#1 - What is the one album (or ep or song) that you think should be the very next musical thing that everyone presses play on the next time they find themselves thinking “what should I listen to now”?
The start of the year is always a bit lean when it comes to fresh, top-quality music, but luckily Mike Tolan’s Talons’ project has helped us all out by releasing a beauty called Growing Up.
For those unfamiliar with Tolan’s music, he’s what you might call a post-folk songwriter, using ambient and experimental techniques to flesh out tales of post-9/11 detachment and sadness. If the Bandcamp blurb is to be believed, Growing Up is actually a long EP, with a full album set to be released later in the year. Have a listen and I’m sure you'll be celebrating this fact as much as I.
#2 - What is the one movie or tv show that you think should be next in everybody’s Netflix queue (ok, doesn’t have to be Netflix, we’re all internet adults here and know how to find anything online, one way or another)?
I hope you’ll excuse the slightly dated nature of this recommendation but Southland is a police show which ended in 2013, charting life in crazy, crazy LA for the good ol’ boys and girls in blue.
Aside from sometimes laying on the good ol’ boys and girls in blue thing a little too thick, it’s a superb example of exciting, innovative television which refused to simplify issues such as racism, sexism, drug abuse, mental health issues etc. It’s filmed in this cool handheld style (not the motion sickness kind) so you don’t quite see everything perfectly as it happens, which makes it claustrophobic and nerve-wracking and far more shocking than any graphic, filmed-from-seven-angles violence you’ll see in the usual shows.
Plus it’s set in a (lifelike?) version of LA where weird things happen at EVERY turn, so each episode is like running a gauntlet with flawed and sometimes volatile cops.
#3 - I (and by “I” I mean “the person that is reading this”) am going to the book store (ok, probably Amazon) to find the very next book that I will be putting some extremely valuable ‘me-time' aside for. Which book would you get, if you were me (and, I suppose, you hadn’t already read what you’re about to suggest)?
At the moment I'm reading Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, which is part love story, part social satire. The problem is that the love story isn't super sad (the main character has a mild Humbert Humbert sort of thing going on) and the satire, in my humble opinion, is too on-the-nose to be funny or clever. I think his problem is that he goes too far for that subtle sort of irony yet not far enough to make the whole thing seem like a massive nudge-nudge wink-wink, as someone like Mark Leyner does.
Read My Cousin The Gastroenterologist or The Tetherballs of Bougainville and you'll get the impression Leyner saw you coming, lulled you into a "oh I see what he's doing" before smacking you in your stupid face with another level of ridiculousness.
The joke isn't just on the banal aspects of modern life, but also readers who think they can snigger at said banality, and writers who think they can write snigger-worthy material for said readers. It's exhausting and devoid of any sort of spiritual nourishment, but hilarious.
Oh, and DON’T BUY YOUR BOOKS FROM AMAZON! They’re bad people (allegedly. Please don’t sue me).
#4 - What is the one website (or just any old internet thing: app, gif, service, whatever) that you would get really down in the dumps about if it were to suddenly go away?
Despite lengthy monologues on recent cinema (he mostly hates it, at least this year), copious references to his LA pals/younger boyfriend for no reason other than bragging, and awkward self-read adverts for shaving kits and education courses, the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast is always worth a listen.
He gets interesting guests (Mark Danieleski, Craig Finn, Matt Berninger and Quentin Tarantino have all appeared recently) and explores the state of art in contemporary society. You know, how is the novel shaping up in the digital age, how is the current TV obsession influencing cinema, are actors all sneaky self-serving narcissists etc. Millennials beware, he's pretty critical of our delicate-snowflake wussy generation, though I find many of his diatribes hard to deny. Much like with his writing, you most likely won't agree with his every view, but that's kind of the point.
#5 - And finally… please give one completely unaided recommendation that you think everyone should start doing / using / watching / eating / thinking / quiting / etc-ing to make their lives a little bit more better AND/OR bearable.
This one is hard. I'm still working my way through a haul of chocolates that good old Chris Cringle brought at Christmas (it's like Willy Wonka's storeroom in the house) so maybe I could recommend a few cocoa-based treats? Guylian's praline seashells are worth your time, as are chocolate-coated coffee beans, especially Blue Star Coffee Roasters from Hot Cakes in Seattle, which are the ones we have. I'm savouring them, one or two a night. I'm odd like that.