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A bit of culture on holiday

As the summer holiday season approaches, here are a few of the records and books I have enjoyed this year. All of these recommendations feature a full, money-back guarantee*.

First, my album of the year so far in what’s been a strong six months: Fear Fun by Father John Misty. Here’s one of the standout tracks:

It’s on Bella Union, the record label run by former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde. More or less everything they release is worth listening to. Father John Misty is the new identity of Josh Tillman, who was previously the drummer in Fleet Foxes, the harmony-laden Seattle folkies who have been a staple of creative departments for a few years now. But don’t let that put you off. This record simultaneously recalls other songs, artists and eras yet remains truly original, helped largely by Misty’s engrossing lyrical flights of fancy:

Pour me another drink/ And punch me in the face/ You can call me Nancy

Indeed.

Another favourite album this year is R.A.P. Music by Killer Mike. Probably not one to play to the kids in the car or at dinner parties (depending on what kind of dinner parties you host) but a real throwback album that reminds me of Ice Cube at his ‘Death Certificate’ best. This is a contender for song of the year:

My third recommendation is Spooky Action at a Distance by Lotus Plaza. This is the side project of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, and it’s excellent. Here’s my favourite track:

I have just finished reading Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding which was acclaimed on its release in the States last year and is the perfect holiday novel if you like a great narrative but also superb writing. If you don’t read it now you’ll only end up reading it after the HBO mini-series is made, so save yourself some time.

An even better novel is Jon McGregor’s Even The Dogs, which has won a slew of literary prizes in recent months. This is not a typical ‘holiday’ read; it deals with addiction and despair. But I read it on holiday in April and loved it. It takes a few pages to fall into step with the cadence and narrative voice but it really is a moving, masterful book.

Finally, whether or not you have seen The Wire, I can’t recommend highly enough David Simon’s books that led him to make that TV series and the one that preceded and inspired it. The Corner is brutal and, again, not easy reading, but in between chronicling the lives of the Baltimore underclass, Simon absolutely nails the socio-economic reasons for their existence and the hopelessly inadequate response of those in positions of power. This novel is particularly relevant today, as our politicians impose their half-baked theories on the poor and disenfranchised.

Finally, to lighten the mood after all the heavy stuff, Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers is one of the funniest books I have read since Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman. The first 100 pages are in turn, poignant, violent and hilarious, before the story’s predictably tragic conclusion. Nonetheless, a highly enjoyable yarn.

If you couldn’t give a stuff what other people like, I quite understand, but trust me; something I have recommended on this page will strike a chord with you. At least I hope it does, because that part about the *money back guarantee was a lie.

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Categories: blogging for Britain
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