Category Archives: anti-boredom materials

My ten albums of the decade:

Thing is, I don’t take music all that seriously. I like what I like, and screw everyone else. But holy mother of God, this list in the Times (London) has me reeling. Kid A as the album of the decade? KID FUCKING A? I couldn’t give that piece of shit away once I realised I hated it. OK Computer was a good album, sure. But this pile of wank I couldn’t get past a second listening of.

So, here are the ten little masterpieces that gave me aural heaven in the last ten years:

10. Gold – Ryan Adams (2001)

This isn’t even a favourite amongst Ryan’s fans but I find it far less heavy than ‘Heartbreaker’ in the good way. ‘Goodnight, Hollywood Boulevard’ remains one of his best songs for me, along with ‘Somewhere, Somehow’ which is the kind of song you wish your lover sang about you. (Pity Kaite, I just make up dirty limericks about her…). Not to mention that there’s a non-nauseating anthem to New York and a gorgeous breakup song in the form of ‘Harder Now That It’s Over.’

9. Wicked Little High – Bird York (2006)

What can I say? I love her voice and her hair. This is a sort of ‘best of’ in a way, a more marketable smushing up of earlier stuff with the new (and yes, including that song from Crash/House/everything that was nominated for an Oscar!). ‘Save Me’ breaks my heart, and it’s proof of that rarest of things in songwriting – a fresh perspective. The title track is a perfect deconstruction of why we’re all such a mess in relationships, and sums up perfectly all those people you should have known better about.8. American Demo – The Indelicates (2008)

God, I love smart music. The lyrics are playful, intelligent, cruel and incisive. Exquisite dissections of history and pop culture (‘Unity Mitford’, ‘If Jeff Buckley Had Lived’). Compulsively catchy tunes, unique voices and a hundred moments of thinking “if I wrote songs, I’d want them to turn out like this”. It’s like a less whiny version of The Smiths for my generation.

7. The Stage Names – Okkervil River (2007)

I’m a fairly recent convert to this band, but my GOD, I like their songs. They have just enough of the ‘whiny boys with guitars’ flavour, but some seriously punchy basslines to go with it. As an album, this showcases about the best of them – their reworking of an old folk song (‘John Allyn Smith Sails’) will have you on your feet punching the air and singing along. I love the movie theme that runs through the songs – ‘Plus Ones’ kills me with its reference to Paul Simon and ‘the 51st way to leave your lover’. What else can I say? I love a man who knows when to wail.6. The Green World – Dar Williams (2000)

I feel like this album is a perfect riposte to anyone who whines about female singer-songwriters. This is life and poetry and fun, folk meets pop and rock without losing anything along the way. The songs that focus on family or childhood (‘After All’, ‘We Learned the Sea’) have a pleasing innocence to them, while ‘Another Mystery’ and ‘I Won’t Be Your Yoko Ono’ make me really happy about being a girl. Thoroughly, indisputably awesome. Her lyrics snap, crackle AND pop.

5. More Adventurous – Rilo Kiley (2004)

Choosing a favourite album from Rilo Kiley wasn’t easy, since there are two or three of my all-time favourite songs on each one. But ‘Portions for Foxes’ remains my ultimate ‘get up and kick ass’ song, so that swayed the balance in the end. There’s satire in the form of ‘It’s A Hit’ and a scathing look at love and affairs in ‘Does He Love You?’. It’s got everything from mellow and dramatic strings to synth-pop and good old fashioned guitar thrashing. Perfection.4. A Brighter Beat – Malcolm Middleton (2007)

My second favourite love song of all time is ‘Fuck It, I Love You’… and they say romance is dead? Not only that, but this witty, depressing yet upbeat little collection is also home to the best anti-Christmas video ever in the form of ‘We’re All Going To Die’. It’s nothing if not brutally honest. I was never a fan of Arab Strap in any meaningful way, but I love Malcolm’s solo stuff. Oh, and ‘Superhero Songwriters’ would get an honourable mention for the title alone, but the song isn’t bad either.

3. The Photo Album – Death Cab For Cutie (2001)

For eighteen months after I first discovered it, this was the only Death Cab album I had. That’s because it was the only one I needed. ‘Styrofoam Plates’ is a vitriolic rant against the hypocrisy of deadbeat dad that makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the gut every time I hear it, with the kind of zinging guitar solo for a bridge that makes you need a lie down afterwards. ‘Why’d You Want To Live Here’ is a love/hate letter to LA, but in a lot of ways it could be about any big city and the overcharged fools who live there. ‘Information Travels Faster’ remains has some of my favourite lyrics and is one of the few tracks I never, ever skip when it comes up on shuffle.

2. Lost In Space – Aimee Mann (2002)

My first brush with a ‘concept album’ and I was hooked from the first few lines of ‘Humpty Dumpty’. Jo originally got me into Aimee with snippets of ‘Bachelor no 2’, but with time this has become my favourite of Aimee’s albums. It’s about drugs and the lies and deceptions that come along with addiction, the miscommunications and false hopes that they provide. ‘Invisible Ink’ is epically fantastic, I can’t even put into words how much I love that song. It’s all a tad mellow and maudlin, but that’s how I like my music a lot of the time, okay? ‘Real Bad News’ and ‘Today’s The Day’ are other contenders for best song, but with the pure emotional connection I have to Invisible Ink, nothing can touch it.

1. Tallahassee – The Mountain Goats (2002)

I suppose it’s not exactly shocking that my favourite album of the last ten years is the one that contains my all-time favourite song. But this is about so much more than the ‘screw you love ballad’ that is ‘No Children’. You might not think there’s much that’s uplifting in an album about the world’s most dysfunctional couple (“The Alpha Couple”) who are determined to drink themselves to death while taking lumps out of each other, but somehow there is. Mixed in with all their hate is the love they had for each other in the first place, and that old familiar feeling of ‘oh we’d have been fine if life hadn’t gotten in the way’.
It’s about a relationship, essentially, in all its fucked up glory. Some of the best lyrics ever penned are on here, set to simple acoustics or a simple guitar/drum combo.

Our conversations are like minefields, no-one’s found a safe way through one yet” //

In this house like a Louisiana graveyard, where nothing stays buried” //

“People say friends don’t destroy one another, what do they know about friends?” //

“Someone’s going to do something someone else will regret, I speak in smoke signals and you answer in code” //

“I want to say I’m sorry for stuff I haven’t done yet, things will shortly get completely out of hand.”

 

As with so many things, John Darnielle’s lyrics say more for the album than I ever could.

“I’m done chasing monsters in the dark”

I should warn you, the following content is SPOILERRIFFIC and will completely ruin the movie for you, so don’t click if you haven’t seen it, mmkay?

I could wax lyrical about the cultural and emotional significance of getting to see the return of The X-Files in my favourite city with my bezzer, but she already did it so well I have nothing more to add on that front. Suffice to say my ‘oh it’s just like press night’ nonchalance evaporated right about the time my foot first made contact with the red carpet.

Sure, there may have been some head-shaking and muttering about the ‘There But for the Grace of God Society” on my part, but my crippling self-consciousness about seeming over-excited was thrown by the wayside when I stood in a room full of screaming fans seeing David and Gilly right in front of us. They thanked us for coming, like there was ever any doubt we would. I would have broken into the cinema and camped out if I had to.

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“It feels like I’m shitting a knife”

Hot ladies WHO ARE FUNNY

Hot ladies WHO ARE FUNNY

I love you Tina Fey. But I sort of want to cheat on you with Amy Poehler, if that’s cool with you?

So we may have been too impatient to wait and see Baby Mama in the cinema. I can’t say I have any regrets, because with 30 Rock pretty much the only outright funny thing on TV these days, damned if I’m waiting when I know the interwebs can give me a Fey fix. Since her reunion with Amy was so hysterical on SNL earlier this year (“bitch is the new black“), I must admit that the word “squee” may have passed my lips as the download completed.

This is what a chick flick should be. There’s actual *gasp* intelligence at work here, but with enough spit-take funnies to make it effortless watching. We all know by now that these girls work bloody well as a comedy duo, and the zing zing timing is delightful. Sigourney Weaver is perfect as the surrogate finder, and while I dislike Greg Kinnear at the best of times, you do see him as the sort of crinkly-eyed ‘good guy’ that Tina Fey’s Kate is supposed to be interested in. Actually, a caveat to my Sigourney Weaver comments, as soon as you think of her and pregnancy there’s an automatic “ruh roh BURSTING OUT THE STOMACH” moment; don’t worry, it soon passes.

Even if it’s not your cup of tea, stick with it (or fast forward) to the eventual hospital scene. I nearly laughed myself into an aneurysm at Poehler’s delivery of um, the delivery. This film at least tries to remove itself from the conventional, but keeps a little just for the feelgood factor. That the plot actually attempts a twist or two is commendable, and what’s not to love about the dorkalicious Tina doing a DJ set? It has to be seen to be believed.

I seem to be on a girly film roll, but trust me, if you have a uterus and only enough money for one cinema ticket, splash out on this before Mamma Mia or Sex and the City.

“I’ve been cheated by you, Meryl Streep”

I love Meryl Streep.  I love ABBA.  I love musicals.  I secretly love cinema visits where singing along is positively encouraged.  In essence, I AM the target demographic for the Mamma Mia film.  So why did I walk out of Cineworld this evening like I was suffering from shell-shock?

Suspending disbelief is not an issue for me, I can happily accept people bursting into song left, right and centre.  This was just utter tripe, like a Comic Relief sketch gone on 90 minutes too long.  Darlings, I adore a bit of hamming it up as much as the next musical-loving homo, but this was like a really bad pantomime.   At one point, I snarked to Kaite that the woman pouting to Money, Money, Money was the most Oscar-nominated actress of all time.   Sure, after decades of frosty heartbreak, maybe Meryl’s entitled to blow off some acting steam but holy mother of crap I cringed so hard for the first hour that I now have cramp in my shoulders.

This wasn’t a good film, not even a ‘feelgood blockbuster’.  This was like your watching your mum (and her drunken friends) hammer the karaoke.  I hate the premise, the book is amateur crap.  I may not be any kind of a real writer, but this cliché-ridden claptrap is up there with the play I wrote at nine years old, in which ‘naughty’ teenagers get drunk on Babycham.

Not entirely without merit I suppose, Christine Baranski was underused but completely nailed ‘Does Your Mother Know’.  The ‘oops, how do we fit in Waterloo’ non-problem (by remembering it’s not about the actual Battle of Waterloo, duh) was solved by the faux-music video bit over the credits.  Had it just been the bit at the start of the credits, I might have felt it was worth the ticket price.  It might have been when you factor in Colin Firth frolicking like he was at a G-A-Y foam party, but it was really beyond redemption at that point. 

Oh I know, what kind of misery guts criticises a film which is basically a fluff piece?  It’s just that I like talented people doing stupid things for a laugh – for example the splendiferous Judi Dench doing a spoof of “I Am Sixteen, Going On Seventeen”.  This was just a waste.  Meryl almost pulled it out of the mire by attacking “The Winner Takes It All” like the pro that she is.  It wasn’t enough though, and anything that makes me question Pierce Brosnan’s sheer awesomeness is best left alone. 

Meh.

“if you were queer, I’d still be here”

Miracles do still happen, I got the Saturday off for London Pride.  Anyone who has known me over the past few years might be surprised that a) I’m planning to go, or b) that I’ve even noticed when it is. 

There’s been a shift, especially in the last year or so.  In terms of struggles with my sexuality, I know I had a fairly easy time in comparison.  Such is my non-affiliatory nature (oh God, I was given a Union membership form the other day!) that I’ve always been loath to define myself by my sexuality.  That ship has sailed though, most areas of my life are affected by being a lesbian, I’m out at work and to my family, I am quite proud in a low-key sort of way.  It won’t make the haters hate us any less, but instead of getting uptight I’ve decided to go to two of the biggest and best parties of the year with my dearest friends and just have a freakin’ good time.   I may not be changing exactly, but I am evolving.  I’ll still have to grit my teeth when presented with Stonewall’s latest superficial cause, but I’m never going to be militant and that I can live with.

 

Not to mention that Brighton Pride falls during my scheduled long weekend.  FTW!

“something so right has got no chance to live”

It’s taken me a frighteningly long time to get around to watching Dreamgirls.  Before I can even begin to review it, can I simply state that I completely freakin’ LOVE Loretta Devine, and you should too!

So why the delay, Lola?  It’s a musical, it’s a film, and people were actually going to see it because there were big names in the cast.  Surely ample reason to be swept along in the cinema-going tides?  Well, for whatever reason, I didn’t.  But I do have a lovely friend R, obsessed with it and determined that I should be too.  Little did R know that I have the original soundtrack with Jennifer Holliday and the aforementioned Loretta “bloody fabulous” Devine, so I at least had an idea what to expect.  I just didn’t know if I could be bothered, or if I could resist the urge to slap Beyoncé for two whole hours. 

Turns out I could.  It was in fact possible to forget that Beyoncé was Beyoncé for much of the film, proving that she must have been doing some real proper acting.  Or perhaps it was the case that when Jennifer Hudson is on screen, why would you waste your time looking at or listening to anyone else?  It’s such a shame that Lorrell is the weakest of the three parts, because Anika Noni Rose is the very definition of a tour de force.  Yes, I’m a theatrical snob who thinks paying your dues by treading the boards makes you a better actor, and by extension a better person, but if you listen to the Caroline, or Change soundtrack a couple of dozen times you’ll be smitten too.   Hell, if the woman can even get noticed when you consider my unquenchable love and respect for Chandra Wilson, she must have been doing something right (and the Tony judges agree with me!).

Eddie Murphy was (surprisingly) perfect in the role of Jimmy Thunders, I suppose it needed an OTT personality, but he didn’t turn it into a comedic role, which had to at least be tempting for him.  Jamie Foxx is sort of okay, but I find him almost devoid of charisma.  Not what you want in a leading man really, even when the character is supposed to be a megalomaniac ass. 

The direction is wonderful for the most part, maintaining the slight breathlessness that gives the feeling of a live performance.  A dazzling vibrancy in the colours, full cinematic treatment of the score and enough retro kitsch to keep me happy.  If you can watch it and not spend the evening singing “One Night Only”, well then, you’re a better woman than me. 

There’s a rawness to the performances, particularly Jennifer Hudson’s superlative-inducing assault on the mother of all ‘end of act one’ numbers – And I Am Telling You.  It’s the sort of song that you can easily stick Whitney Houston-esque pyrotechnics on, but without the pain it’s pointless.  A song that’s basically grovelling on your knees to the man who’s leaving you, all the while trying to hold on to the dignity you’d die to keep.  That bleeding into the orchestra pit level of pure emotion isn’t easy to come by, but the collective goosebumps of the viewing audience seem to suggest that Ms Hudson nailed it.

Not necessarily the ultimate classic, and it’s not bumping Funny Girl from the top of my musical list, but it deserves its place on there at the very least. 

“I may be mad, I may be blind, I may be viciously unkind”

Since Finn was nice enough to tag me, I thought it about time that I finally did that 10 Weird Facts About Me meme, since it affords a quick and easy peek into the dark mess that is my psyche.

So, without further ado:

  1. I can’t abide anyone putting something made of wool in their mouth.  From pulling gloves off with lips to the cats chewing on a scarf, the saliva + wool combination actually makes me shiver.  I honestly think I could kill a person just to get them to stop
  2. The buttons/ties/poppers on the duvet cover must, must, must always be at the bottom of the bed.  I believe I’ve actually been able to sense when the duvet has moved while I sleep and woken up in a panic to rectify it.  Not to mention tipping people out of bed to sort out the duvet before I’ll join them.
  3.  I have a million different football superstitions, my latest is that I can only watch Liverpool on the living room television because if I watch in the bedroom or go to the pub, they lose or draw.  The living room seems to guarantee a win, so I’m not messing with it.
  4. My happiest time is the middle of the night, dancing around in my jammies with headphones on.
  5. I secretly want to be 90s TV character Murphy Brown, even though I have zero journalistic skills.
  6. When I get on the tube, I’ll only sit on the opposite side to the door I got on at.  I’ll stand otherwise (unless my legs are actually falling off)
  7. I am unmoved by all documentaries and charity appeals, unless they are for animals in need in which case I dissolve into a hysterical wreck and need trauma counselling.  I seriously can’t control this!
  8. I have about five different accents, depending who I’m talking to.
  9. I really, really hate South African accents.  I’ve tried to get past it, I have nothing against the country or its people, but despite meeting many lovely South Africans the accent remains like a tinfoil on a filling to me
  10. I sleep better for having sung before I sleep.  I mean full-blown musical scores sung out of tune singing, until my voice gives out or K puts a pillow over my face.   You see why working nights is such a wonderful career move?