Saturday, December 31, 2022

Atemporal Faves of "2022"

That time of year again, when people make lists and display lists. Musical and otherwise.

Someone of my acquaintance announced on social media that they had winnowed their list down to 118 releases. If this had been in a public place I would have had to stifle a snort. One hundred and eighteen newly released releases – and that is your shortlist? (This is someone in my approximate age range too).

Oh, I can remember making lists of similar size in the late ‘90s and continuing to do so through to the mid-to-late 2000s. I know it's possible to believe sincerely that there are that many likeable and notable releases in a single year. But I also know -  through casting my eye back at some of these lists and having to stifle an incredulous snort at my younger self – that these inventories contain quite a number of recordings about which I now remember virtually nothing. I recall also that a fair few were listened to just the once.  Now it's true that critics develop a freakish capacity for rapid-response assessment of whether a release is interesting or good. Still, a single listen doesn’t seem enough really, if you're going to put it in a list for public display.  There’s a competitive syndrome of ostentatiously liking more - and more varied - things, than the next person; an impulse to seek out things no one else seems to like, or even better, know about. In the 2010s, I tried to reverse these tendencies and cultivate restraint, restricting lists to things that really vividly stood out in the recent memory: records I’d got genuinely stuck on and that seemed (as much as you can predict, which you can't really) to be things that I'd likely be listening to for years to come. 

And then suddenly I didn’t need to make an effort – I simply didn’t like that many things in any given year. 

Nowadays I rarely review records. Uncoupled from release schedules, I don’t listen with a sense of  duty or job-related urgency. But nor is there that FOMO pressure from within: the kind of vocational-existential ravenousness that once drove me on foraging missions. I’ve become more like a regular person who listens to music for pleasure and curiosity. One side effect of that is that I’ve become an increasingly atemporal listener. In 2022, I was as likely to encounter and enjoy a record that came out in 2021 or 2020 as this year. But I was even more likely to hear something for the first time from much further back in time and be blown away by it. Playlists and “your collection” areas in streamers,  YouTube, etc provide traces of my year's listening, but they don’t include vinyl and CD, or files already in my computer. So I've had to rely on memory for the following tally. In no particular order of ranking, chronology, genre, or theme... sometimes accompanied by a short thought or impression, often not... here are my favorites listens of 2022 - only a few of which were made or released in 2022.  

 

Pharaoh Sanders, Jewels of Thought

I’d heard records by Sanders before, but I don’t think I’d ever heard this one – and it hit me as revelation. That warm wide tone.


Knut Wiggen, “Massa”

The entirety of the Electronic Works 1972-75 retrospective – issued a few years ago – is worth a listen, but this track is particularly wigged out.



Nia Archives

A contemporary artist! But one whose work puts into question the whole idea of "the contemporary". My kid Kieran put me onto this. I'm slightly suspicious of my own enjoyment, given that (like PinkPantheress) this is a young woman making jungle and drum & bass -  a genre-era I’ve investments in, you've probably noticed. Beyond my own nostalgia, there’s also a lingering doubt about whether it’s a healthy development for youth today to be makingmusic whose historical heyday was 27 years ago. Even the thing of having her own smoky vocals and songs weaving through it isn’t a totally fresh development (hello Nicolette). But it is absolutely gorgeous stuff – my favorite is probably “Forbidden Feelings” but it’s all very enjoyable. You can hear the whole lot of it here on this YouTube playlist  I made or with better sound and in chronological sequence (although she's only been at it for a little over a year as far as I can tell) in my Tidal playlist (I don’t think you need to be a subscriber)



(Incidentally if you want to get a sense of what's happening in current music - or a corner of current music: hyperpop, soundcloud rap, online micro-genres galore - you would do well to check out Kieran's rundown of the year's highlights, in which a different track by Nia Archives - what an odd name that is!  - features near the top. He's also helpfully made Spotify and YouTube playlists of his 2022 faves) 

Angel Rada – “Carillon”

My fave Creel Pone of this year was The Early Uraniun Recordings+  and in particular the 1983 album Upadesa and in particular particular, this track “Carillon” – a squoinky bubble-bath of  electrobliss.

Saturn Rings Songs” is another lovely squiggle of synth-froth

More about this Cuban pioneer of “Ethnosonic” music here

It was a bumper Creel year with a huge output, lots of doubles and triples, and I haven't really got to grips with it properly. But there were some great things - have a peruse of the recent releases at the site and play the soundclips, starting with the most recent release CNUCE Computer Music which is really cool. The ANS Electronic Music "box" is also brand new and notable, and eerily timely given Eduard Artemyev's death this week

 

Dry Cleaning -  Stumpwork

I feel bad for Dry Cleaning as this excellent album has barely figured on the end of year lists – mystifying to me, as it’s clear that they’ve pulled off that tricky trick of keeping everything good about a beloved debut but twisting things and adding things just enough for it not to feel like reiteration. I suppose the sheer shock impact of a new lyrical voice and delivery that you got with New Long Leg was always going to be hard to pull off again. And the musical approach last time – cold, dry,  slightly claustrophobic – enhanced that impact. Here, the backing boys really come into their own, exploring lots of other textures and feels, and instead of staying within the debut's postpunk zone they are referencing other historical phases of guitar reinvention / uninvention like lo-fi and bliss-rock. “Anna Calls from the Arctic” is gorgeously ethereal, a whole new mood and flow for Dry Cleaning. The second half of “Conservative Hell” (the escape from hell?) is a glowspace of abstract dream-noise worthy of A**l P**k’s The Doldrums. The dirgescapes of “Liberty Log” and “Icebergs” are wonderfully expansive ways to bring the album to its close, pointing to a third album that I for one am excited to hear.



 James Blake, “If The Car Besides You Moves Ahead”

Surprised that this quavering and glimmering "ballad"doesn’t appear to be widely heralded as some kind of career peak and pinnacle of ecstatic vocal science. I suddenly hear it as a 21st Century inverted answer record to "Roadrunner" - fragile, anxious, out of love with the modern world. 




Pause for the Cause: London Rave Adverts 1991-1996, Vol. 1 + Vol. 2

Erroneously reported in at least one place as a compilation compiled by me – in actual fact, Luke Owen, the man behind Death Is Not The End, assembled these glorious collations of pirate  radio adverts for raves and club nights. But I did contribute a couple of  choice ads. And also donated a liner note, reproduced here

  

Brothers Johnson, “Strawberry Letter 23”

And so I find myself thrilling to some Lee Ritenour lickmanship



John Barry - The More Things Change (Film, TV & Studio Work 1968-1972)

Bob Stanley, a-sifting and a-sorting.

  

Sidney Sager and the Ambrosian Singers - Children of the Stones

Jonny Trunk, a-digging and a-exhuming and a-rights-procuring. 

 


 

 Duncan Browne, “Chloe in the Garden”



Metronomy – “The Look”

An odd thing about my favorite records of the year from the mid-2000s onwards is that – as I become more occupied with books than with regularly reviewing records - quite often I never actually get to write anything substantive about the record that turns out to be the one I listened to the most and out of which I derived the greatest delight. Black Moth Super Rainbow’s Dandelion Gum, I wrote a tiny review; there was an end-of-year appreciation of The Good, the Bad and the Queen, also brief . But then Micachu and the Shapes’s Jewellery, Rangers’s Suburban Tours, Metronomy’s The English Riviera – these are records I’ve emitted not a public peep about, beyond a few words on the blog and often not even that. And these are enduring records, returned to many times over the years. Perhaps that is precisely because I’ve never been obliged to think about why I like them so much, to tease out how they work or what is unique or new about them. (With reviewing a record, there is always a danger of using it up – playing it so much during the review process, extracting images and ideas from it… in more cases than you’d probably imagine, I’ve literally never played the album again, after reviewing it).  The non-reviewed record enters a protective enclosure of pure, unreflective enjoyment. (Well, being wired the way I am, there will inevitably be the odd thought or trope).   Metronomy’s wonderful English Riviera got some play this year, and “The Look” went into very heavy rotation.  I’m not even sure why I like it so much. I don’t really know what the song is about. “The look”  - is that when ravers’s eyes meet, the look of complicity and shared ooh-gosh bliss?  Just remember how we shook, shook / And all the things we took, took  does suggest drug adventures. Or perhaps it's the look of "let's go for it" - let the night ignite. But the rest of the lyric? Don’t know, don’t really care.  Whenever we play it, I always notice, as if for the first time, the drums and how perfect they are – a simple beat, really, but with a great, loose swing, and the individual parts of the kit are beautifully recorded (Joseph Mount used to make a sort of drum & bass type music before Metronomy became a band-band, right? I don't actually know much about the group or have ever felt the urge to find out). The beat dovetails sublimely with the other elements as they enter – the bobbing 'n' dipping carousel-like keyboard, the chiming curls of high-toned bass. It all adds up – almost literally adds up – to this immaculate construction. A career-defining creation. The lines “And to think they said / We'd never make anything better than this” must surely ring out strangely for Mount whenever he has to sing them at some festival or other.  Because they wouldn’t and they haven’t. But how could they? Besides, most bands, most artists, never attain this altitude even once.  

 

The Good, the Bad, and the Queen - “Three Changes”

Talking of which…. The drums, the drums, the drums. 


Huerco S.  – “Plonk I”

There’s a pained beauty to the plucked-sounding irregular patterns of “Plonk I”, like a player tentatively grappling with a harp that's been fitted with serrated strings, as somebody said. (Rest of the album is also excellent).


A.C. Marias, “One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing” (the single and the album)

A real snowblinder of a single, as somebody said. Whole album is lost treasure. 


Robert Haigh, Human Remains


 People Like Us, “World of Wonder (Why We’re Here)”


Inducing a hyper-ventilating high through saturating the ear with treble frequencies (falsetto, female vocal harmonies, strings, etc), this is a swoony samplescape on a par with The Avalanches's Since I Left You. A celebration of the consoling power of pop's prettiness.  


Moon Wiring Club – Medieval Ice Cream 

At once dependable and a departure. What you want in one of your favorite artists. 


Nick Edwards - Landfill Elektronikz Vol. 1 


Santana, Lotus

Really not far from the Miles Davis live albums of this era. Yes, I was surprised too. 


Burial, Antidawn

The mark of achieved style for an artist is when you can be parodied – by yourself as much as by others.  Rather than formulaic or deja, though, this impacts with feels-like-the-first-time freshness. And it doesn’t hurt that the hurt in this music - Burial's music’s signature mood of orphaned desolation - fits the raw-feeling fragility of life in these times.


Wet Leg – “Oh No,” "Chaise Longue" etc

Perhaps it’s the image, the droll dry vocals,  the amusing / annoying lyrics  (annoying in the case of “Oh No” – or so I’m told, anyway, by members of the same generation, who know what is cringe and what is not ), perhaps these things get in the way.  But I feel that it is rarely remarked how beautiful - as rock music – the best Wet Leg tunes are – a sense of glistening tensile structure that puts me in mind of Buzzcocks’s “stainless steel love songs”, Chairs Missing Wire, even Neu! in moments... 


Solange, When I Get Home


Brian Eno, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE 


Doja Cat, "Juicy" 

Simply the loveliest pop song of the last five years. The horchata-like savory-sweetness of Doja's voice, the silky-slinky curls 'n' folds of the rhythmelody, the spangle-stuff entwined around that pert groove - "Juicy" is possibly the most gorgeous thing of its approximate sort since Tinashe's "2 On". And yet... the lyrics are profane ("body-positive" my ass, or rather her ass)... the video is gross... DC seems to be a fairly objectionable figure. Still, whenever it's comes on the radio, I manage to push all that out of my mind. 





Nilüfer Yanya - "trouble" 



 



Bobby Brown, The Enlightening Beam



 

Curtis Mayfield, “Pusherman”



Herbie Hancock, “Bubbles”

Mahavishnu  Orchestra, “You Know, You Know”

Weather Report, “Non-Stop Home”, “125th Street Congress”, “Cucumber Slumber”

Kool and the Gang, “Summer Madness”

Idris Muhammad, “Piece of Mind”

The Crusaders featuring Randy Crawford, “Street Life”

(the above and a heap of that kind of 70s smoov groov collated here)  


Al Green, “Love Ritual”


Bill Frisell, In Line



Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! 

As radical a reinvention / revitalization of rock form as any mounted at that time. 

And also the second album’s  “Clockout” - mostly for the drum roll.



Wire, Chairs Missing

As radical a reinvention / revitalization of rock form as any mounted at that time. 

Also the third album's "The 15th" and "Map Ref 41 Degrees N 93 Degrees W" 



Nineties Nuum

This year, like every year, I listened to a huge amount of hardcore, darkcore, jungle, etc and amazingly still managed to hear for the very first time a number of minor delights and the occasional astonishing tune that somehow I'd never come across in the previous 30 years of listening to, collecting, thinking about, and returning to again and again.  So much music was made then it is still possible to have discoveries. Even the second-division and third-division specimens are charged with the electricity of the Zeitgeist. Extracting this year's discoveries and rediscoveries from memory is challenging, so habitual and engrained is my listening to this area. Things come and go, get remembered and then forgotten again.


But I did reimmerse deeply with the genius of Gurley and in particular his Rogue Unit remixes, collated here


I rediscovered Cold Mission's compact, immaculate body of work right at the start of the year - artcore without any rufige removed or smoothed away


That then propelled me into a daft personal project of listening to the entire Reinforced discography (well, up to a certain date). Only some of that first half-90s surgeburst of scenius is gathered here. Not forgetting the often glorious Tom and Jerry stuff - a second front of dancefloor-aimed material opened up by 4 Hero under an alias. 


                                          

(The second half of the RIVET '90s is partially collated here , and then again as a crowd-sourced highlight reel here, while my struggles with it are explored here).   

Out of all the Reinforced-related wonderwork, this tune struck me again most forcefully as a miracle: the 4 Hero remix of Scarface's "Seen A Man Die."  It even made me listen finally to the original Scarface tune and its album. 





Thursday, December 29, 2022

No Sight No Sound

Although I've contributed several times to Sight and Sound, I wasn't favored with a ballot for their recent much-discussed poll of the Greatest Films of All Time. Undeterred by this oversight, I proffer here my own Top Ten, along with - it being that doldrum time of year of post-festivity, and what with me being a habitual and compulsive ranker - a bunch of other cinematic lists. 

 

SIMON REYNOLDS
U.K. / U.S.A., Rip It Up and Start Again, Energy Flash, Retromania 
_________________________________________________

. Performance (Roeg)

Walkabout (Roeg)

The Servant (Losey)

Blow-Up (Antonioni)

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman)

Point Blank (Boorman

The Dream Life of Angels (Zonca

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Meyer)

Taxi Driver (Scorsese)

Bedazzled (Donen


There’s a huge number of nearly-made-the Top Ten films, that list is  at the bottom, but first, here's some slightly more unusual lists

 

ODD LITTLE MOVIES THAT AREN’T GREAT - THEY'RE SERIOUSLY FLAWED OR JUST DETERMINEDLY MINOR -  BUT THEY STAY WITH YOU, FOR WHATEVER REASON (COULD JUST BE ONE OR TWO SCENES, A CHARACTER, A CONCEPT OR CONCEIT, OR EVEN A SHOT)

Charlie Bubbles

Le Grand Meaulnes

Diary of a Lonely Girl a.k.a. T.R. Baskin

Accident

Reflections in a Golden Eye

The President’s Analyst

Fahrenheit 451

Duel

Radio On

Dark Star

Hud

California Split

Getting Straight

The Homecoming

I Heart Huckabees

Career Girls

Mikey and Nicky

The Bed Sitting Room

Picnic

Taxi Zum Klo

La Grand Bouffe

Equus 

Diary of a Mad Housewife

Natural Born Killers

Silent Running

Once Upon A Time in America

The Swimmer

Deep End

Oleanna

+ several films that I simply cannot place or find out what they are but distinctly remember from watching them on BBC2 late at night as a boy

 

GREAT / FAVORITE / SUPER-ENTERTAINING MOVIES THAT FEEL A BIT WORN OUT AND USED UP THROUGH OVERWATCHING (BUT OF COURSE YOU’LL ALWAYS WATCH THEM  AGAIN WHEN YOU CHANCE ON THEM ON THE TV)


The Godfather 

The Godfather II

Chinatown

Blue Velvet

Goodfellas

The Conversation

Casino

Heathers

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Being John Malkovich

Sex Lies and Videotape

Blade Runner

Laurel and Hardy pushing the piano up the hill

Bonnie and Clyde

if….

Citzen Kane

Apocalypse Now

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Terminator

American Graffiti

Fargo

La Strada

The Birds

Amadeus

Psycho

Boogie Nights

Groundhog Day

Saturday Night Fever

Hard Day’s Night

Life Is Sweet

The King of Comedy

Alien

The Long Good Friday

Rear Window

2001 A Space Odyssey

Midnight Cowboy

The Graduate

Some Like It Hot

Network

Sense and Sensibility

After Hours

Sexy Beast

Cool Hand Luke

Sunset Boulevard

Annie Hall

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The Bridge Over the River Kwai

Easy Rider

Get Carter

Pulp Fiction

Raging Bull

The Deer Hunter

Lawrence of Arabia

Kind Hearts and Coronets

A Taste of Honey

Broadway Danny Rose

Barbarella

The Producers

A Room with a View

Billy Liar

Tron

Wall Street

Days of Heaven

Escape from New York

The Silence of the Lambs

Lost in Translation

North by Northwest

Stalag 17

Alfie

Reality Bites

The Parallax View

Videodrome

The Long Goodbye

Dr Strangelove

Sideways

Morvern Callar

Glengarry Glen Ross

Dead Ringers

Slacker

Dazed and Confused

 

A BIT BORING IF WE'RE HONEST

A Clockwork Orange

The Shining

Vertigo

Mean Streets

 

LIFE’S TOO SHORT

Godard

Fassbinder

Pasolini

Cassavetes

Fritz Lang

Bergman (well, the ones I've not seen, which is most of them)

Kurosawa

auteur manga 

Nashville

 

GARBAGE (not a complete list)

M.A.S.H.

Short Cuts

Peterloo

A Quiet Passion

most Tarantino but especially Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

The Wolf of Wall Street (casts a frightful shadow backwards through his uuuurv, don't it)

Bond movies


TIME OUT MOVIES

(movies of the 1980s and 1990s, when I lived in London and would have looked at listings magazines, if not necessarily followed their guidance – Time Out here is shorthand for a kind of well-reviewed quality or ‘art’ – rather often French – movie that “goes down well” at the time but leaves not a trace in your heart or indeed memory. The problem here is not exactly being tasteful or “upper middlebrow”  - the Time Out film can be garish, camp / kitsch, “visionary” as with some of the directors listed here for their complete or near-complete urrrv and who really cake it on the screen)

Betty Blue

Jesus of Montreal

Peter Greenaway (apart from The Draughtsman Contract)

Brazil (in fact the complete Gilliam uuurv apart from Jabberwocky)

Gas Food Lodging

Diva

Withnail & I

How to Get A Head in Advertising

Wings of Desire (most Wenders really)

Thelma & Louise

Angel Heart

Santa Sangre

John Waters

The Piano

Danny Boyle

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Terence Davies

Almodovar, for the most part

Guy Ritchie

Derek Jarman apart from the early shorts

Nearly all Woody Allen after Annie Hall (apart from Radio Days and Broadway Danny Rose)

most Coen Bros

Spike Lee apart from Do the Right Thing

every other Mike Leigh

Jim Jarmusch for the most part

Lars Von Trier for the most part

Everything Nicolas Roeg did after the first 25 minutes of Eureka onwards


so so so many other films I trooped out to see in the 1980s and first half of 1990s and have simply forgotten...  I like to blame Time Out although I don't think I ever read the film section  - it's just an association, not unlike a Peter Travers endorsement for the USA, but slightly more highbrow than that....  the kind of films they'd make a cover story maybe...


RECENTLY SEEN (relatively recently) AND WELL LIKED, BUT A BIT EARLY FOR ADMISSION TO ANY CANON 

(an incomplete list)

Minari

Kajillionaire

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Parasite

Under the Skin

There Will Be Blood

Souvenir

American Honey

Get Out

The Phantom Thread

Moonlight

Emily the Criminal

The Master

Force Majeure

We Are the Best

Let the Right One In

The Eternal Daughter

 

CLASSICS RECENTLY SEEN BUT WITH SUCH A HEAD OF ADVANCE OVERHYPE THEY COULD ONLY UNDERWHELM JUST A BIT

Celine and Julie Go Boating


LOOK BUT NOT TOUCHED / SURFACE DEEP

Wes Anderson 


LOST TO TIME

Westerns (nearly all)

screwball comedy (for the most part)

silent film


STAPLES OF YOUTH THAT STIR FONDNESS BEYOND ANY CONSIDERED ASSESSMENT OF WORTH

The Railway Children

Singin' in the Rain

West Side Story

High Society

Jaws

North West Frontier

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Gigi

The King and I

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Jabberwocky

Bugsy Malone

The Great Rock’n’Roll Swindle

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory 

the Inspector Clouseau films

movieifications of Britcoms - Porridge, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads

spaghetti westerns 


SECRET WEAKNESSES

romcoms

Ken Russell's composers films


RUNNERS UP FOR THE TOP 10

Gregory's Girl

Summer Hours

Old Joy

Synecdoche, New York

Deliverance

The Hustler

Playtime

Safe

Topsy-Turvy

The Third Man

Sweetie

An Angel at My Table

The Night of the Hunter

The Wild Bunch

The Wicker Man

Two Lane Blacktop

The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Five Easy Pieces

La Jetee

London

The Manchurian Candidate

Seconds

Rosemary’s Baby

The Tin Drum

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Fat City

Les Enfants Terribles

Modern Times

Suspiria

Witchfinder General

Peeping Tom

The Knack (and how to Get It)

Last Year at Marienbad

The Apartment

Daisies

The Color of Pomegranetes

Valerie and Her World of Wonders

Don’t Look Back

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Bad Timing

Kes

Day for Night

Stalker

Solaris

M. Hulot’s Holiday

The 400 Blows

Beau Travail

Black Narcissus

The Tenant

Moulin Rouge (well, the first half hour or so)

The Sweet Hereafter 

Knife in the Water

Paper Moon

L’Atalante

Les Diaboliques

Fanny and Alexander

Adaptation

The Heartbreak Kid

Riff-Raff

Exotica

Satyricon 



NO, I HAVE NOT SEEN

Jeanne Dielman


ON MY LIST

way too many


FACES + VOICES (a work in progress)

Piper Laurie

James Coburn

Denholm Elliott (voice especially)

Winona Ryder

Billie Whitelaw

William Daniels

Vanessa Redgrave 

Peter Cook

Ann Prentiss

Paula Prentiss

Richard Burton (voice especially)

Eleanor Bron

Dirk Bogarde

Jenny Agutter

Tilda Swinton

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Melody Maker's 1991 Year End Review / Best Album + Single Blurbs


 



















(Published in the Xmas issue, December 21/28 1991. Via Nothingelseon.)

As the below were not bylined and tended to be written in a slightly "official" Melody Maker house style, I am not 100 % certain that every single one of these was actually penned by me. Well, nearly all give themselves away by some tell-tale troping or favorite (a.k.a. over-used) adjective. But there's a couple of "is this me?" moments, which are flagged up. 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The Year In... Commentaries


Seems like I'm on the cusp of saying "post-rock" towards the end of this mini-survey of the rock leftfield, in fact it would take me almost another two years to get there. Notice also yet another precocious use of "poptimism" here. 






































(inexplicable remark there about Main being like Faust in being "absolutely drained of humour"!)























Albums of  1991




This next one totally reads like me - up until the last half-sentence about spunk and songwriting. Maybe an editor added that. 


Not 100% on this being one of mine - that said, did do a rave review of Foxbase Alpha, "neo" is one of my standby prefixes, "acid mantra" and "sampladelic" are boilerplate SR.  




Singles of 1991 


Now this blurb is the one where I'm doubtful - that said, I was Consolidated's most fervent champion at MM (and there weren't many others), reviewing both their LPs and doing the interview.  So it would make sense that I would also be tasked with doing this blurb.  

Sunday, October 16, 2022

best albums and tracks 2021

Directors cut of blurbs for Pitchfork end of year albums + tracks

 Dry Cleaning

New Long Leg

One way to hear New Long Leg is as a cringe-tinged dramedy, like Fleabag or Girls, with Florence Shaw as the performer who knows exactly how to deliver her own script. This album is unlikely to win a Grammy but it really ought to get Emmys for writing and acting. The lyrics infest your brain with quotables that reverberate for days, but more than the words it’s the intonation that’s so funny and so heartbreaking: the grudging cadences, the way she can inject an unreadable alloy of earnest and ironic into an inanity like “I can rebuild.” The English expression “browned off” perfectly captures Shaw’s affect, a deadpan flatness that damps down the post-punky backing whenever it threatens to get too epic. The self-portrait painted here is of a burned-out shell drifting numbly through a life that senselessly accumulates irritations, humiliations, discomforts, chores, and interpersonal skirmishes, offset by the tiny comforts of Twix bars and artisanal treats. There’s a personal dimension to the inner emptiness (a sapping break-up), but because New Long Leg’s release fortuitously coincided with the depressive pall that swept over the world thanks to lockdown,  Shaw’s interiority synced up perfectly with exterior conditions. It’s no coincidence that the most exciting rock record in years is about the inability to feel excitement. Timing and talent converged to make Shaw not just a voice of a generation, but a truth-teller distilling how it feels to be alive right now: “Every day is a dick”. *

                                                                                              

Oneohtrix Point Never, Elizabeth Fraser

“Tales from the Trash Stratum”

The original “Trash Stratum” on 2020’s Magic Oneohtrix Point Never entwined distortion and euphony in fairly familiar Dan Lopatin fashion. This year’s drastic reinvention lovingly collages ‘80s production motifs: pizzicato string-flutters as fragrant as Enya, blobs of reverb-smudged piano that evoke Harold Budd, high-toned pings of bass that could be The Blue Nile or Seventeen Seconds Cure. It’s like Lopatin is a bowerbird building a glittering nest to attract a mate – and succeeds in reeling in the onetime Cocteau Twin.  Fraser’s contributions -  ASMR-triggering wisps of sibilant breath, chirruping syllables from a disintegrated lullaby – are closer to a diva’s warm-up exercises than an actual aria, and sometimes you long for her to take full-throated flight into song.  But it’s lovely to hear the Goth goddess brought into the glitchy 21st Century.     


    * a mishearing but a righteous one, I insist                                                                                                                                

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Never Mind the Ballots (the Pitchfork Songs and Albums of the 1990s Lists)

I contributed some entries to the Pitchfork Best Albums of the 1990s and Best Songs of the 1990s  - Oval Diskont 94 and Massive Attack Blue Lines in the long-players, My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow" in the short-players.

(I was taken aback really that the selectorate didn't go for "Soon" and "To Here Knows When" as the MBV Peaks of that decade. Or even "Loomer". Still, I'm hardly going to spurn an opportunity to hymn Loveless again, am I?)

Talking about selectorates (which was unusually large with this vote, I believe)...  the selection process is two-fold with these P-fork lists. 

First round, you pick your 50 Faves. If you don't see your fave in the list already, you can add it (thereby fractionally increasing the chance some other selector might pick it too). This stage of the voting is pretty close to one's very own absolute faves, although a low-key, by-default sort of tactical voting  tends to seep into the process, in so far as I didn't pick some of my actual faves because they just seemed not to have a snowflake's chance in hell of getting through. I mean, Sacred's "Do It Together" is not going to make the final cut, is it? Nor Goldseal Tribe "Living Lonely". Nor anything by the Mover, Miro or Reign. So there's a little bit of preliminary sifting that takes place here, I should imagine it's the same with the other voters participating.   

Second stage involves this huge mass of preferences getting boiled down by invisible hands into a sort of proto-consensus Long List - still a very large number of candidates - and it's out of this squad that you make another and final selection. (For some reason at this stage we were encouraged to select 100 singles rather than 50).  Here's where some serious tactical voting took place, at least on my part. (Why bother? I honestly can't tell you! I've yet to outgrow these impulses, is all I can say.) Funnily enough, though, some things that I never considered on the first round, thinking them too marginal, actually popped up in this narrowed selection of top tracks and tunes.  E.g. Double 99, "Ripgroove". So of course these got my vote on the second ballot 

Here is the first round ballot of mine for song/track (as you can see I actually overspilled the Fifty) 

1 Omni Trio: Renegade Snares (Foul Play VIP Mix)

2 Foul play: Open your mind (Foul Play Remix)

3 Apollo Two: Atlantis (I Need You) (LTJ Bukem Remix)

4 The House Crew: Euphoria (Nino's Dream)

5 Acen: Trip II the Moon (Pt. 1 and 2)

6 Boards of Canada: Roygbiv

 7 Orbital: Chime

 8 Nightmares on Wax: Aftermath

 9 Aaliyah: One in a Million

 10 Tricky: Aftermath

 11 Beltram: Energy Flash

 12 Blame: Music Takes You (2 Bad Mice Remix)

 13 My Bloody Valentine: To Here Knows When

 14 Prodigy: Firestarter

 15 Busta Rhymes featuring Janet: What's It Gonna Be?!

 16 My Bloody Valentine: Soon

17 New Radicals: You Get What You Give

 18 Urban Shakedown: Some Justice

 19 LFO: LFO

 20 Dem 2: Destiny (Sleepless)

 21 Seefeel: Time To Find Me

 22 Second Phase: Mentasm

 23 Human Resource: Dominator

 24 Aphex Twin: Analogue Bubblebath

 25 Björk: Human Behavior

 26 Goldie: Angel

 27 The Prodigy: Charly

 28 Aphex Twin: Alberto Balsam

 29 Slowdive: Catch the Breeze EP / specifically "Shine"

 30 Craig Mack: Flava in Ya Ear

 31 Aaliyah: Are You That Somebody

 32 Beenie Man: Who Am I: 

33 Future Sound of London Papua New Guinea

 34 Cypress Hill: How I Could Just Kill a Man

 35 Goldie: Inner City Life

 36 Missy Elliott: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

 37 Cypress Hill: Latin Lingo

 38 World of Twist: Sons of the Stage

 39 The Chemical Brothers (ft. Noel Gallagher): Setting Sun

 40 Liz Phair: Fuck and Run

 41 Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain

 42 LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out

 43 Primal Scream: Higher Than the Sun

 44 The Prodigy: Breathe

 45 Jane's Addiction: Stop!

 46 Saint Etienne: Avenue

 47 Jane's Addiction: Been Caught Stealing

 48 DJ Shadow: Midnight In a Perfect World

 49 TLC: Waterfalls

 50 Edwyn Collins: A Girl Like You

overspilling -  

51 Elastica: Connection

 52 Alice in Chains: Would?

 53 Deee: Lite - Groove Is in the Heart

 54 The Breeders: Cannonball

 55 Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day

 56 Busta Rhymes: Dangerous

57 Pulp: Common People

 58 Britney Spears: Baby One More Time

 59 Fatboy Slim: Praise You

 60 The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony

 61 Public Enemy: 911 Is a Joke

 62 Missy Elliott featuring Nas, Eve and Q-Tip: Hot Boyz

 63 Aphex Twin: Windowlicker

 64 Naughty by Nature: O.P.P.

 65 Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit

 66 Wreckx-n-Effect: Rump Shaker

 67 My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow


And here is the second round, winnowed-down selection of songs / tracks 


1 Omni Trio: Renegade Snares (Foul Play VIP Mix)

2 The House Crew: Euphoria (Nino's Dream)

3 Aaliyah: One in a Million

4 Boards of Canada: Roygbiv

5 New Radicals: You Get What You Give

6 Blame: Music Takes You (2 Bad Mice Remix)

7 Acen: Trip II the Moon (Pt. 1 and 2)

8 Tricky: Aftermath

9 Beltram: Energy Flash

10 Urban Shakedown: Some Justice

11 Orbital: Chime

12 My Bloody Valentine: Soon

13 Aaliyah: Are You That Somebody

14 Beenie Man: Who Am I

15 The Stone Roses: I Wanna be Adored

16 Prodigy: Firestarter

17 Liz Phair: Fuck and Run

18 Prefab Sprout: Wild Horses

19 Björk: Human Behavior

20 Craig Mack: Flava in Ya Ear

21 Missy Elliott: The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)

22 LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out

23 Liz Phair: Divorce Song

24 The Future Sound of London: Papua New Guinea

25 Cypress Hill: Insane in the Brain

26 Pulp: Common People

27 Blackstreet ft. Dr. Dre: No Diggity

28 The Breeders: Cannonball

29 Juvenile ft. Mannie Fresh, Lil Wayne: Back That Azz Up

30 The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony

31 Double 99: Ripgroove

32 Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit

33 Busta Rhymes: Put Ya Hands Where My Eyes Can See

34 Goldie: Inner City Life

35 Stardust: Music Sounds Better With You

36 Outkast: Elevators (Me & You)

37 Orbital: Halcyon On + On

38 Artful Dodger ft. Craig David: Re-Rewind

39 Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome

40 Green Velvet: Flash

41 TLC: Waterfalls

42 Primal Scream: Higher Than the Sun

43 The La's: There She Goes

44 Blur: Girls & Boys

45 Smashing Pumpkins: 1979

46 k.d. lang: Constant Craving

47 Destiny's Child: Bills, Bills, Bills

48 Björk: Army of Me

49 Naughty by Nature: O.P.P.

50 Ice Cube: It Was a Good Day 

51 Beck: Loser 

52 Destiny's Child: Say My Name 

53 Britney Spears: Baby One More Time 

54 Deee-Lite: Groove Is in the Heart 

55 Elastica: Connection 

56 DJ Zinc: Super Sharp Shooter 

57 DMX: Ruff Ryders Anthem 

58 Alice in Chains: Would? 

59 K.P. & Envyi: Swing My Way 

60 Missy Elliott ft, Nas, Eve and Q-Tip: Hot Boyz 

61 Busta Rhymes: Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Check 

62 PJ Harvey: Rid of Me 

63 Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg: Still D.R.E. 

64 Crystal Waters: Gypsy Woman

65 Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg: Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang  

66 DJ Shadow: Midnight In a Perfect World  

67 Massive Attack: Unfinished Sympathy  

68 Warren G, Nate Dogg: Regulate 

69 Robin S.: Show Me Love 

70 Ginuwine: Pony 

71 Björk: Hyperballad  

72 Dr. Dre, Eminem: Forgot About Dre  

73 Weezer: Undone (The Sweater Song)  

74 Isolée: Beau Mot Plage

 75 My Bloody Valentine: When You Sleep

 76 Brandy, Monica: The Boy Is Mine

 77 Mazzy Star: Fade Into You

 78 Snap: I Got The Power

79 My Bloody Valentine: Only Shallow

 80 Nirvana: Heart Shaped Box

 81 Julee Cruise: Falling

 82 My Bloody Valentine: Sometimes

 83 Daft Punk: Around the World

 84 Aphex Twin: Windowlicker

 85 Cutty Ranks: Limb By Limb

 86 TLC: No Scrubs

 87 Le Tigre: Deceptacon

 88 Björk: Venus as a Boy

 89 P.M. Dawn: Set Adrift on Memory Bliss

 90 Ghost Town DJs: My Boo

 91 Portishead: Sour Times

 92 Björk: Jóga

 93 Utah Saints: Something Good

 94 The Sundays: Here's Where the Story Ends

 95 Korn: Freak On A Leash

 96 2Pac: Dear Mama

 97 Madonna: Vogue

 98 Harvey Danger: Flagpole Sitta

 99 Dawn Penn: You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)

 100 The KLF: 3 a.m. Eternal (Live at the S.S.L.)

 101 Spice Girls: Wannabe

 102 SWV: Right Here 

103 The Notorious B.I.G.: Hypnotize 

104 The Offspring: Self Esteem 

105 Underworld: Born Slippy (Nuxx) 

106 SWV: Weak



Albums now - here is the first round ballot o' mine


1 Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92

2 Tricky: Maxinquaye

3 Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works Volume II

4 LFO: Frequencies

5 Boards of Canada: Music Has The Right To Children

6 Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville

7 Ultramarine: Every Man and Woman Is A Star

8 Wagon Christ: Throbbing Pouch

9 Omni Trio: The Deepest Cut, Vol.1

10 Saint Etienne: Foxbase Alpha

11 Seefeel: Polyfusia

12 Insides: Euphoria

13 My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

14 Pulp: Different Class

15 Massive Attack: Blue Lines

16 World of Twist: Quality Street

17 Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott: Supa Dupa Fly

18 Björk: Debut

19 Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet

20 Roni Size/Reprazent: New Forms

21 Kraftwerk: The Mix

22 Goldie: Timeless

23 Saint Etienne: So Tough

24 Morrissey: Vauxhall and I

25 Oval: 94 Diskont

26 Portishead: Dummy

27 Seefeel: Quique

28 Pulp: His n Hers

29 Björk: Post

30 Prefab Sprout: Jordan: The Comeback

31 Stereolab: Mars Audiac Quintet

32 Herbert: Around the House

33 Pulp: This Is Hardcore

34 Cypress Hill: Black Sunday

35 Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup

36 The 6ths: Wasps' Nests

37 Radiohead: OK Computer

38 Stereolab: Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements

39 PJ Harvey: Dry

40 Basement Jaxx: Remedy

41 Elastica: Elastica

42 Busta Rhymes: When Disaster Strikes

43 Björk: Homogenic

44 Kirstin Hersh: Hips and Makers

45 Destiny's Child: The Writing's on the Wall

46 Busta Rhymes: The Coming

47 Daft Punk: Homework

48 GZA: Liquid Swords

49 Busta Rhymes: Extinction Level Event

50 Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted


And the second and final votes for album, taken from the reduced-in-number consensus squad. Now here an interesting thing happens which is that I start running out of real faves (my own abfavs having been taken out of contention, you see). So I start drifting into "approve of" criteria, or have some other metric of solidarity or tangential reason to support (see if you can spot which artist is in there really only because a 4 Hero remix made me fall for that particular song and come to greatly appreciate the remixee's own skills of storytelling and delivery. But in truth the album from which said remixed track hails I only heard this year!).

Truthfully, from number 23 onwards in this second shorter shortlist, it's often the case that the singles off the album, perhaps even just one track on it, are the reason it's included (Aaliyah is for the title track obviously - and "If Your Girl Only Knew" which is decent). Other times there might be another album  (or albums) by the same artist that I much much prefer, but since the selectorate has gone for it, I've lent it the support. 

1 Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works 85-92

2 Tricky: Tricky: Maxinquaye

3 Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville

4 Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children

5 Aphex Twin: Selected Ambient Works Volume II

6 Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott: Supa Dupa Fly

7 Pulp: Different Class

8 Public Enemy: Fear of a Black Planet

9 Cypress Hill: Black Sunday

10 My Bloody Valentine: Loveless

11 Massive Attack: Blue Lines

12 Oval: 94 Diskont

13 Goldie: Timeless

14 Roni Size/Reprazent: New Forms

15 Björk: Post

16 Destiny's Child: The Writing's on the Wall

17 Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup

18 Prefab Sprout: Jordan: The Comeback

19 Dr. Dre: The Chronic

20 Elastica: Elastica

21 Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted

22 Radiohead: OK Computer

23 DMX: It's Dark and Hell Is Hot

24 Beck: Odelay

25 Portishead: Dummy

26 GZA: Liquid Swords

27 U2: Achtung Baby

28 Nirvana: Nevermind

29 PJ Harvey: Rid Of Me

30 Wu-Tang Clan: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

31 DJ Shadow: Endtroducing

32 OutKast: ATLiens

33 Nirvana: In Utero

34 De La Soul: De La Soul Is Dead

35 Daft Punk: Homework

36 Aaliyah: One in a Million

37 Bone Thugs n-Harmony: E. 1999 Eternal

38 The KLF: Chill Out

39 Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes

40 Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque

41 Primal Scream: Screamadelica

42 Aphex Twin: Richard D. James Album

43 Ice Cube: Death Certificate

44 The Beta Band: The 3 EPs

45 Juvenile: 400 Degreez

46 Scarface: The Diary

47 Tortoise: Millions Now Living Will Never Die

48 Le Tigre: Le Tigre

49 Slint: Spiderland

50 Main Source: Breaking Atoms


^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Looking at these ballots again, some glaring and unaccountable omissions inevitably emerge - most notably the absence of A Guy Called Gerald's Black Secret Technology and several of the 12-inch releases on Juice Box.