Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sloppy Dog 2011 Honours List

Hilary Devey
You could make her foot itch, sunshine
A breath of fresh air to the waning Dragons’ Den, Hilary Devey turned heads from even her first appearance on the trailer (although that was mainly based on her looking like a conceptual art piece). However, once the show was underway she turned out to be ballsy and straight-talking yet warm and human. We’d love her even more if she’d bump off Bannatyne.

Sky Arts
Music TV's brave saviour
The sorry excuse for a Christmas Top of the Pops this year was yet another reminder that TV is sorely bereft of music performance shows. Thankfully, one lone channel is fighting the cause like no other – Sky Arts’ music output puts its terrestrial contemporaries to shame, and hopefully will prompt the pen-pushing commissioners of certain other channels to follow suit.

Ed Sheeran
A middle finger to the Rihannabots
A chap whose heart-on-sleeve simplicity has many a music snob eyerolling up and down the country, but his talent is truly immense. Having caught him in a pre-signed, 100-capacity gig some time ago, he showed the promise of brilliance, and he’s made good on it. A pleasing reminder that hard work really can pay off.

Goldie Cheung
Batshit crazy; incredibly shrewd
Let’s face it, she’s pretty damn talentless. But Goldie Cheung’s refusal to take part in what proved to be the most contrived and counterfeit series of The X Factor to date was a genuinely admirable move. And not many people can wrap their leg around Gary Barlow’s neck half-dressed and come out the other side with this much dignity.

Amy Winehouse

1983 - 2001; irreplaceable
British music lost an institution in 2011 with the sad, if horribly inevitable, death of Amy Winehouse. Sure, she had her flaws – something which was reported on a hell of a lot more than her positives – but the untouchable musical legacy left behind says significantly more than a million trashy column inches ever could.

For services to music and general awesomeness
Their comeback was every bit as triumphant as we could’ve hoped for, both their Wireless headline slot and Brixton Academy gig highlighting their charisma, their talent, and their staggeringly impressive catalogue of Britpop magnificence. With any luck, 2012 will see some new material of the same quality.

The Bluetones
Hounslow Heroes
While one example of Britpop royalty came together for a reunion, a criminally less-celebrated Britpop act announced their split. The Bluetones, even in their more hushed recent years, provided some of the greatest indie anthems in existence. Farewell, The Bluetones. Now hurry up and get cracking on that comeback tour.

(Except when it's shit)
To paraphrase someone, Twitter is like an exclusive party with cool, attractive strangers; Facebook is a rainy barbecue at your aunt’s house. And that aforementioned someone is a person we don’t know or follow, retweeted by a person we follow but don’t know. And that’s why Twitter rules – it’s a custom-made pick ‘n’ mix of brilliance, sans social awkwardness.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2011: Albums

While we’ve had to concede that the singles chart is now the realm of piss-weak Rihannatastic cannibalised McPop, at least the album world has yet to be infected to the same extent. Notable omissions from this year’s final ten include Alice Gold, Tim Wheeler & Emmy The Great, Bright Eyes and Thirteen Senses, but let’s turn our attentions to those that did make the cut...

10. Neon Trees - Habits
Opening the list are Utah candyfloss rockers Neon Trees, with an album originally released Stateside way back in March 2010. This year saw its eventual arrival in Blighty, and it proved to be worth the wait. Habits was laden with huge pop melodies and addictive punk riffs, blended together seamlessly for a defined, cohesive and hugely enjoyable collection.
Key Track: Animal

9. Ed Sheeran - +
A rather lacklustre mish-mash of his EPs it may have been on paper, but the quality of Ed Sheeran’s debut was otherwise hard to contest. The peculiar marriage of timorous acoustic ballads and cocky, head-turning semi-rap somehow worked exceptionally well, and deservedly pushed a genuinely remarkable new talent firmly into the mainstream.
Key Track: Drunk

8. Melanie C - The Sea
While Melanie C’s last three albums have been solid, unified bodies of work, The Sea is a return to the pleasing patchwork quality of Northern Star, jumping from lush ballads to fiery girl-rawk to demi-electro thumpers and back again. Whether she’ll ever repeat the success of her debut is up to the public, but The Sea proves the material itself is more than capable.
Key Track: Burn

7. Friendly Fires - Pala
A vigorous, funk-laden and charismatic follow-up to their exceptional debut, Pala was a smart and effective next move for Friendly Fires. Brazilian beats, swooning house rhythms and spellbinding vocals, all capped with a keen injection of Britishness and even a slight indie campness, it’s hard to think of another band better equipped for a Coldplay-esque stadium transition.
Key Track: Chimes

6. Nicola Roberts - Cinderella’s Eyes
A confident, intelligent and stylish debut from perhaps the least likely member of Girls Aloud. But that was part of the beauty of Cinderella’s Eyes – it was a window into a mysterious and misunderstood individual, not only unveiling her character but doing so with a musicality and an imaginative, earnest quality her band have yet to achieve, either solo or as a unit.
Key Track: Yo-Yo

5. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Touted as 2011’s big hope by all and sundry this time a year ago, it was fortunate that The Vaccines had the talent to live up to the hype. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines made its mark with certainty – it was youthful, it was boisterous and it was addictive; an album which, in the most positive, complimentary way, left us wanting much, much more.
Key Track: Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)

And here’s where it all gets a bit difficult. While 2011 has provided us with some rather impressive albums, there hasn’t been one particular standout offering, as has been the case in previous years. So from here on in, let’s call it a four-way tie for the top spot...

Guillemots - Walk The River
While the superb solo effort from frontman Fyfe Dangerfield was crowned our best album of 2010, the Guillemots as a band don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to albums. Walk The River, however, finally broke the curse, stealthily flitting between dark, introspective moments and huge give-away-the-farm indie-pop magnificence.
Key Track: The Basket

Miles Kane - Colour of the Trap
The beguiling, Sixties-infused indie of lead track Rearrange has already gotten the bronze medal as far as the Singles of 2011 are concerned, so it’s hardly a surprise to see Colour of the Trap taking some acclaim as well. Gloriously unpretentious yet effortlessly cool; current yet classic; varied yet consistent. Best Male at the 2012 Brit Awards, please.
Key Track: Rearrange

Little Jackie - Made For TV
An album that was sprung on us from out of nowhere, the follow-up to 2008’s exceptional The Stoop arrived in August with little warning. But Made For TV proved to be the best kind of surprise. Tongue-in-cheek social commentary executed with a breezy charm and an unrivalled knack for a captivating hook – essentially, everything we’ve come to love about Little Jackie.
Key Track: Take Back the World

CocknBullKid - Adulthood
Initially, Adulthood felt like a nice stop-gap while we wait for VV Brown to make good on her second album, but repeated listens revealed a unique magnetism, soulful but playful, and worthy of far greater attention than it actually received. Easily one of 2011’s best new artists, long may the pleasurable, Londoncentric charm of CocknBullKid reign.
Key Track: Asthma Attack

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2011: TV

Our next End of Year countdown looks at the worst television 2011 has had to offer. There are some notable exceptions from the ten – let’s just assume that annual offenders Sky News, The Jeremy Kyle Show and Eastenders will forever be in every worst TV list ever compiled until the Google/Apple Coalition World Government deem lists of every kind illegal, sometime in the 2020s. That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty of utter guff left to choose from...

10. Epic Win
An entire television format built around an internet catchphrase perhaps isn’t the strongest premise for a Saturday night gameshow, but when you consider it’s essentially a low-budget rehash of You Bet, it reveals itself to be even more of a trainwreck. A deserving dose of poetic justice, then, that Epic Win turned out to be a monumentally epic fail.

9. The X Factor
The gutter press blamed the departure of Cowell and Cole for a lacklustre series, but if anything, their absence improved proceedings. What let The X Factor down was the blatant transparency in not just the pimping of certain acts, but in offering others up for sacrifice. Meanwhile, Tulisa’s treatment of Misha B made for a new benchmark in malice, even by this show’s standards.

8. Waterloo Road
“Let’s have a high-budget impromptu fashion show in the school gym! Let’s rewrite the entire curriculum in an afternoon! Let’s introduce storylines tackled by Grange Hill with far more finesse two decades ago! Let’s write dialogue a million miles from how anyone ever talks in any walk of life!” Artistic license is one thing, but this shit is verging on accidental sci-fi.

7. Sing If You Can
It’s hard not to love Stacey Solomon, bless her, but the truly bizarre Sing If You Can was a low-rent mash-up of D-list celebrities, terrible karaoke and humiliating challenges. In short, it was the Channel 5 ‘classic’ Night Fever, with added baked-bean-baths and witchetty grub munching. When the most dignified thing on your CV from the last year is an Iceland ad, it’s time to get a new agent.

6. Primeval
What began as a promising action series for all the family soon morphed into an awkward, watered-down mess, riddled with plotholes. Granted, Primeval didn’t have an easy time of it, being given the chop then thrown a lifeline by a pan-global mix of broadcasters, but it seems to be a case of too many cooks. Are they really still planning a film version...?

5. Don't Scare The Hare
In fairness, Don’t Scare The Hare was the kind of misfire channels should be making. After the success of Total Wipeout, it’s clear to see why things went down this route, plus it was certainly offering something different. It’s just a shame it ended up on BBC One on Saturday nights rather than on Nickelodeon being played by six-year-olds.

4. Red or Black
An even more uninspired gameshow than the aforementioned Epic Win, this was a definite low point in 2011’s TV offerings. You can hang all the bells and whistles on it that the ITV1 budget will allow; it’s still, at the end of the day, an entire series centred on the concept of guessing either A or B. Gifting a million quid to an ex-con is the least of their troubles when the show itself is this lame.

3. So You Think You Can Dance
It’s difficult to think of another show of this ilk where so little effort or passion was put into it, let alone budget or publicity. In the US, it’s an explosive, fast-paced, attention-grabbing entertainment show; the horrific, half-arsed UK reboot had Cat Deeley reinventing the word ‘disingenuous’, the world’s dullest judging panel, contestants it was nigh on impossible to care about, and the all production values of a primary school nativity play.

2. Sunday AM
Granted, not a show that ordinarily makes for regular viewing round these parts, but the occasions where it’s popped up via a session of lazy Sunday channel-hopping has proved it to be truly painful television, all down to the unfathomable snobbery of Andrew Marr. His sniffing at popular culture is hilarious, a key moment being his pretence at not knowing what The X Factor is. You’re educated, we get it. Also: the opening music is what plays 24 hours a day in Hell.

1. The Tudors
And a once-entertaining, if always ridiculous, show takes the unenviable title of 2011’s worst television show. The Tudors was rarely anything more than a 15th Century take on The Red Shoe Diaries, playing it fast and loose with historical fact and relying on knockers ‘n’ gore. But Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ portrayal of Henry VIII was like a bad impression of Father Jack Hackett that got less and less funny. Arguably one of the worst pieces of acting ever witnessed, it ensured the series went out on an entirely new low.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Sloppy Dog's Best of 2011: TV

While the world of music had little to offer us in 2011, television picked up the slack. There was tough competition for a spot in the ten greatest TV shows of the year, and just missing the list were brilliant new comedies Trollied and Fresh Meat; an iffy-but-addictive Torchwood: Miracle Day; the mesmerising Frozen Planet; an incredible conclusion to Spooks; and the gloriously high-gloss, low-rent tits-and-explosions-fest of Strike Back: Project Dawn. But on to those that did make the cut...

10. Episodes
A peculiar transatlantic co-production perhaps shouldn’t have worked quite as well as this, and the holes were undoubtedly visible, but Matt LeBlanc’s bravely self-deprecating portrayal of himself and the partnership of Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig made for a hugely entertaining – and fairly innovative – new comedy. (The ultimate kudos goes to Daisy Haggard for her hilarious facial expressions.)

9. Shameless USA
It’s rare that a remake manages to outdo the original, and we’re almost ashamed to say the US update trumps the British version, but it almost feels like a different show altogether. Faster, sharper, and boasting some outstanding chemistry from its impressive cast, it’s a chance to enjoy classic Shameless brilliance on a whole new level. (FYI – Americans also do mustard better.)

8. The Cafe
A prime example of Sky1’s unlikely new role as bastions of British comedy, The Cafe was a sitcom with a rare warmth and a uniquely Westcountry charm. It may have been gentle and lulling in tone, but the scripts were uproariously funny, delivered with scrupulous timing from an exceptional cast. And as a bonus, the potential for catchphrases is immense. Alright? Alright. Alright?

7. The Big C
The very concept of a comedy series centred around cancer is hard to get your head around, and on paper, far from appealing. Yet The Big C proved to be an affectionate, intelligent, sharp, heartbreaking and hilarious tale, with Laura Linney’s performance a particular highlight. With such an epic climax, it’s both intriguing and exciting to see where the next series will go.

6. The Walking Dead
The seemingly-neverending hunt for Sophia made this half of Series Two drag ever so slightly, but the emotion, the tension, the gore and the inappropriate laughter were very much present. Shane’s metamorphosis into full-on villain was mesmerising, the zombie in the well was distressingly funny, and the final twist was truly gut-wrenching. Bring on the second half.

5. Campus
Sadly culled by Channel 4 after just one series, but it was unlikely the public at large would take to something as absurdly dark as Campus. Andy Nyman’s twisted Vice Chancellor was the star attraction, but that’s not to detract from any of the other components that made Campus such a hysterical, enchanting and downright bizarre comedy gem.

4. Shooting Stars
And the second axed show in a row comes in the form of Shooting Stars, an inexcusable victim of BBC Two’s entertainment cull. Still, at least the series went out on a high, with yet another torrent of eye-wateringly funny moments: Vic Reeves’ bullying of the buzzard, Bob Mortimer’s turn as David Furnish, Brigitte Nielsen completely missing the point, and the highly-disturbing Archie Andrews, to name but a few. Here’s hoping a channel with some sense throws it a lifeline.

3. The Great British Bake-Off
Once again proving to be one of the most watchable, discussion-worthy and entertaining elimination formats in years, The Great British Bake-Off combines mouth-watering food, genuinely knowledgeable judges (*cough*Tulisa*cough*), lovable presenters, and bizarrely gripping moments of jeopardy. Who knew a falling cake or a misspelt word atop a ganache could provide two of 2011’s TV highlights?

2. Misfits
Having taken the top spot last year, Misfits has to do with second place this time around. Perhaps the all-too-easy act of murder – now a weekly occurrence – makes it the wrong kind of implausible, but aside from that, it’s still one of British TV’s greatest offerings. The addition of Joseph Gilgun as Rudy heightens the show significantly, leaving Nathan a distant memory, while the outstanding Lauren Socha continues to justify that BAFTA win.

1. True Blood
And having bubbled away in the runner-up position for the past two years, True Blood makes a deserving climb to the top. The introduction of all manner of new supernatural creatures had much of the internet eye-rolling, but it bore the hilarious moment Sookie found out what she was (“How fucking lame!”). Aside from that, True Blood was responsible for the TV moment of the year, Russell storming the newsroom for the greatest monologue since the heady days of Annie Douglas. Season 4 kicks off on FX in February, and frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Sloppy Dog's Worst of 2011: Singles

It’s been a barren year for music, with the pop genre in particular churning out some truly awful material. The likes of Pixie Lott and The Saturdays have rarely been bastions of pop greatness, as evidenced by their awful output in 2011, but even the more reliable contenders such as JLS have produced some serious tripe. Luckily for them, none of them have made our final ten...

10. Cher Lloyd - Swagger Jagger
You can’t stop! Looking at her! MySpacing her! Chattin’ shit ‘bout her! That makes you’s a hater, but we’s also’s a hater, so you’s in good company. Some begrudging respect must go to Lloyd for such brazenness, and it certainly got people talking, but beyond that, it’s hard not to actively detest every single note of Swagger Jagger.

9. Viva Brother – Darling Buds of May
Initially, the promise of such a Britpop-heavy entity was hugely appealing, but in its execution, it all went horribly, horribly wrong, laden down with piss-weak riffs, scoff-inducing lyrics and affected vocals. Had this appeared at the heady days of the genre’s reign, it would’ve been laughed out of the Melody Maker within its first eight bars.

8. Kreayshawn - Gucci Gucci
It’s a mercy that this slithery, sub-Ke$ha trampfest didn’t perform better than it did, although just a couple of seconds exposure is all it takes to poison your system, with irreversible effects. That said, you can take some amusement from the fact that, even amidst all its attitude and boastfulness and supposed stabs at credibility, it just sounds like The Llama Song slowed down.

7. Jason DeRulo - Don't Wanna Go Home
He’s always been partial to the more peculiar sample, as far back as his passable debut single Whatcha Say. But the interpolation of The Banana Boat Song – a song whose inclusion in Beetlejuice and/or 1980s Trio ads is hard to shake off – was one sample too far. And for the love of God, STOP SINGING YOUR BLOODY NAME. Just look what happened to Craig David.

6. Nicole Scherzinger – Right There
Becoming one of the most loathed women on television thanks to her many X Factor USA misfires, ol’ Shitsinger’s popularity is taking quite a plummet lately, and yet, her musical output is still the worst thing about her. Right There was a desperate stab at Rihanna-style sluttiness, grinding away scuzzily, rhyming ‘dirty’ with ‘dirty’, and all stuffed to the gills with cod-Patois.

5. Yasmin - Finish Line
A song with so little substance it barely even exists. It’s mad that a producer actually finished this beige puddle and thought “Hey, that’s pretty good.” Or that a label executive thought it single material. Or that DJs considered it worth playing. Even with its peculiar nod to Mortal Kombat , it was the single most boring track since Sixpence None The Richer shat their sappy Christian crud all over the charts.

4. SBTRKT – Wildfire
Actually not a million miles from Finish Line in that it’s pretty much a lukewarm cesspool of swilling ad-libs and R&B clich├ęs, but its constant overplay on 6Music was the final nail in its coffin. As producers, SBTRKT certainly know how to work a mixing desk, but somewhere along the line, they got very, very stoned and created this molten, miserable, slapdash non-entity of a song.

3. The Wanted - Glad You Came
Proving that All Time Low was (a) very much a one-off, and (b) way too good for them, The Wanted continue in their quest – even in the presence of One Direction – to become Britain’s most pointless boyband. The foolish Balearic squelch of Glad You Came was utterly devoid of character, and urinated all over the very concept of house music. Well done, all parties involved. *slow clap*

2. Adele - Rumour Has It
Rolling In The Deep just missed out on a place in our countdown of undesirables, on account of it sounding like a particularly violent yawn, but the insipid Rumour Has It manages the feat. Adele’s actually gone up in our estimations this year, but the complete lack of chorus here cannot be excused. One can only assume this was written on the back of a fag packet in five minutes one hungover morning.

1. Rihanna - What's My Name
Technically released in 2010 – but then, technically, it’s not even actual music – this discharge-splattered, dishwater-dull, airplay-rapist of a track lived well into 2011, polluting airwaves with its abysmal lyrics, its teeth-grinding hook and its general Rihanna-ness. And while the woman herself carries much of the blame, radio, TV and press should be ashamed of themselves, consistently peddling this useless creature’s atrocious output, irrespective of quality. If pop music really is dying on its arse, it’s down to fucking inexcusable tripe like this being put on a pedestal.
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