Monthly Archives: December 2009

Five of the Best: #8: Alexis Somerville

The second last in the Five of the Best series is from Alexis Somerville. Alexis is a journo who has written for Plan B, Aesthetica and Nude. Some great albums in here, my own will follow (hopefully tomorrow). Happy New Year!

Radiohead – In Rainbows (2007)



When I first heard it

A Saturday night in November 2007, drunk and wondering where I was (incidentally: on the 13th floor of a skyscraper in Taipei, Taiwan at about 3am).

Why I love it

I have to admit, I’d almost forgotten about Radiohead. After obsessive listening to OK Computer, Kid A etc. as a college student, I developed new obsessions and Radiohead slipped my mind for a while. So I wasn’t even excited when they released a new album, though it captured my attention for its unusual payment options (what? You can pay as much or as little as you like to download it?!) which clearly worked to their advantage as it entered the US Billboard charts and UK album charts at number one.

I heard about all this and yet I still didn’t download it as I was living approximately 6,000 miles from home without the internet. And then I went to an indie disco (appropriately named Idioteque after the Radiohead song) and found someone who owned it. Initially I listened to it not once but several times in a row.

I was shocked and slightly ashamed. How could I have forgotten about Radiohead?! They were always impressive, let’s face it, and now… an album of exquisitely beautiful songs which are both interesting and oddly accessible. Not proggy experimentalism or guitar-heavy rock (though they do those impeccably well too) but pared down, lyrically astounding platforms for Thom Yorke’s voice and the band’s ability to create an atmosphere.

What it reminds me of

A strangely unfestive yet magical Christmas in Taiwan, listening to it on repeat forever and never getting bored.

Standout track

Reckoner

Beirut – Gulag Orkestar (2006)







When I first heard it

When exploring a friend’s computer for exciting music two or three years ago.

Why I love it

Zach Condon’s voice, the instrumentation, the melodies, the atmospherics and the fact that it’s a ridiculously impressive debut. Surely at 20 Condon didn’t have the life experience to make music which sounded like it had been recorded by a seasoned, virtuoso Eastern European gypsy… but somehow he pulled it off.

What it reminds me of

My friend Lewis bragging about how he was going to listen to it on a solo trip from Poland to China by rail. It seemed the perfect setting and I was insanely jealous. Although he got his MP3 player nicked by Manchester United fans in Russia so it didn’t all pan out.

Standout track

Postcards from Italy

Geoff Muldaur – Private Astronomy: A Vision of the Music of Bix Beiderbecke (2003)







When I first heard it

When I raided my dad’s CD collection a few years ago.

Why I love it

It introduced me to the music of Bix Beiderbecke and has its own delightful take on the 1920s jazz musician’s work. Featuring the likes of Loudon Wainwright III and Martha Wainwright alongside Muldaur’s chamber arrangements and extraordinary vocals, some jazz purists hate it simply for not being Beiderbecke. But it manages to avoid gimmickry and is respectful in its tribute while injecting something new into the diverse mix of instrumentals and vocal tracks. Muldaur employs a mix of exceptional classical and jazz musicians and the album as a whole is a creative, intelligent homage to the jazz innovator.

What it reminds me of

Family Christmases in York and adding my favourite track – There Ain’t No Sweet Man, with guest vocalist Martha Wainwright – to every mix CD I made for a while.

Standout track

There Ain’t No Sweet Man

Low – Things We Lost in the Fire (2001)







When I first heard it

At university in Leeds in 2005. Someone put Sunflowers on a compilation for me and I went out and bought the album immediately.

Why I love it

They do so much with so little, and make melancholy beautiful. This record should be depressing, it should be too slow for comfort. But instead it’s chillingly ambient and engaging. The songwriting is weirdly brilliant and the sparse instrumentation perfectly fitting.

What it reminds me of

Being blown away by their live set at All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2007.

Standout track

In Metal

Feist – The Reminder (2007)







When I first heard it

On a Singapore Airlines flight to Taiwan in September 2007, having just bid goodbye to my friends and family for the last time in what would be over a year.

Why I love it

Leslie Feist’s voice and the elegant simplicity of her melodies. Also, The Reminder was written on the road and inspired by brief stays in various global hotels, a theme which was particularly easy for me to identify with at the time.

What it reminds me of

The beginning of my time in Taiwan. The plane journey as I drifted in and out of sleep, catching occasional glimpses of pretty Singaporean air hostesses and far-away seas. Sitting outside a restaurant in the intense October heat as my friends plugged in their speakers to the outdoor power supply and The Reminder soundtracked our meal. Settling into my new apartment with its huge balcony and views of temples, rundown skyscrapers and misty mountains.

Standout track

So Sorry

Choice Cut Video: Beirut – Postcards From Italy

http://www.youtube.com/v/RjzVbXeD_8E&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

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Eels – End Times Album Review


E marks his divorce with another unflinchingly honest album

Eels’ last outing, Hombre Lobo, was a concept album centred on a werewolf. Having exposed so much of himself in the years previous, Mark ‘E’ Everett tried to shelter his personal life from the limelight. Just six months on, though, he’s stepped back into the glare. End Times is a break-up album which reverts to his trademark autobiographical style. Sometimes, like on Gone Man, E’s defiant – ready to face the world alone. Mostly, though, proceedings take a turn for the melancholic; and few do melancholy quite like this protagonist. Litanies for those long gone (I Need a Mother) are found amongst the lonely – but lovely – tales of heartache. E’s hermetic lifestyle is addressed on Little Bird, and album highlight A Line in the Dirt revisits the lush brass and ivory instrumentation of his Blinking Lights era. Although such lofty heights aren’t sustained throughout, End Times is a satisfying return to E’s beautiful blues, and it’s good to have him back.

3/5

Written for The Skinny

Five of the Best: #7: Dave Kerr

Just a couple more of these to come now, and this one is from Dave Kerr, Music and Online Editor of The Skinny and Commandant of the checked shirt brigade. Despite being the busiest man in the Northern Hemisphere, Dave occasionally finds the time to squeeze out some words for Drowned in Sound, The List and The Big Issue. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas.

At the Drive-In – Relationship of Command (2000)

When I first heard it

September 2000. I bought the One Armed Scissor single after hearing it in the old Virgin in Dundee and – judging by the state of the songs they dared to call b-sides – it was obvious an exceptional album was in the post. Britpop was over and nu-metal had become depressingly dominant in its wake. Rage Against the Machine had just called it quits, but here was this punk band with a similar energy on this crusade to stop circle pits. My mate Brian brought the album over to my house with a few cans the week it came out; he was well acquainted with it by Friday and played Rolodex Propaganda all night (the tune with Iggy Pop ghosting Cedric Bixler and Jim Ward over the chorus).

Why I love it

With the exception of The Doors, Cream, Hendrix and James Brown, this album opened my eyes to music that was much older than I was. I enjoyed a lot of grunge as a teenager, but most of its proto-punk influences left me cold until these guys came along. Bands like MC5 and The Stooges somehow made more sense once I’d taken in ATD-I’s back catalogue, it was all in the attitude.

What it reminds me of

The worst post-gig tinnitus I’ve ever had – The Arches, Glasgow, December 2000.

Standout track

Quarantined.

Deftones – White Pony (2000)

When I first heard it

Utterly steaming, some time in late 2000. An old girlfriend had gotten me into Deftones a few years before and although I was blown away by Around the Fur in its day I just didn’t enjoy much metal at the time — ‘nu’ or otherwise. But a good friend and accomplished musician who exclusively listened to the Beatles up until that point came rolling in the door clutching this new piece of plastic one day, professing White Pony to be “the next level.” How could I not listen to the album that single-handedly jolted this man out of the 60s?

Why I love it

Forget King Diamond’s kick-in-the-balls falsetto, this is the closest thing to a heavy metal opera I’ve ever heard. Terry Date’s production is characteristically clean, which helps project these profound impressions of terror, violence, tragedy and euphoria. Chino Moreno’s basically chasing you down with a scalpel for 53 minutes and you live to tell the tale, soundtracking that ordeal is a band making progress on its own terms; hiding the ball and distancing itself from the other players. Their drummer Abe Cunningham once told me they were in the business of “making hits for another time”, as though they were only presently misunderstood. Their debut might not have aged well, but White Pony still feels like a thing of the future.

What it reminds me of

American Psycho. Also, seeing them play Edinburgh Corn Exchange a few months after the album came out. The band walked on to Laura Palmer’s Theme and it’s the only time I’ve felt as though the clinical ambience of the venue somehow lent itself to the occasion — chills for weeks.

Standout track

Knife Prty.

DJ Shadow – The Private Press (2002)

When I first heard it

June 2002, I recall buying it from the old Dundee FOPP the day before buggering off to work in Arizona for the summer. I’d converted every penny I had into dollars but wasn’t sure I’d find many decent record shops out in the desert, thus parted with 13 of my last 20 British pounds.

I was pensive on first listen. Having spent so much time hammering Endtroducing, UNKLE, the Cut Chemist collaborations and anything I could find by Quannum, Shadow was up on a pedestal in my book. The late 90s were a bit light on great music but this guy had a palette that could soundtrack any aspect of your life, so expectations were weighty. At the same time, I couldn’t quite see how Shadow would find a way to stay relevant in 2002 because so many copyists had come and gone since ‘96. Before warming to it (considerably), first impressions were – in all my hip-hop purist snobbery – that Josh Davis was making a play for Moby’s king of the coffee table anthem status. The 02 advert didn’t help.

Why I love it

Of course, I look like an arsehole saying that now; I’m listening to the album for the first time in a few years as I write this and still hear fresh nuances dripping from every cut. Anyone who can evoke the energy of Run DMC (Walkie Talkie) with John Carpenter (Mongrel… / …Meets His Maker) in quick succession deserves a platinum medal. The Private Press opened up a new world of found sounds to explore, in the same way a few fragmented samples from Endtroducing made me want to hear more from Kurtis Blow or watch Prince of Darkness. Sample-rich albums like these say a lot about the obsessive nature of crate digging and remind me that I’d do well to even scratch the surface of what’s out there in a lifetime.

What it reminds me of

Studying. The Private Press stayed with me through third year and made a comeback during fourth year uni finals. Nothing brings the skull back to its centre quite like a bit of You Can’t Go Home Again.

Standout track

Blood on the Motorway.

Anything else?

I wonder how much he’d charge to do a funeral.

Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

When I first heard it

Circumstances of my first encounter with this album couldn’t have been more appropriate, save for a naked Indian on peyote stepping out from behind a cactus and handing me a copy. I bought Songs for the Deaf one night in August 2002 while making the long drive back to Tucson from Scottsdale – proper desert terrain – with my friend Glover (sadly, no relation to Danny). The album wasn’t due out until the next day, but it was past midnight and we imagined some eager retailer would be stocking. So we stopped by almost every garage with a CD stand for 130 miles until arriving at the unlikely site of a 24 hour Borders (RIP). Glover ran around the shop like Anneka Rice until he found the only copy they’d ordered in. The remainder of the trip home was bittersweet – we had the album on the car stereo but it wasn’t yet mine, goddammit.

Why I love it

Rated R (2000) is a disheveled beauty and it’s difficult to rate this above it. I do so because a) I Think I Lost My Headache ends R on an endurance test and b) Songs for the Deaf is undisputable proof that supergroups can be far greater than the sum of their egos. At risk of sounding pretty auld, there’s a danger to this album that I’ve rarely heard in a band since. I’m sure they were blissfully unaware at the time, but this incarnation of the Queens smells like four remarkable talents (Homme, Oliveri, Grohl and Lanegan) finding a way to reach their collective zenith in an awesome moment they couldn’t possibly sustain.

What it reminds me of

Climbing the walls after a troublesome encounter with the philosopher’s blend.

Standout track

The Sky is Fallin’.

Johnny Cash – IV: The Man Comes Around (2002)

When I first heard it

I was cold (knackered central heating) and skint in late 2002. The album came out not long after I finished reading his autobiography; though it was the first full Cash LP I’d spent any real time with and was worth the £15.99 import price HMV sold it for. Once I learned about the fascinating life the man had lead and read about the optimism that the second wind he’d found in his elderly years gave him it made me want to hear much more.

Why I love it

When I first heard Johnny Cash covering Beck and Soundgarden in the mid-90s I put it down to a bizarre novelty and have since heard people criticise the American series as Rick Rubin’s tasteless document of the man in black’s slow decline. But somewhere in-between, I’ve yet to see a more poignant music video than Mark Romanek’s treatment for Cash’s rendition of Hurt. In the context of American IV – alongside the glorious second coming implied by the title track’s biblical references and the inherently optimistic war time classic We’ll Meet Again – the effect is an uplifting counter-balance.

What it reminds me of

Trying to come to terms with the death of my good friend Brian Robertson.

Standout track

The Man Comes Around

Choice Cut Video: At The Drive In – Quarantined

http://www.youtube.com/v/SqsNR5pI6bw&hl=en_GB&fs=1&

S&B Albums of 2009 Playlist

I’ve compiled a Spotify playlist of my Top 20 Albums of 2009 list. Neither the Grizzly Bear or Twilight Sad albums are on there, so I’ve added a couple of other tracks I loved this year to make up the numbers by Dan Deacon and The Big Pink

Disaster struck the other morning, when my hard-drive got wiped. I have most of the music in hard copy, but since I am between decent stereos, I guess I’ll be using Spotify a lot more now and will update the blog with anything I think may be worth a listen…

Scrawls & Bawls Albums of 2009

Enjoy!

Blog Post #100 – My Top 20 Albums of 2009

Hey, whaddya know? It’s another list. I know the web and print media have been saturated with the things (even my own little blog), but what can I say, I’m a sucker for them. I, like many males, love lists. I took objection to Paul Morley’s Observer Music Monthly column for December, in which he bemoaned the existent of Best Of lists. I love reading them, making them, arguing over them, debating them.

This is my obligatory Favourite Albums of 2009 list. It doesn’t veer too far from the beaten track to many of the lists I’ve seen in circulation. It has also changed quite a bit since I first compiled it in November. Some of these albums will grow on me over the next year… it happens every year, and I guess the order could change drastically. Last year, I said my favourite album was The Devil, You and Me by The Notwist. Looking back now, it would be relegated to third place, behind Cut Copy and Frightened Rabbit.

I didn’t even listen to some of my favourite albums of last year until this year (Cave Singers, I’m looking at you…). Some of these albums, The xx, Grizzly Bear, AC, I’m starting to get into a lot more than when I first heard them. But this is, I think, the order in which I’ve enjoyed these records this year. Oh, and those there are Mountain Goats.

Please feel free to rip this list to shreds.


  1. The Mountain Goats – The Life Of The World To Come (review)

  2. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (read here)

  3. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

  4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

  5. The xx – xx

  6. Butcher Boy – React Or Die (review)

  7. The Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

  8. The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

  9. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

  10. Nurses – Apple’s Acre (review)

  11. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

  12. Doves – Kingdom of Rust

  13. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

  14. Monsters Of Folk – Monsters Of Folk (review)

  15. Zoey Van Goey – The Cage Was Unlocked All Along (review)

  16. Neon Indian – Psychic Chasms

  17. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

  18. Wildbirds and Peacedrums – The Snake (review)

  19. The Maccabees – Wall of Arms (review)

  20. Daniel Johnston – Is and Always Was (review)

Buy Tickets Now: Midlake @ ABC, 15 Feb

Post-Yuletide blues? Struggling to raise yourself for the never-ending misery of January mornings? Well, listen up, because Midlake are like an aural hot water bottle: warm, soothing, cosy and gentle. Astonishingly, it has been three and a half years since the sweet harmonies of The Trials of Van Occupanther slowly but surely buried themselves into the consciousness of anyone who heard it. Progress reports have reflected on a directional change on album number three, The Courage of Others, commenting on a nod to British folk of the 60s. Everything’s crossed that they can scale the heights of 2006, making winter a little more bearable.

Video: Midlake – Some Of Them Were Superstitious



Written for The Skinny

The Pogues @ Manchester Apollo, 13 Dec


Shane Macgowan, lookin’ fierce well

Inevitability: the cornerstone of the festive season. Just as you’re guaranteed to keel over in a satisfied slumber having consumed your body weight in turkey on Christmas day, you’re duty bound to receive at least one gift you have absolutely no use for, most likely from a distant aunt. And as sure as you’ll bemoan the unending stream of Christmas music emanating from jukeboxes, pub bands and televisions, you’re certain to sing along to Fairytale in New York on at least one boozed up festive evening.

That The Pogues have become a predictable fixture on this month’s calendar is ironic, given that they possess one of the most mercurial and downright reckless front-men in the business. And even if Shane MacGowan’s perma-sozzled state has long since become a convention in itself, it makes for a hell of a live show.

As he follows the cacophonic and largely inept support act The Marseilles Figs onto the stage, it’s perfectly clear that Shane’s been hitting the Christmas sherry pretty hard (the bottle in his hand is a dead giveaway). The capacity crowd at the Apollo, who, to a man, seem to have joined him in toasting the season, erupt. MacGowan was always unlikely to disappoint. With the focus generally on his wayward lifestyle, though, it’s easy to forget just how good and how original The Pogues were. Tonight serves as a reminder, as they steamroll through almost three decades of hits, fusing their traditional Irish roots with the wilder, punkier side that’s come to define them.

Just as MacGowan is determined to play the errant frontman, the rest of the band are hell-bent on keeping the ship afloat: the musicianship is first class. Careering through faster numbers like Sally MacLeannane, Irish Rover and Fiesta was always likely to send the crowd into raptures, just as the slower tracks were bound to induce much swaying and arm-swinging. MacGowan is joined by a backing choir of thousands as he croons his way through Dirty Old Town and Rainy Night in Soho. Despite being unable to muster a coherent sentence in discourse, his voice sounds remarkably good, befitting the scenes of debauchery unfolding before him.

Proceedings, as expected, are rounded up with Fairytale of New York, MacGowan joined at the mic by a slightly more clear-headed beau. Inevitably, their efforts are drowned out by those of the crowd, before exiting stage to a fanatical and deserved ovation. In such an uncertain age, a little bit of surety can be comforting and welcome, as proved by The Pogues tonight.

Cheers!

4/5

First published in The Skinny

Five of the Best: #6: Milo McLaughlin

Milo is the author of the excellent Products of a Gaseous Brain, a blog that combines music, technology and general musings on life. It’s well worth checking out. He also contributes regularly to The Skinny and various technology websites. So, I’m chuffed that he’s taken the time to share his favourite five albums of the 2000s.

The Fall – The Real New Fall LP (formerly Country On The Click) (2003)








When I first heard it

This was the first Fall album I really got into. I was in a weird kind of comedy band at the time called Swivel Chair and we’d been described as a cross between The Fall and Kraftwerk but I’d never really listened to either band with my full attention. A girl at work gave me a cassette with some of their older stuff on and I liked it. But it was this album that persuaded me of the genius of Mark E Smith.

Why I love it

I was converted from the very first second that Green Eyed Loco Man snarls into existence. Sparta FC is the best football song ever (not that there’s much competition). Smith apparently recruited the band who play on this album from hanging around youth clubs or something, so they’re all about half his age and not even proper musicians. And then there’s his surprisingly attractive (and presumably extremely patient) wife on keyboards. Anyway due to the younger influence this is a pretty energetic and straight down the line punk rock album in many ways, so is probably their most accessible album. Of course there is still the requisite rambling stream of consciousness from MES that makes it uniquely ‘The Fall’. I’ve listened to most of their studio albums now and I reckon this one still stands up as one of their best.

What it reminds me of

Has to be the gig they played at Edinburgh’s much-missed shithole The Venue in February 2004. It was mainly this album they played, and me and my pal got ridiculously drunk and dived into the mosh-pit (I’m too old for that kind of thing these days). MES even looked like he was having a good time and didn’t storm off early or anything, which I’ve seen him do since. Just one of those gigs that always makes you smile when you think about it.

Standout track

For me, Contraflow because it makes for a brilliantly cathartic singalong for somebody who spent his teenager years going slightly insane in a thatched cottage in the middle of rural Ireland (the chorus goes “I hate the countryside so much, I hate the countryfolk so much”). I don’t really mean it of course but Mark E Smith can get away with saying that kind of thing.

James Yorkston – The Year of The Leopard (2006)








When I first heard it

This choice won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who knows me, God knows I banged on enough about it at the time. I was given a copy to review for The Skinny and was immediately bewitched by Yorkston’s dulcet tones.

Why I love it

It’s produced by Paul Webb who did the Beth Orton solo album, and he seems to be amazing at creating a really warm and intimate atmosphere, and of course Yorkston’s songs are beautifully crafted, with great lyrics. Put this on and you just instantly feel more relaxed. Like the audio equivalent of a roaring open fire and a bottle of red wine. In fact, it has such a dramatic effect on me I think it actually makes me more of a gentle, kind person. If everyone in the world appreciated this album, it would probably bring about world peace.

What it reminds me of

Basically just spending time with my girlfriend, chilling out, plus going to see him playing live in numerous intimate venues. In fact we saw him play to a half empty field (he was on very early in the day) at the first Connect Festival at Inveraray Castle near Loch Fyne, so it reminds me of that beautiful setting, a lot of mud, and seeing Bjork later on in the day. Good times.

Standout track

Wow. This is hard, because Woozy With Cider, which is an amazingly personal spoken word piece accompanied by a subtle electro backing, is probably the one that grabbed me first, and drew me into the album – but I have to vote for I Awoke because it’s the most heartbreaking and beautiful song ever written about infidelity and relationships. I’m welling up now just thinking about it.

Arcade Fire – Funeral (2005)








When I first heard it

I met Sean Michaels from saidthegramophone.com at a meeting for the short-lived Scottish magazine Noise (a precursor to The Skinny) and he told me about The Arcade Fire, a band he loved from back home in Montreal. A short while later they appeared on Jools Holland and I was blown away. I got the album as soon as I could.

Why I love it

Others will no doubt have written more eloquent descriptions of just why this album is so good, but for me it’s just a powerful, positive, onslaught of passion, drama and energy. I didn’t get into their follow-up as much but this still stands alone as an amazing debut.

What it reminds me of

My friend Sean, and going to gigs in Glasgow a lot. Seeing them live in Princes St Gardens where they supported Franz Ferdinand and blew them away.

Standout track

This is one of those records which for me stands up as an entire album, and it’s a beast. I don’t want to pick a single track that I prefer.

Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)








When I first heard it

I can’t exactly remember, but I heard the track For the Widows in Paradise; For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti from his Greetings From Michigan album on a Rough Trade compilation and I was instantly smitten. Then this album came out and I had to admit the guy was sickeningly talented.

Why I love it

I was reluctant to choose this because it’s so obvious, but when it comes down to musicianship, it’s head and shoulders above almost everything else I’ve heard. In fact, I should hate it, because it almost put me off making music myself as there was no way I would ever be able to create anything this gorgeous musically in a million years.

Okay so I admit it, I just love the banjo.

What it reminds me of

Christmas. Even though he also did a Christmas album, this has the same kind of feel about it. You know, cheerful and colourful and all that kind of stuff that you’re only allowed to be once a year.

Standout track

Chicago

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell (2003)








When I first heard it

I’m pretty sure I bought it when it first came out. I remember making up a compilation for a bunch of folk and including about 5 tracks from the album on it. I also included some tracks by the band Electric Six on that compilation but I probably shouldn’t admit that as the YYYs have aged considerably better.

Why I love it

It’s hedonistic, ridiculous, sexy, and it oozes belligerent, youthful, energy from every pore, and it barely lets up, with one track after another slamming the message home. And Karen O is clearly a superstar.

What it reminds me of

Seeing them at Glasgow Barrowlands. The songs from this album had the entire place jumping, from the first row to the back row – one of the best gigs I’ve been to.

Standout track

Has to be Maps really doesn’t it – though it is the least representative, its a gloriously unique and heartfelt ballad that still completely retains the unique YYYs sound. It might just be perfect.


Choice Cut Video: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps, Acoustic

http://www.youtube.com/v/VJf2FQDl8Ig&hl=en_US&fs=1&

Quizzle My Shizzle

I used to do a monthly quiz for The Skinny, the imaginatively titled Quiz Time With Uncle Finbarr. I think it’s about time I started posting them on the blog. Anyone who fancies their chances, either email me at finbarr.bermingham@gmail.com, or leave answers below.

The first one I’m posting is the one from this month’s issue, which I did along with Dr Paul, the Quizmaster from DP Quiz. I will post most of it, I only came up with the music, film and art questions though. So cheers to Paul for the rest.

1. Which Beckett play brought together Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart and Simon Callow at the King’s Theatre in April?

2. Complete the title of Scottish Opera’s autumn production, The Italian Girl in _______?

3. Which of Scotland’s brutally opressed minorities were the subject of a Helen Cuinn play at the CCA in November?

4. What was the title of Tim Key’s Edinburgh Comedy Award winning Fringe show which sounded like a whore at a ballet?

5. Which 3 letter word was the name of New Writing nights at the Tron and the Traverse?

6. Which Aston Villa fan told The Skinny in April that he might consider being Poet Laureate, but only if we get rid of The Queen?

7. Which Scottish town is so posh that it host’s the country’s only regular dedicated poetry festival, every March?

8. On which party island did Stephen Gateley’s party come to a premature end?

9. In June, which Charlie’s Angel might have got more coverage for her demise if she hadn’t popped off on the same day as Jacko?

10. Patrick Swayze lost his battle with cancer this year but in which year did he star in epic surf movie ‘Point Break’ and was named ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ by People magazine?

11. Which dead Beatle got a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame this year?

12. Which comedian was the former ‘better half’ of Kevin McGee who killed himself in Edinburgh in October?

13. Perhaps the most important band member since Bez, of which Skinny cover stars is Maxim Reality a member?

14. They’ve probably got the worst name in rock music, but Monsters of Folk’s debut album wowed us this year. Who are the four band members?

15. Cybraphon is the latest whacky BAFTA winning creation by which unpredictable, but awfully nice Auld Reekie arts collective?

16. Known more for its baked delights than rock and roll, from which European country do alt-rockers Mew originate?

17. Which sandpaper throated sexpot turned up alongside Jack White in the Dead Weather this year?

18. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on the job,” is a particularly good quote from the irrepressible Brian Clough. Which film was made about Ol’ Big ‘Ed’s life this year?

19. Van Diemen’s Land was a showcase film at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. But what devilish name is the real life area known as today?

20. Eurovision launched the illustrious careers of Dana International, TATU and, er, Jemini, but the Junior Song Contest was the subject matter of which hit movie this year?

21. Russell Crowe played streetwise hack Cal McCaffery in which political drama, released this year?

22. Owen Wilson overcame personal trauma to feature in perhaps his most creatively challenging, leftfield role to date in which pet thriller of 2009?

23. Which celebrated indie icon exhibited a set of drawings, Wildlife, which were chronologically ordered to track his progressive recovery from cerebral haemorrhaging?

24. Which member of the Monty Python troupe presented a BBC 4 documentary on the Scottish Colourists? A far cry from The Life of Brian…

25. Ben Ottewell is the gravelly throated singer from which Southport indie band?

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Music Guide


As if your liver won’t come under enough strain, having spent Christmas Week pickled in mulled wine and Bier D’Or, the organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations have decided to extend the festivities. New Year will now be rung in for just the five nights, from 29th December to 2nd January. The entertainment is designed to offer something for everyone, so naturally, some of it will be a bit pish. But those willing to lay down their turkey drumsticks and jingle bells may find themselves rewarded with some decent live music. You just have to know where to find it.

Kicking off on the 29th Off Kilter will be combing live music and dance in the premiere of “an exhilarating new dance anthem for Scotland” mixed by DJ Dolphin Boy at the Festival Theatre. It all sounds pretty dodgy to me. They promise snippets of Franz Ferdinand, The Rezillos, Calvin Harris and Hugh McDiarmid. I promise nothing. Tread carefully children.

Calvin Harris plays a DJ set in the HMV Picturehouse on Wednesday 30th, but Mars and Jupiter align to produce negating circumstances, namely, tickets being extortionately priced, and Calvin Harris being a bit shit. So if I were you, I’d save myself for New Year’s Eve. I suggest getting yourself down to the Vic Galloway-hosted Waverley Stage, which is the clear highlight. The organisers have obviously been paying attention to the aural demands of the natives, pulling in Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks and Stanley Odd (some of the best acts on the Scottish music scene). Unfortunately they proceed to undo their good work by including rabble-rousing Coventry grease-monkeys The Enemy at the top of the bill. Why, oh why?

Madness and The Noisettes play sets at the Concert in the Gardens, on West Princes Street, and for those prepared to don their dancing shoes, The West End DJ Stage will feature performances from Mylo and sets from Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody and Tom Simpson, and Belle and Sebastian’s Richard Colburn.

I’m guessing that most of you will all be pretty hammered anyway and will have a debauch-filled night, regardless of who you see. Which is the name of the game, really.

Happy New Year, folks.

*A heavily edited version of this appeared in The Skinny’s Edinburgh Hogmanay Guide.