As I say in my July newsletter, I’ve spent the past few months working on the next Rebus novel, for publication in September. As usual, I wrote it with music playing throughout. And as usual, that music had to be (mainly) instrumental - so the lyrics didn’t interfere with my writing.
The albums chosen this time round were:
- ‘Zidane’ by Mogwai
- ‘Cinematique’ by Paul Haig
- ‘Hypnogogia’ by Lucky Pierre
- ‘Before the Dark’ by Cinema Recorded Music Library
- ‘Ricochet’ by Tangerine Dream
- ‘Music Has the Right to Children’ by Boards of Canada
- ‘Recurring’ by Spacemen 3 (this actually has lyrics, but is so spacey I hardly ever notice them).
When not writing, what else do I listen to? My favourite albums of the past year have included ‘Sugar and Spite’ by Unkle Bob, ‘Birdsong and Violence’ by Union of Knives, ‘Western Skies’ by Roddy Frame and ‘The Good, The Bad and The Queen’. Recently, I’ve had splurges on Van Der Graaf Generator, Caravan and Robert Calvert remasters, plus some early Leonard Cohens (with bonus tracks). The 2-CD version of John Martyn’s ‘Grace and Danger’ is a cause for celebration. Jackie Leven’s Doll By Doll albums are getting the reissue treatment, too. (A passing thought: when is someone going to reissue The Passions and Dalek I Love You? My vinyl copies are shagged.) Jackie was in top form again this year with ‘Oh What a Blow that Phantom Dealt Me’. I paid good money to download ‘Riding the Stang’ by Daniel Patrick Quinn, then lost it. Got in touch with the man himself and he sent me it on CD - and it is brilliant. (He has new work coming out later this year - check him out on MySpace.)
Finally got a CD copy of The Rutles. Clever and hilarious. Lloyd Cole’s ‘Antidepressant’ was masterful. The Hold Steady are the bar-band we’ve always wanted to see, and their album ‘Separation Sunday’ is spot-on. Sister Vanilla’s ‘Little Pop Rock’ almost reunites the Jesus and Mary Chain (the Reid brothers chip in, but it’s their sister on vocals). ‘Book of Lightning’ by The Waterboys is terrific, as is ‘Candylion’ (a solo album by SFA front-man Gruff Rhys). Another reissue: ‘Berlin’ by Lou Reed. Every bit as cheery as I remember… A friend in Canada sent me John Hiatt’s ‘Crossing Muddy Waters’. So good it makes it into September’s Rebus book! James Yorkston’s ‘Roaring the Gospel’ is my Fence Collective album of the year. (And when is King Creosote going to get round to some new material??) I also wallowed in nostalgia by buying some Nazareth. They came from the same part of Fife as me, and were to mid-70s rock what The Skids would be to late-70s punk.
To bring us bang up to date - ‘Kite’, the second solo album from singer-songwriter Steven Lindsay has just hit the shops. This blew me away. It is soulful, moving, harmonic, and gets beneath the skin. Meantime, ‘Beauty and Crime’ is the latest from Suzanne Vega. It comprises a wonderful suite of songs about New York (post-9/11), personal loss, and redeeming love. She’s great.
How can I forego a mention of ‘Ballads of the Book’? A collection of eighteen songs, which pair Scottish writers with Scottish musicians and featuring the likes of James Yorkston, Sons and Daughters, King Creosote, Michel Faber, Ali Smith and Louise Welsh. But never mind them, just head for track six - ‘The Sixth Stone’, lyrics by Ian Rankin, music by Aidan Moffat. It’s about a guy called Ian Stewart who was born in Fife but grew up to join the Rolling Stones. Aida’s given it a hook you won’t be able to get out of your head…