Everett True’s 20 favourite songs of 2011
This, you need to understand, is random and entirely dependent upon my mood when compiling this list.
Most of the following songs are drawn from the Song Of The Day series. As ever, I’ve tried to discriminate in favour of male artists to prove we aren’t prejudiced here at Collapse Board … it’s so difficult when so few are stepping up to the plate (what’s the matter with the boys? don’t they like making music?) … and, as ever, I’ve tried to feature songs only released during 2011 (although I bent this rule to include Shellshag and Hive Dwellers, as I couldn’t bear to leave either out).
Some of the more eagle-eyed among you may note similarities with a post I wrote halfway through the year. Well, duh. I wasn’t going to exclude those songs simply because I’d written about them before. You can find the videos to each song by clicking on the links.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Chosen for its lightness of touch
Not a note wasted, not a note pointlessly repeated. Not least among its virtues, Let England Shake is a triumph in restraint
Or to put it more concisely: The new Radiohead album is 37 minutes long, but only contains 37 seconds of music. Let England Shake is 39.6 minutes and contains exactly 39.6 minutes of music. I can’t help feeling that sides me with the Jools Holland’s of this world. Fuck it. Another reason to feel conflicted over Polly. Her music is rooted in a certain tradition, even as she messes with that tradition and builds upon that tradition and moves that tradition onwards and upwards. Radiohead do nothing except be Radiohead.
No Mas Bodas – Flesh
Chosen for its feline grace
I want to mention Ništa Nije Ništa here. I love Ništa Nije Ništa. The name might mean little to you, but the two albums I’ve heard (released via Faust’s Hans-Joachim Irmler’s record label) made me so happy some years back: a little reminiscent of the female jazz improvisation combos led by folk like Lindsay Cooper and Julie Tippett I would see at the London Musician’s Collective in the early 80s, their music is febrile, Dada-flecked, skitterish, playful, admonishing, circular. I’d like to mention Effi Briest too, just cos I can. No Mas Bodas remind of these bands, just a little, not too much … enough and no more. Their music is – damn it all, I was going to use the description “beguiling”, what the hell is wrong with me? – is most welcome in this house: subtle, chiding, elliptical, warm, inviting. Playful, experimental, spontaneous but clearly with an idea of what’s going on, the voices trilling and vibrating but not in an (overtly) cute way, brass and string instruments adding texture and counterpoint. This reminds me of Danielle Dax, too – but at some point, everything great reminds me of Danielle Dax. So be it. You can hear No Mas Bodas here, and here.
Colombina Parra – Flores como gatos
Chosen for its lyrical beauty
Whoa. I don’t want to use the word extraordinary. I don’t want to use the word magical. Both seem overblown in this context: I’m immediately attracted to the delicate touch, the intimacy in Colombina’s voice. Just a playful acoustic guitar, and a memorable tune. Quietened, as there’s no need to shout. Almost childish in its merriment. Reminds me of Eliza Doolittle a little – a very little. Reminds me of Astrud Gilberto a little – a very little. The musical form is entirely different in both cases. I ain’t quite sure what the musical form is actually, not being as up on Chilean folk music as perhaps I ought to be on this sounding. Perhaps there’s an entire world out there, this buoyant and fun and wonderfully expressed, waiting to be discovered. If so, I’d sure appreciate someone tipping me off about it.
Karaocake – It Doesn’t Take A Whole Week
Chosen for its theatrical desolation
“1-2-3-4-5-6-7 days and it’s over/I fucked up big time/You screwed up everything/You screwed up everything/You screwed up everything,” the French girl intones dolefully over a jaunty, jittery Casio beat – like a phalanx of Gameboys left to run wild on the kitchen table in Gregory’s Girl. There’s something very Jane Bond And The Undercover Men about this, but way more intense and not playful at all, or a little bit George Pringle (only far more melancholy).
Hive Dwellers – Get In
Chosen as the song to lead us into a possible future utopia
Dull as a post
I got internal bleeding and bad breath
An obsessive misfit with a sunken chest
Could you sell your soul for unrequited love
Or do what Jesus does?
Katie Stelmanis – Natural Woman
Chosen for its soothing qualities
I came to this via this magnificent review of Kelly’s. Man, that review is good. Man, I wish I could write like that: sardonic and salacious and snappy and soulful. Sucks, don’t it, when you discover someone so fluent, so natural at a craft you once almost prided yourself at being OK in? Fuck, that was a crap sentence. See what I mean?
God. I’m all toes and toes, hearing this cover version. Makes me want knife sex. Right now.
Dick Diver – Flying Teatowel Blues
Chosen for its understated guitar heroics
Just some great music from a label noted for consistently putting out same. It won’t bring down governments. It won’t. It straddles an uneasy line between Marquee Moon and early Dire Straits and something warm and fulfilling (The Bats, say), but frankly early Dire Straits were underrated. It won’t cause children’s playgrounds to be refurnished. It won’t. The guitars play gently and sweetly to themselves, and harmonies are thrown in like the entire world understands the appeal of Flying Nun Records during the 80s, like the whole world knows the thrill to be had from cycling over open heather and dense gorse, like the whole world still has access to the same space some of us still have access to in this bewilderingly Google-reduced life.
Shellshag – Gary’s Note
Chosen for slacker brilliance
I love these songs for almost precisely the same reasons I love to hear Daniel, my two-year-old, singing our made-up bed song ‘There’s A Moon (In The Sky)’ at 5am. I love these songs for the same reason I love The Shaggs and Mudhoney. Great fucken voices. Perhaps the coolest stand-up drumming I’ve seen since Laura and Ann in Shop Assistants. Just so fucking crushworthy. Better than a zillion Guided by Voices.
Damn, I have such a crush on their music right now.
Skinny Girl Diet – Fourteen
Chosen for its transparency
This music is wonderful: brash, unafraid, reared and raised on my peers (Babes In Toyland, Heavens To Betsy, old school grunge). Female. Teenage. Reminds me of Skinned Teen a little, but it would. Riot Grrrl, like I always understood it … i.e. female empowering, and not scared to experiment with new musical forms, and not rooted. Exciting, because this music could go anywhere. There’s a Tumblr blog full of cat pictures and vaguely menacing attitude. Of course there is. There’s a great song on the MySpace called ‘Eyes That Paralyze’ which mixes the spirit of the ‘lost’ Slits Rough Trade/Y album with some Furious Pig-style harmonics and wickedly distorted guitars. Of course there is.
Sugar & Tiger – Henri
Chosen for its shamelessness
I’m a sucker for a certain type of continental power pop. Full throttle. A little bit Chin Chin, a little bit Die Toten Hosen, a little bit Elli et Jacno. Rama lama. Solid. A beating heart. Song starts, continues, and ends. I’m reminded of that great lost Robert (Nightingales) Lloyd/Vi (Poison Girls) Subversa duet from the 80s (‘Keep Lying, I Love It’). Just one of those songs that remains irresistible each time you hear it.
Tunabunny – (Song For My) Solar Sister
Chosen for its invigorating properties
People are mistaking me for someone who gives a fuck about their opinions, or wants to impress. The reason I’m so drawn to Athens GA is because it seems like I would have myself a rare good time if I ever found myself there – I too could leap up and down and scream in harmony and pretend I know what rhythm is – the same way I once used to have myself a rare good time, travelling to Detroit and Olympia and Louisville and the Lower East Side – oh, I don’t know – Hobart. The streets are wide and paved with grey. The grass is green unless it’s burnt or isn’t. The costumes are cheap. The rent is low rise. Blocks are blocks are blocks blocks blocks.
Kate Bush – Wild Man
Chosen because Elton John sings on ‘Snowed In At Wheeler St’
I like it when Kate Bush writes pop songs. 50 Words For Snow reminds me of another critically-heralded record, Drones singer Gareth Liddiard’s debut solo album Strange Tourist. Plenty to admire, of course – but is there anything to fall in love with? Where are the dynamics, the hook-lines, the choruses to yodel in the kitchen? The intimacy feels like it’s happening at a distance.
Kimya Dawson – All I Could Do
Chosen for its solipsistic ‘authenticity’
The tape hiss on this album reeks of loneliness the way few have since Patrik Fitzgerald.
Crystal Stilts – Through The Floor
Chosen for its pulsating pop heart
This album is wonderful. I fell in love with it just around the moment the opening lines of ‘Through The Floor’ rang out: the singer sounding just like Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) singing that ace power-pop song ‘Silly Thing’ in The Great Rock’N’Roll Swindle, later slipping into Bauhaus territory only with a solid beating warm red pop heart (not Bauhaus at all then). The music is all wonderful giant slabs of depression and reverb-heavy bass: an organ sounding suspiciously like it thinks The Doors aren’t a bad thing, the melodic structure of the vocals somehow recalling The Smiths … sure, this is C86 but it sure as fuck is a C86 band I’ve never encountered before, and it don’t feel revivalist or jaded or tired or stunted but wonderfully, beautifully ALIVE.
Dum Dum Girls – Bedroom Eyes
Chosen for its clarity of vision
What’s not to love? The Dum Dum Girls song I’ve linked to reminds me of the Greatest Song Of The 80s and … wait, you think even the least distant of echoes of that wouldn’t make me fall capriciously in love over again? (Something about the tremor in the voice, the jangle of the guitars, the “whoa-oh” of the harmonies.) Shove this on a mix-tape and I guarantee you’ll be checking the track-listing each time it plays.
The Bastards Of Fate – Huge Magic (Bootleg Version)
Chosen for its statuesque magnificence
‘Where Others Lead’. It’s the title of my new music magazine. Every week in constipated black and white, 20 jaded douchebag Australian critics rediscover the bands that Vice was writing about six years ago, and dress them in clothes of zero visibility. Earplugs will be issued because it is A Danger To Future Life to listen to music without some form of self-inflicted impediment. Words will be paraphrased relentlessly, and whole sections of Bob Christgau’s Consumer Guide to Rocks will be quoted according to grade and condition. There will be no hypothesising or marginalising and certainly no – what are those damn things called again, he boilks, looking momentarily like Johnny Depp as a trillion-dollar Willy Wonka – hyphenating. The cover art will always be printed bigger than the review. When I say ‘cover art’, I mean the iTunes symbol for an MP3. No band will be featured unless they’ve performed a minimum of four Nirvana covers, preferably in support to Girls. GI URLs. Leashes will be mandatory. (Little-known fact, but Brighton’s own Kate Bush tribute act Bat For Lashes were originally called Back For Leashes, in anticipation of this very moment. There are photographs in existence. FACT.) If an artist is to be deemed “worryingly listenable” then they shalt be excluded, as the readers of Where Others Lead do not appreciate being worried in their pursuit of pleasure. Simon Reynolds’ Retromania will be viewed as something akin to a bible. Unless we decide to use it as a baton.
Spelling is not at a premium. Bowels will be tickled.
Micachu And The Shapes – Everything
Chosen for its innovative brilliance
Something to do with believing in the power of music: to expand, to combine, to find new paths of exploration never the while forgetting to entertain. Just about the greatest – and simultaneously most damning (for several reasons) – compliment I can pay this new Micachu And The Shapes album is that I can totally imagine it on this, and there’s rarely anything I desire more from music. That’s damning because it shows up plenty about me, the listener and my age. That’s damning, because it shows up plenty about the avenues a certain strain of music could have taken, but instead got infatuated and bogged down and stuck in revisiting the past. (Maybe it’s because all the female musicians got painted out for a while.)
Tom Waits – Talking At The Same Time
Chosen for its proven elasticity
I see music in blocks, colours, shapes of text: a great song is like a particular formation on a chess board to me. ‘Talking At The Same Time’ is the bishops and knights working their way through a graceful ballet, prickling and probing at the other player’s defences, pawns surreptitiously nudging up to opposing pawns, the king laughing at the supreme pointlessness of it all. It’s not a fucking King’s Pawn opening, OK? Or maybe it is, but it’s one where every sacrifice has been turned down because the intrigue is way more appealing.
The tinkling piano certainly helps.
Barbara Panther – Moonlight People
Chosen for its voluptuous groove
One day soon, doubtless I will know all that needs to be known about Barbara Panther. Today, I am just luxuriating in the knowledge of her music.
Maria And The Gay – Daddy’s Buldge
Chosen for its delightful insouciance
I like two-pieces. It’s a partnership, a conviction, a confederation without the dunces. Is The Gay a drum machine, like Echo? Is Maria named after Maria? Why is their album so timepiece? I mean, timeless. This dream I was having … it’s one where I mainline Starbursts, but through my mouth because that’s where the thousands of taste-buds lie. Why take drugs any other way? (I never injected class A drugs when my mouth was so close.) This dream I was having … Everything is Brighton. I am the weirdo because I’m so commonplace. Everything is Brighton. Everything is, specifically, a certain underground venue along the seafront towards Hove, where female musicians rock and female musicians roll and bicycles sprawl disused in the back alley. This dream … I’ve long dreamt of the day when everything isn’t Rolling Stone, isn’t NME, isn’t patriarchal tradition. It’s happened! It’s fucking happening. It’s happened! I swear to fucking Bangs that this debut album from Maria And The Gay – Greatest Hits Volume I, read the Big Print here, because Brigette Adair Herron is a poet and she uses WORDS to express her love, and also it saves me the embarrassment of trying to appropriate her magic – is everything I dreamt non-male rock could be like and by non-male, I mean no-male. I mean music reared on Petticoats, Ill Ease, Erase Errata, Humpe Humpe, Spider And The Webs, Danielle Dax, Julie Ruin, Micachu and a thousand other names that aren’t famous because they aren’t male pure and simple there is no other reason …
That’s it. Give me a shout and I might put together a mix tape.