Gothic Radiohead

Radiohead play dark music. We’re agreed on that.

But one thing for which I don’t think Radiohead get enough credit is just how sinister their music can be.

In the best way possible, their music can be thrillingly creepy, fabulously unnerving, and chillingly atmospheric like a midnight tour of a haunted waxwork museum with Peter Cushing as your guide.

But Peter Cushing died 27 years ago!!!

So this is my tribute to Gothic Radiohead. Let’s not waste any time in discussing just what I mean by “gothic”. But in terms of sound, feel, or subject matter, these are the Radiohead songs that wouldn’t sound out of place on your Halloween playlist alongside The Cramps, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and the others.

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Essential Rules for Making a Mix CD

Once you meet me, it’s only a matter of time before I try and make you a mix CD.

I still make mix CDs.

These days I only ever make mix CDs for other people. I used to make them for myself. I got my first MP3 player long after everyone else had got one, and I used it long after everyone else had moved on to streaming on smartphones. But before that, I made myself a lot of CDs.

It was my travelling music. I’d travel everywhere with a portable CD player (is that what we called them? Or was it a personal CD player?) and a wallet full of my own mixes.

I had a CD for every conceivable journey and every conceivable mood. I also had a reserve of CDs that I’d turn to when I couldn’t decide what else to listen to.

I followed certain rules when making these CDs – unconsciously at first, but they soon became very important indeed. And I realise that I still follow these rules when I’m making CDs for other people.

I also follow these rules when I’m putting playlists together. To some extent.

Let’s talk about the rules for making a good mix CD, together.

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I Listened to 1,000 of the 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

I have the 2018 edition of Robert Dimery’s 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

It’s a good book! A very good book. You can see what’s in it here.

It was my l*ckd*wn project to listen to every single album from this book. And that’s the first and last time I’ll ever reference this atrocity of a year on this site.

Reader, I managed it. Shall I tell you what I thought?

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An Ultraprog Christmas!

Warmth, magic, excess, music, light: Christmas is the proggiest time of year.

A lot of prog bands have Christmas songs. For a while, I wondered if there was something about Christmas that appealed particularly to proggy types. Then I realised that there are also multiple Christmas folk songs, punk songs, rap songs, jazz songs, and yep, new age songs. Christmas isn’t just a wonderful time of year for the proggy. It’s a wonderful time of year for everyone.

Nonetheless, there’s something especially beautiful about a Christmas prog song. But then, I would think that.

One thing I find endearing is that Christmas tends to bring out the proggy side of non-prog artists. The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York is operatic in its structure. Cliff’s masterful Saviour’s Day is a sweeping Goliath of a song, complete with stirring pan pipe solo. Clearly, there’s something in the air at this time of year.

Let’s explore some of the best Christmas prog songs, together.

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Lord Gloom’s Favourite Albums of 2020!

Merry Christmas, everyone.

At least it was a good year for music.

Last year, I boasted about how “my listening habits are going sideways and backwards.”  I was dreaming of a day when I would look at the various various best-of-the-year lists and not recognise a single release.

That didn’t really go according to plan. This year I listened to 99 new albums. I counted. And I only actively disliked three of them! I’ll tell you which ones if you pay me £10. Sure, many of them were unremarkable. But many more were… what’s the opposite of unremarkable?

Let’s look at 20 of the best. For my sins, I’m listing them in descending order of magnificence. That’s right. This is a ranked list. Ranked!

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A Cry and a Pint

A Cry and a Pint

At this time of year, I always feel hungover.

I feel HERT: Heavy, emotional, regretful, tired.

Throughout October, I like to listen to dark, macabre, spooky and fun music. Throughout December, I listen religiously to Christmas music.

In the gap between these two periods, I’m drawn to music that matches the weightiness of the season.

There’s no simple way to describe this music. It’s laddish yet sensitive post-Britpop indie rock defined by its plaintive vocals and “anthemic” choruses, performed by earnest young British or Irish men with nice shirts and mid-length hair. The cool kids, who are wrong about everything, used to call it “bedwetter music”. This is only because they’re terrified of their feelings. I have a better term: Music for a cry and a pint.

Context is everything. When I say “a cry and a pint”, please don’t picture anything solitary – a drink nursed over the course of an hour by a sad individual in the corner of a pub. No, I want you to picture something that’s almost the opposite: A pint held aloft, one of many thousands held aloft in the same room or field. Holding the pint aloft, a noble individual, basking in the raw emotion of the music, elated by the sense of community, feeling like a part of something bigger than themselves yet, at the same time, feeling at one with their feelings. And for this individual, to feel at one with their feelings is a rare feeling indeed.

Music for a cry and a pint is music that’s designed to be bellowed along to by crowds who want something emotional yet comforting. This is music to be sung in the summer by sozzled and sunburned festival crowds. But it’s perfect for this time of year too, when the days are short and cold and things are getting critical.

Let’s explore some of the best music for a cry and a pint, together. For each song, I’m going to highlight the Bit to Bellow Along To With a Pint (BTBATWAP). And to best evoke the unselfconscious abandon that surges through normally-reserved crowds when the beer flows and the song reaches its peak, I’ll be writing these sections ENTIRELY IN CAPITALS.

It’s usually the chorus. It’s always the chorus.

But these songs are by no means the finest songs by each respective band. So in each case, I’ll also highlight another song from the same band, from the same album – one that offers slightly subtler catharsis. Perhaps one for that solitary pint and cry. One to take home with you, then, to treasure when the roar of the crowd has faded to a painful, distant memory.

UPDATE: I have now created a 50-song playlist for a cry and a pint:

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Cower Before The Worst New Age Albums Ever

Worst New Age Music

People rated their music, and found it wanting.

My quest to listen to every album that ever won, or was nominated for, a New Age Grammy is partly a quest to understand just what the deuce people mean when they describe music as “new age.”

Yet it’s also a quest for the best. I just want to hear some really good new age music.

But you’ve got to take the good with the bad. If you want to understand what makes for a good film, you’ve got to watch Ghostbusters (1984) AND Ghostbusters (2016). You’ve got to watch A New Hope AND The Last Jedi. It’s not enough to explore the glittering towers of the crystal heights. You’ve got to wade into the potent swamps too, areas where the air’s so thick with searing pungent vapours your eyeballs curdle and your tears cake and rot in their ducts.

So I decided to listen to the worst new age music ever made.

Rate Your Music is a site that allows people to rate their music. Through allowing people to rate their music, the site’s developed an extensive database of consensus that you can organise in any way you see fit. In this way, it’s possible to see the albums the Rate Your Music community agrees to be the worst new age albums ever recorded.

Let’s listen to the bottom five, together.

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Frantically Searching for New Age Music in the Jamendo Music Archive

May 2019 – Looking for music and other interesting things on Archive.org.

Was I ever that young?

Specifically, I was looking for new age music. Because I’m well into that sort of thing.

I was looking for new age music, and I found it. Lots of it. All part of the Jamendo Albums Collection.

There are more than 50,000 albums in this collection. The majority of them look perfectly innocuous. Amid the innocuous is lots of promising new age music. But also lots that looks simply bizarre: Inadvisable and not at all safe for work.

Trawling through the collection, I found myself saving links to stuff that stood out. And these links have been stacked in my OneTab for 18 months. Since May 2019, every time I’ve “hit the net” I’ve been greeted with a wall of text that says things like NATIONAL FUNKY BITCH and THE 666 X MURDER PROJECT.

It’s finally time to purge these demons. Let’s jump down this rabbit hole together, shall we? See how deep it goes.

This is my first ever blog that could be tagged NSFW. You may be added to a list.

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Enya is My Shepherd

Enya Shepherd Moons

The battle for the 1993 New Age Grammy was a real clash of the titans. Only New Age heavyweights need apply.

IN THE RED CORNER: Looking to SAIL AWAY with a well-earned gong, it’s the Celtic banríon; the queen of our hearts, our minds, and our souls. It’s ENYA.

IN THE BLUE CORNER: He’s Masanori Takahashi to his parents. But to you and I, he’s the man of love and joy himself, he’s KITARO.

IN THE GREEN CORNER: You swooned to their Folksongs For A Nuclear Village. Tonight they canter to conquer. It’s SHADOWFAX.

IN THE YELLOW CORNER: They dream in orange. They dream in German. Tonight, they dream of victory. You’ve had this dream before. It’s the mighty TANGERINE DREAM.

IN THE MAUVE CORNER (for this battle’s taking place in a pentagonal ring): Is he finally ready to burst forth from his Chryssomallis? It’s YANNI, ya’know?

Picture those five New Age prizefighters, primed by their New Age coaches in their colourful corners. A beaming woman walks into the centre of the five-sided ring, holding a sign aloft. On the sign is a number. The number is one. She’s followed by a grizzled salt-and-pepper ex-sailor in a striped shirt. He turns to each corner in turn, making eye contact with every contender, gruffly demanding a good, clean fight. A bell rings. Our five peaceful fighters rush into the middle. Five potent powderkegs holding five flaming matches. When they meet in the middle, the universe swallows its tongue.

Enya won. A deserved win? We’ll see.

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New Age Christmas Albums!

New Age Christmas

Christmas is a terrific time of year for new age types.

They can bask in the holiday’s pagan roots, or reflect on how pretty much every belief system has a feast of light in the midst of the bleakest time of year. In fact, with all the candles, the indoor foliage, the singing, the optimism and the sparkles, many people inadvertently live a new age sort of life throughout the festive period.

So it comes as no surprise that there are so many Christmassy new age albums out there.

Let’s listen to some of them, together.

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