Thirteen different artists have won Necessary Evil since it first started in 2007. Maybe fourteen, depending on your take on 2013’s infamous Arctic Monkeys/Hjaltalín controversy. No artist has ever finished first twice. Until now. 070 Shake’s ‘Modus Vivendi’ was the greatest album of 2020, and the 2022 follow-up is unquestionably the greatest album released this year, with its only viable contender being a 1982 masterpiece widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. These are the only two albums she has released.
The Bird! Birdy, Birdy, Birdy! El Burdmeister! The Birderino! Big Bird! He’s tall! He’s thin! He plays the violin! Birdo, Birdooooooo! You’re going home in a Birdo ambulance! You’re going home in a Birdo ambulance! He plays arco, he plays pizzicatooooo-woah-woah! That boy Andre Bird, means everyone else blows!
Ah, old dependable Arcade Fire! I can always count on including them in the year end list with no controversy! Their sixth album is a miner return to form – not really coming close to equaling their imperial phase of their first four albums, but certainly superior to their messy and unfocused fifth ‘Everything Now’. There are real moments of stirring beauty, as the band lean into their real status as the stadium rock band that it’s not embarrassing to admit you like. Like, never embarrassing. Up to around the 27th August 2022, this statement is watertight. To me, they’re the 21st century New Order, in that their fantastic music is almost always enough to cover up for their frequently awful lyrics (“But some people want the rock without the roll/But we all know, there’s no God without soul“, uuuuuurgh, “We unsubscribe/Fuck season five“, uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurgh!). ‘We’ is a tight, anthemic effort, which might consider pleasing the crowd more important than making any real creative strides, but nonetheless crowd pleases enough to let its lack of ambition slide.
A friend and I are both similarly shameless man boys, and are equally shameless enough in our arrested emotional and intellectual development to get together once every week to watch old wrestling PPV events from the early 00s, 90s, 80s and – if we’re feeling especially fruity and devil may care in our appreciation of video quality – even the 1970s. After each event – some amazing; some unintentionally hilarious; many, many, many absolutely fucking awful – we look back at the evening’s entertainment, give each match a star rating, hand out our individual awards. And read out the Death List. The Death List is the number of wrestlers and personalities we’d witnessed perform that night at an event forty, thirty. twenty or even just ten years ago who were now no longer with us.
It’s unquestionably a morbid joke, one that never allows us to forget the insanely short expected lifespan of professional wrestlers, particularly those from the steroids n’ cocaine heydays of the so called Golden Era, from the 80s to early 90s. Despite our flippancy, it’s not a completely disrespectful exercise, it’s rarely less than depressing to note how many great talents were lost to us early by being sucked into such a thoughtless and treacherous business. It never allows us to forget that people are killing themselves and being killed just in order to provide us with our shits and giggles. Considering that I’ve only been writing these lists since 2007, and in an era when musicians’ and pop artists’ lifespan is considerably longer than your average professional wrestler, it’s not a trope I’d ever imagined repeating for my Necessary Evil end of year countdown.
(*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:
What do you think your chances are of making it as notable musical artists? Pretty slim, right? What about if you’re not already born into financial success, if you socioeconomic status is closer to the lower 50% than the highest ten, if your Daddy doesn’t know someone else’s Daddy, if you weren’t already on the Disney cocking Channel? Honestly. next to zero. Like, right next to. Absolute zero. Sorry.
How about rap music though?? The supposed authentic ‘sound of the street’, where the idea of hustling your way out of economic barriers and the laughable inequalities into which you were born are valued especially high? A genre where being born into prosperity or privilege are looked upon with particular distrust? A music and a way of life that has long been appreciated as the one direction out of poverty for people desperate to find some sort of alternative? What kind of chance does that offer? I mean, seriously? It’s still pretty freaking low, right? It’s not like you’re the one person who had that idea, and many of your peers will be actually really good at what they do and still struggle to achieve the success that you so crave. It’s another longshot, sorry.
Hey hey hey! I manged to link #40, Kanye West, with #39, Caroline Shaw, now I’ve managed to link Shaw with Arlo Parks at #38! Will I continue to do this right down to the year’s best album? Absolutely! Until I forget to do it, which I will definitely do with the next one, because it’s going to be a struggle to think of a link between JPEGMAFIA and Arlo Parks. Oops. Spoiler, I guess…
‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ was released at the end on January 2021, when the UK was coming up to a solid 12 months under on and off lockdown measures. It was a different time. Or, at least, different at time of writing. Much of the country had been cut off from the percentage of humanity that didn’t work for Deliveroo* and had just been forced to spend a Christmas away from their friends and family. Well, unless they were lucky enough to have specific ‘business meetings’ and they actually passed these laws so in a strange loophole they didn’t actually didn’t apply to them. God speed, moral superiors. The whole country was on edge, wondering exactly how many banana breads made and opinions on the USA George Floyd protests posted online per afternoon is diagnosed as mentally dangerous, and the disgustingly young Arlo Parks’s debut album was soon instilled as the nation’s official comfort blanket, winning Brit Awards and the Mercury Prize. Parks combined emotionally raw and painfully honest lyrics with soft and silky pop music, which all seemed to carry the message that, hey, everything gonna be a’right. Personally, I didn’t really need that much comforting regarding the lockdown – I was lucky enough to be in a job that was never in danger of being swept from under me, plus I’ve never been one for overly championing the company of other people. Other people are dumb and annoying. However, for me, it certainly offered timely comfort around the chaotic breakdown of my second marriage. Ah, bollocks, I’ve become one of those guys, haven’t I?
2021 #48 (Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish)
Remember ‘Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea‘ at #48? Yeah, I know, that was a bit of a while back now. Jesus, I spoil you ingrates with three posts in three days over the weekend and now you’re expecting daily updates?? I do have a job, you know?? Sure, it’s only a flat fee per month to suck Paul Scholes’s daughter’s toes whenever he’s too busy to satisfy her, but it’s an honest job God dammit! Anyway, remember that album? That was a bit of a bop, wasn’t it? But you know what it was missing that would make it that little bit better?
Some people really rate ‘The Life of Pablo’. Not me, personally. I think it has cheeky splashes of genius amongst its giant conceptual mess, but if we were to compare it to an actual Picasso it would be a part way beautiful Les Demoiselles d’Avignon only with each of the women’s faces replaced by flaming poo emojis, some pencil sketchings still unfilled and a blank canvas for the unfinished bottom third. I did and do really rate ‘Ye’, which is a wonderfully concise and incisive record concerning West’s mental struggles and his first emotionally raw and conscious presentation of his bipolar disorder. But not everyone agrees. Few people agree. And it was largely ignored at the end of year back slapping events, with it still today scoffed at as a undercooked and uninspired minor addition to his canon. Everyone hated ‘Jesus is King’ because that was a fetid pile of donkey faeces. We all agree on that. It’ll soon be nine years since West released a largely agreed upon classic record. Apart from everyone loved 2018’s amazing ‘Kids See Ghosts’ album, but let’s ignore that or lay it 100% at the feet of Kid Cudi, because otherwise my snappy and incisive introductory paragraph doesn’t make sense.
(these are all fan made versions of the ‘Donda’ album cover, by the way, because I thought you all deserved to see what a bit of fucking effort looked like)