My new book, Sunrise, the first book in my epic Dystopian Sci-Fi series will be out in less than two months. That’s pretty exciting, and a little bit terrifying, if I’m going to be honest. But as I ramp up, one thing my readers have been asking me is... what’s it like?Read More
If last week’s post was all about taking stock (not drinking it, won’t be making that mistake again) then this one if much more fun, because it’s just a great big list of what I’ve enjoyed this year. Now, bearing in mind I tend to get round to books a good few years after they’re released, and I never get to the cinema any more, the one thing I can claim any current opinions on is music. So let’s start with my top 20 albums of 2018.
20. Allfather – And All Will Be Desolation: One of those rare times where you get to know the people through social media first and then their band turns out to be properly, crackingly good. No nonsense in its approach, this is sludgy thrashtastic metal at its modern finest.
19. KEN Mode – Loved: Given that their last album made it to pride of place in my end of year rankings, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a step backward, no matter how good it is. And that’s true of the music, too, with the band stepping away from the ultra-noise rock stomp of Blessed toward their more chaotic hardcore norm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great, but it’s not a pinnacle like Blessed was.
18. Harms Way – Postmortem: This album makes me want to fight dance everyone in whatever room I’m in at the time, so I’ve had to stop listening to it at work, just in case.
17. Cult Leader – A Patient Man: If I had a few more months with this one it would almost certainly be higher up the list. The most extreme noisecore you’ll ever hear nestled alongside harrowingly stark folk. Brilliant.
16. King Buffalo – Repeater: Only an EP, and their follow up album later in the year doesn’t exactly set my world alight, but there’s something achingly lovely about this shimmering, sad stone rock, even if it’s over far too quickly.
15. Messa – Feast for Water: Another album with sadness running through its core, this is all big doom riffs and soaring soul vocals, which is rarely a bad combination. This, however, steps above the rest of the pack. Sublime.
14. Boss Keloid – Melted on the Inch: Speaking of sublime. This is utterly baffling, taking the inventiveness of Leviathan-era Mastodon, the chest pumping song writing of Baroness, and throwing big barrels of heaviness at them until you’ve ended up with something quite odd, but utterly compelling.
13. Sleep – The Sciences: Sleep were always one of those stone rock bands I knew I was supposed to like but never really got the point of, until now. This is absolutely brilliant doom.
12. Black Peaks – All That Divides: If there were any justice, these would be the next big thing in metal. utterly modern, with great song writing, fantastic vocals, and just enough of a pop sensibility to be flung at a mainstream audience.
11. Erdve – Vaitojimas: Bleakest of the bleak. This has been a great year for post metal, a genre that seemed to be disappearing up its own collective misery pipe, but this, like The Atlas Moth and a few others that haven’t quite made the cut, show that there’s life in the old girl yet.
10. Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance: If Black Peaks are the underground band who deserve the mainstream adulation, Idles are a band about to burst into the mainstream who sound utterly underground. Pop punk without any of the awful connotations of that phrase, this is politically fierce, packed with great songs, and fierce af. Their Later performance will go down alongside the At The drive in one for sheer joy.
9. Yob – Our Raw Heart: As achingly sad as it’s possible to get without becoming Leonard Cohen, this is somehow utterly uplifting, which is no mean feat. Glacial space doom made from tears of sorrow and joy.
8. Dessa – CHIME: I’ve not really listened to much hip hop this year, it’s just not really been my bag for some reason, but this has cut through that. Stridently feminist, as clever as you’d imagine, but pop enough that it’s one of the rare things I put on in the car without making my daughter want to die of embarrassment.
7. Haken – Vector: On a list of what are admittedly pretty bleak albums, this is a little ray of proggy 80’s synth metal that just makes me smile from ear to ear, just like their last album did. It’s a genre I care not a jot for, and it’s absolutely delightful.
6. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe. As much as I’ll always enjoy a new Fu Manchu album, I didn’t think I’d ever love a new one again, not like I did when I first heard The Action Is Go. This is astoundingly good, all fuzzed out petrol rock, big riffs flying everywhere before it goes all weird and un Fu at the end with a song that actually goes for longer than ten minutes. Even with that, it never outstays its welcome.
5. All Them Witches – ATW: I adore this band. In a year when I’ve spent a good few months listening to nothing but old stone records, this has been on heavy repeat along with everything else they’ve ever done. Bluesy, loose, heavy when it needs to be, it’s a long night in a good bar with best friends.
4. Conjurer – Mire: I’ve been trying to sum up my feelings about this, because the truth is that it just rages. Thoroughly, comprehensively, relentlessly. Just an absolutely brilliant modern metal album.
3. The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir: This first time I heard this, I hated it. All screechy vokills, pretentious cod-symphonic nonsense. And yet… I just couldn’t stop listening, until I had to admit to myself that I actually loved it very very much. I still don’t know why, I just know I can’t stop listening to it.
2. Dead Meadow – The Nothing They Need: This has been a good year for stone rock, with some great bands returning with career highlights, and nowhere is that more evident than here. They’ve done nothing revolutionary with their sound, still the same washed out Doors and Blue Cheer worship they’ve always done, but it’s miles ahead of their recent albums. An absolute cracker.
1. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It. Every year, amongst a sea of fantastic albums, there’s always one that stands out above the rest, head and shoulders higher than the nearest competition. That one album that grabs you and won’t let you stop playing it until your children groan at the opening shimmer of the intro because they’ve heard it too many damn times. This is that album. If Rolo Tomassi were always also-rans of the noisecore scene, forever slightly in the shadow of the American giants like Dillinger, the disappearance of those bands has offered them the briefest glimpse of limelight, and chuffing Nora have they taken it. This is an album so confident, so bafflingly complex and utterly epic as to stand entirely on its own. 2018 has been a stellar year for albums, but to my mind there’s no competition for the top slot, and you have to take your hats off to Rolo Tomassi for that.
Book of the Year: Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. I haven’t actually read any new releases this year, but I did read all three books of this trilogy, and absolutely adored it. Vampire plagues have never been this thought provoking.
Film of the Year: A Star is Born. I cried quite a lot at this, knowing full well how manipulated I was, not caring even remotely.
TV of the Year: Inside No 9 Live Special. Either you saw this and know, or you didn’t, and you don’t.
Podcast of the Year: The Daily. Absolutely essential for politics nerds obsessed with the slow decay of America
So, what did I miss?
I’ve spoken before about the role that the comic of The Walking Dead played in me becoming an author. Before it became a sprawling and colossal TV series, I got quite addicted to the graphic novel. At that time I was already writing a tale about two layabout stoners going on a road trip in the UK, but it wasn’t going anywhere. Then I got the first volume of The Walking Dead, where Kirkman spoke in his intro about getting to the end of every zombie film ever made and wondering what happened next. I felt the same way about every end-of-the-world tome I ever came across. My road trip novel soon morphed into the apocalyptic tome it is today. I wanted to explore that same idea, except removing the zombies altogether.
So, with the second anniversary of the release of Blood on the Motorway fast approaching, I’m beyond delighted to be involved in a very special Walking Dead themed giveaway. Unfortunately, it’s only open to you if you’re in the US, so if that’s not you then, well, sorry about that.
If you are in the US, here’s what’s up for grabs:
'Rick' Walking Dead Fleece Blanket
8" Michonne Walking Dead Vinyl Idolz figure
Daryl Crossbow Coffee Mug
Daryl Crossbow & Angel Wings Walking Dead Keychain
Walking Dead pen & bookmark
Walking Dead luggage tag
Walking Dead magnets
Walking Dead Comic #1
Walking Dead Comic #2
Walking Dead Comic #3
Walking Dead Mini Calendar
Walking Dead button badges
Zombie-opoly Board Game
Zombie ‘Where’s Waldo’ book
Zombie Colouring book for grown-ups
The Ladybird book of the Zombie Apocalypse (for grown-ups)
Zombie Outbreak car decal
28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later Blu-ray Set
Romero Dawn of the Dead/Land of the Dead Blu-ray Set
'Undad', Author Shane W. Smith
'A Place Called Hope' & 'A Place Outside the Wild', by Daniel Humphreys, signed by the author.
Entering to win is easy. Just enter your name and email at this link. Follow sponsoring authors on other social media platforms and share the giveaway for additional entries. By entering this giveaway, you AGREE TO BE SUBSCRIBED to the sponsoring author's newsletters listed in italics below. You may individually unsubscribe at any time.
Sponsoring Authors: Eli Constant, Claire C. Riley, Russell Nohelty, Dani Dixon, Matthew Jones, Daniel Humphreys, E.B. Black, Shane W Smith, Kristen Renee Gorlitz, Erica Gerald Mason, L.K. Hatchett, Baileigh Higgins, J.D. Oliva, Carmelo Chimera, N.S. Paul, Tyler James, David Lucarelli, Terrance Grace, & Pauline Creeden. Oh, and me.
Best of luck to you, I’m extremely peeved that I don’t get to enter it myself!
In this time of #goldenshowers, blank dossiers, Home Secretaries preaching hate to their own conference, incoming Trumpageddon, and U2 touring again, I don’t really want to be the one to add further ill tidings. Really I don’t. So it is with a heavy heart and a sombre voice that I have some terrible news to impart.
My subscription to Sky Movies has less than thirty days left to run.
I’ll just stand back and let that sink in.
I know, devastating, isn’t it? As much as I’d like to be able to claim this is all because of us tearing up our contract with the Murdockian devil in an act of political defiance, I can’t. It’s just that our six month half price offer has finally expired. I know, I’m hanging my head in shame for giving him six months of my money, even at half price.
The worst thing is, that once it has gone, it’ll take all of the movies I recorded to my TiVo box with in, in an act of pettiness equivalent to that being displayed by the President Elect. This means that from now until the 9th of February, I have to do some hardcore film-watching. No, wait, not like that.
Here’s all the films I currently have recorded:
- Tomorrowland: A World Beyond
- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
- The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- Crimson Peak
- The Survivalist
- Time Out of Mind
- Mistress America
- Inherent Vice
- The Theory of Everything
- Steve Jobs
- Midnight Special
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
- The Witch
Now, bearing in mind that my good lady wife wants to see all these films too, that we have two young children, we both work a hell of a lot, and that I’m spending five days in a completely different country, the chances are we’re not going to get to all these. So, in order to help us select which ones we’re going to prioritise, I need your help. That’s right, imagine there’s a mocked up American Army recruitment poster here of some kind. I need you to let me know which ones you’d see first, so that we can use those comments in pitched battle when we can’t agree which film is worthier of watching than the others.
Done? Okay, you can go back to reading about Trump again. Cheers.
No, wait! I almost forgot. Sleepwalk City comes out tomorrow! So, why not sun out now and bag yourself the pre-order, and help it rocket with up the charts upon release? Seriously, it'd really help. For more details, head here, and click on one of the boxes.
Welcome to Discovery Park – the chronicle of my increasingly frustrated attempt to listen to every album on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of all-time list, is available now on Amazon Uk, Amazon.com, iBooks, Kobo, and many more.
This week I was listening to one of the eleventy billion writing podcasts that I subscribe to in the vain hope that they’ll somehow magic me into becoming a better writer, and they were discussing taking inspiration from existing works. Before you cry plagiarism, we’re talking...Read More
My brief abscondment from blogging last year has rather unfortunately robbed me of the traditional look-back-on-the-year-gone post of which I have previously been so fond of boring my audience with. I’d look at the post I did last year for the year ahead, judge myself against it and write one for the next year, so I could end up in an endless feedback loop of recrimination. If blogging offers anything of value to the blogger beyond the knowledge of pestering multiple people at once, it is the accountability you can get by looking back and measuring yourself against that optimistic version of yourself. Last year I’d completely abandoned blogging and was about to walk away from writing online altogether, and so there is no post from this time last year going on about how much I was going to achieve this year for me to look at, get depressed and then write about how next year was going to be the year I’d actually get my life together.
Not that that’s going to stop me looking back anyway.
I seem to remember that at the turn of last year I actually took a conscious decision not to make any resolutions at all. I was determined not to mess about with dieting and all that nonsense (hence the additional stone or so that I’m now carrying), I was going to wrap up Demon Pigeon and make most of the people I know online cross with me for doing so (mission accomplished) and there was some kind of nebulous ‘I’ll do better with the writing thing’. That was about it.
So in the absence of any set goals, what kind of a year has it been? Well I started a new job and managed not to get fired from it, so that’s a good start. I seem to actually be quite good at it, so from that point of view it’s been pretty good. It has brought into my life a level of ‘work stress’ that I’ve managed to avoid for most of my work life to date, but I guess that’s what happens as you climb further up that greasy pole. It’s not unbearable and I’m a hell of a lot better off than a lot of other people, so I’m not about to start bitching about it.
On the health front the aforementioned stone or so (I daren’t look too closely at the numbers until next year, when I will actually do something about it) is testament to a year when I have at the very least enjoyed my food. And my wine. Mostly the latter.
As for the writing? Well I finished the second draft of Blood on the Motorway, my apocalyptic tale of murder and stale sandwiches, but more importantly I came to something approaching an epiphany about my writing, and what I need to do if I’m serious about wanting to make this anything more than a hobby. I sent the second draft out (or bits of it anyway) to some beta readers and seemed to get some fairly positive responses which have encouraged me that perhaps I’m not entirely barking up the wrong tree.
As for everything else, well it’s been a bit of a barnstormer of a year. My lovely family is pretty bloody brilliant. My little boy is currently at the period between three and four that guarantees peak cuteness and my daughter is growing up to be a brilliant, kind and sweet little girl with a tremendous curiosity about the world. My partner and I are nearly a year into planning a wedding and haven’t had to resort to murdering each other even once. She’s been amazingly supportive as I’ve taken on the new job and tried to determine my writing plan, and I can’t wait to stand up next to her next year and look slightly shambolic next to her radiance when we get married.
There’s been ups and downs, as there inevitably is, but as I sit astride December looking back on the year gone, I have to say that on balance it’s been a corker. I’m unbelievably excited about next year, even though it’s going to be one of the toughest of my life if I want to do everything I plan to achieve, but that’s for another post. Stop rolling your eyes, yes there’ll be more of this.
At this point all there is to do is splurge out a list of all the stuff I’ve liked this year, like a child shouting out his favourite Pokémon to a disinterested playground.
I almost never read stuff when it comes out, but the books I’ve enjoyed most this year are:
- Write, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant, and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. Two self-publishing guides that have completely revolutionised my thinking this year.
- Old Gold, Runaway Town and Lost City by Jay Stringer. After a few years of meaning to get around to them I finally read these three books in quick succession, and they completely blew me away. All the brilliance of the American crime heavyweights like Pelicanos, but with a Wolverhampton accent.
- I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. A bit of a fluff read, this was a thoroughly entertaining Bourne style political murder mystery.
I have children so rarely make it to the cinema any more, but The Raid: Berendal was astounding, and I really enjoyed Captain America: Winter Soldier and Edge of Tomorrow. I’m sure I would have loved Gone Girl, Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy too, but I haven’t seen any of them so I can’t comment. No, I’m not crying, you’re crying. *weeps*
Despite there not being any albums that completely blew me away this year, there’s been a lot that I’ve really enjoyed. Here’s my non ordered top 21 albums of the year because why the hell not:
- Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown
- 65daysofstatic – Wild Light
- Crippled Black Phoenix – White Light Generator
- Mogwai – RAVE TAPES
- Helms Alee – Sleepwalking Sailors
- Conan – Blood Eagle
- Dirge – Hyperion
- Cult Leader – Nothing For Us Here
- Lantlos – Melting Sun
- Fu Manchu – Gigantoid
- Electric Wizard – Time to Die
- Trap Them – Blissfucker
- Old Man Gloom – The Ape of God I
- Beck – Morning Phase
- Sun Kil Moon – Benji
- Se Delan – The Fall
- Goat – Commune
- This Will Destroy You – Another Language
- Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean
- Mark Lanegan Band – Phantom Radio
- NehruvianDOOM – NehruvianDOOM
Of course, the new Colour Haze album comes out today and I’ve not heard it yet, so I fully expect that to make a late bid for Album of the Year.
So that’s it. 2014. All done and dusted save for the fun bit at the end. If you missed it the other day, I did a new post over at The Rolling Stone Challenge, so if you’ve not seen that, you should totally go and read it.