37 Pink Ranger: Sparkle Motion
Pink Ranger is an outstanding talent in danger of spreading himself a bit thin. ‘Sparkle Motion’ is one of the most accomplished electronic albums I’ve heard in many a moon. It’s not particular subtle, often avoiding deep, ambient, dull, astute meaning in favour of beats that rattle your genitals like castanets and synth lines that send pulsing knives into your very soul! Or, your genitals. Wherever you’d prefer those rapier blades of pure ecstasy to penetrate, no kink shaming here, Pink Ranger is here for everyone, yeah? He (she? It? They? I feel after buying roughly 546 albums I probably should have asked by now) proved their universal appeal and all encompassing acceptance by allowing the phenomenal (you guys, I talked about it before, yeah?’) Twin Peaks to soundtrack Manchester Refugee Support Network’s entry into the 2019 Spirit of Manchester award. Whether we won or not is immaterial, Pink Ranger’s endorsement was enough of an award.
So, Pinko has already proven their near prodigious talent for making effective and banging dance music, and in soundtracking an MRSN award nomination video they have already received what many regard as being the most prestigious honour in music. It’s going to be fascinating to see what places Rango takes us on their follow up album, a record that could prove to be a pivotal release in…
Hmmm? What’s that?
They’ve already released the follow up record??
I mean… OK… I was still kind of listening to ‘Sparkle Motion’, but… No, it’s fine, don’t worry about it, ‘Floating Points’ is really good as well, slightly too many lurches into by the numbers vaporwave, but I think it’s still a very worthwhile follow up to…
No! No! Hey, Pinkie. No. I don’t have the emotional space in my frontal cortex to start a meaningful relationship with another Pink Ranger album! ‘Sparkle Motion’ still has layers that I’ve yet to fully appreciate! There are beat drops that I haven’t lost my mind over yet!! Can we just take our foot off the gas and smell the roses here?? I feel like you’re of allowing your previous album enough space to…
Hmmm? What’s that?
Another album?? Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer!
*cut to end credits*
36 Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs
Hey, I’m about to go all literary on your candy asses! Yeah, that’s right, I read books. I often know all the words too. What are the best kinds of book? That’s right: smutty books! Well, prepare to get your tiny minds blown into tiny pieces as I espouse some Harold Bloom level literary criticism ingeniously theorising how the brilliant debut album by Stella ‘Diddler’ Donnelly actually references a smutty little book by the name of…
Where the fuck am I going with that intro? Honestly, what was that tone meant to signify? Full disclosure, it’s currently 21:14 and I didn’t sleep last night as I watched the whole country submit and agree to have the heels of the right wing’s stilettos jab into our testicles for the next five years as it tramples all over us. I work in charity. My job will not exist very soon, nor will any of my colleagues’. An extremely large amount of the people we work with will soon be dead as every blanket of protection is removed from under them. It just gets you down, y’know? Can I start again?
It’s difficult to describe the plot of ‘The Story of the Eye‘, a 1924 novel by Georges Bataille, without it sounding like I’m concocting some juvenile Scrootie McBoogerballs style puerile prank, or that I’m leading to the revelation that the characters are called The Aristocrats. But no, this is honestly what passed for entertainment in early 20th century France. I’ll do the best I can, but honestly, it’s difficult to explain such admirable batshittery. So there’s the narrator, and he fancies this woman called Simone, who he first fucks on a beach near their home. There’s also this 16 year old mentally ill girl called Marcelle, whom they… involve… in their activity… The two quickly go shag crazy, and boof in Simone’s house right in front of her mother. The shagging gets steadily more insane, until they’re having an orgy with other kids, slicing themselves open with broken glass in the process and forcing Marcelle into a psychological breakdown and have to be institutionalised. They manage to break her out, but she’s proper insane by this point and, without the help of the psychiatrists in the hospital, she hangs herself. The pair fuck next to her corpse, because of course they do.
OK, CliffNotes version: they run to Spain, where they meet a old English gent called Sir Edmund. They witness a Madrid bullfight, and witness the bull being castrated after he loses. This of course leads to Simone getting hold of one of these testicles and pleasuring herself by sticking it up her noo-noo. Blah blah blah, bull fighter is killed by the next bull in the ring, yadda yadda yadda, eyeball hanging out of his socket, dink dank doo, all thematic and stuff, yeah? And yes, it is going where you think it’s going.
Eventually, I mean, it goes to some other fucked up places first. They then go to the Catholic Church of San Seville, Simone aggressively gives the priest a blowjob despite his protestations, and Sir Edmund then desecrates the bread and wine using the priest’s urine and semen. Simone strangles the priest to death next time he orgasms and Sir Edmund cuts out the dead priest’s eye. You know where that’s going, don’t you?? Yep, right up her happy hole, while the narrator has sex with her. Then, they jump on a boat to Africa and that’s the end??
Why does Stella Donnelly’s fantastically accomplished debut remind me of Bataille’s ‘challenging’ novella? Well, firstly, after you’ve read that book it’ll keep returning to your mind pretty much every moment of every day, whatever you’re doing. You could be watching Richard and Judy and suddenly be compelled to witness Judy gouge out Richard’s eye and insert it into her vagina*. Mainly that album cover though. ‘The Story of the Eye’ is basically a tale of escalating sexual depravity that finally culminates in the eye being inserted into Simeone’s stink wrinkle. It ends with The Eye, but where does it start? What does Simone first discover the jot of giving enormous vaginal and anal stimulation with? From what is it that she experiences considerable enjoyment from the viscosity of various liquids after the shells break inside her?
(*admittedly, I’ve had a strange desire to see that long before I ever read the book. Or any book, in fact. I was a strange toddler)
Does this cover represent Simone’s first introduction to the egg that eventually leads to all sort of sexual debauchery? ‘Beware of the Dogs’ is full of tales of women being subjected to men’s perverse sense of sexual entitlement, does the cover represent Stella at risk of being pulled into some French pervert’s sadistic masochistic fantasy??
I mean… I dunno… I did ask her:
That was in February. She never got back to me. Sorry that this ends rather abruptly with no definite answer, but maybe you shouldn’t have voted Tory!!!
(25th best song of 2018)
35 Jenny Hval: The Practice of Love
Nnnnnnnnnng…. Eeeeeeeeeeeesh… Gaaaaaaaaaaaaah… Hmmmmmmm… Ooooooooof… Uuuuuuuuuuuuuugh…
OK, Ms. Hval’s latest isn’t this high completely on its own merits. It… perhaps… doesn’t deserve to be a top 40 record of the year… I know, I’m seriously threatening my position as The Most Trusted Voice in Music, but hear me out.
I’ve tried my damnedest with ‘The Practice of Love’, I’ve set my alarm for 4am every morning so I can get up early and spend as much time force feeding it into my fat fucking ears as possible. I scrawled the lyrics on my own walls in my own blood, semen and fecal matter, hoping the exercise would involve so much effort* that it would force through some sort of affection. I went on an intensive four day training course that I saw advertised on Craigslist promising to ‘Teach the Practices of Love’, but that… yeah, that was something entirely different… I don’t really want to talk about it… I convinced Martin Scorcese to produce a 24 part HBO documentary series on the show, which, if you’re reading Marty, I promise I’ll get round to watching really soon, I’ve just been busy**, but the trailer looks really interesting. At least the thumbnail of the YouTube video does. I even tried falling in love, which I thought would create new understand the practice a little more. This involved answering another Craiglist advert, which… yeah, I don’t want to talk about that either…
(*I had to take two days off work. I suppose I could have done it on the weekend, but I had tickets to see Alexandra Burke in ‘The Bodyguard‘! Yes, if you’re wondering, she absolutely slays it)
(**I had tickets to see Alexandra Burke in ‘The Bodyguard‘! Yes, if you’re wondering, she absolutely slays it)
Yet I still never completely fell for her latest album. I like it, don’t get me wrong- especially the lyrics that wonder if never having a child only makes you at best a ‘supporting character’ in life, that you’re not properly fulfilling your task of carrying on ‘the virus’ of humanity- but I just never fell head over heals for it like I did ‘Blood Bitch‘. However, I recognise that this is my fault, and Jenny Hval is talented enough for me to assume that she’s right and I’m wrong. Jenny, if you’re reading (which, let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you be?), please just tell me where this album should finish, I defer completely to you. I’ll allow you to choose the entire list, in fact. I trust in you so much that you can actually dictate my whole life from this point on. I will only eat, drink, sleep and defecate when you command me to. If I disobey you, please call me a bad little boy and use your high heeled shoes to…
Uh, sorry, I’ve spent far too much time on Craigslist recently…
Joint 6th in 2016
34 JPEGMAFIA: All My Heroes Are Cornballs
He’s hardly one of the biggest stars in the world. Neither 2018’s ‘Veteran‘ nor this quickly released follow-up were given much recognition with Grammy nominations (to the Grammy’s eternal shame). He’s unlikely to have been asked to perform at 2019’s Super Bowl half time show and in all probability won’t seriously be expecting a call for 2020. Drake has never bothered to respond to any of his slurs despite, as he himself admits, him slagging him off for five years. But considering how offbeat, how obtuse, how aggressively uncommercial, how fucking odd JPEGMAFIA is, it’s still surprising that he’s even as big as he is
‘As big as he is’. I mean, he’s quite big. Pitchfork mention him sometimes. And I’ve heard of him…
Despite being recorded, mixed and mastered in such a small time frame that it might justifiably be referred to as a ‘rush release’ (which makes it sound like ‘All My Heroes Are Cornballs’ was hurried to market to ensure the figures added up of JPEGMAFIA’s latest tax returns), ‘AMHAC’ is actually- whisper it- a far superior album to the much appraised ‘Veteran’!! It has better songs, it’s more wonderfully subversive in its use of hip hop and even pop music tropes, it has a far greater amount of bangers and the lack of filler just makes it a more complete album across the board. It’s even… a bit… moving in places… I know, it’s JPEGMAFIA, whenever I react emotionally I’m definitely being trolled in some way, but whatever the intentions it’s still definitely there and so earns whatever response it elicits. Not as many wrestling references though, so I had to mark it down for that, obviously.
44 in 2018
33 Bella Technika: Section
It has been a very good year for Seth Manchester. The Body’s collaboration album with Uniform was actually far more enjoyable than I’d expected, I was extremely grateful of the opportunity to get introduced to Daughters, and now this little masterpiece. If it wasn’t for the Seth Manchester connection I would know literally nothing about Bella Technika, but because my stalking of their producer led me to their debut album, I now… Well, actually, I still know pretty much nothing about them. I think they’re from Serbia, because that’s what I’ve written down, but I’ve got no idea where I got that from. I think this is their debut album, but don’t quote me on that. They’re probably the only artist on this list with less Twitter followers than me (their count of 45 is less than half of my current total of 56’90’502). I now know one thing about them though- this album’s amazing! It might even be the best place Mr. Manchester has lead me to so far. In fact…
7. Tigue: Strange Paradise
Perhaps I didn’t give this album enough attention, but it’s the one record that Seth Manchester has been involved with these past three years that elicits anything close to a response of simply shrugged shoulders.
6. The Body: I Have Fought Against It, But I Can’t Any Longer
Jesus… Listen, ‘IHFAIBICAL’ is an extremely accomplished album, it sets out to do things that have rarely if ever been attempted through the simple process of recorded audio, and as an achievement it’s to be commended. However, it is not an easy record to listen to, and it’s difficult to argue that you benefit from much enjoyment while submitting to it. There’s a reason that The Body gig I attended earlier this year was shorter than this album- you can’t keep this shit up!
5. Uniform & The Body: Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back
This is more like it! I honestly have no idea who Uniform are, but their lethal collision of screamed insanity and sampled noise somehow provides the ideal accompaniment to The Body’s Satanic melodrama and creates something that’s almost listenable. Hey… uniform… body… Was this, like, a play on words or something…
4. Daughters: You Won’t Get What You Want
I wrote about this on, what, Thursday? Just go and read that you lazy bum.
3. And So I Watch You From Afar: The Endless Shimmering
I’m not going to let my personal issues cloud this entry, and the fact that my former band mates cut me so mercilessly from the band will not temper my enthusiasm for one of the greatest musical rock albums I’ve ever heard. I’d just like to remind Rory Friers that he never returned by spirit level that he said he needed to use in March 2018 in order to measure how straight his pet iguana’s back was. Oh, and Johnny? remember when we were in the queue at Lidl and I lent you 59p to buy a Crunchie bar because you “Didn;t want to break into a fiver”? Well, I never got that back. I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but I feel that given our history (and the venomous things you said at our final band meeting) I don’t feel like any of us should be in debt to anyone else, do you?
2. Bella Technika: Section
A brilliant swoop through poppy yet experimental electronica, which at least got me thinking about the best Seth Manchester albums, even if…
1. Hotelier: Goodness
…this is very unlikely to ever be dethroned
Yeah, if anyone has any idea who this band are, please let me know.
32 Ari Lennox: Shea Butter Baby
It may only be the 32nd best album of the year, but there are a lot less than 31 albums released this year/decade that sound better than Ari Lennox’s debut album. ‘Shea Butter Baby’ is an absolutely gorgeous sounding record, with production and mixing so pristine that even if the songs were trash (which they are absolutely not) the album would still sound immaculate.
In fact, considering how I was compelled to follow Seth Manchester after hearing ‘Goodness’, why don’t I…?
31 Danny Brown: uknowhatimsayin¿
Danny Brown’s latest might not scale the monumental heights of 2016 ‘Atrocity Exhibition‘, but that’s almost an unfair comparison. Late in his life, Joseph Heller was asked why he never managed to write another book as good as Catch 22. ‘Who has?, was his simple reply. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, was a heller good response!!
Fuck off, that was brilliant…
‘Atrocity Exhibition’ was a special moment in time, a perfect storm of conditions and intentions that resulted in one of the greatest albums of the Tennies™*. It would likely have been the best album released in 2017, 2018 and possibly 2019, it just had the bad luck to be released in the 21st century’s Greatest Year For Music Apart From Maybe 2001, Shit, I Forgot That Was the 21st Century. Plus, it was named after a Joy Division song, ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’ simply can’t compete, despite its impressively stylised title (named after a 1982 album by Southern Death Cult). That’s a needlessly unhelpful way of looking at it though. This isn’t the Official and Scientifically Proven List of the Albums That Are Sufficient Improvements On Their Predecessor. It’s the best albums of the year, and ‘uknowhatimsayin¿’ absolutely belongs in that category. Yeah, I know, I put Jenny Hval’s album in the top forty pretty much entirely because her last album was really good, but I’ve stated many times that my methods are complex and confusing and I don’t expect you to understand for a second.
8 in 2016
(*my contacts in the hip hop community claim that 2011’s ‘XXX’ is an even bigger achievement, so I have decided to investigate. I’ve already downloaded it and it will appear on Necessary Evil 2020. Buy your tickets now)
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