A List for 2010 – Phantom Noise by Brian Turner

AliA List for 2010, Recommendations

Brian Turner is a former infantry team leader from the US Army.  He toured in Iraq in 2003-4, where he wrote his first published collection, Here, Bullet.  That was an extraordinary set of poems, documenting the violence of Iraq’s troubled streets far more intensely than the indifferent reportage of newsrooms.  I discovered it through one of my occasional bouts of Keith Douglas obsession, finding a review in which Turner was compared to the Second World War poet.  The comparison was justified and didn’t just stop at the professional similarities of two soldiers encountering bloody conflicts.  There is something of Douglas’ … Read More

A List for 2010 – The Tallest Man on Earth

AliA List for 2010, Recommendations

It’s always a pleasure when an artist raises their game.  I really enjoyed The Tallest Man on Earth’s first record, Shallow Grave, which came out in 2008.  But this year’s two offerings, his album The Wild Hunt and subsequent EP Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird were a cut above.  Kristian Mattson (for he is The Tallest Man on Earth) has a voice that is keen, earthy and powerful enough to carry each song with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment.  This is one-man-and-his-guitar music at its best, and the formula works wonders whether it is underpinning slow … Read More

A List for 2010 – The Road by Cormac McCarthy

AliA List for 2010, Recommendations

This is probably the best book I’ve read this century.  If anyone is still hunting for a definitive Great American Novel, they can find it here.  It’s received a great deal of entirely justified acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2007.  I read it a few months ago after a good friend lent me his copy.  It’s had such a sustained impact that I keep thinking about it.  In a nutshell it’s about a man and his boy walking south through an America devastated by an unspecified disaster.  The world as we know it has been destroyed and the remnant … Read More

A List for 2010 – Obake

AliA List for 2010, Mr. Fox, Recommendations

I’ve only just discovered a gem of an exhibition, Japanese Ghosts and Demons, which fills but one small room of Oxford’s giant Ashmolean museum.  Nevertheless, its seventeen prints contain such a fantastic mix of the grotesque, the cute and the comic that I’ve decided to squeeze the creatures they depict into my list for 2010. This is an exhibition about obake, which are a diverse group of beings from Japan unified by a single characteristic: they are all transformative, beings who have broken the laws of constancy to shift or metamorphose into something else.  The Japanese culture and language magazine, … Read More

A List for 2010 – Gonjasufi’s A Sufi and a Killer, with The Caliph’s Tea Party

AliA List for 2010, Recommendations

Even back in the summer, when it was released, I had a suspicion that Gonjasufi’s A Sufi and a Killer might be my favourite album of 2010.  In the following months I became convinced that nothing would beat its mix of spooky sitar-sampling production and wild-eyed-prophet vocals.  Then along came The Caliph’s Tea Party, which was the same album only remixed, and I could no longer tell which record was my favourite.  They’re both exceptional and both very different, even though they originate from the same set of songs.  The Caliph’s Tea Party made me realise why I liked A … Read More