Elle Gilliam has had ‘the feels’ mastered for a long time now. A proven guru of cerebral boo-hoo anthems. She was first mentioned on Necessary Evil when I declared the sublime song Novel by her previous project Helltown as one of the best songs of the first half of 2019 that you might not have heard. Dudes, it’s been more than three and a half years since then, if you still haven’t heard it, then I think you might be past saving, seriously. And the name of that surrounding Helltown album, ‘Picture Perfect Depression’ really describes the music that she absolutely perfected with the project: incisive and often devastating explorations of her own personal demons set to absolutely pristine (initially) acoustic gorgeousness.
Changing musical projects wasn’t the only major adjustment that Elle had gone through recently. No spoilers, but check the pronouns on those Helltown reviews. I was, obviously, desperate to interview her, and said so in my Efficax review (“if you don’t see an interview with Efficax sometime early next year it means she hates me and by extension everyone reading this”). Luckily, Elle is obviously vulnerable to emotional blackmail, so agreed.
Fair warning, this interview goes to places. Remember how Elle is so good at articulating her emotional self through her lyrics and music? Yeah, turns out she’s really good at that in her normal voice as well.
(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)
So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.
No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??
Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:
Jesus Christ, people, Justin Blackburn, Justin fucking Blackburn.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is ‘Blackburn’ even a surname in America?? It’s such a dour, cold & windy, shovelling-cow-shit-into-a-tractor-just-outside-Durham, depressingly prosaic English name that it really doesn’t fit the glitzy imperialism and Hollywood gunplay of the US. It’s like finding out Shawn Michaels’s real second name is Hickenbottom. Has he ever even been to Blackburn? What are his opinions on Alan Shearer?
Secondly, was there a more arresting, more intentionally obnoxious, more on the nose outraged in 2021 than ‘Unlearning White America’? In the last decade?? You should certainly be able to gauge the general thesis of the record by its splenetic title, but I’m telling you now, you have no fucking idea. It’s important to note that Justin Blackburn is a white American himself, so rather than angrily tearing down the racist power structure that prevents perceived outsiders like himself from even a fair chance, he is on the inside (even more angrily) rejecting the inbuilt privileges that the people who grew up around him receive, refuse to acknowledge and even turn to resentment against the USA’s non white inhabitants. Many of the rage is directed toward Justin’s (diegetic? genuine?) father. All the rage is directed towards white America’s assumptions, inattentiveness and, yes, racism. Justin is so centred on the ridiculous state of race relations in his country that he even goes as far as to manage to make ‘Jesus’ rhyme with ‘racist’.
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.
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.
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaars! Do you sense that? Those faint but ever rising embers of putrid hellfire? Can you feel that, underneath your feet? The unmistakable rumbles of the devil’s chord painfully calling at your wordlessly from the depths? Can you smell that? That unmistakable aroma of a Nailbomb t-shirt once used in desperation as a makeshift toilet tissue but now hurriedly discarded in shame in a Castle Donington Portaloo? You know what that is? That’s metal, son, like they used to make it in the old/Black country!
Seth Manchester joins us once again, he had quite the 2020. Except, this album actually came out in 2019. And, actually, one of his albums from part 1 was even from 2018. Whatever, I’ve had quite a 2020 belatedly realising albums that he’s produced!
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…
Just… gorgeous. ‘Bigness’ seems almost like it was intended as something of a wry, ironic name, as Mr Darling deals in ostensibly small scale music. His songs can initially seem so slight, polite, inoffensive and casual, all linked with a voice so hesitant and unassuming that it’s the volume and urgency that a fruit fly might adopt if it wanted to get the waiter’s attention at Costa Coffee to inquire as to what was taken its Hazelnut Praline & Cream Latte so long but didn’t want to make too much fuss. The tags that the album is identified with on Bandcampare alternative; bedroom pop; christchurch; new zealand; pop; indie; indie pop; Christchurch, which tells you one thing… Well no, it firsts lets you know that Pickle Darling is from Christchurch, New Zealand, as he’s so keen for you to realise that that he states it twice, but the second thing that the tags tell you is that ‘Bigness’ is a bit of a cheery, unassuming and- in the words of Helltown– ‘bedroom bullshit‘ kind of record. It’ll be fine. It’ll be cheery, a little bit twee but well meaningfully pleasant. Most of all though, it’ll be small.
As you were no doubt taught in economics class, Joseph Schumpeter theorised that there were three distinct types of Miley Cyrus
The ‘aw shucks, there do be a gorse darn boll weevil of pity in ma starched corn hat of love’ (or whatever) dull as dog’s pish Miley of 2017’s ‘Younger Now’, where Miley largely utilities bland country rock but always with the main aim of burrowing herself into the blandest playlists of the most anemic middle aged, middle class radio stations. Or whatever the 2019 version of radio is. Creepypasta subreddits, I think. This is the worst version of Miley Cyrus, artistically near worthless and so obviously desperate for commercial success. It was this version of Miley that Sebastian Piñera has attempted to introduce wholesale to Chile recently, and you can see how well that’s gone.
The occasionally very rewarding, occasionally teeth grindingly embarrassing ‘Yeah bitches! Check out the rims on my pelican fly! Diddy-de check yourself before you diddy-de fleek yourself! Mofo better represent ma’ sweet ass flumes!’ Miley, where she plays with ‘urban’* tropes that’s she’s not even close to feeling like she’s earned, trying so hard to try and ensure her Disney Channel past doesn’t interfere with her quest for credibility and LOOK HOW BIG THIS MOTHERFUCKING DOOBIE IS, BRO!! BRAP BRAP BRAP! Neoplatonist philosophers refer to this as ‘Michael Govian Miley‘.
When she’s not being closely supervised, we’re very occasionally treated to ‘Top of the gurning to yer! Gerbils tunnelled into my desolate Norway! Ribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbitribbit goes the sparkly cow!’ Miley, where she’s absolutely no idea what she’s doing and releases quasi-surreal nonsense, like Frank Zappa made for preteens. Or, perhaps for idiots. Frequently both. Dullards will argue that this is the worst Miley, which, I mean, yeah, technically, I suppose, but it’s also by far and away the best, for obvious reasons. Sociologists are suggesting this Miley will soon be so rare as to be close to extinction, as it’s unlikely her label will allow her to release another ‘…Dead Petz‘ for a long, long time.
Why are we encouraged to state what ‘The Best [CULTURAL CONTENT] of the Year So Far’ is at the start of June? It isn’t half way through the year. It’s just over five months in. The Guardian stated what were the ‘Best albums of 2019 so far‘ on June 4th! That’s only 154 days into the year!! That’s only 42.19% of the way through!!! Unless I’ve forgotten how to work out percentages!!!! Which is very possible!!!!! Wow, I’m using a lot exclamation marks in this paragraph!!!!!!
Well, anyway, I want in. I want a mouldy old piece of that rotten SEO pie, though released far closer to the actual year’s mid point of July 2nd. I’m not going to list the best albums of 2019 though, because I already often struggle to think of things to write come December, and I don’t want to waste that awesome simile I’ve devised to explain my thoughts on the new Jonas Brothers album six months early. Be patient. It’ll blow your mind. So I’ve decided to list the best songs of the year so far, similar to what I did in 2016. Although this time I didn’t just want to add my feeble, narcissistic voice to the chorus of intellectual critics praising songs like Old Town Road or Sweet but Psycho. You already know these songs are great, yeah? So I’ve tried to shine light on amazing songs by amazing artists off (mostly) amazing albums that there’s a chance you might not have previously heard. Get investigating, yeah? They’re in pretty much the order I remember to list them, because, seriously, fuck lists.
(If you can’t bother reading, there’s a handy Spotify playlist for the illiterates)