Thursday, 22 December 2011

12 To Watch In 2012

Thanks to Ludi Valentine's blog Silicone Valley, I now have a new crush (oh hai Danni Daniels), and an improved knowledge of sex toys, and phthalates - eeek! Valentine is one of the rad queers featured in my article 12 To Watch In 2012 for DIVA magazine's January/Feb issue (on sale today), which includes protest singers, poly advocates, political activists, rockers, artists and awesome transdyke women. Glad I got to write/publish this; its my queer feminist answer to the deluge of fawning, malecentric best-of lists that happen round about this time each year. Here's hoping 2012 will be SASSY.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Blueberry skies: Best of 2011

True Widow's As High As The Highest Heavens & From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth bagged the #1 spot on my best music of 2011 list over at The Guardian because I have rinsed that album like no other this year; narcotic riffs, echoing harmonies, bone-rattling bass lines and aching tempos. Seeing them live at The Macbeth was probably my favourite gig of the year. 

2011 was good year for guitar albums: True Widow, St Vincent, EMA, Japanese Voyeurs and Anna Calvi all upped the game in diverse, inspiring ways (courtesy nod to PJH's harp/guitar work on Let England Shake). Progressive danc/electro-types also did well, with Austra, Planningtorock, Gazelle Twin, Katy B and Emika, and undergroundish hip hop came big, with THEEsatisfaction, Shabazz Palaces, Danny Brown and UK vet Jehst.  

A lot of the gals I didn't get to include on this list will end up on the Wears The Trousers end-of-year list, but honourable mentions of all genders include: Azaelia Banks, Lana Del Rey, Beyonce, SBTRKT, Machinehead, Yelawolf, Rihanna, Rustie, Colleen Green, Chelsea Woolfe, Tu Fawning, Hollie Cook, La Sera, Planningtorock, Love Inks, Pettybone, Nitty Scott, THEEsatisfaction, Grimes, Veronica Falls, Razika, Drugstore, Ghostpoet, Katy B, Wiley, Left Lane Cruiser, Daedelus, Jamie Woon, James Blake, Paul White, Danny Brown, SBTRKT, Blood Orange, Little Roy, Samiyam, Wild Beasts, Amon Tobin, John Maus, A Dancing Beggar, Canibus, Tom Waits, Willy Moon, Gang Gang Dance, Factory Floor, Tyler The Creator, Kreayshawn, Nicola Roberts,  Mastodon, Cosmic Dead and  Lasers From Atlantis.

Grau top 10 tracks of 2011 in video:

I'm New Here - Jaime xx and Gil Scott Heron

2. Hudson Mohawke - All Your Love

3. Active Child - You Are All I See

4. Japanese Voyeurs - Couldnt find a good live version of Smother so here's my favourite 2012 JV track, Milk Teeth

5. Michael Kiwanuka - I'm Getting Ready

6. Jehst - Starting Over

7. Emika - Count Backwards

8. DELS - Violina

9. PJ Harvey - The Last Living Rose

10. Barbara Panther - Moonlight People

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Wears The Trousers 2011 Yearbook

You can enjoy a big ole slice of independent, UK-based femalecentric music press with your Christmas cake this year, because the Wears The Trousers 2011 Yearbook is now available for pre-order! Its printed on thick, uncoated paper, features the awesome Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs in superheorine covergirl pose on the front, and for a mere £5, you can expect to enjoy:
  • Interviews with tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Tori Amos, Ane Brun, Zola Jesus, My Brightest Diamond, Joan As Police Woman, Alela Diane, Emmy The Great, Dum Dum Girls, EMA, Eleanor Friedberger, La Sera, Lisa Hannigan, She Keeps Bees, Drugstore, Big Deal, Tennis, Sharon Van Etten, Gazelle Twin, Amy Klein, The Sandwitches, Jenny Wilson, THEEsatisfaction, Jennie Abrahamson and more!
  • A rundown of our top fifty albums of 2011! 
  • A peek into the future with a look at some of next year’s most promising artists and albums!
Sounds delicious, doesn't it? Reserve your copy here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Feeling for my shoes

"In the fall it was better than at other times of the year. That was because of harvest season, cotton picking, corn pulling and so on like that. There was more money around then. In the spring of the year there wasn't much of anything because people were trying to get themselves straightened out over the winter season. Along about June and July things begin to pick up to where you could get hold of some money. September, October, November and sometimes up through December and sometimes January, that's when you really had to get it. Didn't make no difference what kind of hustle you had to do, you had to get it right through then. Those were the big months, that's when the money was floating around. When things would start to fall off, I would go back to Memphis and kind of take it easy until the next season came"

Blues player and Robert Johnson's on/off travel companion, Johnny Shines, quoted in Elijah Wald's  Escaping The Delta. I love the idea of seasonal music in this sense, of artistic trade syncing in to economic tides in a kind of mutually rewarding cycle - hard, calloused hands in the fields rewarded with coins that fall into the palms of hungry guitar players, the music blooming out just as the crops are cut down. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Paws up!

Photographing Magnus is almost impossible unless he's coaxed into curling up for a snooze on my lap. He's a blur of fur, rocketing around the house at amphetamine-style mph, all stripes, baby claws and shark teeth. Its fascinating to watch his tiny kitten body instinctively perfecting the maneuvers of adult cats; he's cultivating a clumsy, juvenile kind of elegance - prowling, stretching, leaping - stalking us from room to room, saucer-like eyes peeping out from hidden spots, neat white paws tucked under his chin, belly low to the ground and the arc of his back easing out, bottom in the air, a little wiggle....then POUNCE! Its terrifyingly funny, the audacity of this tiny furry thing who launches his miniature frame at us with all the confidence of a Safari predator, ruthless when he's awake and leisurely affectionate in repose.

King of book mountain, having toppled the neatly piled stacks.  

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Friday, 18 November 2011

THEEsatisfaction @ Jazz Cafe 17.11.11

Debut UK show for this Seattle duo, and they rocked it. Jazzy, abstract, queer hip hop joints - including every track bar 'Early Bird' from their THEESatisfaction Loves The Sa-Ra Creative Partners EP - and the cutest synchronized two-step before a surprisingly protracted and kinda shambling headline set from Shabazz Palaces.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Don't forget to douche!

Taken from a 1971 edition of a well-known, mainstream women's magazine that was still in print up until this year. Suspect chick lit, pro-domestic violence editorials, tragi-comic slimming ads, vagina deodorant and procreation propaganda. Thank fuck for the second wave, eh?

"I love you, Lisa, I love you," Richard said. "No," she whispered, but without conviction.

"I've talked to a friend who is experienced with girls and he says that she isn't the only one and that some girls are brought up by silly mothers who didn't fancy sex themselves and influence their daughters to be afraid of it, too"

Bubble boobs.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Queer kitty

So it turns out we have no idea what sex Magnus is. The folk we adopted him from didn't bother to check before they brought him round, and our own lackadaisical examinations have failed to really clarify anything other than a healthy abundance of fur. We should find out when we get the vaccinations sorted. My pa says he'll keep calling her Magnus, even if she turns out to be a grrrl kitteh, which I totally approve of. We're bouncing quite sweetly between pronouns when I call to check up: "How's he doing?" "Is she eating well?" etc. 

Tiger style. 


Oh hai.

Just curling up for a cat nap. Don't tickle me, yeah? 

Reading the charity inserts from Saturday's Guardian. Checkin' out the puppies.

 Camouflage kitteh.

Mighty paw.



Sunday, 13 November 2011

Make your soul burn slow

"The 'Occupy All Streets' T shirt was created in support of the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement. Rocawear strongly encourages all forms of constructive expression, whether it be artistic, political or social. 'Occupy All Streets' is our way of reminding people that there is change to be made everywhere, not just on Wall Street. At this time we have not made an official commitment to monetarily support the movement."

Rocawear's official statement on co-opting the #occupy movement for a quick, dirty buck.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Enter Magnus

My pa has adopted a kitten, Magnus. It's a big name for such a tiny fur ball (he's just 7 weeks old), and one I have to resist typing in capitals. I think he'll grow in to it. I stopped off to meet him at my dad's house on the way to the St. Vincent show at Southbank last night. He's the first feline we've welcomed into the family since our beloved Eric passed away, 2 years ago this September. Raise yr paws for the new RA kitteh!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Fat Joe on LGB folks in hip hop

Major props for the LGB-friendly discourse, Fat Joe. Not sure I'd co-sign the "gay mafia in hip hop" theory though, as fabulous as it sounds. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Interview: Romily Alice of Japanese Voyeurs

“I'm not a big fan of the babydoll look, and riot grrrl's overt sexuality thing looks-wise. I have mixed feelings towards it. I think, as a women in music, it can be a bit of a cheap trick.” She's a fan of Babes In Toyland's Kat Bjelland, who, incidentally, never specifically allied herself to the riot grrrl movement. “The way Bjelland mixed her image and her music was brilliant. She snarled, and sweated and screamed”. But Alice feels using sex in rock as any kind of feminist message would be futile in the pervading climate of raunch pop, “where all these pop star women are sex on a plate with a soundtrack. If you want to be taken seriously you have to not let the pressure to be like that effect you.” 

My interview with Romily Alice of Japanese Voyeurs. I really, really dig JV, who put out a promising debut, Yolk, earlier this year. They're a young London outfit who make dirty, petchulant rock full of psychology and graphic novel references. Romily is a whip smart front woman, and the UK rock scene needs more of her ilk. We talked about steering away from the "grunge revivalist" label, sexist rock criticism (sigh), the guitar pedals she puts together between JV tours, yearning for a pre-internet era and using comic strips as an alternative to social media marketing. Salute.

Found: Cambodian Grrrl - self publishing in Phnom Penh

Anne Elizabeth Moore is the former co-editor and associate publisher of the now defunct site Punk Planet. Cambodian Grrrl is a diary of her time teaching zine production to a group of young female students at  Cambodia's Euglossa Dormitory for University Women

It is a tiny, slim thing, less than 100 pages long, and a heart-breaking account. Moore knows this, and is at pains to sustain a sensible, reportage in the face of the injustice, corruption, beauty and potential she encounters in Phnom Penh. It is fitting then that she owns the power of her encounter, promptly and honestly, at the beginning of the book, when recounting the moment she first introduces herself to the shy Euglossa students. 

"An means to read in Khmer. You will not say this out loud though, point out that you think it is funny that a writer would be named to read, until I put my hands up like a Sampea in front of my eyes, spread them, and pretend to be engrossed in the invisible text written across my palms.
"An," I say. "We will have a relationship based on reading"
And then, finally, you will laugh. And my heart will rend open like a ruby red grapefruit."

It is the closest to indulgent that Moore allows herself to get in an account that is all the more moving for its economy of emotional vernacular, and the encounter captures the shy and tender way Moore and the Cambodian girls go on to negotiate their ensuing relationships, across the divides of culture and language. 

Moore is conscious of her privileges - as a white, 1st world teacher, as a visitor, and ultimately, as a narrator. It's an account free of the West’s ugly, assumed sympathy-style discourses, and yet, for all her balanced narration, Moore’s love and respect for the Cambodian girls is there, vulnerable and implicit, a careful, complicated and abundant thing free of romanticism. 

There is no great reveal at the end, no gratifying final scene or promise of safety for the girls of Euglossa or their genocide-wracked country, but reading about the simple power of zines, unfolding, in action, in Cambodia, is an aching and radical thing.

Monday, 7 November 2011

All oppression is connected, you dick

"Even in friendly conversation
I get the bell hooks-ian urge
to kill mother-fuckers who say stupid shit to me
all day
bitter branches of things I cannot say out loud
sprout deviant from my neck"

Full transcription here:

Friday, 4 November 2011

First Sight: Cold Specks

My First Sight feature on Al Spx's deep south-style songstress Cold Specks, fresh off her spellbinding performance on Jools Holland this week. Out in today's Guardian:

Friday, 28 October 2011

St. Vincent interview, with bonus triva

Also, tidbits that were shaved off for word count purposes:

-  Clarke played in two bands before joining the Polyphonic Spree: Terminal, a junior school outfit that turned out Iron Maiden covers (Annie rocked a purple Ibanez bass guitar), and heavy noise band Skull Fuckers, a side project that came about during her stay at Berkeley College of Music.
     -  She doesn't own an acoustic guitar. The one she plays on Strange Mercy's end song, Year Of The Tiger, was borrowed.
      -  On Year Of The Tiger: "It’s based on a piano melody my mom used to play when we were little. We used to dance around to it and pretend to be native Americans”.
        -  Clarke will be appearing in the new season of Portlandia, the TV comedy show created by Fred Armison and Sleater Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein; the pair previously featured in her awkwardly hilarious video for ‘Laughing With A Mouth Full OF Blood’. She knew Armison pre Marry Me days after opening a show for him, and met Carrie after a St. Vincent show in Portland. For the record, her favourite Sleater Kinney album is All Hand On The Band One, though we agreed that Dig Me Out had some fine numbers on it too.

          Saturday, 22 October 2011

          Some things you lose, some things you give away

          I shredded 6 (nonconsecutive) years worth of diaries today, late 90s/early 00s stuff. It felt liberating to purge all those words. The idea of permanently destroying a diary would have horrified me as a teen.

          The gods of lost and found clearly approved, because half an hour later I discovered a cache of unread zines I'd tucked away months ago and promptly lost under the kipple.

          Monday, 17 October 2011

          Found: Audrey Niffenegger - The Three Incestuous Sisters: An Illustrated Novel

          I read this on the weekend and remembered why I want to write/create graphic novels (though Niffenegger herself would refute that this book belongs to that aforementioned medium). Startlingly beautiful, and totally inspiring.