Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017: my year in lists

It's been a good year and it's been a pretty diverse one as well. Rather than compiling a list I have a few, *cough cough*.


Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

2017 was filled with great albums but if I really were to pick a standout, standalone, groundbreaking album, one for the books - that is certainly A Crow Looked at Me. Sufjan Stevens, Nick Cave, Touché Amoré have all written (beautifully) about death in the past couple of years, but Phil Elverum writes death. The pain of the album is in its rawest form - not filtered, metabolised or reimagined, just presented as a fact, sometimes taking the shape of an intimate conversation overheard in a room you've just stepped in, uninvited. There is no room for complex music - that's beside the point; "death is real" and the point is just that, and it's revolutionary. More of a literary work than just a record, I believe this album is going to change the way we think about writing and writing lyrics, as well as the act of writing itself.


1. Perfume Genius - No Shape (full review here)
2. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins (full review here)
3. Fine Before You Came - Il Numero Sette (full review here)


1. Perfume Genius - No Shape

When I first reviewed this album I felt like I had to list all the reasons why I was giving this album the much-abused label of a masterpiece. Months later, the reasons still hold true - beautifully written, composed and produced, heartbreaking but fierce, incredibly fragile but defiant nonetheless, No Shape's scope encompasses romance, politics, pain and the darkest places of the human experience. And Mike Hadreas's voice will break your heart.

2. Grizzly Bear - Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear are my favourite band, so their presence shouldn't really come as a surprise. Nevertheless, Painted Ruins really is an amazing work, definite proof that you can stay true to self while making more and more room for innovation. It's one of those records you'll happily go back to time and again and each time you'll discover something new - that said, the music is still accessible at all 'levels'. It's really hard to sound so, so good.

3. Brand New - Science Fiction

I have a special relationship with Brand New so hearing about the fucked up shit Jesse did was a huge disappointment that felt almost personal; I had to take a step back from this album (and from their music) for a while, as I cannot and will not separate the art from the artist. That said, I'll stand by my words in saying that Science Fiction is a spectacular farewell from a band whose ability to draw from different genres automatically positions them as the fathers of the emo revival wave of the past few years.

4. Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

It's fairly easy to mistake Protomartyr's past work as decent 2010s post-punk, maybe nothing outstanding (you're wrong, btw). Not Relatives in Descent. This album is one hell of a ride: it's got the music, it's got the feelings and the rage, it's got the persona of Joe Casey dissecting the abandoned dream of civilisation in the sharpest and angriest way possible. One of the best political albums of the year.

5. Arca - Arca

Pretty sure this album fucking broke me. 

6. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

Yep, this one definitely broke me. 

7. Fleet Foxes - Crack-up

This album sounds. so. fucking. good. From start to finish. It's deep, it's layered, it's dynamic, it's so smooth it glides like scissors on paper. If you don't get it then you don't deserve love. Bye.

8. The National - Sleep Well Beast

Is a description even necessary?

9. (Sandy) Alex G - Rocket

I've been eyeing Alex G for some time and since Car Seat Headrest's 2016 breakthrough I'd been waiting for Sandy's time to shine. Rocket is one of the most unpredictable albums of the year, spans hundreds of genres and still manages to sound like (a crazier, better developed) Alex G - how do you do that? 

10. Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

The best debut album of the year is also one of the best punk albums of the decade. A powerful and articulate work in which music and lyrics really work with and for one another, it even grows on you like the good kind of pop music. Also, amazing live act!

11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Luciferian Towers [short review]
12. Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors [full review]
13. Cloud Nothings - Life Without Sound
14. Tim Darcy - Saturday Night [full review]
15. Los Campesinos! - Sick Scenes [full review]
16. Girlpool - Powerplant
17. Vagabon - Infinite Worlds
18. Pile - A Hairshirt of Purpose
19. Manchester Orchestra - A Black Mile to the Surface
20. Jay Som - Everybody Works
21. Grandaddy - Last Place [full review]
22. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - The Tourist
23. Slowdive - Slowdive
24. Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights [short review]
25. Paramore - After Laughter [short review]
26. Japanese Breakfast - Soft Sounds from Another Planet
27. Tyler, the Creator - Flower Boy
28. Aldous Harding - Party
29. Big Thief - Capacity
30. King Krule - The Ooz
31. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy [full review]
32. Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun [short review]
33. Out Lines - Conflats
34. Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm
35. Bjork - Utopia
36. Pissed Jeans - Why Love Now
37. Future Islands - The Far Field
38. Forest Swords - Compassion
39. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
40. Remo Drive - Greatest Hits
41. Sampha - Process
42. Zola Jesus - Okovi
43. Sorority Noise - You're Not As _____ As You Think
44. Kelly Lee Owens - Kelly Lee Owens
45. Torres - Three Futures [short review]
46. Ryuichi Sakamoto - async
47. EMA - Exile in the Outer Ring
48. Tomberlin - At Weddings
49. Planning for Burial - Below the House
50. Converge - The Dusk in Us


    1. Fine Before You Came - Il Numero Sette

    2. All My Teenage Feelings - Endings

    3. Gomma - Toska

    Full review

    4. Giorgio Poi - Fa Niente
    5. Colombre - Pulviscolo
    6. Kairo - Medioemo
    7. Edda - Graziosa Utopia
    8. Øjne - Prima Che Tutto Bruci
    9. Populous - Azulejos
    10. Black Tail - One Day We Drove Out of Town [short review]
    11. Marcovaldo - Ripetizioni
    12. Parking Lots - Parking Wizards [short review]
    13. Halfalib - Malamocco
    14. Mood - Out Loud
    15. Regarde - Leavers [short review]
    16. V R C V S - V R C V S
    17. Girless - I Have a Call
    18. Montauk - Vacanza/Gabbia
    19. Valerian Swing - Nights [short review]
    20. Julie's Haircut - Invocation and Ritual Dance of My Demon Twin


    [Top 3, in no particular order:
    Fleet Foxes - Third Of May / Ōdaigahara
    Perfume Genius - Alan
    Dirty Projectors - Keep Your Name]


    1. Half Waif - form/a
    2. yaeji - EP2
    3. Autunno - Caderiva
    4. Sufjan Stevens - The Greatest Gift
    5. Angel Olsen - Phases
    6. Ohio Kid - Everyone Was Sleeping As If the Universe Were a Mistake
    7. Vv.Aa. - It's Only Thrill and It's Tomorrow (V4V compilation)
    8. Vv. Aa. - Nothing I can't handle by running away (Nervi Cani compilation)
    9. ANOHNI - Paradise
    10. Beach House - B-sides and Rarities


    Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked at Me

    Probably the saddest album ever written.
    I reject nature, I disagree
    I don't want to learn anything from this
    I love you

    Priests - Nothing Feels Natural

    Cynical, extremely articulate, accelerationist.
    All of the science and evolution and progress
    I mean sure, it looks good from a distance but when you’re really inside of it you realize it’s fucking terrifying […]
    Suddenly I realize the rocket is just a prison
    A small contained space with no real food, no companionship, no time passing, no gravity
    Just the weight of my own insignificance, my foolishness, and my hubris thrust into the glaring light that is the sun but much much closer than it was before, and all I want is to die

    Big Thief - Capacity

    Adrianne Lenker's lyrics are beautiful and extremely vivid portrayals of her own personal history, and her flow is incredibly smooth. Heartbreaking.
    There’s only so much letting go you can ask someone to do
    So I keep you by my side

    Protomartyr - Relatives in Descent

    Absurdist, more catastrophic and darker than Priests' album, Relatives in Descent also finds room for some spark of beauty:
    In my own head
    Near the hole where hope drains out
    And fear is branded deep
    Amid the death of all things
    Not under law or the thoughts I had before
    Only in darkness does the flower take hold
    It blooms at night; it blooms at night 

    Fine Before You Came - Il Numero Sette

    Mature, disillusioned, an album about getting comfortable with your own mistakes, inhabiting them, finding peace in them.
    abbiamo studiato infiniti modi per addormentarci e svegliarci ancora accanto
    tu solo sai quanto poco valgo
    eppure mi tieni così 

    Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors

    Heartbreaking breakup album: goes from sad to bitter, from nostalgic and regretful to harshly resentful.
    What I want from art is truth, what you want is fame
    Now we'll keep 'em separate and you keep your name

    Arca - Arca

    I still haven't fully processed this album. I'm still broken.
    Hay un abismo dentro de mí

    Perfume Genius - No Shape

    The concept of the album follows from its title; Mike Hadreas takes pride in finding his own shape in the absence of it, and the music and lyrics unravel - take shape - as we listen. A beautiful album about accepting your own nature and reshaping your own identity.
    They'll never break the shape we take

    Julien Baker - Turn Out the Lights

    Julien's songwriting and depiction of her issues with mental health are simple, yet incredibly powerful and sincere. 
    Nothing turns out like I pictured it
    Maybe the emptiness is just a lesson in canvases

    Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

    Tillman is fucking with us. It's the age of constant distractions and he comes out with a 75-minute album with 13-minute songs. He can do self-referential (and self-deprecatory) like no other. We don't deserve his incredible songwriting.
    So I never learned to play the lead guitar
    I always more preferred the speaking parts
    Besides there's always someone willing to
    Fill up the spaces that I couldn't use
    Nonetheless, I've been practicing my whole life
    Washing dishes, playing drums, and getting by
    Until I figured, if I'm here then I just might
    Conceal my lack of skill here in the spotlight


    1. Bon Iver - Primavera Sound, Barcelona
    2. Grizzly Bear - London O2 Brixton
    3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Brighton Dome
    4. Mitski - The Haunt, Brighton
    5. Solange - Primavera Sound, Barcelona
    6. Arab Strap - Primavera Sound, Barcelona
    7. Slowdive - Unaltrofestival, Milan
    8. Priests - Primavera Sound, Barcelona
    9. Aldous Harding - Ypsigrock, Castelbuono
    10. Beach House - Ypsigrock, Castelbuono
    11. Future Islands - Brighton Dome
    12. Magnetic Fields - Primavera Sound, Barcelona
    13. Los Campesinos! - Koko, London
    14. Angel Olsen - Roundhouse, London
    15. Cap'n Jazz - Electric Ballroom, London
    16. Cymbals Eat Guitars - Circolo Magnolia, Milan
    17. Pinegrove - Primavera Sound, Barcelona (twice in a day!)


    Me listening to Arcade Fire's new album:

    Favourite film (I watched about four though...):

    Favourite tv show: Master of None
    Also best episode: 2x06 (New York, I Love You)
    Also saddest scene:

    Me painfully going through The OA, possibly the worst tv show I've ever watched:

    Best books I've read this year:
    David Markson - Wittgenstein's Mistress
    Alison Bechdel - Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

    Final (music-related) side notes:
    • Stop calling shitty trap 'emo' and stop making abusers famous
    • Stop buying into the whole 'anti-capitalist/feminist pop' narrative because that's exactly the opposite of what's going on (Arcade Fire and St. Vincent, I'm looking at you)
    • I've had to leave something out (Vince Staples and LCD Soundsystem didn't make the cut unfortunately) but if some big names are missing, that's because I didn't like their albums. And fuck The XX in particular. Happy 2018.

    Tuesday, December 29, 2015

    2015: my year in lyrics

    2015 has been a good year for lyricists: Kendrick Lamar and his masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, whose social and political significance has been endorsed as an anthem by the Black Lives Matter movement across the USA; Sufjan Steven's extremely intimate and heartfelt goodbye to his mother; Titus Andronicus' 29-track, obsessively detailed dissection of the bipolar disorder.
    Impossible to top these three, but there's still a lot to talk about: Father John Misty on love, Sun Kil Moon on pretty much everything (no wonder the album's called Universal Themes), Viet Cong, Courtney Barnett and many more on predictably postmodern themes such as depression, nihilism and loss of meaning.
    Here are just a few examples.

    Wouldn't you know
    We been hurt, been down before
    Nigga, when our pride was low
    Lookin' at the world like, "Where do we go?"
    Nigga, and we hate po-po
    Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
    Nigga, I'm at the preacher's door
    My knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blow
    But we gon' be alright

    Kendrick Lamar, Alright

    I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
    And I long to be near you
    But every road leads to an end
    Yes every road leads to an end
    Your apparition passes through me in the willows
    Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
    You’ll never see us again
    Sufjan Stevens, Death with Dignity

    It was 1989 when I lost my mind
    For the very first time I went down in the mine
    Going down in the mine I didn't know what I'd find
    But whatever I'd find, say that it was mine
    And I brought a little bird, it was short lived
    And I lost my mind when the little bird died
    Because as I stopped to cry for the little bird's life
    For the moment my mind was out of my sight
    And I turned back around to a terrible surprise
    I had lost my mind for the very first time
    Since I was a child, they tried to let me slide
    Then I lost it twice, they said it was a crime
    And my hands were tied, I was read my rights
    It was a real short list written in little, tiny type
    And they built their perfect prison and locked me inside
    I cried, "this is so wrong," they said "It's alright"
    And then a plate full of pills, I swallowed them dry
    I was displayed in a cage, they claimed, in the name of science
    And they probed, prodded, realigned my spine
    'Til they said I could walk in a straight enough line
    And then they pushed me back out into the bright sunlight
    I didn't know what it meant to be institutionalised
    Yeah I begged for readmission, it was denied
    Where do you reside when you've lost your mind?
    Where you gonna hide when you lose your mind?
    Titus Andronicus, I Lost My Mind (+@) 

    I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright
    I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright, I feel alright
    Well, how's the family? How's the family? How's the family? How's the family?
    How's your health been? How's your health been? How's your health been? How's your health been?
    Fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here
    Time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again
    Beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today
    How's the church? How's the job? How's the church? How's the job?
    How's the family? How's the family? How's the family? How's the family?
    Beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today, beautiful weather today
    Fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here, fancy seeing you here
    Time and off again, time and off again, time and off again, time and off again
    It's all that we have, it's all that we have
    Just that and the big, beautiful blue sky
    Ought, Beautiful Blue Sky 

    There’s no connection left in your head
    Another book of things to forget
    An overwhelming sense of regret
    Relay, reply, react, and reset

    Relay, reply, react, and respond
    The simple task of turning it on
    Only receiving electrical shock
    Not everything can stay interlocked
    Maybe too late will be much too soon
    It isn’t something that’s safe to assume
    And anyone can disappear in a spark
    Viet Cong, Silhouettes

    My internal monologue is saturated analog
    It's scratched and drifting, I've become attached to the idea
    It's all a shifting dream, bittersweet philosophy
    I've got no idea how I even got here
    I'm resentful, I'm having an existential time crisis
    Want bliss, daylight savings won't fix this mess
    Under-worked and over-sexed, I must express my disinterest
    The rats are back inside my head, what would Freud have said?

    Courtney Barnett, Pedestrian at Best 

    It took so long for me to see it
    Hope’s a burden or it sets you free
    Wandered through the void of you
    Wandered through the void of me
    I’ve grown afraid of everything that I love
    Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

    It's a sad world we were raised in
    You could hate it but what's the use?
    Elvis Depressedly, Wastes of Time

    I remember when I first heard Led Zeppelin's "Tea For One"
    Laying by my bedroom window on Valium soaking up the warm afternoon sun rays
    And in those minutes, hours, I was totally content
    And I'll take that memory to my grave as one of my happiest moments
    Sun Kil Moon, With a Sort of Grace I Walked to the Bathroom to Cry

    One summer I fell in love
    For the first time
    It would change my whole life
    I would learn to love someone
    And not be alone

    So slowly the love went away
    And I was frozen
    I didn't want to lose that love
    I didn't want to leave behind
    Part of myself

    I was lonely
    But I felt afraid of being loved
    I thought I didn't need the pain
    I thought that in my heart
    I had to be on my own
    Majical Cloudz, If You're Lonely

    I haven’t hated all the same things
    As somebody else
    Since I remember
    What are you doing with your whole life?
    How about forever?
    Father John Misty, Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

    Where the hell have you been?
    I want to sleep with you until winter comes
    And then wait for springtime
    And then wait for winter again and again

    Any Other, Sonnet #4 

    Thursday, June 4, 2015

    American Football + TTNG live @ SWG3, Glasgow

    A few pictures from the live show played by American Football and opened by This Town Needs Guns (TTNG) in Glasgow on 17/5/2015. The light was terrible (especially during AF - why oh why), so I tried.

    There's no copyright on these photos; if you want to use them, please give credit to Claudia Viggiano or @thisiswater_ (both on Twitter and Instagram).

    This Town Needs Guns

    Wednesday, May 27, 2015

    Mad Men: I won't have my heart broken

    My favourite tv series of all time has just come to an end, and I thought it appropriate to bid my farewell to Mr Draper and the rest of the Mad Men (and Women).

    There's lots I'd like to say, but first I think Erica Cantoni on Bright Wall/Dark Room said it best:

    I have forgotten all the major stories, and yet I could carve in bone my memory of a dozen tiny, quiet scenes:
    Betty, sitting in a late-day Roman glow, her hair whipped and molded into a European chignon. Looking so modern it was as if she alone dragged in the backdrop change, inventing the ’60s. As if she’d finally shed the kids like a dead skin or a fire and emerged, victoriously golden. Reborn. How the Italian men hit on her and insulted Don when he approached, as a stranger. Which was perfect, right? Because how long had it been since they’d known each other at all? I’d etch in how he fell back in love, madly so, with Betty for two days. With this restored, empowered version of her. All cold upper class beauty, all superiority, all linguistic-flexing power. Too good for him, which is the key to everything.
    I’d etch the repose of Roger’s tired face when he calls Joan late at night, with Jane, the regrettable wife, passed out beside him.
    Peggy’s hand on Don’s after Anna dies. This single brief touch a complete swelling orchestra composed to explain the depth of their bond and its tenuousness. How vital and still wildly vulnerable this tie is in the possession of a man so accustomed to scorching any tenderness entrusted to him.
    Everything encompassed in the moments Don calls Betty “birdie.” The whole rattling film projection of their courtship and marriage and children and infidelities and lies and second tries and reheated dinners. And the end that Betty pretends comes with the bang of Dick Whitman’s betrayal, and not years of whimpers. Every aching sweetness remains in “birdie,” somehow fossilized and surviving but useless as a mate-less bull.
    The literal restraint of the characters—their buttoned-up loneliness. The moments of elegant non-response and suffocated reaction. The things they do not tell each other, the fights they don’t finish, the slaps that aren’t delivered. The communicative release they never allow themselves (even as it might be their salvation).
    Sometimes, I find myself watching  Mad Men through a sort of fantasy lens, as if it were an underwater ballet. A cold, slow-floating drift of Asian dance and sad, silent theater.
    It’s hypnotizing.
    There are a few more moments I could add to this carousel: Don and Peggy's slow dance in season 7, Roger's "you're okay" to Don the last time they meet in the series, Peggy's fierce and smug catwalk in season 7 as opposed to the Peggy carrying her box in season 1, not wanting to make a noise, to go unnoticed. And then there are the funny ones: Pete's exclamations ("Hell's bells, Trudy!", "Not great, Bob!"). Freddie playing Mozart with his trousers' zipper. "I'm Peggy Olson and I want to smoke some Marijuana." Bert's "She was born in 1898 in a barn. She died on the thirty-seventh floor of a skyscraper. She's an astronaut."

    But really, the beauty of Mad Men comes down to this: it's more about what's not said. There is a distance - between the characters, and between you and the characters - a void you can never even imagine to fill, and that's where the unsaid and unwritten goes to settle and die (or does it ever?). It doesn't die, it lies there and stays suffocated, that "communicative release." You get it at times, you get a brief disruption every now and then, just like Don's breaking in tears in the very last episode, but that's not a change in character--it's rather a piece of the puzzle, where you get to see a side of something that, however, remains puzzling.

    Don's distance is the most fascinating aspect of what makes his character what it is, and what makes it one of the best characters in the history of television. It's this distance that allows us to see beyond the contradictions encompassed in the character, and leads us to accept him as a man. Don is despicable, but it's because of his restraint that we can't really see him as such, because it's what makes him hover above all kind of judgement.

    I have learnt to love despicable characters, but in the end I really wanted Walter White to die. Don, instead, lives on. Mad Men's "underwater ballet" continues, and it looks a bit like Bert Cooper's farewell dance.


    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    The Twilight Sad live @ O2 ABC, Glasgow

    These are some of the photos I took at The Twilight Sad's gig in Glasgow on 19/12/2014. I was standing right in the middle so I could only take decent pictures of James (the rest are shite, too dark).
    It was beautiful and mesmerising and it only confirmed what I had previously said: Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave is the best record that came out this year.

    Enjoy the pictures.

    There's no copyright on these photos; however, if you want to use them, please give credits to Claudia Viggiano or @thisiswater_ (both on Twitter and Instagram).