2015: Secondary Stars and Other Satellites

on Friday, December 18, 2015
With less than a fortnight to go before we celebrate another another full swing around the sun, I yet again find myself ripping through the "it" books of 2015 in the desperate hope of not omitting anything of particular worth from my list. Yep, two weeks, ten books to go. Wish me luck. In the meantime let the orgy of counting begin. As usual I'm starting off with my odd socks, so dust off your abacuses (or is that abaci?) and open the washing machine door.


Stoner by John Williams. The first book I read and probably still one of the best, Stoner is an exercise in finely honed literary perfection. The story of an ordinary man as he stumbles haplessly through life, it whisks you gently through time, never making obvious its ultimate hatchet job on your heart. As I said in my review, it is quite possibly the greatest under-appreciated classic of all time.

The Notebook by Agota Kristoff. If brutality, desperation and the fluidity of identity are your kind of thing then you will not find it better executed than in Kristoff's incredible novel. Part one of a very strong trilogy, it tells of twin boys growing up in rural Hungary during a war (presumably WW2), doing all that is necessary - debasement be damned - to survive. With prose that is simple, clean and precise, Kristoff will utterly destroy your faith in humanity while making you laugh and recoil in equal measures. For what it's worth, I also recommend you persevere with the other two books. The second is a slight lull but it sets up for an absolutely crushing finale that will have you questioning everything you've read. Clearly Kristoff became more experimental with time and the work as a whole is all the better for it.

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen. Speaking of bleak, try this one on for size. As I said in my review, it's kind of like a more realistic The Road without the moments of light. Set during a brutal Nordic winter, it tells of a young family setting off east in search of food. Spoiler alert (though not particularly surprising): they all die horrible deaths. Unrelenting cruelty in the face of dire circumstances that somehow freeze together to make a sculpture of unimaginable beauty.

Here by Richard Macguire. One of the few graphic novels I read this year, Here is a truly innovative, moving and wonderful addition to the genre. The story of a single place, Macguire shifts across time, interposing characters that we grow to love over, against and with one another. Incandescent reading.


Here's some books I bought for the pictures, so to speak...


I swore to myself that I wouldn't repeat last year's woeful effort to distill my favourite albums to a top 10 (You may recall I ended up with 21). Well, I'm glad to say that, in some sense, I have succeeded. This time I have 24. At the risk of offending the masses, I found it easy to discard overhyped bombs like Faith No More, Refused and The Libertines (Sacred Cows 0, Profane Slaughterer 3). And other heavy hitters like Iron Maiden, Poison Idea and Killing Joke were really good but not oh-my-God-this-has-to-go-in-my-end-of-year-list good. Which leaves me with these:

24. Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor
23. Hextalls - Play With Heart
22. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes - Blossom
21. Matt Skiba - KUTS
20. Anti-Flag - American Spring
19. Ben Lee - Love Is The Great Rebellion
18. Brothers Inc. - Cut Out The Middleman
17. Tartar Control - We Forgive You
16. The Max Levine Ensemble - Backlash, Baby!
15. War On Women - War On Women
14. Frank Turner - Positive Songs For Negative People
13. Puscifer - Money Shot
12. Amercian Fangs - Dirty Legs
11. Therapy - Disquiet

And my absolute faves...

10. Versus The World - Homesick/Roadsick. These guys always seem to draw the short straw when it comes to garnering attention in the melodic punk world but this record was a collection of great songs played with heart and passion. Great live show too.

9. Leftover Crack - Constructs of State. It's been a whole bunch of years since LOC released their much loved sophomore album Fuck World Trade. I'll commit crack rocksteady heresy here and say I think that album is massively overrated. Also, Scott Sturgeon is a total dickwad. I'll always remember fondly the time he played in Australia and kicked a fan in the face (not to be confused with Fat Mike's moment of unglory) only to be decked by another fan who I later bought a beer in honour of his noble effort. Still, Constructs of State is an amazing return to form. Furious, fun and packed with awesome guests, it has everything worth loving about the genre. With one album Sturgeon redeemed himself in my eyes. Well, artistically at least.

8. Millencolin - True Brew. Another band who came back better that when they left, this was the most fun pop punk record of the year. With his signature catchy melodies and mostly dumbass lyrics, Nikola Sarcevic proves that age doesn't necessarily weary us. I loved this way more than I should have.

7. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell. I've been waiting years for Stevens to release a worthy followup to the astoundingly beautiful Illinoise and by God he finally did it. Gentle, moving and deep, Carrie and Lowell is Sufjan at his very best, paying heartfelt homage to his parents. There may not be a John Wayne Gacy Jnr on it, but there are plenty of beautiful moments to elevate your soul.

6. NOFX and Friends - Home Street Home. A punk rock musical? Yeah, I was skeptical. Even in the hands of a master like Fat Mike, even with the help of Avenue Q's Jeff Marx, there was every chance it would suck. Instead we got a brilliantly conceived, hilarious and heartbreaking story of abuse, addiction and redemption brought to life by a great cast of punk rock champions. It also provided one of the year's funniest moments: listening to my mum hum along to the filth that is Let's Get Hurt without realising quite what it was she was singing.

5. Carl Barat and the Jackals - Let It Reign. While I anxiously awaited the ultimate disappointment of another Libertines album, the guy that isn't Pete Doherty slipped out one of the best albums of the year. Brash, loose and ballsy Let It Reign has everything I loved about Up The Bracket with an added scoop of maturity that I wasn't expecting at all. You can stop pretending to like The Libertines's new album now.

4. Desaparicidos - Payola. So many bands made their comeback albums this year. So many bands disappointed. And while Connor Oberst has hardly kept quiet since releasing the extraordinary first Desapericidos album in 2002, he hasn't done anything remotely as good. And that goes for all 473 Bright Eyes albums. Payola is about a good a record as I could have hoped for. Amazing song after amazing song.

3. Jeff Rosenstock - We Cool? Jangly punk geek throws together a killer set of snotty, fun tunes to make the ultimate soundtrack to your summer/autumn/winter/spring. In certain circles this guy is royalty - he was the main dude in Bomb The Music Industry - but on this album he lays claim to something more. Yep, he just might be a god.


I'm not going to cheat and try to sneak an extra album into the list. Truth is I spent hours trying to decide which of these albums was better. Then I figured, fuck it. It would be a disservice to relegate either of them to second place:

After the Fall - Dedication. Quite possibly the most heartfelt (and heartbreaking) 19 minutes ever committed to wax, Dedication delivers exactly what its title suggest: a glorious tribute to a lost friend. As sadness gave way to fury which in turn gave way to celebration, I felt that I got to know former ATF bassist Brian Peters, his friends and his family. The love his bandmates still have for the guy is palpable. That they are in the best form of their career and used their phenomenal powers to express it only added to this absolute gem of an album. It also has one of the most beautiful messages of the year, something that Brian himself said before he died: All that's left is love and forgiveness. I cried from the moment this record started til the moment it ended.

Good Riddance - Peace In Our Time. I'm just going to come out and say it: There will never be a better comeback album than Peace In Our Time. I was totally bummed when Good Riddance called it quits back in 2007. Sure, they had lost some of their fire towards the end but they were still responsible for many of the most important albums of my formative years. Of course, when I got word of a new album in the works I thought it a bit much to hope for another Comprehensive Guide to Moderne Rebellion or Ballads From The Revolution. Then I got my hands on a copy of this and holy blast beat had they delivered! Peace In Our Time is urgent, angry, politically insightful and highly intelligent. It's also a bucketload of fun. Backed by a live show (they toured Australia soon after the release) that packed just as much punch as the record, it's fair to say that Good Riddance are damn well back and as incredible as they've ever been.


Post a Comment