2022 – Another year done

I guess the first thing to say about 2022, is where did it go? This blog, or lack thereof, is testament to a year in fast forward. Family duties, house renovations, ‘real’ work and other assorted distractions meaning this project was very much on the back burner.

That said, I did manage to pull together a mental list of highlights and memories to call out. So to make up for the general lack of activity for the rest of the year, and in no particular order, here are the awards and shout outs for the year in music.

The mix this year is my end of year Loose.fm show (more of that below) and Vinyl Night Radio – although the rules of that station mean you’ll need to be quick to catch that one.

Radio of the year

This year for me was all about radio, with a few live gigs chucked in here and there. I had two shows on the go, monthly with Loose.fm and weekly with Vinyl Night Radio, so if I can have a joint winner for station of the year, then there you go. Biased? Yes of course, but doing them has changed how I approach DJing and pushed me to be more disciplined, and above all learn to love my own voice.

The VNR guys really welcomed me in with no need for formality and let me get on with doing what I wanted with the show. I think I only missed one week without a new show which I think is not bad going for a weekly show. Koop – Waltz for Koop was my first tune live on the radio.

VNR was a real entry point to the world of radio and branched out further this year with a number of live events out in the wild. Newcastle at RPM Music was a big highlight playing records all day in a great little shop off the Bigg Market. Plus other forays into Bernie’s in Altrincham for Xmas and Stomping Ground in Heaton Moor. As ever the drive and organisation of Alain (Station Boss) is key and have to give him a big thanks for getting that all together over the year.

Loose is a bit more, well loose, based in London it’s a Dropbox relationship but they have been encouraging and easy to work with and do some great work with the socials and graphics. Maybe one day I’ll grace the studio…It’s been great putting these shows together and they are re-upped on the Mixcloud.

That said, there are some proper DJs out there who deserve a shout out, Ross Allen, Ruf Dug and John Gomez making my mornings a lot more pleasant when I can catch them. The easy style of Zakia, all on NTS. Luke Una doing what he does on the already missed Worldwide. And then the stalwarts, Gilles of course still up there and doing it weekly. However this year’s winner has to be Charlie Dark latterly on Worldwide FM but also on his own Run Dem. Vibes upon vibes – never a show without a tune I need to go and hunt down. Relentlessly positive and all round superstar without the ego.

RADIO SHOW OF THE YEAR – Charlie Dark (Peace Postivity & Blessings Worldwide FM)

RADIO STATIONS OF YEAR – Vinyl Night Radio & Loose.fm

DJ of the year

This was a quiet year for going out for a number of reasons but I did make a few forays out after dark, so this run down reflects that a bit (also see clubs of the year!). Donna Leake took my breath away at Apricot Ballroom, and a very honourable mention has to go to Ashley Grimshaw before her. Just doing what a DJ is supposed to do, opening your ears to music you’ve never heard before and putting it together in a way that keeps the rhythm of the night moving forward.

Again, showing my lack of ability to escape the house, Irfan Rainy’s Community nights passed me by but I did catch him on a random night at Soup and his status as a pivotal figure in the underground dance music scene in Manchester is well earned. He also brought Joe Claussell to Manchester, more of which below.

I also caught Scruff at Bestival, who again just knows what a real DJing all about. New year’s resolution is to get out more and see what’s about. So many mini-scenes based around venues popping up – even in the previous backwater of Stockport where I live, with Jason Boardman and the SK1 Records gang doing interesting things at new venue Syndikat.

Lastly the Vinyl Nights at Feed have opened my ears to many a new DJ up and coming or just old hands who do it for the love. I’ve had the pleasure of spinning a few times for Morgan – who needs a special mention for the intro for VNR – a true gent whose passion is infectious.

So anyway back to my pick, like I say I have to stick with people I’ve seen, so it has to be Donna L.

CLUB DJ OF THE YEAR – Donna Leake

Nights of the year

Going out was a bit limited – see above, but live was more productive. A few biggies such as Bestival (family) and Primal Scream (for old times sake) mixed it with more small scale efforts.

Yes is now a go to for good live music, not a revelation for most I’m sure but it really pulls in the smaller acts on their way as well as some hidden gems. John Carroll-Kirby in March was epic in every sense of the word. One man mostly and a synth, taking you places. A return with Eddie Chacon would be nice though.

Lady Blackbird played at Band on the Wall in May which was bewitching and exciting as well as spiritual and soulful. Seeing her on Graham Norton later in the year wasn’t a surprise – watch her rise.

Same goes for Gabriels. Love and Hate is already such an iconic tune, it felt hard to see where they’d go from there, but the more I reflect on that gig the more blown away I am by the voice and delivery. Another one to watch go skywards. And it was at New Century Hall.

Out dancing twice that count this year. A poor return but they were good. Joe Clausell just was Joe Clausell at Freight Island. Sun setting on a Sunday night, dancing outside to some of the best house music played by one of the best. What more could you want?

Then flipping that round to Deptford Northern Soul again at New Century. A fun one, stretching the definition of Northern definitely – Curtis’s Move On up anyone? But still full of proper dancers, there to move and be seen moving.

On a personal note the gigs picked up a wee bit, the VNR tour meant playing out at some new places. I had a few nights at the mighty Nook which were always fun, Nordie was also a good one. Another new year’s resolution – get booked more. If you’re interested hit me up. Anyway here are some pictures of decks in random places I have played to serve as support to the above!

GIG OF THE YEAR – Gabriels (New Century Hall Manchester)

Reading Matters

Along with this blog, reading is another thing that’s taken a hit this year. But there have been a few good things I managed to get to. The return of Jockey Slut as Disco Pogo, Faith still free and providing context and forward looking artists and house. Plus to basically try and look clever my subscription to the London Review of Books.

Bookswise, Bob Stanley’s (off of St Etienne) book ‘Let’s Do It’ was worthy of scholarship in terms of it’s breadth of research and certainly opened my eyes to a number of artists, genres and movements that were totally new to me.

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life came out in a revised issue and was as funny, interesting and informative as it as ever was. Essential reading for students of the DJ form and all that geos with it.

Blogs still had a place, although sadly I succumbed to Instagram in a bigger way this year. Special mention to All My Friends, Ban Ban Ton Ton and Test Pressing on the blog front, for keeping the content coming. Test Pressing forum being a great go to for tips and tricks.

On the Insta front, Luke Una was always funny and erudite but with a heart behind it. Who’d have thought you could say that about social media. Honourable mentions also to Andy Votel, Pasta Paul and Ruf Dug for their contributions, plus many others for the record tips and heads up. No doubt it will eventually descend into the sewer like every platform before it but for now it’s still worth the effort.

Music Works

With the shows and just generally wanting to explore more this year more than any other has really led to a rapid expansion in the music I picked up. I mostly blame Instagram but the DJs from the stations totally opened my ears to new and interesting stuff as well as the old ways of digging about.

So, my new year’s resolution is to make this blog better and more current, however I am also writing this on New Year’s Eve and it’s an end of year review. This time pressure means unfortunately this bit of the review is a bit of a rush job (something else I need to address in ’23!).

Therefore to cover all the new stuff I listened to in 2022 and save time the slide show below has some of my musical highlights, streaming, vinyl and download.

Saying that, there are still some big albums and 12s I need to call out for special mention. J-Walk’s album was a real excursion into the outer reaches of electronic groove music. Totally immersive and groove filled, instant classic. The Michael J Blood album was the same, electronic but totally original, a mean feat in a crowded scene.

Soul music loomed large for me this year, new and old. Quincy, Marlena, Esther, Joe, Terry…I spent a fair bit of time and energy getting some of the catalogue in order with those albums. But new stuff in that vein was equally impressive. George Riley being the pick with an exceptional set of modern, contemporary electronic based music for the heart and head. And then there was Sault. What can you say really about a group (?) who can drop 5 albums for free in a day and every single one of the 70 odd tracks on them is an original challenging piece of music in its own right.

12s were also great this year, let’s be honest there are so many released it’s easy to get a bit snowblind. Delays on pressing mean release dates get a bit fluid. But from this year I have to call out the Nonna Fab EP on Worldwide Feelings, Semi Skinned Edits #5, the Melodies International collectors series, Foundation Music’s Lady Blackbird remixes and Bruise releases all need a call out.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR – J-Walk Mellotronique

ACT OF THE YEAR – Sault

COMPILATION OF THE YEAR – Venta Sul (Vampisoul)

LABEL OF THE YEAR – Foundation Music

Shops

Still the lifeblood of musical discovery for me, it’s been a great year for shopping! I found myself in a number of places I’d not got to before, either by luck or design. London is still great, Atlantic and Tome in Hackney were excellent spots.

An Easter trip to the city of my birth, Plymouth also found me back in an old haunt, Hairy Records still gave up a few treats. The VNR trip to Newcastle meant checking RPM in very minute detail and certainly is worth your time. Plus Sheffield has some gems too. I will be back.

Manchester still has plenty going on despite rumours of its demise the Northern Quarter can still hold its head up. The might Piccadilly records will always be a strong contender for shop of the year. I’ve been going there for nearly 25 years, so they must be doing something right. Shouts to Andy and Matt, who are always friendly and chat despite me basically doing click and collect. Eastern Bloc and Vinyl Exchange still going and worth dropping in to. Special mention also to King Bee, not to be forgotten and again somewhere you can guarantee a treat or two whenever you go.

And then to Stockport. Who’d have thought that this little satellite town could now boast two of the best shops around in All Night Flight and SK1. Well, they do. Can’t recommend them enough so what are you waiting for?

SHOP OF THE YEAR – SK1 (Stockport)

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