This is probably the only reason i still do this stupid fucking list that nobody reads and the one post that I actually enjoy writing (because it’s basically just me making lots of pretty pictures), statistical motherfucking analysis!! The numbers, the records and the science, yo! behind Necessary Evil 2019. Let’s start with with what (spit) other music journalists thought.
OK, we all actually agree on the nest album of the year, so the critics are actually correct for once. Chill out on Jamila Woods and Michael Kiwanuka though, yeah?
OK OK OK! There were 112 amazing songs released in 2019 (or, erm, released earlier but I just listened to them a lot this year), and here is the definitive, objective and scientifically proven ranking. You can disagree all you want, just remember your disagreement is merely an opinion and this list is fact.
Or maybe not. I made a big change of tablet and therefore music player this year, and I might not have remembered all of the songs I deemed to be Legit Bosses earlier in the year. But whatever, here are 112 amazing songs, here’s the YouTube list and here’s the Spotify playlist, now please leave me alone, yeah?
Starting at number 112 wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiith…
At the Little Simz entry at number 4, I worried that the ceaseless and heartless explosion of ‘news’ and ‘takes’ and ‘bullshit’ that is modern life only succeeded in confirming rather than challenging our prejudices and turning us against even family members as we’re convinced that political allegiances are the one thing that dictates whether human life is worth even considering.
Then there was Elbow at number 3, throwing their hands up in the air and wailing as they wondered what’s even the point of Elbow anymore?! There’s no sense of togetherness for them to soundtrack! The world hates itself now, and to espouse the sort of optimism and confidence that they used to would risk making them sound ridiculously out of touch! 2019 is grim, it’s paranoid, it hates it’s fellow human because, chances are, the fellow human hates them just as much so it’s best to return a shot! Then there was Sudan Archives making the second best album of the year by essentially mainstreaming her sound and making as many bangers as possible. So yeah, hear that Nick Cave? Make sure your album has as many bangers as possible, yeah?
Surely Nick Cave would be most affected by this new era of mistrust and negative assumptions. Not only has he previously made a career over detailing bad motherfuckers who would “Crawl over fifty good pussies just to get to one fat boy’s asshole“, but he would surely be more angry than most at life’s unfair and brutal nature after his 15 year old son died in 2015. He had already released ‘Skeleton Tree‘ in 2016, a broken and grim album interjected with occasional explosive pulses of agony, over which Cave sounded emotionally bereft and often numb. It was mostly a dark, hopeless reaction to a tragedy that today’s climate demands. Wallow in your misery! You’re all alone! Nobody gives a shit and anyone who does is probably racist, or something!! Mmmmm, yes, Nick Cave, feed me on your despondent tears!!
‘Athena’ is one of my favourite sounds. It’s the sound of an artist who has long been considered worthwhile and interesting deciding that, actually, they don’t just want to be considered ‘worthwhile and interesting’. It’s the sound of someone whose music may once have occupied the ‘You Might Not Have Heard…’ sections of reviews now putting forward that they should be covered in the highlight pieces. It’s the sound of an artist that may have once been cool to namedrop because few other people had heard of then wanting other people to have freaking heard of them!
I was a fan of the weird and discordant afro-futurism of Sudan Archives’ previous EP ‘Sink‘, but even in my praise I seemed to want to ghettoise her music by claiming that the best case scenario for it would be to be overplayed at artisan coffee shops and inspire several NPR beard strokes. It was very, very good, but there was a ceiling on exactly how good such beguiling and esoteric music could be. And also how big it could be- once it gets into those artisan coffee shops, there’s really nowhere else for it to go.
‘Little Fictions‘ didn’t even even make Necessary Evil 2017. In truth, it was probably the saddest album of the year, Elbow had long been one of my favourite bands and it was clear that they were finished as a going artistic concern. ‘Little Fictions‘, to me, sounded like ten borderline heartbreaking pathetic attempts to recapture the commercially successful sound of One Day Like This, a song they had released ten years previously.
Even though the sad, death march of an album didn’t make the cut (a year where Lil Yachty was number 44) I was still saddened enough to mention the mess in my post on the winner, Perfume Genius, stating that “Little Fictions’ was a disappointing mini-shark jumping by Elbow, failing to build on the shock factor of last album highlight Charge as I’d hoped”. Ah, Charge, a career highlight and shining light among the very good ‘The Take Off and Landing of Everything‘ album. I was hoping that it was pointing to future directions as a crazy psychedelic prog rock, but instead it was obviously one last hurrah from a band now content to rest on its laurels and pander to festival crowds already won. It was a crying shame, but Elbow were dead.
Just to let you know, dear reader, at times in this article it may sound like I’m derogating the general situation or decrying a loss of civility in wider society or lame things like that, but I am actually complaining about you personally, as your own behaviour is at the centre of what I’m talking about and it is completely within your power to address it. And, I’m sorry, but if you consider yourself left wing then you really are chiefly what I’m thinking of. We cool? We cool??
If you are left wing, you are (generally, generally, generally!!) concerned with supporting the community rather than the individual but also want the state to make it as easy as possible for a human being to express themselves freely and with a truly equal framework of opportunity. That’s cool and- you know what?- I probably agree with you. If you are right wing you are (generally! Gen-er-motherfuckin’-ly!!!) concerned more with allowing the more successful people as little impediments to their achievements as possible, you think the best state is one that interferes as little as possible, that things like high taxes and overzealous bureaucracy only discourages human potential. You (GENERALLY!!!!) thank that to support the less successful financially is actually just encouraging people to ‘do nothing’ and removes the impetus for them to truly excel. That’s cool. I don’t agree, but we both honestly believe that our positions on society are what’s best for either the good of the community/country/world or just, y’know, yourself and your own family. Maybe the latter’s more important to you. Maybe the former’s more important to me only because it will increase the good of the latter. Maybe we both think that the former plays a part in improving the latter but without the latter being dealt with the former has no chance but without the former being stabilised we don’t even have a latter but then what is the former if not just a larger collection of latters and the latter and the former both need to somehow work in synergy? Yes, that’s probably the one statement we can all agree with.
Some albums are just perfect. They contain perfectly what it is you want, perfectly what it is that you need and, perhaps most importantly, comes at simply the perfect time. Blanck Mass’s third album was 2019’s perfect storm. I was worried about NE2018‘s lack of electronic/dance music representation (I will never, never call it ‘EDM’). I used to consider myself a big fan of electronica and dance music, in the late 1990s I worshiped The Prodigy* and The Chemical Brothers and Orbital and Orb and Leftfield and Massive Attack and Bentley Rhythm Ace and Lo Fidelity Allstars and more bands that I’m forgetting about. DJ Shadow! Fuck, what about Goldie?! And Roni Size! Man, there are whole motherfuckin’ subgenres that I’m forgetting! TLDR: me and dance music, sitting in a tree, B-A-N-G-I-N-G.
See, Thom? Do you see? Do you see what you can achieve when you stop mucking about?
I didn’t like the last Radiohead album. I thought it was too often lazily and ponderously similar to the rather lazy and ponderous first half of ‘King of Limbs’, their previous album. Oh, that reminds me, I didn’t really like ‘King of Limbs’ either, but I thought that the second half of the record was just about enough to salvage the record. Then there have been his solo records. 2013’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ project was described in some quarters as ‘musical farting about that will have you stroking the nearest beard in appreciation‘, and then there was 2014’s ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes‘- which I honestly completely forgot about until I just Googled his discography because I was certain he’d been responsible for more bullshit recently- which paled ‘next to even his debut solo LP and last year’s patchy Atoms of Peace (sic) release’. What I’m saying, dear reader, is that Thom ‘Fuck Phonetics’ Yorke hasn’t been involved in a consistently great album since 2007’s ‘In Rainbows‘. You’re allowed to have your own opinion, of course, just remember that it’s just an opinion. What I’ve just said is a fact.
‘Magdalene’, despite it often raising both the tempo and intensity, sounds like one, thirty nine minute cry of exasperation. Isn’t this enough? Do you all somehow want more? Didn’t I, as it were, do it, if you will, for, one could argue, you?
FKA Twigs is looking at the consequences of her labour, both emotional and physical (something something fibroid tumours something something “fruit bowl of pain“), and is at once incensed and dejected that it’s seemingly all been for nothing. Her sacrifices in the past mean nothing now and she’s not the one who gets to decide how she’s perceived. No matter how much she learns to love herself, her body, and whomever else decides to share that love at certain points, they can all turn against her at whim and make all of this adoration seem wasted. “Sure, Alex”, I hear you craw, not deigning the situation important enough to stop shoving food into your fat mouth as you speak to me so that with every vowel sound I can see disgusting mushes of Tangy Cheese Doritos swirling around your decaying teeth, “you’re an amazing, Pulitzer-Prize level writer and I, for one, am enthralled, but what’s this all got to do with Mary Magdalene, that tart with the heart who washed Jesus’s feet with her hair, the filthy tramp, and who Dan Brown tells me painted The Last Supper, or something?”
Considering neither The Manic Street Preachers or Lupe Fiasco were scheduled to release an album in 2019, I don’t think I was looking forward to any record this year as much as Ms Van Etten’s fifth. Her fourth, ‘Are We There’, was one of the threealbumsreleased in 2014 that were legitimate GOAT contenders and all kinda given my joint album of the year. It was such an amazingly accomplished and powerful record, one that moved the more eloquent reviewers to state that it was “an absolutely devastating Sturm und Drag bulldozer of emotion, a sharp piercing blade of hopeless heartache that is as heartbreaking and moving as any movie you’ve seen since ‘Toy Story 3“. I have to assume that Toy Story 3 was still totally a topical reference point when that prodigiously insightful yet dangerously sexually alluring reviewer wrote that. While I spend all of my time excruciatingly droning on about how artists/people should be constantly evolving and pushing their sound/personality forward, I often catch myself just hoping that artists responsible for my favourite things will just do those favourite things again! Hey, Jazz Cartier, why isn’t the new album just Red Alert ten times?? Hey, Tegan and/or Sara, why aren’t you just giving me Walking With A Ghost?? Lil Yachty!! Why are you… why are you… Why are you doing any of this…? I… I’m not sure what exactly I want from you… But do that, please. Do Minnesotaagain, that’ll cheer me up. Sharon van Etten! I can’t wait to see where you take your sound and evolve your music on this new album! But, having said that, please make it exactly the same record as ‘Are We There’! You can, I dunno, add a few trap beats to a couple of songs and have track eight heavily influenced by Hardware, but make sure that, at the base level, it’s exactly the same as ‘Are We There’!! Give me those exact feels! Reach into my bloodied chest and tear out all of those emotions like you did in2015!!
‘Remind Me Tomorrow’… isn’t that record. It’s an incredible reimagining of what weight, muscles and undeniable gall bladders* her songwriting can achieve. Synths blast all over the place like the sounds of invading forces damaging the outer wall of the claustrophobic shelter she’s built herself to evade the apocalyptic terror of her mind outside. The first line of the album is ‘Sitting at the bar I told you everything/You said “Holy shit, you almost died!” and the following songs act as almost a flashback, telling the listener exactly what these near fatal experiences were. It’s an amazing album. Look above, it’s the eighth best album of the year. It was considered for number one, but holy shit, you’re about to see how hotly contested that accolade is this year. Like I said, every top ten album is merely different levels of essential. Buy them all, you cheap fuck.