Widowspeak - Almanac

The first album I bought this year, and it’s been an enduring fixture. Their self-titled debut had more than a touch of Elysian Fields’ breathy vocals and twangy reverb; it sounded like smoky backroom dive bars, dark woods and David Lynch films (shockingly, I rather liked it). All that’s still here, but tempered with a folkier vibe and lighter production that makes the record feel like a genuine step forward for them. I just noticed they had another EP The Swamps’ come out in October, which I am looking forward to listening to.

Savages - Silence Yourself

A recommendation from my brother. Classic Sismey fare - Gun Clubesque wailing over reverby distortion and feedback makes me happy.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels

El-P and Killer Mike join forces to make an album inspired by old-school 80s Electro hip-hop, and give it away for free online. As close to a party record as El-P is likely to ever make.

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold

Hat-tip to @bladkin for this one. Scratchy New York garage rock, the Strokes’ snottier and more-punk little brother.

The Joy Formidable - Wolf’s Law

The Joy Formidable’s A Balloon Called Moaning’ remains one of my favourite debuts of the last few years. Much like Metric’s Fantasies’, it’s stadium rock for tiny venues and they remain second only to Dinosaur Jr for loudest show I have seen. The re-recorded versions of those songs that appeared on their first album proper didn’t capture that same energy for me but, despite the cleaner production, Wolf’s Law’ gets right back to the pomp and pyrotechnics. I make no claim to any kind of synesthesia, but listening to this, you can see the light show.

Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

The Cindi Mayweather saga reaches its third installment, and Janelle Monae is still managing to walk the fine line between maintaining the concept and keeping the music up-to-scratch. A handful of pop-funk hits here no doubt but, as on The Archandroid’, it’s the slower numbers where Monae’s voice really shines.

Daughn Gibson - Me Moan

I was drawn to this by the Johnny Cash produced by Burial” elevator pitch on a poster in Brighton. To be honest, it’s more Sisters of Mercy go Country’ (and I mean that 100% as a positive). Gibson’s Scott Walkeresque baritone rides roughshod over glitchy samples and lap steel guitars, to best effect on The Sound Of Law’ and You Don’t Fade’ (a 21st century Temple Of Love’ if ever I heard one).

Charles Bradley - Victim of Love

From the Car Wash’ font on the front cover to the psychedelic soul of Where Do We Go From Here’, everything about this album suggests Charles Bradley genuinely has no clue that it isn’t still 1969. Bradley’s incredible voice and force of personality, combined with endearingly imperfect production, gives this the feeling of a long-lost Otis Redding album.

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest

My favourite riding on a train album since Plastikman’s Consumed’, I like to put this on my headphones when I am walking through a city at night and pretend I am in Blade Runner.

Honourable mentions and surprising omissions

I Hate Music - Superchunk

Warp and Weft - Laura Veirs

Have listened to these two a bunch this year, but they haven’t really cemented themselves.

Mark Lanegan - Imitations

Was late picking this up, and haven’t listened to it as much as I’d have liked

Chime in with your lists at this branch:


Papa Sis was born sometime in the early 2000s, in a student accommodation living room in St Andrews. Ben, Mark and I were visiting Malcs, and a Hungover Tismey was sitting in an armchair, wrapped in a blanket, grumbling about how rubbish everything was. I don’t recall if it was Mark or Malcs who first coined Papa Sis to describe the curmudgeonly figure I cut, but it kind of stuck. Since then, it’s been recycled as a DJ and stage name, and I quite like it, so I’ve been planning some kind of self-portrait for Papa since starting this project in January.

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding recently. In a recent episode of Back To Work, Merlin Mann was talking about this, and said something that really struck a chord with me:

You can have a fancy car without being Fancy Car Guy’”

This happened to coincide with a difficult period at work, and with the news of my impending fatherhood. If anything is going to prompt a reassessment of priorities and assumptions, then that’s going to be it. Unconsciously, over a period of a few months, I started to gradually unpick my makeup and consider which bits of Tismey and Papa Sis are useful, and which just get in the way of things a bit. I don’t have a fancy car, so I’m never going to be Fancy Car Guy, but I have plenty of other tics that could end up unwittingly becoming my Defining Feature for some people. I started to think more carefully about the motivations behind my actions, and about whether I’d be happy with each decision, each purchase, each offhand comment, being reflective of me. As the months have gone on, and things have changed around me, I think this re-examination was a useful process to go through.

So, this montage of stuff’ self-portait had been kicking around for a while. And then Artie came along and, just like everyone said, immediately the focus of my time and attention completely shifted, so it made total sense for the focus of the shot to change too.


One of the reasons I am so very, very far behind on this year’s alphabet is that, rather excitingly, we’re expecting a baby. He’s actually overdue now, so one way or another I will definitely be a father this time next week.

The Wife knows what she wants to call a daughter (it has been decided for some time, apparently), but as we’re having a boy, I get some skin in the name game. I’m fond of Apollo (middle name Creed), Anakin, Ulysses and Tyrannosaurus. Unfortunately, we had to rule these last two out because of the excessive sibilance when combined with our surname.

We’ve had a long shortlist of names that we’ve been trying out on the bump. Oscar is one of them, although it’s pretty low down on the list now, I think.

Lighting this shot of Karen on her birthing ball was a right pain, and I ended up with loads that weren’t sharp, or that were horribly underexposed. At some point I really need to investigate proper indoor lighting options - sometimes an anglepoise lamp and a foil-covered cake board just doesn’t cut it.


Remember, remember the Fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.

November is, of course, inextricably linked with fireworks. But I realised if I waited until Actual Bonfire Night, I’d be even further behind than I currently am. So I decided to go for fireworks in miniature, and try to capture the point at which a match ignites. A tripod, a dark room and a big box of Original Cooks Matches later and I had this, and a bedroom that smells of matches. The Wife was ecstatic, as you can imagine.


This is Mike.

Mike seemed an obvious subject for my Mike picture. We’ve discussed shooting him as a part of previous A-Zs, but our schedules have never really aligned and I’ve needed to move on. So when a mutually free Saturday gave me the chance to observe Mike in his natural habitat - the independent record shop - it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Mike likes loud guitars, and men with beards playing acoustic guitars who used to play loud guitars. Mike’s introduced me to numerous folk-punk troubadours, including Frank Turner, Jonah Matranga and Tim Barry, and various Scandinavian metal bands who scare me a bit. Mike has also won more competition prizes than anyone else I know. He seems to be constantly winning competitions.

Anyway, thanks to Head records in Leamington for letting us shoot while Mike shopped. He bought CDs by Lemuria and letlive, as you ask.


Lima is the capital of, and largest city in, Peru. Around one-third of the Peruvian population live in the Lima Metropolitan area and as well as the oldest continuously functioning University in the Americas, the National University of San Marcos, the city is home to The Home for Retired Bears. It was to here that Aunt Lucy moved when she sent her nephew off to England, with only his hat and suitcase and a label politely requesting someone to Please look after this bear, thank you’. It was at this very station that the Brown family found him and, being unable to pronounce his Peruvian name, christened him Paddington Bear.

I don’t know who these three were waiting for, but it was nice of them to stand so still while they did so.