Was a pleasure to guest on VHS¥DEATH‘s debut show Viral Nights for London’s Threads Radio, a show for all things post-punk, goth and cold-wave! Taking thematic guidance from the ‘isolation’ angle, I’ve contributed a cheeky 45 mins of instrospective rumination to round off the mix, enjoy!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, ‘Push the Sky Away’, 2013
Music has been my greatest companion. My favourtite drug, a rubber ring in emergency, a tool for surgical introspection. Anyone who loves their music will often struggle to summarise their decade without listing a string of albums or gigs before detailing actual events. The cathartic properties of music are forever intertwined with the narrative of our lives, from our deepest most private battles to the socio-political turmoil stared down by the nation. What this decade means to me is overwhelmingly represented in just 100 songs.
I entered the 2010’s in a fog of uncertainty, as did the country. The financial crisis seemed to coarsen people, the New Labour consensus lay dying, and an emerging appetite for punitive politics reared its head. For many young people, the student protests of 2010 were the seeds of their political awakening. Having had to endure the gleeful relish at further debt for simply wanting an education from pissheads at a bar I worked part-time at, I was well aware that my Media Practice and Film-Making degree would gather scant respect in a new climate of bitter division, and was sure that economic precarity was to follow due to the recession at the time of my graduation.
Right toward the end of my studies, I got hit by the ‘lightning bolt’. One of the greatest experiences is the hit of a fantastic tune when you discover an artist so brilliant it terrifies you that life could have carried on without their songs in your system. As a deep admirer of the original wave of synth artists (Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, early Human League etc.) I was dissatisfied with the way the synthesizer was being used as a mere indie-toy as opposed to the mysterious beast it was capable of. Stumbling around on YouTube late at night I was exposed to a song called ‘Vigils‘ by Xeno & Oaklander and it was exactly what I wanted to hear. Deep, cold, and analogue, it seized me with its glacial grip and before the song had finished I knew I had heard one of the best electronic acts there had ever been. They opened a door to a plethora of related acts I was totally oblivious to (Sixth June, Daybed, Automelodi) in addition to Veronica Vasicka’s excellent minimal-synth archival project/label Minimal Wave.
The dull, grey thud of intermittent unemployment and bullshit jobs plagued me and many of my friends from the summer of 2011. Despite the camaraderie which comes with living in a house full of struggling artists on the dole and not knowing what the fuck they were doing, anger and disillusionment were never too far from the skint revelry. Cccandy and Youth Code were on repeat during this period, perfectly matching the corrosive effects of austerity breakdown with their volatile and abrasive synth-punk pummel. When we finally got our shit together around 2013 and found some stability and money in our pockets the pop around us seemed brighter and effervescent. Mø‘s ‘Pilgrim’ and Arcade Fire‘s ‘Reflektor’ were my ‘songs of the summer’, whenever I hear them now I’m taken over with a sense of sunny renewal.
Each year brought more and more fantastic music, and little did I know that I was living in the city which was at the forefront of the ‘new’. Wych Elm, New Haunts, Avon Terror Corps, E B U, Orryx all knocked me sideways and enthused me so much that I finally plucked the courage to start Heads on Sticks. Any resulting success I’ve had I owe to the mosaic of artists, labels, promoters, and radio stations that make up the Bristol music monster invigorating me to want to get stuck in.
There’s an ocean of songs to sift through but I’ve settled for 100, ten per year. 100 good friends that have seen me through the tribulations of the tumultuous decade. No hierarchy, no objective ‘best of’, just simply the story of my 2010’s, and pretty much my twenties.
I approach the 2020’s with uncertainty once again. The devastating defeat of what felt like a once in a lifetime chance of national healing has left me fearing for the future of our country. I take great comfort in knowing that I enter the new decade in a total golden age of challenging, unique, exquisite and fiercely creative music and performing art.
When writing ‘end of year’ anythings, it’s hard to avoid the cliché line of ‘this year was better than the last’, but it honestly feels true. It never ceases to amaze me how cutting-edge, transformative and exciting music is right now, both in my hometown of Bristol and across the world.
After spending an agonising hour trying to write something profound about the year, I instead decided to save the yakkin’ for the upcoming end of decade playlist and instead let the music do the talkin’!
Bristol’s 1020 Radio kindly let me curate the fourth entry in their residents Spotify playlist series!
There’s no theme, no agenda, just 25 tracks that were in my gut at the moment of collation. Old loves, new hits, and artists covered in recent HoS posts, ranging from femme punk, goth-pop, Kubrick soundtracks, and Germanic EBM!
From the smouldering embers of spooky garage rock project The Hex Dispensers comes Eerie Family, a gloom pop outfit that creeps upon you like John Carpenter’s The Fog upon the good people of Antonio Bay…
Trading punk assault for shadowy darkwave, Taylor duo Alex Cuervo and Alyse Mervosh presents a debut LP of thrilling Gothic pop, caustic tales of exploding suns, the entity at the foot of your bed, and greeting the beckoning finger of death with a grin.
Eerie Family kicks off with the maddeningly infectious ‘Everybody Disappear’, an organ stomper with Link Wray guitar and rib-cage xylophones backing the ice cool dual vocals, describing with relish a sudden empty world. Mervosh’s skittish drums flutter against smoggy keys on the cavernous ‘Dead Stars Still Shine on Us Tonight, before taking a turn for the morose with ‘I Am Tarantula’, echoes of The Cure’s ‘Lullaby’ backed with the steady beat of The Shangri-La’s, hollow bass and keys create an atmosphere both dark yet strangely comforting. The quiet terror of crushing, brutal routines we dream of escaping is channeled on the doomy ‘Bloodless’, and icy finale ‘After Some Deliberation They Concluded’ ends the record with a funeral waltz, an examination of mortality voiced by the Capuchin corpses of Palermo against Pornography viola like synth drones.
‘You only need enough friends, to carry your casket when you’re dead’. Despite the mordant front, Eerie Family reveals itself to be a stirring, and at times romantic, statement, never afraid to allow the light of a good tune or sentiment lie among the dread. Always seductive and evocative, Eerie Family is a dynamic chiller which moves you, excites you, but never drains you.