Necessary Evil 2021 (81 -71)

81 Jon Hopkins: Music for Psychedelic Therapy

(2018 #62, 2013 #11)

I feel I can’t rank this record any higher. It’s designed to accompany a drug trip and I have been stone cold and continuously, shamelessly sober since its release three weeks ago. Well…kinda… all my prescription medications kind of mean I’m blissfully high as a kite 24 hours a day so as not to acknowledge the overwhelming pain of day to day existence. But that’s my norm, so it doesn’t count. Sometime in January, I’m going to take some psychedelics and then blog about my altogether more valid opinion. That’s not a joke. It’s an excuse to take drugs as a professional study, why on Earth would I turn that down?

Yeah, it’s a bad idea, but name one good idea in my wntire life? And look how succesful I am. Exactly. Expect a potentially life destroying blog entry some weekend in January. You realise that I’m killing myself for your entertainment? Good. Just checking we’re on the same page.

80 Manslaughter 777: World Vison Perfect Harmony

Ah fuck. I definitely used to be cool, didn’t I? Like, I’d be that guy everyone loves at parties who would scoff at the host pandering to capitalist defeatism by playing Razorlight by instead hijacking the CD player and demanding everyone grind their teeth to Einstürzende Neubauten. I would then spray Linx Africa on the CD player, set the whole thing on fire and attempting to get high from the fumes. I was extreme! I had no time for your normie order! Whatever you like is exploitative commercial bullshit! My favourite band are the one who shed the most blood onstage! My favourite Nirvana album is Kurt Cobain’s suicide note! My favourite Alien film is ALIEN³ and I always write it that way! Come and join me on the outreaches of art, and play with my genitals as we explore the political potential of commercial grade paint thinner! But, yeah, we are gonna fuck afterwards, yeah? That’s kind of the whole point…

Ah, but fuck, yeah? Bollocks! Seth Manchester– around whom I’ve formed a cult recently, purchasing every album he’s worked on since his literally mind expanding work on The Hotelier’s ‘Goodness‘ back in 2016- has pulled me into some dark and challenging places in the last five years, unforgiving brain assaults that have left me begging for a simple middle 8 and an assuring routine chord progression. Manslaughter 777 are towards the more bowel agigitating end of the Seth Manchester spectrum. Relentless, awe inspiring, potentially brain damaging. They make you feel scared, alone, and very, very old.

79 mynameisblueske: No Ordinary Summer

I’m actually shocked that this is the first Necessary Evil album entry from the self described ‘Boston’s favorite fuckless freak’. He’s American. Allow that spelling mistake. He was responsible for the 43rd greatest song of 2019, a piece of effervescent beauty I still believe to be his career best (as it would also be the career best of most artists, such as, say, U2, Mötley Crüe or Usher). He’s a none more recommended follow on Twitter, where his views on race relations, US politics, autism and more are never less than insightful and revealing, and the causes he highlights are essential. His main barrier to more Necessary Evil inclusion may simply be the motherfucking amount of material he comes out with, and how I have far too often got shit to do. This might not even be the correct version of ‘No Ordinary Summer’ that I’m highlighting, one was released in April of this year and one in October 2020, and I’m not sure what the difference is!

Whatever, I listen to a lot of music and Mr blueskye is an absolutely singular artist that doesn’t really sound like anybody else. Much as I love all of he artists on this list and on many lists in the past, I’m not sure how many of them I could confidently say I’d be able to immediately recognise a piece of work by. mynameisblueskye though, is always mynameisblueske, and could never be anyone else. He has perfected this unusual and lowkey genius amalgamation of arfrofuturism and bedroom pop that simply isn’t like anything else out there in a world of far too many pretenders and awkward pastiches. ‘No Ordinary Summer’ isn’t the best thing he’s ever done, and he will absolutely better it in the future, but it’s a concise and marvellous piece that at least works as an appropriate entry point for the bewildering but rewarding cosmos he has created. He’ll be back. And much higher.

78 Neptune: Mother of Millions

Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurgh!! Seth Manchester, what are you doing to me?? Remember Manslaughter 777? That’s a fucking bedtime story read by Regé-Jean Page while you bathe in yak’s milk compared to this absolute microaggression of a record. Seriously, this record redefines what technically constitutes as ‘music’ so far that any dictionary in close proximity will just spontaneously burst into flames. Then Neptune will record that explosion, edit it to ensure that the rhythms of destruction never become consistent enough to form any recognisable rhythm, and put it as track 7 on the album. The same album that the dictionaries exploded to in the first place, making a time loop paradox. That’s how much sense this album makes.

Seriously, this is a supreme artistic achievement, but I seriously don’t think I’ve made it all the way through on more than one occasion. Plus, there are moments where the record skips or it feigns technical problems. Is this a troll? Am I being trolled by Seth Manchester now? Man, I am so fucking old…

77 algae dust // hennen: algae dust // hennen

Christ, after the audio assault of the Neptune album, I want to fuck this gorgeous split record more than your Mum wants to fuck Regé-Jean Page after she saw him read that bedtime story for small children. Actually, your Mum really wanted to fuck Tom Hardy after he read that children’s story as well, didn’t she? What is it with your Mum and splooshing over reading stories to children? Like, pre-teen children? I honestly do think you need to explore the psychosexual meaning behind that, and you might need to consider therapy. Like, for the whole family. I imagine this all stems from multigenerational trauma. I’m not being general here either. I’m talking about you and your Mum. Seek help.

Where was I? Ah yes, the absolutely lovely record by Algae Dust and Hennen, the latest in a long line of hits from Jordan C Weinstock and Noah Yacyshyn’s extremely dependable It Takes Time Records. The two artists do half the record each because, as I understand, they simply can’t stand to be in the same room and management had to ensure that this record actually got released without another one of their famous interband fist fights (the Algae Dust drummer gouged out the left eye of the Hennen bassist with a microphone last time!). Algae Dust get six tracks, and Hennen get… seven?? The fuck is this?? What, so Hennen are more important than Algae Dust now?? There’s only one way to settle this: fight! Fight! Fight!

76 Holland Andrews: Worldless

Well, there are some words, so that’s a lie straight out of the gate. Not a good start, Andrews, not a good start.

First of, I’ve never had the chance to tell you all how brilliant ‘What Makes Vulnerability Good‘ is. By Andrews’s former pseudonym, Like a Villain, it was released in September 2019, initially considered for NE2019 until I decided I’d need more time with it, so moved it into consideration for NE2020, before I eventually decided it was released too early to qualify. I know. Fucking cruel business. It’s great though, buy it or listen to it on Spotify if you don’t really care about artists and would prefer corporations were rewarded for their work.

Anyway, ‘Wordless’ (including words. Never forget that she is untrustworthy) is a pretty spectacular piece of work. An absolutely stunning piece of orchestration and vocal (lies!) performance that would actually be much higher on this list were I not such a fucking coward.

75 Mica Levi: Ruff Dog

(2015 #51, 2009 #9 (as Micachu and the Shapes))

Man, I don’t know. I’ve loved Mica Levi for a long time, but I just… I don’t know… man…

As their film scores become more and more accomplished and more and more expansive, it seems that their musical output is becoming more and more like an outlet for the sorts of unfocused and uncommercial garage noise that no self-respecting film director would ever allow to besmirch their creation. It, obviously, grows on you – and it takes a hell of a lot of work before the subtle genius of tracks like Wings start to reveal themselves from under the multi-layered drones – but I’m still left wondering what’s being asked of me with this record and what exactly I’ve paid money for.

Oh,but the album’s shortest track is called A plain clothed Jimi Hendrix drives me to Newcastle. For some reason the trip will take 3 days and he is going to do it for £150. He drives really smoothly and only listens to one album which is by someone with Joy in their name. So that’s worth something. And I’ve decided to believe it’s referring to The Joy Formidable, so I energetically in favour of its premise.

74 Mica Levi: Blue Alibi

(2015 #51, 2009 #9 (as Micachu and the Shapes), 2021 #74 (as Mica Levi))

OK, so this is better. Far more stuff going on. Remember when I thought Micachu and the Shapes were lo-fi? Ha! That was practically Mica’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

73 Blanck Mass: In Ferneaux

(2019 #5, 2017 #28, 2015 #4 (as Blanck Mass), 2013 #10, 2009 #1! (with Fuck Buttons)

Guy’s been fully or partially responsible for three top five (plus another top 10) Necessary Evil albums! Can many people say that?? Sure, The Manis have had three (plus one #1) as well, but they don’t really count, do they? Massive conflict of interest there. Whatever, Benjamin John Power has lived up to his surname by being a powerful stalwart of this yearly list, up there with the Caves (one top 5 album), the Monaes (two) and the Lil Yachties (none, at time of writing).

‘In Ferneaux’ is freaking brilliant, less of a canonical album, more of a two part suite which, in his own words, “explores pain in motion, building audio-spatial chambers of experience and memory”. It wouldn’t really work as a Jon Hopkins style drug accompaniment, as the amount of drugs you would need to consume in order to appropriately covet the vast swinging swathes of emotions and tone would simply not be humanly possible

72 Prince: Welcome 2 America

(2020 #7, 2019 #54, 2018 #68, 2015 #59, 2014 #22, 2014 #72)

Stop it. Stop it!

I don’t mean stop the posthumous releases, there are so many undiscovered and near mythical slices of genius shuttered up in the famous Vault that they could release a dozen songs a day until we all die and we’d still only scratch the surface. And I would gobble them all up! Hook them up to the IV drip that 98 year old requires in order to blink and fart competently! I’m a Prince fan, I’m fucking crazy, and I want it all! Is there another Cloreen Bacon Skin hidden in the vaults somewhere?? I’m willing to patiently wait for it all! But, erm, can we concentrate on the stuff He was doing when He was still good? Like, the stuff He was recording around the time of ’20Ten’? We all know that album was fucking gash, right?

What needs to STOP is the thing that started long before His death in 2016. Listen, I understand, we all want His latest album to be a ‘return to form’, but we have to stop lying to each other. I’m a more deluded and forgiving Prince fan than most, but even I have to tell you that, since his mojo was unanimously decreed to be ‘lost’ in the mid 90s, he has released exactly two albums that were seriously ‘returns to form’. 2006’s ‘3121‘ and 2014’s ‘Plectrumelectrum‘. Many people would argue that neither of these albums are much cop. Much of the response to the decent but pedestrian ‘Welcome 2 America’ went along the lines of “wHy DiDn’T hE rElEaSe HiS bEsT sTuFf??”, which is a valid question for much of Prince’s career. But not this one. Yes, ‘Welcome 2 America’ is better than the lacklustre ’20Ten’, but it’s no way near as good as 2009’s ‘Lotusflow3r‘ (which was… kinda… a return… to form…??). Prince released a lot of stuff around the time of ‘W2A’s original recording, and if these songs were released then it would have gone completely unnoticed at the time.

Thanks for this album, even though its story and its background are far more interesting than the record itself, now can we have one of those dozens of albums he never released in the 80s? Give us ‘The Flesh’, give us ‘Dream Factory’ (which I argue would actually be his best album if released), the original ‘Rave unto the Joy Fantastic’, ‘Flash’, ‘The Tora Tora Experience’, ‘Undertaker’…

Especially that last one.

Don’t look for a hidden joke there, I honestly don’t have the time

71 Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee

(2017 #51, 2016 #57)

Wow this ended up low… imagine how many banging albums there must be higher up the list!!!

Listen, I love Japanese Breakfast… OK, I’m going to have to refer to her has ‘Michelle Zauner’ – for it is she – from now on, as I’m going to be touching on some very serious and potentially triggering subjects and I don’t want anyone to mistakenly believe I’m getting worked up about Yamato morning meal. I actually have incredibly passionate views on Japanese breakfasts that are both pig ignorant and needlessly offensive, but it’s not the time for them now. In fact, the judge who handled my case was quite clear that it was never the time for it. Once again, I can only state how sorry I am that some people chose to be offended by my actions at the Warrington Wagamamas.

That last paragraph never happned.

Listen, I love Michelle Zauner. I think she often makes wonderful music. I believe she honestly has one of my favourite singing voices. I just misspelt ‘singing’ as ‘songing’. That made me laugh, so also thanks to Ms Zauner for that. Her songing is also top notch. She strikes me as absolutely an alpha level giga chad, her favourite Manics song is Nostalgic Pushead and she seems to know exactly what’s up and how best to combat it. I would go as far as saying she may be one of the most important voices in modern culture. I never actually got around to reading her book, but I’m going to pretend I did and tell you all how awesome it is.

‘Jubilee’ is really the sound of Zauner clenching those brass rings with sharpened claws and… it just doesn’t quite make it. It sounds somewhat constrained and inhibited, and though its high point (like one of the year’s best singles that we’ll talk about later) are as god as anything released this year, the record too often falls back into a repetitive tone and singular mood that can sometimes drag.

This is difficult, I’m arguing why an obviously brilliant album isn’t higher up. It is brilliant, I just came away feeling ever so slightly disappointed that the record didn’t ingrain itself onto my skin more.

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