Work, wedding plans, physiotherapy, a funeral, the furry monster formerly known as Minette, evening walks… Romania… baptism.. home… Belgium… home… London… home. Interspersed and accompanied by Kurkhov, Kundera, Bukowski and Abbott along with lessons on the fall of the Soviet Union and 1989’s Revolutions, flying bombers then fighters for Germany in WW2, and some more Romanian poetry. Soundtracked by Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary offerings, Godspeed and related projects, new albums from REM and the Foos, Mogwai, a lot of Bob Dylan, some Built to Spill and, recently Joe Strummer. More films than I can remember but the memory retains the stand-outs like Inception, Scott Pilgrim, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Paul. There was the introduction and addiction to, followed by the disappointment and frustration at the ridiculous end of Twin Peaks and seeing the American Office through to the end of Series 4. All of this accompanied, as always (and for which I am always grateful and stupidly lucky) by Linda.

I’m amused (though not as to how it highlights how little I’ve bothered attempting to update this) by the fact that this post will share a page with an image of Mac Cat because she’s no longer the tiny little thing that could fit under said Apple. Indeed, she barely fits in my suitcase:

suitcase cat

For now…

I’m working, a lot. Getting things arranged for the big day this August. Writing a little but not enough and enjoying:

Books…. have just ploughed through an impressive 5 books since my last blog. The unimpeachable Andrey Kurkov’s The Good Angel Of Death, Buglakov’s The Fatal Eggs, David Morrell’s First Blood – yeah, that one – Breakfast of Champions and a staggering book called We Die Alone that details one man’s survival and escape from the Nazi’s in the most extreme envirnoment imaginable.  I’m currenty marching my way through a book of Romanian prose poetry called Memory Glyphs.

Speaking of Romanian, I watched this this week and haven’t enjoyed a film so much in a long time:

Highly recommended. I haven’t watched all that many English-language films of late. Waltz With Bashire, Nikita and the somewhat daft but nonetheless enjoyable Les Visiteurs and its sequel. Both a lazy weekend afternoon well spent chuckling.

So it’s about this time, well, in theory I’m a week or two late, that people start knocking up their Best of the Year lists.

I haven’t really got one for this year as while I did listen to as many new albums as possible, not many of them really impressed me to the point that I could make a top 10 or top 15… more a summary of likes…

I will say that, without wanting to appear as if I’m jumping on the bandwagon, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was a good addition to my collection. It was a good move forward after Neon Bible fell flat after a play and a half, The Suburbs still offers some pretty good rewards on repeated listens. I’d proffer up the usual DL link but good luck finding one with their record labels attention to these things. There’s plenty to enjoy on it but I still really like the punch of Empty Room, just over two and a half minutes of high energy music breaking out of strings that feel lifted from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (the second Summer movement to be a douche like matter-of-factionist about it). Given the sprawl you’d expect from their first album, this is a good thing.

I also enjoyed Album Leaf’s Chorus of Storytellers, with a big thanks to my amigo Scott (don’t expect anything new there though) for hooking me up with it. Lovely, beautiful music. The same can be said of Amiina’s Puzzle – gorgeous stuff.

Other new albums… Band of Horses’ Infinite Arms, good couple of tracks but haven’t listened to it all the way through more than once. Broken Social Scene’s Forgiveness Rock Record (can you tell I’m going through my iTunes?) was… so so and I wouldn’t put it in a Top 10 list.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie’s The Wonder Show of the World would probably reach the list, just. I simply felt a little uncomfortable listening to it. Don’t know why but it hasn’t really been played all that much.

The National’s High Violet has appeared on a lot of end of year lists from various sites. I have it, it’s in my cd collection but is rarely played on my iPod. I like it, I do, there’s some very good stuff on there , there’s also a little too much so-so. The same could be said for Weezer’s two offerings of the year. Between Hurley (daft bloody title, stupid fucking cover) and Death to False Metal there’s one bloody good album.

Someone else who dropped two albums that found their way to my collection was Mr E, or Eels as he likes to call himself. Both were pretty good though Tomorrow Morning remains my favourite (though the song End Times in itself is bloody great). Probably as I went to see him on this tour and have the Tomorrow… shirt in regular rotation so the memory, concert etc add to it for me.

I did really enjoy Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra’s Kollaps Tradixionales too. This wasn’t a surprise as I love everything in the Godspeed lineage. One of the albums I listened to a lot this year (though during the last quarter) was Slow Riot.. simply as I only have it on LP and I love that I have to change the belt setting on my turntable depending on which side I’m listening to. Kollaps Tradixionales, however, is well worth a listen. As is Gold Panda’s Lucky Shiner – has accompanied me on many a walk to work this year.

One more new album that I gave a lot of listening and love to was the new Last Days of April album Gooey. Anyone that reads this blog will have expected this to crop up and Gooey is well worth a shout out. It shoes a real move forward for Mr Larsson and Forget About It found itself on repeat a lot.

I know there were new albums from many bands on my usual list – Interpol, Jimmy Eat World, Spoon – I just didn’t enjoy them as much as I hoped to. The same could be said for Johnny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave. I’m sorry to say that there is and I don’t think this stuff should’ve been released. Let the man rest – dragging the American series out even past IV risks tarring the legacy. I doubt Mr Cash would’ve wanted the music on VI released. While I’m on a moaning bend, I’ll do Tim Kasher the justice deserved of Cursive by not mentioning his solo album or, specifically, my thoughts on it. Hey, I’m not criticising overly – I know they’ve put out better stuff than I could and I’m in no real place to judge (except as that appointed to me as listener and consumer) but this is my blog and my opinions.

Though it’s a re-release, the music on it isn’t and one of the things I’ve been listening to, watching and delving into like the dedicated fan I am is The Promise – The Darkness On The Edge of Town box set that Linda gave me for my birthday. There’s some real gems on here, the DVDs offer some real insight (not to mention amusement at Bruce’s afro hair) and there’s been so much detail put into the whole thing that it warrants a day of exploration.

While live albums don’t count – I not long ago got my hands on Regina Spektor’s Live in London album. It goes without saying that it’s good but it brings a lot of great memories back and for that reason is one of my favourite albums that dropped in 2010.

Older music is one of the reasons I haven’t really listened to new music. Don’t get me wrong I gave albums by Titus Andronicus, Surfer Blood (actually not too bad), Beach House, Wolf Parade and even bloody Ariel Pink a fair chance too.

But, one of the biggest things for me in music this year isn’t from the ‘new in 2010’ box. Having started getting into the films of Emir Kusturica, I’ve been loving the Balkan music that he fills his films with. I’ve had the man’s own live album on in the home (ask me if you really want), car and office (much to the bemusement of my colleagues),  and cannot get enough of the Black Cat White Cat Soundtrack – no DL link, get it from iTunes and will be looking to take every opportunity to hear more of this Unza Unza music. It’s delivered with more heart and passion than most things I’ve heard this year.

On the foreign culture front, I fell in love with the movie Subway this year and eventually tracked down a copy of the soundtrack (in Paris of course) and it, too, has been played a lot this year. It’s perfectly in keeping of the film and, I gather, the zeitgeist at the time. There’s a couple of tracks on it I can’t get enough of one of which is in the video below. If you haven’t seen the film the soundtrack might not stand up but it’s definitely worth checking out (just don’t get the dubbed version).

You may also recall that I got into The American Dollar this year. New to me, so it’s on the list.

2011 is already looking promising for new music. There’s the new Mogwai (well, it’s already here, kinda 😉 ), new albums from Thurston Moore, J Mascis, Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket (rumoured), Nicole Atkins, Iron & Wine, M83, Radiohead (we’ll see), The Shins and possible rumblings about an Explosions in the Sky and there’s still mutterings about a new Buffalo Tom album (though I think I might be one of very few who care about that). There’s practically a Top Ten there if they happen. There’s also the whole Pearl Jam 20 thing going on – plenty for me there.

That being said, the most important thing in 2011 for me is that I’m getting married this year to Linda. Though that’s another blog.

As to0 are my thoughts on books and movies of 2010. If anyone’s still reading.

I go throw out the rubbish into the communal bin dump for our particular wing of the complex there’s something weird in there. Aside from the multiple bins and recycling dumpsters there’s been a countless number of tube TVs in sizes various, plenty of smashed wooden furniture (oddly enough it usually seems to be television stands), trolleys from supermarkets throughout the town and, of course, traffic cones. Last week I went in there and there was a small digger. An actual JCB, earth moving, mechanical digger sat in the corner. That goes in the odd category simply because of how the access to the bins is kind of restricted by multiple stone pillars and a lot of parked cars. With the exception of the seemingly ever present cones and trolleys these things tend to be gone pretty quick – which says something for the willingness of the council’s waste disposal. At the moment though there’s a life preserver ring. You know, one of these:

Now, I can kinda guess where it came from – we are right next to the river – I still can’t fathom how the hell it ended up in our bin area or why someone had it in the first place (though Occam’s razor would suggest that someone had indulged in a bit too much drink) or why it wasn’t simply taken back…

Still, I’ll be going down there later (I know, exciting right?) once I’ve filled the last bit of space remaining in the bin with the peel for the potatoes and parsnips I’m about to start roasting. However, I’ve got another… forty five minutes before I need to think about that as the joint takes a fair old time to cook. Which gives me plenty of minutes to dedicate to this:

Not only is Linda perfect but she manages to buy the perfect gifts too.

It’s real cold in the mornings. Winter is clearly knocking real loud on the door but I like it. That edge of chill in the air wakes me up, especially when it’s combined with sipping from the bucket of Columbian I take first thing in the morning lately. It makes walking to the office nicer too, really gets the system cranking.

It’s nice to be living somewhere that I can have visitors over to without making statements like “sorry, it’s a bit cramped” and, as great a first-place as College Road was, not always be bumping into each other and have some space. There’s now room for the music collections and for the library to keep growing to fill the recently expanded bookshelves. Well, if there’s space and I happen upon books crying out to be read they’re going to find a home.

Though the extra floorspace means the monster has more room to run around and go crazy in, something she certainly takes advantage of.

Minette is clearly possessed. Either that or she’s the victim of radioactive fall out from Dungeness power station or the bizarre breeding of a tabby cat and crazed monkey. Since we got her I don’t think there’s been a point at which I or Linda’s arms and hands have been devoid of cat scratches. Had to shower her the other day after she’d eaten something that disagreed with her. Cartoons may make it out to be amusing but I think that’s something I’ll only find really amusing in hindsight. It seemed to have cured her of her curiosity over our bathing but only yesterday I heard a thud followed by the sight of our resident Tabby Monster running out of the bathroom after she’d fallen into the tub not long since used for hosing out her litter (hence her being covered in bubbles a the time).

This is becoming more documentary than it is comic:

Watched and loved:

Black Cat White Cat

Black Cat White Cat

Black Cat White Cat, a film by a Serbian writer / director Emir Kusturica – I’m told he also did Arizona Dream and something called Underground.

Then listened to and thoroughly enjoyed:

Emir Kusturica & No Smoking Orchestra Live

His band’s live album featuring music from the film and his other works….

Which makes a change as all week I’ve been listening virtually daily to this fantastic slab of guitar genius:

Joe Perry Joe Perry

It’s not the most amazing record on a technical or critical level but it is excellent rockin guitar, guitar and more guitar played masterfully by the mighty Mr Perry.

… getting the words wrong, wasting the meaning and losing the rhyme.

Two months? Crikey.

Well, as per, that means I’ve been pretty busy. The whole wedding planning, cat owning and apartment moving and not to mention busy career has kinda proved time consuming… I will get back up to speed soon, I’m sure.

In the meantime, things that’ve been keeping my attention outside of the above; excellent new additions to my bookshelves (including the replacement of books lost through misguided lending) including personal WW2 accounts, corking fiction and a great collection of Russian ‘fairy tales’ – I use the air quotes as they’re more like folkloric tales – where everyone is called Ivan or Vassila…. more dvds than I can remember and general stuff…

Also, I read this and urge anyone else still hankering after a Calvin and Hobbes fix to do the same – it’s also worth looking at the other Where You Ats for a few blasts from the past…

How dare you make ALL your fiction paperbacks 3 for 2! I have enough trouble avoiding your offers when they’re restrictive, it’s damn near impossible when it’s open season on fiction.

So, stocking the shelves as we venture further into double stacking before the move and inevitable fourth bookcase:

kurt vonnegut breakfast of champions

the unbearable lightness of being milan kundera

Terry Pratchett Moving Pictures

Of course, Linda couldn’t help herself either so there were six new paperbacks vying for room on our Billy’s this weekend.

Still, I can’t really damn Waterstones as their reward card means that the Vintage edition of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard I’m reading was free. Still, it’s a lousy translation that’s actually making reading a bit of a slog in comparison to his other works I’ve read.

I’ve been operating on a bit of a rule in terms of reading – Non-Fiction, Classic, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Classic etc to stop me getting too immersed in WW2 and boring the arse off everyone with it but this influx means that I’m likely to stay on fiction for a while. Though, then again, I’ve still got a few non-fictions recently arrived that’ll need reading too….

Ho hum.

I prefer mine

Last night, after watching a few French films in which people seemed to achieve nothing except disappointment, mockery or a death into which some form of meaning should be read, I chose the film selection and went with that oft-overlooked Cameron Crowe film – Singles.

citizen dickI’m not going to sit here and go on about what a masterpiece it is or how deep and wonderful the narrative and plot are because, frankly, they’re not. Which was kinda the point in watching it – I wanted something a little more upbeat (which includes the soundtrack which reads like one of the finest Seattle Sound mixtapes you’d find) and that didn’t leave me feeling sad for an old man who spends the last half of a film chasing his moped around a council estate while his guests await their couscous.

No, what I will say is how weird it feels to be looking back at that scene (one to which my cd collection is indebted) and realise a) just how far back it is at nearly twenty years and b) how picture-perfect and polished the Hollywood version of ‘grunge’ was. Everybody, everybody, in those chequed flannel shirts (which themselves were well pressed), ripped jeans or band t-shirts with long-sleeves underneath to their jobs while sipping plenty of coffee. Does that mean that the next attempt to ride a mass-youth-culture wave into the pile of movie money will see the ‘everyday people’ such as myself wearing tight, skinny jeans and black t’s to work?

It was a little strange, as said.

Also, on the subject of movies etc; this is one of the must-see ones for the year and I never use that phrase: