Some traditions have been with us so long that it seems blasphemous to even consider not to follow them – if such a consideration should even occur. The Christmas period is rife with them, a minefield of time honoured rituals that simply must be followed. And so, much like turkey for xmas dinner or arguing whether Die Hard qualifies as an xmas film, we must distill our years music listening into list form and parade it in front of other list makers who can barely hide their boredom at reading Yet Another List.
Usually there’s a track-a-day write up on the 20 for… playlist but you’ll forgive me if I wish to put 2016 behind me and pretend it never happened. It’s a shame that so much good music will be indelibly marked with the events of 2016, both the political cataclysms and personal nadirs. But if you can stomach it there’s plenty of gems to be found among the wreckage of the year we’d all rather forget. Stuff that’s worth clinging to when trying to tell ourselves it’s all going to be ok.
If you ask me – and since you’re on a blog solely written by me I’m assuming you are sort of asking me, or at least not telling me to shut up as I blurt my opinions into your faces – it’s been a pretty good start to the year. There haven’t been many records that have really kicked me in the face and demand attention, but there have been plenty of rather good ones. It feels like 2016 is acting like a wily poker player, keeping it’s cards close to it’s chest while staring me down with a cold, blank gaze. And like anyone half decent at poker it’ll probably fleece me of all my cash before it’s done.
Though I will at least get some shiny new records in return. Poker players don’t tend to give you those once they’ve cleaned you out.
Open Mike Eagle and Paul White have dropped the best record of the year thus far for my money. From the moment I heard it Check to Check’s perfect portrayal of a web-junkies daily life rang shamefully true for me, as I’m sure it will for many others. Having Siri tell us computers run the world at the end is a bit too on-the-nose for my tastes but Mike’s verses are so good I have to include it here. Wooden Indian Burial Ground are the band I’ve probably listened to the most, with their Thee Oh Sees/Ty Segal esque garage psych come surf rock circus packed with dumb hooks infecting my brain and keeping me coming back. Witness Sad Audience and try to resist.
Despite being a fan of everyone involved I didn’t quite fall for Nevermen‘s everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to things. Their record is so overstuffed and over-produced listening to it is a tiring experience. But Wrong Animal Right Trap’s hook keeps creeping into my consciousness at weird moments, so it deserves an inclusion as the song my brain chooses to play itself while I’m not looking. On the other hand I did fall head over heels for Esperanza Spalding‘s intoxicating pop-jazz. Emily’s D+Evolution has been the surprise of the year for me so far, with the kind of sound that I tend to mentally file under ‘pleasant enough,’ say sounds alright and then promptly ignore forever. But something about her keeps drawing me back in.
Back in my usual wheelhouse metal has a really good start to the year. Latitudes added a wee bit of metal genre du jour black-metal into their palette and realised their potential on their fantastic record Old Sunlight, Melvins and Beehoover continued to be Melvins and Beehoover respectively -which is perfectly fine by me – whereas Conan, Slabdragger and Hag brought the riffs in typically sludgy and furious fashion. Oranssi Pazuzu undoubtedly stole the show though with their strange and wonderful melange of psych-jazz-metal on Värähtelijä, which might just be the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I’m not sure – I’ll let you know when my head stops spinning. Speaking of psych it’s welcome moment of overground exposure continued with some excellent releases from Mugstar, Woods and Causa Sui. Haikai No Ku, Blown Out and the Cosmic Dead also released some Good Shit but they aren’t on spotify and so aren’t on this list. Also not on this list – Nonsun and Lycus. As much as I liked their records I’ve decided not to put any 20 minute slow-as-a-sloth-made-of-treacle momentum killers on my playlists this time out. You’ll get yourself to bandcamp and have a listen when you’re done here if you know what’s good for you.
And then of course Iggy Pop returned with Josh Homme in tow, sounding like David Bowie on Gardenia, just days after his old friend and collaborator passed on. It was a weird coincidence that initially put me off but by the time the album dropped I’d grown to love the song in all it’s laid back filth and pomp. Then of course there was Bowie’s own Blackstar, an album imbued with such power by his passing it makes the whole thing feel like a black magic ritual. I Can’t Give Everything Away was the song he chose to bookend an unsurpassable career with so it’s plenty good enough to close out this humble little playlist. I joined the chorus of people paying tribute with a piece you can read if you can bear to relive that sad day. I’m not sure I can.
And that’s just the stuff I was paying attention to. If you think it’s been a slow year so far then I’m not sure what you’re doing with your time. It’s been nuts.
Episode two – in which our hero contends with the realisation that Bad Guys frontman Stuart is his partially long haired doppleganger, and that perhaps he’s not the glistening adononis he imagines himself to be:
Y’know I still can’t quite get my head around the idea of music videos existing without actual music channels to play them. I know there are still technically such channels around, all with names like 90s teen girl magazines that play the same 3 videos in rotation (so far as I can tell there are only 3 videos shared by all the latest pop hits). But it’s not like it was Back In The Day when MTV stood for music television and if you sat and watched patiently for several hours you might see a decent video, is it? Those were the days. Or what about the heyday of MTV 2 where if you waited until 2am and were willing to watch 8 or 9 videos of identikit glitchy electronica you could see a few videos by semi-decent indie bands, eh? Good times. Now in this god forsaken age you can just type in what you want into an internet searchamajig and there it is. Blam: Bad Guys are singing about prostitutes right into your eyeballs. It all still seems like voodoo to me. But then I didn’t have access to the internet until I was 20 – I had to go round my mates and run up his phone bill on dial up waiting 2 hours to download the new Offspring single on Napster.
And they call this progress.
Ok, so maybe it’s not quite the stories of hardship my old man tells me about his tough Northern upbringing in the 60s. Yet I still get the feeling that when I try to explain this to my kids one day they’ll look at me the same way I did him when he told tales about hiking 7 miles in the snow to school.
Anyhow, in the absence of any kind of curated content (I’m ignoring the million or so curators on youtube; who would trust the kind of myopic psychopath who spends his time compiling internet videos?) I tend to careen sideways into music vids every now and again and go, “ooh, that’s quite good, isn’t it?” And then I put together this, the latest installment of the seemingly annual series Wanton Miscellany, in which I present some of these videos that I’ve stumbled over like a drunk idiot struggling to navigate the living room in the dark at 2am falling onto an upturned plug and screaming like he’s taken a hot knife to the liver.
That was a rough night.
A round up of stuff I’ve missed/not got around to posting about over the past year.