Tom Ewing

26
Jul 17

21 Lists

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A list in which the descriptions match the wrong entries.

A list in which the order is determined drunk and the descriptions are written sober.

A list in which the order is determined sober and the descriptions are written drunk.

A list in which the reader’s task is to guess what is being ranked.

A ranked, definitive and fully justified list in which the contents have been selected by lot.

A list in which the descriptions are written by ex-lovers of the voters.

25
Jul 17

RONAN KEATING – “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

Popular13 comments • 1,295 views

#926, 18th May 2002

ronan tomorrow I have been playing a lot more country music than usual lately, thanks to recommendations by wise friends of foundational albums. It seems to me that listening to country is, inescapably, listening to tradition. Country artists emerge within a tradition and while they may modernise, criticise, expand, revive, reinvent or inherit that tradition, they do not reject it. Roberto Calasso, the Italian philosopher of tradition and ritual, was talking about Vedic seers and the Catholic Church rather than Garth Brooks when he waxed lyrical about how tradition confers a gauze of quasi-mystical legitimacy on individuals and institutions, but the point applies just as well.

Calasso is no idiot – a conservative via pessimism rather than conviction, he knows full well that legitimacy and tradition are just what happens when enough people have chosen to forget past thefts and usurpations. Country music isn’t really more authentic or sincere than all the other kinds, but the investment in tradition gives it an aura of sincerity, of straight-talking honest-truthing God-fearing realness, whose aesthetics and effects are visible enough even if the aura itself is often flimsy. (Calasso understands that the gauze of legitimacy is, by its nature, quite easily shredded – he just thinks that what happens after tends to be worse. What he makes of former Boyzone singer Ronan Keating is unknown, but may be guessed at.)

What makes country music great is that this aura is itself a gateway to expression and tonal play – once the tiresome question of “do they mean it, man?” is taken off the table, the music is opened up more to camp, schmaltz, vulgarity, corn, lust, metaphysical awe and dread, and yes, honest attempts to couple with thorny adult problems and emotions, of which, whether I actually like it or not, “If Tomorrow Never Comes” is one.

18
Jul 17

HOLLY VALANCE – “Kiss Kiss”

Popular16 comments • 1,495 views

#925, 11th May 2002

valance “Freak Like Me” is a rare case where hit covers and mutations keep building on the foundations of a song, finding new things in it. At this point in pop, the opposite was more often true. “Kiss Kiss” is a good single – in the context of the charts, its dipping and rolling Turkish rhythms are delightfully fresh, a showy flourish across a grey backdrop. But hearing the singles it was based on – Tarkan’s “Simarik” and Stella Soleil’s remake of it as “Kiss Kiss” – lets you hear possibilities this version closes down.

12
Jul 17

2017 Albums I Like Part 2

FT12 comments • 527 views

horseface I am still listening to a new-to-me LP every day! A lot – in fact, most – of those LPs come from this year. So here are 30 MORE albums I’ve enjoyed a lot, in some kind of ranking. Confusingly perhaps, these are not all records released in April-June, but records I heard for the first time in April-June. That pedantic point is of interest only to me: what YOU want to know (maybe) is what these good records are.

1. HORSEFACE – Jaakausi (Charming Swedish post-rock, like a lost Too Pure signing)
2. POLO & PAN – Caravelle (Summertime bubblegum house-pop from France)
3. HAUSCHKA – What If? (Bustling future visions, like Olaf Stapledon with player-pianos)
4. JLIN – Black Origami (Intense, brain-twisting footwork epic)
5. ANGALEENA PRESLEY – Wrangled (Smart, tuneful, country; part wistful, part kick-ass)
6. SZA – Control (R&B act achieves the near-impossible by making 20something relationship angst compelling)
7. OMAR SOULEYMAN – From Syria, With Love (Does what the title says, and you could dance to it)
8. PARAMORE – After Laughter (Big, bright pop move from perennial emo kid faves)
9. OCTO OCTA – Where Are We Going? (Sparkly, expansive house music)
10. KENDRICK LAMAR – DAMN. (Hip-hop monarch embraces the banger)

10
Jul 17

SUGABABES – “Freak Like Me”

Popular30 comments • 2,921 views

#924, 4th May 2002

sugafreak At The Disco

A scene from Phonogram III: The Immaterial Girl, by Gillen, McKelvie and Wilson, published in 2015. It’s the early 00s, at a disco somewhere in the south of England. A group of people who love music so much it’s become their life and the tools of their craft – magic in the comic’s world; writing, DJing and blogging in ours – have been brought together to scheme and to dance. One of them is Seth Bingo, a skinny guy in a T-Shirt saying “Mutya Keisha Siobhan”. The final name is crossed out, with “Heidi” scrawled underneath. Bingo, affected but handsome in a gaunt sort of way, is talking to another thin white man, a morose husk of a creature called Indie Dave. “What is your take – “ Bingo asks – “on the Babes Of Suga?”.

“My real take?” asks Dave, “Or my ironic one?”. And so Seth Bingo lays him out with an uppercut, the art exploding in colour around the punch.

18
May 17

Alan Moore Knows The Score (It’s One Star)

FT2 comments • 356 views

WatchmenWatchmen by Alan Moore
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Modern comics events seem to demand endless lead-ins and spin-offs, and sadly Doomsday Clock, from the blockbuster team of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, is no exception to this trend. Watchmen, the extended prequel to Doomsday Clock, feels wholly unneccessary to 2017’s much-anticipated DC Rebirth (TM) event. For a start, it’s not even by Geoff Johns – how big a clue do you need that DC see ‘Watchmen’ as simply a cash-in? The storyline has been farmed out to a British writer-artist team who are given the task of introducing us to the universe which will “collide” with the DCU in this winter’s mega-event.

It’s an important job and one which might have been suited to a special issue or even an annual-length story, but no – DC had to drag things out to 12 long issues – for comparison purposes, the Death Of Hawkman (in which Hawkman dies) was only alotted 6 issues. Watchmen includes several issues focusing on characters who don’t even survive to take part in Doomsday Clock! And don’t get me started on the sequences set on yet ANOTHER part of the DC multiverse, where pirates still rule the waves – yes, it’s a cool concept for an alternate Earth, but an editor should definitely have stepped in and asked for a bit of clarity.

10
May 17

Making Your Mind Up: How Eurovision Caused Brexit

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FAKE NEWS! But REAL POP! In April I went to Seattle and talked about Eurovision and Brexit, and now thanks to the miracle of YouTube and Bruce from my work’s Graphics Department you too can experience my presentation. It isn’t quite the same as being there (lots of people laughed! honest!) but it’ll have to do.

I hope you enjoy this piece of multimedia content, I certainly enjoyed making and presenting it – we will be back to the written word (and to Popular) before long, I promise.

8
May 17

Unheard Album Project: April 2017

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The fourth instalment of my project to listen to a new (to me) album every day for a year: one track from each of the LPs I listened to in April. I’m pleased with this one – though this is a playlist of two halves, and those wishing to avoid a prog/electronic/odyssey should skip to Joe Goddard and start there. Full tracklist below the cut.

5
May 17

They Ask Me What The Use Is: Pop Conference 2017

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image1 Last year’s Seattle Pop Conference, on Voice, was an epiphanic experience for me, reviving a part of me that had become burnt out since I stopped writing regularly about current music. Like most epiphanies it was almost traumatic – I staggered around for a while afterwards trying to reconcile the critical self PopCon spoke to and the reality of the rest of my life and career. The critic’s life, these days, is often grim and precarious – Pop Conference overturns that, offering an opportunity to celebrate and indulge everything you might want it to be. As someone who’d stepped away from that life in a professional sense, I feel a little like a guilty interloper going there, at the same time as the event energises me and makes me feel so welcome and at home.

Of course I was going back, though. And you can’t have the same epiphany twice – this year I realised what Pop Conference reminded me of was Glastonbury. OK, a Glastonbury where all you have to brave is jetlag, not rivers of mud and piss, and stumbling on the best DJ in the world in the healing fields at 4AM is replaced by catching a presentation about a drag king One Direction tribute act in the quiet of Sunday morning. But something just as surprising and nourishing, if a bit kinder to my mid-40s constitution.

18
Apr 17

Unheard Album Project: March 2017

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The (much delayed) third playlist for this project, covering the 31 records I listened to for the first time in March. Delayed partly because it was a lot harder to get some of these songs to play well with others! Full list under the cut.