This year promises excitement so this week I tried to buy a diary. One of those day-to-a-page affairs in which I can scribble down all the things I see and learn about. I thought they might go cheap now the calendar is turning to February. No such luck. There were a few week-to-view diaries going for half price in Waterstones but nothing suitable for my needs. If my urge to write gets too much to resist, I’ll turn to my many Field Notes notebooks.
Here’s my ten favourite songs of the year, along with a Spotify playlist.
December’s album digest features albums by Bjork, Phoebe Bridgers, Watter, and Neil Finn.
For the next day of our Iceland trip we drove from Fluðir to Vik, taking in plenty of waterfalls.
November’s album digest features albums by 00110100 01010100, James Holden and the Animal Spirits, Daniele Luppi (with Parquet Courts and Karen O), and Fever Ray.
A brilliant remix of a track from Kaitlyn Aurelia’s wonderful album “The Kid”.
Matt Haig’s account of escaping anxiety and depression is as uplifting and life-affirming as its title suggests.
This month’s album digest features albums by Four Tet, Rival Consoles, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Mary Epworth.
Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s experimental novel explores the effect of age on memory and circumstance in San Francisco.
The Coral’s debut album bristles with excitement and ideas. However, as with most of the albums in this series there’s even more going on under the surface.
For the next day of our Iceland trip we drove from Reykjavík to Fluðir, visiting Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss along the way.
Some thoughts on the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition I went to at Tate Modern last year.
An aide memoire for ggplot settings that I always forget.
In February and March, we went to Iceland. In the first of three parts, we explore Reykjavík.
A quick reflection on getting married a month ago. With more pictures!
Recent months have been very busy, so this album digest combines a review of the new album by The National with a couple of reviews left over from earlier in the year.
It took me three years to get through this amazing book on the history of nuclear weapons and their safety.
Orbital’s third album takes you to some weird and wonderful places.
Albums by Blanck Mass, The Shins, Rolling Blackouts CF, and JFDR.
The next understated classic is “Stray” by Aztec Camera. Released in 1990, it features two hit singles and the cover is my favourite colour: green.
A miniature semi-review of Heavyweight, a podcast that I’m enjoying at the moment.
Mira Schendel was a Brazilian artist considered to be one of South America’s best artists. I visited her retrospective at Tate Modern in 2013.
This album digest features albums by Wilco, M.I.A., Local Natives, and Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani.
A short review of The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre, starring Rory Kinnear as Mack the Knife.
Up late, with hot feet and unable to sleep, I type out this confession that I haven’t got a clue what I am doing.
Albums by Prins Thomas, United Vibrations, Sarathy Korwar, and Doomsquad.
I’ve been using spotify’s music discovery playlist Discover Weekly to find new albums for this month’s album digest. Here’s some thoughts.
We went to an afternoon Prom to see works by Hellawell, Haydn and Tchaikovsky performed by the Ulster Orchestra.
Albums by Aphex Twin, Avalanches, Bat For Lashes, Beyond The Wizards Sleeve, and Islands.
This modern take on the legend of the apostles mixes genres and timelines to heady effect.
The next entry in the understated classic series is Embrya by Maxwell, perfect for summer evenings!
The next part of the South American Trip took me through three countries in under a week: from Tupiza in Bolivia, to Salta in Argentina, and then on to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
Among my favourite novels by J.G. Ballard, this silly romp through suburban sexual repression glitters with a sinister wit.
Here’s a shiny app that allows you to explore my Panini sticker swapping model
Album Digest June 2016 features albums by Roxette, Tegan & Sara, Flume, and Islands. Overall it’s a pretty poppy collection of albums this month.
Here’s some code that simulates multiple collectors of Panini stickers. How many friends should you recruit in order to minimise the number of packets you have to buy?
Some thoughts on the disasterous result of the EU referendum.
A review of the Logitech K380 keyboard. I really like this portable bluetooth keyboard for windows and mac devices, it’s well made, useful and pleasant to use.
How many packets of stickers do you have to buy to complete the Euro 2016 sticker album?
Album Digest May 2016 with albums from Radiohead, Parquet Courts, Brian Eno, and Mark Pritchard.
We saw two exhibitions of photography by Werner Bischof at the Elysée in Lausanne. “Point of View” explores his international work spanning the years 1945 to 1954. “Helvetica” explores his earlier work while isolated from travel in Switzerland during the second world war.
“Something Coming Through” is a science fiction novel set in the near future. A few years after a brief nuclear war known as “The Spasm”, an alien race known as the Jackaroo introduce themselves to humanity. The novel is funny, thoughtful, and politically charged. I found it to be a good read.
A return for the album digest with albums by Pet Shop Boys, Underworld, Charlie Don’t Surf, and Leon Vynehall.
This was my first trip out of the UK since getting back from South America
A special album digest featuring my favourite Bowie albums
For Ingrid’s birthday, we went to see The Nutcracker at The King’s Theatre in Southsea.
Your rails, your fins, your thin paper wings.
Parachutes, oil spills, cultural anthropology, and the river Styx. Of course.
Hallowe’en seems like the perfect time to write about this witchy concept album.
A short review of the movie adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian.
My pick for the 2015 Booker Prize is Satin Island by Tom McCarthy.
Please can I travel back in time and stop myself from reading this junk?
The next stretch of my South American journey took me from La Paz to Potosi
This short piece of non-fiction should chill the spines of everyone, whether they are pragmatic about nuclear weapons or terrified of them.
A short review of “Get To Heaven” by Everything Everything.
A short review of the Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon novel Inherent Vice.
The next in the understated classic series is The White Room by The KLF. Another one of those albums that actually isn’t understated in any way!
Rather than spill the beans about another idea for a novel, I’m going to set myself some exercise for blogs posts that tackle the technical problems the idea poses for me as a writer.
A short review of Minions, a film featuring those crazy little yellow guys from Despicable Me.
A comparison of Apple Music and Spotify after using them side by side this weekend.
Album Digest June 2015 features five fantastic albums from Hot Chip, Jamie xx, Blanck Mass, Holly Herndon, and The Orb.
A brief rant about Facebook: I hate the fact that the news feed defaults to “Top Stories” even though I change it back to “Most Recent” every time I log in. It’s a horrible pattern of user abuse that needs to stop. Time is time and that is that.
A political analogy about rhinos that came tumbling out of my head.
The thirtieth understated classic is Our Aim Is To Satisfy by Red Snapper, an album of downtempo electronic beauty.
A review of The Martian by Andy Weir. A novel about an astronaut abandoned on Mars. In fact, he has survived. But how on Earth (Mars?!) will he get home?
A review of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which celebrates an unmade film and the process of artistic creation if not its success.
Just a little post about getting over self-censorship and imposter syndrome, and just writing something and putting it out there.
Last night I watched a firework display from my bathroom window. This reminded me to write a post about how fireworks work, which I’ve been putting off for a while.
A modern novel about a party drug and some foxes, among other things. Very funny indeed.
This album helped soothe my worried mind in a time of crisis and it never fails to help me out.
Some thoughts on how to capture ideas, emotions, thoughts, and experiences without losing the ability to live the moment itself.
A celebration of the humble cheese grater, one of my favourite bits of kitchen kit and gateway to the best comfort food of all time: cheese on toast!
I set myself the task of writing about a fictional character for this blog post, so this post is about Jackson X. His surname isn’t really X, it’s just one of the details about him that I haven’t fleshed out yet. This is because Jackson X is the one of the protagonists of the novel I’m (not) writing.
A short post about the benefit and necessity of voting. Written in response to Facebook promoting UK voting registration.
Albums by Sleater-Kinney, Azealia Banks, Museum of Love, Parkay Quarts, Flying Lotus, and Röyksopp
The Meadowlands by The Wrens is number 28 in the understated classics. If you’re living life and you really mean it, this is the record for you.
A little review of Feersum Endjinn by Iain M. Banks, which I re-read over Christmas.
Some musings on how we get to know what we’re doing with our lives.
An update detailing what I have been up to and a promise of more posts to follow.
A garbled post about thinking about thinking; taking in David Foster Wallace’s “The Pale King”, pictures of ghosts on Instagram, and teaching computers to love.
Albums by Aphex Twin, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Vessel, and The Juan Maclean.
A quick post about how to generate random numbers in R, mostly for my own reference.
A single moment of carelessness irreversibly transforms a life in Evie Wyld’s second novel All The Birds, Singing.
Not as good as previous Murakami novels, but still a fun read.
See also “Whatever happened to that hat?”
“Who has not asked himself at some time or other: am I a monster or is this what it means to be a person?”
Some musings about found sound and vocal samples in ambient music. Like ambient music, I don’t really go anywhere.
Rather than write a full blown review, here are fifteen observations about Guardians of the Galaxy. See if you can guess if I liked it!
How the Orb’s Live ‘93 album opened the doorways of my mind.
A review of Come On Die Young by Mogwai as part of my understated classics series of album reviews.
From there to here in 10 years, courtesy of a Wilco baseball cap.
Albums by Watter, Hundred Waters, Parquet Courts and Max Richter.
New albums by Little Dragon and Coldplay, along with the mini-album collaboration between Röyskopp and Robyn.
From Cuzco to Ollantaytambo, along the Inca Trail to glorious Machu Picchu!
The reasons why I am reconsidering using Dropbox to sync my files and what the alternatives might be.
Next up was a piecemeal section of the trip that took in quite a varied set of sights and helped us get to know the new passengers who joined in Lima. On the first day we took a boat trip out to the Ballestas Islands, a nature reserve that is informally known as “the poor man’s galapagos”. Living there are penguins, sea birds, sea lions and seals. The speed boat out was a little wet and wild (and in fact the return trip was even wetter and wilder) so we all got soaked (twice) but the microclimate around the islands themselves was calm and warm, and we all got good value out of our cameras (if they still worked that is). We even saw a pelican get taken down by a sea-lion which was an interesting if not altogether pleasant display of nature red in tooth and claw. Also, who knew that guano was so valuable?!?
Part 6 of the South American adventure. Still in Peru, including Huanchaco, Chan Chan, and the capital Lima.
Our first few days in Peru involved some rest and relaxation at a beach resort in Punta Sal.
We left Misahualli for Banos via an hour in nearby Tena to get something for the truck fixed. After that the drive to Banos was pretty short - or at least it seemed that way as I alternated between dozing off, snapping the scenery and… well… dozing off some more. We arrived at a campsite about twenty minutes taxi ride from Banos and this was it, the thing I’d feared most about this trip: the camping. Fortunately, as an odd boy, I managed to secure my own tent - the gadget palace that you can see in my selfie! Getting the tent up was straightforward and all my assorted camping gear seemed to live up to requirements! It chucked it down with rain in the night, so it was good that the fly sheet did it’s job too. It was great fun to lie there listening to the rain, nice and warm and dry. More importantly, I also managed to get some sleep.
Instead of feeling the gratitude and excitement I’ve felt since being here, I’ve spent a lot of time wanting to curl up in the corner and just be… well… somewhere else.
Further into Ecuador and over the Andes, to the point where we are just touching the Amazon jungle. Features an encounter with a tarantula.
Albums from Four Tet, CHVRCHES, DARKSIDE, and HAIM. A capital month indeed.
Trust me, you can’t go wrong with this.
“Sometimes excessive homage can start to feel like satire or exploitation instead.”
A couple of months after hitting the reset button on my life, I found myself floundering a little. Here’s how I tried to set myself straight.
An exhibition exploring the history of art vandalism in Britain over the last five hundred years.
Albums by Arctic Monkeys, BT, Goldfrapp, and Janelle Monáe.
The twenty-fifth entry in my understated classics series of album reviews is Long Gone Before Daylight by The Cardigans.
“[A] …collective obsession, no matter how surreal, lends those engaged in it the very conformity that they seek to avoid.”
Sometimes you realise the truth about work is that it isn’t that enjoyable and that you have to move on and do something else for your own sake.
How making conference posters with LaTeX turned out to be something of a lightbulb moment.
A review of Despicable Me 2. As a spoiler for the review, I liked it so much that I saw it twice!
Albums by Pet Shop Boys, Fuck Buttons, Holden, and Ramin Djawadi.
A short review of “The Ocean At The End Of The Lane” by Neil Gaiman. Also veers a little into befuddled wonderment about brains and memory.
How about a TV show that looks into the lives of well known mathematicians? As I show here, it’s got potential for lots of drama.
Some thoughts on the Ibrahim El-salahi retrospective at Tate Modern.
Albums by John Hopkins and Boards of Canada. With honourable mentions for Tricky, The Lonely Island, and The Orb feat. Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Multiple time lines and murderous shenanigans in Peter Ackroyd’s “Hawksmoor”.
A record that may well have saved my life.
As Sufjan Stevens once sang, “only a steel man can be our lover”. Or something.
Four great albums this month from The National, Vampire Weekend, Lilacs & Champagne, and The Phoenix Foundation.
Today I went to see “George Bellows 1882-1925 Modern American Life” at the Royal Academy of Arts.
This is a short but entertaining show that will introduce you to a talented and underrated artist. This is as important thing to see in the Tate Modern as the greats and I highly recommend it.
Statistically 1 in 23, a number on a list…
A novel about love and growing up set in the privileged world of US academia in the early eighties.
My love for both the book and the movie version of “On The Road”, explained.
The twenty second understated classic is the fine sophomore effort from Clinic.
An incident with some music and the flickering light on a faulty give way sign.
A new novel by Thomas Pynchon was recently announced, here’s why I love his books.
Albums by Nelly Furtado, Everything Everything, and Frank Ocean.
Albums by Tracey Thorn, Woob, and Tim Hecker & Daniel Lopatin, with an EP by Burial.
Albums this month by Bat For Lashes, Ital, Björk, and Brian Eno.
“Rust and Bone” is Jacques Audiard’s follow up to the amazing “A Prophet”.
Starring Daniel Craig as James Bond and Javier Bardem as a very naughty man.
Albums by Daphni, Laurie Spiegel, Mala, and Ricardo Villalobos.
Albums by The xx, Four Tet, Grizzly Bear, and Nelly Furtado.
After “If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things” and “So Many Ways To Begin” comes “Even The Dogs”, a tougher read but still as beautifully written.
Nelly Furtado’s second album is better than you might remember…
The Dreaming by Kate Bush, a kooky curio from the dustier part of her discography, is the nineteenth instalment of my understated classics sequence of album reviews; it is well worth your time.
An awesome science fiction novel about the power of identity, imagination, and nightmares.
Three great albums by Saint Etienne, Liars, and Hot Chip. And a brief mention for Guy Gerber’s Fabric 64 mix.
Gonzo is the biography of Hunter S. Thompson in graphical form. In case you don’t know his work, Hunter S. Thompson was a journalist who invented the so-called “gonzo” style.
What?! We’re allowing compilations now? Yes. Why not?
Albums by Orbital, Battles, Chemical Brothers, and Austin Wintory. Album bingo full house: studio, remix, live, and soundtrack!
“Sit back and let it happen / Let us take your time away.”
A poem by Ted Hughes that I’ve chosen for my friend, whose birthday it is today.
A review of Sam Selvon’s “The Lonely Londoners”, a 1956 novel about the experiences of West Indian immigrants arriving in the UK in the Windrush years.
A lot of these are ambient albums aren’t they?!?
Albums by Burial, John Talabot, Lilacs & Champagne, and The 2 Bears.
Sometimes what seems at the outset like an exciting project can end up as a rod for your own back.
Albums by FOE, Leila, Diagrams, a collaboration between Pyramids and Horseback, and a FabricLive mix by Pinch.
I have many happy memories of Björk’s first album.
A documentary about Joyce Vincent, a woman who was found in her flat in Wood Green three years after her death surrounded by wrapped christmas presents and with the TV still on.
“I think it’s time to discuss your philosophy of drug use as it relates to artistic endeavour…”
Went along with a few mates from work to rigorously fact-check this movie.
It’s about a philosopher and his wolf. The clue is in the title really.
Albums by John Beltran, Wilco, The Rapture, and a mix by Four Tet for FabricLive.
FUN FACT: It was because of the artwork to this album that I repeatedly scrawled onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome on my pencil case at school. I also had a very passable u.f.orb logo drawn on it too.
I finally took on the challenge of one of sci-fi’s iconic novels. Verdict: it’s iconic for a reason.
Albums by Biosphere, Ford & Lopatin, Gus Gus, Instra:Mental, and Jon Tejada.
A cassette that I got for my tenth birthday really started off my lifelong love of pop music.
I have now been writing decent length articles on this site for about a year. I have learned a lot in this time, mostly about writing but also how to express your feelings and how to marshal your ideas and passions into action. For this month’s “five on the fifth”, I would like to share with you some of the things I have learned.
A fundamental misconception at work here is that there is some sort of algebra of misery and suffering that allows us to order and sift through tragic events, that allows us to declare one more important than another, and assess the worth of expressing our incomprehension and our sympathy. These beliefs assume that our reserves of sympathy are somehow finite and need to be managed, that they should only be used for the correct situations. This is of course nonsense: you can feel as shitty about any of the events of recent days as you like. It is your choice and yours alone. Personally, I feel terrible.
“White car / Blue Mercedes / Happy Shopper / Bouncing Ball”
Just the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities… …in my description of why I love Disney’s version of The Jungle Book.
Old maps are a great reminder of human imagination and collective consciousness.
Tubular Bells II is not really understated in any way, but rather a luxurious and underrated update to the original.
What if you crashed your car, ended up on one of those hinterlands beside the motorway, and no one noticed that you were gone?
Albums by Kate Bush, Africa Hitech, TV on the Radio, and Fleet Foxes.
Motorik instrumentals, dub reggae, English folk, and balearic pop on Saint Etienne’s excellent third album Tiger Bay.
Albums by Jamie Woon, Young Knives, Elbow, Katy B, along with Agoria’s Fabric mix.
A little post about why I love the film Betty Blue so much. It’s not all about the nudity. Obviously it is a little bit about the nudity, but not all.
They work for me… sometimes… your mileage may vary.
One of my favourite things about the Culture novels is how the ships are named and having found a list on Wikipedia, I thought I would share ten of my favourites with you!
“Maybe I was lucky that way”.
Albums by James Blake, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Cut/Copy, and The Low Anthem.
Hurrah for more exoplanets making the news this week. This time it is for a star with a whole bunch of small planets very close to the star, whereas usually they tend to be single gas giants larger even than Jupiter.
An update on the progress (or otherwise) of my UNO playing C++ program.
Albums by The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, Joan As Policewoman, British Sea Power, and The Phoenix Foundation.
Why do we have to keep explaining this shit to supposedly intelligent people?
“You’ve had bad luck / and I know what it feels like / to have bad luck…”
Some Christmas stories and some photos of waxwings that my Dad snapped earlier in December.
Trees are good, trees are good, trees are bad, trees are bad…
Since the run there has been a bit of a hiatus in this blog. I wrote about how running was making me feel better. In fact, I should have said more. I recently stopped taking the antidepressants that I had been taking for eighteen months. This has been my longest period taking such medication but the running made me feel sufficiently good to decide that I could stop taking them.
The fifth entry in my understated classics series of album reviews is A Weekend In The City by Bloc Party. Like many bands, Bloc Party use a difficult second album to talk about difficult things.
Another Ballard novel, this time we’re off to a jungle that’s rapidly turning into Crystal. But why? Because it’s Ballard, that’s why.
The fourth album reviewed in my sequence of understated classics posts is Biosphere’s icy masterpiece Substrata.
Another Ballard novel, this time it’s The Drought (AKA The Burning World).
The third album in the understated classics series is “The Circle & The Square”, the great lost 80s pop record by Red Box.
Ballard’s first novel and the first point of call in reading all of them.
The second album in the understated classics series is a moody broody record that wants you to “come on over here and have some fun”…
This sequence of posts lauds under-celebrated albums. First up: “Together Alone” by Crowded House.
©Matthew Dorey 2018.
A bird is sitting on the grass with a kite.