Firstly: what up brothers and sisters? Put you’re hands in the air, yeah? Like you just don’t care, yeah? Can I get a ‘what what’? Respect the flex of Necessary Evil 2020! We might have finished Necessary Evil 2015 by the 13th December, but that was beginning to feel like a much missed byproduct of a far simpler time. We didn’t finish Necessary Evil 2016 until November the 5th. Of 2017. Necessary Evil 2017 didn’t come all over all of your apathetic and disinterested eyeballs until the next year again, but at least had the grace to finish by April the 8th of 2018. Necessary Evil 2018 got so close to finishing in the year it was referring to, eventually wrapping up January the 3rd of 2019. And God fucking damnit Necessary Evil 2019 managed to bow for applause just one day into 2020. This year!! Baring an absolute calamity, Necessary Evil 2020 will somehow be finished before even Christmas, as we enter the final post on December 23rd and- holy shit!- I might get to relax and enjoy my festive period for the first time in five years!!
Secondly: we start this set of wonderful and emotionally tranquilising final visits to 2020’s albums with the wonderful Hjaltalín. Their wonderful and, yes, often emotionally tranquilising self-titled fifth album is their first standalone studio album since the absolute genius of ‘Enter 4‘ (which I kinda named as the eighth best album of the decade) was central to what was- if we’re being honest/unforgivably delusional- the biggest musical controversy of the past ten years. Necessary Evil 2013 was originally, and unforgivably unimaginatively, handed to the Arctic Monkeys for their admittedly very good ‘AM’, before later selfish acts forced me to reconsider my choice and hand it to the utterly beguiling fourth by a fabulous band little known outside their native Iceland.
Thirdly: I don’t like having to go through this again, but I worry that artists such as Hjaltalín will just not learn unless they are sat down and explained the rules in as strict and, if needed, as violent terms as possible. These artists, man, they live in their ivory towers surrounded by dramatic artisans composing poems about cheese and conducting philosophical discussions over whether contents insurance can be considered ‘bohemian’, I feel like they have next to no concept of the real world consequences of their countercultural decisions. Your debut album is self-titled. After your debut, which Hjaltalín had already spunked the name ‘Sleepdrunk Seasons‘ upon, you’re allowed to self-title a later album if it marks a massive change in your sound or reevaluation of the your entire band philosophy. I’m not sure that’s what ‘Hjaltalín’ is. It’s a far warmer record than ‘Enter 4’, and scales peaks of such beauty and lushness that suggests the band are far more mentally at peace with themselves than the rough and challenging process that lead to the creation their last LP. This is quite obviously A Good Thing, and it’s a relief to all concerned that the band don’t need great mental struggles to create effervescant music. But it shouldn’t be self-titled. Do you think I let Prince get away with self-titling his otherwise unexceptional second album?? No. I defecated into an empty box of Cadbury’s Celebrations, scrawled ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID’ across it in pig’s blood, then sent it to the Prince estate. And that’s Prince, what makes you think I’ll let you get away with it??
Fourthly: what’s the story of that guy on the cover? What’s his name? What’s his story? Do they even consider themselves to be a male gender? What are their pronouns? So many questions. Will they be my friend? They look lonely…
Fifthly and finally, whatever the legitimacy of it titling, ‘Hjaltalín’ is an absolutely fantastic album. Look. Third best of the entire year. Can’t get much better than that.
Well, you can get two better I suppose…
2013 (no.1… or maybe no.4, if you prefer.)
#2 Perfume Genius: Set My Heart On Fire Immediately
Holy mother of God/Jesus/Buddha/Keith Raniere/Mohammed, ‘Set My Heart on Fire Immediately’ is simply a freaking perfect album. An astonishing blooming of all of Michael Alden Hadreas’s already astonishing achievements in his career as Perfume Genius up until this point. It might actually be his most accessible album yet, but he manages to dress up in these musical marvels, Trojan Horse style, some of his most challenging and gosh darn weird mainstream music released this year. Released any year. Some of the best music released this year. Some of the best of any year.
Perfume Genius’s previous album- the similarly peerless and freaking luxurious ‘No Shape’- was fervidly, assuredly and motherfucking correctly named the greatest album of 2018. In a year where people were, yeah, maybe justifiably, losing their collective shit over latest releases by Kendrick Lamar and Lorde, Mr Hadreas snuck up on the inside and delivered such an astonishingly accomplished collection of emotionally affecting chamber pop that he blew them both out of the water. Nobody has ever won Necessary Evil more than once, and to be honest Perfume Genius’s fifth album was closer to achieving this feat than any other record in history, but- bah gahd!!- misses out by a distance so fine you couldn’t use it as a bookmark less the friction of the two encasing pages reduce it to dust. It’s maybe a 98/100 album, whereas the next one is 99/100.
There also isn’t really quite enough to differentiate ‘SMHoFI’ from his previous album. As mindblowing and as astonishing as it is, it often hits much of the same points as ‘No Shape’ did, and it structurally a very similar album. While it hardly counts as any ‘soft remake’, I didn’t want to award the album of the year to two different albums that were so similar. Both amazing, both entirely separate albums, but just not quite distinctive enough to get two separate Album of the Year awards.
Also, the next album is bonkers good…
OK, the number one post will arrive in a couple of hours, so get your bets in now…
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