…And Friends

…&FRIENDS!: Taking Down The Metaphorical Christmas Tree

The perfect soundtrack to this post, to cut the saccharine and drive the self-derogatory subtext. Fire it up, now. Annnnd we’re out. Thankyou, every single pair of eyeballs that are laid on this. And to all the many pairs that won’t see this, but did read something. I hope you all enjoyed your time Chez Spencer as much as we enjoyed having you. I’m having to be careful to stop myself from gushing here, the last month having been really wondefully interesting. The old ego was fed by the uptick in visitors (and kept in check by the fact that it was always other people’s stuff that got the most hits, which is as it should be). My faith in humanity was fed by the titular &Friends, every single one of them an operator at the highest degree. Hopefully Alex-Spencer&Friends was a good platform for all the fascinating material it somehow managed to attract. Speaking of which… THE COMPLETE ALEX-SPENCER&FRIENDS! COMPENDIUM“But is it Christmas?”: The Problem With Festive Songs(Alex Spencer) “Tim’s Top Cinematic Treat of The Year”: The Brothers Bloom(Tim Maytom) “Call to Arms”:Belle & Sebastian Live, Being One of The Best Gigs of the Year(Alex Spencer) “2010 – A Glass Half-Full”:Drawing A Line Between Empire State of Mind and a Good Year (Sam Lewis) “2010 – A Glass Half-Empty”: Drawing a Line Between New York is Killing Me and a Complete Mess of a Year(Sam Lewis) “A Pee-Pee Soaked Heckhole”: Solium Infernum & The Joy of Making Friends Weep(Alex Spencer) “Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester in Your Life”: On Being a Hipster at Christmas (Sam Cowley)“The Ten Best Moments on Girl Talk’s All Day, in Chronological Order”: or, Beats per Second, a Manifesto(Miles Bradley)“What Are Your Essential Pieces of Christmas Culture?”:An Examination of the Fragmented Subjectivity of the Festive Period(Team &Friends!) “Technology 2010, an Overview”:Why & How Dav Hates Apple and Will Be Their End(David Inkpen) “Best Album Haikus”:Insanity/(Tim Maytom)“All Day” :How I Learned To Stop Worrying & Love The Mashup(Alex Spencer)“{7} Years of Manic Pixie Dream Girls”:A Cinematic History(Alex Spencer)“The State of Games in 2010”:An Hyperbolic Over-Reaching (Alex Spencer)“Listomania, I”:Being Half of 2010, Defined in Single Sentences(Alex Spencer) “Man of The Year”:A Verdict Given, Too Modestly(Tim Maytom) “Listomania, II”:Being The Other Half of 2010, Defined in Single Sentences(Alex Spencer) Alex-Spencer…&Friends! It was a rare successful experiment, and one of my defining parts of 2010. At risk of getting a bit like one of those work do’s where everyone is giving everyone else bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates and cheeky snogs outside the fire exit, thankyou. It wasn’t the smoothest ride, I know, but y’all made it look elegantly effortless. Peace and love, 2011. Enjoy the future.

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 2

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] Disclaimers: these continue to be non-numerically ordered, except occasionally. Very much continued from Part One: 50. Cee Lo Green – F*BOING!!!* You (Single, August 19)…But not by this, which achieved the rare feat of gaining all the popularity it deserved.49. Lost – ‘The End’ (TV: Series 6, Episode 17)Far from perfect, but it was the culmination of six years waiting, and it delivered in at least a few ways.48. Taskmaster #1 (Comic, Marvel)A perfectly-structured comic with a sense of humour, about memory and the silliness of supervillians.47. Super Meat Boy (XBLA Game, Team Meat)Tender meat crashes against hard-as-nails levels, again and again and again.46. Robyn – Indestructible (Single, December 15)The best Robyn song of a year of great Robyn songs, paying off a mild acoustic version into full-on electropop heartbreak.45. Mystery Jets – Serotonin (Album, Rough Trade)Which has faded for me a little with time, but remains a fantastically well-sculpted piece of work.44. ‘The James Franco Project’ (Article, New York Magazine)As this list probably shows, 2010 was the year I discovered profiles of celebrities; also how fascinating James Franco is.43. House to Astonish (Podcast)Perhaps the most particular pleasure on this list: two blokes analysing and chatting about the world of comics.42. Christina Aguilera – Woohoo (Single, May 18)One of the excellent (and in this case ridiculous) tracks – of which there are a few – on Bionic, in case featuring Nicki Minaj and childlike euphenisms.41. Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself (from Dear God I Hate Myself)Proving that any emotion, pushed far enough into melodrama, can be unexpectedly catchy pop.40. N-Strike Night Finder EX-3 (Nerf Gun)There have already been a couple of late nights defined by these ridiculous, hilarious toys.39. Super Crate Box (PC Game, Downloadable)Apply large range of weapons to rapidly approaching enemies in a 2d platforming landscape; only held from Spelunky-esque greatness by its brevity.38. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Music Video, dir. Spike Jonze)Arcade Fire continued work on winning me over on this album with… a Spike Jonze sci-fi-inflected suburban teens video? 37. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left-Foot (Album, Def Jam)Continues to defy my every attempt to write about it: top-end, foot-stomping, inventive hip-hop.36. Kylie – All The Lovers (Single, 28 June)2010 was the year I got why people fancied Kyle: All The Lovers definitely helped.35. Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled (Trade Paperback, Marvel)A story of which Stark spends 90% unconscious on the floor of a school’s basement has never been so thrilling.34. Crystal Castles with Robert Smith – Not in Love (Single, December 6)Putting a heartbeat in the frozen chest of the Crystal Castles machine.33. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (Album, DFA Records)The one album of this year (that I was able to get into) that still felt bigger than me, and probably always will.32. The Redletter ‘Attack of the Clones’ Review (Youtube Video)Not as good as the original Phantom Menace review, perhaps, but still observant and inventive enough to (almost) justify the films’ existence.31. Lady Gaga – Alejandro (Single, May 18)Gaga drawing from a slightly different, more Euro-centric set of influences and screaming my name in Spanish.30. @kanyewest (Twitter Account)I’ve had to break it off, now, but this was amazing fun – Kanye sharing his passion for rugs, and begging our forgiveness – while it lasted.29. Nicki Minaj – Your Love (Single, June 1)Ms. Minaj has been one of this year’s most interesting cases, and Your Love is the perfect debut single28. PunisherMAX: Kingpin (Trade Paperback, Marvel)Really, deeply horrible stuff, with the odd dirty laugh, in the fine tradition of the Punisher.29. Gameboys From Hell (Article, Rock Paper Shotgun)How I came to meet and love Solium Infernum, but also an unusually compelling game-diary in and of itself.28. Standard Fare – Fifteen (from The Noyelle Beat)The year’s best song about that paedophilic gray area known as 15-years-old.27. Belle & Sebastian – I Didn’t See it Coming (from Write About Love)Write About Love didn’t quite find my heart this year, but a lot of its songs did, and this climbed straight to the top of the pile.26. Come Dine With Me (TV, Channel 4) Which I watched everywhere, with everyone, inspiring a multitude of emotional responses, all year long. 25. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring (Album, Wichita)Didn’t go quite as far as I wanted into EMO, but is still a fantastic album.24. Mystery Jets – Flash a Hungry Smile (from Serotonin)Being a bit embarassingly frank and earnest about sexual urges, whilst whistling, is what Mystery Jets should always sound like.23. Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Music Video, dir. Peter Serafinowicz)Equal parts hilarious and horrifying.22. Blur (360 Game, Bizarre)Probably the most consistently underrated game of the year; that Bizarre are non-existent is tragic.21. Katy Perry – Firework (Single, October 26)Actually kind of standing in for the joint impact of this and Teenage Dream, which were slow burners in my affections but both worked perfectly.20. Perfect Dark (XBLA Game, 4J)It’s pretty surprising, given my lack of nostalgic attachment to the original, how well this stands up 10 years on.19. ‘Roger Ebert: The Essential Man’ (Article, New York Times)Which was a pretty heartwrenching way of learning the year’s gaming boogeyman was ill18. Belle & Sebastian, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 06/12/10B&S + Orchestra + Musical Storytelling as Support = Best Gig of the Year17. The Divine Comedy – At the Indie Disco (from Bang Goes The Knighthood)A great gimmick to build a song around, perfectly observed.16. The xx – Islands (Music Video, dir. Saam)A perfect, neat conceptual video of an endlessly looping, slowly changing three-second dance: this is my bag, baby.15. Robyn – Dancing on My Own (Acoustic, BBC Live Lounge)Should’ve been on the final Body Talk, to complete the cycle of acoustic/dancefloor versions of singles, and because it is best.14. Ellerbisms (Webcomic)Which ended with a classically Ellerbisms emo-sweetness earlier this year.13. Daisy Owl (Webcomic)Which ended, completely without warning earlier this year.12. Kermode & Mayo’s Film Reviews (Podcast)Which have owned the vast majority of walks I’ve taken this year, and […]

(Intermission) TIM’s Person of the Year

[You have selected: Tim Maytom] A break from breathless one-sentence listporn from a familiar face… Person of the Year – Donald Glover We live in a society without many renaissance men (or women) nowadays. It’s understandable – human knowledge has expanded to the point where one person can’t know “everything” or be considered at the top of their field in a wide variety of subjects. Still, that doesn’t stop the occasional individual from surprising you, and in that spirit, my Person of the Year is Donald Glover. I first became aware of Donald Glover as Troy Barnes on Community, a show that has, in the past year, rapidly become one of my favourite sitcoms of all time. It boasts a flawless ensemble of comedy talent in its main group of characters, but early standouts were the unlikely pairing of Troy, a high school quarterback of considerable stupidity, and Abed, a film and TV nerd who communicates almost exclusively through pop culture references. The two shared a child-like enthusiasm for fun, and their interactions often formed the basis for the post-episode, over-the-credits stings. As the series carried on, all the characters developed considerably, and the second season is continuing this growth while also maintaining a ‘no weak episode’ run that is frankly intimidating. But Community isn’t the only place Donald Glover could be found this year. Glover got his start with the ‘Derrick Comedy’ troupe, whose online sketches are well worth checking out on YouTube, and as a writer on 30 Rock before leaving to concentrate on his stand-up. He joined Community shortly after, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting a special on Comedy Central this year and demonstrating that in addition to sketch and scripted comedy, he can kill on stage too. Writer, actor, comedian – that’s three solid strings to his bow. But why not throw in a fourth? Because he’s also a pretty astonishing rapper in his spare time, under the name ‘Childish Gambino’. Not only has he put out EPs rapping over a variety of top shelf tracks (Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Sleigh Bells, The Very Best) but he’s also created an album, working with Ludwig Göransson, one of the composers of Community’s score. Culdesac (put out for free, just like his previous EPs) is a remarkably assured piece of work for what Glover claims is just what he does to relax. He wears his influences on his sleeve, with references to Kanye West and Lil Wayne, but Glover has made something all his own, with earworm-y hooks and witty, incisive lyrics. More than anything else, I have to respect Glover’s work ethic – the sheer amount of places he can be found this year has been astonishing. He has managed to achieve what I like to call ‘The Swan Effect’ – appearing effortlessly graceful and cool, while working like hell underneath the surface. If I can spend 2011 working half as hard as he has, then I’ll be extremely proud of myself, and if I can look a tenth as good while I do it, then I’ll be very happy indeed. About the author: Tim Maytom is himself, for reasons thatshould be obvious by now, one of thiswebsite’s Persons of The Year. As this willbe his final …&Friends! contribution, it is onlyresponsible to point readers suffering fromwithdrawal symptoms to trivia-lad.tumblr.com

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 1

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] My latest experiment in making end-of-year lists a little more interesting, for everyone involved. One hundred short(ish) sentences on the years best … well, anything. I never can confine myself to one medium very successfully, a fact to which this website is testament. Arranged in little to no particular order, except when there’s a reason. 100. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Film, dir. Edgar Wright)Not Scott’s finest hour (or Wright’s) but merely not-screwing-up makes it one of the best films of the year.99. The Indelicates – Flesh (from Songs for Swinging Lovers)At least briefly my song of the year, for its absolute brutal beauty.98. The Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (from The Suburbs)Arcade Fire would have to work pretty hard to get me to fall for this new album: Sprawl II, being another best-of-year prospect, worked harder than that.97. Batman & Robin #13 (Comic, DC)One of the best issues of the greatest fun I’ve ever had with a superhero.96. Inception (Film, dir. Christopher Nolan)Lots of moving parts and head scratching: the year’s best-designed puzzle.95. Sleep is Death (PC Game, Jason Rohrer)I love it just for existing: a game of telling stories and endless lo-fi possibilities.94. Big Boi – Fo Yo Sorrows (from Sir Lucious Left Foot)The first teasing appetiser which got me all excited for Big Boi’s solo debut.93. Panique au Village (Film, dir. Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar)You know how sometimes you see films on a whim of a lazy Sunday afternoon, and sometimes they’re insane genius?92. Rihanna – Rude Boy (Single, February 22)Female all-powerful sexpop: mm, my favourite!91. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii Game, Nintendo)Like a blackhole, it sucks you in, time is compressed: on the other side lies a new world of twisty beauty.90. The Social Network (Film, dir. David Fincher)Which I still haven’t seen twice, otherwise it’d probably be my favourite of the year and I’d have written a 2,000 word post on why.89. Die Antwoord – Enter the Ninja (Single, August 9)If only for Danny Stoker spitting the “my life’s like a videogame” lines at every opportunity.88. Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun (Music Video, dir. The Malloys)Pop-surrealism, tennis, RZA and a Jonas Brother… you wanna watch it now, don’t you?87. Night & Day (Short Film, Pixar)In which Pixar play to their masterfully efficient storytelling skills, and present, essentially, an update Chuck Berry cartoon.86. Phonogram: Singles Club #7 (Comic, Image)Because sometimes you just have to go howling into the night. 85. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill (Single, July 26)In which Gorillaz strip away most of what makes them Gorillazy, and reveal a pure reverberating heart.84. Green T (Restaurant, Lichfield, UK)The all-you-can-eat philosophy applied to an actual fantastic menu of freshly-cooked Chinese food.83. Robyn – Indestructible (Music Video, dir. Ljunggren & Vitali)Gets sex more right than any video/film/etc I’ve ever seen.82. Example – Kickstarts (Single, June 14)Given the last thing I liked of Example’s was 2007’s Don’t Want To, I was totally blindsided by this shard of perfect pop music.81. Halo: Reach – Beta (360 Game, Bungie)I’ve still only played the Beta, but that month of four maps and three game-modes gave me more fun than most entire games.80. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Album, N.E.E.T./Mom & Pop)…Which, when pressured last night, I named my Favourite Album of the Year.79. Lost – ‘Dr Linus’ (TV, Series 6 Episode 7)The last time Lost was ever truly great.78. Kate Nash – Mansion Song (from My Best Friend is You)It’s been a great year for songs that make me feel uncomfortable about being male, and for good reason.77. Super Scribblenauts (DS Game, 5th Cell)The cause of a couple of entirely welcome sleepless nights of wondering ‘what if you tried…?’.76. Neil Young’s Greendale (Comic, Vertigo)Bundling together a load of stuff I have no interest in, swiftly solved by Cliff Chiang’s art.75. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change (Single, June 26)Pathetic in the all the right, searingly honest ways.74. Robyn – U Should Know Better (from Body Talk Pt 2)The second best song this year to feature Snoop Dogg.73. Stacja De Luxe (Bar, Gdansk, Poland)If you don’t like the idea of drinking cocktails in a converted Polish petrol station, well, you’re dead to me.72. Four Lions (Film, Dir. Chris Morris)Thought very deeply about, and humanised the terrorist threat … and then blew it up.71. Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #1 (Comic, Marvel)Probably the most fun you can have with 22 pages of drawings of guys in their pyjamas. 70. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Soundtrack, Various)The best soundtrack in a year of great soundtracks…69. Inception (Score, Hans Zimmer)…and the best score.68. Los Campesinos! (Gig @ The Rainbow, Birmingham, 1 March)The only gig that’s ever left me excited enough to follow the band to Northampton the next day.67. The Expendables (Film, dir. Sylvester Stallone)Perhaps the greatest comedy film of the year.66. Solium Infernum (PC Game, Cryptic Comet)Boardgames aren’t cool; screwing your friends over is cool.65. ‘The Gastronomic Logic of No Puddings’ (Blog, Lunch & Dinner Made Me)Made a no-pudding tragedy into something clever and funny that only Dan could/would have written.64. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (Album, Polydor)Which got overshadowed by Treats, its younger sexier cousin, but was the Right Thing To Do Next for Crystal Castles.63. Lady Gaga & Beyonce – Telephone (Music Video, dir. Jonas Akerlund)Self-consciously Gaga’s ‘Thriller’: any possible self-inflation was undercut by the brilliance of the cigarette sunglasses.62. Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt – Follow Us (Single, July 20)Just another fine cut from Big Boi’s album that works even better standing alone.61. Atta Girl (Club, Island Bar, Birmingham) Girls-only music + Phonogram posters + free veggie cakes + hugging the DJ at the end = best clubnight ever.60. Lara Croft: Guardian of Light (XBLA Game, Crystal Dynamics) Tomb Raider used to encourage you to yell at Lara; this encourages you to give your co-op buddy a dead arm. 59. My Chemical Romance – Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na] (Single, 7 November)If you don’t pump your fist in the air at the beautiful […]

ALEX: {7} Years of Manic Pixie Dream Girls

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] Okay, folks, we’re going on a journey here. It’s not going to be quick and it’s not going to be easy. But this is probably one of the most in-depth, heartfelt things I’ve ever written for this site. Hey, you might even learn something! …And if that doesn’t entice you, I promise you’ll get to see at least one of these lovely ladies’ crotches by the time we’re through. “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is an all-or-nothing-proposition.” -Nathan Rabin, The Bataan Death March of Whimsy {2010}Ramona Flowers Ever-changing hair-colour Funny name Kickass fighting moves Rabin coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl at the beginning of 2007, in relation to Kirsten Dunst’s character in a film made in 2005 (Elizabethtown). Like any phrase-coining, this was already a bit after the event: even by 2005, the M.P.D.G. had started to irreversibly infect 21st Century pop-culture. So we begin, quirky as the Pixie Girl herself, at the end. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the most recently-released film I’ve seen in dialogue with the M.P.D.G.. Ramona Flowers is a Bad Girl With A Dark History And, like, Complex Emotions. But as many hair colours as the hipster rainbow. Ramona is Scott Pilgrim’s dream-girl, and she pulls him by the hand into a mysterious new world. In the interests of fairness, it has to be said that hanging the M.P.D.G. sandwich-board around her neck is to do some disservice to Edgar Wright’s film and, especially, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s original comic version, which ran (from 2004 to 2010) alongside the development of this phenomenon, spends a lot of its later volumes unpicking these idealised notions. Any M.P.D.G.-ness is projected onto her by Scott’s skewed worldview. She emphatically doesn’t like the same music, and is hardly the ball of energy you’d expect from a straight-up example of the trope. O’Malley’s Ramona is at least partly a deconstruction of the M.P.D.G.; Wright’s Ramona is a bit more of an embrace. The film follows the narrative arc of Rabin’s definition perfectly: movie-Scott has more Serious Brooding Young Man (S.B.Y.M. being the inevitable mirror-image and result of M.P.D.G.) about him, and in either version, Ramona leads to him discovering the wider world. With kung-fu! Ramona is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that men decided was a Manic Pixie. The Girl they decided you’ve got to fight for to win. But those men were all Evil, right? {2009}Summer Finn Encyclopaedic knowledge of indie-rock Dresses like she fell through a vintage shop is played by Zooey Deschanel Summer, meanwhile, is the kind of girl you lose by fighting. {500} Days of Summer is by far at its weakest (and it is half-really-good and half-really-rubbish) as Summer ticks off the M.P.D.G. boxes. The magic begins when she says she likes The Smiths. The Smiths! And Belle & Sebastian. An unusual taste in Beatles records. She has, like, the quirkiest apartment! And before you know it, our hero is throwing himself into life with a new vigour… At its best, the film makes a consistent argument for tearing the archetype apart. The key, best scene contrasts ‘Expectations’ and ‘Reality’, pitching the hopes of that brooding young man against reality. For a couple of minutes, it rails against the whole misguided fantasy of Tom and every other sensitive music-loving guy with a fringe he stands for. It’s one of the times the film rings really, really true, and it provides the only moment that drove that great big icicle into my heart. …But most of the time it doesn’t do that thing. {500} Days of Summer warns you from the start that this isn’t your standard-issue love story, but its targets are too scattered to mean that the film approaches any convincing realism or scathing satire. Most of the time, it just attacks the classic Hollywood romcom. And that’s hardly new: right here we’ve got a history of alt-romcoms in the early 21st Century. Which have developed their own conventions and though the film makes occasional warning shots in this direction, it doesn’t have the conviction – or, to be fair, the time – to subvert these conventions. And so we get the most straight-down-the-line M.P.G.D. of recent years. And she is hateful. Summer as she exists in this film – and it’s probably important to note that it is The Boy’s film – is pure Expectations. Maybe that’s all within the film’s intention: when those expectations are broken, hearts are too. But she’s also an absolute wank-fantasy of a girl. And so, if you’re me, you spend a lot of time sighing and wondering if this is really the only female character this kind of lifestyle produces: you know, drunk karaoke, quirky traditions, indie records and good films. Is this the only kind of girl boys with a great collection of band t-shirts can fancy? {2007}Juno MacGuff Speaks in pop-culture references Owns a hamburger-phone Pregnant …Because who doesn’t fancy Juno? Okay, she’s not a true M.P.D.G. in that she doesn’t take her boy on a journey of infinite wonderful discovery. Which is mostly because: this isn’t Paulie Bleeker’s film, it’s Juno’s – clue’s in the title, dummy – and so she gets to control the viewpoint. It’s possible that an entirely hypothetical other film exists within this one, where we see it from Bleeker’s viewpoint and Juno is that girl. But that doesn’t matter too much, because I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that as the trope has grown and seeped into reality, the cloud of traits around the M.P.D.G. begins to condense into solid totems, around which a generation of girls lay tribute. M.P.D.G. isn’t just a stock character anymore, it’s a series of tics and signifiers. It’s a lifestyle you can choose. And if they’re doing that because it’s them, or they’re […]

ALEX’s Best of ‘10: All Day

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] Just/a/position: The Why of Girl Talk’s All Day All Day has gotten a lot of attention here at Alex-Spencer&Friends. Just yesterday, it received its own poem. We’ve looked at its finest moments. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the link is being passed around to those of our number who haven’t yet experienced it. (You can get it free, so there’s really no excuse.) It’s a thousand parties given voice, on the run from the law. Right now, it’s possibly my favourite album of the year, despite actually only being actually one single song. Despite actually being two-thousand other songs. It’s the best pre-party record of all time… So, it’s brilliant, okay? Miles has already dissected the highlights (just fyi, this post is going to be deeply in conversation with his, so I recommend going and checking it out if you haven’t already) and concluded that the appeal is “more simple than any ‘What is Girl Talk saying with this combination?’ nonsense”, which is fair enough. All Day is a hell of a feet-mover and hip-shaker, and that might be all you need to know. However, as is my wont, I’m going to be contrary. Miles has done the how. I’m having a think about the why. The mash-up form, as it appeared in the early ‘oos, is something I’ve never really ‘got’. They seem, to me, like a (post-)modern equivalent of novelty hits. Hearing two completely contradictory bands next to each other is played for laughs, right? It’s just novel to have Beyonce duetting with Kurt. It seems to encourage the idea of ‘real music’ over ‘guilty pleasures’. Isn’t it funny when the proper musicians stoop down to the level of popstars? This is all personal preference/prejudice, remember. And I can see how it could maybe show a song through a new filter, maybe reveals some of the shared foundations and dirty tricks pop pulls across all of music. I’ve just never heard one that makes me feel that way. But then there was Girl Talk. All Day does seem to make an argument for a continuum of pop in which all genres are equal. First of all simply by the sheer mass of songs and types of songs it is made up of. This creates a universe within the album, a patchwork of hundreds of songs. But more key is how it uses them: that patchwork is an entity completely separated from most of the songs that comprise it. Songs are used more like samples in early 90s hip-hop, where they created a backdrop to the raps and squeezed fresh life out of long-dormant songs. Or like in DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing where an entire album is built out of (largely unrecognisable) scraps. And it does all this as a celebration. There’s no sneer on the face of All Day. The secret origins and histories of its component parts occasionally inform the joy of listening to it, enhance or change your reading of it. Rude Boy is one of my favourite songs of 2010, but I’m not familiar with Waiting Room. So, the idea of Rihanna as the vocalist of Fugazi means little to me. Not so Miles. But I like hearing Rude Boy, in any situation. All Day does the basic curation thing that sampling tends towards: this is good stuff, or interesting stuff, or the good bit of a song where the rest fails. The timeliness, I reckon, is a big factor in our obsession with this album. It dropped a scant month ago, right as we entered this period of reflectiveness. It’s as good as any way of gauging the music landscape right now, and squeezes absolutely everything you could need in an end-of-year roundup into less than an hour. Not that the majority of the samples are from the last year so much as it offers a history of everything it’s taken us to get to this point – from XXX to Willow Smith. And that history suggests a possible present. A musical world that could exist, right now. If only. A world where pop is equally informed by old-school hip hop and old pop music? That’s world I’d take, every time. All Day does all the other stuff that mash-ups and samples can do, with added finesse. Occasionally, two songs running alongside one another offer a laugh – Dancing in the Dark riffs against All The Girls Standing in the Line for the Bathroom by N.E.R.D. is just funny. But it also makes Springsteen sound that little bit more epic. Or it puts a popular song through a new filter: putting Bad Romance against Aphex Twin brings out that dark side that I think a lot of casual Gagaites like myself want more of from the Lady herself. But that’s just hinted at in a momentary snatch that leaves anticipatory saliva on the lips. And that’s just one aspect of it. On one level, it’s a joke. On another, maybe it’s a ironic self-aware dissection of pop, rap, and everything else it assimilates into its mass. On another, it’s about putting a 19 year-old Kylie fronting a heavy-metal band. But mostly importantly… another uninteresting thing about the traditional mash-up, one song playing against another, is that they tend to rely on you liking at least one of the songs. At its very best, Girl Talk takes songs you don’t like and somehow makes something great of them. That’s not a mash-up, that’s alchemy of the highest order. Mash-up making meaning? That’s just a bonus. Great rap over your favourite songs. It’s magic. Get your damn hands up. About the author: Alex Spencer‘s interests include: anythingwhich is ambitious/stupid enough to countas heroic, if only to himself. He is looking forreaders with a gsoh and who enjoy longwalks and pretentious music-journalism.

DAV’s Tech 2010 Overview

[You have selected: David Inkpen] Merry Xmas, one and all of Alex’s festive (synonym: drunk) readers. While you are inevitably sipping on some form of alcoholic beverage, waiting for Doctor Who to come on and playing with your new aquistitions from some distant relative you’d forgotten exists (and to whom you’re pretty sure you have no blood relation), I present to you my addition to this mighty blog. My topic is that which the lucky (or unlucky) ones of you will have unwrapped this morning and are currently wrapping your head around. Technology. 2010 has been a very interesting year for new tech and I will discuss but two of the newcomers to the field here on this, the 200th birthday of Alexandros Rhizos Rhankaves, Greek poet and statesman (d. 1892). First, Evil Corp. USA (aka Apple)’s flagship product – the infamous iPad. iPadWith prices starting at a lovingly overpriced £429, the iPad is literally nothing more than an oversized iPod Touch. Boasting the same processor, memory, storage capacity and operating system as the only difference between the two devices other than the £250 disparity in price (£499 for 32GB iPad vs. £249 for 32GB iPod Touch) is the fact that the iPad is missing the camera. Oh, and the size. Don’t listen to what people say: size does matter. It matters in the way that, for what is effectively a portable device, the iPad is extremely unportable. iPad users’ can often be found sitting on trains, cradling their love in one arm while trying to type website addresses on its non-haptic screen with one hand, or crouched over the table in front of them with the device laying flat. Contrary to what adverts may suggest, it is not a breeze to use but rather has the ergonomic ease of walking straight into a gale-force wind. Of course, you could always buy the keyboard for the iPad, creating a perfect stand for your device and allowing you to type with two hands. It’s the obvious accessory to buy your iPad-endowed friend. But in the end, you’re left thinking… haven’t I seen this before? You do have to hand it to Apple though; they have sparked a market for this kind of device. Not to be left behind, every electrical company under the planet (exaggeration) has produced their own emulation of the iPad. Nothing overly spectacular has come of this yet. This is still a product in its infancy, only time will tell if the campaign to get a tablet for every child will succeed or whether the skips of 2011 will be filled with Apple’s legacy. The Kinect“A-ha!” thought the evil scientists at Sony, “Nintendo will cower in our shadow for we have created a superior controller! Gone are the days of people only being able to play motion-controlled tennis games on the Wii! Once again, we will control the market!” “Oh shit” thought the evil scientists at Sony, when Microsoft announced Project Natal, which would later become the Kinect. The Kinect is the coolest thing to come out of the gaming sector in a long time. Sure it’s a little laggy, but who cares when it’s doing effectively what would people would be burned for witchcraft for not 10 years ago. Sure there’s no games that I would buy for it, but that’s not the point. The Kinect is what it is, and what it is, is what butter was to sliced bread. Sliced bread was good, it was great, it was the best thing ever. But it needed something more, just a small addition to make it that perfect complete package that we all know and love. Now, I’m not saying that the Xbox is sliced bread. Far from it. I’m saying computers are sliced bread (albeit sliced by a blind, dyspraxic hamster). The Kinect, thanks to the developers releasing a SDK for it, have given nerds everywhere a toy to play with. A toy which will help you, oh lowly user, do what you have dreamed of doing since 2002: So that’s it. Merry xmas and peas on earth (as the card to my cousin, with an image of some peas on a mound of soil, states). About the author: David Inkpen is a man with serious brandprejudices. Luckily, as far as this site is concerned,they are the right prejudices. Like Sam Lewis, heis a handsome member of The July Days. Unlike Mr.Lewis, he has his own, sadly undernourished, blog.

TEAM &-FRIENDS!: The Christmas Question

Multiplayer! In which we set our brave contributors a question, and they attempt to give a semi-structured intelligible answer. And the question is…What are your essential pieces of Christmas popculture? Sam Lewis:My favourite piece of Christmas pop culture has to be Die Hard. Sure, it might not be directly be about Christmas. It wasn’t released in time for Christmas (3 February 1988 if you want to be geeky), it’s primarily about one man taking on a group of terrorists, and there isn’t any holly or a single drummer-boy to be seen. However, in many other ways it is exactly what Christmas is about. John McClane (Bruce Willis) has travelled to LA on Christmas Eve to be reunited with his estranged wife at her work Christmas party. Love is rekindled, everyone is drinking and being merry, and snow is falling. It sounds like a Christmas card, until it gets ruined by a group of terrorists mercilessly taking everyone hostage, executing members of the group and demanding $640 million in bearer bonds. The Christmas spirit is challenged by the selfish and the greedy. It’s like the Grinch, but if he had an accent and an AK-47. If you aren’t convinced by this interpretation, know that it reminds me of Christmas for other reasons. Without sounding too old, Christmas TV today isn’t what it used to be. I once spent hours poring over the bumper Christmas TV Guide with a pen organising a recording schedule, before telling my Dad how many VHS tapes he needed to add to the shopping list. Unbelievably, I still have the Die Hard VHS taped from ITV and it is one of my most watched. It’s my favourite action film by quite a distance; a simple concept well done. Christmas simply wouldn’t be Christmas without Die Hard. Alex Spencer:Remember when I opened the …&-Friends! season with a piece on Christmas songs (and the attendant problems)? If you want to simulate the Alex-Spencer Christmas Experience (and why the hell wouldn’t you?), that came with its own Spotify playlist. I think it’s important that everyone listen to the Pokemon Christmas Bash album, however, which is both hugely, fittingly novel and surprisingly catchy. Battling for the position of Most Prominent Festive Medium is the Christmas film. I’d obviously pick A Muppet Christmas Carol which, regardless of the Lovely Girlfriend’s crippling Muppetophobia, I have already watched once this holiday, and aim to watch again before the Actual Big Day (which gives me, what, around 18 hours and counting…). But being entirely truthful? As usual, it all comes down to a videogame. Four Christmasses ago, a big box-shaped present lies under the tree. The idea of a second console had been much grumbled about. Enter the Wii Sports series. That Christmas Day, a common narrative unfolded, as it did in thousands of other households. My parents got their hands on Wii Tennis, and that was it. Before you knew it, the whole extended family had Miis and were trading tips about bowling (“no, you’ve got to press right and then curve left“). It’s one of the few times videogames have ever been allowed to dominate my family’s living room space, and everytime I come home for Christmas, the Wii comes with me. Nowadays, Christmas Eve is nothing without the post-curry competitive bouts of Golf between my dad and Dom. Family life is organised around a quick spot of Wii Tennis. We all spend the holidays honing our skills in a series of virtual sports, until the time comes to wave a teary goodbye to everyone’s favourite little white box. I think this is a pretty common experience. I think Wii Sports have received short shrift in the years since it first emerged. It was a thrilling novelty, to be sure, and it remains the one game a lot of the older generation will play. But I think people miss that there’s more: the classic Nintendo design that permeates both games. Things unlock slowly and in the background, not signposted or driving the addicted playing, just there. Since Wii Sports Resort entered my life this time last year, I’ve grown a real fondness for its island setting. It probably seems insane to say but the Resort island is probably one of my favourite gaming spaces ever. Forget Liberty City and Hyrule. It’s a hyper-compacted world which is only hinted at in the majority of the game, but which places the dozen activities in a real, logical space far removed from the world outside the frosty windows. At the moment, my festive thrills are largely to be found in Resort‘s ‘Island Flyover’ mode, which puts a plane between your thumb and forefinger. It’s a very slow plane, and it’s not perfect to control. But exploring the Resort island, ticking off place markers one by one, and being rewarded with a quick two-line description (warmly, wittily simple, in the traditional Nintendo mould) is about the most relaxing gaming experience I’ve had. Pop on that Christmas playlist, melt into the sofa, and feel the Christmas spirit. Tim Mayton:Coca-Cola holds too much sway over Christmas. They were responsible for changing Santa’s outfit from green to red, and nowadays thousands of people across the nation proclaim, “It’s not Christmas until the Coca-Cola advert has been on TV!”. Maybe if they were still using the advert I remember from my childhood, I’d be one of these people, but they keep tinkering with it for maximum saccharine impact, and it now just feels like a callous viral marketing trick, some kind of Pavlovian response we’ve been hoodwinked into. No, for me, if you’re going to define the festive season with an advert, it’s Mr Frosty. Mr Frosty is such fun! He makes treats for everyone! Or so the adverts would have us believe, in their 80s-tacular way. This twenty second slice of absolute cheese has remained the same for the entirety of my life, and can still occasionally be found on kids’ channels near Christmas. Each year it becomes increasingly hard […]

MILES: The Ten Best Moments on All Day, in Chronological Order

[You have selected: Miles Bradley] The Ten Best Moments on Girl Talk’s “All Day”, in Chronological Order Girl Talk’s All Day [which can be gotten here for free] is better than Night Ripper but not as good as Feed the Animals, which is okay because Feed the Animals is the best party record of all time, making this the best pre-party record of all time. These are the ten best bits (cf: Tom Ewing being much smarter than me), in order of appearance, because while Girl Talk specifies that All Day is supposed to function as a single piece, it is (as with any of his ADD mash-up masterpieces) all about the little moments: 1. Jay Z’s Can I Get A… vs General Public’s Tenderness– You know, that song from the end of Clueless. Makes Jay’s complaints about gold-diggers sound more like a plea for genuine affection than a misogynistic rant against girls who’ll only give it up if you’re paying their bills. Essentially the climax coming out of the breakdown – “Where is your tenderness? Your tenderness? – Can I get a fuck you?”. That juxtaposition is very, very pleasing.2. Beck’s Loser vs Wale’s Pretty Girls – on one level, a joke (Pitchfork’s review read it this way): Wale is not the biggest rapper in the world and is perhaps not in a position to be as openly obnoxious as this (“Ugly girls be quiet, pretty girls clap like this”) so “Loser” sets up his rap as some sort of ironic selfaware dissection or perhaps just Girl Talk calling him on his shit. On another level, it’s a good verse set to a great beat. There’s just something joyous about when that guitar loop drops in. SOY UN PEREDOOOOR.3. Rihannah’s Rude Boy vs Fugazi’s Waiting Room – That bass line is powerful. Even if you’ve never heard “Waiting Room” you can’t help but think you recognise that bass line because it’s so damn good. Meanwhile Rihanna’s taking a sub lyric and giving it a dom vocal performance, so the whole thing is pleasingly sexy in a switchy way, especially when partnered with the aggroswagger of the music. Much like Paul Morely’s observation that the best thing about Can’t Get Blue Monday Out Of My Head is the idea of Kylie fronting New Order, the idea of Rihanna being the vocalist of Fugazi is pretty thrilling.4. Beastie Boys vs Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life – Everyone partying all at once, while on the run from the law. 5. Lil Wayne vs New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle – The intro to Bizarre Love Triangle isn’t a million miles away from a sped-up and scratched take on the one-note bassline from A Milli. One of the best rappers going in over one of my favourite songs. Simple.6. Twista vs U2 – Twista is not a fantastic rapper, U2 is not a great band. And yet somehow this is stirring, and anthemic and sets Twista’s promises to uh, you know, “make you wet” as a thing of world-saving life-altering importance. Bono should only ever sing wordless vocals.7. Rye Rye vs Rage Against the Machine – In a choice between our world and one where Rage Against the Machine is fronted by a 19 year old woman who can actually rap, I’d take the other every time. Even if there was some weird catch, like, in the alternate world men had to sit down to pee. It’d be worth it.8. N.E.R.D. vs Bruce Springsteen – I don’t even know. It just makes a lot of dumb sense.9. Drake vs Flock of Seagulls – Stadium rap, meet stadium rock, I think the two of you are going to get along very, very well. I really like fast hip-hop and Drake (who I’m quite fond of) has too many too slow beats, so it’s nice to hear him over something quicker and easier to dance to.10. Jay-Z’s Dirt Off Your Shoulder vs Modern English’s Melt With You – Isn’t this where we came in? Modern English soften things up and speed things up. That little breakdown is such a wonderfully odd moment with the ME gents gently cooing while Jay does the bit about how he’s internationally recognised but still true to his roots. But again, really, it’s more simple than any “What is Girl Talk saying with this combination?” nonsense – it’s a great rap run over a great instrumental. And you can dance to it. Other micro-highlights include the deployment of Phoenix’s ever joyous 1901, two second snatches of Diva and Whip My Hair and the very beginning of The Rapture’s immortal House of Jealous lovers thrown around a similarly short snatch of Usher’s OMG. Girl Talk: Everything all of the time and always brilliant. Even when sampling Ke$ha. About the author: Miles Bradley is headed towards becoming, at leastin my head, the 21st Century’s foremost man of letters.The question/answer sessions on his Tumblr are almostunnecessarily beautifully written and pretty consistentlyinsightful. The rest of his blog merely collects everything that’simportant about the internet and packs it, Archivist-style, intoone convenient space. He is also my favourite ever dancer.

COWLEY: Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester

[You have selected… huh, what this??] …Sam Cowley appeared! Gifts for the Music Enthusiast/Talentless Scenester Like myself, you have probably spent the last few weeks either deliberating over potential Christmas presents or guiltily putting off thinking about what to get your loved ones. Other people are just far too hard to buy for. How to resist some form of scented soap for your mum, or bottle of whisky for your dad? Now if I was buying for myself or cared enough about any of my friends with similar taste, here are a few items I would snap up in a second. The Ninja Tune XX Box Set Ninja Tune is one of the coolest independent record labels that we can boast as a nation. They have a sprawling and magnificent back catalogue, which charts the fertile ground where electronic and bass music meet alternative Hip Hop. At £100 their XX Box Set is definitely a gift for someone who bloody deserves it; but rest assured it is a solid investment, which will bring years of listening pleasure and serious music education. All of the music in the package is 100% exclusive to the set and features: six CD compilations, six 7” singles, two 12” singles, membership to Ninja Tune VIP (which gives you access to a world of free music in the future), a hardback book and a Ninja Tune Family Tree poster and Artwork poster. Quite simply, it is an overwhelming amount of amazing music and paraphernalia. Maybe you could all club together and buy me it? Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX ‘We’re New Here’ Limited Edition Box Set Now this is quite an odd one: it is not actually available until early February, but hear me out. More and more in recent years I have been giving out presents that are either non-existent or unprepared for a number of months after Christmas (insufficiently infused Sloe Gin from last year and Vanilla Essence from this). IOU. presents if you will. While this certainly has more to do with my lack of foresight, I like to think that these are the gifts that keep on giving. When the recipient received the unfinished product or promise of future present, they will be almost as excited as if receiving the real thing (honest), they will have a few months of excited (not frustrated) anticipation and finally a glorious second Christmas once they are finally able to enjoy the finished/arrived present. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, to the boxset! If you missed out on Gil Scott-Heron’s powerful comeback album I’m New Here earlier this year, then what are you doing? Close this page [going via Sam Lewis’ fine post] and download/buy/beg/steal/borrow… now! Right, hi there. Amazing isn’t it? Good. Now imagine that brooding, dark and minimal record remixed in its entirety by a master of brooding, dark minimalism. That would be sweet, no? Well imagine no longer. Jamie XX has had his way with the album and added a heck of a lot of stripped back dubstep and minimal electro. You can hear the first release, ‘New York is Killing Me’, here. The Box Set itself includes: the CD album, a CD of instrumentals and beats from the album, two Heavy Weight Vinyl LPs in pink and green, and two Photographic Prints. If you pre-order the box set now you will also receive a free download of New York is Killing Me. Some friends and I recently pre-ordered this for a friend’s birthday and he was so grateful it was quite frankly awkward. We didn’t know if he was going to cry, hug us or go to town on our genitals. You can recreate this flood of conflicting emotions by ordering the boxset here. Probably best not for family members though. It could get weird. Novation Dicer Midi Controller My throbbing desire for this piece of kit can be best explained as the inverse of ‘a bad workman blames his tools’. I am not a good DJ, in fact I probably just straight up am not a DJ. But every fibre of my being wants these. If I had them I just know I would be releasing tracks on Ninja Tune by the time We’re New Here is released. This is, of course, not the case. If I did own them, I would not have the first idea what to do with them, my ownership of them instantly sparking a serious depression as I realise the scale of my own talentlessness. …But my word, how pretty. The idea is that you use them with other complicated technology that effectively turns vinyl turntables into a digital interface. They cue up samples loops etc. Now, I have a pretty shaky understanding of what I just said, but none the less I am very aroused. So if you know someone who seems like they know their way around any form of DJ technology, they will probably weep tears of lust when presented with these. Sure they won’t be able to do a thing with them, but that is most certainly not the point. Tonium Pacemaker 60GB Handheld DJ Console Now this gadget ticks many of the same boxes as the Dicers. I have included them because a) I feel like I might be able to achieve some basic level of competence with it (and if I can do it…) and b) it is gloriously scenestery. The Pacemaker is effectively the DJ’s iPod, allowing you to do everything from practice mixing MP3s on the bus, to actually performing live from the palm of your hand. It is essentially the coolest DJ gadget ever invented. Now, this is important. Have you watched Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris’ crushing satirical attack on modern culture, Nathan Barley? No? Well, you know the score. Off you go… Right then. It’s just as relevant now as it was in 2005, it is basically dealing with the same phenomenon as the popular YouTube video ‘Being a dickhead’s cool’ and […]