7 min read

On The Outs And Full Of Sprouts

Admitting some "Great News For All Our Readers" (as they used to say) and the year in mostly music.
A detail from AVENGERS INC. #4.
Ending 2023 on a classic example of a "what?" beat.

This is the only time of year I eat brussels sprouts - I like them, but they're not a vegetable I spend much time on in a non-ritual context - and my guts are complaining about the massive increase in cruciferous veg and leftover turkey. But Xmas has now come and gone, which means it's time for the gears of work to start grinding slowly back up to speed, starting with this newsletter. And if I'm writing a newsletter, that means there's something out this week! Today, in fact!


Avengers Inc. #4, that's what!

The cover for Avengers Inc. #4 by Daniel Acuna, showing Jan, Vic and Moon Knight in front of a target as various thrown objects are hurled at them.
What might have been.

At this point, it isn't a secret that we're ending our run on this book at issue #5 - or that the hammer was dropped on it almost immediately after #1 hit the stands. I'll take the responsibility - sometimes you try a big swing, sometimes you don't hit it out of the park in a game where only home runs count, so it goes - but it does mean that this isn't the #4 that was originally envisioned, a one-off whodunnit in the world of themed crooks which would have led to the midway point in a ten-issue arc. Instead, you can expect climactic revelations right from the get-go as we accelerate for the finish line, wrapping things up over the next couple of issues in what's hopefully a nice, neat bow that also smashes a couple of meteors into the landscape of the Marvel Universe. Leonard Kirk provides the gorgeous art once again, navigating some big asks with aplomb.


And a New Year is fast approaching, which means it's probably time for an appraisal of 2023 in Music, but before I get into that I'll just mention that my film of the year was Asteroid City, hands down. If you've not seen that, you absolutely should.

A still from ASTEROID CITY, showing two characters pointing weapons at each other.
It looks like this, partly.

Anyway, this is going to be twelve songs - one per month - that I discovered over the course of the year. Starting with...

You havent changed much, dude, you still suck.

"Schatze" by Ohtis (feat. Stef Chura) is my pick from the flurry of new tunes in January - a fun, catchy bop about an asshole. Do I have more to say about it? I don't know if I do.

Someone else must be alive with warmth behind their eyes.

February was marked by a foray into some classic rock bangers - Jennifer Rush with "Ring Of Ice" is a good example. Again, not much to it beyond a good, solid example of the art - it's as much a song about an asshole as January's entry, except in 1984 that takes a different form. The cold sterility of a designer lifestyle - embodied in the maze of striplights in 80s neon shades - versus the hot mess of a drunken text meltdown.

He saw how I worried, sometimes... I worry sometimes.

The tail-end of March brought a renewed interest in Joni Mitchell, and "Court And Spark" was the beginning of that - both the song itself and the album. A lot of this can be blamed on the algorithm, some mathematical formula in Tidal taking in what I usually listen to and what I listened to most recently and spitting something back to me that won't make me switch off. How much of any year's musical journey is me any more? I guess I'm refining the results, at least. And as I type this, the YouTube algorithm intruduces me to another Joni track, and I add it to my Tidal "tracks of 2023" playlist, and the Joni playlist, and the cycle continues.

'Cause it'll just break her heart.

April brought another flurry of new-to-me-tunes, but also an actual New Tune that's in the running for song of the year. (But it's NOT the song of the year! I'll play us out with what is.) I've been a fan of Brian David Gilbert since the Polygon days, but "Don't Tell Your WIFE About This Game!" might be the best of his musical offerings yet - it doesn't hurt that I'm an old-time fan of the Backstreet Boys, but BDG combines satire, wordplay and tragedy here in a way that's both affecting and hilarious. (The video has a wonderfully on-the-nose punchline, too, which I won't spoil.)

"Deck The Halls" was the song they played in the flat next door where they shout all day.

2023 was the year of getting back into people, and so in May, on the occasional of his death, I got back into Gordon Lightfoot. It being the season for it, let's have "Circle Of Steel" here - a rhythmic and harmonious example of the "think about other people at Xmas" genre that presents the details of a life in the background of everyone else's celebration almost without comment, except for likening the seasonal decorations to a roulette wheel and by extension the Wheel Of Fate. Even that's so barely implied it's almost a non-sequitur - "the room is chilly, the building is old, that's how it goes", sings Gord, and any moral lesson is left to our own consciences to provide.

It might take my whole life just to do.

June is Pride Month, which makes it a good month to discover new music (though there was a delay effect this year which I'll get to). But speaking of pride, the algorithm threw up "2 Be Loved (Am I Ready)" by Lizzo, a dancefloor banger with a heart that I can't believe I hadn't heard before. This is what comes of no DJing or dancing for a couple of years. It's an honest, open and truly lovely song about being able to accept love that - had it come out this year instead of last - would easily be song of the year for me.

A face I find more and more hard to recall.

Anyway, the highlight of York Pride for me was seeing Claire out of Steps live - I've been a fan of Steps since they were new - and somehow, as late as July, the algorithm cottoned onto that and threw up "Story Of A Heart". Like many of the great Steps songs, it's a cover - the Benny Andersson Band, this time, which explains the ABBA-ness of it. I suppose this was the start of a journey back behind the DJ booth again, too.

We could do anything, we're fearless when we're young.

August - the Pet Shop Boys are my favorite band, but their prolific nature means I still find things I've missed occasionally, songs that flew past me during some previous mega-listen or that I simply missed entirely. "The Way It Used To Be" is one of those - the Pets in that netherspace between the international cosmopolitanism they picked up in their never-quite-ending Imperial Phase and the melancholy that's always been their secret heart. So this is a heartbreak played out meticulously via a tapestry of jet-setting destinations, set to a dancefloor the singer no longer fits in with. Who would even care?

I had a dream, or was it real?

How did I not have "Cut To The Feeling" by Carly Rae Jepsen on any playlists until September of this year? No DJing until then, is why. No DJing, no dancing, no nothin' - just admin and work and not an awful lot else. So this is the sound of something buried slowly waking up, slowly coming back to life after too long gone, maybe something taking a new shape. Also the sound of wobbling on the bicycle after too long off it, but it feels good to make mistakes on the decks again. At this point it was just a one-off gig, not a Thing. At this point.

Give your heart a second to find the will again.

Here's a fun fact - no new songs in October. Not a one. Moving house, deadlines, conventions, illness - it was all too much for me, I couldn't even manage my 2023 playlist, I had to fall back on warm and ancient hits from 2020. Lots of building of good things in that month, I certainly don't regret passing through it, but it was tiring. So from the 2020 playlist, here's another thing that takes a lot of effort to get through but it absolutely worth it, and one that absolutely would be on my DJ playlist if it wasn't twelve minutes long - "Put Your Sad Down" by School Of Seven Bells.

There's something back there that you left behind.

November, I came out of it - the move was nearly done barring a few last strains and struggles, the new place was ours. A good time for "Time Passages" by Al Stewart, the song I came back to again and again in that time - the kind of gentle, evocative, wistful old-man's-groove that's about my speed when I'm sitting still instead of dancing like the new Doctor Who. But speaking of dancing...

I'm more like a one night stand apologist.

...we're in December, which is when I finally got back on the decks in an official capacity. The night is called Don't Go In That Cave - named after the band I always wanted to start and never did - it's a joint effort born from missing the TBubz floor, and for now, the location, date and time are all a secret known only to trusted partiers and people whose vibe we like. No randos just yet, we're building something here. I'm rusty as hell and making all kinds of mistakes, but my fellow DJs are picking up the slack - here's one Sarah (or possibly Kieron) put on which got me Shazaming right away, "girls just wanna have sex" by maizie.


Well, this one's got it all - nostalgia for a band I bounced off way back in the way back (when I was writing Agent Of Asgard, as it happens, and look, Loki's back too), mentions of God and Satan, implications of apocalypse, a good beat you can groove along to, synth noodling - it's tailor-made for my sensibilities. Nice!

One of my resolutions for 2024 is to do more with this space, but more about that will come in the year in question - for now, love and strength to all who need it, and I'll leave you with my top track for 2023, "Cold Reactor" by Everything Everything.

If God is in the mountain, he won't answer me a single question.