Happy New Year Everyone!

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful and prosperous 2010. 2009 saw a drastic drop in the temperature as well as the amount of cash in people’s pockets. Here’s hoping the coming twelve months bring us a lot more sunshine

Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan

My Year In Lists – Los Campesinos!

This Will Be Our Year – The Zombies

January – Ravens & Chimes

Letting the New Year In – George Formby

New Year’s Resolution – Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

Still Crazy After All These Years – Paul Simon

January Man – Rachel Unthank

Last Year’s Ugly Duckling Shall Be This Year’s Beauty Queen – Minotaurs

I Made A Resolution – Sea Wolf

What’s Another Year- (Johnny Logan cover) – Shane MacGowan

January Rain – Hunters & Collectors

Another Year – Amanda Palmer

Here Comes The New Year – Toasted Heretic


My Favourite Books of the 00s

The rise of the internet and the mp3 has had a negative impact on music sales in traditional record shops over the last decade. The brick and mortar book trade has also faced competition from supermarkets and charity shops as well as internet sites like Amazon and eBay. In technological terms, hand-held reading devices have been introduced but these have failed to take off due to readers’ preference for the touch and feel of paper in their hands while reading. Personally, I only ever read books in the old-fashioned way and I prefer to do my browsing in bookstores rather than online. Without further ado, here are ten of my favourite fiction and non-fiction titles from the last ten years
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My Favourite Films of 2009

Following hot on the heels of my favourite albums of 2009, here are the films that I liked most over the last twelve months. I must point out that some of these were released somewhere in the world in 2008 but I only got to see them in Ireland in 2009. Due to the poor state of cinema exhibition in Limerick, I often had to wait until many of these titles appeared on dvd. I’ve already written about The Damned United here and here, Looking for Eric here, a little bit about I’ve Loved You So Long here, and briefly about Star Trek here. In a year in which the unbelievably overrated Slumdog Millionaire won the Best Film Oscar, Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino yet again highlighted his directorial talents and showed that he can still teach the younger generation a thing or two about acting. I was shocked that this nicely paced, intelligent film failed to receive a single Oscar nomination. The low-budget Frozen River managed to earn two nominations – for Best Actress and Original Screenplay. It is set on the New York/Canada border during winter and concerns illegal emigration, low-wage workers, and a single mother who gets caught up in illegal trafficking in order to make ends meet
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My Favourite Albums of 2009

I’m going to take a short break from counting down my favourite albums of the decade to reveal my ten favourite albums of 2009. I had planned to wait a few days but a lunchtime discussion at The Wild Onion earlier today with a couple of music fans prompted me to put my skates on. The conversation became heated at times with bits of omelette flying around the table as Dave tried to make a strong case for Wilco. John and I are big fans of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen (I’m a little bigger around the waist) but we both agreed that the albums they released this year were pretty mediocre by their standards. So, here are my ten favourites from 2009. I haven’t included albums from The Dirty Projectors, The XX, The Felice Brothers and Camera Obscura because I still haven’t made up my mind about them. The list below includes ones that I played the most during the year as well as ones that I liked the best. It opens with a concept album about cricket and goes on to include a mixture of titles by male and female songwriters that feature a fair bit of strummed or plucked acoustic guitar. Most of these records are ones that I might put on before going to bed or the day after a heavy night on the tiles. In contrast, I can’t imagine playing too many of them before hitting the town on a Saturday night. Personally, I think this is just a coincidence. I’m still a fan of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s just that sometimes I don’t like the tempo to be so fast and the sound to be so loud. That’s just how I roll these days
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Best Albums of the 00s: Raising Sand

Raising Sand - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (2007)

The 2007 collaboration between the former lead singer of Led Zeppelin and an American bluegrass musician is number nine in my chronological countdown of the albums I’ve enjoyed the most since 2000. Raising Sand is a country-flavoured collection of thirteen cover versions of songs written by such renowned songwriters as Gene Clark, Tom Waits and Townes Van Zandt. The songs were chosen by the album’s producer and guitarist, T-Bone Burnett, who also assembled the excellent band that includes such wonderful musicians as Marc Ribot and Norman Blake. The real delight, however, is the pretty impressive vocal collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, who also plays a mean fiddle. I must admit that I was surprised when I first heard that they would be working together

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Best Albums of the 00s: The Greatest

The Greatest - Cat Power (2006)

The third consecutive female artist on my favourite albums from the start of the 21st century is Cat Power and her album, The Greatest (2006). Cat Power is the stage name of the Georgia state-born vocalist Chan Marshall. I first came across her when I heard her stripped-down take on (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. I checked out the album that contains that track, The Covers Record (2000), and was quite satisfied by her equally sparse versions of songs by acts like The Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan. I didn’t come across her again until I saw her performing barefooted on Later with Jools Holland in 2006. I was even more captivated by the two songs she performed that night, Lived in Bars and the title track from the album pictured above. This was her first album to include exclusively original material and it was also notable for its musical departure from her previous six albums that featured the minimalist guitar and piano sound I knew from The Covers Record

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Best Albums of the 00s: Ys

Ys - Joanna Newsom (2006)

The second album by Joanna Newsom is the seventh in my chronological review of albums from the last ten years. The 2006 album is called Ys and is pronounced like the plural form of the fifth letter of the alphabet. The album only contains five songs but comes in at just under the sixty minute mark; the shortest track is seven minutes long. It is, therefore, an album in the proper sense of the term and not the collection of singles that has become the norm in the digital age. In addition, Newsom abandons traditional rock instrumentation as she herself is a harpist and four of the tracks feature full orchestration arranged by the man who worked with the Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks. In this way, Ys has more in common with albums like Pet Sounds and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks than it does with contemporary ones

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