A synthesised orchestra bursts into life. And I mean bursts. If this were in a Disney movie and meant to signify the first buds of spring in some fantasy netherworld ruled by a giant and intimidatingly amiable field mouse, you’d still ask them to tone it down a bit. The orchestra repeats itself for a few bars, as if sweeping its arms across the landscape. Isn’t it beautiful?, it says, this world you believe to know? Isn’t life just idiotically charming when you don’t know any better?? Then, the orchestra stops, to be replaced by a single foreboding organ while the sounds behind it seem to be dripping out the last of their good will. Drip. Drip. Drop. Drip. The droplets seem to both become sparer and start to resemble a ticking clock, winding down to some unknown but anxiety inducing conclusion. The same music that had previously swept its hands in overt astonishment as the landscape that is now starting to melt away, now grabs you roughly by the collar and pulls you forward. It opens a hand to you containing a red pill and a blue pill. Before throwing them both in rage at the still deforming landscape.
“Nah, fuck that”, they say. “That trope has been done to death to such a point where it now somehow represents Men’s Right Activism. There aren’t just two routes anyway, there are an infinite ways to comprehend reality, let me show you them all“.
Ow! No, seriously, owowowowow! I can actually barely type right now, both my arms are seriously kejiggerd. Owwwwww! After the (I think we’ll all agree, era-defining) Magdalena Bay post, I went downstairs to get a new cup of tea. My dopy, disabled, Cauda fricking Equina infested body wasn’t paying enough attention to its much compromised balance, I slipped on the stairs and fell down the fucking lot of them!
So, although I planned to write about the wonderful CHVRCHES return to form tonight, I am in no physical shape to perform my usual duties, so I’ll be leaving it until tomorrow. I’m still going to leave this bit in though, because I am meta as fook, you hear?
Ha! Trust me, Ms Rodrigo, if I died before I first drank, it would have made a lot of people’s lives easier! Your not missing anything, I promise. Have you ever tried Methylenedioxymethamphetamine though? That’s some good stuff, get it down you.
Christ, it’s a minefield trying to search for Olivia Rogrido photos. Like, is she twelve years old in that one?? I’m I accidentally turning this whole post into paedofodder? There’s also a lot of gifs of her doing something like sticking her tongue out but looped, which I’m pretty sure are just weird masturbation fodder for 40 year old men. OK, not many years until I’ll greatly appreciate all that pandering, but right now it’s still officially gross, OK? Jesus, this woman turned eighteen in February of this year, and this is her life now. Listen, maybe just read my Jordana piece and, like, amplify it.
They came number one hundred and twelfth in 2016?! Sorry, I’ve just made myself feel a little ill by reminding myself of how many fucking albums I used to include on this dumb year end list that nobody reads. I did one hundred and seventeen albums in total that year, in one of the greatest years for music of the last two decades at least, so The Joys were unfortunately near the bottom of the pile with easily their weakest album. Dead bottom was Damian Lazarus who – and you’ll like this – actually slagged me off on Twitter because of the review!! I mean, fuck me, I know these days I am The Most Trusted Voice in Music™, but back then I think I had about 300 views in total across the whole year!! I had only just started my current Twitter account and had nine followers!! Damian Lazarus, you absolute fucking muppet.
The Manic Street Preachers are the greatest rock band ever. That’s not an opinion, it’s a conclusion that I’ve reached and am now saying it loudly and not listening to any dissenting voices, which in 2021 counts as a ‘fact’.
Their greatness is… complicated… and not easy to explain in a simple intro to a blog post… These 100 tracks aren’t necessarily the greatest songs ever. Even as a pathetically dedicated Manics stan*, even I would argue that they’ve only ever released one indisputable, stone cold classic record from front to back (see if you can guess which one after you read the list!). They may have supernatural control over melodies and how best to ensure a chorus hits just there, but at the end of the day they’re just a rock band. They have never really challenged the very boundaries of music, never pushed things forward or necessarily introduced anything new sonically. I would argue that only one of their albums is truly challenging and experimental, rather than just being a break from what the band usually produce (yeah, it’s the same album…). I mean, Jesus, they once shamelessly released a song including the lyric “The world is full of refugees/They’re just like you and just like me“. That’s unforgivably bad, isn’t it? They can’t come back from that, artistically.
(*I may occasionally use cool, groovy, young person lingo like ‘stan’ so you think I’m a hip young gunslinger. Not, y’know, old enough to be a Manics fan)
I’m not able to explain their magic here, but over the next one hundred (!) entries you’ll hopefully all have a better idea. It’s not as dominated by the 90’s as I was worried it might be, and every album is represented (apart from one. Because their tenth album is worse than Hitler). I’ve been wanting to find the time to do this for ages, partially inspired by the great What is Music podcast covering their entire discography and reminding me of how many big veiny stonkers this band had bulging out of their collective musical swimming trunks. They’re talking about Muse on that podcast now, a band for morons, so you only need to listen to the last season. My major blind spot is I don’t think they’ve done a decent b-side since 2001. Now, I’m sure I’m wrong, so please correct my ignorance in the comments. Tell me how wrong I am. Post your top tens. Your top hundreds. The Manic Street Preachers’ fan community is one of the greatest in the world, and no other band are as connected with their fanbase and feed off their adoration as much as The Manics. So let’s celebrate that by calling me a fat slut in the comments because I didn’t choose Little Baby Nothing.
Hey! Top forty ! This is a nice, normal, manageable list isn’t it? Should I maybe have just limited 2020’s best songs to this workable and succinct top 40 list? What, and not mention Wock in Stock or I Don’t Know, Burn Stuff? I’m not sure I’d ever be able to forgive myself.
That’s all the introduction you’re getting, parts oneand two were more than enough foreplay, there are some absolute modern classics in this final countdown, and if you’re as half as surprised as me at what comes out on top…
A very ‘Fiona Apple’ Fiona Apple song, but that is obviously entirely a Good Thing. Lyrically, it’s untouchable, with Ms Apple taking issue with dinner party conversation and refusing to be silenced (“Kick me under the table all you want/I won’t shut up…I would beg to disagree/But begging disagrees with me”). Amongst the barbed and often hilarious response to tension, she also manages to squeeze in some absolutely amazing lyrical asides:
I’d like to buy you a pair of pillow-soled hiking boots
To help you with your climb
Or rather, to help the bodies that you step over, along your route
So they won’t hurt like mine
I’m going to be really noncommittal and say that Under the Table is definitely one of the best lyrics of the year. Don’t make me choose. No, seriously, don’t make me choose, you know I’d just give it to a 1993 Manics’ lyric and ruin the legitimacy of the whole operation.#
Halsey sits in that awkward position of being an extremely, very, absolutely great artist, but at the same time being weighed down by almost being suffocatingly overrated by some corners. Also, she’s often really annoying.
Now that last (factual) statement may actually be problematic. Would I refer to Halsey’s objective annoyingness if she were a man? Truthfully, if she were a man I’d probably call her a ‘cunt’, but I’m always aware of how vicious it can sound to use such violent language when referring to a woman, so I’m slightly more polite. Is that sexist? To self censor my language and treat women more ‘gentlemanly’? Am I actually doing it because I feel that the curse is hilariously infuriating to a man but actually hatefully offensive when said to a woman? Is that idea sexist?? Should I maybe not be calling anyone a ‘cunt’??
This placing is perhaps a little too high for Ms. Sawayama: her debut EP probably doesn’t actually have the fifteenth greatest collection of songs of 2017. Based on solely the actual musical merits it would still feature highly on Necessary Evil 2017, don’t get me wrong. Though perhaps it’d be awkwardly bumping body parts in the crowded economy section with the likes of Andrew Bird and Ghostpoet, rather than clinking champagne glasses in first class as she spreads her legs and guffaws with Lupe Fiasco over Moses Sumney‘s droll anecdote.
But if you think pop music is 100% about the music then you’re an indefensibly dull person. Great pop music isn’t just about great music: that’s definitely a large part of it, of course, perhaps even as much as 53%, but there are so many other factors involved.
It’s those other factors, those elusive forty seven percenters, that Rina Sawayama knocks comprehensively out of the park