Do you know what I hate; hate more than anything until my blood cells sublime and I am left hollow and limp. Using knowledge as a weapon. There are big culprits on battle fields and bigger culprits still behind podiums; of these we are aware and defended. However it’s not quite so easy to build a defence against a trusted friend who tells you that you are wrong just for liking something different; or for mocking you because you’ve only just discovered an awesome artist decades after they did. I remember being mocked (in an admittedly friendly manner) for liking Limp Bizkit when it was ‘fashionable’ to be into Pink Floyd. I did eventually listen to Pink Floyd, of course, but very much in my own time. I’m also still a fan of Limp Bizkit. I just didn’t like being told I was different because I didn’t conform to one arbitrary way of ‘knowing’. This idea that difference is something to be challenged is the root of so many problems both global and local. Difference and variety breed creativity, we should all just accept that and move on. So with that in mind I’m going to go against the grain of these awful end of year list things and, instead of stating the ‘exciting, hot, new’ artists I think are going to ‘blow up’ next year, I will simply reminisce on pieces old and new that have obsessed me this year. There will likely be albums that you know. There will likely be albums that you don’t. Yet as this was the year I heard them for the first time, so will this be the year they make my list. Hurrah!
Mother Mother – Oh My Heart
I really should have dedicated a full post on this Canadian alternative-pop-rock act but never really found the time. I did buy the follow up to ‘Oh My Heart’ in a fit of a pre-Korea music buying frenzy but it pales in comparison to this slab of pop hooks smothered in layers of haunting arrangements that never quite go where you expect them to. I find there is such a purpose and dedication behind every song not found in many albums. This is not a mere collection of tunes but a proper album, with a soul and personality all it’s own.
This is one of those ‘knowledge is a weapon’ moments. There are undoubtedly people out there rolling their eyes as they brag about how they have followed Sleater-Kinney from the beginning; yet I found them now. Actually, I’m pretty sure many people found them now because this comeback album was so utterly perfect in distilling the urgency and rage that fuel their (recently discovered) early work. A New Wave in particular dragged me in with it’s absolutely perfect songwriting and hook that is so effortlessly simple that you just want to hit play again and again. Proof that good music will out.
Paul gets a bad rap, something I went into detail over in an earlier post. But this phenomenally bonkers album was one of those great ‘lifting the vale’ moments for me. A very rough around the edges effort that shuns glossy production and gains so much extra soul as a result. Temporary Secretary was put on repeat for the best part of a month before I went deeper and weathered the bizarre creativity within. Here we have one of the Eldest of musical Statesmen creating a work that dares you to like it. He teases us with the Beatles-esque Waterfalls before pulling the rug with his sonic experiments. A rewarding and impressive listen.
John Wizards – John Wizards
I briefly wrote about this album when I was in Korea. I’ve listened to it a hell of a lot since. It’s just a glorious mix of Southern African instrumentation and rhythms mixed with a wonky electronic production. Nothing really settles as melodies and arrangements evolve and expand in a fit of funky expression. Seriously interesting stuff once you get past the urge to dance.
I extensively wrote about this album after the Paris attacks. I’ve not much more to add. Traditionally French in the tradition of Debussy and Satie but with a filmic expression that paints on my emotional canvas.
Folk Music is a term that gets dragged around like some poor child in a divorce settlement. Traditionalists claim it as inviolable and solid; a rigid means of identity that forces you to conform. Modernists break it apart and let all the history and life slip away in the name of ‘updating it’. I lean towards a modernist appreciation but I’m fully aware of the need to keep certain conventions, otherwise it’s all just noise. Nordic are the perfect example of how Folk as a form can thrive on modern influence without forgetting it’s roots. The best gig of the year.
Cardiacs – Absolutely everything
Good Lord, where do I begin. This band went from a passing comparison to being the root of all my musical endeavours. Such fierce creativity and passion and whimsy and talent. Endless variety meets endless expression. The independence of punk meeting the flair of progressive. So alternative that they were banned by the NME. So divisive that you either abhor them or let them consume you, as I have done. I have written about them much. I will no doubt write about them again. Quite simply a band who made me realise that looking back is often far more rewarding than looking forward.
So that was that. See you next year!