Long, dark winter nights provide the perfect opportunity to power through your Netflix queue. Like, seemingly, most of the planet, my thing is gloomy crime drama, and I've particularly enjoyed some chilling European fare. After bingeing on the excellent Icelandic series Trapped while flying on Emirates to the UK (and back), I've just finished Case, set in the same country's capital. My goodness it's bleak - but I'm hugely impressed by the amount of quality drama produced by a country with a population a fifth of Auckland's. From France, La Mante (The Mantis) and Glace (The Frozen Dead) have both proved suitably grim and gripping. All streaming on Netflix now.
Dave Haslam is less-known than some of his counterparts in the Manchester music scene but he's no less important. A resident DJ at the seminal Hacienda club and key player in the Madchester scene, Haslam was a label boss, promoter and fanzine writer long before the Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and acid house briefly made it the coolest city in the world. More lately an author, with books on Manchester's history and the music and politics of the 1970s in his back catalogue, Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor is a memoir. It's packed with choice anecdotes, including run-ins with Factory Records boss Tony Wilson and the time Johnny Marr told him he wished he'd left the Smiths earlier.
For a welcome dose of winter Vitamin D, check out Hope Downs, the debut album by Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
Appearing on Sub Pop but a lot less "noisy" than much of the Seattle label's output, Hope Downs – and their preceding EPs - remind me of Scotland's Teenage Fanclub. Albeit a Teenage Fanclub from a country synonymous with sunshine rather than shortbread.
Hope Downs breaks little new ground. It jangles, like a million indie rock albums before it, but Rolling Blackouts are super-tight and execute the 10 tracks with elan. What they do, they do very, very well.
The World Cup is almost over and the English Premier League is still a month away. The lull is the perfect time to get stuck into Athletico Mince - a barmy podcast ostensibly about English football driven by the comic genius that is Bob Mortimer, best known for his double-act with Vic Reeves. After starting out as relatively straight sporting humour, over its 60-plus episodes, it's morphed into a cavalcade of in-jokes and utter nonsense. It's brilliant and available from iTunes.