revolution34

Widowspeak - Almanac

The first album I bought this year, and it's been an enduring fixture. Their self-titled debut had more than a touch of Elysian Fields' breathy vocals and twangy reverb; it sounded like smoky backroom dive bars, dark woods and David Lynch films (shockingly, I rather liked it). All that's still here, but tempered with a folkier vibe and lighter production that makes the record feel like a genuine step forward for them. I just noticed they had another EP 'The Swamps' come out in October, which I am looking forward to listening to.

Savages - Silence Yourself

A recommendation from my brother. Classic Sismey fare - Gun Clubesque wailing over reverby distortion and feedback makes me happy.

Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels

El-P and Killer Mike join forces to make an album inspired by old-school 80s Electro hip-hop, and give it away for free online. As close to a party record as El-P is likely to ever make.

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold

Hat-tip to @bladkin for this one. Scratchy New York garage rock, the Strokes' snottier and more-punk little brother.

The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

The Joy Formidable's 'A Balloon Called Moaning' remains one of my favourite debuts of the last few years. Much like Metric's 'Fantasies', it's stadium rock for tiny venues and they remain second only to Dinosaur Jr for loudest show I have seen. The re-recorded versions of those songs that appeared on their first album proper didn't capture that same energy for me but, despite the cleaner production, 'Wolf's Law' gets right back to the pomp and pyrotechnics. I make no claim to any kind of synesthesia, but listening to this, you can see the light show.

Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

The Cindi Mayweather saga reaches its third installment, and Janelle Monae is still managing to walk the fine line between maintaining the concept and keeping the music up-to-scratch. A handful of pop-funk hits here no doubt but, as on 'The Archandroid', it's the slower numbers where Monae's voice really shines.

Daughn Gibson - Me Moan

I was drawn to this by the "Johnny Cash produced by Burial" elevator pitch on a poster in Brighton. To be honest, it's more 'Sisters of Mercy go Country' (and I mean that 100% as a positive). Gibson's Scott Walkeresque baritone rides roughshod over glitchy samples and lap steel guitars, to best effect on 'The Sound Of Law' and 'You Don't Fade' (a 21st century 'Temple Of Love' if ever I heard one).

Charles Bradley - Victim of Love

From the 'Car Wash' font on the front cover to the psychedelic soul of 'Where Do We Go From Here', everything about this album suggests Charles Bradley genuinely has no clue that it isn't still 1969. Bradley's incredible voice and force of personality, combined with endearingly imperfect production, gives this the feeling of a long-lost Otis Redding album.

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

My favourite riding on a train album since Plastikman's 'Consumed', I like to put this on my headphones when I am walking through a city at night and pretend I am in Blade Runner.

Honourable mentions and surprising omissions

I Hate Music - Superchunk

Warp and Weft - Laura Veirs

Have listened to these two a bunch this year, but they haven't really cemented themselves.

Mark Lanegan - Imitations

Was late picking this up, and haven't listened to it as much as I'd have liked


Chime in with your lists at this branch:

Papa Sis was born sometime in the early 2000s, in a student accommodation living room in St Andrews. Ben, Mark and I were visiting Malcs, and a Hungover Tismey was sitting in an armchair, wrapped in a blanket, grumbling about how rubbish everything was. I don't recall if it was Mark or Malcs who first coined Papa Sis to describe the curmudgeonly figure I cut, but it kind of stuck. Since then, it's been recycled as a DJ and stage name, and I quite like it, so I've been planning some kind of self-portrait for Papa since starting this project in January.

I've been thinking a lot about personal branding recently. In a recent episode of Back To Work, Merlin Mann was talking about this, and said something that really struck a chord with me:

"You can have a fancy car without being 'Fancy Car Guy'"

This happened to coincide with a difficult period at work, and with the news of my impending fatherhood. If anything is going to prompt a reassessment of priorities and assumptions, then that's going to be it. Unconsciously, over a period of a few months, I started to gradually unpick my makeup and consider which bits of Tismey and Papa Sis are useful, and which just get in the way of things a bit. I don't have a fancy car, so I'm never going to be Fancy Car Guy, but I have plenty of other tics that could end up unwittingly becoming my Defining Feature for some people. I started to think more carefully about the motivations behind my actions, and about whether I'd be happy with each decision, each purchase, each offhand comment, being reflective of me. As the months have gone on, and things have changed around me, I think this re-examination was a useful process to go through.

So, this 'montage of stuff' self-portait had been kicking around for a while. And then Artie came along and, just like everyone said, immediately the focus of my time and attention completely shifted, so it made total sense for the focus of the shot to change too.

One of the reasons I am so very, very far behind on this year's alphabet is that, rather excitingly, we're expecting a baby. He's actually overdue now, so one way or another I will definitely be a father this time next week.

The Wife knows what she wants to call a daughter (it has been decided for some time, apparently), but as we're having a boy, I get some skin in the name game. I'm fond of Apollo (middle name Creed), Anakin, Ulysses and Tyrannosaurus. Unfortunately, we had to rule these last two out because of the excessive sibilance when combined with our surname.

We've had a long shortlist of names that we've been trying out on the bump. Oscar is one of them, although it's pretty low down on the list now, I think.

Lighting this shot of Karen on her birthing ball was a right pain, and I ended up with loads that weren't sharp, or that were horribly underexposed. At some point I really need to investigate proper indoor lighting options - sometimes an anglepoise lamp and a foil-covered cake board just doesn't cut it.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.

November is, of course, inextricably linked with fireworks. But I realised if I waited until Actual Bonfire Night, I'd be even further behind than I currently am. So I decided to go for fireworks in miniature, and try to capture the point at which a match ignites. A tripod, a dark room and a big box of Original Cooks Matches later and I had this, and a bedroom that smells of matches. The Wife was ecstatic, as you can imagine.

This is Mike.

Mike seemed an obvious subject for my Mike picture. We've discussed shooting him as a part of previous A-Zs, but our schedules have never really aligned and I've needed to move on. So when a mutually free Saturday gave me the chance to observe Mike in his natural habitat - the independent record shop - it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Mike likes loud guitars, and men with beards playing acoustic guitars who used to play loud guitars. Mike's introduced me to numerous folk-punk troubadours, including Frank Turner, Jonah Matranga and Tim Barry, and various Scandinavian metal bands who scare me a bit. Mike has also won more competition prizes than anyone else I know. He seems to be constantly winning competitions.

Anyway, thanks to Head records in Leamington for letting us shoot while Mike shopped. He bought CDs by Lemuria and letlive, as you ask.

Revolution34 has had several homes over the last eight-and-a-half years, starting with an experimental MySQL / Apache / Wordpress install running on my laptop (that was stupid), a long stint on some kindly-offered server space (thanks Dave!), and then a nomadic existence bouncing around the blog engines of the wider internets, getting my DNS settings horribly wrong at every opportunity (thanks Dan!).

Sometime last year, I started writing my posts in Markdown. I find it an intuitive and unobtrusive way to write, and I particularly enjoy the fact I can use one of the many excellent Markdown-compatible text editors for writing, rather than a browser window. I also like the fact that a Markdown file is a portable, human-readable artifact in and of itself, as opposed to the abstract, and incompatible, export formats kicked out by most of the major blogging platforms (I have three separate versions of the Revolution34 archive, none of which I can easily look through).

After a while, I tired of writing intuitive Markdown in elegant text editors, then publishing by copy-and-pasting the generated HTML into clunky web interfaces, so I went looking for options that explicitly supported Markdown as a first-class input syntax. Eventually, I found Calepin, which blew my tiny mind: a blog engine pulling its content from Markdown files in a Dropbox folder, no faffing. It's a beautifully simple idea, but Calepin was a little too simple for my tastes - all Calepin blogs look alike, a purist utopia where substance trumps style and words are king. Which is fine, but not what Revolution34 is about. I have pictures and stuff, for starters.

But now I was properly on my way down the rabbit hole. My next discovery was Scriptogram, based on the same principle but with slightly more control over the appearance. Revolution34 lived on Scriptogram for the first three months of 2013; it was a better experience than, say, Blogger, but I found the templates limited, the performance a bit slow, and the lack of an auto-update took away some of the seamlessness of the process. To be honest it would have done me fine for a while, but then my Markbox beta invite turned up, and turned my head.

Markbox takes the Dropbox Blog concept a step further, adding the option to customise the layout of the site with templates, stylesheets, images and JavaScript which all also live in Dropbox. Posts synchronise from Dropbox on a schedule, meaning that publishing really is as simple as saving a file in a folder. Remember when I said the first incarnation of Revolution34 was ill-advisedly hosted on my laptop? Well, Markbox feels like that, only without the failing hard drives. Text files on my computer somehow magically become the internet.

I switched the site to Markbox full-time about 5 months ago. There have been various under-the-hood changes in this time, and it recently transitioned to a paid beta. I've been 'helpfully' breaking the new version for the last few weeks (my Fake Nerd status is useful for testing things like this, where there are things you can do, but probably shouldn't ), and the support has been excellent: swift to respond, patient with my half-formed bug reporting, and committed to the idea that even a geek-niche product such as a Blog engine based on Markdown and Dropbox (think about that Venn diagram for a second) should be accessible to users of all stripes.

Lima is the capital of, and largest city in, Peru. Around one-third of the Peruvian population live in the Lima Metropolitan area and as well as the oldest continuously functioning University in the Americas, the National University of San Marcos, the city is home to The Home for Retired Bears. It was to here that Aunt Lucy moved when she sent her nephew off to England, with only his hat and suitcase and a label politely requesting someone to 'Please look after this bear, thank you'. It was at this very station that the Brown family found him and, being unable to pronounce his Peruvian name, christened him Paddington Bear.

I don't know who these three were waiting for, but it was nice of them to stand so still while they did so.

"But soft, what light from yonder window breaks? 'Tis the East, and Juliet is the sun".

Sunrise over Rottingdean (you can just make out the windmill on the edge of the old golf course), taken from the sea wall of Brighton Marina. This letter took me ages to take, just because I needed a location with decent scenery that wasn't going to take me ages to get to at some ungodly hour of the morning. This was under a minute from our holiday apartment in Brighton Marina, and I was rewarded for my early get-up with a beautiful sky.

I confess to being something of a creature of habit and routine. If I don't sing "I locked the door and the door's locked" to the tune of 'I Fought The Law' when I lock up in the morning, I worry all day I've left the house unsecured. If I don't have a coffee between 10 and 11 of a morning, I get a bit grumpy. And the weekend hasn't started until I've had my Friday evening G&T.

It took a while for this ritual to become fully established. The bewildering array of Gins and Tonics available on the average supermarket shelf leads, in my experience, to decision by discount, the gin and tonic of the next few weeks being determined by what's on offer at the point of purchase. This can lead to some interesting discoveries, but more often it just gives disappointing or undistinguished results.

So, as you'd expect, I set out to get myself an opinion. I generally prefer my cocktails sharp and dry, so was looking for a combination of spirit, mixer and garnish that would stand up to each other without introducing any unnecessary sweetness.

My go-to gin is classic Tanqueray Export. It's ginny enough to stand out in a cocktail; more aromatic than a Gordon's or Bombay Sapphire, but not as overpoweringly so as some of the specialist or premium gins. I love the Botanist, from Islay distillery Bruichladdich, but found it overcomplicated a G&T. I also really like the cold-distilled Oxley Gin, which has a wonderfully clean ginniness, but I don't think it justifies the £50/l price tag.

I don't know why I was surprised that the majority of the name-brand tonic waters are really quite sugary. Schweppes and every supermarket own-brand I tried were too sweet for my taste. Of the supermarket own-brands, only Waitrose's didn't have a horrible artificial aftertaste (but it was still too sweet). Britvic was slightly less sweet, but the driest (and therefore the fevourite) by far was Fever Tree. It's definitely more expensive than the big brand alternatives, but it's not like I'm having them every day. Yet.

Finally, a note on garnish. Purists tell me that lime is the traditional slice for a G&T, but in my house lime is for rum- or cachaca-based drinks. I like a lemon slice, with a small squeeze of lemon in the bottom of the glass before I build the drink.

Since I did the taste test, I notice that Fentiman's also do a tonic water, for about the same price. If I try it, I'll obviously update here

My name is Tim, and I'm a pagefolder.

I'd like to think I have a healthy relationship with my Stuff. I try to look after it, but I'm always secretly pleased when something new gets a bit of a scratch or a ding, so I can stop being precious about it.

Books, however, are another matter. I love reading, but I abuse my books purposefully and without mercy. I object strongly to the fetishisation of the printed word, to the idea that the act of printing and binding confers value upon the text, no matter the quality of the writing. And I hate being told books are 'precious'.

Books are for reading. Books are for poring through and marking passages in pencil. Books are for cramming into your coat pocket as your train gets into the station; for chucking into a bag at the last minute; for reading in places with water, and sand and grass and mud. Books are for lending to friends and giving to strangers.

I got fed up of flipping between the text and footnotes in my copy of Ulysses at Uni - I tore my copy in half down the spine to make it easier. I am on my third copy of The Big Sleep, the previous two having lost pages and covers to their annual rereadings. I have bought Getting Things Done eight times in total, and have gifted, lent, defaced and lost every copy.

So yeah, I fold my page corners. And it warms my heart when I find someone's got there first.