lundi 31 décembre 2012


It’s been a year.  My mind is already way into 2013, but I thought it would be timely to think up some annual ‘best of’s, just so I remember them.

My albums of the year are pretty predictable but they were great ones.  The gems that haven’t been off my stereo are: Between the Times and the Tides by Lee Ranaldo (like the most radio-friendly pop moments of Sonic Youth – just lovely); Sun by Cat Power (triumphant and synth-y but classic Chan); Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen (OK, L. Cohen is basically Gxd as far as I’m concerned, but his old ideas are still better than everyone else’s new ones); The Haunted Man by Bat for Lashes (the wonderful Natasha has really delivered again).  I think my favourite gig of the year was Charlotte Gainsbourg at Somerset House.

Are we all agreed that Gone Girl is the book of the year?  Good.  I also particularly loved: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, Paradoxical Undressing by Kristin Hersh, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson, Revenge of the Tide by Elizabeth Haynes, You by Joanna Briscoe, Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell, Moranthology by Caitlin Moran, Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth.  I also loved The Hunger Games quite a lot.  In not-at-all-new books, I have also got into Joan Didion, Nora Ephron and Beryl Bainbridge.  And, as usual, I spent much of my summer holidays re-reading Jilly Cooper.

Upon consulting my diary, I realise that I haven’t been to the cinema all that many times this year.  Must do better.  Here is the list in full of everything I saw on the big screen, all of which I actually enjoyed (to slightly varying degrees): The Woman in Black, The Hunger Games, Dark Shadows, Prometheus, Skyfall.

I think this year I have loved TV more than I have loved films, which is probably unprecedented.  This is, of course, mainly due to Girls.  You don’t need me to write any more words about Girls, as it has kind of been done to death – I will only say that I think it’s the best thing I have seen in years and years, maybe ever; Lena Dunham is amazing and I want her to be my best friend; I am obsessed with Jemima Kirke and now Google her nearly as often as I do Chan Marshall.  That’s all.  My TV love is also thanks in part to Hunderby – the most brilliant mash-up of so many of my favourite things.  I also ought to admit that I had a very soft spot for this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here – I love Ashley Roberts almost as much as I love Jemima Kirke.  Oh, and don’t let’s forget the Olympics, which I loved more than anyone could have predicted.

Well, for the past few months I have wanted to wear nothing but my metallic gold leather shorts.  Well, not literally ‘nothing but’ – usually I wear them with my Sonic Youth T-shirt and/or Bella Freud jumper and some thick tights – but you know what I mean: I am seriously obsessed with them.  Best £20 I ever spent in Beyond Retro – particularly as I saw a similar pair in Topshop later for £60.  Smug much?  I have also been wildly in love with my APC parrot vest and grey leopard-print sweatshirt dress and, as usual, anything stripy or involving a Peter Pan collar.

I have been out and eaten food in some really cool new restaurants this year.  In London, my favourites have been Mishkin’s (which basically could have been formulated from my dreams – Jewish food and cocktails, booths and gorgeous waitresses) and Burger and Lobster, where I had the most delicious lunch that I have been dreaming about ever since.  At home in Brighton, I am obsessed with the new Mexican street food restaurant La Choza – the best Mexican food and best margaritas I have ever had in this country, since it has opened I can scarcely be persuaded to go anywhere else.

I’ve been pretty lucky with some fun travellings this year, although I haven’t left Europe.  In the spring, I went to a Greek island so dreamy I don’t even want to tell the name of it – where I spent an idyllic week with a whole gang of friends and family, swimming in the sea, reading, feeding stray cats, and eating vats of yoghurt and honey.  Then I had a delightful long weekend in Cork for the year’s coolest wedding – my first-ever time in Ireland.  We stayed in a great hotel, drank lots and hung out with old friends, went swimming, walked the streets for hours and hours before hopping on a flight back home.  Incidentally, I am now of the opinion that all weddings should be Irish – it was truly special.  After only one night at home, we then jetsetted off to Spain, for a week of sunshine, gin and hamburguesas con patatas – me, Jimmy, my Nan and my Nan’s awesome friend Elda.  It was fantastic.  I spent almost all of my time lying out on my Nan’s patio, armed with Factor 2 oil that appeared to have been left over from the 70s, the complete works of Jilly Cooper, a family-sized bag of crisps, and a cold bottle of beer.  I rounded off the year with an icy December weekend in Aberdeen, to visit my gorgeous friend Rachael (who I have known since we were nine), who is somehow now the mum of the beautiful and charming four-month-old Emilie.  Heavenly.

vendredi 28 décembre 2012

My Favourite Songs by My Favourite Bands: Nirvana

Basically my ultimate favourite of a favourite...

1. Drain You
‘One baby to another says “I’m lucky to have met you”…’  I used to listen to this song on repeat so many times – rewinding the cassette in between – it may well be my most listened-to song in history.  I can still see why, perfectly.

2. Heart-Shaped Box
The most romantic song ever written.  End of.

3. About A Girl
The undoubted highlight of Bleach and just a classic, one of the best ever.

4. Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle
One of the wryest and cleverest lines ever, in my humble opinion – ‘I miss the comfort in being sad’ – is one I think about a lot. The all-round brilliant lyrics and more dissonant sound on much of In Utero come together perfectly here.

5. Son of a Gun
I know Incesticide wasn’t a ‘real’ album and this was a cover – but I really cannot overstate how joyous this song makes me feel.

6. D-7
I would hate just to pick a song because it was obscure, but this is the exception.  That’s because I first heard it on Rough Tapes, Bleeding Years – an Italian bootleg that I bought from a stall on Camden market – and I was so thrilled there was something on there I’d never heard before, it made my year.

7. Love Buzz
Another cover and they didn’t want it to be their first single – it’s so unlike all their other stuff, it was hardly the Nirvana manifesto that KC had in mind – but it is a perfect single.  You can see what Subpop were thinking – even though there is something very cute and kooky and un-Nirvana to it.

8. On A Plain
My second-favourite song from Nevermind and the best to sing along to.  It’s also the prime example of KC’s fondness for clever lyrical wordplay (‘the black sheep got blackmailed again, forgot to put on the zip code’), which is one of my favourite elements of Nirvana songs, not to mention his well-hidden Beatles-esque ear for a harmony.  And how can you not love a pop song with the chorus ‘I love myself better than you/I know it’s wrong but what can I do?’

9. Penny Royal Tea (Unplugged Version)
The Unplugged session was obviously one of the most beautiful things ever – a perfect set-list, and an elegiac tone to it that was stunning but makes it hard to watch now, knowing what would soon happen.  I think this song benefited the most from the Unplugged treatment – it sounds so perfect and open-wound raw all at once, it’s heartbreaking and gorgeous.

10. Serve The Servants
My favourite Nirvana album is obviously In Utero and the opening chords of this song take me back to the excitement of listening to it for the first time, every time.  ‘Teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old…’ – a mission statement and a gem in its own right.

lundi 24 décembre 2012

Girls Girls Girls

I’ve been holding off on writing about Girls, because more than enough words have already been written about it and Lena Dunham doesn’t exactly need my endorsement (although I think she is wonderful and brilliant, and her Grey Gardens inspired ‘Staunch’ tattoo is my current favourite thing in the entire world ever).

However, I am basically obsessed with it, and it’s in and around my eyes and head a lot at the moment – so I kind of might as well.

I should say, first of all, that I love it.  Really and truly love it.  It talks to me in a way that I recognise as honest and real and relevant – maybe for the first time since I was 12 and My So-Called Life was on.  It’s clever, but not clever-clever.  It’s funny, but kind of rarely LOL.  There is something very comforting to me about it.

I do not believe that you can catch anorexia from the TV, or from fashion magazines.  I really don’t.  However, I have found – kind of to my surprise – that it’s been a genuine revelation to see girls on screen who look like me.  To see myself reflected back in a way that – weirdly, I’ve only realised now that it actually exists – has pretty much never existed before.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is.  I really wish that this programme had been on 10 years ago – I think it would actually have made me feel a lot better about myself.

And – yes – I am a privileged white girl who has experienced a lot of the same spoiled, first world ‘problems’ as Hannah and her friends.  I can admit that doesn’t make it a perfect show to everyone else, as many people have noted – and I think that Lena Dunham’s reaction to the Girls ‘race argument’ (i.e. when it has been pointed out that a story set in modern-day, multicultural New York is sadly lacking in people of colour) has been intelligent and dignified, and I think she will use the feedback wisely to make it an even better show in future series.  I think her aim with her storytelling is the one that she has achieved with me – to be inclusive and to make people feel a bit better about themselves in small ways, while entertaining them at the same time.  If she can do that with more people than she is currently reaching, then so much the better for all of us.

Lena Dunham tweeted recently that nobody is a Jessa, although we all hope we are – ‘that is the sick power of the Jessa’.  I would just like to say that I am totally a Jessa.  Totally.

samedi 22 décembre 2012

The Genius Quota

This is a concept that my friend Lou and I discuss frequently.  Probably as we are both ardent admirers of the crazy, frankly.

The concept being that, some people, having hit their genius quota, are entitled to be as bonkers as they want and never turn in a good piece of work in again – distressing though it is to see artists going downhill.

Our main genius/crazy heroine is of course Courtney Love.  Having produced Live Through This when she was 29 – as well as marrying the world’s biggest rockstar and having a child – she earned her legendary stripes early.  That album still is, and always will be a classic.  That Celebrity Skin was as good (if different) was a bonus.  Personally, I think that America’s Sweetheart is great in places, as is Nobody’s Daughter.  I also love Pretty on the Inside, but that was pre LTT and very much the sound of someone finding her feet (although the talent and charisma already there are undeniable).  I hope she’s got some good work left in her yet – that goes for her acting as well as music.  However, if she just doesn’t feel like it then that’s OK with me.  She’s done enough.  (As long as she’s happy – which we can but hope for.)

Another – perhaps surprising – member of this club, in our humble opinion, is Nicolas Cage.  Yes, it’s easy to forget now what a great actor he was before he descended into Elvis-craziness, self-parody and, um, National Treasure.  But from Moonstruck to Leaving Las Vegas, he was utterly magnificent (in my humble opinion via the charming It Could Happen To You).  Again, if he wants to spend the rest of his days making more and more National Treasure sequels and buying castles, then so be it.

More depressing are the ones who fall short – Lindsay Lohan may have been full of potential in Mean Girls but she still hasn’t realised it enough; in my opinion, Machete (although a brilliant film) was a bit early for her to get into ironic comebacks.  Here’s hoping for Liz and Dick.

Many might argue that Billy Corgan up there, but although I love Siamese Dream (and, actually, Mellon Collie) – I don’t think any of his output is quite good enough to permit Zwan.

The criteria are pretty strict.  We aren’t talking about stars going down in a blaze of glory or unfairly snuffed out before they reach their full stretch.  We mean those that have got just dried up or got a bit more rubbish than they used to be.  To those who have hit their genius quota and then pretty much given up, I salute you.

mardi 18 décembre 2012

My Favourite Songs by My Favourite Bands: PJ Harvey*

1. Plants and Rags
’Plants and rags/Ease myself into a body bag…’   That opening kind of says it all; I don’t know what else to say about this.  It was like a lifeline, a revelation, a validation.

2. Good Fortune
Totally at the other end of the spectrum, this is Polly at her shiniest and most beautiful, and it fills me with joy – and it reminds me of the same in myself: wandering the streets of Hong Kong and meeting my boyfriend (not at the same time).  If you see any photograph of me taken around 2001–02, odds are I’m trying to look like her in the video.

3. A Perfect Day Elise
Contains my favourite rhyming couplet of all time – ‘God is the sweat running down his back/The water soaked her blonde hair black’.  The whole song is equally as spooky and stunning as that image.

4. Legs
The first PJ album I ever bought was Rid of Me, on cassette, which I bought because Kurt Cobain said he liked it in an interview.  It changed what I thought music could be, and I was particularly intrigued by this song.  Which prompted my dad nearly to crash his car and/or put me in therapy when I decided to play it for him on a long drive (to be fair, I was 12 and this song is a psychosexual cacophony about amputating a lover’s legs).

5. Shame
My PJ obsession was at its absolute height when Uh-Huh Her came out, and this song is just perfect.

6. That Was My Veil
Her work with John Parrish seems to be considered a kind of under-the-radar side-project and isn’t listened to enough – this beautiful song is up there with the best stuff she has ever done.

7. We Float
During a Bad Time, I used to carry the lyrics to this in my purse, and they still take me right back – offset here by the stark and haunting accompaniment.

8. Victory
One of the most classic bass lines of all time, and the most triumphant sound you will ever hear – it’s like a perfect, glorious battle-cry.

9. Missed
Another early favourite of mine; in my opinion the most ‘pop’ song on Rid of Me.  Not saying much, but it made me weirdly happy when I was twelve and still does.

10. Driving
This may sound obvious, but it’s such a great song to drive to.  Or to run to, actually.  I don’t like running with music, generally, but sometimes sing this under my breath as I go.  It makes me feel powerful.

11. This Mess We’re In
One of Thom Yorke’s finest moments, in my very humble opinion.  Another highlight from what is pretty much a perfect album – Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.

12. When Under Ether
My favourite from White Chalk and the newest song on here.  I was surprised myself that nothing from Let England Shake made the list, but it’s nothing to due with a drop in her quality, just my personal attachments.

13. C’Mon Billy
A Flamenco-tinged lovechild saga from To Bring You My Love.  My favourite to sing along to, I think.

14. Hardly Wait
Early on in her career, at least, Polly was often dismissed as being some sort of crazed, witchy sex-banshee.  Thankfully, there’s a lot more to her than that, but this song is probably the closest that she gets to it, and it’s rather magical.

15. No Child of Mine
I had to have this – the album version is just a short sketch, but the full-blown song is wrangled by Polly and Marianne Faithfull on the latter’s (sublime) album Before The Poison and it had to be on here.

* I had to have 15 for Polly; I couldn’t pick just 10.