Not quite albums of the month…. the ones that got away.

It may seem like there’s always a nailed-on candidate for our albums of the month. But there’s all sorts of reasons that an album may not be chosen as AOTM. Way before we did the podcast, we were still having the same discussions and dilemmas. So why would it get derailed? Sometimes it’s as simple as the fact that we’ve already got it and have rinsed it before it could be chosen – Caribou’s Suddenly and Roisin Murphy’s Roisin Machine are both good examples of this last year – or sometimes there’s a veto from in the camp. Or it simply falls at the wrong time: your album’s released in March, you have June, and by the time your choice comes around, its old news.

I think we can all agree that should time be taken again for Roisin, we’d have chosen her over Sufjan 99 times out of 100. Hindsight is an easy out. But we loved it so much it sometimes feels like taking the less worn path (though Sufjan is hardly unlikely) is a better choice than choosing something everyone will love. Other times while one – or more – of us loves it, it’s pretty clear that it would be likely hated by the other. I know what I’ll be playing still in a year.

With Ep11 and April’s AOTM in question, this is a great example of that dilemma. @misterstory put me onto Menneskekollektivet by Lost Girls, a strange, ethereal collection of 5 tracks from Norwegians Jenny Hval and Havard Volden, that he brought to my attention as one of the 4 ‘new tracks’ up with Episode 10. 11 minutes of hypnotic music that’s part spoken word, part dancefloor chug, then in between meanders into the areas in between. I was half-captivated, half confused by it, but it definitely stuck in my head. And it pointed me to the album, which was just as off the wall, but just as beautiful. While it was in the mix for April, we also knew that it really wouldn’t be a ‘David’ album, and we weren’t sure it was a Nolan one either, and so it went to the cutting room floor. Which is odd as the album we chose – Genesis Owusu‘s Smiling With No Teeth – was just as ‘out there’ in many I(but different) ways. But it just seemed to be an album which would be a choice that would land with the four of us better. Having said that, we chose Macca, and look how that turned out for Ep7!

Going a bit deeper into the album than even Joey has so far, Love Lovers is probably the standout of the 5 tracks (total: 44 minutes for, yes, only five tracks). A tribal beat that morphs into techno, as Hval’s spoken words then wailing notes and Volden’s chords drive the melody, until it breaks out into an epic peak. Carried By Invisible Bodies also weaves around, its chords de- and re-tuned throughout, a sort of woozy, disorienting melody that I’m still not sure if I’d ever have the cojones to play out anywhere. It definitely skirts the fine line between musical genius and pretentiousness, and no doubt knows that. But the artist background of Hval (and this being considered an accessible counterpoint to her solo work!) makes this less of a surprise when you delve deeper.


We could probably do a whole series of albums that never quite made it to a chosen each month – we don’t by any means have just those 12 albums in our lives each year – but this one definitely stood out. For every choice there’s always one that ends up on the floor. If I had time again, I’d have chosen Everything Everything’s Reanimator because – no diss to Yves Tumor, my EP3 choice – I’m still playing it, all the time. In fact it’s turned into one of my favourite albums of the last 6 months. In music as in life, you live and learn.

Podcast: Re-up

Yes, we’ve done a podcast, but we haven’t talked about it much on here up to now. However, there’s a lot there for fans of any stripe, from EP1’s RTJ4 right up to Arlo Park’s Collapsed in Sunbeams in EP9. So consider this a refresher, or re-up (Omar comin’!) of where we have got up to. If you’ve not dipped into them all yet, or you’ve only braved one, here’s your chance to dive in! There’s a player below and after that a bit of a bite-size lump of what each is about. Enjoy.

Ep 10 – The Weather Station – Ignorance This Is Not Happening – An Album Of The Month Podcast

Episode 10 of This Is Not Happening finds us sticking with female artists but switching from the UK to Canada with the Weather Station's Ignorance.  Tamara Lindeman's group released its 5th album in 2021, and it marks another progression from folk-tinged songwriting to full-blown grown-up pop that touched on so many of our big influences. We all went on a journey with this, with Joey at the helm. We also put together an 'inspired by' playlist to sit with the album.  In the second part of the show, we jumped off the deep end by picking a new track, secret santa-style for each other! Here's the longlist, but the four we chose are:David – Nolan chose: Brother Ali – Sensitive. Guy – Joey chose: Howlin' – Bind Joey – David chose: Charlotte Adigery – Bear With Me (And I'll Stand Bare Before You)  Nolan – Guy chose: Vagabon – Water Me Down (Pancy Remix)April's album of the month and all our playlists, new music and discussions from the past decade or more can be found on our blog at http://www.thisisnothappening.net, which runs alongside the podcast choices and much, much more. So check them out so to see what we 're talking about and if you like it, we'd love to hear from you. Socials are below. Episode #11 will be digging into the kaleidoscopic debut from Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth . An Australian-Ghanaian whose melting-pot influences have created one of the most fascinating and memorable albums of the year. Coming to you before the end of May. This Is Not Happening:Created by Joey, Nolan, Guy and David.Produced and Edited by Guy and Nolan.Twitter: @thisisnothapngInstagram: @thisisnothappeningpodEmail: thisisnothappeningpodcast@gmail.comReviews: http://www.ratethispodcast.com/thisisnothappening
  1. Ep 10 – The Weather Station – Ignorance
  2. Ep 9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams
  3. Ep 8 – Bicep – Isles
  4. Ep 7 – Paul McCartney III
  5. Ep 6 – Review of 2020

EP1 – Run The Jewels – RTJ4 + lockdown bangers

The podcast was born on a high note: Run The Jewels’ RTJ4 landed in early lockdown on the wave of righteous and justified anger and the #BlackLivesMatter movement and captured that zeitgeist perfectly with its mix of monster hooks and rapier-like flow from Killer Mike and El P. Still sounds so fresh now. We also went in on lockdown bangers that went across the music map.

EP2 – Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? + chilled tracks

Episode 2 landed on Jessie Ware’s shimmering modern pop and disco monolith What’s Your Pleasure? A slice of adult dancefloor glitter with production chops to match, we didn’t all see eye to eye on this one. We also talked what music chilled us out, with differing results!

EP3 – Yves Tumor – Heaven To A Tortured Mind + disco destruction

The third episode took on a totally new artist to us, the enigmatic Yves Tumor’s Heaven To A Tortured Mind. A noise-laden collection of modern, scuzzy soul and funk, again divided the room. We also revelled in the world of disco with some seminal cuts.

EP4 – Sault – Untitled [Black Is] + afro centric tracks

If RTJ hit the zeitgeist, anonymous collective Sault’s Untitled [Black Is] took that feeling to another level with its modern take on enveloping soul, roots, dub, and more, all wrapped up in lyrics that elevated black consciousness and lived experience. It really was a joy to talk through. We also took on our favourite afro-centric tracks from four different directions.

EP5 – Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension + new music

Long-time blog favourite Sufjan Stevens’ electronic opus The Ascension got a going over from the four of us. An album big on ambition that perhaps overshot its mark with us, we also picked out our favourite new tracks from recent months.

EP6 – Review of 2020 + tracks of the year

As the year came to a close, we cast our minds back over the last twelve months and counted down our top ten albums. For the first time in the twelve years of the blog, we mostly agreed on the top 3! We also brought our own tracks of the year to the table.

EP7 – Paul McCartney – McCartney III + covers we love

There’s lockdown albums, and there’s surprise releases from the biggest rock stars on the planet. McCartney III‘s homely rock and pop vision took us by surprise and showed that not everyone is a Beatles fan, to David’s shock! We also brought our best covers to the table, with some friction!

EP8 – Bicep – Isles + remix heaven

Dancefloors may have been shut but we went into Bicep’s massively anticipated second album, Isles. It’s shimmering, metallic beats and melodies landed with varying results for us, but we all just wanted to see them (or anyone!) live, by the end. Tracks came in the form of our favourite remixes, and tears were shed.

EP9 – Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams + new music

One of music’s most hotly-anticipated – and hyped – albums came in episode 9. Arlo Parks’ Collapsed In Sunbeams was a beautiful collection of soul and r’n’b from the breakout artist who melodies hid a surprisingly direct character. Could it live up to the hype? We also picked our favourite music from the start of 2021.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the podcast as much as we have making it. We have no grand plans, but we just want to talk about the music we love and hope a few others share that with us, whether you agree with us or not…. thanks again to everyone that’s listened up to now. See you at Episode 11 and Genesis Owusu!

AOTM October 2020 – Sufjan Stevens ‘The Ascension’

Sufjan Stevens' Sprawling The Ascension Seeks Solace in Pessimism | Review  | Consequence of Sound

Well, this is going to be an interesting Album of the Month.

Each one of us on the blog/pod has a history with Sufjan Stevens. Some longer than others, some with more passion than others. But that doesn’t mean that we agree on all things Sufjan. Quite the opposite it appears. And if there was a Sufjan album to force a wedge between our personal preferences … then this is it.

My history with Sufjan was a little delayed given the wave of adoration that followed ‘Illinois’. Apparently I was a little slow on the uptake. Illinois was released in 2005 (gulp). I didn’t get to it until around 2009. I can mark the time well as my wife was pregnant with my first child and we (over) played it to death. She didn’t have the greatest pregnancy and now can’t listen to the album as it is so synonymous with feeling sick and bloated. Not Sufjan’s fault but still. I then bought the Age of Adz the day after my daughter was born. This album marked a seismic change in instrumentation from Sufjan … one that came with a very mixed (and in the case of David, surprisingly aggressive) reaction. I loved it, but hey, I’d just had a little girl. I would have loved most things.

Then came a silly Xmas album in 2012 … and then in 2015 we chose Carrie and Lowell (C&L) as album of the month. And I think we all agreed it’s close to perfection. As albums that I love to cry along to go, it’s right up there with Put Your Back N 2 it by Perfume Genius. It’s deeply personal, beautifully sparse, hypnotically produced and perfectly written.

A bunch of oddities have been released between then and now. But The Ascension is Mr. Steven’s first proper album since then. Much to David’s shock, the album is ‘Electro Sufjan’ again. But I would state that it is a very different proposition to Age of Adz. Age of Adz was full of pomp and theatrical posturing. I get why some hated it. I didn’t and that’s cool.

I think this album is at least as personal and introspective as C&L. Sufjan was moving from New York to the countryside of America and didn’t have access to his banjos, guitars and traditional range of instruments. He has said that he was limited to what he could plug into his computer. For me, this album does feel like he was ‘constrained’. But I am not sure if this is in a bad way. It’s a very different Sufjan Stevens we hear on this album and I am ok with that. Some have suggested it sounds like he’s ‘trying to hard’. I think this album sounds like he’s ‘trying’, i.e. this doesn’t feel 100% natural and feels less than 100% comfortable … but I am ok with this. I think I am getting into this vulnerability.

Let’s talk about its length. It’s long! 80 minutes. Exactly 100% longer than my preferred album length. There are some long old tracks on it too. The longest, America (12 mins) was the 1st single so it’s not like we didn’t have warning. He also shared Sugar ahead of the release date which clocks in at 7+ mins. He also shared a 15 strong track list for the album. So I guess this has to be considered as a ‘double album’ which isn’t usually a good thing.

You have to make a commitment to this album. I think it only makes sense when you do. I’ve practically listened to nothing else for a whole week. And I have been rewarded. I don’t ‘love’ this yet. But I am loving listening to it. As each track starts, I know that I like each one. There are no tracks here that I would remove. This is true for very few albums. Some tracks i like. Some I love. I think a few of my all time fave Sufjan tracks are on this album. He’s a great song writer and he’s doing something very different. I think we should respect that and applaud it.

Sufjan Steven’s is one of the few artists that when he’s reviewed, lazy critics don’t simply list a bunch of people he sounds like … cause he doesn’t. Other people sound like him. However, there are moments where for the 1st time I’ve thought … oh … he’s doing a Thom Yorke thing there (Ativan) or a Caribou drum production thing (I want to die happy and a few others). I don’t think he’s mastered the electronic craft yet and is therefore referencing others but again … I’m cool with that.

There are a few moments where someone should have tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘that’s enough Sufjan’ (i) America should be an 8 minute track, the last 4 minutes? Sorry but no (ii) Ativan should be 4 mins for the same reason.

So. At this point in time. I am very glad this is in my life. I am glad he’s done what he’s done. Oh, and Video Games is such a surprise. Where did that come from? Single of the year? (I can hear all of your screaming at me for suggesting that one).

Commit to it. Give it some space and time. It does deserve it.

Sufjan Stevens – Video Game

It’s difficult to know what I really expected the next Sufjan Stevens song to sound like following the epic 12 minute+ ‘America’. The track list for the new album dropping at the end of Sept. was shared recently showing that ‘America’ will close the 15 track album out.

This track ‘Video Game’ will feature as third track on the album. And it couldn’t much further from America. The video features Tik Tok sensation Jalaiah Harmon performing her viral ‘renegade’ dance … which doesn’t really fit but of course in context does. How did that conversation go ‘Hey Jalaiah, do you want to star in a music video for a song about not wanting to star in music videos?’

For the avoidance of doubt … I love this.