and The Sisters Of Mercy. This rather misses the point, as there are literally hundreds of bands from the last 20 years that have managed to out goth the goths. Here are is a little selection of the albums that lead me on the journey that ended up with me believing that the best way to be goth was to avoid goth at all costs:

LISTEN AS A PLAYLIST

A.R.E. Weapons – A.R.E. Weapons (2000)

With their mean, druggy, biker-come-street-gang exterior, wry humour and minimal synth/drum machine/guitar sound palette, by the turn of the millennium A.R.E. Weapons were busy pushing themselves as the coolest band on the planet via Rough Trade Records, while bands with literally the same set of influences and instruments weren’t even cool in their local wednesday night goth club.

Primal Scream – XTRMTR (2000)

How was a band who literally made their name as a second-summer-of-love euphoric dance music act suddenly able to make an album of pure gonzoid amphetamine filth while the rest of us were still working out the chords for This Corrosion?

She Wants Revenge – She Wants Revenge (2006)

For the more progressive elements of the goth scene, this was one of the albums that convinced them the outside world existed. This hit goth club dance floors in a big way, despite being from an “indie” band. Cue existential crisis.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

This wonderful slab of New Wave grandiosity put the self -appointed torch bearers  of post-punk to shame.

White Lies – To Lose My Life (2009)

This album still gives me the shivers. Both bleak yet epic, towering yet fragile. This record defined the post-punk revival that finally brought goth back into the light.

A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head (2009)

I literally challenge you to a better name a drum-machine/guitar goth rock album made that decade. And it didn’t come from Leeds, it came from the heart of the newly hipsterised New York noise scene.

Cold In Berlin – Give Me The Walls (2010)

Emerging from their formative period as “Death Cigarettes”, Cold In Berlin were one of the first bands from the East London post-punk underground that forward looking goth promoters started take seriously (credit to nights like Dead And Buried). This caused a long and pointless loathing in the goth scene of “East London Hipster Bands”, which ultimately hastened its demise, while giving loads of publicity to a new generation of bands that thought Camden had outlived its usefulness as a hub of counter-culture.

Because they were willing to engage with the goth scene on some level (unlike most of their contemporaries) these guys had a big influence on me. In some ways they did for London goths what She Wants Revenge started doing to the scene as whole a few years before.

Ulterior – Wild In Wildlife (2011)

A band that inspired an almost quasi-religious devotion in me for a time (I even have a home made Ulterior tattoo on my right leg).

Factory Floor – Factory Floor (2013)

An act that literally needed nothing but a drum machine and a massive reverb unit to take everyone else to school. This record is like a one sentence put-down that ends the entire argument.

Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe (2013)

Move over Depeche Mode, here come Chvrches. This industrial synthpop trio literally filled stadiums while others struggled to fill Slimelight.

Vuvultures -Push/Pull (2014)

This relatively short lived act did a great job of presenting themselves as the centre of their own underground scene, forging an effective link in the chain between the ultra-cool East London DIY music scene and the ultra-influential fashion world. The music? Pure goth.


Ritual Howls – Into The Water (2016)

One of my favourite ‘definitely not a goth band’ records from last year.


It’s a damn tragedy that so many great bands will be more or less be forgotten by history because they stood on the wrong side of the line in the cultural sand. So many of the bands listed above created great goth albums by going back to post punk and drawing the same musical conclusions as goth scene bands from the late 1980s onwards. Ulterior could have had a turf war with James Rays Gangwar, that A Place To Bury Strangers single isn’t a world away from Transition era Vendemmian and Ritual Howls unknowingly made an improved version of Rosetta Stone’s Tyranny Of Inaction last year. Even White Lies in their early days wouldn’t be out of place on a bill with Altered States. The Dream Disciples’ final album Asphyxia (2001) was as good as, if not better than anything on this list, but no one but me and a few goths own it.

I’ll always love the great bands of the goth scene, and I’ll always carry the torch for them, but there comes a time when its ok to put the albatross down.

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The writer in 2016, aged 27, after watching Sleaford Mods support The Jesus And Mary Chain at a psychedelic rock festival in Manchester, realising the game was up for the whole concept of goth.

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TERMINAL GODS’ ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2016 EDITION

Tis the season to write long retrospective lists, and we’re not going to miss the bandwagon. 2016 has been a big year for us: we kicked it off with the release of our debut album, Wave/Form, the culmination of a year of effort which left us feeling strangely… cut loose, free? Since finishing the album we’ve each been on a long campaign of musical mind expansion, searching for new ideas to exploit and creative seams to mine. While we’ve been thrashing out the album in the live arena, behind the scenes we’ve been getting back together to write again – cherry picking from the music we’ve been greedily consuming all year, as well as learning to play new instruments and manipulate new machines.

Here’s a little breakdown of some of the stuff we’ve enjoyed in 2016, and some of the ideas we intend to steal in 2017…

COWLIN

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I immersed myself in a lot of new music this year, especially during the latter half. In particular, I found myself drawn towards the exciting synth-infused jazz recordings of band-hopper, Shabaka Hutchings, as well as those that melded the art-rock of Talking Heads with the funk of Prince (Field Music’s Commontime and Zoos of Berlin’s Instant Everything proving particularly relevant). Of course, Blackstar pre-echoed a number of these sonic investigations with prophetic accuracy. Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition was my most engaging listen of the year, it’s an immensely dense work that demands the listener’s full attention at all times. Consequently, it remains a favourite that I’ve listened to least as I believe it shuns all distractions. I enjoyed the whimsy of Jonny Fritz’s Sweet Creep, it’s as funny as it is melancholic. Esben And The Witch’s Older Terrors is a super selection of long workouts that almost warranted a Songs & Sonics review but there’s just a bit too much compression on show. I wonder why they didn’t ease off on the limiter a bit, there aren’t any pop singles here. Sonic nods go to Agnes Obel’s enthralling Citizen Of GlassBullion’s gloopy Loop The Loop; and Bushman’s Revenge’s cookin’ Jazz, Fritt Etter Hukommelsen. My favourite record of 2016 is Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. Every track is better than the last, Cohen is on spectacular form, it sounds incredible, and it’s the perfect conclusion to his final trilogy.

MAISEY

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I think anyone who’s musical year wasn’t in some way shaped by the triptych of David Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker is either heartless, tasteless or has simply not been paying attention. All three of these wonderful albums are worth entire studies in their own right. Those of you that have been paying attention may have noticed that I reacted badly to both Blackstar and Skeleton Tree in their initial weeks of release, but a full year of constant attention, scrutiny and intra-band discussion has turned them both into monoliths in my music collection. Leonard Cohen was a hit as soon as it landed.

There are lots of honourable mentions this year. Albums that I enjoyed for one reason or another, but didn’t quite make the grade in every aspect. Factory Floor’s 2525 I enjoyed a lot, but mostly because it basically sounds like their 2013 debut, which I discovered last year and liked even more. White Lies’ Friends was also good, but I’ve owned it for several months now and, although I like it a lot, it hasn’t yet lived up to the promise of its lead single. Much like Fat White Family’s Songs For Our Mothers, which opened up with one of their best singles to date (the fabulous Donna Summer pastiche, “Whitest Boy On The Beach”), but descended into over compressed swampy noise – with only a few other really vital moments on it. My most anticipated rock album of the year – Purson’s Desire’s Magic Theatre (DMT, get it, get it?!) – also didn’t really make the cut, partly because it had also been mastered a bit too flat to be really immersive. I really enjoyed some of the sounds and overall production on Ritual Howl’s Into The Water, who are a bit like a more cerebral version of Ulterior. What it lacked in actual songs it made up for in sonic ideas I’m likely to mine for my own songwriting and production efforts! I’d like to mention James Ray and the Black Hearted Riders and their latest effort Death Dawn Zephyr, but I actually spent most of this year obsessively listening to their 2015 debut Last Train From Woody Creek, which would have easily made it to one of the top spots on this list if it hadn’t, in fact, come out last year. I would heartily recommend Young Romance‘s Another’s Blood. I initially wrote this record off as a grunge version of Kate Bush but it quickly grew on me. A well presented, subtle and interesting collection of songs – the complexity of which are initially masked by the aggressive guitar tone, but reward lots of repeat listening.

My favourite album of the year came out in the autumn, and that’s Alex Cameron’s Jumping The Shark. This utterly delightful combination of Suicide-esque musical arrangements and Bruce Springsteen Nebraska era vocal stylings is one of those perfect storms that was impossible until it was made, and then became obvious and inevitable. A concise 35 minutes of ballads about kitchen sink drama and personal failure, it’s a record that understands completely that you don’t have to be good looking to look real good.

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COOPER

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Whereas many will praise 2016 releases from the likes of Beyoncé, Nick Cave, and David Bowie, I found the records that warranted the most repeat listens where those released by upcoming bands. Debut albums by Dead Coast (Shambolic), Desert Mountain Tribe (Either That Or The Moon) and Sunflower Bean (Human Ceremony) spring immediately to mind as exceptional first outings by bands that have gone from strength to strength over the course of the year and set a standard for ground-level artists on their way up.

2016 seemed to me a year of political uncertainty, with everyone looking to pop music for escapism. This, or eager to hear veteran songwriters’ point of view on the ever-changing world, cherry picking each line for some hidden message. What do they know that we don’t? Many ‘End Of Year Listicles’ completely bypass new bands in favour of established artists which, in my opinion, is a total crime. It wasn’t just in politics that the young were being largely ignored.

Album two from God Damn was an angry, riff-laden masterpiece that saw a two-piece become three. Constantly engaging and evolving, the record saw a band eager to avoid pigeon holes and in the process created something totally unique. Lola Colt’s second release was a confident, effortless joy throughout, far superior to the flurry of other psych and prog releases that littered 2016 while Wolf People’s third outing was doom heaven and explored themes of nature, the environment and history, yet couldn’t sound more relevant.

Cruelly overlooked this year was Eagulls’ follow-up, Ullages, probably because it was released way back in May, which took their original guitar-heavy garage, upped the post-punk, and doubled the misery, and it’s a treat to lose yourself in.

Number one though, the gold standard, was the debut release from London-based upstarts YAK. Alas Salvation is an epic which sees a band battle with their own hype to produce something both artistically relevant and crowd-pleasing for their growing mainstream fan base. They do both, and then some. This record has literally everything, partnered with their astoundingly chaotic live show, they’re a band I’m eager to see continue to live up to expectations.

Look to your young people, get your heads out the clouds. Lemmy and Cohen did their jobs by inspiring upcoming artists, and they’re sat across from you at work, serving you at your local, and playing just round the corner next week.

CAMPBELL

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Twenty sixteen. 2016. MMXVI. The only thing anyone agrees on now is how comprehensively awful this year has been, awful enough to have spawned a cottage industry in memes reminding us how it is best quickly forgotten, blacked out like an alcoholics fortieth birthday. But as a great poet once wrote, there is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in, innit? But what are, in my objectively correct opinion, some of the cracks in the monolith that was 2016? As my comrades above have chosen to shun the traditional list format, let’s break it down old school style.

V.

It may seem trite, but the constant flashes of wit and brilliance in the local London live music scene never cease to amaze. There are so many great bands, staffed by some of the coolest cats you’d ever hope to meet, doing what they love. In alphabetical order (no favouritism here) BlackMoon 1348, Broken Soundtracks, Desperate Journalist, Lola Colt, Medium Wave, Purs, Sex Cells, Sly Persuaders, St Agnes, Weird Sex have all played great gigs, and/or released amazing material, and/or just rocked fucking hard. All your hard work does not go unnoticed.

IV.

The constant folding and refolding of pop culture from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, blah fucking blah, into every facet of modern life reaches undreamt of heights. “Do you member? Oh, I member!” Once perceived as a harmless distraction, we glimpse the dark underbelly. Fetishisation of a rose tinted past has birthed our Make X Great Again ™ world, a pulling down of shutters, a tightening of bootstraps, a cherry picking of history and ‘truth’ that suits the narratives of every chancer sitting at any given point of the political spectrum, left, right, every shade in between.

But hold up now, isn’t this about the cracks of light? The chinks in the armour? When we see the morass of mud and shit clearly, the nuggets of gold shine brighter. Across the media spectrum we have been gifted with the note perfect love letter to retro of Stranger Things, John Carpenter with a full band live on a balmy summer evening, face melting psych freakouts from Baba Naga, and S U R I V I V E releasing a fantastic yet challenging vox-free synthwave album to critical acclaim. And more decent synthwave in the world is clearly A Good Thing.

III.

A dark and somewhat dingy working mans club in Hackney. A small stage, a gold glitter backdrop, an antipodean lounge singer paces, muttering anecdotes about dead baby rabbits and crooning about comebacks that are never to be. His business partner lounges louchely on a nearby stool, draped in a fading dressing gown, looking generally disinterested but occasionally interjecting with bursts of sax. Never has a live set, with almost the entirety of the music set to a backing track, been so electric. Alex Cameron, upon you I bestow the coveted Gig of the Year. And I think a few other people might have noticed that Jumping The Shark is pretty damn solid album too. And you know what? It’s also A Good Thing that an album released two years past can get picked up for a solid re-release and finally get some of the acclaim it deserves. Maybe it takes the rest of the world a little time to catch up when you’re living so far out in front? Maybe it gives the rest of us some hope too.

II.

If you want to make it onto a bunch of year end best-of lists (and lets face it, who doesn’t?), as our in house PR team would argue it’s a delicate dance of timing and ingenuity. Release too early in the year and, unless you’re Bowie, by the end of the year everyone’s probably forgotten about it. Release too late, and while your shit may be great, people will wonder whether you’ve got the chops to still be top of the heap in a month, a year, a decade’s time. So with that in mind I’m going out on a limb and claiming that, today, Moonlandingz’s new track “Black Hanz” is the best track of 2016. It’s a stonking blend of motorik drums, swirling psychedelia, catchy hooks, and what the fuck were they thinking bells and whistles.

Would it make this list if I wrote it tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Who can say, but probably not.

I.

A muggy summer afternoon in the Catalan capital. Hawaiian shirts, shorts, aviators. Cliches within cliches. Security confiscates three of the four bottles of homemade rum and pineapple punch stuffed down the back of our pants, but they’re pretty good natured about it. Wander down a quiet path to a quiet beach. Sit on the sand, smoke a spliff, drink rum and reasonably priced beers, watch fat men in y-fronts and sunburns wallow in the flat mediterranean. Head back, security still friendly, down to the main stages. Brian Wilson has started. Somewhere in the middle of a massive crowd, not too close to the front and not too far from the bar. As classic song follows classic song, a teacher and I make total fools of ourselves playing air guitar, piano, drums, weaving drunken vocals in and out in approximations of complex vocal harmonies. The crowd around ignores us, or joins in, whatever, drunken English. A moment in a day in 2016, as days go it’s pretty much like every other for the mass of living things on this world, but oh what times to be living in. Cliches within cliches.

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This very nearly made the cut…

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All photography by Keira Ann, January 2016.

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