You want an intro? We you ain’t getting an intro! Unless, of course, you consier this little bit of writing where I explain there isn’t an into to actually be the intro, in which case… Jesus, I can’t help you, friend, just move along… We’ve already had entries #126-#81, now let’s chomp down on part two of the list.
‘Chomp down’? The fuck am I talking about? Not a good start, Alex. Not. A good. Start.
#80 Banoffee: Tennis Fan (feat/ Empress Of)
Invited you to the cinema
You said you didn’t wanna go
But I saw it on your story
As you watched Mission Impossible
Ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch. It’s one thing to be palmed off with a lie, but to lose out to Tom Cruise using his mysterious Theten powers to somehow convince the watching public to give ‘Dianetics’ another chance by hanging out of aeroplanes and later cackling to Loraine Kelly about how he does all his own stunts, I really think you have to assume this is a problem with you, Banoffee.
Which Mission Impossible was it though?? You know there’s, like, a hundred of them now, right? Was it the best one (Mision Impossible 1-100) or even the worse one (Mission Impossible 1-100)? Don’t pretend you have any idea.
One of His most famous and most long serving favourites, probably because its musical stylings and its lyrical concerns are peak early 80s Prince, and the story told is one it’s hard to imagine any other artist other than Prince managing to pull off with even a crooked grin, even to this day. ‘Tis a tale as old as time, man meets woman on the way to her wedding- dressed in full gown and all- who can’t help but notice that he’s “Such a hunk/So full of spunk” so decides to give him a quick blowie. This act of fellatio blows the bride-to-be’s mind so much that she decides that, fuck it, I’ll marry this guy instead, to which he shows his gratitude by promising to return the favour- “Morning, noon and night/I’ll give you head”. It’s an incredibly silly song, lyrically (even if musically it’s Oxford Don serious with the stone faced funk it’s teaching), but still a strangely mature and conscious kind of silliness. Such male fronted sex songs that stress the agency of the female party are seemingly quite rare even to this day, and a rock star thanking a woman for a blowjob by promising 24 hours of cunnilingus is unheard of.
When the song was first being debuted live in the summer of 1980, Gayle Chapman- Prince’s second keyboardist- was not so taken with Head, and when Prince suggested she make out with him onstage during the keyboard solo, she left the band*. This lead to the introduction of core Revolution member Lisa Coleman, who ended up singing the female part on the record as well as, ahem, ‘reinforcing the live performance’. Prince said that is was “Lisa’s initiation into the band, if she could sing the lyrics to ‘Head,’ she could handle anything”.
None of that would be OK these days, would it…?
(*according to some sources, chiefly Alex Hahn’s ‘Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince’. Chapman prefers the ‘creative differences’ explanation’, but that’s no way near as interesting)
#78 Big $ilky: Put Your Cape On
Yep, it’s Psalm One again, it’s Big $ilky again, it’s another effervescent banger.
#77 Sufjan Stevens and Lowell Brahms: The Runaround
Boom. Amazing. An astonishingly layered and effective piece of music. It’s so good, that I’ve played it to my dead pet dog’s corpse after I’ve unwittingly strangled her to death in my sleep again and it’s brought her back to life on two occasions running! Looking forward to the hat trick son!
#76 Illuminati Hotties: Free Dumb
As good as (deep breath) ‘FREE I.H: This Is Not the One You’ve Been Waiting For’ was, did the Illuminati Hotties even want it to be good? Or at least, did they actually care about the quality at all as they strove to remove themselves from their publishing deal? Maybe they didn’t give two shiny shites, so maybe a song as gorgeous at Free Dumb just came about by chance as they rushed to finish the album up in time to watch Bargain Hunt at 2:15pm. If that’s the case… imagine how amazing they’ll be when they actually care??
#75 Soccer Mommy: Circle the Drain
This right here!
This is what I’m talking about!
Perhaps Sophia Allison’s most perfectly crafted pop song to date (yes, I see you Cool and Blossom(Wasting My Time), I didn’t say definitely…), which in previous years would likely be in the lower reaches of the top 20 on this list, but the seer amount of competition in 2020- The Greatest Year Ever, don’t forget- means such a stellar piece of indie rock has to be content with a top 75 place.
There probably isn’t a simpler song on this list than the former Aqua Girl’s 95 seconds of perfect skuzz punk pop. It’s gone before it arrives, every line is repeated multiple times, the guitar line seemingly uses three strings at most, and, superficially, there’s really nothing to it. It speaks to Metagirl/Aqua Girl/Elora Driver’s talents that she can still craft such bare bones resources into one of the year’s most infectious songs.
Infectious in a good way, I mean… not in, like… a COVID-19 way… ahem… Is it hot in here…?
#73 Sharon van Etten: Beaten Down
Oooooooooh, we all love ourselves a bit of a banging standalone, don’t we? Beaten Down could have fit very easily on SvE’s ‘Remind Me Tomorrow‘ stylistically and in terms of quality, but didn’t make the cut for whatever reason (‘Remind Me Tomorrow’ is a crisp ten tracks, you don’t really want to fuck with that if you can avoid it) and was released as a- say it with me children- Banging Standalone instead. Gorgeous, brilliant, etc, let’s move on.
Yeah, I know that I said that I might have to wean myself off Lil Yachty, that he obviously isn’t capable of the kind of era-defining statements that I once predicted in him, that he’s maybe just an incredibly silly young man who is likely to keep releasing retreads of the same album, same songs, until his Instagram followers drop below a level that makes his music unsubstainable.
There’s a type of song that Lil Yachty still possesses the ability to do, a kind of hyperpop gonzo hip-hop hybrid that (seemingly by accident) manages to combine profane nonsense and profound song writing ability that calls to mind Shaun Ryder at his peak. Wock in Stock– and you can get a good idea from the title what level of nonsense we’re dealing with- is such a song. I’m sorry, I need these ridiculous songs in my life.
Oh, Yachty, I wish I knew how to quit you…
The nerve pinched in my neck
Is sending needles down my arm
Primary victims left two fingers
Hand half working do no harm
Tiny bleeding stomach shredding
Particles that numb my head
Sometimes what you think will help you
Fucks you up instead
Christ, imagine if I’d put this below Wock in Stock…?
Katie Dey’s album ‘Mydata’ is an absolutely stunning piece of work both musically and lyrically. No, listen, I’m using that verb correctly- it’s stunning because it actually stuns you with its compositions, its musical stings, and its raw and naked emotion. Hurting is probably the emotional centrepiece of the album, and one of the greatest examples of how her music interlocks with her themes. Here, the process of transitioning is presented as a agonising body horror, with Dey unwilling to simply pen a simplistic affirmation anthem, but really confront the difficulties and fears that will present themselves. Even if she still admits “Sometimes pain will fuck you up/And sometimes it can help”.
#70 Kid Cudi: Heart of a Lion (Kid Cudi Theme Music)
Motherfucker wrote his own theme song! Shouldn’t that be a legal requirement of all debut albums? We all love ‘Is This It’ by the Strokes, but wouldn’t it be at least 25% better if in included Tight Jeans and Trustafarian Sexuality (The Strokes Theme Music)? Perhaps Radiohead’s ‘Pablo Honey’ would have been far more highly rated had it included Sigh, What’s the Point? Honestly, We’re Going to Get a Lot Better Than This, Stick With It (Radiohead Theme Music)? And if The Manics’ debut album had included Slash and Burn (Manic Street Preachers The… Hang on, they already did that, didn’t they? Alright, if they changed the title it’d make the album better.
Kid Cudi singing a middle eight containing nothing but the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in different orders- which he does roughly four songs every album- is all I’ll ever need.
#69 (dude) Helltown: Graveyard Shift
Graveyard shift at the Denny’s
Serving breakfast to the cops
They wash the blood off in the parking lot
From some young kid that they just shot
Sunday service in the morning
The preacher man he always preys
[Wait for it, wait for it! Pregnant pause, PREGNANT PAUSE!!]
On the elderly and the weak
Until they’ve given all they saved.
But I’m just cleaning up the vomit
The piss and shit up off the floor
Collapsing on the bleach stained tile
Saying “oh god i wanted more”
This song is just fricking masterful. More than five minutes of little more than an acoustic guitar, Mr. Helltown’s voice, and some of the most incisive and heart breaking slice of life lyrics you’re ever likely to hear. Why aren’t Helltown a bigger deal? Who do I complain to about that? I’ll say it again, I might actually be the only person in the world to buy this album, can we please try and rebalance that cosmic malpractice??
Jesus Christ let me go
Talking myself in circles
I’ll give my blood
I’ll give my life
Here’s my mistakes
I’ll make them right
But I’m such a coward
I can’t even try
To leave this place
So I’ll apologize
#68 James Dean Bradfield: RECUERDA
Mmm, mmm, mmm! Listen, I know I bored on about how I loved JDB’s unbelievably successful second solo album because of the pre-release schooling and the sense that the artist was truly and passionately connected with his subject matter in ways that The Manics often don’t have seem to have been with recent releases. But holy fuck, you people, I might have neglected to mention how much this record freaking rocks in places! RECUERDA is the rocking high point, utilising both incredibly effective quiet/loud dynamics with thrilling moments that you will feel compelled to air guitar to.
#67 Plants and Animals: House on Fire
What a T-U-N-E, expertly used synth lines and an absolutely cracking drum line to rest the song on. Depending on how you read the lyrics, it may well be literally about a house being on fire, which is obviously worth a few extra points of appreciation, plus the line “You’re working so terribly hard/You’ve got some drugs in your blood to keep you sleeping” suggests that, pffff, who cares if it’s on fire or not? I’m having a good time…
#66 Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: ‘Cosmic’.m4a
Hoooo-leeeeeeee shit: this is what I want from Denzel Curry, this is why he’s one of the most exciting rappers working today. He needs to concentrate less on the workable if uninspiring trap that made up his last album,and more on shit like this that puts his ability and his personality front and centre.
“I’m like “Move”, n****s don’t know about shit, I raise roofs“
Whoops, a little bit of wee came out then. Good wee though. Definitely good wee…
Finally, we encounter a track from the undisputable greatest album of 2020, because ‘Modus Vivendi‘ don’t fuck around with the lower reaches of any chart. Seriously, just listen to this track, you can all hear that this is fucking genius, can’t you?? Shake’s vocal inflexions, the layered and complimenting synth lines, the fact that the song seems to lowkey have about twelve different sections… I seriouly worry for the capability of other music journalists when I consider how so few listed this modern masterpiece among the year’s best. And there’s, like, three more songs to come!
“Don’t be so passive-aggressive/You’re gonna pass that aggression”
You know what? A lot of you dweebs are sleeping on this amazing record and all! Sort that out, will you? Flies being the album’s power pop highlight.
#63 Algiers: Hour of the Furnaces
…dance into the fi-ya…”
God, this list is getting really freaking good, isn’t it?
#62 Yeasayer: Folk Hero Schtick
Fuck, man, have Yeasayer really broken up?? I feel like a large part of this annual list is continually and politely reminding everyone quite what an underappreciated and underrated uncut gem of a band the Brookyn natives were, now they’re gone what am I supposed to do with my time? I mean, yeah, I could continue singing Lil Yachty’s praises, but I’ve already promised to wean myself off him as it’s becoming seriously dangerous for my psyche. Plus, y’know, Lil Yachty so rarely offers me things worth praising and I’m about 72% convinced by now that he’s actually just shit. Ah well, Yeasaye gave us two amazing albums and three very good ones, which I might rank one day if I’m not too depressed about the whole situation (their debut album will feature on Necessary Evil 2\021 to ensure 100% coverage). For now, just listen to the insane gonzo funk of Folk Hero Schtick and woner how you managed to miss out on this band.
Hey, maybe I shouldn’t lose hope- Toronto’s Black Dresses split up more recently than Yeasayer, and they ecently released a new album! From their last, erm, ‘final’ album, Creep U is what 16th century musical theorist Sébastien de Brossard would term ‘real good shit’.
Yeah, you think you know Jordana’s type, don’t you? Bit ‘homemade’? Bit ‘Bandcamp’? Bit ‘Measured Pixie Dream Girl’? She probably sings songs about socks using a guitar she made from a tissue box and a handful of hairbands, yeah?
Well, you know what? Fuck you for casting such lazy stereotypical aspirtions upon a person you’ve likely never heard of before but are nonetheless providing a useful straw man argument to hang this review on!! Canvas is one of the most darkly captivating yet disconcertingly sexy songs of the past year, which sees Jordana put on her best PJ Harvey haty and implore that “My body’s a canvas/Will you be my brush?” while the brooding backing music and lines such as “Leave me there crying of joy, pain/Whatever you want” makes you wonder.. if everyone here having a good time…?
Jarv *dramatic pause* Is does his absolute best Leonard Cohen in an absolutely pitch perfect album opener.
You kow what…? I’m just gonna come out and say it… *deep breath*…
I was kinda disappointed by Riz Ahmed’s second solo album. It hurts to admit that, as I have always been the biggest cheerleader of Mr Ahmed’s musical talents, but it just didn’t hit in the way I wanted it to hit. It was clever, but not as clever as the Swet Shop Boys, it was witty, but no way near as funny as the Swet Shop Boys, and though Karma was a decent (if obvious) attempt at a crossover banger, the album’s Bangers per Minute (BPM) ratio paled in comparison to, yes, the Swet Shop Boys. And, Oh God, Jesus Mary fucking Christ, oh lord help me, the skits! There are as many skits as songs, unforgiveable annoyances that just allow Ahmed to show how he’s friends with Mindy Kaling and the guy from ‘People Just Do Nothing’. It gives the whole record a sense of self-indulgence and frivolity that it doesn’t otherwise deserve.
However, his experience making the film ‘Mogul Mowgli’ inspired him to write and release what he referred to as “The most personal track I have ever made”, and Once Kings is absolutely immense. A sweeping and inarguable confirmation of Ahmed’s immense talents.
#57 Labrinth & Zendaya: All for Us
Labrinth are a funny beast. I was snared in by the legitimate modern classic Mount Everest (30th best song of 2019) after hearing it on the highly recommended ‘Dicks ‘n Drugs n’ Drama’ TV show ‘Euphoria’. I excitedly ‘purchased’ their new album and…
No. No, that’s not what they do at all. Seriously, ‘the fuck is this?
However, once they rope in ‘Euphoria’ star Zendaya*, it’s like they remember how to produce compelling and astonishing music again. Guys, I don’t know what it is, but you are rubbish unless you forge some sort of connection to a one off HBO series. Don’t question it, just accept it.
(*I’m such a fan of her work that I’ve spelled her name correctly every time without checking. Unless I’ve spelled it wrong.Please don’t check, my ego’s fragile enough as it is)
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, I just want to slice an opening in this song’s chest and sped the rest of my life in fetal position contained within it’s beautiful warm carcass. What a tune, what emotional register, what gorgeousness!
Son Lux have deemed it appropriate to follow up 2018’s ‘Brighter Wounds‘ with a triple album, released in three parts.Part one was released in 2020, and contains the incomparable Plans We Made, but I’ll be considering all three parts for the Necessary Evil 2021 rundown. Spoiler alert though- there’s nothing else on the album(s) anywhere near as good as this.
Another dose of 2020’s Official Champion. The amount of ideas, of expression, of ambition and experimentation in Rocketship‘s three minute and five seconds should legitimately put most other musical so-called ‘artists’ to shame! The way she adlibs ‘U-wuwu-wuwu’ between each line in the first verse? She doesn’t need to do that. Who would even think of doing that? Does it even improve the song?
Fuck. Yes. By a solid 300%. watch and learn, amateurs.
Fuck, you guys, do I have to keep drilling it into your apathetic heads how freaking special Dua Saleh is?? Get on board now, or you’re gng to feel very stupid very soon! I KEPT TRYING TO WARN YOU!!
#53 Manic Street Preachers: Life Becoming a Landslide (Remastered)
OK, OK, OK, there are obviously a lot of caveats to at least afford a childhood glimpse: Life Becoming a Landslide, like a few more tracks we’re going to come across quite soon, is an absolute stone cold classic. Like, in the running or greatest rock song ever, up there, like. However, this list is more about celebrating the new, and the fact that I know these songs better than I do pretty much every member of my family apart from Uncle Philip (it’s complicated) means that they’re obviously going to lose out to fresh, new, exciting sounds. Even if no lyric in 2020 quite matched “My idea of love comes from/A childhood glimpse of pornography”, the risk of overexposure means it has to settle for the relatively lowly position of fifty third.
I mean, they’re actually Spanish, so this cover is just automatically more legit, no?
#51 Luke Haines & Peter Buck: Andy Warhol was Not Kind
Jesus, this stuff’s good. Urgent, brilliantly weird, scuzzy rock genius. The entire album is absolute genius.
Oh, I’m sorry, did I give you the impression that Ms Dey’s inarguable genius lay only in her near Richey Edwards ability to spin lyrical beauty out of often distrurbing and lacerating lyrics? Well more fool you, because Loving is a near instrumental* that stills hits with the force of a thousand mastectomies
(*’near instrumental’. Here are the complete lyrics)
#49 Backxwash: Stigmata.
Ooooooooooooh, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. This song is everything I’ve ever wanted to be. Perhaps the greatest encapsulation of Backxwash’s many, many talents up to this point, she manages to channl all of her abrasive, angry and musically dissonant rap metal into something approaching a crossover hit, but in the process she manages to avoid shedding any of the many, many things that make her special.
It’s not on Spotify because there are samples she couldn’t clear, if you look for it on YouTube you’re only going to find the full EP, but, fuck’s sake, come on people, she’s literally giving it away for free on BandCamp, all you schmucks are really out of excuses.
#48 Hjaltalin: Needles and Pins
Hjaltalin have grown into possibly one of the most nailed on possibilities of beauty in the world, and Needles and Pins lines up more evidence. Gorgeous.
#47 Fiona Apple: Heavy Balloon
People like us get so heavy and so lost sometimes
So lost and so heavy that the bottom is the only place that we can find
We get dragged down, down to the same spot enough times in a row
The bottom begins to feel like the only safe place that you know
Number forty seven! That’s how many amazing songs there were in 2020! Heavy Balloon pulls all the right shapes, pouts just perfectly, and fills out all the correct forms needed to be considered a legitimate modern classic. Not even top 40. Ha!
#46 Manic Street Preachers: Nostalgic Pushead
I don’t think I’ve emotionally and psychologically struggled with anything in my life as much as I’ve mentaly wrestled with how much I can allow myself to love this song. It’s called freaking ‘Nostalgic Pushead’ for a start, so already if you admit to liking it you’re going to sound like you’re pulling a cruel and probably malicious edge-lord prank. The words ‘nostalgic pushead’ actually turned up in the Twitter handles of no less than three separate people who stormed the US capital this past January (@nostalgic_pushead69, @TrumpsPusheadLeavesMeNostalgic, @Ed_Balls_Ed_Balls_E_Balls_Nostalgic_Pus-Ed_Balls), it’s seriously not a good look. Then the bit after the chorus when JDB puts on his Max Headroom voice changer and announces “The cool groovy sound of the decade…” like he was Billy Idol recording inter song speech for ‘Cyberpunk‘? Unforgivable! This song needed to be pretty freaking good after so miserably setting itself up the fail.
But holy moly, it is that damn good. The rest of the song surrounding such nonsense might be one of the greatest rock songs the band ever recorded. The slow build of the intro breaking through into the furiously delivered “I am the raping* sunglass glaze/Of sweating men and escort agencies” is one of the most effectively breathtaking rock intros you’re ever willing to hear, and the song clatters along like a broken freight train on fire that nobody can stop as it careers towards the edge of a cliff (but, secretly, nobody wants to stop it). Apart from those bits after the chorus, which are the chief reason this isn’tone of the Manics’ best ever songs. Dudes, can you not just, like, record it again, or something? And maybe change the name to Slavery to the Beat or Tranquilised Icons for the Sweet Paralysed or something? Cheers.
(*I had to italicise that word, the way JDB delivers it has to be heard to be believed. Absolutely fucking thrilling)
At number 74, we encountered the fabulous No Medicine by Metagirl, barely ninety seconds long and probably the superficially simplest song you’re likely to come across on this or any other year’s list. Fraxiom’s PUT THE FIRE OUT also struggles to break 90 seconds, but conversely in this case you’ll be struggling to how they managed to fit so many ideas and have quite so much going on and squeeze it onto a song that, seriously, you gotta play it two or three times to ensure you wash your hands properly. It’s ostensibly the most hyper of hyperpop, but far more impressive for the shining heart that Fraxiom manages to locate at the core of the often frosty and apathetic avant pop monilith.
I’m definitely the kind or arsehole to sit you down and bore on at length about how-actually– Dua Lipa is really overrated, aren’t I? I’m the kind of joyless abyss of positivity that would hate a dumb old popular artist releasing a universally highly regarded album that was listed amongst the year’s best from Smash Hits Magazine to the Financial Times. Actually, I’d tell you, there were at least a dozen better albums released by my numerous Scandinavian obsessions just in this last week! Have I told you how much I like Tove Styrke recently??
But, pfff, come on, this shit is fucking spotless. If it were a footballer we’d all be talking about how it’s “unplayable in this form”. You want me to listen to the way Lipa dos a sharp intake of breath after the “Got me losing all my cool” line and then muster the energy the pretend it doesn’t melt me with delight, just for some cheap and non existent credibility points? Come on, man, I’m getting too old for this shit…
How they got inside, oh really I don’t know
Can’t keep letting randoms up inside your home
Drink too much, you know you drink too much you know
Spirits in your blood it’s seeping through your soul
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you ope a fucking song. I’m a rather big fan of 070 Shake, did I mention?
You know what? I’m gonna say it… Just gonna come right out with it… Just say it, y’know…
‘XXX’ is an ever so slightly overrated album. Or at least, the things that make Danny Brown special in my mind are not as much represented. Much as I enjoyed it’s gonzo edgelord stylings, there just isn’t the depth or the incisiveness to grab onto that there is in ‘Atrocity Exhibition‘ (the best album of any year it comes out in except- ooooooh– 2016, bad luck, that’s a tough bracket) and, to be even more brutally honest, I’m not sure I would have given the record much time were I not first exposed to the kind of legitimate genius Danny Brown is capable on his later album. Yeah, I said it.
DNA, though? That’s my jam…
#41 Manic Street Preachers: From Despair to Where (Remastered)
Aw, man, this is it, this is freaking everything. This is what rock music has the capacity to sound like even if it generally disregards any real evolution and happies itself playing with the proven tropes, this is how freaking exhilerating it can all sound. The right guitar line, the right meldy, the fucking drum intro… Yeah, it might be ever so slightly meat and potatoes, but it’s Manics meat and potatoes (what would that be? Dead trees and traffic island? Culture, alienation, boredom and despair?) so still contains impossibly quotable lyrics such as “Down pale corridors of routine/Where life falls unatoned/The weak kick like straw/Till the world means less and less/Words are never enough/Just cheap tarnished glitter”.
I’m trying not to say too much about the Manics songs, because…
But that’s not really worth saying, as this is the last we’ll be seeing of them on this list.
Ah, no. There’s fucking loads more to come.
I am getting a lot of use out of that picture.
And that’s us taken up to the top 40! The final and greatest piece of this masterwork should be out next week, and if you can’t wait until then you can always have a nosey sniff of the Spotify and YouTube playlists. See you soon, science fans.
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