2012: Secondary Stars And Other Satellites

on Sunday, December 23, 2012
The real countdown begins on Thursday (when Louie and I have a few days of batching to fill) but before I get stuck into it, and to allow myself those crucial extra four days to read my five remaining books, here, as always, are the Secondary Stars and Other Satellites, my best of everything else for 2012.(Note: This is an edited version with the addition of twos albums in my top "10")


The Devil All The Time - Donald Ray Pollack (2011). Delivering on the promise of his breakthrough short story collection Knockemstiff, Pollack's debut novel is part John Steinbeck, part Nick Cave, with the assured punch of a man who has lived rough and real. A testament to the late bloomer.

Purgatory - Tomas Eloy Martinez (2011). Probably the best book about The Disappearances that i have ever read, Purgatory is a moving examination of national identity in times of crisis. Beautiful, wistful and brutal.

The Family Carnovsky - I. J. Singer (1969). OK, it's no Brothers Askenazi, but it's still the better Singer at the top of his game. A powerful tale of assimilation and destruction set between fin de siecle Germany and the onset of World War 2.

My Life in CIA - Harry Mathews (2005). Hilarious memoir by the only American member of the Oulipo group, My Life In CIA recounts the time Mathews pretended to be a CIA agent simply because all his friends in Paris already assumed he was. Literary loopiness at its best.

Beside The Sea - Veronique Olmi (2002). The saddest, most harrowing book I read this year, Beside The Sea will crush your heart, mince it, feed it to wild boars, kill the boars, burn them on a spit and feed what's left to a crocodile. Then it will skin the crocodile for boots. Yeah, it's beautiful but holy crap, the sheer awfulness of it all could destroy even the most sturdy of readers.


KCRW Bookworm. My man crush on Michael Silverblat continues. The guy has to be the most well-read person on the planet, and to listen to him really immerse himself in a book in the presence of its author is a true privilege. In other words, he is the James Wood of the audiolit world, but without the massive arsehole tendencies.

Literary Disco - A slightly slicker Bookrageous with three fellow booknerds yacking it up in an engaging, enjoyable hour of random bookishness.

BBC's A Good Read. Two random celebrities (some from the land of literature, some theatre, some politics, etc etc) and the host recommend a 'good read' each then set about either blowing smoke up one another's arses or diplomatically stabbing one another in the throat.

The New York Times Book Review. Still the best weekly wrap up of what's going on in the literary world. News, reviews and the most important chart around.

Judge John Hodgman. The cases are real. The decisions are final (and wonderfully ridiculous). Welcome to the court of Judge John Hodgman. Comedy geek extraordinaire Hodgman plays Judge Judy in real life cases and makes a total mockery of justice.


It's been a pretty great year for music and I couldn't, in good conscience, whittle my list down to just ten top releases. So here's my baker's dozen, in which I kind of cheat even more and shove a few together as ties:

13. Ty Segall - Twins: The new messiah of surf rock dropped a chronically catchy, distortion soaked album of consistent greatness. This weirdo is poised for huge things.

12. Locked Down - Dr. John: He may be around 150 years old by now, but the old rocking bluesy jazzman (can't really lock him down - pardon the pun - to a readily definable genre) still has the kinda balls anyone a tenth of his age would envy. Revolution has to be one of the songs of the year.

11. A three way tie: NOFX - Self Entitled, Propagandhi - Failed States, Bad Brains - Into The Future. Ah, it's my teenage years all tied up in a neat package. None of these records were amazing, but all were very good. Propagandhi was a bit samey, NOFX had some killer tracks but a bit of filler, and Bad Brains... well that was the most infuriating record of the year; moments of absolute brilliance and then some absolute crap.

10. Public Enemy - Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamps: It's been a while since I listened to these guys, but this was a welcome return to form. Angry, smart, suprising and damn catchy. Unfortunately, their second album of the year, The Evil Empire of Everything, didn't quite live up to this one. PE, Green Day, listen here. One album a year please. That's it.

9. Another tie. Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense and Toys That Kill - Fambly 42: FOTL bring you another serve of abrasive chaos just to remind you that they are the masters of the form. I preferred Travels With Myself and Others, but this was still pretty great. As for Toys That Kill, it's been a long time between drinks but this is speedy pop punk perfection from probably the most underrated bunch of champions in the biz. Get it if you even slightly like yourself.

8. fun. - Some Nights: Go f&^% yourselves, cred police. I totally fell for this throwback to bombastic Freddie Mercury opera pop. Wonderfully tender commercial perfection.

7. Classics of Love - Classics of Love: Jesse Michaels returns with his best work since Operation Ivy. Actually, I think this is even better than Op Ivy. There, I said it.

6. Not On Tour - All This Time: Most unexpected album of the year. Israeli speed punksters with kick-arse female vox deliver the best thing to come out of that region since hummus.

5. Frenzal Rhomb - Smoko In The Pet Food Factory: I always enjoy these Aussie legends, but it seems they've been back on the funny juice because Smoko... really is the best thing they've done since Meet The Family. The fact they've finally gone to an amazing studio and don't sound like they've recorded in an underwater outhouse didn't hurt either.

4. Burning Love - Rotten Thing To Say: Dirty, rocky, punky awesomeness from a band I hadn't even heard of before I downloaded this album on a whim. Trust me, you've got to get some Burning Love in your ears.

3. White Lung - Sorry. Can't believe I forgot this on the original post. Amazing, buzzsaw punk record from one of the most exciting bands around at the moment. It's fast, ferocious and femme fronted - a killer combination.

2. Pennywise - All Or Nothing: The dinosaurs return with a new lease on life thanks to the best pipes in the business, new singer Zoli Teglas. Sure, it just sounds like an awesome Ignite album but what's not to love about that? I was dismayed to hear they've since booted Zoli in favour of bringing Jim back into the fold. Back to the graveyard, I guess.

1. Morning Glory - Poets Were My Heroes: There are plenty of great heroin records out there but this would have to be the most beautiful one I've ever encountered. Part recovery diary, part hymn to hope, Poets Were My Heroes left me emotionally spent, but with a new appreciation of the fragility of life. While Stza continues to be a self-centred douchebag deserving of every fist a fan throws his way, his Leftover Crack bandmate Ezra Kire has triumphed with true grace. An easy winner for me.


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