Egbert’s Lemony End

Egbert’s little face always lit up every time his mother drove him past the lemons in the shopping cart at the supermarket. He was a very unusual child, in that he loved lemons. He loved the shape, he loved the smell, and he loved that sharp, sour taste more than anything else in the world.

Ever since he was old enough to communicate his deep need for lemons, his mother had placated him with a big net bag every Sunday.  Every Sunday was his lemon day, and he’d spend the whole afternoon devouring the delicious citrusy innards of each and every one of them. His parents were mystified.

“He eats so many of those lemons!” they used to say. “What a strange little boy!”

But it didn’t stop him. Nothing could stop him demolishing every last one of those delicious bulbs of tart flavour. Lemon day was the best!

But eventually, just one bag of lemons wasn’t enough for him. His childish palate developed a tolerance for their sour taste. He begged his mother for more lemons.

“Please mum! Please! All I want to do is just eat lemons. I absolutely, categorically, love love love lemons!” he’d squeal in the shopping cart, like a little piggy in a tiny purple beret.

His mother gave into his desires easily. “At least it’s not sweets!” she thought to herself. Mrs. Egbert was very health conscious, and she loved her little Eggie more than anything in the world. Looking after his teeth, skin and nails was of upmost importance to her, and she appreciated the vitamin C he’d get from a massive overdose of lemons. She thought about how glossy his hair would get, and she imagined her two sisters seething with jealousy as they showed off the dull little eggheads of their own pet Egberts.

“Yes my darling! Yes, yes! More lemons, more lemons for all” she shouted with glee as she shovelled bag after bag of lemons into the shopping cart. Egbert clapped with joy, and his big mouth distended into a ghastly smile.

Eventually the entire cart was full of citrusy goodness, and Egbert laughed all the way home like a crackhead.

His mother filled the entire living room with lemons, and left Egbert to it. He dived off the table into the pile of fruit, like Scrooge McDuck into his coins. “Whoooohooo!” he screamed, scarcely able to breath as he shoved endless sour morsels down his gullet.

Mr. and Mrs. Egbert found him surrounded by a pile of chewed lemon skin. He was on the floor, screaming in pain. His eyes were bulging out of his head, and his skin was the texture of a lemon. He was pulsating and shivering on the floor. His face looked like Darth Vader with the mask off. It was a pretty grim image.

“Oh god!” said his mother. “What on earth has happened to our precious Egbert?”

“It looks like he’s eaten too many of those lemons” said his father, characteristically stating the obvious.

“We need to call a doctor!” wailed his mother, and she picked up the phone and dialled Dr. Jenkinson.

Dr. Jenkinson arrived and examined Egbert with a grave expression. He pronounced his grizzly diagnosis, carefully annunciating each word: “Hmm, yes, it looks like he’s eaten far too many lemons.”

“That’s what I said!” his father said, feeling very validated and almost as if he might be a doctor himself, if his life had taken a different turn. Instead he spawned a little lemon obsessed freak boy, and he bitterly regretted it more with each passing moment.

“What’s going to happen to him? Is he going to be alright?” asked his mother.

“I’m afraid not” Dr. Jenkinson said, shaking his head. “He’s going to die an excruciatingly slow and painful death.” He paused and took a stethoscope to Egbert’s chest, listening to his internal machinations try to make sense of an intensely lemony situation. “Yes, I think that the pain that our good lord suffered on the cross pales in comparison to the horrifying fate of young Egbert here.”

His mother, quite understandably, was very distraught. “Is there nothing you can do?” she pleaded.

“I’m afraid not” said the doctor. “The only thing we can do is intensify the pain, for your own sick gratification.”

“It’s a thought” said Egbert’s father, as his mother broke down in tears.

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No Johnny Required: The Seedy World of Phil Collins

Do you like Phil Collins? I don’t mean his music.  I mean sexually.

Do your sexual organs become almost painfully engorged at the thought of running your hand across his bald head? If he wrote a song about you, would you be thrilled or repulsed by his obsession?

Phil’s troll face and lack of meaningful talent make him an unlikely sex symbol, but in recent years an intensely lustful cult has formed around him. Using the internet to organise and share information, young men and women who have a dark and deviant sexual desire for Phil Collins have become shockingly strong in number.  There are over fifty active Phil Collins sex forums on the internet today, all of them describing in graphic detail the shocking misuse of drumsticks.

Considering Collins has been fairly absent from the public eye for quite some time, the sudden emergence of this phenomenon intrigued me almost as much as it disgusted me. I wanted to try and find out exactly why so many people of my generation and younger felt a lascivious mania for Phil Collins abruptly awaken within them.

I asked 18 year old Chloe Elam, a Collins devotee from Wyoming who calls herself “invisible_touch_me” online, for her take on the phenomena.  “I can’t believe it’s only now people are starting to realise how goddamned sexy Phil Collins is!” she told me.

Not uniquely for these new breed of “Philophiles”, she has never been interested in his musical output. “My interest in Phil is purely sexual” she states proudly. “I find his work a little too artsy for my tastes.”  She discovered her lust for Collins through automatic writing techniques, where the pen is held to the paper without concentration and the subconscious mind writes on the page.  “I just started writing and all this weird stuff about Phil Collins poured out. I was pretty freaked out at first, and I tried really hard to forget about it. I’d never really thought about him before.  I just tried to forget about it. It didn’t work“

Chloe hasn’t yet “come out” to her family and friends about her ravenous appetite for Collins, but she writes erotic stories about him as a valve to release the pressure.  A portion of her story “Kitty’s Intimate Night with Phil Collins” is reproduced below, with her permission.

“Kitty almost screamed with ecstasy. Phil Collins, the light of her life had just said her name! Everything went in slow motion… She got out of her chair, grabbed her bag and coat and walked, no; she floated down the aisles to the stage. A hand reached out for her, and when she looked up, there was Phil Collins helping her up!

“Wow… Phil Co… Coll…. Collins!” Kitty said shocked.

Phil just laughed. “That’s me!” He sat her down on a stool in the centre of the stage and turned to the audience. “Everyone, this is Kitty Henderson. My next song is going to be dedicated to her…”

Music started to play, and she sat there gobsmacked. Before he started to sing, he turned around and told her “you do know that this means you’re invited to the backstage party afterwards?”

Kitty just smiled, she didn’t know what to say.

—-

Phil led her through to the dressing room and shut the door behind him. “So, how old are you then?”

Kitty felt a shyness tingling all through her body – She couldn’t believe Phil Collins was talking to her. “I’ve just turned 18”

“Cool.” Phil smiled at Kitty.

Phil’s hand wandered around her back. Kitty was tingling all over. She could feel a bulge building in
his trousers. She had a feeling he wanted more, so without asking, she let her hand slip round to the front of her body.

Her jeans had quickly slipped to the floor, and she quietly and carefully stepped out of them and kicked them to one side. Without another word being mentioned, he removed his shirt. She closed her eyes for a second. “This is it” she thought:  “my intimate night with Phil Collins!”

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A conversation with Davecat

I first came across Davecat when watching a documentary called “Guys and Dolls”. This documentary explored the world of men who’ve decided to reject traditional romantic ideals, and settle in to a loving relationship with a hyper-realistic sex doll.

Abyss Creations, a California based company, began manufacturing “Real Dolls” in 1996.  The silicon skinned, soft to the touch mannequins weren’t originally designed for sex, but Abyss got so many offers of money from desperate men that they decided to devote their operation to the production of the most advanced masturbatory aids the world has ever seen. The dolls are now incredibly popular, despite costing upwards of £3000.

As we all know, “just sex” is a tricky balancing act to pull off, but you’d think it would be easier if your sexual partner has a PVC skeleton. Not so for men like Davecat, who not only fuck these dolls, but live with them as “man and wife”.

Davecat fascinated me. He appeared to be one of the world’s most brilliantly unusual men. His appearance and the fact that his name is “Davecat” is weird enough, and the whole going out with a doll thing was just the icing on the cake. I felt there were a lot of important questions that the documentary left unanswered. I also thought it was funny when he shouted “fuck you!” at his father (who he still lives with) for not understanding his deep and meaningful relationship with a three grand chunk of plastic and metal with a silicone vagina that he has named “Sidore.”

I had to get in touch with Davecat (and his beautiful doll Sidore), and due to the wonders of the internet this proved very easy. I asked him if I could interview him for my blog, and he agreed. He was a pretty nice guy!

So, Davecat, thanks for agreeing to this interview. My first question is concerns the extent of your attachment to your doll Sidore. Do you think that you would risk your life to save her from a fire or something like that?

That’s a really difficult question to answer Ciaran. I would be heartbroken, but I don’t think I would risk my life to save her from a fire. It sounds fantastically callous to say that, but at the end of the day, I could just purchase a new body for her, and we could just pick up where we left off. Ultimately, Sidore is a doll, and that puts her in a rare position; she’s unique, but replaceable. However, when she came into my life the first thing I gave her was an ankh necklace. She always wears it. If a fire were to occur, I’d definitely grab that necklace, as it’s one of the things that differentiate Sidore from being just another Doll.

If Sidore’s body was burned in a fire, would you have a funeral service?

If Sidore was somehow destroyed, I think a funeral service would be more than appropriate. I’d probably have her cremated, and fashion the remains into some sort of charming jewellery. I’d keep some sort of ‘core sample’ to be implemented or sealed into her new body.

Such a piece of jewellery would be indeed be charming! So it would be HER new body then, you wouldn’t get another doll and call it something different, as if it was your 2nd wife?

Well, even if nothing terrible like that happened, Sidore’s body will still need to be replaced one day. Dolls are fairly sturdy, but they are still works of art. Even the most careful of owners still has to deal with repairs now and again. There’s gonna be a point where her body’s going to become irreparable.
Sidore is a combination of the personality I made up for her and a doll with a certain set of attributes – Face 4, Body 2, red lips, fair skin, beauty mark under her left eye, etc – so if something were to happen to her body, I’d order a new one that looked just like the Sidore I know and love, and I’d see if I could have Abyss Creations incorporate a core sample from the previous body. Ultimately, my goal would be to have between six to eight dolls – but the one constant would be Sidore; she’d always be there, and with good reason.

So, hang on, you’d be polygamous with your dolls? Wouldn’t Sidore mind?

Ahaha, well, we’re very liberal.

Clearly. So does that go two ways then? Could Sidore have sex with another man? Can I have a go on her? I like her Davecat. Can you make her like me?

Well….y’know, there’s hygiene issues and…ummm….

Ok, ok. We’ll move on from that.  What about if you and Sidore were going on a romantic get away? Would you get Sidore a seat on the plane next to you? Or would you stuff her in the hold?

As much as I would love to have Sidore sitting beside me on a plane, that’s probably not likely. I imagine getting her through the metal detector alone would be a sitcom episode waiting to happen. She would be stored, like the valuable treasure she is, in the hold. Having her in the passenger area would almost warrant having a film crew with us, because really, how often would that sort of thing take place?

Not nearly often enough, in my opinion.

Hey y’know, maybe Sidore and I could come and visit you in England? According to the complicated back-story I cooked up for her, she was born in Japan, but grew up in Manchester. She’s a filthy northern lass at heart!

My friend Jon is from Manchester. Maybe he’s shagged her. Anyway, while watching the “Guys and Dolls” documentary, one thing that struck me was how happy you are. Many of the men interviewed seemed quite lonely, as if they’d dearly love the companionship of a real woman and were merely making do with a doll, where as you came across as if Sidore is all you’d ever need, and no organic woman could compare to her perfection. Would you agree with that? Or do you think that one day you might possibly meet an organic woman who could take Sidore’s place in your life?

Yeah, I’d agree with you that those guys did seem to be just settling for a doll. I’ll tell you Ciaran, I genuinely love Sidore, but I’d love her more if she was capable of speech and motion.  Robots beat dolls every time.

To be entirely honest, I don’t know if there would ever be an organic woman who could replace Sidore. Her replacing Sidore wouldn’t be an option, and I’m not entirely sure how she’d feel being in a relationship with a doting doll husband.

Honestly, I doubt that there would be an organic woman that could fill Sidore’s shoes, but anything’s possible. I’d be a fool to hold my breath, though. What about you? Would you ever use a synthetic companion?

I’ll be honest with you Davecat, I’m very open-minded, but I think the idea of having sex with a doll just wouldn’t do it for me at all. And as far as companionship goes, if I was ever that lonely I’d just get a cat or something. And never, ever shag it.

Well, I love the sexual side of things. When Sidore came into my life, it was all just sex, sex, sex.

Right…

But I see what you mean about companionship. I mean, I’d rather have a fully functioning robot woman. One who can walk and talk.  I mean, look at this video.

Pretty fucking hot is an understatement, am I right?

No Davecat, no you are not.

Posted in Conversations | 8 Comments

Steven Richardson wants to buy your eyes

The below is a work of fiction.

Back in 2006, I stumbled across one of the most horrifying things I have seen on the internet. It was a message board where people were engaged in the organ trade. In among the depressing adverts from desperate people in the third world eager to offload their kidneys, I spotted a notice from a young American man offering a kidney for sale merely on a whim. He wasn’t in any kind of desperate situation at all. It just seemed a bit of a crude and unnecessary thing to do in contrast with all the despondent pleas.

I was a student at the time, and had a bit of time on my hands, so I decided to do something equally crude and unnecessary but much more amusing.

Posing as “Steven Richardson”, a businessman who is as sadistic as he is successful, I contacted him with the intention of purchasing his eyes from him.  This is the resulting exchange.

From: Steven Richardson

To: Zachariah Newby

Hello,

I am a very wealthy but very evil man. I am not interested in your kidney, what I want to buy is both your eyes. Payment would be $500,000. This is merely for my own amusement and the eyes would not be used to benefit anyone. Price is negotiable. Please note I am not interested in just one of your eyes, I want both.

Steven Richardson

From: Zachariah Newby

To: Steven Richardson

I’m interested, if you pay half up front. Then I guess I’d give you my eyes.

But I want $700,000 to lead the life of a blind man.

Zachariah

From: Steven Richardson

To: Zachariah Newby

Zachariah,

$700,000 is acceptable. I would be willing to pay half up front. Payment would be by bank transfer after we meet in person and you are in the care of the professionals at my facility in Belize. All transportation and costs would be met by me. Once your eyes are removed the full amount would be settled.

Are these terms acceptable? If you agree I would like to put the wheels in motion as soon as possible, looking at a mid-October surgery date.

Steven Richardson

To: Steven Richardson

From: Zachariah Newby

The more I think about this: If you’re so rich, why not just buy dead bodies out of Vietnam or some other 3rd world country?  Then you could have your own entire body.  Or do you just get a thrill out of taking someone’s sight away?

However, if you are serious about this… and I can’t even fucking believe I would even seriously consider something like this… but it does make me wonder…

Zachariah

To: Zachariah Newby

From: Steven Richardson

Zachariah,

You hit the nail on the head. I have no wish for the eyes themselves other than as a memento; my goal is to take away your sight. Not just anyone’s sight either: the sight of someone in a western developed country. Of course, I don’t just want to take away your sight; I also want to destroy your physical appearance by removing your eyes, the windows into your soul. I also want to destroy your earning potential in the future. $700,000 isn’t a massive amount of money and when it runs out what work is there for a blind man?

I assure you I am entirely serious about this. I’ve had this fantasy for a number of years, I have the resources in place to make it happen, and all I need is a willing donor.

If we are to go ahead I need to ask you a number of questions:

How old are you?
Where are you presently located?
What is it you do for a living?
To what level are you educated?

Lastly, would you let us deafen you too? The price to take away both senses would rise to $1.2 million dollars. This sum is not negotiable. If that would be a problem our original deal still stands.

The operation to remove your eyes would be a simple one with very little risk of complications. You will be allowed, for one last time, to watch a favourite movie or television show. The surgeon would then cut the muscular tissue around your eyes and carefully remove them, severing the optic nerve. Your eye sockets would then be filled with a small white polymer ball, to stop them from collapsing. The surgeon is very competent, having worked in many prestigious hospitals in the UK, and is a personal friend of mine. The operation would take place in a very clean and modern operating theatre. You will be allowed to stay with us until the operation is completed, upon which you will be flown back to your home to begin your life as a blind man. As I said before, all expenses will be paid during your time with us.

The operation to deafen you, should you agree, would involve the removal of several small bones from your ear. Again you can be assured of the very best of medical care all for free.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this matter.

Best wishes,

Steven Richardson.

To: Steven Richardson

From: Zachariah Newby

To remove the eyes of a man of the west, and close the windows of my soul!

Currently I’m 20 years old, and I live in Kentucky. I currently attend college, to be an engineer.
I would say my exact location, but I need at least one more day to seriously think about this matter.

I don’t honestly need the money all that bad. The only reason I was gonna sell my kidney was so I could move to China.  I hate being an American, and I hate living in the United States. And while my parents are well off, they don’t exactly support this cause.

And trust me; $700,000 could easily be re-invested. What kind of business are you involved in anyway? How old are you and where are you from?

Zachariah

To:  Zachariah Newby

From: Stephen Richardson

Zachariah,

If an investment of $700,000 was a sure fire way to become rich enough for a 20 year old to never work again, I’d be a billionaire 20 times over.

I asked you those questions and you were gracious enough to answer. I’d be delighted to tell you more about myself.

I’m based in Monte Carlo at the moment. I was born in Australia, and studied Economics and Mathematics at Oxford University, before moving on to manage a derivatives desk, a proprietary trading desk and a hedge fund in the 1980s and early 90s. My focus at that time was on predicting big picture trends and the effects on the currency and interest rate markets. In the mid 1990s I semi-retired and have since operated as an investor, backing some very exciting early-stage companies, mostly in the United Kingdom. Many of my unquoted companies have successfully floated on the market or have been acquired. I have possibly invested in more new UK companies than any other investor.
With a penchant for private equity investment in young high growth technology start-ups, the list of companies I have put my money in reads like the who’s who of the UK tech sector – including Amino Technology, ANT, Celoxica, Clearspeed, ARC International, Argonaut Software, IP2IPO and Wolfson Microelectronics, amongst others.

Of course, this is in the strictest confidence. I invite you to consider this offer of mine very carefully, as when the wheels are put in motion and especially after you have received the first half of the money, there really is no going back.

Best wishes,

Steven Richardson

From: Zachariah Newby

To: Steven Richardson

I agree to do it.

I do however wish to have an advance payment of $20,000 to travel in Europe for a few weeks.

You must understand that it has always been a dream of mine to visit Germany, ever since I was a child. If I went, I’d like to be able to see it. To be honest, I’ve always dreamed of going to see the Holocaust up close and personal, and stand there and see the ground where thousands were murdered.

I understand once the wheels are put in motion there is no turning back.

Zachariah

From: Steven Richardson

To: Zachariah Newby

Zachariah,

I apologise, but no money can change hands until you are under our secure care. There is too great a risk of you going missing with my money. I could however have my staff take you to Germany, I have a corporate jet. Some arrangement could be made. However the visit would be brief, one or two days at most. You would hold no money and independent travel would be impossible. The cost of the trip would be deducted from your final payment.

I’m sorry to include such a cruel and sadistic demand as a condition of this trip, but the chance of passing up the fantasy is too much to bear. If your final “sightseeing” trip is to go ahead, I would have to blind you myself with a red hot fire iron and no anaesthetic. All your burns would then be treated after a one hour period of pain, reflection and darkness. This would be done under the supervision of a medical professional to ensure no lasting damage beyond the inevitable scarring and of course the complete loss of your sight.

The risk of you disappearing with $20,000 of my money I will not take, as small a drop in the ocean it is to me. I didn’t get to where I am by being so careless. I’m sure you understand this.

Steven Richardson

To: Steven Richardson

From: Zachariah Newby

Screw the trip to Germany. How do we proceed from here?

Also how do I know for my own security this will not turn out to be something like I watched in the movie “Hostel”?

You must also be aware I have my own doubts as well. For Christ’s sakes, I’m in college right now trying to become an engineer. I know I could never make the amount of money you have amassed in your life. However, I do have somewhat of an upper middle class future for myself.

A blind engineer! I can really see that.

Lastly, I think you’re an amazing person. In some ways I look up to you. I do find you to be a little on the weird side, however I can also respect that. I did always wonder if there were people out there that really did get the thrill of doing some of the most anus things against the human being, seeing as to how I’ve sometimes had a thought here and there.

You know, when I posted that dumb thing on that organ trade message board, I only did it to see if anyone would be dumb enough to reply. I’m not poor, but for some strange reason I’m attracted to the thought of being blind. I don’t know why. You say that life will be hard. I however disagree with you. You also say I will be shunned in the public eye. That is something I must agree with you on. I would like to know what you picked my email address from the hundreds I had seen listed. I do hope we will get to meet “eye to eye”.  Before this procedure does take place. I would at least like a glimpse at the man that is about to take away the one thing people cherish most in the entire world.

You say you’re an evil man. However I will disagree with that. Fate must have made you email me I suppose, because we both think on a screwed up level. I could tell by your last email you’re a very cruel human being. I imagine you have lived out other “fantasies” as well. I’m no idiot. I would again like to stress my own personal safety. Like I said, take the eyes and nothing more. If I wake up in the afterlife, and did die a sad painful death, I will be waiting at the gates of Hell for you.

Anyways, I’m DEAD serious about this. This is no joke or nothing. It’s late at night, and I just got to rambling on. Forgive me.  Please contact with means of how we will “get this rolling”

Zachariah

To: Zachariah Newby

From: Steven Richardson

Zachariah,

You are wise to skip the trip to Germany. Although the concentration camps are quite thrilling tourist attractions, they aren’t very visually exciting. The attraction is the feeling of murder on a massive scale you can feel hanging like a heavy mist in the air, which will probably have more impact in a life of eternal darkness.

I’ve never seen the movie “Hostel”, however you can expect nothing but the best treatment. I have no intentions of killing you; the thought of you living a diminished life is my motivation. Murder is a dangerous thing to be involved in, and if I did want to kill a man I certainly wouldn’t pick an American. Your law enforcement has very long arms. Anyway, the whole killing thing I worked out of my system a long time ago. Death isn’t really as cruel a punishment as it may seem, and it’s certainly nothing in comparison to a sightless life.

You will meet me. I will be present at the operation. You will not like me however, I have a very cruel and mocking tongue which will be in stark contrast to the way I conduct myself in these emails. This is a business transaction like any other, and as we arrange it I will be businesslike. When we meet, I will mock and deride you at every turn.

I’m glad I have satisfied your curiosity about the existence of the very darkest side of humanity. Believe me, I have seen and heard about far worse things than what we are engaged in. Many of the most rich and powerful people on the planet engage in incredibly sick acts. I could tell you things about some famous names from the business world that would definitely surprise and disgust you. It is very widespread, and we never get caught.

If you wish to proceed, I shall have one of my staff meet you in a week or so. I cannot enter the US, and besides I have no wish to go to Kentucky, which sounds like a hideous redneck hole. We will arrange a back story to explain your new disability to your friends and family. We will come to some arrangement.

Where is the nearest international airport to you?

Steven Richardson

Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment

The five albums that have affected my life most profoundly

I thought for my first post I’d write about the five albums that have affected me the most. These might not be the my favourite albums, and they certainly aren’t necessarily the ones I listen to most, but these are the ones that have the most personal signficance. If you’ve not heard any of them before, I hope one day that they mean something to you too.

1. Love – Forever Changes (1967)

I first heard Forever Changes when I was about 15. I was immediately hugely impressed. It was really the date of the recording that grabbed me at first. At that time I’d just began a love affair with psychedelia, only consuming music, film and literature made between the years of 1967 and 1972. After I’d listened to it carefully, I felt a peculiar affinity with the colourful music. It affected my mind with vivid visions and quickly became one of the records I had on a very heavy rotation.

As a teenager I often indulged in escapism, and it was Forever Changes that took me out of dreary Scotland and dropped me off in 60s San Francisco in the most convincing way.

Arthur Lee, as well as being known as Love’s lead singer and songwriter, also went down in Rock n’ Roll history as the man who convinced Electra Records to sign an obscure band called The Doors. Jim Morrison and Lee became friends, and Morrison conducted a vigil outside Lee’s door when he locked himself away and disappeared from the scene completely in 1967. Lee had chosen to hide from the world, paralysed with an irrational fear that he would soon die. The songs on Forever Changes came out of this debilitating terror. The lyrics are in stark contrast to the joyful music, disussing a death which Lee thought was impending.

In reality, Arthur Lee didn’t die until 2006. Luckily for me that was after I got the chance to see the band live. Lee had long since lost his singing voice, and the atmosphere at the gig was disappointing. Even so, it was a fantastic experience to see the man who crafted these beautiful songs performing them in front of me.

I don’t listen to Forever Changes much these days. I overplayed it. But when I do listen to it I feel a more personally nostalgic sense of escapism. It takes me back to the bedroom of my teenage years, which I was so keen to get away from at the time.

Click here to listen to “The Old Man” from Forever Changes on Spotify

2. The Kingsbury Manx – The Fast Rise and Fall of the South (2005)

The Kingsbury Manx, like many other great bands, come from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This part of the world is indisputably a warm climate, which makes it all the more impressive that The Fast Rise and Fall of The South can be so evocative of winter. These songs make me feel like I can see my breath.

I’m not sure whether this frosty thematic was a deliberate effort on the part of the band, or if it’s something to do with my personal associations with this album. I first heard it in the winter, and I listened to it a lot as I walked around in the cold. Either way it’s quite special that an album with this alt-country vibe can be wintery, when other bands in the genre have such a hot southern heat.

But just because this album has a cold and wintery tone, it doesn’t mean it’s emotionless. A rich thread of genuine feeling runs through every song on this album. It’s evocative of all of life’s moments: both the severe and the benign. The songs can take you back to past relationships: the good times, and then the bad, and back again. They could remind you of the death of a loved one, or something as simple as sitting round a fire with your friends as a teenager. When I listen to this album, my mind wraps the music neatly around my past. It’s a testament to the beauty and simplicity of the songs that it seems to fit very well indeed.

Click here to watch the Kingsbury Manx play “Harness and Wheel” from The Fast Rise and Fall of the South on YouTube

3.  cLOUDDEAD – cLOUDDEAD (2001)

cLOUDDEAD is an unconventional album that defies categorisation. If I had to choose a genre, I’d reluctantly place it in the “abstract hip-hop” pile. However this doesn’t come close to defining the sound. Albums this pioneering are generally totally unlistenable, but cLOUDDEAD defies that convention. Although perhaps a little inaccessible, it’s undeniably pleasant.

cLOUDDEAD isn’t just significant to due to the countless hours I’ve spent listening to it. It was also somewhat of a gateway drug. It was through listening to cLOUDDEAD that I discovered that hip-hop is the musical genre where the most stark and innovative creativity is displayed today, even though it’s not necessarily just a hip-hop album. It has rapping, but this is rapping as you’ve never heard it before. The gentle, dreamy electronic compositions are overlaid with tight rhymes overflowing with

Ginsburgian symbolism. There is no bling or bitches here. It couldn’t be any further away from that prevailing hip hop archetype. That is why it was so instrumental in enlightening me to the possibilities of not only hip-hop but other styles of music my mind had been closed to. This is an album that can open your eyes.

cLOUDDEAD is the only album in this list that is not evocative of a particular period of my life, and that’s because I just can’t stop listening to it. It’s always there, and never feels tired. Every time I listen to it I discover something new, whether it’s newly unfolding symbolism in the complex lyrics, or previously unobserved elements of the labyrinthine instrumentation.

This album also has the dubious honour of being the only piece of music I know where a kitchen blender is used as an instrument. While this sounds insufferably pretentious, it actually works exceptionally well! Listen and find out for yourself.

Click here to listen to Apt A pt. 2 from cLOUDDEAD on Spotify

4. Belle and Sebastian – Dear Catastrophe Waitress (2003)

Belle and Sebastian will always be one of my favourite bands, and here’s why:

When I was young, I hated where I was from. I still do today. Now, while some armchair psychologists might see this as indicative some kind of some kind of self loathing, I assure you that you’d understand completely if you went there. It’s just a bit of a shithole. It’s a small village about 10 miles north of Glasgow that is in terminal decline. It seems to get worse every year. Despite being set in some of the most beautiful countryside that you can imagine, it’s the most staid and mundane place I have ever been.

But luckily it had one good quality: it was within easy reach of Glasgow, a city with a vibrant and exciting culture. Though some may disagree, I found the centre of that culture lay in the west end of the city. For those of you who have never been to Glasgow, the west end is dominated by the university and is home to a reasonably dynamic community of artists of various kinds. Some call the west end pretentious but (as you can see by the nature of this blog) that’s never been something that’s particularly bothered me. Whether pretentious or not, it had an energy that captured my imagination when I was younger. It forged an idea of the type of life I’d like to have as an adult, and if I wasn’t in London that’s where I’d be.

This is where Belle and Sebastian were formed, and for me they are indisputably the soundtrack to that particular area. You can hear the west end in their music and for me that’s enough to earn them a place on this list.

Click here to listen to Piazza, New York Catcher from Dear Catastrophe Waitress on Spotify

5. Big Star – #1 Record (1972)

Big Star are possibly the most underrated band in musical history. Considering their vast influence on popular bands such as REM, The Replacements, Teenage Fanclub, Wilco and countless others, it is remarkable they have remained so obscure. They are somewhat a casualty of the music industry, their records having been crippled at the time of release by inefficient marketing and distribution. They also probably suffered from being ahead of their time, inventing a power pop sound that didn’t become popular for another 20 years.

Despite their influential back catalogue, the bands front man and songwriter Alex Chilton had a lack of confidence in their abilities. He once said that “people say Big Star made some of the best rock ‘n roll albums ever. And I say they’re wrong.” Well, I say that they’re spot on.

The influence that Big Star, and #1 Record in particular, has had on my life is far too personal to document fully in such a public forum. This is an album that has been a shining light in some of the darkest days I have ever had. It’s not hyperbole to say I have been given the kind of comfort from these songs that religious people often attribute to their faith in God.

Alex Chilton died in March this year, and I was distraught. I’ve never felt such grief over the death of a man who I have never met. His songs touched my life, through happy times and sad. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to see Big Star play live.

Click here to listen to Thirteen from #1 Record on Spotify

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