Monday, 8 December 2014

Emma's 2014 annual-bandwagon-jumping-end-of-year-album-list

2014 has been a GOOD YEAR for music. There are so many more I could have mentioned here. But anyway, like just about every music blog out there (and I'm not even a music blogger, what nerve!) here's my roundup of all the musical things this year that made me go a bit:

Best album of 2014 to play at double speed
Todd Terje – It’s album time

When Alex first picked this up, we listened to it almost in its entirety on double speed for the first time. And we were SO into it. In fact almost faintly disappointed when we discovered we’d been doing it wrong. If you own this on vinyl, go and listen to Svensk Sås at double speed RIGHT NOW, and dance until you, possibly, pass out. If you don’t, well, you’ll just have to imagine. Thankfully it’s a brilliant album even at normal speed. (Apart from that appalling Johnny and Mary cover halfway through. Skip that.) Scandinavian disco at its finest.

Most disappointing ‘best album’ of 2014
Metronomy – Love Letters

I love Metronomy. I love that every album of theirs has been totally different. This one? Not so much up my street. Which made me slightly sad. But there’s no denying that Joe Mount is a masterful song-writer, and this album has some brilliant moments, just none which excite me in the way their moments usually do. This is still a good album, and definitely deserves at least one listen, because for you, it might be their best thing yet. ‘Boy Racers’ is a slightly hidden highlight to my mind.

Most comforting album of 2014
Taylor McFerrin – Early Riser

I first heard ‘Stepps’ on Gilles Peterson’s show and was absolutely floored. It’s just everything I love. Languid, elegant synths for about 5 minutes. The rest of the album is not what you would expect if you buy it purely based on that one track. Much more vocal driven and softer, somehow… But it all ties together so, so perfectly, and it’s been my go-to album whenever I’m low or anxious and need something to make me feel better (or indeed, when I’m already feeling good and want something to keep me there)

Best album of 2014 written by someone who once told my partner he’d ‘stamp on his face’
Mono/Poly – Golden Skies

Well that was awkward. We went to see his live show a couple of years back (which was great by the way), and at one point, Alex leaned in to say something to me, and he shouted, directly at us, that if he didn’t shut up, he’d stamp on his face. Which was charming. Regardless of whether or not he’s a nice man, this is a stunning album, and, facetious award titles aside, might actually be a contender for my favourite album of 2014. It’s everything he was doing previously, but more consistent, and all round better. Full of synth fireworks, euphoric electronic glissandos and just the loveliest track-to-track transitions, I honestly can’t fault it. It’s a bit of a masterpiece to my mind. I’d love to see it live. Might not take Alex with me again though.

Best album of 2014 that I’ve only listened to once
Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Sorry Thom. It’s good! It just happened to come out at exactly the same time as a lot of other really good stuff, and because you snuck it up on us so much, I didn’t have time to plan for it, and as a result, haven’t given it the attention it deserves. Still, it’s up there with his best solo work, and I will be endeavouring to spend more time with it, next time I’m in a Thom Yorke/Radiohead mood (Which admittedly happens less and less these days)

Best album for terrible culturally appropriative twerking
Big Freedia – Just be free

There’s been a lot of debate this year about whether twerking is okay, or horrific cultural appropriation. I just don’t know. Fortunately (perhaps), I’m not very good at it anyway, so you’re not going to see me throwing any of those shapes at ‘the club’ anyway. But if anything were likely to make me, it’s this. Big Freedia is the undisputed queen of twerking, and this long anticipated LP only serves to reinforce that.

Best unimaginatively titled album of 2014
Clark – Clark

C’mon Clark. You can do better than that. If your music’s anything to go by, you’re clearly imaginative enough. Title aside, this is a GREAT piece of work from the Warp stalwart (my distant claim to his fame is that I’m friends with someone who used to work in a stationery shop in St. Albans with him).
Clattery and thundery and rich and dense: stronger by far that his previous, which was already pretty great.

Best EP that I wish was a whole album
Tokimonsta – Desiderium

I don’t listen to enough female artists. A very large proportion of this list is just ‘a dude with a laptop’. Tokimonsta is a shining female beacon creating amazing electronica in LA… I adore her, and her immediately recognisable sound, and just wish this lovely EP was a little bit longer stretched into a full album.

Best album of 2014 for listening to while feeling slightly melancholy on trains
Daedelus – The Light Brigade

My love affair with Daedelus has not dissipated. This is not what I expected from him, and realistically, if you’d asked me what I hoped for in his next release, I’d have asked for something closer to his live shows: eclectic and electric and noisy and dense and heavy. This is not that. It’s historically themed, around the charge of the Light Brigade, mostly acoustic, delicate and lovely and sparse and quiet. It’s a beautiful piece that, perhaps, is more what I needed than the noisy something that I wanted.

Special Award for helping me understand why people like taking drugs (while still giving me no desire to partake myself)
Thundercat — Apocalypse

Before I get to that… This is a brilliant album. It’s another one, like Taylor McFerrin that feels right for any mood I’m in… and is a beautifully moving tribute to the sad death of Austin Peralta, whose incredibly premature passing seems to have had a creative ripple effect across a large number of LA based musicians. It manages to capture sadness, frustration, devastation, while also having moments of sheer joy, such as ‘Oh Sheit it’s X’, the track which inspired the above statement. I mean… it still all sounds horrible… “The room is spinning and I’m not winning, it’s about 3.42, and I don’t know where the bathroom is, my friends say ‘you should eat something’”… And YET, the whole song is SO joyful, so effervescently enthusiastic… I guess I get it. Well done Thundercat, for explaining to me what so many other people have tried and failed to convince me of. (But still, no thanks…)

Best album of 2014 with thanks to Gilles Peterson
Leon Vynehall – Music for the Uninvited

Gilles Peterson is great. You should listen to his show on 6 Music on saturday afternoons (but make sure you tune in at 3 on the dot, Liz Kershaw beforehand is possibly the worst thing on any radio station ever). He plays all the good things, and has set me onto so many new things over the last few years. This was one of them, and it’s definitely been a favourite this year. Danceable, intelligent, consistent and fresh. A nice treat.

Least highly anticipated album of 2014 (that turned out to be really great)
Busdriver – Perfect Hair

Busdriver is great. But his last album Beaus$Eros? Less so. In fact, I enjoyed it so little that I didn’t even remember to listen to this, his newest release when it came out… but it came up on my soundcloud because he’d streamed the whole thing on there, and before I knew it, I was pulled in, and he is back on form. All of his usual delicious lyrical complexity but with even more darkness and bitterness than usual… and musically, sublime backing. See, Bliss Point.

Most highly anticipated album of 2014 (that was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped)
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead

I was SO excited for this. Flying Lotus is, undisputedly now, I think, a genius. Cosmogramma is possibly my favourite album of all time ever (a bold claim I know), and all his other releases are up there too. I heard ‘never catch me’ before the album came out (which also wins my award for ‘video of the year’), but determined to save the whole album for a much anticipated long train journey across Europe, during which I proceeded to listen to it three times in a row, sucking in new things each time. As with all his releases, there’s SO much in here. It will not get old. It’s another masterpiece, and he still keeps innovating. Massive hyperbole, perhaps, but I feel honoured to be listening to his music fresh and new as it comes out. Because his jazz, electronica, whatever it is he’s doing… It feels like it will be with me for the rest of my life. I can hardly even wait for more.

So there you go. What have you enjoyed this year? Have I missed anything super obvious? And what's next? I hope 2015 has plenty more treats in store.

Oh, and if you prefer your music in track-sized bites rather than whole albums, here's my still-ongoing 'best of 2014' Spotify playlist... Which contains LOADS more lovely things.

Sunday, 30 November 2014


So last year, I got really miserable in October. The darkening nights and worsening weather left me feeling generally gloomy, and it took two specific treats (a very good gig — more on that later — and a mini-break with an old friend), to lift me out of that misery.
I was worried the same would happen this year, but the weather was SO GOOD throughout October, and I was so busy and distracted that my mood remained fairly buoyant.

So I entered November with winter-mood-low trepidation, but I think it’s safe to say, it’s been GOOD! I am GOOD!

It helped that November very briefly continued to treat me to some beautiful weather.

Although that soon ended.

But I got some great treats. Including a lovely, long-promised work meal at Terre a Terre, the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Brighton. My work colleagues humoured me, and very kindly agreed that we could go somewhere full of treats for me, rather than the usual meat-heavy fest of most work meals. (This one was, ridiculously, to celebrate us hitting job 1000 on our file management system: we were on 210 when I started nearly 4 years ago, although we’re now a team of 7 rather than 4, so we're ploughing through them a lot faster of late!)

And then the next night I went up to London to see Flying Lotus. As evidenced by my lastFM stats, Flying Lotus is just my FAVOURITE. But I’d never seen him live before, because my body clock is brutally reliable, and I am basically incapable of easily staying up past about midnight… and all of his previous nearby shows has been ridiculous 3am affairs. But this was at the sensible hour of 9, and so I treated myself, and it was SO worth it. His current stage show is incredible.

I also spent much of November working on a super fun, but also challenging extracurricular project. I can’t talk about it yet. But hopefully soon. This was a hard day.

Ongoing winter office debate is office temperature. Apparently I’m the weird one for getting cold so easily, but I remain unconvinced. How are all these people still in t-shirts in this freezing office?!

And then, totally unexpected and uninvited, here come the Christmas feelings! The older I get, the less excited I get about Christmas, and for the last few years it’s taken until about December 15th for me to even start feeling any feelings. But this year? ALREADY FESTIVE. I think this is a good thing. It’s got to be if it lifts my mood a bit, right? I’m keeping it all inside of me anyway, I haven’t started hanging decorations or anything CRAZY like that. (I did buy some Christmas tree shaped kitchen sponges though)

I’ve been going through a bit of an experimental lasagne phase recently. I still haven’t nailed the perfect one, but I’m trying increasingly bizarre combos in search of the magic secret.

This was my happy day. As well as just being absolutely awesome at Adobe Illustrator in front of other people TWICE (one of those incidents actually earned me  a small round of applause), the aforementioned fun/tricky project reached a satisfying conclusion, and another project I’ve been involved in for nearly a year also finished up, in satisfying printed fashion…

Like TV? Like beautiful magazines? You need Sixteenbynine in your life.

Oh dear. Is this a slippery slope to a wardrobe of muumuu dresses and ponchos?

I made this simple newspaper screen print of Alex at Drawing Tiger’s first event. It does look quite a lot like him!

At the same event, I also got to go inside an amazing internally mirrored, multifaceted MDF box. Sounds fun? YOU BETCHA.

Got lucky this day! Galaxy Trucker is my current favourite board game, and I also concocted a big batch of vegan nachos for us and friends. TREATS!


So, as we established last month, I’m a nervous traveller. For no particularly good reason. Just irrational anxiety. But that’s why I’ve decided I really need to make a point of doing it (and going places is fun, obvs) so this weekend I went over to Bristol.

I mentioned earlier that last year I got gloomy in October, but, amongst other things, I was lifted out of my moderate misery by the wonderful Daedelus, who put on an incredible show at the Green Door Store. Me and Alex also got to meet him beforehand for The Monitors… I took some fairly terrible photographs, and Alex (and occasionally I) interrogated him about a lot my favourite things like piers and keytars. The results were long but entertaining.

When I saw he was touring around this time of year again, I figured I might be in need of another winter pick-me-up, so Bristol beckoned! (Bristol has never not shown me a good time. I love the place.)

We met up for some coffee before the show at a coffee shop run by people who really know about coffee. I don’t drink coffee. The coffee man gave me some coffee beans to sniff and I told him they smelt a bit like marmite. He gave me some different ones and I told him they smelt faintly offensive to me. He stopped giving me coffee beans then. (But I did get a very nice hot chocolate)

Anyway, I later did a fairly terrible drawing of us in the coffee shop, as a further challenge in my ongoing struggle with people sitting at tables. I’ve still not got it.

Also as earlier mentioned, my body clock doesn't really allow me to happily stay up past about 12. Daedelus show started at 12.30. So I drunk half a pint of coke, and because I never intake any form of caffeine I got really buzzed and talked really loudly at people, then danced gleefully to his incredible set. Luckily I didn't need a winter mood lifter this year, but I got one regardless.

Because of the coke, I couldn't fall asleep till 4am. And woke up at 6am. This was last night. I am currently functioning on 2 hours sleep. SO EVERYTHING MIGHT BE A BIT TWITCHY. I should probably proofread this.

But the tiredness put me in a blissfully mellow state of mind for the sunny train journey home this morning, and now I’m back home and ready to face December in what could only be described as a pretty good frame of mind. Good-o.

Saturday, 1 November 2014


We went on holiday mid October. And because I am ridiculous, that is a source of immense stress to me. So the first half of this month was mostly dominated by intense anxiety, and after a brief interlude of holiday, the second half of the month was mostly dominated by intense relief to not be anxious any more. Silly brain.

In anticipation of autumn, I treated myself to some great new tights from H&M. Unfortunately H&M have a fundamental misunderstanding of how women’s clothing sizing works, and the fact that when women go up a size, they don’t just get taller whilst maintaining exactly the same stick thin legs. I’m only about a size 12 in trousers, and yet their ‘large’ tights make me feel like a vast bloated whale trying to squeeze itself into sausage casing.

BONUS guinea pig action!

So Alex has got an amazing Sherlock Holmes themed board game/RPG game… basically the idea is that Sherlock has decided to recruit some assistants to solve some of the easier crimes he has to investigate, and he’s training us up. There are 10 ‘games’ (books of text) in the box… At the start of the game, someone reads out the ‘scenario’ (using appropriate terrible character voices), and then based on that, you have to decide which locations you’re going to ‘visit’ on the map. Each location has its own text which you take in turns to read, and based on that you try and solve the crime, and you have to try and solve it by visiting fewest locations. And each ‘scenario’ has an actual fake newspaper for that day, which might contain hints and clues about the case. It’s pretty amazing and for some reason always highly amusing, particularly because they’re delightfully difficult and we usually end up visiting around 30 different locations when Sherlock (who’s your benchmark that you’re scored against) solves it after visiting about 3. Anyway, this is our crime solving team from that night, and we all fell into hysterics imagining the scene in which Justin struggles to pronounce the word ‘correlation’ wasting valuable minutes of crime-solving time.

Ahhh #GBBO.

We went on holiday to Frankfurt (and later Cologne) in Germany. There was SO MUCH VEGAN CHOICE, including an entire supermarket of vegan food which was basically a dream come true. I want to move there.

Most of my holiday doodles weren’t very good. Neither’s this one but I feel like I need to include at least a couple of holiday ones, even if it is just one of Alex lying around reading. We did a lot of that. It was LOVELY.

Cologne cathedral is massive and amazing.

Holidays are fun, but so is coming home. I’m such a loser…

I made vegan nachos and they were SO GOOD. Ask me about my vegan nachos. I will make them for you and you will (hopefully) be impressed.

Calm and well rested for the first time in what feels like months, but still not capable of doing a decent self portrait. One day! One day!

Dog sitting the adorable Henson for our friends Lucy and Angie. A golden retriever/poodle cross puppy and every bit as cute as that sounds.

I know it’s bad to feel this way, but can it hurry up and get cold already so I can get my awesome-layering-action on?

How hard can it be to fix a leaking washing machine pipe? Two months of washing machine sitting in the middle of the kitchen says VERY HARD, but we might finally have cracked it…

I am probably a nightmare to live with. A have a lot of pent up rage about very minor household improprieties, although weirdly since drawing this illustration it’s sort of got it out of my system and I’m no longer cross all the time. Therapy through illustration!

I hate halloween. I did however, do a halloween themed diary, confronting the scary things that happened to me. Unseasonably warm? Global warming. TERRIFYING. Mystery lunchtime roti, could it contain lentils? Will I eat it anyway thus subjecting myself to a day full of agonising stomach cramps because I’m incapable of showing restraint? All the cash machines are broken! Is this the beginning of the financial apocalypse? (It wasn’t) Let’s run the broken washing machine… will the hose fly off and flood the kitchen?! More than enough fear for one day.

Onwards to November. I am unseasonably optimistic.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


The general impression you may get from this month's visual diary is that I'm miserable. At least that's how I feel like it looks. Allow me to reassure you that I'm mostly fine, and am facing October with optimism. It's been a tiring month in a vague, non-specific, just, everything-all-at-once-but-nothing-in-particular kind of way. Plus it's starting to get dark, and with every year that passes, this seems to make me more miserable. I really need to get back into loving autumn again.

Anyway, without further ado...

Basically this involves us buying a rowing machine, a couple of projectors and a dedicated computer to play appropriate visual scenes. (I'd particularly like this) We then set up the rowing machine in our decidedly compact and warm cupboard-under-the-stairs (which Justin didn’t realise we had until we started talking about putting a rowing machine under there, despite it currently containing such crucial things as THE HOOVER and TOILET ROLL)
Then you just row away and watch the (virtual) world go by. 

This is what it’s like at work when things go well (this scene actually happened).
Not my style, but fancied doing something a bit ‘adventure time’… Despite having never watched it, it's now synonymous with awesome fistbumps in my mind.

Me and Alex went to play on the ‘laser light synths’ on the front of the unitarian church. Basically just hitting glowing buttons which, no matter how terrible your musicianship, sound great and flash big shiny lights up the building. SUCH FUN. Basically left convinced me and Alex should be a musical duo performing on stages worldwide. (The illustration here is what the buttons you were hitting looked like close-up)

When one of the directors comes in to the office, he usually brings his lovely rescue lurcher, Rosie. She's not a big fan of offices, but she's very patient.

Sometimes I worry I’m not very good at this*

(*Graphic design, illustration, functioning as a responsible adult, coping with life’s trials and tribulations)

I really can’t. I signed an NDA.

First cold of the year and IT'S NOT EVEN OCTOBER

I get cross with people about a lot of things when it comes to maintaining a tidy, clean, organised house, but my one hypocrisy is that when I have a cold I just leave tissues everywhere. Alex hates it and shouts ‘GROSS’ whenever he comes across one.

(Slight melodramatic exaggeration alert)
Had THE WORST night where it got to 3.30am and I STILL couldn’t sleep, despite having been lying in bed since about 10. Every time I’d just start to drop off, a tickle in my throat would catch, leaving me coughing a really horrible, dry, retchy cough. Alex, being a night owl, was still up at this time, and when I forlornly came through into his room, sleepy and upset and miserable, he went downstairs and made me a hot lemon and honey and bought it up to me, and, much to my surprise, IT WORKED and my throat was cured! (At least long enough for me to finally drop off). My cynicism about hot lemon and honey is officially gone.

Pardon my French. To be honest though I reckon I could get pretty far in politics in Brighton if I pinned this up around town as my campaign poster.

Turns out the answer was nay. Oh well Scotland. A pity, I think.
We had (veggie) haggis on referendum night to get in the Scottish mood. (Also deep fried vegan mars bars, neeps and tatties and cranachan)

Some days. SOME DAYS. *hands clench very tightly*

I have a problem. Can we have some kind of party sometime when we all wear our too-risque charity shop purchases? Or maybe I just need to go out on West Street on a Saturday night.

A not very good self-portrait that nonetheless accurately conveys my state of mind that day.

Answers: “yes, a bit” and “yes, but not enough to do anything about it”
Upsettingly, I’m now officially overweight on that BMI chart malarkey (only just on the line), which seems ridiculous to me, because, despite being unhappy about my pudgy tummy, to look at me, you honestly wouldn’t think of me as ‘overweight’… WOULD YOU? (Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that). I’m just really struggling to make any changes to my lifestyle because I hate all exercise (although remain convinced that one day I’ll find ‘my sport’ and all will be well) and LOVE FOOD. (I am still full-vegan though, and it’s proving surprisingly effortless)
I’m just trying to be just a teensy bit healthier and a teensy bit more active within my daily routine and hopefully that will be enough to, if not lose some weight, at least keep to my current weight.
And I know. I shouldn’t care. But I really do. My self-image is important to me, and since 2009 I’ve put on TWO STONE which is kind of unbelievable. (I was quite ill with IBS back then though, so the weight sort of fell off without even trying, but EVEN SO.)

Just when you think you've tried all the things on the Wagamama menu that you'd like, along comes the Yasai Yaki Soba to prove you wrong.

Let's stay strong together with cosy nights in and bracing walks along the coast and big bowls of hot winter stew.

Come on October. Let's do this.