Tracks of 2016: #24 Polypores and Tulketh


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Go Round Again to Track 1

I had a tough choice for the last of the selections this year, even when the rules of selection are my own to make, break and ignore, and when the order of choice is utterly my own creation.

Did I give one last recognition for all out 21st century pop, millennial note wrangling, or something guitar related in a minority language of the British Isles?

Well amongst the choices, selections and forgotten “likes”, I landed on not just one slice of dark layered techno…but two….

…and they’re created by the same person.

Under the name ‘Tulketh’ comes “Bowling Alley Car Park”, a title which means something to me only because I live directly next to a bowling alley car park. This is the bleak, darker song of the two, one linear path tied around the subtly shifting route of others. Neither shifts much, mind, slowly enveloping into the hypnotic monotony of hanging around urban decay. If you’ve ever seen (as I often do directly from my bedroom window) the blacked out windows of a souped up Fiesta slowly sink into the night from an indiscreet waiting spot on a car park, ‘Tulketh’ has created a disturbing shadow to their shadowy lives.

From ‘Polypores’ is a very different proposition: “Handshake in the Dark” is less urban, more industrial; not so much disturbing as it is mechanical. The greatest whack around the chops with this track is the sound of a descending UFO or incessant deadline or swirling decline into madness of an AI robot. For something so electronic, there’s elements of the very cogs and wheels of machinery in this, some peculiar play between the inevitable and the possible.

Tracks of 2016: #23 Yr Eira


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I first heard this song during a typical lazy session of listening to C2, the much underrated indie/rock showcase of Welsh bands and musicians broadcast on BBC Radio Cymru. Often utterly impenetrable to me, it takes a few clicks from their website to the step-sister show “Ochr 1” on S4C to get my fix of unknown bands singing generally unheard songs.

Oh well, it’s a hobby.

“Walk on Water” is not going to win many awards for originality, let’s get that out of the way. I had this song tag-teamed with Y Ffug’s “Love is Stupid” in a playlist for a tidy while, and that didn’t help the originality stakes, let me tell you. What I love is that instant kick of indie-pop,  underneath which bubbles away a band who know what it means to give it full whack when required. Long term readers will know that “raw” is not allowed in music journalism: “tight” is another one and I’m afraid that for the want of any better terms, this is about as raw and tight as…..something inappropriate.

Tracks of 2016: #22 Beth Orton


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“1973” by Beth Orton is not the song I thought it turned out to be, that’s for certain.

It should be no surprise that Orton is amongst that, perhaps, obvious selection of female singers to whom I always return: that’ll be your Vega, your Bush, you know the score. That “score” is not I was expecting here. But the truth, of course, is that Beth Orton has always been more of the exception than the rule.

This new wave poppy song is more in the form of Beth’s earlier career than the one song from the one album we all know about, thank you very much. The difference with “1973” is how it seemed to appear from nowhere as a fully founded song from completely out of expectations. I remember thinking the same about Neneh Cherry’s “comeback” from the other year (but how unsuccessful that was, as I can’t remember the name of the album or the year it was actually released).

The playful spirit and retro touch attracts to me muchly. In this specific case as much in life, generally.

Tracks of 2016: #21 Viola Beach


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Boys that sing, forever.

We know the event, if not the full story. Tragically the events surrounding the deaths of Viola Beach and their driver may never be known, with current known evidence suggesting absolutely nothing untoward happened before or during the fatal crash.

What Viola Beach leave behind is a tantalising suggestion of what might have been. An indie band with the promise of a thousand possibilities with hints of the Kooks, Arctic Monkeys, Ash: what might have been, what could have happened.

This is a well realised and simple song. That’s all I ask.

Tracks of 2016: #20 Tokyo Police Club


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Indie, then.

“Time doesn’t mean much to me, if you’re not my girl,” is a cracker of a lyric, no? It’s one of those charming and long-lost indie lyrics. This song is a charmer, and for all the softly softly chart entry sound at the surface, as a whole there’s a heap load of good solid rock under all that.

I’m a creature of habit and a man of simple pleasures. The greatest loss to mainstream music over the past few years, and that’s a long list from live music television on ‘free to air’ to the demise of actual music journalism, is surely the slow and certain death of liking songs for the sake of liking them. There’s been various shades of music ‘snob’ from the earliest days of commercial music, yes, but whatever has happened to opinion holding over recent years has left this 90s kid awfully baffled.

Tokyo Police Club might very well counter my opinion by showing up as the most on-trend, in fashion, music snobs of the modern age. I’ll keep to holding on to this song as a darn fine belter of its style just in case.

Tracks of 2016: #19 Dua Lipa


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Pop. then.

This year has perhaps not produced much in the way to fill a compilation CD, and no, NOW compilations don’t count, they’ve long since collected together variations on the same drumbeat. I think maybe the people responsible for the NOW listings wouldn’t reduce themselves to the level of Commercial Radio playlist compilers. That would be a demotion and then some.

What good pop has, er, popped up has not exactly needed to pogo-stick whilst on fire to stand out. “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” merely walked into a single gay club, whistled, and carried off the money in a cloud of CKIn2U and Liquid Gold. I heard this song in a gay club surrounded by dozens of people united in two actions: singing along to the chorus and checking Shazam. Instant hit, just add water(ed down beer).

I am led to understand that there are now so many remixes of this single that the people who used to package 1990s dance singles on cassette with approximately 25 different versions per tape are considering it a touch outré. In a year of the over-saturated and over-played, this corker wins many more battles than it entered.

Tracks of 2016: #18 YJY


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Altar Flowers, remember them from a number of tracks ago?

If you liked them…give “Summer Lifeguard” a go. Blimey Charlie this is good. It’s a touch of Wilco and Weezer, and a hell of a serving of the type of charming indie I thought had withered on the vine. It was an instant hit to my ears, and they’re sometimes very difficult to please.

Youthful attitudes, flippant  “Unless I’m drowning, don’t give a shit about me,” what a lyric. What else to do but smile? I don’t care that it hardly goes anywhere. Some of the best songs take a long time doing nothing. And when it’s this much fun, let’s get in the water.

Tracks of 2016: #17 ACCÜ


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If there’s one album I would listen to so many times on repeat, and on my ownsome glued to headphones and MSN Messenger, it was Broadcast’s “Tender Buttons”. For fans of that album, and so many artists who swim in that particular pool, may I please introduce ACCÜ.

As a fan of Gwenno, this Welsh-language electronica track is right up my valleys, I can tell you. Mystical and ethereal, “Adain Adain” floats around with the right amount of darkness in the background, just as good electronica always should. If there’s no faint sense of pessimism, you’re not doing it right.

What does it all mean? Haven’t a clue. What I know is the way this song fixes itself in the right part of the music:imagination slot of my brain, the place where imaginary videos and invented lyrics all mingle together for their own enjoyment. The food being supplied by this track should keep them going for a tidy while. Da iawn.

Tracks of 2016: #16 Altar Flowers


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Funny what the Internet can do.

There’s meeting people at gigs because they’ve not got a plus+1 and you have (waves to the person to whom this refers.) There’s meeting people for brief moments of pleasure (shrugs shoulders, I’ve only heard about this on the bus.)

And there’s finding a band who you don’t just really like, but who you end up chatting to about, er, Eurovision, if I recall. Hello Altar Flowers.

I can hardly deny liking Altar Flowers very much. As you may have noticed throughout this rundown, I’m a sucker for good old honest songs with heart and substance; maybe it’s the long lost 1980s goth inside me who never had the chance to develop who loves Altar Flowers’ retro touches. Melodies as strong as eye-liner is fundamental, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Tracks of 2016: #15 Eädyth


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Unknown unknowns bring so unexpected pleasures.

Lazy noodling around Soundcloud and the like takes me into all sorts of places. All Internet surfing is the same, of course. Oh look at me, using “Internet” with a capital letter and “surfing” like I’m a children’s television presenter from about 1994. Coming up next on The O Zone…

Anyway, lazy link following on Soundcloud landed me eventually with this track, and how I soon stopped hopping around and remained with my finger poised over the repeat listen function.  Eädyth has an amazing voice, soulful with youthful vigour floating above the essence of chill-out cool. Countless forwarding and skipping tracks, in a very modern way, took me to a song I couldn’t wait to hear again, and isn’t that the essence of an end-of-year roundup?

I am not one of those dyed in the wool romantics who believes in the wholesale destruction of all commercial radio (although I have been tested, CAPITAL). However, just sometimes, a voice like Eädyth’s comes to my attention and I wonder what would change if she was heard just once over Ellie “sheep being tickled” Goulding being heard for the 564th time that day.