My album of 2015: Grey Tickles, Black Pressure by John Grant

- - Music

Every year I mean to write an ‘album of the year’ post, and this year I’ve managed it. The hotly-contested (well, not really) award goes to ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ by John Grant.

I never really got into John Grant’s earlier stuff, and the fact it was on Bella Union, a label I associate with critically acclaimed stuff that I don’t particularly enjoy, didn’t help. But when I saw the cover of ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure,’ featuring a demonic-looking Grant posing alongside some ornamental owls, I had to give it a go.

What I discovered was a delightfully varied and inventive collection of songs, complete with grin-inducing, playful lyrics.

“I made a voodoo doll of you, and I gave it some chicken soup”

“You and Hitler ought to get together, you ought to learn to knit and make matching sweaters”

“I’ve got grey tickles and black pressure, I’d rather lose my arm inside of a corn thresher, just like Uncle Paul”

I’m not sure how many songs have been written about learning to deal with the twin pressures of middle age and HIV, but the title track here is almost certainly the only one that manages to be very funny as well as touching.

The album has a more adventurous musical palate than Grant’s earlier work, with piano ballads, synth-funk and rock all getting a look-in. If there’s one thing it’s got in common with all my favourite albums, it’s that it doesn’t sit still – it’s constantly surprisingly you both musically and lyrically.

I’ve listened to ‘Grey Tickles, Black Pressure’ more than any other album this year and you should try it too.

The Fiery Furnaces’ Matthew Friedberger has new music (and a $1,000 rhino) on Bandcamp

- - Music

I don’t really ‘do’ music news but no-one seems to have spotted this, so here I go.

Matthew Freidberger, one half of one of my favourite bands ever, The Fiery Furnaces, has quietly released seven new tracks on Bandcamp under the name MR. FRIED BURGER/NEUE FRIEDBERGER OPER/M. Friedberger.  It’s a ‘mixtape’ (in the hip-hop sense of the word) called ‘MR. FRIED BURGER, I RESUME?’ Read More

My new EP – Dishonourable Indignation – is out now

- - Music

Yay! I’ve finally got around to releasing my new The Star Fighter Pilot EP. It’s free to stream and download.

The ‘Dishonourable Indignation’ EP was recorded in February this year. For those who don’t know, I used to record and perform as The Star Fighter Pilot between about 2004 and 2009. I gave up when I simply lost interest in making music – it just didn’t thrill me any more.

Last year, I got the bug back – I just don’t have a lot of time to make music given my job. Still, assuming I have time, I’ll expand this EP into a mini-album later in the year.

3 tips for aspiring journalists wanting to get into online media

- - Thoughts

Today I took part in a fun discussion about careers in journalism at the BBC Radio 1 Academy event in Norwich, alongside Newsbeat’s Anna Doble and the NME’s Greg CochraneRick Edwards and Tina Daheley were asking the questions.

I was booked on the last direct train back to Manchester and had to dash out of the session early to catch it so I didn’t have time to give the three tips I’d been asked to prepare. So, I’ll share them here. They’re really not rocket science, but many people I’ve encountered don’t consider them when planning out a route into their dream career. Read More