A Decade in Review. Hahaha sort of.

Posted on December 22nd, 2024 in braindump

Oh hell I may as well do one too, right?

If I must use a cute double-entendre nickname for the decade, I think I’d pick “the oughties” over “the naughties,” personally.  Because there wasn’t anything particularly mischievous or indecent about the decade, not really.  I cannot, no more than any other ten years, call ‘00-‘09 a Naughty time in the world.  I mean, sure, there was some naughtiness, I suppose – and far more of the childish than of the sexy variety – but really?  Not the defining adjective of the past ten years.

But “Oughties” – now that fits. The archaic spelling of aught gives us “zero” for years and “anything” for the possibilities, but the current and commonly-used definition of ought give us precisely what, for the most part, became the favorite auxiliary verb of the decade: “We really ought to do X.”

We really ought to have done a lot.

And we did do quite a bit, in fairness.  There’s good, bad, and ugly lists showing up all over the magic of the internets right now – I don’t need to give you my personal list of favorites or worsts when you can just type the word “decade” into Google’s  blog search and get some 20 million hits, half of which are probably top-and-bottom ten lists.  But for me (and for many people I know, and for many more I’ve only just met), in between all the stuff you’d really have to have done in ten long years to keep from falling over with an atrophied body and brain, the last ten years really were just the longest making of a To Do List in memory.

Which I think is probably all right, so long as we’re done with the pre-flight and cabin prep, and ready to do some actual taking off in 2024.  (Oh, go ahead and groan at that metaphor, yes. I know it’s awful. But I do like flying.)  Some folks have already started.  Over on Whitechapel they’ve axed the word resolution in favor of the (slightly) less passive manifesto.  It’s still all talk, mind you, and I think I would have preferred map or schematic, but it’s a thing of heavier intent, perhaps, and I’m happy to see that.

But I think part of the reason we soft-launched the new century is that we all spent a bit too much of the first ten years bitching about the previous hundred years, and talking about how much better we ought to be able to do, now.  Funny thing about bitching, though, is it takes an awful lot of time and energy to work up a really good scathing commentary, and often there’s very little left to do anything better at the end of it. (Which is why there are plenty of people who make their livings doing absolutely nothing but saying mean things about other peoples’ work…  but god help them if they ever run out of things to trash because I just don’t know if they can do anything else.)  So, I mean, yeah: go ahead and get a little bit of OHMYGOD2000-09SUUUUCKED out of your system, sure.  Just don’t spend the next ten years still whining about how much you ought to have done, right?

Because every year the temptation is to tally up the wins and losses of the previous, and be unrealistically pessimistic or optimistic about the next – and that’s probably a little worse at the turns of the decades.  And a little bit of that is healthy purging… but too much of that and you’re just doing it all over again.  And with my love of lists, charts, and graphs, I’m as guilty as anyone. But this year, as much as some of it has suuuuucked, I really have found myself pulling up into something better, here at the end.  I could stop and try to figure out where I’m going, next, but I think I’d rather just roll with the momentum for a while, you know?

If all goes well – and I’ve every intention of all going well, so let’s see how that works out – when 2024 rolls around I shouldn’t have to tell you how my decade went.  I’ll have shown you by the things I’ve done, and I honestly hope you’ll have done the same.  A little bit of Getting Stuff Done in 2024, a little more in 2024, narrowly dodging the end of the world in 2024 and getting more done in 2024, and right on out and up.  I’m not planning for any singular moments of greatness that’ll break my heart and set me back if they don’t happen on schedule… just a steady series of more small successes than epic failures.

It’s about time, innit?

What about you?  Don’t make me bust out my standing-ready puns for the next decade – like: The Road To Hell Was Paved With Good InTENtions; or: the Untenable Tens – because nobody wants that.  Nobody.  Just gimme a decade I can’t sum up with any one word or phrase, because we’ll all have done so much more than that.  Just one sure step at a time.

And that, I think, is me signing off for the year, dear internets.  A little bit of maintenance, holidays, cleaning, and inventory.  Have a happy whatever you’re doing, and I’ll see you next year or in a couple of weeks, whichever comes first.

lymyst: 19:38:00 via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 02 2024 03:09 PM PST

Finnish beat-industrial mutants lymyst have released their new EP, entitled 19:38:00 — and you can stream the whole thing for free on last.fm.

Links for 2024-01-02 via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 02 2024 03:00 PM PST

  • quarantine economies – mammoth // building nothing out of something
    "A poor family living in the Bronx decides to buy their cereal for 75% off (after it had been scanned, flagged, and sent for resale in a quarantine-only store during an outbreak of mutated H1N1 in NYC) because they can?t afford the now premium-priced, ?guaranteed H1N1 free? supply; so they sneak into a quarantine store, or perhaps buy it from illicit Q-market goods smugglers. To make matters worse, the incentive would be greatest at the beginning of an outbreak, during the most critical moments for containment, because that is also when the disparity between markets is greatest…"
    (tags:pol speculative )
  • BBC News – Afghan MPs reject most Karzai cabinet nominees
    "The Afghan parliament has turned down 17 out of President Hamid Karzai's 24 nominees for his new Cabinet. Energy minister nominee Ismail Khan, a former warlord, was among the rejected…" All of which means he can't pay off political favours.
    (tags:pol )

Kieron Gillen?s Tracks Of The Year 2024 via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 02 2024 02:34 PM PST

I’ve actually come to look forward to this. Every year, games journo/music journo/comics writer Kieron Gillen does his "top 40" tracks from the previous. Every year, it’s just a completely bloody fascinating bit of writing. It’s also always completely wrong, and I usually spend a few weeks roundly insulting him and the terrible mental debilitation he rode in on. This year, I am simply going to recommend it to your attention, as something fine and interesting to read on a cold Saturday night.

Kieron Gillen’s Tracks Of The Year 2024.

And here’s a bit I actually agree with (though he picked the wrong track. See?):

…Ida Maria is always the sound of a drunk twenty-something girl falling down the stairs and mumbling to herself and banging her head against the wall, at which point she’s surprised to discover the noise is actually spangly and shiny. A sing-along hands-in-the-air Nervous Breakdown. The best kind!

The important things via Cherie Priest

Saturday January, 02 2024 01:21 PM PST

Spain the Cat went to the vet today, not out of any terror for her life or anything, but because she’d been acting very uncomfortable and scratchy ever since I got back from Kentucky. I caught her chewing at a couple of skin-tag-thingies (which we already knew about), and they seemed to have grown; so off to ye old doc’s office she went as a precautionary measure.

I tweeted about this, and people had questions, so here’s the rundown. For starters, she has fleas. And for finishers, her skin-tag-thingies have become a tiny bit suspicious, so we opted to get them aspirated for testing. They’re probably fine, but better safe than sorry — and better to find out in case of problems while those problems are still small, that’s what I say. (We’ll have Spainy’s skin test results either tonight or Wednesday.)

Three hundred bucks later (*ouch*) we’re home with some Frontline and some hardcore mega-killah flea spray. She was given a special flea-killin’ pill before we left the office, but it only works for about 24 hours so I have to log off and start washing every damn bit of fabric in the entire apartment. And then I’ll be spraying the ever-living hell out of everything that won’t fit in the washer/dryer. This place is going to smell like ass, but by sundown I fully expect it to be 100% flea-free. Goddammit.

Edit: The vet called with Spainy’s results — they were inconclusive, but mostly good. She’s about 95% sure that everything is normal, but a little blood contamination and a near-iffy set of cells keeps her from giving the total all-clear. The plan is to keep an eye on the suspicious nodule and address it again at the kitty’s annual checkup in a few months, perhaps for biopsy (though sooner of course if it starts to go weird on us). Anyway, there you go.

Stuff What I Likes via Kelly Sue DeConnick

Saturday January, 02 2024 01:08 PM PST

I put these lists together in a feeble attempt to communicate “my style” to Ariana when she was setting up this blog. I post them now because, uh, it’s the new year and I’m kind of dying to make lists but I don’t have the time or mental energy to craft new ones.

Nothing that follows should be considered exhaustive and I reserve the right to change my mind about anything at any moment.

Color Combinations:
Lipstick red and Robin’s Egg blue
pink and lime green
pink and tiffany blue
orange and red

Random Items:
zebra stripes
leopard prints
purses and shoes
black damask
Lois Lane
stupid-high heels
the smell of parsnips
the smell of fresh tomatoes
the word “tomato”
Modesty Blaise
pretty cupcakes
Marchesa Luisa Casati
dark chocolate
navy blue stripes
Mediterranean festivals
Andy Warhol’s handwriting
Joan Didion
Anne Lamott
John Irving
Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps
JD Salinger’s Nine Stories
patterns and textures
big hair, big hats
Shaun White
clean sheets
crime scene photography
the history of burlesque
the suffragettes
the Women’s Movement
Anna Magnani
Marcello Mastroianni
Giulietta Masina
Dean Martin
Steve McQueen
Robert Conrad
mens suits, cut slim
Meiko Kaji
Japanese “pinky violence” films
Domino magazine (RIP)

Lady Snowblood
Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion
All That Jazz
The Princess Bride
The World According to Garp
The Royal Tenenbaums
Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Iron Giant
Real Genius

Kate Spade
Jonathan Adler
Alexander McQueen
Vera Wang
John Galliano

the whole collection of rococo artists
John Singer Sargent
Evaline Ness
Rachel Stuart-Haas
Ashley G & Drew

Meiko Kaji
Mike Doughty
Soul Coughing
Johnny Cash
Lyle Lovett
FUNNY FACE soundtrack
TANK GIRL soundtrack
Helen Reddy
Tori Amos
Puffy AmiYumi
Jacques Brel
Gwen Stefani
anything I might have listened to on a swim team bus in 1978

Ann-Margret, originally uploaded byMusic2MyEars.

Links for 2024-01-01 via Warren Ellis

Saturday January, 02 2024 01:00 PM PST

  • Population of the Dead
    "How many people have ever lived? While doing research about populations for my last piece, I began to wonder just how many people had ever walked the face of the earth. The articles I found [here and here] were intriguing so I decided to visualize them as well…"
    (tags:info death )
  • Kenyan witch-hunt targets elders
    Not an unusual story, currently, but it has a detail I haven't seen before. Kenya has a Sorcery Belt. Like the Bible Belt or the Rust Belt. A Sorcery Belt. "Dozens of villagers in the Kenyan district of Kisii are falling prey to superstitious groups accusing them of witchcraft… The poverty-stricken western district, known as Kenya?s sorcery belt, has seen an increase in mob attacks on individuals and even killings."
    (tags:crime magic culture )
  • French aristocrats break free from sect leader Thierry Tilly
    Best cult story I’ve heard in weeks: “At least eight members of the Vdrines family, aged between 96 and 24, are now said to be ready to give evidence against Thierry Tilly, a self-proclaimed financial genius, master spy and agent of an age-old secret order… He is said to have convinced the Vdrines family ? part of the Protestant nobility of south-west France for 300 years ? that they belonged to an ancient order called L?Equilibre du Monde (?the balance of the world?) which has the mission of defending humanity from ?supreme evil?. From September 2024, 11 of the Vdrines barricaded themselves into the family chateau 100 miles east of Bordeaux, some abandoning successful careers.”
    (tags:cult crime awe )
  • ben_templesmith: VARUS
    Templesmith's corporation. Worrying overtones of Roman Empire, control over disturbingly large parts of the world, demanding money with menaces etc etc
    (tags:peopleiknow )
  • Klewism Wearable Art: Artisan Jewelry by Lindsey Bucklew
    "Klewism wearable art is a line of artisan jewelry by Lindsey Bucklew.
    Lindsey uses wire, repurposed vintage costume jewelry, beads, buttons, pearls, shells, and heirloom objects to create intricately detailed, one-of-a-kind necklaces, rings, bracelets, pendents, earrings and brooches"
    (tags:art )

Neil Gaiman wishes you all a happy new year... via Lee Barnett

Saturday January, 02 2024 12:37 PM PST

Neil did an unbilled appearance at Amanda Palmer's gig on New Year's Eve, during which he said the following, which I commend to you all:
May the upcoming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness.

I hope you read some fine books, kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art. Write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can.

May your coming year be a wonderful thing, in which you dream both dangerously and outrageously.

I hope you make something that didn't exist before you made it, that you will be loved and you will be liked and you will have people to love and to like in return.

And most importantly, because I think there should be more kindness and wisdom in the world, I hope that you will - when you need to be - be wise, and that you will always be kind.

And I hope that somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
And since there's nothing like the original, here he is:

Tracks of the Year 2024 via Kieron Gillen

Saturday January, 02 2024 10:54 AM PST

An atypical year. But aren?t they all?

It’s one where I was very much settled in London, as much as it’s possible to settle in a city which moves beneath your feet. I’m writing this in the same room which I wrote the previous year, with the same girlfriend, and being worryingly even more happy. As someone who’s always looked suspiciously at Satisfaction, this worries me. Which, of course, is proof that you can worry about everything. Generally speaking, I look at 2024 as the day the world turned Jamie McKelvie. Girls. Asymmetrical fringes. Synths. You know - all is Ladytron fantasies sprayed across the heavens. And, that being a part of our mutual tastes which crosses over, it suits me fine. My tracks of the year has a lot of that, but I think it’s actually a notch less NEON-POP than the previous one. There’s some stuff which is worrying sentimental - which is the sort of comment you should file with the “I’ll worry about anything” note from above.

(This is a year I worried about pointless, unavoidable things a lot. I mean, Phonogram. That five month gap between issue 1 and 2? Half an hours sleep was lost every night to tossing and turning and growling, while knowing that the only thing I could do to do anything about it is reorganise the whole form of Western capitalism. Well, the only reasonable thing. I could have robbed a bank to fund Jamie eating or something. Clearly, I should have committed)

Musically… well, it’s a year which I felt like I browsed more than usual. The forum for music wasn’t clubs or live gigs or even a HD full of ripped CDs. It was primarily Spotify, which warped my listening habits so much when I removed my spare HD when I sent my PC to be repaired, when the PC was returned, I didn’t reinstall it for some months. It was a lot of effort to get out a screwdriver and… fuck it, most of the stuff was on Spotify and the rest was probably on Youtube. It took the approaching DJing at Thought Bubble for me to actually reinstall it, when I needed to get ready for the joy of Laptop Djing in front of a crowd of peers.

(Musical highlight of the year would be that, I suspect. I gushed about the evening, but playing Pullshapes and seeing the floor was as magical a moment I could wish for.)

I even actually pay for the non-advert service, after Spotify finally found one which was so heinous which I couldn’t bear dealing with interrupting my writing-mood one hungover morning. It was the one where they had people phone in to say their wishes for Spotify (”Love it! Can you get the Beatles though?” “I think Spotify should be advert free for everyone! It’s not fair”). I’d have paid double to get rid of their bloody drooling. Oddly, I’ve ended up missing them a little. When friends complain about a new advert, I’m out of the conversation. It’s another piece of distance from the main cultural conversation. And that’s totally the other theme. More than any other point, I’ve found it easier to ignore the parts of popular culture that I’m not interested in (Well, mostly. The masses of the year that was owned by the Noisettes was unbearable). Which you may think is good for mental health, but being forced to actually engage with stuff which I don’t find interesting is a big part of my thinking - mainly because, unwanted exposure can lead to things you love more than most. Spotify makes that worse - I used the word “Browsing” earlier, and that’s how I use it. That it lacks any decent history function - only remembering the last few searches - can mean that you can listen to a band, half dig it, think about coming back… and never do. Because you didn’t really bother remembering its name. Your Last.fm profile can help, but it’s not exactly easy.

(I never remember names. The anal-music-band-name-drop thing was always my weakest card as a music critic.)

I smile that I use the past-tense there. With Plan B closing, I suspect that’s the last music criticism I’ll do for a forum outside this particular blog. And Phonogram, obviously, but that’s its own thing. It feels right in many ways. Jamie and I were approached by a music magazine this year to try and develop a regular Phonogram-esque thing for them… an opportunity we let die on the vine. The main reason was basically time - as in, we didn’t have any. But at least part of it was me thinking to do that I’d have to be tied more directly into the mass musical culture than I am right now. What I mainly do is the personal narrative - and the point of Phonogram is all about the importance of everyone’s personal narratives. To actually give a toss about what album is coming out this week… well, that’d require effort. I feel I was too fucking old for that stuff.

And oddly, I don’t mind about that at all. And when I’ve worried about the silliest of things, not worrying about that’s a real surprise.

Okay. Tracks of the year. How does this work?

I keep a googledoc across the year, lobbing stuff in as it occurs to me, forgetting to include stuff about half the time. It’s tracks of the years. That normally means singles, except the case where a band doesn’t have a single and/or there’s a specific album track that personifies my love best. That is, it normally means singles, except when it’s not. One track per band. If a band has multiple tracks which should be in here, I normally push the one I choose up a few steps (In previous years, people like The Go Team, The Long Blondes and Outkast have profited from that.

Come New Year, I take the list and try and arrange it. I start swearing, realising that a load of stuff which is on the list is actually totally shit and I was drunk at the keyboard again. Scanning around, I normally discover that there’s more stuff which I dig which I never added to the list or put on the wrong list or put in a Marvel Script and caused an editor to worry about me some more. At this time, I’m normally trying stuff I’ve missed throughout the year. A few of them find their way in, but it’s often on first rush. Some stuff I mark for further listening in the next year - and they’re usually the ones which I find a way to sneak into the following year. And occasionally I just get the year entirely wrong. But it’s my Top 40, so yah-boo sucks.

I generally try and link to a Youtube version if it’s around. However, there is a Spotify list of the whole thing available here. Well, most of them. Everyone should feel free to link to a playlist or blogpost about their tracks of the year in the comments. To start you off, here’s Ex-Bitmap Brother Ed Bartlett’s Spotify one.

And this was all done in an afternoon, so excuse typos and/or factual nonsense and/or selecting completely the wrong choices…


40) The Mountain Goats ? Ezekiel 7 And The Permanent Efficacy Of Grace
The titles of the Life of the World to Come make it actually impossible for me to remember which ones I actually liked. Let’s go with this one, because - as John Walker notes - it’s the one with the video.

39) Math The Band ? Tour De Friends
And let’s make John Walker happy by including something which he recommended. YELP! YELP LIKE IT’S 1991/1997/2002!!!! Tiny heroic casio solos. Makes me think of zinekidz on tiny white ponies charging the cannon lines of blokerock, uncaring of shrapnel. SHRAPNEL SOUNDS LIKE AWESOME.
[Live Youtube]

38) Neko Case ? This Tornado Loves You
Karen Beilharz wondered why I hadn’t listened to Neko Case’s new one this year. After listening to this luxuriantly evocative romance, I am too.
[Live Youtube]

37) Chew Lips - Rising Tide
Solo was the single which got all the attention - which doesn’t do an enormous amount for me, especially in a year when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs explored similar terrain with a little more charisma. Equally, Rising Tide isn’t off the album that’s about to come out. You can get it by joining their actual mailing list, though it’s on their MySpace page too. It’s a bit electro-Yeahs too… but it’s warm-heart-on-icy-sleeve Maps-as-electro-Yeahs, and as such, delectable. Though a little Jamie McKelvie.
[MySpace] (Not on Spotify)

36) Weezer ? (If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
This is an odd time to start liking Weezer. Especially something as sappy as this. I’ve learned to not question myself.

35) Eels ? That Look You Give That Guy
This is an odd time to start liking Eels. Especially something as sappy as this. I’ve learned to not question myself.

34) Los Campesinos! ? There Are Listed Buildings
This is an odd time to start liki… oh, it’s Los Campesinos! No, it’d be odd to stop liking you. Sounds like Gareth has got laid since the last album, which is good for him and good for everyone who doesn’t like poetry carved on their door with a Stanley Knife and all that.

(Yes, that’s from the first album. You know what I mean. Unless you don’t, in which case, just carry on. There will be plenty to be confused about later on.)

33) Wild Beasts ? Hooting & Howling
Opulent, intricate pop which recalls the Associates at their most elegant and wasted.

Cripes. Am I interviewing for a job at Mojo or something?

32) Camera Obscura ? French Navy
Opening lyric of the opening track of their new album: “Spent a week in a dusty library”. You know that Camera Obscura are afraid of everything - loud noises, listening to their music so loud their neighbour tells them to turn it down, meeting strangers, tripping up bits of pavement, etc - but the one thing they’re not afraid of is being themselves. It makes me wish I had a satchel.

31) Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks
Music I listen to when I wish I was rich and American and slightly-self-satisfied. Sounds a lot like someone getting top marks for their Brian Wilson homework. Well done you.

Wait - do I even like this? No time to second guess. Onwards!
[Youtube] (Not on Spotify)

30) Jarvis Cocker ? I Never Said I Was Deep
Jarvis guesting in Gonzales’ London residency was one of my gigs of the year. The whole evening left me thinking what the 00s did to our stars and where it left them. I mean that “our” in the stupid us-versus-them kind of way. As brilliant and funny and inspiring Gonzales was, I couldn’t help just feeling a bit sad hearing the Presential Suite material. Is that it, y’know? Is that all we’re going to get from you Gonzy? This stuff is amazing. DO MORE. Cocker and Gonzales are of the similar mold - which makes me all the more grateful he continues to put out as much always-human always-smart material as he does.

29) Akira The Don ? Steven Wells (He Was The Greatest!)
Talking about Gonzales, the following week, Akira the Don was his guest. Which is a link! I’ll go a long way in this writing malarkies. Anyway, this is the Akira the Don tribute record following the untimely death of MUSIC-JOURNALIST SWEAR-O-TITAN Steven Wells. It’s a smart-as-hell little punky buzz-storm which in a hyperbright cartoon style recalls why Swells was this towering figure in music writing. And I know it’s not fair - as Matt Sheret said when I tried this theory on him, the tribute song to him would be playing his songs - but there’s part of me that’s pleased that while Jackson and Swells passed within a few hours of one another, I haven’t seen anyone actually write a song in tribute to him. If it was up to me, the Caps-lock key would be renamed the STEVEN WELLS key.
[Download] (Not on Spotify)

28) Felix Da Housecat ? We All Wanna Be Prince
Hobbes forwarded this to me half way through the year, noting: “only one idea…. but its a good idea”. I said it seemed the perfect thing to fight my hangover. Because I was hungover. Again.

Regarding the song - Felix, once again, does have a point.

27) Beyonc ? Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
2008! 2024! 2024! Yeah, obv. But I’ve got a couple of things I wanted to talk about.

Firstly, it only got a proper UK release in 2024, peaking in its top 10 position in January. Which was, as far as I can make out, before its actual physical release in February. I think. That it’s actually hard for me to ascertain the facts on that via googling around just strikes me as a fascinating example about pop-music late 00s style. Specifically, because it’s a mainstream version of what I was writing about in issue 4 of Phonogram. Well, what I was writing about when Seth and Silent Girl were just sniping amusingly at one another. As in, culture-lag in music consumption. Robyn’s album was released in 2024, which is when Seth and Silent would have got it, probably off a file-sharer as it wasn’t in the UK. Everyone else listened to it in 2024, when our story is set. But the actual cross-over hit only comes in 2024, when the album is actually released in the UK. But that lag is now actually the mainstream engine of pop-music, with the moneterized (i.e. the stuff they measure) portion of it (Download Sales) enough to warp the actual shape of mainstream pop (i.e. The Charts) in a way which dramatically shows how the actual industry now lags behind it (the release of the actual physical single after its commercial peak). I’m old enough to remember how strange the feeling of someone playing Funeral at an ATP after it just came out… and the whole room singing. Everyone had pirated it before the UK release. A track we shouldn’t have was an anthem. That is now just how it works.

Secondly, it’s the first time I’ve cared at all about anything Beyonce has released since (the admittedly awesome) Crazy In Love. I like her as a pop-star far - Stalin-but-Sexy-basically - than more than her output. So I’m glad for something this strange.

26) Ida Maria ? Oh My God
Similarly! 2024 release in foreign! Album release in 2024, with a top 20 hit! This, the follow-up single, released in 2024 and crashes… but it’s the one which ignites mine (and Walker’s, oddly) love. The singularity is a whirlpool. Anyway - Ida Maria is always the sound of a drunk twenty-something girl falling down the stairs and mumbling to herself and banging her head against the wall, at which point she’s surprised to discover the noise is actually spangly and shiny. A sing-along hands-in-the-air Nervous Breakdown. The best kind!

25) Dananananaykroyd ? Some Dresses
I’d write about these more, but it’d mean that I’d have to spell their name. It’s certainly one way to get your revenge against writers. You know they’re going to be mean about you. This is getting your revenge in advance. Anyway - this sounds like the best kind of Pritt-stick high.

24) The Rumble Strips ? Not The Only Person
Sometimes a little arrogance goes a long way.

23) Come Alive (War of the Rose) - Janelle Mone
I’ve been digging her 2024/2008 - SERIOUSLY! THIS ONE’S ALSO CONFUSING - album Metropolis: The Chase Suite for the first part of the year, but I can’t work out any kind of fake to get any of that into this chart. Instead, I dig this out of context piece of multi-historic rock-and-roll foot-stomping and can’t wait to hear what she does next. I can’t wait to hear it, because I haven’t got a fuck’s chance of working out what it’ll be in advance. Go Janelle!
[Youtube] (Not on Spotify)

22) The Maccabees ? No Kind Words - Single Version
The indie blokes really have spent a lot of time sounding portentous this decade. We get it! You’re serious! Girls should totally make out with you.

21) Future Of The Left ? Arming Eritrea
The previous-Top-40-er - the fearsome The Hope The House Built - was the single for the album this year, so we’ll go with the opening track as a sample of the Future of the Left’s highly agreeable brutality. First album was fantastic. The second is better. In an alternate universe, the Future of The Left are so big that I we’d all have to tosser-like-ly pretend not to like them anymore, while secretly throwing ourselves around and screaming to Future of the Left’s throwing around and screaming. Perfectly clever and dumb.

20) Rose Elinor Dougall ? Start/Stop/Synchro
Pointed, period - though working out the exact period is a little tricky - chamber pop from the ex-Pipette. That its exact mood proves elusive is one of the reasons I keep on coming back to it. It’s a simple little thing, hinting at something much larger.

19) La Roux ? In For The Kill
Watching Christmas Top of the Pops and La Roux came on. I blinked. I realised that I’d never actually seen La Roux perform in the flesh. It seemed immediately wrong. It’s like having the Terminator come onto a chat show. Sure, bring Arnie on, but the Terminator is for hunting down Sarah Connors. In the same way, La Roux are a band who should only exist in their videos. They make me think of London, sealed in hairspray. They make me think of someone - and I forget who it was - say that Tilda Swinton is basically a walking special effect. They’re very pretentious, in a most literal sense. It’s all about pretense. I don’t believe a word and I love it.

18) The Bronx ? Knifeman
This is one I missed from last year, despite listening to it on repeat for weeks. Thankfully, it was actually only released as a single this year, which means I’ve got an excuse to put it here and type THIS IS A B-18! THIS ISN’T MUSIC! IT’S A PYRAMID SCHEME! in bold and everything. Also NOW WE’RE BORN REMINISCING! and similar. It is an amazing team-up between FUCK! and YEAH! FUCK YEAH! FUCK YEAH!

17) Lady Gaga ? Poker Face
Some people don’t like the bluffin’ with my muffin’ line. Some people shouldn’t be let near pop-music.

16) Lily Allen ? Not Fair
I think the biggest miracle in Miss Allen’s album is how little her cringe-worthy social-analysis is actually cringe-worthy. Yeah, Lily, you’re the person I immediately come to for socio-political analysis of late-period Consumerism… but I totally do. I think its directness, its brazenness in approach. It doesn’t blink (as opposed to - to choose a random example, Animal Collective’s My Girls, whose special pleading is where you start to wince). There’s none of that in Not Fair, but Lily’s inclusion so high up is at least as much for the album (one of my favourite pop ones of the year, as a single listenable-artifact) as the track. Still - its amusingly direct synthy-country analysis of male/female relationship is charming as hell as it hammers a big stake right through the heart of nice-guys everywhere. Nice-guys finish last. Alas, Lily sighs, they don’t.

Metric ? Gimme Sympathy
McKelvie’s favoured Haines. Album didn’t entirely click with me, but the opening burst was as definitive a statement of Metricness as they managed.
Luke Haines - 21st Century Man
My favoured Haines. His best solo album in a while, I think, and the closing piece of autobiography is as good an example as ever. You can almost see a little self-doubt in there. If you squint. Hard.
[Youtube] (Not On Spotify)

14) Little Boots ? New In Town
I felt a little sorry for Little Boots. Grouped together with Florence and La Roux in all the early 2024 hype, she was always going to suffer. Florence is about the excess of humanity and self. La Roux is about its annihilation. At the middle ground, she’s going to suffer - pop rewards the extremes when coming from their quarter. She seemed a little normal, really. That’s why I liked her. There was something awkwardly bedroom about it - sonic zines. She could have been a Phonogram character (”Remedy” is virtually a Phonogram plot). As such, she’s doomed to sell nowt, relatively speaking. New In Town is my favourite new moment (Otherwise: Stuck on Repeat), for the simple reason it succeeded in its aim. It made me want to go out. Like, now.

13) French Horn Rebellion ? Up All Night - Edit
When writing about pop music, there’s few times I get a chance to use the word “cheeky” as a compliment. This is one of them. Just plain goofy and charming in equally measure. I’d totally date them.

12) The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart ? Young Adult Friction
And for when I wasn’t being dated… yay! C86! Bedroom pop! Lyricism! Libraries! Swathes of sound! Not getting out! If Lloyd Phonogram was around in 2024, he’d have a Pains Of Being Pure At Heart badge on his lapel. And another pinned directly to his heart.

11) Manic Street Preachers ? Peeled Apples
The last thing I wrote for Plan B was a review of the Manic’s Journal for Plague Lovers (aka Holy Bible II: The Intensely Intense Reloaded). Which, if you want to close a narrative arc of my life between 1994 and 2024, would be the perfect final scene. As an album, it’s a curio. If you’re a Manics fan, you can’t help pick through it just to see what those Richey Lyrics were like. As an album, bits of it are pretty neat. Bits of it are just sickly. But the only one which makes me feel possessed with that pure, condensed rage of being 19 is the opener. Peeled Apples totally justifies the whole endeavour.

10) Dizzee Rascal ? Bonkers
When he was over from Canada, I introduced Kid-with-knife to the Words and Pictures bunch and went clubbing. Later, Kid dragged Sheret onto the empty dancefloor to throw down to Dizzee Rascal. It wasn’t to this. But in many ways, it really was.

In other notes: being a proper pop-star really suits Dizzee. Good work.

9) Ryksopp ? The Girl And The Robot
I refuse to admit the Girl and the robot is about anything other than a Girl And A Robot. It’s not about a distant, failing relationship. It’s about a Girl and A Robot. That bastard selfish robot!

8 ) Fever Ray ? If I Had A Heart
I didn’t like one-half-of-the-Knife’s Side-project at first. I stuck with it and it stuck to me. The earlier the morning you listen, the better it gets. The more you listen to everything else this year, the better it gets. Jamie doesn’t like it - which I kind of find telling. It’s kind of gone through Jamie’s aesthetic taste and come out the other side to some grim realm where there is only fog and slow, distorted weeping. People have asked me a lot this year “What music does Thor listen to”? I’ve never had a satisfactory answer.

But Hela would be all over this.

7) Animal Collective ? My Girls
Yeah, it’s a beautified version of an early-30-something dinner party (”Oh, my mortgage is just horrendous! It’s ghastly!”), but fundamentally it understands beneath the tedium of the chatter, the real human urges (”I am of this age, but I feel like I’m three, and my parents are going to die, and I’m worried I may let down some other humans I have begat and… FOR GOD’S SAKE, LET’S JUST EAT SOME STUFF”) which underlies such conversations… and then translates that into something that just hangs there, and makes those insecurities incandescent. Goldfish techno, all colours, water, movement, 2-second-beat-memory and light.

6) Yeah Yeah Yeahs ? Heads Will Roll
A brilliant example of the genre I like to call, Fantastic Fuck-off music. Also the first song in this entire list which I’ve had to turn all the way up, and then find myself disappointed that these headphones don’t go high enough. Seriously! I just stopped for another fiddle just now. A lot of other lists have picked Zero as their track from It’s Blitz… but I loved Heads Will Roll so much from the first listen that I always started with track 2, so barely ever listening to it.

5) Fuck Buttons -Surf Solar
More Fantastic Fuck-off music. 10 minutes of beats and noise transformed into an engine for transformation - mainly, transformed to the end of the song, those 10 minutes a blur, with you skipping back to try again. I recall the old joke from the post-rock days where, mirroring dance-clubs with TUNE-signs, we thought about making a sign with NO-TUNE! to wave around appreciatively at particularly epic moments. Post-Rock gigs were never exactly comedy strongholds. Anyway - Surf Solar makes me want to make both signs and pump them in the air. If I was going to fight crime, I think I’d have Surf Solar on my headphones, in a perpetual loop, as I fucked shit up. The sound of a face caving in, awesomely.
[YouTube] (Not On Spotify)

4) Music Go Music - Warm in the Shadows
There is only one bad thing about Warm in the Shadows. It was on Spotify for a few weeks after release, then removed. Boo. Otherwise, this is plain delectable - and I do find myself smiling that the two longest records in the Top 40 have ended up next to one another, like twins. I’ve got to go back to 2024 - before I started these charts - and Pretty Like Drugs and Soldier Girl to find two records which embodied two opposite parts of my musical core as perfectly. Surf Solar all brutality, Warm In The Shadows all class - the sonic equivalent of the Ferrero Rocher Hype.

It’s also splendid for playing Canabalt to.
[Youtube] (Not On Spotify)

3) The xx ? Infinity
The Young Marble Giants getting on with the fuck. And, like Portishead when Portishead were worth living for, and certainly worth having sex to. It’s an album to be taken as an album - more than anything else in the chart, the track I’ve chosen should be taken as a general pointer of “listen to this whole thing” - but Infinity’s modernised Isaakisms is starkly beautiful. If I’m listening to this at 3am in the morning, it’s normally in a far better, smokier mood than I am when I turn to Fever Ray.

Put it like this: if you’re not an active music follower, more than anything else in the list, this is the one you should listen to. It manages that difficult trick - which was only last pulled off for more than the briefest period by the Portishead/Tricky/Massive Attack Bristol Axis - of sounding modern and classic simultaneously.

2) The Horrors ? Sea Within A Sea
It worries me how much I like the Horrors. Not the usual “Aren’t the horrors shit? When did they get good” way - though I was among the many who vivisected their first album when I reviewed it for Plan B - but more in a… I worry about myself for liking them. They are, to use my own shorthand, very Kohl. I can easily imagine him whistling Who Can Say when walking away from some girl who should have known better. By which I mean, I can imagine me doing it - and I’m not exactly comfortable with that.

Or put it another way - this wasn’t a very Long Blondes year. Which is fantastic - much better than living through Long Blondes years - but it nags when there’s part of your internal dramatisation which is drawn to that kind of bullshit.

The Horrors are a special kind of bullshit. And, because this is pop music, that’s as special as it gets.

Sea Within The Sea is an enormous eight-minute single. It glowers as convincingly as any overcoated band has this decade and then - the key part - it transcends on eternally rising Morricone angel-wings. It’s the sort of song where I don’t feel ashamed at using imagery like “angel-wings” when talking about. I only feel ashamed that such imagery has been debased by being applied to things which aren’t Sea Within A Sea.

I haven’t seen a band so brilliantly re-invent themselves between first and second albums since Blur… and Primary Colours walks all over Modern Life is Rubbish.

1) Florence + The Machine ? Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
Flo does bug me.

When the whole La Roux/Little Boots/Florence troika was being forwarded, it was easy to see Florence being positioned as the credible option. By “credible” I mean “most appealing to Q readers”. The literate flourishes, the more-canon-influences and all that. Florence was the subtler one. The one who wasn’t as pop. The nagging problem that Florence’s idea of not-pop is the most bloody obvious way for a female artist to be credible. Or, to stop beating around this particular Bush… well, you know. The inevitably of how they would shake down annoyed the hell out of me.

None of which stopped me returning to the album repeatedly, and going through periods of absolute obsession. When you’re part of the inevitable it just bugs you even more.

Hell, I even liked the Candi Staton cover.

I alternated between Dog Days and Rabbit Heart as my favourite track. I’m going to choose the latter, because it best exemplifies my relationship with Florence. That is, by its sheer demented attack, it makes what’s easily torn-apart, undeniable. Rabbit Heart is about the compromises and glory of being being a performing creative - pure automythology, painting herself as some king of Beltane King doomed to burn, that the reward is part of the same thing as the price, and it’s finding transcendence in the doom. It’s a pretty sentiment, but it’s just a more reference-heavy version of a “it’s shit being a pop star”.

However, at its heights, it doesn’t sound like that at all. It sounds like a song about everything. She’s singing in such a way, it sounds like the ultimate act of creation and its ultimate price. That being, life and death. I found myself haunted by Rabbit Heart’s refrain for the weeks around my Gran’s death and funeral. Gifts and their price, and knowing it, and continuing anyway and…

Yeah, I’m reading into it. But something as gorgeous, as sure, as enormous as Rabbit Heart exists to be imprinted on. And Florence, being all too aware of gifts, is surely aware of that.

That said… Bat for Lashes has got to be pissed, yeah?

The 34/40 Spotify Playlist. Thanks for reading in 2024. You are sweeties, except the meanies. And even they are probably sweeties.

Alignment via Dan Curtis Johnson

Saturday January, 02 2024 09:49 AM PST

The elevator descended no less than two thousand meters. They rode in edgy, uncomfortable silence. They dared not even think, much less speak, of what came next. The invisible servants of the Old Ones were everywhere, watching and listening and sifting through minds that were not careful. The Madness pressed in at all times, at the surface; it was only down here, specifically down here in the Sterile Area, that one could gradually think of anything other than simple Fear.

At last they passed through the Membrane and the paranoia was stripped away. Here, in this safe bubble, Humankind was going to build and deploy its defense when the stars were right - right for the Old Ones, that is. The data coming back from Hubble II could not be argued with: the End Times were fast approaching. The only question was, could Humankind survive beyond the End?

These were the thoughts that, at last, could be allowed to form in the Colonel's head. Now that they were in the Sterile Area, safe from the microorganic tendrils of the servitors, they could think about what they were attempting to do. And this, the Colonel had been informed, was their best hope so far.

The doors opened to reveal the largest subterranean chamber ever constructed by human hands, a sphere a thousand meters across. They emerged at its top, looked down into its vast space. There, a monstrous construction was underway.

The Colonel was confused. "It looks like? an enormous chair? on a huge monorail line."

The Chief Scientist nodded. "When Great Cthulhu wakes from his slumber, we're going to strap him into a nice comfy carseat and just drive him around until he nods back off."

The Colonel - who had two small children of his own, the very children he was fighting to preserve the world for - took another long look at the gargantuan seat being built. Honestly, it wasn't the most Insane thing they were working on. Not even close.

It was that sort of world, now.

For consideration: and over in this chamber is the enormous tinkling mobile that psionically projects Brahms' "Lullaby" directly into your reptile stem

Seasonal Reviews via Kieron Gillen

Saturday January, 02 2024 03:48 AM PST

I’ll be working on my traditional Top 40 tracks today, which should be up later. I was going to do it yesterday, but after finishing my first script of the year, my brain seized up and I decided to laze around the front room and sniff glue. However, before that, a lot of people have said nice things about me over the holiday period. There’s too many reviews to link to, but these are some of the bigger ones. Most of which I actually showed to my parents over Christmas (”Reviews are report-cards for grown-ups”). In that spirit, I’ll include a link and what my mum said about each review.

Firstly, Bobsy Mindless reviews 2.6 of Phonogram. It’s fun tracing the six reviews so far, as this is the one where Bobsy goes totally native. Alternatively, is drunk. Either way, I have to approve. Example Quote: “This comic is a holy book, a magical thing offering redemption and the tools to unbury meaning from the poorest of terriories. It will have its devotees, dressed in donkey jackets, blue denim dungaress, preppy slacks and blazers, fifties? gangster suits.”

My mum’s response: “Ooh - he’s got verbal diarrhea, hasn’t he?”. Which isn’t necessarily an insult coming from my mum, having begat two ever-mouthy sons.

Secondly, the Weekly Crisis review both ARES 3 and THOR 605, “a fitting end to what is easily one of the best miniseries to come out this year” and “Even if you weren’t a fan of JMS’s Thor, you should be reading this. How often do you get to see Thor and Dr Doom throw down like this? How often is Dr Doom written so perfectly? And how often does someone pick up the pieces of an aborted, yet critically acclaimed run and cap it off so perfectly?” respectively.

(I’m really quite surprised how well Thor is being received. It’s the Marvel project which has recieved the best reviews. It’s even picked up the highest average score over at Ifanboy, so there’s SCIENCE behind that random statement).

My Mum’s Response: “Ooh! Someone likes it!”

Thirdly, Comics Daily say I’m their writer of the year. Crikey.

My mum’s response: To tell all the relatives about it. Which showed more embarrassment than a younger cousin showed when his Dad went onto a long monologue about how the lad had broke his computer by downloading virus-addled porn.

Oh - and too late to get a GILLEN’S MUM verdict, but in Comic Book Resources’ Top 100 comics of 2024, has put PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB as their eleventh. We are totally that early-nineties indie band whose fanbase gets their single Top 20 in the first week, but then drop like a fucking stone the next.

There must be a quote for the back of the trade amongst all of that lot.

New Zeroes: A Wayback Machine for everything else via Melissa Gira

Friday January, 01 2024 10:18 PM PST


Tonight I’m placing ten years worth of clips, press hits, photos, diaries, manuscripts, cribs from my lectures, notes from other people’s lectures, letters, and really sketchy wireframe illustrations in archival boxes. (I mean, really sketchy, and really too many of them. If I actually created all of the websites I’ve mocked up…)

I am also watching the original Grey Gardens, or, as Julie Klausner put it, “Hoarders 1.0,” so.


I collect. I keep. I regularly go back and take stock. In a moment of kindness, a friend compared this behavior of mine to the assumptions one could make about the German people’s fondness for nostalgia as evidenced in the design of their toilets. A less forgiving take on my need to hold onto the past is that I am collecting intelligence on everyone who matters to me, including myself.

My answer is that I’m not good at living and writing at the same time, but I do take very fast and accurate shorthand.

This is why I still have to keep a diary. The press clips and lecture notes and even the wireframes — that all I keep out of vanity. The diary is practical, and has nothing to do with exposure. I’ll read it to anyone who asks. There are no secrets.

I don’t hold onto it all in order to reveal anything. I do it to remember that the truth changes and to become a more accurate observer of when I got it wrong in the stories I’ve told myself over time.

Now I go back and read: where I thought I had it all down right, where I didn’t, where I have to accept that I can never capture it any better and so hope those were days that don’t mean anything because now, aside from what’s missing, they can’t.

(I wrote another post this week called “New Zeroes,” but that’s on tumblr. Which, ever the mind towards the archival, I’m wondering if I should just fold in here. Or this there. Do you have an opinion, or is this just what passes for ‘content strategy’ or ’spiritual crisis’ these days?)

Links for 2024-01-01 via Warren Ellis

Friday January, 01 2024 03:00 PM PST

The Old Year via Jamais Cascio

Friday January, 01 2024 12:48 PM PST

Sunset at 34,000 Feet

I've spent the last week or so just... sleeping. Relaxing. Not thinking. Trying to get myself rested and ready for what looks to be another heavy year.

2009 ended on quite a high note, with my selection by Foreign Policy magazine as one of their "Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2024," and my being honored by the Institute for the Future as their second "Research Fellow," something that was previously bestowed upon Howard Rheingold -- so that's terrific company to be in.

My work at IFTF continued unabated, focusing primarily upon sustainability futures and their annual "Ten Year Forecast" program, but being pulled in on everything from food futures to global health to the future of construction equipment.

Here's what the rest of 2024 looked like for me:


Pasadena, London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Sydney, Atlanta, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Vienna, Chicago, Irvine, Chicago.


February: Published Hacking the Earth
March: Column for Fast Company.com starts
April: Article in Foreign Policy
June: Wall Street Journal article
June: Big Atlantic Monthly article
July: Appeared on two episodes of History Channel's That's Impossible
October: Second Atlantic Monthly article

Public Talks

February: Future: To Go at the Art Center College Sustainable Mobility Summit.
March: Cascio's Laws of Robotics at the Menlo Park AI Meetup.
June: Mobile Intelligence at Mobile Monday Amsterdam.
June: ReMaking Tomorrow at AMPlify09.
October: If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to be Part of Your Singularity at New York Future Salon.


March: NPR/Day to Day
April: CBC/Spark
April: New Hampshire Public Radio
May: Freedom Lab Amsterdam (last on page)
May: AMP Sydney
July: Tactical Transparency
July: Wisconsin Public Radio/Kathleen Dunn
August: Slate (video)
September: CBC/Q
October: /Message (video)
November: Public Radio International/On the Media

Here's hoping that your 2024 is less exhausting than mine will be!

My only New Year's Resolution. via Jess Nevins

Friday January, 01 2024 12:12 PM PST

To always remember this:

"It is not necessary to have been a tiger from the first and by nature in order to display tigerish qualities. Social conditions exist by which lambs are converted into tigers."

Chromagical via Dan Curtis Johnson

Friday January, 01 2024 10:27 AM PST

The six colors of the rainbow had been arguing for some time about who was best. When it looked like it was going to come to blows, they decided to consult the Leprechaun and let him judge. The Leprechaun agreed to take it on, once he'd been roused from his stupor and sobered up a bit. Designating his pot of gold as "the lectern", he instructed each color to make its case.

Red stomped up to the lectern. "Look at me! I'm badass!" it huffed and puffed. "I'm the color of rage! Of power! I get things done! Just look at the size of my wavelength!" The Leprechaun agreed that Red was very big and strong and whatever.

Orange glided up to the lectern a little tentatively. "I think I'm pretty good," it announced. "I mean, you see me in fire. On flowers. Other places. Oh yeah, and there's a piece of fruit named just after me! And no other words in English rhyme with me! How many of you can claim that?" The Leprechaun noted that Orange was special.

Yellow bounded up to the lectern with a big smile. "See how bright I am?" it beamed. "I'm the color of happiness. Of joy. I cast light upon everything else! Look how much of me is coming from the Sun!" The Leprechaun had to admit that Yellow was, indeed, very cheerful and fun.

Green strode up to the lectern with a shrug. "What can I say?" it smirked. "I'm everywhere. Leaves. Money. Hey, what color is that you're wearing yourself? Say no more." The Leprechaun hastily pointed out that his own personal color preferences were not going to influence the case.

Blue marched up to the lectern in a no-nonsense fashion. "What do you see when you look up?" he stated. "The sky. Our very own rainbow is surrounded on all sides by me. Thank you for your time." The Leprechaun said he appreciated Blue's concise approach.

Purple slinked up to the lectern. "Check me out," she purred. "I carry the blood of queens in me. I'm so sexy. I'm not even Purple anymore. You can call me... Violet!" The Leprechaun definitely seemed impressed with Purple's new name and attitude.

The colors then all eagerly awaited the Leprechaun's decision. He furrowed his brow and checked his notes and then he looked up and said, "What about you, there?" And he pointed in their midst.

The six colors all looked around, baffled, for a moment until they suddenly realized that - squeezed in between Blue and Violet - there was a seventh color! Chaos erupted as all the colors began talking at once: "Who are you? Where did you come from? Are you a darker blue? Are you a deeper purple? How long have you been there?"

"Call me... Indigo!" it whispered threateningly. "You ignorant, self-centered fools! Soon enough, I shall strike!" Then, with a twist, it was suddenly gone again, no longer distinguishable from either Blue or Violet.

This so unnerved the other colors that they immediately ceased their internecine arguing, formed a joint defense alliance with the Leprechaun as Dictator For Life, and immediately began arming themselves for a seemingly certain future confrontation with this potential enemy in their very midst.

And that, children, is why the rainbow is the most dangerous, repressive, heavily-militarized zone in the electromagnetic spectrum.

For consideration: and you must never, ever chase it