Thursday, December 31, 2009

Taxi for 2009

Still digesting the news that the top song for 2009, as chosen by listeners to 6Music, is by Depeche Mode. Eh, what decade is this? The 1980s, apparently. It does feel like 2009 has been the year of the revival.

Anyway, onto more highfalutin matters. Next month 500 yellow cabs in New York will be featuring artwork by Shirin Neshat, Yoko Ono and Alex Katz, which is pretty cool. Maybe TFL could combine this idea with Poems on the Underground. Over to you, Mayor Boris.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

And to all...

Just listening to Beth Ditto's two-hour Christmas special on 6Music. Things got off to a bumpy start when she referred to the Slits and Banshees drummer as "Bunjee", but it improved from there--a mix of her favourite bands and some festive tracks. The kicker was a rather out-of-tune Christmas number cooked up by Beth at a Girls Rock Camp a few years ago which rhymes "Christmas" with "kisses". The programme is now on Listen Again and airs again on 3/1/10.

May as well tie up a few loose ends while I'm here. Congrats to Myra Davies for her Qwartz nomination for last year's Cities and Girls. Also, I am quite enjoying the new albums by Meshell Ndegeocello and Cobra Killer. I haven't heard anything from Meshell since the mid-90s but Devil's Halo is a real delight, a mix of rock band arrangements and introspective lyrics which, I think, is a grower. The Cobra Killer record, Uppers and Downers, also surprised me, because I've never really been sure about them. I think their presentation sometimes obscures the music, but this record is packed with clever songs spiced up by a few guest appearances.

Must go check on the Quorn roast. The smoke alarm has already gone off once today, a great tradition, to be sure. So, to all....
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Sunday, December 20, 2009


So many things I am meant to be doing: clearing space to finally set up proper bedroom instead of sleeping on futon in office, writing speculative article on artist/filmmaker, prepping re-construction of destroyed radio show, oh, and blogging.

I have been asked a few times for end of year/decade lists, but find I have nothing to say in this format. Why is this? I used to love lists. I would never go shopping without one and about a decade ago used to compile all my favourite songs into a bespoke compilation tape for my own enjoyment.

Now, however, I have become listed out by other people's lists. It seems the easiest way to fill space in media outlets and strikes me as, quite frankly, the laziest of lazy journalism. So, I am not doing one. Everyone can make up her or his own mind about favourite and least favourite things. So there.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Odd Girl Out

At this time of year, with the wet and cold persisting, it's a good time to nestle in the welcoming bosom of radio (so to speak), but for me this daily ritual has added piquancy, as for the last two months I've been producing and presenting my own show. Odd Girl Out airs weekly on the web station Optical Radio, and it's been a welcome return for me to the airwaves after a long gap.

The idea came to me some time in the early '90s when I still lived in San Francisco and was writing a bi-weekly column on women and the arts for a local queer paper. Once I moved to London and began researching what should have been my book on women and underground music (long story), I began to think it would be great if there were a way to bring the music alive, so to speak.

The first version of Odd Girl Out aired way back in 1996, but it's been a long time finding an outlet for uncensored, un-formatted radio that mixes music and speech and allows me to delve into my archive and record collection.

Slowly, I have been digitising old cassette-recorded interviews and extracting short clips to air on the show. So, far the wisdom of Beth Ditto, Elizabeth Fraser, Gudrun Gut, Cornelia Schleime, Verena Kyselka and Melanie and Dolly of Mad Chicks has seen the light of day. And I've had my first live in-studio interview, with photographer Jaine Laine.

It's still a work in progress and I am adding features as I think of them, but it's great to be back on air and get the work of these amazing women out there. My playlists are posted on my journalistic site. Any suggestions, links or MP3s can be sent to valphnx (at)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Confidence Is a Preference

I was well chuffed to open last Thursday's Guardian, while waiting for my laundry, and see Liz Fraser's visage. "Aha, finally!" I thought, as it's been a long wait for the former Cocteau Twins singer's debut album. I seem to recall she signed to Blanco y Negro in about 1999. So, a long wait, indeed. She doesn't even have a proper website, just a rather threadbare work in progress. But, I am sure whatever Liz comes up with is worth waiting for.

Sadly, the article doesn't give any great hope. Though she left the group of her own volition, having already set up house in Bristol with her partner Damon and given birth, Liz doesn't seem to have found any great peace of mind and her old insecurities seem to have followed her into her new life. Having interviewed her a few times back in the '90s, I found her extremely personable, able to laugh at herself and others and, of course, quite talented and creative. I had great hopes for a solo career, in which she could finally express herself, unhindered by others' expectations. But, at least from her comments in the article, she still seems to find it hard to release anything for public scrutiny, new single aside.

It makes me wonder: what is the point of being in a band, if it doesn't add to your confidence and sense of capability? I have met many women who leave bands and don't seem to take good things away with them, as if they feel they can only create with their bandmates around them. So sad.