OK, this year’s method of multiple album posts is kinda looking dumb now- each one of these entries could have easily filled its own post… Two weeks left to finish this fucker!!
#70 Princes Nokia: Everything is Beautiful
Have you ever considered that maybe Princess Nokia has a point? Maybe everything is beautiful? Maybe you don’t agree. Maybe you’re one of those overaged (and- my goodness- way over sized) wannabe teenage edgelords who have developed multiple subconjunctival hemorrhages due to the dangerous amount of times you’ve rolled your eyes at something. Maybe your detachment from positivity and any sort of approving conscientiousness has rendered you completely numb to appreciating any good thing in life. Maybe when the vicar asked you if you take this person to be your lawful wedded spouse you merely shrugged your shoulders and said “Whatever”. Maybe when the doctor handed you your new born baby, you rolled your eyes at how unbelievably mainstream the whole thing was, with the baby crying and wiggling its arms, like that hasn’t been done before. Nothing is beautiful for you, because you refuse to allow it to be.
But maybe everything is beautiful, no?? We have Princess Nokia, for a start, and I refuse to deny the beauty of a world that allows one of the most undervalued and consistently marvelous artists around to exist. She released two albums this year exploring the dualities of both her personality and the world that she has been forced to live in. The ‘Beautiful’ half of the project isn’t just some inane succession of happy claps- it’s a honest portrayal of vulnerability ,optimism and growth. So that’s one point to ‘beautiful’.
And…this might sound weird… might even get me cancelled… but I’ve started this train down the track so I’ll be damned if I don’t commit to riding straight off the edge of this damn cliff… but… if you think about it… if you ignore all the political decisions and all the abhorrent decisions made by people in power… if you just concentrate on the real people involved… hasn’t the response to COVID-19… if you really think about it… been… kinda… beautiful…???
No, no, no, no! Listen! I’m definitely not saying that the Coronavirus has been A Good Thing™, I’m not denying that it’s been a horrible uplifting of what we all once accepted as society and has forced radical rethinks of ways of living and desperate self evaluation of perhaps the entire population of the globe. But- but, but, but!- the reaction to it among ordinary people has, by the large, been quite beautiful. We have all accepted that we need to wear masks, wash out hands and be generally considerate of those around us. We have accepted the enforced reimagining of ‘normal’ and all done our part. This is a virus that, remember, will not have fatal effects on maybe 95% of us. That means 95% of us are not really doing all of this to protect ourselves, but to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable. Yeah, I know, you saw on your Facebook feed how one Karen in Oklahoma made a scene in Target, or how a group of people are exercising outside their gym in protest to… prove.. they can… exercise… without a gym…? Whatever, you need to look beyond your newsfeed of the most shocking and clickably disgusting examples of the outskirts of humanity and accept that’s not the ‘real’ world. We all watched that CCTV video of the drunk guy in Great Yarmouth sticking a pint glass up his bum after being thrown out of Wetherspoons, but that doesn’t mean everyone in Yarmouth is doing that!! I’ve been to Great Yarmouth, the majority of people don’t do that! The vast majori… Well, maybe not the vast majority, but most people definitely don’t!!
But the vast majority of people are beautiful, making sure that life can be beautiful too.
The companion album, ‘Everything Sucks‘? Yeah, that’s actually much better. and is far higher up the list. Make of that what you will. Wonder how I’ll pitch that entry…?
#69 (dude) Yeasayer: Fragrant World
Ugh, albums that aren’t on BandCamp make me sad. That’s twice in a row now that I’ve had to link to freaking Spotify. Support artists, go to Yeasayer’s BandCamp page and, I dunno, buy ‘Amen and Goodbye’ on vinyl- that album freaking donks!! Spotify sucks, let’s try and fight against it becoming the absolute everything, alright?
Anyway, this is the first album on the this year’s list that sees me trying to
There are many artists that I either got into too late to appreciate their (supposedly) crowning achievement, so I have decided to belatedly investigate. Or, there are some of my favourite artists that I’ve almost followed wholeheartedly and completely, who released an album in the past that I, for whatever reason, missed the boat on.
‘Fragrant World’ is in that latter category. I have long considered myself a dedicated and proud lover of one of possibly the the best and definitely the least adequately valued band of recent times. You can call me a… Yea… sayer… no, that’s the actual band name… I’m a proud and unashamed Yeasayersayer. I fell in love with the band’s 2010 album ‘Odd Blood‘*, and adored their 2016 record ‘Amen and Goodbye‘. Shucks, even their 2019 album ‘Erotic Reruns’, which we all pretty much agreed was tosh, I still kind of loved. Because, yeah, it was kind of shit, like, objectively, but even when Yeasayer are shit they’re still kinda great. They were a band I loved, what can I tell you? However,while I was away having a particularly ‘difficult’ 2013- smashing my spine, learning how to walk and shit again while in hospita for six months, you know how it is- Yeasayer quietly snuck out the follow up to ‘Odd Blood’, and this year I gave ‘Fragrant World’ the time one of my favourite bands deserve.
(*well, mostly I fell in love with O.N.E, which I can’t stress enough is one of the greatest fucking songs ever. It’s the perfect pop song. Keep that in mind, as I’m going to reference it again soon. I am such a good writer…)
Yeah, it’s brilliant, it’s great, it’s experimental and expansive while never forgetting that it’s primary concern is making pop music, and, as always, Yeasayer crafted some of the most exquisite pop music imaginable. And now, this is all freaking past tense! The band that never got their dues will now probably actually never get their dues! Just four days after I announced they had made the 21st best record of 2019, the bastards split!! Yeasayer were oe of the greatest bands of the 21st century, and next year I’ll truly complete the set by ingesting their debut, ‘All Hour Cymbols‘ to truly analyse how human culture missed the boat so badly on this one.
Fuck, man! This is why we can’t have nice things!!
#68 Sufjan Stevens, Lowell Brams: Aporia
Yesyesyesyesyes. Remember Lowell? No? Of course you do. Remember how ‘Carrie & Lowell’, the heartbreaking and poignant story of our boy Sufjan’s relationship with his now deceased mother and her second husband, Lowell? Remember how it was scientifically proven to be the best album of 2015? Like, on multiple occasions? Well, this is Sufjan and that Lowell! And because of Sufjan owning 2015 like a freaking boss, he is 2020’s first:
And, yes, it’s freaking fabulous, because everything that Sufjan touches turns to gold. We might have more chance to discuss that later though, as he touched some other things this year…
#67 Illuminati Hotties: FREE I.H: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For
‘Screw You, Record Company!’ albums are always a tough rope to walk. Your record company are arseholes, you want to tell them to go fuck a dead pig until their genitals contract Swine Flu* and explode with pus and simply become a gaping blackened sore**. But- gosh darnnit!- you’re still contractually obligated for at least one more record. Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, which, come on, if he thought about it for two seconds he might have realised was a dumb idea. When I was convicted of animal cruelty offences after cutting off the noses of 23 gerbils in May 2017 (no bad intentions, I was honestly trying to train to become a Gerbillinae Whisker Beautician, I just could never quite get the aim right), me then changing my name by deed poll to a pencil drawing I did of Captain Pugwash arm wrestling Aquaman didn’t prevent my 120 hours of community service. Frank Ocean released a ‘visual album’ of him building a staircase, which, for fuck’s sake, Frank, come on, do you have to be so intensely ‘Frank Ocean’ about everything?? The most obvious and emotionally satisfying option is just to release an album of unlistenable shite, as Lou Reed famously did with ‘Metal Machine Music‘, but that always seems ethically dubious- you’re not just pissing on your record company’s chips, but potentially (and intentionally) wasting the money of your most dedicated fans. Imagine if, to escape my ruinous and exploitative deal with WordPress, I suddenly did a blog entry that was utter shite and made no sense. Both of the people who read this blog would be livid!
(*awwwwww, remember Swine Flu? That was back when these debilitating viruses only happened in far off countries and we were able to shake our entitled prick heads then go about our entitled prick lives. I miss those days…)
(**that’s what Swine Flu did, right? I wasn’t paying much attention. Far off country + entitled prick, remember)
So, what option did Illuminati Hotties take? Their record label, Tiny Engines, are unashamed and obvious dicks, so fuck them, but what do they do to escape their obligations to such stinkers? A 45 minute recording of Sarah Tudzin violently queefing in the bath tub? A ‘visual album’ of her finally trying to finish that Lego Overlook Hotel she got for Christmas 2017? I guess the queefing could be the soundtrack to that… Well, they kinda took the Prince route. They haven’t changed their name to ‘ιⓁⓁսրոÍ𐩪&ț ƫ👀 Hooters’ (the ‘👀’ is silent), but they’re obviously conscious of the fact that the six (six! What is he, some sort of sla… actually, let’s not) albums that Prince shot out to obligate his Time Warner contract (‘Come’, ‘Love Symbol’, ‘The Gold Experience’, ‘The Black Album’, ‘Chaos and Disorder’ and the ‘Girl 6’ soundtrack) were still more than adequately packed with bangers. So, no, ‘FREE I.H’ isn’t the one I was waiting for, because the one I was waiting for is simply ten or so songs as amazing as Patience. However, I am also conscious of the fact that maybe only seven rock songs as good as Patience have ever been released, so I am aware that my expectations may need to be tempered somewhat. Instead, whatever the story behind and reasons for its creation, we actually get an amazingly raw and furiously energetic garage rock album, with songs as lovely as free dumb present to break up the insanity and let the listener catch their breath.
But, yeah, just Patience ten times for the actual album. Thanks.
Wow! In your… face… Tiny Engines…??
Fuck… I have backed the wrong horse here, haven’t I?
Over the past three or four years, I have been a vocal, impassioned, and deluded supporter of Lil Yachty. I could actually put a date on it. Since roughly around March 2016, when the incomparable Minnesota song was released. I’m sorry, cloth eared haterz/idiots, but Minnesota remains one of the absolute greatest songs released in recent times. One of the greatest rap songs, one of the greatest pop songs, one of the greatest songs. This guy, with his arrestingly exciting shock of coloured dreads, his thrillingly provocative ignorance of accepted hip-hop tropes and idols, his artful obnoxiousness… Soon after, he featured on DRAM’s fabulous (and fabulously objectionable) Broccoli. He featured on both the 23rd and the 6th best song of 2016. Yes, I thought to myself. He is capable of things. This is the guy…
So, for the next few years I kept following him closely, waiting patiently for the record (or even fricking song) that I knew he was capable of that would blow everyone’s tiny minds and literally change music. I honestly thought he was up to that. If you read my reviews, I compared him to the Sex Pistols multiple times. Of course people think he’s an absolute tool! I thought to myself. This guy’s tearing down barriers! He’s upsetting the status quo! He’s on the right side of history! My delusion was strong enough for me to forgive him gash album after gash album, because I knew the big breakthrough was coming! I was even willing- and this is particular shameful- to gloss over his abhorrent homophobia and plentiful references to the F word (no, not ‘fuck’, the new F word) because- hey!- he had two guys kissing on his debut album cover, didn’t he?? He’s still on our side!! And, Oh God, I managed to look past the “Turned your mother into a pedophile” and the “You stinky and dirty like farts” and, Jesus, the endless, endless allusions towards incest. Because… I dunno… was I in a cult or something…?
If you want a reason for me marrying my wife, when I told her the lyrics to that song her honest first reaction was “I thought he said he was going to take her out?” I love her so much.
‘Lil Boat 3’ didn’t prompt these feelings of wasted enthusiasm because it’s a bad album. Quite the opposite. It’s a very good album. It’s his best record by quite a distance. The reason it caused my whole world to fall in was that I realised this is as good as he’s ever going to get. He’s fallen into his groove, he’s found the exact persona and style that he’s comfortable with, and this is it. It’s too long, it’s often ridiculously crude and infantile, I’m sorry to sound all pious but his use of the B word to refer to women and the N word to refer to fucking everything is unreasonably gross, so may of the tracks are just nothing… But he can still craft a nonsensical banger when he absolutely wants to. This will likely be the last time a Lil Yachty record makes this list, but I’ll always give them a listen because there’s a higher than average chance he’llbe bothering the best songs of the year with wonderful inanity like Wock in Sock. ‘Wock in sock’?!?! What does that even mean!! You silly, silly, fucking ridiculous man!
I’ve wasted my life…
Yeah… I know…
Christ, to put this just one place about Lil Yachty seems sacrilegious. In fact, to put any record on the same list as Lil Yachty seems like it would be at least problematic.
This EP though, this fucking EP. twelve minutes and fifty seconds of pure, undiluted craft. Astonishing. Little Simz is absolutely something fucking else.
See? Not all entries need to be sodding essays…
Shit, that’s quite a decent blog entry. Am I sure that I wrote that??
#64 Riz Ahmed: The Long Goodbye
As part of the amazing Swet Shop Boys, Riz Ahmed was 50% responsible for the most riotously entertaining and legitimately hilarious rap groups of recent times, he helped present us with one of 2016’s best albums and one of 2017’s best singles. It’s deep bruv? Am I running to escape or just keep up? Tours sold out but I ain’t got a visa, I was so sweet at the embassy, but I shouldn’t have worn a keffiyeh? Isn’t it? Lovely stuff.
For some reason though, Rizzy Boy has found life a little less hilarious recently. Sure, the witty asides like “My people built the west – we even gave the skinheads swastikas” remain, but this concept album about a ‘breakup’ with the United Kingdom and grappling with post-Brexit sense of belonging as a national of a country you’re not sure even wants you kind of understandably has a slightly less whimsical tone. It’s almost incredibly crafted, but for a 27 minute album to have six skits of Riz’s new famous Hollywood friends offering unfunny and, ultimately, fucking unnecessary filler leads to the album feeling ever so slightly insubstantial.
Still, Ahmed ended the year by releasing Once Kings and offering further evidence of what an extraordinary talent he is.
(With Swet Shop Boys)
Christ, listen to Aaja again. We were so much happier back then…
#63 The Microphones: Microphones in 2020
So Mount Eerie‘s Phil Elverum has resurrected a side project that your neck is far to shaven to ever properly appreciate, and has made an in equal measures alluring and haunting album consisting of one 44 minute song. Yes, that 12 minute Little Simz record had six songs on it, but we’re not here to talk about that today. You seriously want me to sit here and spend 1’500 or so words meditating on the record’s themes of self-mythologising and the process behind art, like one of those yellow bellied establishment music websites?? You want me to pathetically grasp for original meaning behind the lyrics and instead arrive at superfluous nonsense??
No, you want me to analyse the track’s time make up and compare it to a conventionally lengthed, perfect pop song to see if it works as simply an elongated version of what we’re used to. Because you know I’m not a coward. The perfect pop song? O.N.E by Yeasayer, were you not paying attention? We’re obviously using the 5:21 length version of O.N.E, because here at Necessary Evil we don’t play. I hope you’ve all brought your calculators.
7:39 (17.1% into the song) O.N.E- 0:19 (5.9% into the song)
Christ, Phil, I thought it was a bit excessive to wait close to eight minutes before I heard your voice, but let it slide because of the song’s length. But no! Using more than 17% of the song as a freaking intro really is unforgivable! For comparison, that’s like if Mariah Carey waited a full sixteen point nine seconds before saying anything is All I Want for Christmas is You! Which, erm, yeah, doesn’t sound like much, but it is! Yeasayer, like the freaking bosses they are, waste no freaking time, sweet talking you less than 6% into their magnum opus.
First Refrain…? Kinda…?
9:48 (21.9% into the song) O.N.E- 0:50 (15.6%)
OK, listen, this might be a good time to tell you that Microphones in 2020 doesn’t really work as a song at all, lyrical structure wise at least. It’s basically just Big Phil rambling on about his early life and career, the words don’t even rhyme, for goodness sake! However, the line “The true state of all things” acts as a kind of repeated refrain, and what would usually be recognised as a sort of bridge, only it bridges to nothing because this song don’t follow your pathetic rules. On O.N.E, the “Hold me like before/Hold me like you used to” refrain is a more conventional bridge, and the time they wait to introduce it isn’t that much shorter than The Microphones.
11:44 (26.2%) 0:19 (5.9%)
The Philthy Animal is left in the dust once again, waiting until the song’s more than a quarter over before introducing bass to the place, while Yeasayer bring it in with the vocals. A proper corking ‘dumb-dumb-diddy-dumb-dumb’ bassline too, whereas Microphones in 2020‘s bassline is just the usual ruminative melancholy. You know how he be.
11:47 (26.3%) 0:58 (18%)
At least… I guess that’s the chorus…? Phunky Phile sings “When I was [INSERT AGE OR ACCOUNT OF MATURITY]” and the guitars distort behind him? That’s as close as we get to a chorus, right? Well, just over 26% through the song when he ‘sings’ “When I was 20 or 17 or 23/The disinterested sun would still rise every morning/Same as now. Dawn was loud”, that’s pretty much our first chorus. And a banging chorus it is as well, sir. taken word for word from Mel & Kim’s 1986 hit Showing Out (Get Fresh At the Weekend), I believe. Yeasayer’s less ambiguous chorus of “No/You don’t move me anymore” is coming in your ears less than a minute in, but the percentages aren’t massively different.
13:08 (29.4%) 0:26 (8.1%)
OK, Shagger Phil is really starting to lag behind now, waiting close to 30% of the song’s duration before introducing the drums. For comparison, imagine if, instead of that breakneck intro, Dave Grohl’s machine gun drums actually kicked in round the one minute and thirteen seconds mark of Smells Like Teen Spirit. That’d be after the first line of the chorus! No, that wouldn’t work at all. And we only get the drums for a little bit ,as such high intensity would obviously interfere with the general ennui. Yeasayer don’tfuck abou, as they raerely do.
Mention a Movie?
13:22 (29.9%) 1:54 (35.5%)
Suddenly it’s Yeasayer expertly building anticipation. Though, admittedly, not everyone will agree with my reading that the line “The room’s still now when I’m lying/’cause the well of the night has gone dry” is an obvious reference to the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night. It’s cool if you don’t agree. But it means you obviously don’t understand the song as much as me. Microphones allusion (“I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in a dollar theater in Aberdeen”) is probably less arguable.
18:12 (40.7%) 2:28 (46.1%)
Alright, Phun Size Phil, cool you jets. You don’t just burst into your second chorus (“When I was 17 it was 1995/I put the name “Microphones” on the tapes I would make late at night after work at the record store. I was already by then a couple years deep into this weird pursuit playing drums, copying lyrics out to hang them in my room until I started making my own embarrassing early tries at this thing that sings at night above the house”. Sing along at the back) a mere 40% into a song! Keep the crowd wanting more! 46%? Yeah, that’s it, Yeasayer, perfect.
Mention Other Musical Acts?
20:40 (46.2%) 4:36 (86%)
Blimey. The Microphones can’t wait to reference all the bands they had cassettes of (Tori Amos, Cranberries, My Bloody Valentine…”, so much so that the written lyrics go on to mention more acts (including Lou Barlow and Loren Mazzacane Connors) that he doesn’t even mention in the actual song! What gives, Phil?? Yeasayer wait until the song’s outro to give their shout-out, and even then it’s debatable whether the line “But I won’t stop falling like raindrops” is even a direct reference to the early 60s pop band The Raindrops.
21:15 (47.5%) 3:54 (72.9%)
What am I doing with my life?
24:10 (54%) Fourth chorus??
Seriously, what exactly am I trying to prove here?
Finally, Comparing the Musical Breaks
The musical break in Microphones in 2020,unless you count that 7+ minutes at the start of the song when nothing happens, starts 26:34 (59.6% into the song) while the break in O.N.E occurs around the three minute mark (56%). What’s interesting, is that while Phil the Bastard’s break lasts a whopping two minutes and forty four seconds, it only actually makes up 6.1% of the total track length. Yeasayer, on the other hand, give only 54 seconds over to their break, but that actually constitutes a whopping 16.8% of O.N.E‘s total runtime!!
So what does this tell us? Absolutely fucking nothing. But maybe we learned that the real Microphones were the friends we made along the way.
Christ, this post has been a ridiculously indulgent length, I hope there’s barely anything to say about the next album:
#62 Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open
Let’s make one thing clear first: ‘Making a Door Less Open’ is in no conceivable sense a bad album. Remember how much I’ve praised previous records on this list? Well ‘MADLO’is better than all of them! In fact, it’s actually the best record I’ve talked about. So far. The next one will be slightly better. That’s how this works. However, even when taking into account the abnormally large amount of fantastic records in 2020, for a band to release the greatest album of 2018 then fail to reach even the top sixty with their follow up is a more than notable failure.
But ‘failure’ isn’t a word you’d associate with ‘MADLO’. There’s nothing about it that fails– the songs are good, it’s not completely lacking in ambition, and Will Toledo should be applauded for refusing to simply stick to the style and tropes that have propelled him from BandCamp bedrooms into international critical adoration. There are clear ambitions for ‘MADLO’, Toledo aiming to take the focus off himself and share it out more evenly across the whole of the band*. This is Car Seat Headrest’s attempt at a close to mainstream rock album, with songs that go verse/chorus/verse and instead of songs that explore deep and possible fantastical cerebral relationship through acute inner monologues, you get songs about how fake Hollywood is. Three times, if you purchased the extended album. That’s what they wanted to do, and they did it. Not really a ‘failure’ on those terms either.
(*He also introduced his (sigh) ‘alterego’ called ‘Trait’. You can tell Trait is an alterego, because even though there is absolutely no difference between Trait and Will Toledo singing, and their lyrics are pretty much cut from the exact same cloth, Trait wears a gas mask, so it’s deep and stuff. Yeah, so that’s a failure)
But… is that what they’re going for…? If it is, then that would already feel slightly disappointing, as an artist who previously was as expansive and aspiring in his music as his instruments and recording process was crude and constricting, a record that aims to simply ‘introduce the band’ feels like an incredibly stilted ambition. But we’re not even permitted the opportunity to debate and complain about these choices, as perhaps the worse thing about ‘MADLO’ is simply how unsure the listener, and even the creator, is of what exactly the album sets out to achieve. Previous Car Seat albums were laser focused in their objectives. They may have seemed on the surface 70+ minutes of rambling self-actualisation, but they always knew exactly what they were and exactly what they were setting out to achieve. ‘MADLOA’ just isn’t too much of anything. It never actually sounds like a full band proposal geared towards the mainstream; the much trumpeted ‘electronic’ influences are occasionally very effective but often just amount to droning synth noises underneath Toledo’s music and hardly amount to this being Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Kid A’; the lyrics, one of Toledo’s fortes, are now confused and directionless… It’s neither a true, ‘fuck-all-yall’, shred-your-bollocks-off conventional rock album, or anything approving true experimentation. No album on this list is quite so lacking in bravery or commitment.
The most damning verdict on ‘MADLO’ is how it makes it difficult to have a strong opinion in any direction. Car Seat Headrest have actually managed to make an album that it’s difficult to care about.
#61 Jai Nitai Lotus: An Offering
Phew…You know, this one post has taken me to some pretty wild places. From COVID to anally inserting pint glasses to excitement to fucking nonsense to disappointment to uselessness… It’s such a relief to finish on an album that I can simply tell you is fucking fabulous.
The next post won’t take so long, I promise…
13 thoughts on “Necessary Evil 2020 pt.4 (70-61)”