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Jan 13

Charts – 13 January 2017

Posted on Friday, January 13, 2017 by Paul in Music

It is 2017, and Ed Sheeran is upon us.

1.  Ed Sheeran – “Shape Of You”

2.  Ed Sheeran – “Castle On The Hill”

Yes, new entries at both 1 and 2.  What he’s done here, in traditional terms, is to release a Double A-side, but it’s 2016 and so both tracks register separately.  We’ve never had simultaneous new entries at number 1 and 2 by the same artist.  Mind you, in fairness, not many bands have actually tried releasing two singles simultaneously: in terms of major chart players, you’re pretty much looking at the Manic Street Preachers in 2001 (and they landed at 8 and 9).  If you want to be really technical about it, one other act has at least appeared on simultaneous new entries at numbers 1 and 2: George Michael, in 1984.  But one of them was “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, so it’s a bit of a special case.


Jan 7

Charts – 6 January 2017

Posted on Saturday, January 7, 2017 by Paul in Music

The chart for the week after Christmas is traditionally an oddity; the Christmas singles all disappear, a bunch of tracks getting year-in-review airplay rise to fill the void, and not much else goes on.  This year, we have added wrinkle.  When streaming data was added to the chart, it raised a new issue for the chart.  Instead of just counting sales, there was now a subjective element: how to weight sales against streams?  They went for 100 streams = 1 sale.  Starting this week, that’s been changed to 150, which tilts the balance somewhat back in the direction of sales (though if streams keep growing, it won’t be long before we’re back where we started).

Is this a more refined view of the respective value of sales and streams (whatever “value” might mean in this context), or just an attempt to get some more movement into the chart, which was unusually sluggish in 2016?  Probably the latter, because while the chart is officially there to measure popularity, its unspoken function is to serve as a publicity device; and to do that, it needs people to pay attention; and to get people to pay attention, it needs stuff to happen.  But you can make a case that things had become imbalanced: tracks that were selling strongly but lacked streaming support were missing the top 40 altogether.


Jan 3

Old Man Logan #14-15: “Monster War”

Posted on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

So it turns out Old Man Logan isn’t cancelled after all, despite Marvel soliciting issue #18 as “The Epic Conclusion!”, which normally at least means a season break.  At least that explains why two issues were given over to this – it might come from the pen of regular writer Jeff Lemire, but it’s got filler written all over it.

A standard set-up for this book is to bring the future Logan into contact with the original supporting cast.  And that’s sort of how this one starts off, as Logan investigates the disappearance of Jubilee.  Somehow or other the X-Men already know she was last seen in Romania, so Logan goes there and promptly crosses paths with…


Jan 1

All-New X-Men Annual 2016

Posted on Sunday, January 1, 2017 by Paul in x-axis

You’re probably expecting me to tell you that the All-New X-Men Annual is eminently skippable.  And I am, but not without some regret.

“Idie Goes On A Date” is a does-what-it-says-on-the-tin story by Sina Grace and Cory Smith.  Grace has done things like the slice-of-life memoir Self-Obsessed, which came out through Image in 2015, so he’s an interesting choice for an X-Men annual.  What we actually get, as it turns out, is a story where Idie is hanging around at a mall reflecting on how hard it is to escape being an X-Man and just be normal, when she stumbles upon a nice boy and they wind up going on a date.  (more…)

Dec 31

Charts – 30 December 2016

Posted on Saturday, December 31, 2016 by Paul in Music

Normally the chart between Christmas and New Year is a bit dead.  This time, there’s actually some back catalogue re-entries to talk about – but not the ones you’re probably expecting.

1.  Clean Bandit – “Rockabye”


Dec 30

House to Astonish Episode 151

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 by Al in Podcast

It’s the end of the year, and as always, we’re running through the results of the Homies awards, with Paul’s picks, my picks, and the winners of the listener vote. We’ve got unexpectedly good books, predictably good creators, astonishingly close votes, and shambolically tabulated results. Come hear what we enjoyed this year, and what the voting Housemates plumped for. All this plus a wooden piece of wood, a beautiful leather briefcase, and a perfunctory log fire.
The podcast is here, or here on Mixcloud, or available via the embedded player below. As always, let us know what you think, in the comments, on Twitter, by email or on our Facebook fan page. And hey, it’s nearly a new year, so time for a new look – why not treat yourself to a House to Astonish shirt from our Redbubble store?

Dec 27

Uncanny X-Men Annual 2016

Posted on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by Paul in x-axis

Technically that’s not the title.  Technically this thing is Uncanny X-Men Annual #1.  But Marvel’s annuals have come to embody Milk & Cheese‘s 1990s dream of a series composed entirely of issue #1s, so let’s call it something that’s actually vaguely informative instead.

The main story, “Balancing The Scales” by Cullen Bunn and Ken Lashley,  is pretty much just an extra issue of the regular series – and it does at least matter to the plot.

Josh Foley, who was bumped off in an earlier issue to build up the Dark Riders, is back from the dead, because of his healing powers.  He promptly heads off to Genosha to torture the Dark Riders (who were themselves killed by Magneto a few issues later) by raising them up and dropping them dead repeatedly.  Precisely how he knows that any of this happened or where to find the Dark Riders is, shall we say, less than clear.  Never mind.  Magneto’s X-Men duly show up to try and bring the erratic omega mutant under control.


Dec 26

Charts – 23 December 2016

Posted on Monday, December 26, 2016 by Paul in Music

Ah, Christmas.  I’m determined to clear some of my reviews backlog over the coming days, but this is the chart with the 2016 Christmas number one, so I’d better do it while it’s still vaguely topical.  If you haven’t seen the link already, though, do look below for the nominations thread for the Homies!

But first…

1.  Clean Bandit – “Rockabye”

And that’s your 2016 Christmas number 1.  Since it’s spending its seventh week at the top, and its sales (even the notional figure including streaming) are nothing special by the standards of the Christmas chart, you could see this as a bit of an anticlimax.  But really it’s the anticlimax that’s the story here.  What’s happening here is basically the failure of the usual Christmas number 1 circus to occur.


Dec 21

The Homies 2016

Posted on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 by Al in Podcast

It’s that time of the year again, where comics blogs and podcasts do their obligatory look-back best-ofs, and that means it’s time for the House to Astonish Homies Awards!

As always, Paul and I will individually be choosing a winner for each category, but there’s the usual proviso – we want YOU to help, so you all name your picks in the comments, and Paul and I each choose our own, and we talk a bit about each of the three on our awards show.

We’re likely to be recording on the 30th of December, so we’re giving you until 8pm UK time (3pm Eastern, noon Pacific) on December 29 to make your choice. When you list your picks, don’t just name names either, because we’ll be reading out the best comments on the show, so let us know your thinking!


This one’s pretty self-explanatory – any comic whose first issue was published between 1 January 2016 and the close of nominations (29th December) is eligible. What new series got your attention the most this year?


This one’s a little less self-explanatory – what series, again first published between 1 January and date of broadcast, did you think was best, with the proviso that it has to be something where the property wasn’t in existence prior to the start of 2012. We’re counting re-use of titles as well as concepts, so Lost Light or Doom Patrol wouldn’t be eligible, but (for example) Animosity or Another Castle would.


The counterpart to the categories above, which covers books whose first issue was published in 2015 or before. They’ve been around the block, but they’ve still got what it takes.


These are explaining themselves by this point, right? We’re looking for OGNs, one-shots and minis published in 2016 (or partially in 2016, in the case of minis).




Each of these three is pretty self-explanatory – whose name on the cover or credits box of a book makes you want to pick it up? Whose work do you most look forward to seeing?


This is for the comic, series or graphic novel that saw print this year which you’d want to see more of, whether that be a book that was cancelled before its time, a one-shot or mini that just begs for a follow-up, or an OGN that you’d love to see a sequel to.


It may have seemed unappealing when you read about it online, and those preview pages may have looked unremarkable, but when you finally got the winner of this category in your hands you were ready to eat your words. What comic, series or graphic novel did you find yourself enjoying much more than you thought you would?


This award will go to the comic or graphic novel that most made us gasp with surprise – an unexpected plot twist, a daring cliffhanger or a shocking denouement will stand a book in good stead here.


This is exactly what it says – which creator, creative team, publisher or other contributor to the world of comics really knocked it out of the park this year?

Let us have your picks in the comments thread below, along with your thinking on each one – we’ll read out a range of the responses on our big end-of-year show. Happy nominating!

Dec 20

Chart – 16 December 2016

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 by Paul in Music

Well, this is interesting.  This is the chart before the Christmas number one.  In recent years it’s tended to be quiet – the regular record industry shut down for Christmas, the last-minute novelty singles and charity releases waiting for their one-week surge.  But this year we have a more normal chart, notable if anything for having a couple of high profile new releases.  Has the record industry decided that maybe, with the charity releases hobbled by the addition of streaming data to the charts, this might just be the year when a regular release gets to be Christmas number one again?  If the midweek charts are to be believed – and they’ve been notably less accurate this year – then the answer is “yes”.  (This is also likely to be the point where the general public twig to just what a difference streaming has made to the chart.)

1.  Clean Bandit – “Rockabye”

But first, Clean Bandit celebrate six weeks at number one.  That means it overtakes “7 Years” and “Cold Water” to have the second longest run this year.  (Obviously, there isn’t time for it to beat Drake’s 15-week monopoly.)  It has a perfectly realistic chance of hanging on for Christmas.

2.  Louis Tomlinson & Steve Aoki – “Just Hold On”