Backward to Track 18
Forward to Track 20
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.
Backward to Track 16
Forward to Track 18
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.
Backward to Track 15
Forward to Track 17
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.
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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.
Backward to Track 13
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What the Hell are we listening to?
That’s a question often placed straight at my door. At work (because I try to sneak on 6Music for a bit). At home (because I try to sneak 6Music on for a bit). At house parties (because invitations to use Spotify always turns my head into a mush of mainstream chart music and cheese at the worst possible times).
Question me again, then, folks, because here’s Palomino Party and I haven’t got an inch of an idea. To what am I listening? To whom? For why?
Great though, eh? Unhinged at the start, in that way which would cause the unsuspecting outsider to reach for the “skip” button. And you’re talking to an expert here, I had a barmaid use the BIG BAD JUKEBOX SKIP RED BUTTON OF DOOM before “One Night In Bangkok” had got past the orchestral sweep of its introductory movement. “Black Russian” turns into a sludgy, murky, pop-sprinkled guitar wigout and I ruddy love it, so skip button be damned, I don’t know much about this band at all although I’m certain we could prop up a few bars.
Backward to Track 12
Forward to Track 14
A conversation picked up at work, I think from something I heard on the radio, about those albums released at the height of 1990s Britpop-infused guitar frenzy. Many of the albums which came from that period now seem awfully dated and “of their time”. Further, of course, many of those bands have either moved lightyears away from those Britpop chart-toppers (that’ll be your Blur) or disappeared through various ways and fashions (that’ll be your Pulp.)
Then there’s those whose albums seem to be watchwords for the 1990s and early 2000s who have carried on quietly, methodically and doing so with loyal fans in happy rapture (that’ll be your Gomez, your James, your The Coral.)
The lights may have faded, the live music shows have all been yanked off air or marginalised, music itself may have transformed into an unrecognisable industry, yet here these bands remain. In the specific case of The Coral, remaining with songs far removed from the quasi-Merseybeat image of their mainstream hits: this new material is broad and brashy and satisfyingly trippy. I’ll suggest very early “The Actor” era-ish Moody Blues as a companion piece.
Backward to Track 9
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Boxed In, back in.
So it goes that my annual selection touches on similar themes. Boxed In featured last year with “Full Circle”. How could I resist this fantastic groove, another to mix and mingle the blatantly retro with the cutting edge?
For “Running Out”, those retro touches are unbridled tributes to synth pioneers over a twenty-to-thirty year period. It rushes past you quickly and unashamed: this is power pop with something of the swish, the urban, the inner city. The outside world can be pushed aside with the strut of this track’s attitude, just put in the noise-cancellers and get out there.
I compare and re-visit the previous lists quite often. Patterns do emerge, of course they do. Humans like their patterns. Maybe there was, just at the back of my mind, a narrative reason behind choosing certain songs to follow each other. An inner DJ thinking process? Occasionally showing that I can review and research these things, now and then? A little from column a, a little from column b.
Backward to Track 8
Forward to Track 10
An unexpected selection.
Remember when a fringe element of the dance scene took it upon themselves to pretend that sounding like a Commodore 64 loading screen was somehow a “thing”? This track has that “thing” running through it. And it sounds fantastic. The retro bleeps-and-sparks are but one layer to this veritable signature dish of elements; and yes, I am “down with that”. It’s in the title. It all works.
BOSS sound boss, la. There’s a great use of the vocal equivalent of ellipsis about a third of the way through, the croak in the voice playful and a touch menacing, before the all-out indie feel makes way for something a touch more psychedelic. And yes, I’m “down with that”.
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Pop. What kind of year has it been for pop? As with 2015, it feels as though pop bangers of yore are, well, exactly that. Of yore. No longer guaranteed. Pop has been ripped apart like a chunk of Play-Doh, endlessly remodelled and reshaped, endlessly rolled into squashed up boulders which sort-of resemble dog-dirt. I accept that we live in a world of post-truth, are we also living in a world of post-irony? What even is post-irony?
Shura is not quite the all-out pop starlet we need. That said, “What’s It Gonna Be?” is pop banger material all the way through, and with the sweetest and most relevant accompanying video of the year. Yes, people still film pop videos. Presumably without irony. Or with. Maybe both? I don’t know where we are with irony, pre- or post-. Somebody help me.
“What’s It Gonna Be?” may not have broken through the mainstream channels as successfully as it should, but I’m not putting Shura to the back of my mind just yet, she’s got much promise yet to realise.
Backward to Track 6
Forward to Track 8
Me! Disorganised?! Heaven forfend!
Okay. Disorganised. C’est moi. I have pencil sketches of this year’s list, possibly ensuring that I can at least prove the “in no particular order” part of this exercise. Best laid plans, however, do not respect the retractable pencil nor the shorthand writer’s notepad. And so, please get acquainted to De Montevert.
Who? No idea. I hear the sound of almost every other song Mary Ann Hobbs plays on 6Music…in a good way…the dreamy and ethereal, the insistence and the reticence playing off each other. It’s indie as heard through very modern filters, the vocal delivery shrug-shouldered, the lyrics playful and unforgiving. What came to me very late in this extensive/improvised process was a song with all the hallmarks of a late 1990s song popping up through means of time travel, and I’m a sucker for both the 1990s and tenuous metaphor.