They can't all be 'Man on Wire'

Dumbest Documentary of the Year: Another three way tie? What are the chances?!

This one is tricky to choose. I wrote about Morgan Spurlock's horrid 'Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden' over the summer, so refer back to that one.

More recently, I caught 'Heckler', a documentary by Jamie Kennedy with as redundant a thesis as Spurlock's film. People that heckle at stand up comedy shows are annoying? No shit! It's nice to see some comedians I like (Mirman, Oswalt, Cross, Tompkins) offering their experiences, and some of the stories are pretty funny, but really, who cares? Just as nobody (nobody rational) really believes that ALL Muslims are terrorists - you don't need to see '...Bin Laden' to know that, nobody is standing up for the rights of hecklers, claiming that it's a valid art. So that whole thing was a little redundant. But after about half an hour, it takes a sudden turn, and becomes a film that ought to be subtitled: "Jamie Kennedy: Why didn't people like Son of the Mask?", a rant about movie critics, online and in print. Now, I'm aware of the irony inherent in me writing about this movie, but come on. Everyone gets bad reviews, not everyone goes crying to the reviewers about it. He talks to some internet guys and Richard Roeper and ends up looking kind of silly and thin-skinned. I felt bad for the critics having to explain their reasons to the man face-to-face. Only one of them was ballsy/confident enough to say "Your movies all fucking suck" directly to Kennedy. Even though I found the documentary almost entirely unnecessary, I agree that one particular critic should be stopped.

Finally, a few nights ago (not on Xmas Day) my parents and I watched Bill Maher's 'Religulous', an extended stand up routine interspersed with Maher yelling at people, many of whom didn't really deserve it. Sure, he interviewed plenty of kooks, but you can't only talk to people on the fringes and then say that they're representative of religion as a whole. One guy has his own business, where he makes devices to help orthodox Jews to use certain appliances, while still observing the Sabbath. Fair observation: "What, are they trying to cheat God?". Too often though, it's smug (imagine that), uses silly sound effects, and overbroad. No doubt, religion is at the root of a lot of problems, and there are plenty of people out there who use religion to line their own pockets, but Maher's approach is just to say "If you believe in any religion, you're a moron" and that's pretty hard to take.

A drink and some palaver

Fastest Workers - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

They wrote a song, based on radio listeners' lyrics, in like three hours! And it was a kickass song. And Stereogum linked to me for writing about it. That was nice of them. As if that wasn't enough, young Ted also took a stand against police brutality at the RNC and wrote a song in like two days, sending all proceeds to Foods Not Bombs and Democracy Now! I'm not going to put the song up here - buy it from Touch And Go, ya bums - but here's a live video. Jimmy, Steve, Violence and Ted: you slags are alright.

[download Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The World Is In the Turlet]

You were a champion in their eyes

Gig of the year: Kanye West

This category is getting lamer and lamer every year, with my declining concert attendance. This is absolutely true: I attended more shows in one week in November 2001 - including but not limited to Jimmy Eat World and Mogwai at different venues in the same night - than I did in 2008. How weak is that? Apologies to Teddy, BSP and Kimya, but this one is a no-brainer. Early May, K-West killed it (KILLED IT) in Tampa.

If you saw Kanye's appearance on SNL not long ago, you may recall that singing=not so good, but visuals=awesome. Well, the Glow in the Dark Tour was all visuals, no singing. Even though my hand got covered in glowstick juice at one point, it was still a whole spaceship-called-Jane-load of fun. Dancing, singalongs, Journey, lasers (probably) and Lupe Fiasco. I hope they hurry up and put out a DVD.

Sometimes actresses get slapped

The "Oh, I Get It!" Award: The Hold Steady

It's not that I ever disliked this band. I just... There's only so many bands you can listen to, y'know? And there's a lot of bands that get bigged up online. Every week there's a new one. So The Hold Steady I always lumped in as "one of those bands that a lot of people seem to love, but I probably won't get". Then I heard 'Chips Ahoy!' last year and thought "This isn't so bad" but didn't give them a second thought.

This June, there was a lot going on, and 'Constructive Summer' came out, and blew me away. Musically and lyrically and thematically and grammatically. Even though 'Stay Positive' - the album as a whole - didn't really sink in for a while, by November it was a mainstay. My lastfm page will verify this. By now, 'Stay Positive' is a staple for long drives. Woah-woah-woah! I like the horns and legal-jargon riffing on 'Sequestered in Memphis', the straightforward rocking of 'Magazines' and 'Yeah Sapphire', and especially the title track. And there's something about the Cassavetes tribute 'Slapped Actress' that always gets me. I guess they're really that good.

Christmas in adventure parks

Who Are You,You Are Awesome Awards (Three-way tie)

Here are three albums that came out this year which I liked, from acts about whom I knew very little at the time, and still barely know anything about. Other than that I like them. Obviously.

1. Surrounded - The Nautilus Years

These guys are from Sweden, and a solid review from DiS made me seek them out. They sound like Grandaddy with richer strings, fewer robots, and almost as many moments of heart-stoppage caused by sheer prettiness. There's a song towards the end that's like ten minutes long and just spends eight of those minutes slowly shuffling away, hands in pockets, as if after a great conversation with a long lost friend.

[download Surrounded - Safe Tomorrow Sun]
[Surrounded official / myspace]

2. Paris Motel - In the Salpêtrière

The internet tells me this one was actually released in October 2007, but I certainly didn't hear them til this year. I've believed for years that women's vocals + strings = perfection. And Paris Motel, who as the name implies are from London, get it just right. It's music that you'd want to see performed at the kind of place you have to dress up to go to. And you'd be seated. And it'd be magical.

[download Paris Motel - Three Steps]
[Paris Motel official / myspace]

3. Get Well Soon - Rest Now! Weary Head, You Will Get Well Soon

This is the only album of these three that I actually wrote about already. Konstantin Gropper nails a lot of styles on this album - all manner of instruments swell, and he's got a way with words too. Also, cover of 'Born Slippy'!

[download Get Well Soon - If This Hat Is Missing, I Have Gone Hunting]
[BONUS download Get Well Soon - It Must Have Been Love (Roxette Cover)]
[Get Well Soon official / myspace]

Fortunately for whining snotface...

Person I wish I was more like: Charlie Brooker

His show 'Screenwipe' is unmissable television - like 'The Soup' if Joel McHale was a trillion times more angry, his Guardian column is top-notch entertainment that makes me incredibly jealous of his writing abilities, and this year he even wrote a zombie series which I'm yet to see, but am promised is excellent. In the off chance that you don't know who Charlie is, here's what he had to say in his own end of year post, about Hole in the Wall, a television show that defies reason.

The WTF? prize goes BBC1's Hole In The Wall, the least dignified, most unashamedly imbecilic gameshow in living memory. Apparently conceived by a three-year-old, it consisted of K-list celebrities in spandex contorting themselves into puzzle shapes in order to avoid being dunked in a pool of water. They failed 95% of the time, but the show carried on and on regardless, like a Super Mario cutscene stuck in a loop.
And here's a clip from an older series of Screenwipe, where he goes to town on My Super Sweet Sixteen. Spoiler alert: not a fan. Spoiler alert 2: The phrase "squealing shitcake friends" is used. 

You never asked for an audience

Most unfortunately slept-on album of the year: Sons & Daughters - This Gift

It felt like 'The Repulsion Box' got some blog attention when it came out a few years back, and their U.S. tour with the Decemberists probably helped, but when S&D's second album was released in January, it barely registered. This is a real pity, since it was a really solid album. Not as gothic and and inward-looking as they were, this was a more concise, harder rocking set of songs from a group that's really finding its sound. The songs are compact, taut, radio-friendly (like the band gives a hoot about that), and like I said, just plain more shit-kickin' than ever. It's still dark - Adele is threadbare on the bathroom floor on the hot-as-hell title track - but this time you can dance to it.

Things that we all need to navigate

Since I have real trouble with putting a ranking on stuff I've liked this year - what does it mean to be the 7th best album, etc? - for the last couple of years, I've elected to come up with arbitrary awards to honour stuff that I've liked. And thus begins the AYGH 2008 retrospective!

The "Where the fuck did THAT come from?" Award: British Sea Power 

Last time I checked, British Sea Power were a weird looking, ok-ish indie outfit that sang love songs about Dostoevsky and had stuffed animals and kestrels onstage with them. Not a bad band, but still one lodged firmly in the periphery. But this year, they put out 'Do You Like Rock Music?', an album that aimed big and really achieved something great, despite what one "hilarious" rating may imply. Whether singing about light pollution, the influx of eastern Europeans into Britain, or a trip out (that'll be 'A Trip Out'), the record just sounded harder and more focused than anything they'd put out before. I could've done without the extra intro and outro on album highlight 'Atom', but kudos to whoever transcribed the lyrics here, and managed to convey the noises at the end as "the sounds of a crying baby being spat on." Their live show was fun, too, though possibly more for them than us towards the end. But overall, the transition from also-rans to still also-rans but also-rans that appeared on Letterman (and got bleeped!) suited them very well.  

Stay away from fleeting favour

Coming soon, the AYGH awards (?) for this year, and Ms. Marling is sure to be recognised with some glory. In the interim, though, he's an unreleased song that she played on the Marc Riley show last week. It's got a sense of menace previously seen on 'Night Terror' and a fair sense of bleakness. This version is very stripped down, and that suits it just fine. 

No lyrics to adapt into post title

Like Robert Louis Stevenson, Trainspotting and yesterday's hot new band How to Swim, Popolo are from Scotland - Dundee, to be precise. They've only got a couple of songs at the moment, and here's one of them now. For an instrumental band, they cram a lot into a short song - it sets a mood and then builds. It's a pity the song is so brief - I'd have liked to hear it unfold slowly like a Mamet play. They've played with Errors and 65daysofstatic, and you can see the family resemblance. As someone that doesn't exercise much, I see myself putting this on the iPod and going for a run, because it's nice and upbeat, and my run will last exactly three minutes - the ideal length for me. See what you think.

I've had too many Christmas drinks

In the scheme of things that I hate, Christmas music is less offensive than Hitler, but less fun than getting caught in rainstorms. Yes, I understand that it's completely seasonal, but since it's that season at the moment, and since both my sister and my girlfriend LOVE that shit, I feel justified in ranting. Every year, I hear 'Feliz Navidad' earlier and earlier, and it makes me want to draw blood and kick strangers. Also, I live in Florida and ten days before Christmas, it's still t-shirt weather, so anything about snow is entirely redundant. Humbug.

Thankfully, there are some great exceptions. 'Fairytale of New York' is one (original or Ted's). Others? I'll get back to you. London-based label Tough Love Records has made available a free 6-track EP of seasonal original songs from a handful of London bands. Gotta admit, I hadn't heard of any of them before, but I listened to the song by Favours for Sailors, and that's enough for me to want to hear the rest. It's upbeat, spiky and there aren't any sleigh-bells. Instead, there's a line about hanging one's self from the Christmas tree, and the imagery of such macabre ornaments over some nice old-fashioned indie rock gets a thumbs up from me.

Download the whole Listen, The Snow is Failing EP here.

Put a you-shaped hole in me

As promised, I can write about music again! Rejoice, Rejoice, Ring the Bells!

First up are How To Swim, a band who get an instant look-see because they're from Glasgow, there are a hundred of them (well, ten), they wrote a song about body-changing, and look incredibly young. This song is warm with brass, singalong refrains, some pretty kickin' guitars and noises that are a bit like lasers. Also: rickety piano! And a nice, My Latest Novel style finale. There's a lot going on in this here song so you'll probably have to hear it about three times before you come to love it. Did I mention that it's about surgery?

More on their myspace. Recommended.

[download How To Swim - Genesis P and Me]

If your boyfriend's got beef

Over the last few weeks, I've been rather obsessed with Blizzard Man. Couldn't tell you why - it's just the right balance between dumb and goofy to still be hilarious to me. Laughing at Andy Samberg looking like the dude from Color Me Badd while singing "I wear very nice duds" was a great antidote to the joyless pressure cooker that law school becomes at the end of each term. 

Adding to my non-scholastic distractions over the last fortnight was this music video, by a band I'd never previously heard of. My roommate's boyfriend Travis mentioned them, and our collective curiosity made us watch the video. Behold. 
Now, I'm as judgmental as the next person on the internet, but I can't quite bring myself to hate it. I know I should, and here's a bunch of reasons why. 
  • The band name is formatted "Number/Word/Exclamation Point/Number"
  • They're named after their telephone area code. There is no way that is ever cool.
  • The video tries to set itself up as having a plot. Sort of Cloverfield meets 28 Days Later/Blade Runner?
  • Mitigation (or possibly aggravation): The set up has nothing to do with what actually happens in the video, which doesn't really make a lick of sense.
  • Abundant male semi-nudity.
  • The long haired guy's job description: "Repeat certain words, make actions"
  • At one stage, the line is something "Back east", and that guy points to the left, with nary a glance at a compass. Or the sun's trajectory. Geographically misleading!
  • Something about two white guys singing "Don't trust a ho" is just weird to me.
  • In the future, models will be called to wrestle each other, incorporating some sort of modified Boston Crab.
  • ...something about tribes?
  • Simulated sex with a giant ram
  • "Do the Helen Keller and talk with your hips" is tasteless enough, but add the actions/dance routine, and it's golden.
  • Everything is smashed up at the end for what should be obvious reasons. 
  • Like the year's best TV advertisement, it ends with a giant explosion. 
  • The band also has a song called Holler Till You Pass Out. 
  • "Crunk hop" has been used to describe the sound.
  • Two songs were played on 'The Hills'.
Yet, like I said, I can't hate the song. What's wrong with me/right with them? Just harmless hi-energy fun, right? Right? Either that, or these guys are evil geniuses who are corrupting our youth and must be stopped at once. 

Something happens that's relevant to previous AYGH updates

Just a heads up - the Soulwax documentary which I wrote about not long ago is now up on, so if you'd to see it, do that. For the next week.

Part of the Weekend Never Dies.

Back from the brink

Hey everyone!

I'm back, after a grueling end-of-the-semester slog that involved exams, presentations, revision, seminar essays, and one Championship game. Now I have free time again, so I can read some of the books that have been piling up, and I can write in here a little more. So, I guess it's time to talk about some good films I've seen lately, the world's greatest music video, do as I did the last two years and start some sort of arbitrary end of year hoopla, and possibly work my way through the hundred-plus band-promotin' emails that are waiting to be looked at.

This song says it all. (I'm still a little bitter about it beating 'A Design for Life' to number one, twelve years later).

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