Four albums in, and two of the artists have debilitating issues with capitalisation (stef shares similar disregard for proper nouns to american poetry club). The only two artists from America, make of that as you will. Is this the Donald Trump effect? In fact, if any human being on Earth loves capital letters, it’s The Trump, so maybe these artist’s refusal to capitalise is a subtle form of process. Fair enough, as you were…
I don’t think I had as much of a personal relationship with any artist on this year’s list as I had with stef chura. Back in early 2018 I was relatively new to Bandcamp, which is one of the Greatest Things Ever that I really don’t have time to talk about here (I’ll save that for an album where I can’t think of what to write about- there’s plenty of those coming up). I was initially overwhelmed by this new tool that was seemingly offering me endless opportunities to hear new music from artists not even yet big enough to have had held discussions over the exact makeup of the band’s logo*, artists so obscure that even if the singer committed suicide it would only make even the local news on a really slow news day, that I didn’t really know where to start. I followed a few people, hoping to get suggestions from their own opinions rather than go through the laborious task of forming my own.
(*Every band should have a logo. Listen, this isn’t a debate, I’m just telling you a fact. If you haven’t yet got one you’re obviously not taking your art seriously enough. I’ll accept that some artists might not have had the time yet, but if you’re on your third album and still logoless then you’re showing offensive disregard for your own brand. Did Steve Jobs die for nothing?**)
(**Yes. I mean, the vast, vast majority of us die ‘for nothing’. You’re going to die for nothing. Unless you commit suicide. Which is… It’s… Well, it’s not for me to say, I don’t know what’s going on with you, but just make sure you’ve thought it through. Otherwise, dying for nothing is really the best way to go when you think about it)
Someone I was following (probably an attractive woman, because- as I’ll soon get into- I am an utterly pathetic, lonely man) purchased ‘Messes’ (proper capitalisation) by stef chura (eugh…) and I was impressed enough by the killer opening track Slow Motion that I decided to make the purchase.
Now, I’m in my really, really, really late 20s. So late, in fact, that it’s debatable whether it’s actually in the twenties, and some #FakeNews science nerds will try and convince you that ‘twenty fourteen’ isn’t even a number if it suits the agenda they’re pushing. Anyway, the point is that I’m very much a latecomer to paying for digital music, mainly because (ahem) if you look (cough) hard enough on the internet you can (ug) get digital music copies for (eeesh) a lot cheaper. So, like the idiotic old man I am, I paid for the CD copy.
To be shipped over from America.
The postage was £20.
I immediately decided to take a long, hard look at my music buying habits.
I also then noticed that ‘Messes’ was actually released in 2017, and wouldn’t even be strictly eligible for this year’s Necessary Evil. I mean, I’d heard stories about people not only buying music that came out that same calendar year (which I’ve done as long as I can remember) but to be confronted with it like that… chilling…
So, stef* played a large part in my initiation into the wonderful world of Bandcamp, she did her bit in convincing me that physical media might not be the best way forward, and taught me to always double check the release dates of albums I buy. However, this wasn’t the end of the story, and things were still about to take a turn into the more philanthropic and, if we’re being honest, a little more sordid**.
(*fuck it, she’s getting capitalised from now on, because no matter what she herself believes I am going to force it on her as I truly believe it’s best for her. Call it neoliberal capitalisation)
(**I mean… kinda… maybe… I suppose, considering it wasn’t sordid at all to begin with, you could perhaps argue that it got more sordid… No…? No. Got you to keep reading though)
Manchester Refugee Support Network was nominated for a Spirit of Manchester award in the category of health and wellbeing for the second year running. The awards likes to encourage nominated charities to make their own video for the ceremony, and seeing as I am the hippest daddio at the office that task fell to me. They made it clear that the video shouldn’t be more than 90 seconds long and that because of the complications of getting permission to use trademarked music we should probably use a copyright free soundtrack. However, very possibly because it was the last song I heard that day, I straight away set my mind on using Stef Chura’s (aaaaah, doesn’t that look so much better) Slow Motion. Her Band Camp page listed her personal email. I could actually get in touch to ask her!
I sent the above video to Stef and asked for her permission, and (eventually) she replied! She passed on the details of her record company to iron out the legalities, but here I was actually talking to a future Necessary Evil artist! This could smash down the fourth wall of my blog with such ferocity that all that would be left would be tiny fragments of shattered meta! Imagine if we started a relationship?? The only relationship I’d ever had with artists on this yearly countdown had been with Cannibal Ox but if I was being totally honest that was really more of a sex thing and I never felt like either of them completely respected me as a person. We exchanged a couple more emails, with me ratcheting up the charm and humour (as you can no doubt tell from this blog, I am an almost impossibly funny fucker) in the implicit hope that she would eventually reply saying that she was dropping everything and catching the next plane from Somewhere in America to fly to Manchester, where we would both live a bohemian life together concentrating on our art. She would obviously feel that her art of making excellent, Pitchfork approved music would pale ever so slightly next to my yearly blog writing that was once read by Christine and the Queens, but she would love me so much that it would never become a problem. Would I still include Stef Chura’s music in Necessary Evil once she became my Life Partner? Would she find it patronising if I left her off? Feeling that, rather than avoiding potential bias, I was actually trying to spare her feelings by not comparing her unfavourably to other, more accomplished acts? Would this frustration actually ignite a burning creativity in her that sees her actually record the best album of the year? If she did that, and I named it Number One, would people question it’s legitimacy because she was my Life Partner?? Would it be about me?? Would it be 2023’s answer to Lemonade, but instead of the biggest pop star in the world chronicling her husband’s (completely fabricated) infidelity, it was a lo-fi indie rocker raging at her Life Partner refusing to blog about her???
Alas, this didn’t happen. She replied to one of my (fucking hilarious) emails with three letters and a punctuation mark- ‘lol!’- which I read as the very polite 2018 way of saying ‘I don’t find you at all reprehensible but I’d prefer to stop talking now’.
Or was she actually laughing out loud, and wanted me to continue my unparalleled humour…?
We won the Spirit of Manchester Award by the way. Stef can see it if she wants…
I was going to make a way dirtier joke there, but I’m always wary of straying from the ‘funny ha-ha’ to the ‘funny dangerous stalker’ category. By the way, most of what I just wrote was a joke, like, 84%. Not entirely though. Never forget, I am a single, lonely man, and therefore I am in the most pathetic (and potentially dangerous) of all subsets.
The album! Erm, yeah, it’s really good. Never quite lives up to the promise set by the barnstorming (and Spirit of Manchester Award winning) opening track, and is shackled to a fuggy production that does it no favours, but Stef’s voice is an absolute selling point and I expect far greater things from her in the future, whether she’s my Life Partner or not.
stef chura: Human Being vs Prince: Human Body
Human Being is a lovely little song, perhaps one of the best on the album, but hardly jumps out as a classic. Ms. Chura, however, has really lucked out on this occasion. I plan to conduct more research into the matter over the next thirty years or so (as I’ll soon outline), but Human Body just might be the worst song ever put out on an official Prince studio release- it’s obnoxious, it’s cheesy, it’s cheap and I believe it’s Prince’s first foray into techno/EDM and betrays a horrendous lack of knowledge about the form. We’re only two fights in and the King (poor choice of words) has already fallen!
Always seems slightly too long
That ‘neoliberal capitalisation’ line was probably the funniest thing I’ve ever written, and makes this whole blog- and by extension the artistic careers of every artist featured on it- all worthwhile.