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