5
May 20

The People’s Pop Poll: Day 1

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These are the groups for Day 1 of the People’s Pop Poll! Obviously it contains SPOILERS for the day’s match-ups so if you’d prefer to be surprised read no further!

4
May 20

The People’s Pop Poll: Starts 5th May

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Below the cut is a very geeky process-oriented post about THE PEOPLE’S POP POLL, which starts tomorrow on Twitter (@tomewing).

The main thing, though, is that over 100 people have nominated the songs which will fight it out in this poll, and donated over £2100 for Refuge (the fundraiser is still open!). They are amazing and make this whole thing something I’m very proud of.

You can listen to 186 of the songs here (the others are not on Spotify)

READ ON FOR THE ORGANISED FUN GEEKERY

28
Apr 20

KYLIE MINOGUE – “Slow”

Popular21 comments • 2,846 views

#963, 15th November 2003

I’m raising money for domestic violence charity Refuge by running a People’s Pop Poll on Twitter, which starts in May. If you can spare any money, please consider donating (and nominating a favourite pop track!)

The extraordinary success of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” did more than revive Kylie – it confirmed her, all over again, as an adopted national treasure, a woman who’d be guaranteed at least a respectful hearing, whatever she did next. And it liberated her to let that “next” be whatever she liked, from electrotrash, to weird country-pop, to full-orchestration belters. She went from being an act who a site like Pitchfork would review for an April Fool’s Joke to someone they’d cover instinctively, a journey to respectability the rest of pop took alongside her. For good and ill.

20
Apr 20

The People’s Pop Poll (in aid of Refuge)

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As you’ll know if you follow me on Twitter, I’ve been using the quarantine to run pop polls – there’s a UK Number 2s one about to enter its third round right now. This has been a delightful distraction for me, a useful way of structuring my days and weeks, and has been pleasingly popular with other people too.

After the #2s poll, I’m doing something a bit different – a People’s Pop Poll, with tracks nominated by anyone who donates to this fundraiser I’ve set up for domestic violence charity Refuge. One of the hidden costs of lockdown has been a horrific spike in domestic violence, and I want to do my bit to help those affected. Here’s the link.

So far the fundraiser has hit £260 in less than a day, which is fantastic, and we have 20-ish tracks nominated for the People’s Pop Poll, including Kraftwerk, Labelle, Kate Bush (twice!) and of course Urban Hype. If you want to see the up-to-date list of nominated tracks, go here.

You can donate by or name or anonymously, and you can edit the amount as you prefer. I know there’s a ton of people raising money for some amazing causes right now, so anything you can spare would be amazing. Any donation qualifies you to nominate. £10 or more gets you two nominations. If you have a favourite track you wish to send out into battle, this is your chance! (If you don’t, you can donate anyway, of course.)

Thanks in advance, and stay as safe and happy as you can!

 

11
Apr 20

Omargeddon #12: Unicorn Skeleton Mask

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Despite knowing that attempting to construct a linear timeline for the solo work of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez is a self-confessed fool’s errand, I’m nothing if not stubborn and continue to obsessively trace connections across songs and albums. I’ve now shifted to wanting a Viso-style flowchart or, if I had the artistic ability, something more akin to a series of interlocked family trees.

Unicorn Skeleton Mask is the central trunk that branches out to several other albums. Initially, it totally passed me by, and when I finally did hear it, I felt I’d cracked a cryptic crossword clue. Every song featured here apart from one has been released in a different form on the albums Zapopan, Zen Thrills and Corazones, with elements of some tracks appearing on Some Need it Lonely, ¿Sólo Extraño? (which itself was then reworked as Nom de Guerre Cabal) and Weekly Mansions. I am not confident, but it may also possibly share some elements used in the keysmashy sequences of Octopus Kool Aid. On top of all that, two songs appear in demo form on the Ramrod Tapes. It’s like the textbook definition of a seminal ORL album.

Here’s the above, broken down into a table format:

25
Mar 20

Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Wife Got Presumed Coronavirus

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For the last 12 days I’ve been nursing my wife Isabel through presumed COVID-19. She’s starting to feel better now, or I wouldn’t be writing this. 

22
Mar 20

Omargeddon #11: Arañas en la Sombra

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I’ve been categorising Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s solo recordings into three distinct, non-equal eras. Early ORL spans from 2004-2009, mostly consisting of experimental jams that were often reappropriated as Mars Volta songs. The middle period from 2010-2013 has an overall focus on up-front vocals and synths. Finally, the Ipecac Recordings series released in 2016-2017 represents the late era, including a mix of reworked material with a smattering of indie, pop and classical.

But this isn’t strictly true, since he has a tendency to work on records simultaneously, at least two or three at the same time”, meaning records can be released years after they’ve been completed. This is certainly the case with Arañas en la Sombra (“Spiders in the Shadow”), an album featuring the very first Mars Volta line-up and thought by many to be the long-lost Mars Volta album The Somnambulists. This suggests that it was recorded in the early 2000s, and I’m guessing that vocals were added sometime around 2012 due to the presence of Teri Gender Bender, although it wasn’t released until 2016, making it cut across all three eras.

It was instantly familiar to me, and not just because I’d heard several of the tracks in demo form on the Ramrod Tapes. When this tranche of material was leaked in 2013, it felt like the final goodbye from the Mars Volta, and I listened to the shit out of it. It also feels familiar in a brain-itchy way – I’m sure I’ve heard some version of the lyrics to “El Vacio” on another song but can’t identify what it is (and may be totally wrong). But it also feels familiar because it reminds me of De-Loused in the Comatorium, the first Mars Volta album, albeit one recorded down a different pant leg of the Trousers of Time.

9
Mar 20

FATMAN SCOOP ft CROOKLYN CLAN – “Be Faithful”

Popular28 comments • 2,674 views

#962, 1st November 2003

The NME once put Public Enemy on the cover with the strapline “The Hardest Working Man In Yo! Business” – you feel Fatman Scoop might fancy a shot at that title. It’s not so much the intensity of his hustle, but the breadth of it – he branched out from hype man to radio DJ to featured artist to DVD producer to Celebrity Big Brother star, barreling through a career on confidence, connections, and that parade-ground bellow of a voice.

5
Mar 20

SUGABABES – “Hole In The Head”

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#961, 25th October 2003

“Hole In The Head” has three tough acts to follow. “Overload”, the one which perfectly introduced the Sugababes and their core idea – talk-to-the-hand teenage moodiness as a girl group operating system. “Freak Like Me”, the one (and the one-off) which brought them back from the edge of dissolution. And “Round Round”, the one which established, with an easy confidence, who the Sugababes were as a newly stable concern. 

24
Feb 20

Unheard / Unread: January 2020

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Starting in 2017, I’ve had the aim of listening to a new (to me) album every day. This has been – for the most part – one of my best ever ideas. That said, in 2018 and 2019 I didn’t actually manage to finish – in fact I only got about 100 days in each time. The error was in trying to write it all up as well as doing it.

Still though, it’s good to have some way of recommending these things! So this year, the plan is more modest – a monthly round up of my favourites from the new (to me) records I played. Oh, and this year I’m combining it with the Unread Comics Project too, an attempt to do right by half a decade’s worth of Comixology sale buys. 

Here are my picks for January.