2010 Albums of the Year

Happy new year to you all! This post may be a little belated, but I’m blaming the dreaded lurgy which has had me coughing and spluttering since the week before Christmas (and a very public bah humbug to whoever it was that gave me their nasty germs!).

Anyway, back to the music. This list is in no particular order and was compiled after a thoroughly unscientific study involving a rather enjoyable examination of which albums spent the most time glued to my CD player/laptop during 2010. I don’t care about trends or genre fashions – this is just music I’ve loved over the last twelve months.

Akala – ‘Doublethink’:

Fresh, fierce, passionate, intelligent, eclectic and with a whole lot to say, this is easily my album of the year. One of the most talented and interesting MCs I have encountered in a long while, Akala mixes his clever and politically conscious lyrics and spoken word with a fiery combination of hip hop, electro, breakbeats, grime and heavy guitar riffs to attention-grabbing effect.

Unlike some politically conscious MCs and bands, both the music and the lyrics are clearly of equal importance to Akala, and the production on Doublethink has been closely constructed with great care to meld these two factors to create a (mostly) satisfying whole. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into this album, but it still manages to sound fresh and raw.

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Urban Green Fair 2010

On a showery early September Sunday recently, I set off across south London to Brockwell Park in Lambeth for the fourth annual Urban Green Fair. Aiming to bring green issues to a city environment, the Urban Green Fair team see their remit as “informing, entertaining and educating people on green issues and making positive, sustainable change”. Putting their money where their mouths are (so to speak), the organisers state that the fair itself is an independent event and is powered by solar and wind energy.

Offering information on all sorts of green projects and businesses in London, a film tent, speakers on social justice and green issues, lessons in making bread from milling the flour to the use of an outdoor baking oven, spoken word and poetry performances, drummers and musicians, safe cycling information, stalls selling everything from recycled vintage fashion to organic herb plants, healers of various types, vegetarian and vegan food, lots of activities for the little ones, and a really chilled out, family-friendly atmosphere, this year’s Urban Green fair was – to me anyway – undoubtedly a success.

As ever, I turned up with my trusty camera in order to bring you a little visual taster of the Urban Green Fair 2010, so here are some of my favourite sights of the afternoon…

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2010: The Politics of (In)difference and Similarity

Now we’re a month into it, I suspect that it’s still too much to hope (perhaps) that 2010 will be a better year politically than the last. I suspect things will pick up where they left off at the end of last year and we’ll get another twelve months of bitching and moaning – but very little action on behalf of our elected ‘representatives’ in Westminster. Quelle surprise.

I can’t help being so cynical. I used to be a full-blown idealist (and I still hold firm to an arguably idealistic belief in the necessity of peace, equality and fairness, despite everything), but the more I learned about and the more I understood the way the political system in this country works, the less convinced I was by its weasel words (ie, not at all), and the less I believed in the possibility of it being an agent for and a necessary force in creating positive change.

Cynicism comes naturally after that.

2009 did little to disabuse me of this belief. All in all, it was a pretty sorry year, politically speaking –  although no matter how much you despise the government of the day (and no matter how enjoyable the schadenfreude), it is never comfortable viewing to watch them dig themselves deeper and deeper into a pit of infamy; that same pit of infamy which Tony Blair played such a prominent role in originally (re) opening up back in 1997.

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Celebrity Big Brother: TV hell or a fitting finale?

So, who have we got this time round then?

There’s the rather strange Stephen, the youngest of the Billion Baldwins; Jordan’s cage-fighting transvestite red-top magnet of a boyfriend Alex Reid (who looks as if he’s fought one too many cages in his time); Jordan’s ex and boyband warbler Dane Bowers (who apparently had a punch-up with Reid at Jordan’s New Year party – tabloid trashtastic, Channel 4!); Dynasty and Bad Girls legend Stephanie Beacham (god knows what she’s doing in there, she’s far too classy for this!); and worryingly thong-obsessed singer and actor Sisqo (please god this doesn’t mean The Thong Song is about to be re-released…).

Then there’s some strangely-named bloke called Basshunter who apparently had a hit single a couple of years ago; ex-Hollywood madam (and almost certainly recipient of some Pete Burns-esque ‘facial adjustments’, if her pics are anything to go by) Heidi Fleiss; glamour model and WAG Nicola T (who?); feisty British rapper Lady Sovereign (who once had a decent career ahead of her – what happened?); Katia Ivanova (famous for… er… dating Ron Wood from the Stones for about five minutes); and, last but not least, ex-football hard man, tough-guy actor and notorious nutcracker, Vinnie Jones.

Good grief. What can you say about that shower of celebrities (I use the latter term in its loosest possible sense, of course)? I mean, I know we’ve been stupified into compliance by too much Christmas food and bad telly (and it was really bad festive telly), but is there any sort of an excuse for this? Really?

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For Auld Lang Syne (or Something): Goodbye 2009

I don’t do New Year’s Eve. Call me a party pooper if you like, but I really do not enjoy it and never have. It’s never anywhere near as much fun as we all convince ourselves it’s going to be every year, for a start. I honestly can’t figure out what’s fun about freezing your arse off in, say, central London, crammed in with thousands of other cold, drunken, slightly annoyed people, watching a few fireworks that you can see just as well (and without all the crowds) on your TV screen at home.

Then there’s the clubs. Just because it’s NYE, ticket prices suddenly go through the roof, the line-up is half-hearted at best, the drinks are both watered down and stupidly expensive, and the place is invariably full of idiots on far too much of whatever the current drug of choice is, drooling and windmilling round the dancefloor in a deeply annoying fashion and incoherently trying to chat up inanimate objects (and the occasional actual person). The loo queues will be like the first day of the January sales, and you have to freeze half to death outside if you want a cigarette. Um, no.

Just. Not. Interested.

And all that’s before you have to even think about getting home at the end of the night. Free public transport, yes, but free public transport full of lairy drunks, gaggles of screeching teenagers and the inevitable sleepyhead who passes out in a pool of vomit at the back of the night bus and ends up at Heathrow or somewhere else equally remote to the average Londoner.

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