Sunday, November 27, 2016

the top 10 albums, songs, comedy shows, music gigs and london restaurants of 2016

....there's also room for some awards for a few other things that were great this year. It's my annual best of the year lists everybody!

Top 10 albums of 2016

1. David Bowie - Black Star
2. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
3. The 1975 - I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it (fucking terrible title, though)
4. Chance the Rapper - Colouring Book
5. Anil Sebastian - Mesonoxian
6. ANOHNI - Hopelessness
7. Underworld - Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
8. Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
9. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - I Need You
10. Anderson .Paak - Malibu

Top 10 songs of 2016
Listen to this list on Spotify

1. Francis and the Lights - Friends (ft. Bon Iver)
2. Beyoncé - Freedom (ft. Kendrick Lamar) (this track isn't included in the Spotify playlist because
Beyoncé things her album alone will influence the entire streaming market)
3. Gallant - Bourbon
4. Christine and the Queens - Tilted
5. Klangstof - Hostage
6. The Weeknd - Starboy
7. James Blake  - I Need A Forest Fire
8. Tegan & Sara - Stop Desire
9. Mystery Jets - Telomere
10. HONNE & Izzy Bizu - Someone That Loves You

Top 10 comedy gigs of 2016

1. Daniel Kitson - Daniel Kitson Presents An Insufficient Number of Underdeveloped Ideas Over Ninety Testing Minutes Starting At Noon
2.James Acaster, ARG Com Fest
3. Ellie Taylor - Infidelliety
4. Joel Dommett at Underbelly Southbank
5. Russell Brand at The Pleasance, Islington
6. Richard Gadd - Monkey See Monkey Do
7. Stewart Lee at Soho Theatre
8. Michael McIntyre at Soho Theatre
9. Luisa Omielan at the BBC Radio Theatre
10. Tom Ballard - The World Keeps Happening

Top 10 gigs of 2016

1. Radiohead, Primavera
2. Coldplay, Glastonbury
3. Elton John, Apple Music Festival
4. Floating Points, 6 Music Festival
5. Craig David's TS5, Glastonbury
6. Kiasmos, Primavera
7. BBC Proms at a multi-story car park in Peckham
8. Anil Sebastian, The ICA
9. Explosions In The Sky, Brixton Academy
10. James Blake, Field Day

Top 10 restaurants of 2016

1. Kricket, Brixton
2. Hoppers, Soho
3. Chai Ki, Canary Wharf
4. Le Bab, Soho
5. El Xampanyet, Barcelona
6. Cheeky Burger (street food, various)
7. Berber & Q, Haggerston
8. Nanban, Brixton
9. Restaurante Ababuja, Alvor, Portugal
10. Other Side fried chicken (street food, various)

Some other awards
TV show of the year - Taskmaster
DJ set of the year - Roni Size & DJ Krust, 6 Music Festival
Worst ad campaign -those god damn Book A Table ones. "Food doesn't kill people, sofas do"? "You can't take away atmosphere"? You can entirely fuck off, lads
Exhibition of the year - World Press Photo exhibition, amazing as ever

I've been doing these lists for 11 actual years now. You can take a look at the previous top 10 album lists from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007, as well as the top 10 singles from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006, if you like.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

the top 10 singles, albums, comedy shows, music gigs and london restaurants of 2015

....there's also room for some awards for other stuff that was great this year. It's my annual best of the year lists everybody!

The top 10 singles of 2015
Listen to this list on Spotify

1. Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The Berry
2. The Chemical Brothers - Go
3. Skepta - Shutdown
4. Hot Chip - Huarache Lights
5. !!! - Freedom '15
6. INHEAVEN - Regeneration
7. Romare - Motherless Child
8. Spector - All The Sad Young Men
9. Chvrches - Leave A Trace
10. Jack Garrett - The Love You're Given

The top 10 albums of 2015

1. Wolf Alice - Your Love is Cool
2. Jamie XX - In Colour
3. Tame Impala - Currents
4. Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness
5. Young Fathers - White Men Are Black Men Too
6. Editors - IN DREAM
7. Florence & The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
8. JME - Integrity>
9. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
10. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

The top 10 comedy shows of 2015

1. Joseph Morpurgo - Soothing Sounds For Baby
2. Trygve Wakenshaw - Nautilous
3. Daniel Kitson - Polyphony
4. Romesh Ranganathan, Latitude festival
5. Daniel Kitson - Tree
6. The Story Beast
7. Sofie Hagan - Bubblewrap
8. Seymor Mace - Niche as F**k
9. Sam Simmons - Spaghetti For Breakfast
10. Daphne Do Edinburgh

The top 10 London restaurants of 2015

1. Hubbard & Bell at The Hoxton Holborn Hotel
2. Homeslice
3. Chiltern Firehouse
4. Gymkhana
5 Smokestak
6. Bao
7. Dishoom
8. Flat Iron
9. Barrafina
10. Chicken Shop (exclusively for their apple pie, though)

The top 10 music gigs of 2015

1. Skepta, Collins Music Hall
2. The Chemical Brothers, Apple Music Festival
3. Foo Fighters, Radio 1's Big Weekend
4. Ed Sheeran, Latitude Festival
5. Mbongwana Star, Oval Space
6. Nils Frahm, Camden Roundhouse
7. Radio 1's Ibiza Prom, Royal Albert Hall
8. The Knife, Brixton Academy
9. Drenge, Glastonbury Festival
10. The Weeknd, Apple Music Festival

Here's some awards for other good stuff

Film of 2015 - A Syrian Love Story
Play of 2015 - A View From The Bridge
Article of 2015 - Frankie Boyle 'Britain's criminally stupid attitudes to race and immigration are beyond parody'.
Moment of 2015 - Hot Chip finish their Glastonbury set with a big old seven minute cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” that morphed into LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends”.

This year is the tenth anniversary of making these bloody lists. You can check out my previous top 10 albums from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007, as well as my top 10 singles from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Friday, May 15, 2015

eight photos that show the beauty and chaos of tyler, the creator's gig in london

Gig started

People took pictures
 People got happy

People needed to charge their phones
Some people sang some songs
 People liked the people that were singing the songs

Tyler, The Creator threw his t-shirt into the audience, a lot of people wanted it

Outside, a man did a gig in the street and caused a roadblock until the police came

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

daniel kitson: "my fears"

Reposted from Daniel's mailing list, which you can - and should - sign up to here:

Im in Australia at the moment and i’m really quite scared about the election. You know the one? Our election. The UK one.

I’m sure you all know who you’re going to vote for and i wouldn't presume to change that - except to say that If any of you are considering, even momentarily, a vote for the Conservative Party. Then that is utterly unfathomable to me and you must be under labouring under some terrible delusion, hypnotised, disengaged to the point of being dangerous or simply an absolute unmitigated disgrace of a person.

Maybe that seems a bit much. 

But - if you’re planning on voting Conservative, just have a good proper think why you’re doing that. It took me a very long time to stop ordering pork belly every time it was on the menu no matter the meal, the time of day or the hygiene rating of the establishment. - We all make bad decisions through habit. Thats all i’m saying. 

Maybe you haven't thought about the election at all because you’ve had too much on with your “own stuff”. Maybe you’ve sworn off voting entirely - initially inspired by but more recently in defiance of, Russell Brand. Maybe you are basing your decision on who has the most “personality” Or maybe, “they” “all” seem equally odious and you wish a “curse” on all “their” “houses” You believe in short - they are all the same.

It’s easy to feel that way i think, but its dangerous - it serves only the incumbent and fundamentally - its not true, “They” are not “all” the “same”.

I have often felt underwhelmed and let down by the Labour Party in opposition primarily because too often they have seemed unwilling or unable to articulate an ethical and/or idealogical argument against the policies and actions of the coalition which have, to my mind, been entirely driven by ideology (albeit duplicitously obfuscated with protestations of fiscal necessity in times of crisis). 

I wanted to hear big, brave arguments being made about humanity and compassion and responsibility. Arguments based in ethical ideas and idealogical integrity. I wanted someone to point out that the Conservative reliance on ultra wealthy donors is not the same as the Labour reliance on the unions and that serving the self interest of the wealthy has never sent good things trickling down to the poor. I wanted the terms of the debate to shift and the premise of the entire argument to change from fiscal legitimacy to social justice and it never did. 

It has felt, to me, for a long time like the Labour Party have been trying to win a game, the rules of which have been defined by the Conservative party and allowed to stand unchallenged by a compliant press. A game that if they seem for a second like winning will be ruled illegitimate by the very people who invented the rules. 

As i mentioned - I am currently in Australia, showing off, but even here with an entire planet between us to muffle it, i am staggered by the extent of the Conservative scaremongering, the attacks on Ed Miliband, the intimidation of those who support him and the heartbreaking success all this seems to be having in distracting people from the whole scale decimation of public services and the litany of broken promises and the sickening self interest that characterises the last five years.

So whilst there are things i wish had been said and arguments i wish had been made, whilst i feel, the strength and nature of my objections are often insufficiently represented by the opposition currently available - I am not scared of the democratically mandated politicians of the SNP (I would be absolutely delighted for them to drag the Labour party to the left in one of the sweetest coalitions i can dream of)  I am not scared of Europe (I like a lot of its food and want to drive my camper van there) I am not scared of Immigration and I am not scared of higher taxes (I am ultra wealthy and you can have loads of it). I am scared of two things. - Firstly, Witches (Obviously, I'm not stupid) and secondly the prospect of another Conservative led government actively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people. 

I’m in Australia (have i mentioned that?) and i’m very tired now, its 2.42 in the morning, i’ve not quite managed to say my piece and i’m going to bed. 

Obviously if you are planning on voting for Ukip then there has clearly been some mistake that has led you to my mailing list.   - you don't belong here. You were probably added to my mailing list by some crafty, comedy savvy immigrant who having been wronged by your loathsome insularity is looking to exact some odd revenge by subjecting you to sporadic marketing emails from a dwindling comic force. You can just click on unsubscribe and go about your misguided and fearful day full of confused, angry and cowardly chores. 

All the best. 



ps - I struggled a bit writing this - it was partially the tiredness (I am in Australia), partially not wanting to tell people things they already think (but probably think better than me) and it was partially resistance to jingoistic hyperbole (even when i agree with the thing being jingoistically hyperbolised). Whilst i was writing it - a friend send me a link to this article by robert webb and i think its very good - its basically what i'd have definitely written if i wasn't so tired and upside down and was, you know better at it and more informed.

Friday, December 19, 2014

the top 10 albums, singles, gigs and comedians of 2014 + end of year awards

Here are the Top 10 albums, singles, gigs and comedians of the year, as well as awards for the film, exhibition and articles of the year. Maybe I could call these awards 'The Muldoons'? Thoughts welcome. As with previous years, an act can only appear in the top 10 albums list, or the top 10 singles list, not both.

A couple of weeks ago I also put up my annual review of the year mixtape, and it was such a great year, the shortest I could make it was double the length of the previous years! You can listen/subscribe to it on Spotify here or on Youtube here.

Top 10 Albums of the Year

1. The War on Drugs - Lost in The Dream
2. St. Vincent - St. Vincent
3. Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters - Lullaby and... The Ceaseless Roar
4. Damien Rice - My Favorite Faded Fantasy
5. The Twilight Sad - Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave
6. FKA Twigs - LP1
7. Caribou - Our Love
8. Kiasmos - Kiasmos
9. Coldplay - Ghost Stories
10. SBTRKT - Wonder Where We Land

Top 10 Songs of the Year

1. Sia - Chandelier
2. Tourist ft. Lianne La Havas - Patterns
3. Jenny Lewis - Just One of the Guys
4. Lowell - The Bells
5. Ed Sheeran - Sing
6. Elbow - My Sad Captains
7. Duke Dumont - I Got U (ft. Jax Jones)
8. Bonobo - Flashlight
9. Future Islands - Seasons (Waiting on You)
10. Royal Blood - Little Monster

Top 10 Gigs of the Year:

1. Prince, Koko
2. Pharrell, Wireless
3. Mogwai, Glastonbury
4. Prince, the Roundhouse
5. Nine Inch Nails, The O2
6. Robert Plant, Roundhouse
7. Olafur Arnalds, Roundhouse
8. Nas: Illmatic in full, Lovebox
9. Prom 57: Mahler - Symphony No. 2, 'Resurrection', Royal Albert Hall
10. Dolly Parton, Glastonbury

Top 10 Comedy shows of the Year

1. Alex Horne: Monsieur Butterfly
2. James Acaster: Recognise
3. Daniel Kitson: Captain Bang Bang's Magic Castle, The Hob
4. Sara Pascoe: Sara Pascoe vs History
5. Mark Watson: Flaws
6. Pappy's
7. Bec Hill
8. Red Bastard
9. McNeil and Pamphilon Go 8-bit
10. Cupcakes with Colebook & Khoshsokhan

Film of the Year: Pride
Exhibition of the Year: Exhibit B (yes, that one that protestors prevented from opening in London)
Article of the Year: Why We Should Give Free Money to Everyone, by Rutger Bregman (there's also a short version available here)
The Onion Award for Best Onion Article About US Gun Policy: ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens' - The Onion

Fans of ye olden day music can also reminisce about my top 10 albums from 2013, 2012, 20112010, 20092008 and 2007, as well as my top 10 singles from 2013, 2012, 20112010, 200920082007 and 2006. Maybe when I hit 10 years of singles countdowns I'll do a top 10 countdown of the last 10 years. Treat the blog on our anniversary.

Monday, December 01, 2014

zane lowe, coldplay and bbc 6 music: has the festive countdown been ruined forever?

There are some that suggest that the magic of awards season has fallen away somewhat in our modern world. Are they right? Let's examine the issue via Relentless energy drink's (just the 50.6g of sugar and 160mgs of caffeine per can, folks!) lead brand ambassador Zane Lowe, who has - for the third year running - mined his BBC Radio 1 show's longstanding 'Hottest Record in the World Right Now' feature to create a 100 strong list that this week will be placed in order, from the least greatest, to the most greatestest.

Nobody of sound mind could contest that it needs to fall to somebody around here to work out what the greatest song of 2014 is. This is no superficial matter, dear reader. What could be more vital than finding out whether Sam Smith or Bastille represent the greater pop high of 2014? But more on that thorny issue later. Such countdowns are quite the en vogue thing at the BBC lately. You'll surely instantly recall that last year, to celebrate their first decade on air, BBC 6 Music compiled '6 Music's Greatest Hits', inviting Joey Public to vote for the 100 best songs released over that same 10 year span.

As one could perhaps expect, fans of the participating acts were keen to see their favourite songs do well, and so piled in to cast their ballots. Soon after, seeing an opportunity to deftly spin publicity from such good-hearted public service broadcasting, plucky acts realised they could use their Twitter and Facebook accounts to ask their fans to vote, possibly helping push them higher up the all important final league table.
Amongst said plucky upstart bands experimenting in these bold new promotional frontiers were London four piece Coldplay, who scraped together what votes they could from their 13 million Twitter followers and 38 million Facebook fans, in the process narrowly managing to nudge victory in the poll in their favour.
It might dismay you to learn that there were dissenting fringe voices within music journalism that had the temerity to suggest that Clocks by Coldplay isn't the greatest song of the last decade. Of course, such comical views will hold no weight here. They may even have suggested that Clocks by Coldplay isn't even the best Coldplay song of the last ten years, hotly contested race we all know that to be. Well if you manage to find traces of any of these voices then post their Twitter handles in the comments so we can all online bully the fuck out of them. We, of course, will stand together in our respect for the honourable decision of the ballot box.
So perhaps it can actually be true that Lowe's poll this week will come down to whoever has the most fawning and gullible 'active' fanbase? In search of evidence, there's actually a fun game to be played in counting up the likes and retweets in order to get a good idea of what the top five will be. So *drum roll* here comes Drowned in Sound's possibly exclusive (!!) unveiling of the top five: 1. Coldplay (they'll obviously win, with their ample 32,637 likes, 1,357 retweets and 3,137 favourites) 2. The 1975 (11,081 likes, 1,228 retweets, 2,826 favourites) 3. Sam Smith (12,503 likes, 392 retweets, 1,280 favourites) 4. Ed Sheeran (a paltry 1,427 likes, but a solid 1,266 retweets and 3,680 favourites)  and 5. Bastille (4.300 likes, 307 retweets, 870 likes). Memo to Sheeran's social media team: raise your Facebook game.
Anybody choosing to suggest that this marshalling of fanbases may be ever so slightly turning the process into something other than a noble quest to determine the year's best song may at least be able to spare a thought for the management of Kasabian, who've only had 60 retweets so far for their 'Eez-eh' campaign, somewhat raising the possibility that even Kasabian's loyal fanbase have come to recognise it as 2014's worst song. It's an even more dire set of circumstances meanwhile at The Horrors battle HQ, who've managed to enlist just 13 retweets. Special mention must also be given to the social media interns representing Team Disclosure (12 retweets) and Team Metronomy (9 retweets) for not being sufficiently versed with Twitter to yet know that if you tweet your promotional message as a direct reply to @zanelowe, rather than as a publicly viewable message, none of your fanbase are going to see it. It's certainly not a mistake you'd catch Team Slipknot (246 retweets) making.
Congratulations then to Coldplay, whose prize is a valuable little moment of #Q4 publicity. Chris Martin will say something simultaneously lightly amusing and self deprecating, and will also be sure to mention how Coldplay have the absolute best fans in the world. All of the online voting commotion clearly points to the true purpose of our modern festive countdown: no night time radio show could ever hope to engage this many potential listeners by just sitting around and drawing up their own top 10 songs of the year list. There's a radio show to promote, and albums to sell before Christmas. Campaigning awards are here to stay. As the final winner is revealed on Thursday, we should celebrate the infallible methods these countdowns have of determining once and for all the greatest song of the year.

Monday, July 07, 2014

i saw kanye and pharrell at wireless festival, kanye went on a big rant and it was pretty awful

Have to say, I couldn't have been happier with our Friday evening plans in London town: off to Finsbury Park in glittery North London we were to go, to enjoy a spot of Kanye West and Pharrell Williams of an evening. Let's spare you the finer details and indulge in heartfelt emotional reaction for now.
Of Pharrell, let's say this much: beforehand we were reeling off a list of five tracks it would be jaw-on-floor deliriously excited to have included in the setlist, and every one of them was - plus two neither of us dared dream might be included.
We were also profoundly moved by Pharrell's thoughtful and impassioned speech that called upon the ladies of the audience to rise up and make 2014 the year of female empowerment. Pharrell! You hero! Come on board! What a key cog in the flourishing fourth wave of feminism you'll be! Like we said, we were genuinely moved by Pharrell's sermon, and didn't feel it remotely undermined 15 minutes later by the performance of one of his big hit songs of 2013, where he and his pals famously sing their wholehearted tribute to consent and the No More Page 3 campaign: Blurred Lines.

At least we can rely on Kanye West for a consistent viewpoint on gender politics though, right gang? (Sample Yeezus lyrics: "hurry up with my damn massage/hurry up with my damn ménage/get the Porsche out the damn garage")
Anybody that's familiar with Kanye's live show will be aware that he's become partial to an occasional rant or two. Tonight's is much longer than I'd previously witnessed. A fair estimate, avoiding all temptation to exaggerate, would put this at a 15 minute long tirade. A harsh critic might suggest that this was something of a drop in pace from the rest of his set, but it's okay Kanye! We understand! I get nervous and ramble when I have to do public speaking too! During a strict Catholic upbringing, I was in a school play re-enacting Jesus's crucifixion, and formed part of a mob that had to repeatedly chant “crucify him!”. I had gotten quite into the role, but had not heard the previous instruction to only chant said phrase three times, meaning my young self chanted “crucify him!” at the top of his enthusiastic voice, on his own, to his entire hysterical school. I've gotten nervous about public speaking ever since that day, but I've learnt some tips I feel I can pass on to Kanye whenever he too gets all 'angsty' in front of a crowd: if you want to hold their attention, make your point in two minutes, not fifteen! You'll still have people's attention then! They'll totally get on board with your 'vibe'!
One doesn't doubt that there's truth in Kanye's claims that he's felt discrimination from the fashion industry, but by the end of the 15 minute rant, nobody was listening anyway. Amongst the many, many heckles audible from the crowd came calls such as "move it on, bitch!" and "I seriously don't know how he's going to come back from this". He partly does; he knows most of his fans would rather stick around and hear tracks like Through The Wire, All of The Lights, and All Falls Down than go home early, but tonight still represents perhaps the worst a Kanye show can be without actually turning the whole thing into a KLF-esque experiment in actively trying to ruin as many people's nights as possible.

Elsewhere, fond memories remain of Kanye stopping 'the Good Life' halfway through to insist that whoever controls the feeds to the giant videoscreens that flank the stage not cut between different camera angles – God forbid they might try and give the impression of a dynamic live experience – because the camera angle which is head on with Kanye is Kanye's favourite camera angle. For our money, we delighted in the revelation that Kanye evidently insists on having monitors in his eye-line on stage at all times so he can constantly watch how the audience is seeing him perform on stage. The realisation was of great comfort to us on our two hour commute to Old Street.
I am therefore happy to recommend Pharrell for all future festival headliner engagements. Kanye has begun the final stage of transformation into the celebrity he's going to be – his Axl Rose phase, if you will. And like Axl, he'll perhaps be better off in the long run if we don't continue to give him our attention and money year after year, tour after tour. And with that, we're off to listen to She Wants to Move again.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

burning man 2013: The drowned in sound review

I've been feeling pretty ready for my big trip to Burning Man. We're driving thorough the Nevada desert (perfect soundtrack discovered: the Chromatics album), and I'm wowing my recently introduced campmates with some piece of Burning Man knowledge I've previously picked up. 'I'll be honest with you guys, I've already been doing a lot of reading up about this music festival', I say, allowing a smug smile to briefly dart across my face.

'Well, don't call it a music festival, for a start', snaps back the reply.

As is often quoted, 'Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind', but allow me to attempt the basics: Burning Man is a truly vast arts and community festival, a seven day experiment in radical self-reliance held on a swelteringly hot ancient lake bed in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man, or 'home', as regulars warmly refer to it, sits far apart from the rest of the US's festival scene, so amongst many attendees there's a reluctance to even call the event a festival. Europeans, however, are much more likely to find familiarity is the diverse range of art, entertainment, talks and quirky side attractions that make up Burning Man, so let's call the event what it is: a festival.

There is much to separate it from its major festival stablemates, however. Firstly, I'm not an attendee at this festival, I'm a participant. Our 13-strong group has put together the theme camp Barechested Baristas, and every afternoon we are barechested - men and women, alas - serving our delicious iced coffees to the Burning Man masses.

Significantly, all this delightful caffeine is offered free of charge. No money is permitted at Burning Man, the festival instead employing what it calls a gifting economy. It takes me a while to not get this confused with an exchange economy. In an exchange economy, I give you a delicious iced coffee (you gain something), but you give me an item or money in exchange (you lose something). It's a win-lose scenario. In a gift economy, I give you iced coffee (you gain something), and I feel a really warm glow in my heart for doing so (I gain something). It's a win-win scenario. Replicating this across seven days, and 70,000 people means you've got an awful lot of winning going on, and across the festival site people tend to exist within a permanent bubble of happiness. Certainly, long time 'Burners' I talk to throughout the week say they started enjoying the festival exponentially more once they became participants. An incomprehensible thing about Burning Man is the people who will spend all year, and significant portions of their income, on, say, the art car they're bringing to Burning Man. Or the people that design and build one of the 250+ officially recognised artworks dotted across the site. Or simply the people that will just drop a shit ton of money on running a free bar all week.

Not that a week in the desert is all love and hugs, mind. Setting up our camp (kitchen, dome lounge, giant shade structure to house all our tents) and ensuring it can withstand the harshest of desert sandstorms takes a full day of hard graft, during which I massively endear myself to my new campmates by crashing out asleep three hours before everything is finished. Throughout the day, the amount of people screaming with excitement because they've spotted friends from previous years is astounding.

The following day, I cycle out (protip: bring a bike. Light it and lock it. Two of our seven bikes get stolen over the course of the week) to the entrance gates for some further participation: I am volunteering for a four hour greeter shift in the midday heat, welcoming everybody 'home', initiating first time attendees in a way that I won't detail here (but suffice to say that we were pleasingly encouraged to make it up as we went along), and generally being the kind of cheerful irritant that would wind people up so much in London.

Ahh yes, that place. We socialise people hard in London. No talking to strangers, looking at people on public transport, being friendly in shops, or acting in any way cheerful or upbeat about the day ahead. Stepping from this into Burning Man's focus on radical inclusion and immediacy, where you welcome all strangers with a hug and your immediate trust, is a jarring gear change, and one that that I do not successfully make in just one day. It's the image people that haven't been to Glastonbury imagine for that event. Out here, it's real.

The bewildering number of side attractions across the site only adds to the overwhelming feel of the event. Amongst all the art installations, theme camps, talks, sound camps, workshops, and various unannounced oddities ('Armpit Smelling Booth', anyone?) waiting to be discovered, there's a lot of spiritual workshops, yoga classes, and quirky installations to choose from. Plenty of sex, too. BDSM in particular seems to be having a popular year, and we are camped next to the 200-person 'Poly Paradise' camp. They run the 'Human Carcass Wash', where you cup your soapy hand, and wash a load of naked bodies, before in turn getting to be the person to have a load of cupped hands wash your naked body.

I presume the 'Skyping With Grandma' event will be just as fun as any of that. Run by a "human powered internet cafe", I get condescending advice, bunion complaints, and technological incompetence from a real life grandma (20-something male in a wig, holding a cardboard cut-out of a screen). The folk running 'Write Your Future Self A Letter', meanwhile, allow you to do just that, and they promise to mail it to you 1, 2, 5 or 10 years later

Always fancying myself as the next Example, I also give Haiku Rap Battles a go. As the only person going to the effort to write down their haikus before taking to the stage, I'm confident the crowd with respond with hearty cheers and lols. What I get instead is silence, with the odd pocket of confused laughter.

All the cycling and finely spread entertainment means you never get the swirling, immovable crowds that your average Glastonbury goer regularly does battle with. It's not the only difference. Glastonbury for a few years now has tried, with little success, to impart a 'Leave No Trace' message. Here, the message gets through, and to a startling extent. Nothing - not so much as a flick of cigarette ash - is dropped on the playa floor.

Music wise, Burning Man shows signs of beginning an upward trajectory, and things have apparently improved after a couple of years of what is described to me as 'Skrillex every five minutes'. The overwhelming music trend seems to be bass music, mind, and it occasionally takes a fair effort to find a music camp that deviates from this norm.

Over the course of the week, the one DJ I make an effort to find out the name of is Stylust Beats, who plays Camp Question Mark on Friday night. Rather than a teeth grinding 60 minute set of pure trap music on offer across so much of Black Rock City, he successfully weaves the more inventive material the genre has to offer around the kind of party playlist that would set any clubnight alight. It's one of the best atmospheres all week.

I spy an afternoon talk called 'Sex, Drugs and Electronic Music', which sounds like a combination that could catch on doesn't it. Arriving late, the speaker is asking the audience 'How many people here believe we are birthing a new world?' Oh. Okay. Half the audience raise their hands. Right. Faintly hope I'm at the wrong talk? There's plenty of discussion about consent (which I am all for, incidentally. Just putting that out there), a little about sensible use of drugs, and nothing whatsoever about electronic music.

The speaker begins an exercise: we are to stand, wander around, and when she says stop, we are to immediately connect with the person nearest us. I 'connect' with another man, also as it happens, visiting from South London. We are instructed to share with each other our hope for the world. 'Creativity' he enthusiatically offers up. 'The basic goodness of the human heart', I manage to come up with, whilst successfully keeping a straight face. He seems satisfied and engaged by this answer. We are then told to share our medicine for the world with each other. 'Kindness' he quite reasonably suggests. 'Errr, the basic goodness of the human heart...?' I return with. This is deemed a satisfactory answer, although there's some acknowledgement that we're both essentially saying the same thing. He hugs me, and we're allowed to return to our places. There's some further talk about how 'we need to reclaim the solidarity of our connections', and 'let our emotions flow freely down through our bodies and into the earth', before we are finally free to go.

Not that it's all hippies at Burning Man. There's ravers, California's high fashion set, your nerdy music fan, a few jock types, loads of over 40s, and many of the greats of Silicon Valley are in attendance. You still occasionally come across the type of person you'd never want at a festival though. One member of our camp, Jessy, is walking her bike along the road one afternoon when a guy cycles past her and, with a confidence in his own hilarity sadly not matched by his material, shouts at her 'you're supposed to ride it'. Jessy somewhat understandably dislikes this. He cycles on in front of her, before suddenly losing his balance, falling off his bike, and collapsing in a heap. Jessy calmly walks her bike past him, turns around, and calls back 'you're supposed to ride it'.
Also not fitting the Burning Man stereotype are the brilliant, vicious rockers that put on the Mad Max inspired Thunderdome. Inside, they suspend two contestants in harnesses, pull them back, then fire them at each other armed with pugil sticks, whilst the baying crowd erupts. The weaponry is virtually inconsequential - the rules seem to be anything goes. On one occasion two young female festival-goers are fighting and the bout ends with one manically rallying the crowd whilst treating her opponent as a human surfboard. On several occasions battles end with blood splatted on the sand below. Throughout, the audience watch not just around the Thunderdome, but climb up the structure from all sides, in order to gain the chance of seeing each battle commence.

It's one of the things that is most remarkable about Burning Man: a pleasing disregard for health and safety legislation. Several times throughout the week you may find your group dancing late at night atop some shimmering art work, and you will think 'one wrong move here, and I am a seriously injured festival-goer'. Your safety is your own responsibility, a point somewhat hammered home by the fact that the back of your festival ticket states that ticket holders voluntarily assume all liability in the case of their own death whilst at the event.

Which, in such a harsh environment, means that every attendee must practice what the festival calls radical self-reliance. You take entire responsibility for your own well being. Everybody is more than welcome to climb that 30 foot ladder, then carefully climb up on top of the roof to be able to lie back and stare over Black Rock City, but if you put a foot wrong and fall to the ground, you've only got yourself to blame. Radical self-reliance also means that everybody must bring every single thing they may need to survive for a week in the desert environment along to the festival with them, including for example, 1.5 gallons of water per person, per day.

Feeling all too settled by midweek, I drink far too much on Wednesday night, and fail to take responsibility for my own safety. Whilst at a nearby camp to our own, I am unable to work out where I am, unable to make it home, and oddly unwilling to seek help for the matter. I wake up hours later in a separate camp, without memory of how I got there, or my bag. I have failed to practice radical self-reliance. The bag's contents include my UK passport, and five days of notes for this article. I spend 90 minutes searching nearby camps without luck. Each day I queue at Lost & Found to ask if it's been handed in. It never is.

I consider myself to be reasonably knowledgeable about dance music, but scanning the lineup before the festival, there appears to be just three DJs I have heard of: Paul Oakenfold, Seth Troxler, and Elite Force, and I'm not really sure how I've heard of Elite Force. This is perhaps unsurprising - it's down to the non-profit sound camps to try and book big names, and a couple of the major camps don't show up this year. Any veteran will tell you this is not the point of Burning Man, however. And for the kind of music fan that usually spends the whole of, say, Glastonbury darting all over the site like a headless chicken, the opportunity to spend an aimless week in the desert is an appreciated one.

There are unannounced sets, mind, and Diplo shows up as both a solo DJ ('superb', reportedly) and in his Major Lazer guise ('awful', reportedly). Paul Oakenfold is the only appointment we keep all week, though. 45 minutes into the set however, and it's all seeming a little pedestrian. It's at this point that a rumour spreads around our group that he cancelled at the last minute. We have no idea if we're dancing to a perfectly serviceable unknown trance DJ, or a somewhat unimaginative Oakenfold set. Either way, we leave. In the early hours of the morning, friends who stayed announce Oakenfold later showed up, and played a blinding set. I'm fairly gutted. They are in a jubilant mood. Later on that afternoon, I'm told that no, Oakenfold never did show up. Then I'm just confused. I still have no idea what happened.

'The only thing worse than attending a Doctor Who party at Burning Man, is publicly admitting it', a friend tells me. So I opt to only go for an hour. The tasty, strong sonic screwdriver cocktails are freeflowing. Three girls come dressed as sexy TARDISes. A guy asks one 'are you bigger on the inside?' 'Yes, and available for public use!', she cheerfully retorts. We also grab a drink at the Dead Celebrity's Champagne Disco, where you are encouraged to dress as your favourite dead celebrity, and enjoy all the drinks they can't any more. The 'Critical Tits' bikeride, meanwhile, sees a couple of thousand women take a topless cycle on mass around the playa. I think I can say with confidence that it's the most amount of topless women I've ever seen within a five minute period.

I spot a session called 'Speed Counselling', which sounds like good fun. In a speed dating format, you'll have five minutes to co-council with someone before DING!, the bell rings and you're on to the next person. What a nice afternoon activity that will be! What a fun format! I arrive, and settle in. The event is certainly busy. We are encouraged to really go for it and make the most of the opportunity, and to seek a moment of immediate resolution. I council five people, and then are counselled by five. And obviously, it is the exact fucking opposite of fun. I have to talk about emotions! For a full 25 minutes! I'm male and live in England, the most I've ever spoken about emotions is for three seconds in hospital in 2006 when a doctor asked me if my arm was still hurting. Even then three seconds seemed a little indulgent. Here though, everybody is sharing very deeply felt problems and emotions. There's one hell of a lot of people in tears (all except one guy, who spends his five minutes telling me about the psychology book he's about to have published, and is agonising over whether to put a photo of himself on the front cover or not). It's traumatic, but it's also a brilliant hour. I leave a nervous wreck.

All through the week there's a sense of escalation. The festival always feels like it's building to a climax. On Tuesday, paragliders can be seen descending on the festival, before landing amongst passers by on the wide open playa. I witness one land, and the nearest person to him immediately runs up, puts a beer in his hand, and promptly walks off again. On Wednesday and Thursday the same paragliders have grown long colourful ribbon tails as they cascade down from the sky. By Friday night their tails have become fireworks leaving a trail behind in the sky.

All this escalation is building to one thing. With no main stage to speak of, Burning Man feels like it doesn't have a focal point to concentrate your mind - or media attention - on. Instead, the festival offers a thousand different stories happening simultaneously across the site. A thousand moments of awe, pain, laughs being shared, or perhaps lives being changed. The exception to this rule is the final night. The whole festival gathers around the iconic Man that sits at the centre of the site, to watch as he is finally, spectacularly burnt. Much of what overwhelms about this experience is perhaps because, after everybody here has had such an intense, yet disparate week from each other, the whole festival is finally together as one. It certainly provides a more exciting climax to a festival then, say, Mumford & Sons headlining your final night.

Burning Man is one hell of an ordeal. There were certainly lows, but there was also countless highs. Its beauty, its weirdness, its vibrancy, and its constant, unfaltering welcome. It's truly a unique way to spend a week. Name me a better festival.

This article originally appeared on here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

the final of glastonbury's emerging talent competition is a thing that happened.

SO last weekend we went to sunny Glastonbury. We were lost! Or horribly early! Either way somebody made a fairly severe administrative error.

Whilst we were there though we stumbled across the final of Glastonbury festival's Emerging Talent Competition. We'll recap: thousands of excellent acts entered (well I mean, not all of them are excellent obviously. The odds of that happening are reasonably remote. Let's say the standard was 91% excellent) and the best eight were invited to play this final at Pilton Working Man's Club.

With so many entrants, it stands to reason that after all that whittling down we would be left with eight reasonably high quality acts by the end doesn't it. And having now seen them all live, I can confirm this previously deduced fact to be true! Take the winners M+A for example, a Friendly Fires-esque band that will hopefully bring the carnival atmosphere to many more festival stages to come. Watch one of their funky little numbers just below these words I typed that you're just finishing reading now:

ALSO you should note the two runners up, which must have made the judge's final decision damn near impossible, the cruel scamps:

ALSO FINALLY there's these other competitors. If you're thinking "oh I've watched three videos, the standard can't possibly remain so high for the rest of the finalists" then you'd totally be wrong.

Maybe if you were following @glastofest on Twitter you'd get to see each video as it's released. That would be a quite nice thing to have happen wouldn't it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

the top 10 albums and songs of 2013

2013 was probably my favourite year for music since I started doing these countdown things. There's been so much great stuff around. Hopefully what follows goes some way to demonstrating that.
Note: As usual, an artist can only appear in the top 10 singles list or albums list, not both.

Top 10 Albums of 2013

1. Kanye West - Yeezus
2. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of The City
3. James Blake - Overgrown
4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
5. Arctic Monkeys - AM
6. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
7. Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady
8. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
9. Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind
10. Matthew E. White - Big Inner

You can also hear a sample track from each album as a Youtube playlist. It's a fairly abrasive listen I suppose.

Top 10 Songs of 2013

1. Chase & Status - Lost & Not Found
2. Stylo G - Soundbwoy
3. Chris Malinchak - So Good To Me
4. Justin Timberlake - Mirrors
5. Daft Punk - Lose Yourself To Dance
6. Sia (ft. The Weeknd & Diplo) - Elastic Heart
7. Duck Sauce - It's You
8. MS MR - Hurricane (CHVRCHES remix)
9. Eminem - Rap God
10. Nils Frahm - Says

You can also hear all ten songs as a Youtube playlist. It's quite a poppy selection.

Anybody looking for a more general review can find the 52 best songs of the year in my 2013 mixtape on Spotify here:

Archive fans, meanwhile can also look up my top 10 albums from 2012, 20112010, 20092008 and 2007, and the singles countdowns from 2012, 20112010,200920082007 and 2006. SEASONS GREETINGS xxx

Sunday, July 21, 2013

who is still about in glastonbury's stone circle at 1:37pm monday afternoon? let's find out.

On Sunday the main stages at Glastonbury finish at the reasonable time of 11:15pm. After that, those that are so inclined can find any number of smaller clubs, stages and installations littered throughout the festival, at which they can party through the night.

It’s tradition, though, to gather at the Stone Circle at roughly 5am to watch the sunrise over the entire site. It’s a particularly nice tradition on a Sunday, as a delightful way to round off a weekend.

Of course, any sensible person would send themselves off to bed shortly after, with a happy hippie spring in their step, ready to return to the regular world when they wake up. What, though, of the people who stay at the stone circle? Of the folk that are still there when most people have already packed up and left the site?

I trek back to said Stone Circle at 1:37pm Monday afternoon to find out. I meet Michelle and Noah at 1:42pm at the top of the hill overlooking the field. She introduces herself, saying “I’ve just been swinging from the ancient tree by the ancient dragon. It was pretty mystical.” They ask me where I’ve been, and I say asleep for the last three hours. They’re naturally warm, and curious: “What’s sleep like? How does it make your brain feel?” Noah asks. They tell me they last slept two days ago. “I kind of feel like the less sleep, the more you can get on the wavelength of these people who are feeling pretty groggy themselves.”

What have they been doing up until now? “All love, and joy, and prancing and dancing and romancing” Michelle says. “This place is like a medieval village, and the sky is so beautiful”, offers Noah. “The skyyyyyyyy” Michelle agrees. What time would you like to stay awake until? “Until we bleed. Although he’s already bled.” What’s been their favourite moment of the festival? Everything. EVERYTHING!”, Michelle screams. “Probably a hogroast”, offers Noah.

Sensing I’ve brought him down slightly, I leave Michelle and Noah to further contemplate his hog roast.

I find Abby and her friends, who have been sitting inside the Stone Circle since 3am. What’s been going on up here for the last ten hours? “Little mobile music machines. 30 transvestites from New York. There were some drums, and then a women got involved with her flute, and that was ridiculously good.”

How long would you like to stay in the Stone Circle for? “Forever, probably, would be really good.” She pauses. “If they had a shower, toilet and tea making facilities.”

Fearing I may be about to bring Abby down slightly, I exit and find a friendly, close-knit couple called Cirus and Louise. Louise immediately asks me “Would you like a drop of red spring water from the mouth of the lion?” I decline, but by way of explanation, she offers, in full poetic flow...
“There are seven sacred springs of Avalon,
that rise from the land that we stand upon
Each a different medicine with its own special magic,
we can bring miracle healing from remissions of the tragic
For underneath the ground on which we stand,
are the meridians of the planet, the dragon lines,
the ley lines, linking the world up. To Stoke.”

This gets a deservedly big round of applause, even though I’m a bit confused about the Stoke bit.

What happened in the Stone Circle tonight? “Lots. Mainly good vibrations.” offers Cirus. They then show me their purple Good Vibe Ray Gun, which makes a spaceship sound. “There’s been a lot of love, and happiness and enjoyment” Cirus adds, perhaps unhappy with his first answer. They then use their Good Vibe Ray Gun to shoot some good vibes into my heart. “I am so, so, so in love with my partner”, Cirus adds, by now looking Louise in the eyes. Did you guys meet at Glastonbury? “No, no we’ve known each other forever”, Cirus says, a little ambiguously. “We’ve been bimbling around the site in the most amazing way. Not using a fucking festival guide, and not having an idea of what’s coming next. Just enjoying the fucking moment for what it is” “It’s not about getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get”, they add in well-rehearsed unison.

So what’s their favourite thing about Glastonbury? “The connection between everyone.” Cirus says. “Good vibes, good vibes” Louise adds, before shooting me with the Good Vibe Ray Gun again. “For everybody to be in the same place and to hug each other, and be on the same level, which is love and peace. Everyone can just be in love with each other. We can all just live on the land, like this, for our whole lives, and not have to live in cities.” So how long have you guys been together? “It’s only been since sunrise”, says Noah. “But it’s definitely forever.” “It’s definitely been forever”, Louise adds. I wish them well, knowing that I couldn’t possibly bring their mood down. Perhaps because my heart has been successfully filled with good vibes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

campaign to get a street in king's cross named 'muldoon avenue'.

There's a competition afoot to name one of ten new streets in King's Cross. I would like one of these streets to be named 'Muldoon Avenue'. So I have entered the competition.

The competition website states:
We would welcome suggestions that have a strong link to King’s Cross, but other names will be considered. Put simply, we want people to suggest appropriate, interesting and engaging names for the new streets.
All names will have to be consistent with Camden Council’s guidelines on the naming of streets.
 Armed with these instructions, I entered the following reasons why I think a road should be named 'Muldoon Avenue'.

  • Muldoon is an Irish surname. 'Muldoon Avenue' would be a nod to the Irish history in King's Cross, as The Pogues formed in the area. Everybody likes The Pogues.
  • It's my Dad's surname, and I think having a street named after him would make him really proud. Especially as I don't think I can be bothered to give him a grandson, which I think he'd prefer. So you'd really be helping me get out of that one.
  • According to my research, there's only one street in the UK to namecheck the surname; Muldoon Park in Omagh, Northern Ireland. And it's a really really tiny street. This doesn't seem reasonable, as it's quite a good surname isn't it. Plus there are LOADS of streets with Muldoon in their name in the USA. And do you know where's better than the USA? King's Cross.
  • It's my surname as well. I would like a street named after me. It would be mad japes.

    Many thanks in advance,
    Mark Muldoon.

The competition is open until the end of May. If you agree that this is a valid, nay, important campaign, why not give the reasons why you think a street in King's Cross should be named 'Muldoon Avenue' over on the competition website. Thank you for your time.