By Tamsin Chapman
Nah, albums still aren’t doing it for me, even less so than last year. It’s not them, it’s me. Just a phase I’m going through and I hope we can still be friends. In fact most new music has generally left me feeling like a Ryvita-y husk this year. Why aren’t I getting excited about the same things everybody else is? I dunno, but I get like this at times, it will pass. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of songs I liked, live shows that ruled and other bits and bobs that were a bloody marvel. Of course there were, and here’s a selection.
Track that gave me the biggest goosegoggles:
Edward Scissortongue – Spastic Max
In fact, the album this is from, Better Luck Next Life, might actually be my album of the year (thank you to Neil Kulkarni for first linking to this track and leading me to it), though I haven’t had time to fully digest it yet, so may write more about it another time. The track is representative of the album: a dark scar of urban repulsion, preoccupied with death, and with lyrics so heart-stoppingly good, you want to get inside them, or let them inside you, not sure which way around. When I first heard this track, I listened to it again and again to try to work out all the words, stopping it every few seconds so I could write them down. I wanted to see what they looked like on the page, study them and spend more time with them. I’ve not done that since I was at school. I’ve always wanted someone to do a mash-up of The Fall’s ‘Frightened’ and Gravediggaz’ ‘Suicide 1800′ – the two songs share the same chord progression and the same sense of city sickness. Edward Scissortongue could be the missing link between Mark E. Smith and Rza.
Track that made me cry the most times:
Saint Etienne – Over The Border
This is also something I plan to write more about. Suffice to say, the first time I heard it, I blubbed like a bastard, and I haven’t stopped since (in fact, I’m tearing up now, listening to it again). A Sarah Cracknell spoken word monologue about youth, ageing and above all, the beauty, the glory and the heartbreak of pop music. Oh ffs, I’m a sobbing wreck again and I have to go out in a few minutes. I hope you’re pleased with yourself Saint Etienne.
Favourite pop song by an invented band:
I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E. (channelled by Prince Rama) – Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever
On their album Top 10 Hits Of The End Of The World, the duo Prince Rama (sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson ) have recorded 10 different tracks in the guise of 10 different imaginary bands, who all supposedly died in the apocalypse and have contacted Prince Rama via séance. Reminiscent of Morgan Fisher’s Hybrid Kids concept album, released back in 1980 on Cherry Red, except these are original compositions rather than covers, I LOVE invented bands, therefore was always going to be on this like a moggy on a velvet jacket. I’d like to review this album in the voice of 10 different music journalists who all died in the apocalypse, but I can’t really be arsed. Collaborative Collapse Board project?
Favourite pop song by a non-invented band:
Poppy & The Jezebels – Sign In, Dream On, Drop Out! (Richard X meets Larry Least mix)
Also notable for being a mainstream pop song with Margaret Thatcher in it. (Dear 2012. There’s still time left for Thatcher to die this year. Pretty please? Love Tamsin.)
Favourite thing that I don’t really know how to describe and so I won’t even try:
Andy Stott – Numb
Favourite two indiepop songs by bands from Melbourne:
Pop Singles – All Gone
The Stevens – Alone
Favourite two indiepop songs by bands from Seattle:
Zebra Hunt – Only Way Out
Detective Agency – You & Me
The above four tracks are all completely unoriginal. But then so is liking kittens.
Favourite two slightly melancholic hip-hop tracks that remind me a bit of Robyn’s ‘With Every Heartbeat’:
Nina B – Oh Hey Now Now Hey Girl
Kid Cudi feat. King Chip – Just What I Am
Favourite properly melancholic hip-hop track:
Lady Leshurr – Depression
Favourite track from an album criticised by Scott Creney:
Deep Time – Clouds
Favourite track from an album praised by Scott Creney:
Holly Herndon – Fade
Favourite Twin Peaks cover version that sounds suspiciously Clannad:
Great Pagans – Into The Night
Best live show:
Favourite band of the year for me by miles. They’ve been going for a few years, but for some reason I’d always missed them. Now I wish I could go back in time in a silver machine and see every single gig they’ve ever played. Four yūrei (Japanese ghosts) with long flowing black hair, all male, but often in dresses; they play migraine-intense space rock, whilst at the same time performing the sort of expressive dance moves that haven’t been seen since the days of Kate Bush’s Babooshka video.
Special mention also goes to another psych-noise band, Hookworms, who also totally killed it live this year.
The three tracks that I’ve probably listened to the most and probably love a million times more than everything else, but don’t count as they’re old:
Ginger Williams – I Can’t Resist Your Tenderness (Tenderly)
Trevor Hartley – It Must Be Love
The first two tracks are both lovers rock. This is a form of reggae I always thought I wasn’t that into, preferring dub and rocksteady and assuming that lovers rock was too smooth and commercial; man, how I was wrong. [Lovers rock is awesome! - Lovers Rock-loving Ed] The lovers rock sound was rooted in London, and was looked down on as “girls’ music”, too romantic and seemingly apolitical for serious male reggae fans. Girls’ music? Well, as everybody at Collapse Board should know by now, “girls’ music” is always the best kind and everything else is B.O.R.I.N.G. So bring it the fuck on.
The Ginger Williams track was the one that first caused me to fall so completely tit over toe with the genre. Something about her voice (especially when she sings “it’s written down in my mind”) – so simple and unadorned, no grace notes, just yearning. The Trevor Hartley song was the final straw; once again, it’s the voice – more pleading than the first track, less innocent, yet still a thing of utter, utter gorgeousness. The beauty of lovers rock is that every song sounds like the last song of the night. The final song of the evening when a choice is made or you go home alone.
Soul Jazz have released a great lovers rock double compilation this year. Highly recommended as a place to start.
Nagat El Saghira – Ana Baashaq El Bahr
I found this entirely by accident while looking for songs about the ocean, (the Arabic title translates as ‘I Love The Sea’). I know nothing about this singer, but she has the most beautiful voice I’ve ever heard. And this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.
Finally, I need to give special mention to this:
Angel Haze – Cleaning Out My Closet
I can’t in truth pick this as a favourite, because like ‘The Boiler’ by Rhoda Dhakar & the Special AKA, it says something that absolutely needs to be said, yet is so harrowing that I can’t listen to it all the way through. This is an unvarnished, unedited account of Angel Haze’s real life experiences of rape and sexual violence. There were two gut-grabbingly brave and utterly game-changing moments in US hip-hop this year, that will hopefully go some way towards challenging the misogyny and homophobia rife in ALL Western culture (not just hip-hop). The first was Frank Ocean coming out as bisexual, the second was this recording.
I feel bad to finish this article on such a downer though, so here’s something more cheery (and old again, but what the hey):