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“.
Jesus, everyone, Jordana was twenty one years old when she released this incredible record back in December 2020 (Making it. Eligible. For this year’s. List. So sick of having to explain how this works), isn’t that just terrifying?
For her, I mean. This isn’t one of those “Whaaaaa! They’re so young and I’ve comparatively failed in life!” takes. Partially because – Jesus fucking Christ – those mournings are so boring. We’ve all failed in life, that’s what connects us so beautifully as people, and even the ones we assume haven’t still think they have, let’s not create divisions by imagining any one of us is making a better go of this shitshow we call existence. Mostly because, seriously, you eventually get to an age where fucking everyone is younger than you (except Caroline Shaw, of course), you stop being such a big baby about the whole thing (“Malala Yousafzai was only fifteen years old when she was shot in the face by Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan gunmen?! Lucky!! What had I done by that age??”) and instead switch to being in constant mortal dread of your own imminent demise. It’s honestly a cool transition.
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.#
You want an intro? You got that in part one! Let’s get down to the dirty, sticky and dangerously unhygienic business:
This was an important year for me, this was when shit got real. Yeah, Labour won the election, which I was aware I was supposed to celebrate but not yet conscious enough to know exactly why, just that ‘our team won*. Princess Diana died, inspiring a nationwide reaction that even 13 year old Alex Palmer recognised as being a bit fucking much**. All that was meaningless background noise though, as most importantly 1997 was the year that I became really switched on to new music. Before this point, most of the albums I’ve listed would have been discovered by me later and posthumously lusted after in the kind of nostalgic necrophilia that I would later grow to despise. Yeah, sorry if you’ve already imagined me as an incredibly cool seven year old bopping his head to Soonby My Bloody Valentine. From this point on, these important albums in my life and personal development were pretty much all discovered as contemporaries. Seriously though, ‘It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah’ was the first CD that I ever owned. Yeah. I’m that cool/weird.
Yeah, sorry, no more Bumble Rumble. Possibly… ever…? Listen, I’ve pretty much decided that I hate Zero Hour dating- I happen to still believe that I’m relatively attractive, so to have an app on my phone that frequently reminds me that I’m actually not is not good at all for my already inflated yet easily pricked sense of self-esteem. For now, my official stance is that I know that I’m a highly fuckable piece of hunky man meat who could grind genitals with pretty much any woman he wants, but I just choose not to, OK?? The official stance is that I’ve decided to concentrate on the more important things in my life, such as this blog- which has never been more popular- and my actual job- which I’m technically supposed to be doing now*. Remember this blog? It used to be about music, didn’t it? I mean… kinda… Let’s do that again. Basically, it’s time for:
Just wanted a photo with my eyes in it. Have they always been that colour? More after the jump!!
Yeah, that title was a pun when I reviewed the american poetry club album. Makes less logical sense now, admittedly, but I like it. Hey! Two album reviews this year! Getting into some real Lestor Bangs territory now! This blog is fucking legit, yeah?
We* far too readily accept that whatever we do is simply good enough. We** accept what we are able to do at a scandalously young age. At the very latest when we’re about 18 or 19 and first enter university believing we’re already the finished article and want to spend the next few years convincing other people how fucking amazing we are, usually under the assumption that it’ll lead to increased opportunities to rub our genitalia against somebody else. Often though, it happens much, much younger. Many of the people you pass on the street, many of your closest friends and family, many of the people weird and/or dumb enough to read this very blog, basically decided at about 13 years old that you know all the things you can and can’t do, your likes and dislikes. You*** decided at that age that you shouldn’t really waste time overloading your dumb brain with any new talents or inspirations, so decided to spend the rest of your life getting angry and other people for not accepting you for who you are (and have been for decades).
Phew, that last entry was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it? Barely mentioned the (excellent) song and just flew off into TMI land. It won’t be the last time that happens, I’ll often have something to get off my chest that I feel can’t wait until December, but I always feel that there has to be some overarching ‘point’ to each entry and this series is literally the only outlet I have for that. At least until I get around to starting ‘Sing of the Thrill’ [TITLE TO BE CONFIRMED], my long promised/threatened King of the Hill episode by episode retrospective that’s currently the second most eagerly anticipated literary operation behind George RRRRRR Martin’s ‘No, No, No, This is What Was Supposed to Happen!’. To make up for Entry #4, this time around I’m actually just going to talk about one of the greatest songs ever for a thousand words or so, all tangents and flights of fancy will be kept to an absolute minimum, and if anything I’ll be undersharing, yeah? We cool? We cool.
This post contains a lot of information cribbed from Simon Reynolds’s fantastic Pitchfork article from last year. I might call him a ‘contributor’, but the fact is that he’s very likely to sue me for royalties once the money starts rolling in.
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)
All 22 WWE Money in the Bank ladder matches ranked. Listen, I thought the title would work better than it does, just go with it, OK?
The Money in the Bank (from hereon in referred to as ‘MITB’, because I’ve got a lot of writing to do and I am a very, very lazy man) ladder match is the best idea that WWE have had since Steve Austin’s turn to the dark side at the end of Wrestlemania 17 in 2001 signalled the end of the Attitude Era and drew the curtain on the last period which wrestling seemed in any way relevant or widely notable. It’s arguably the only good idea they’ve had in that 18 year period. Save perhaps having The Miz replace Ted DiBiase jnr. as the lead actor in ‘The Marine’ franchise from ‘The Marine 3: Homefront’ onward. Yeah, WWE make movies now. And yeah, they’re all terrible.
The premise- 5-10 wrestlers battle to use ladders to reach a contract swinging over the top of the ring which allows them a shot at any title they choose at any time they want over the next 12 months- is simple but ingenious, and allows for great storytelling potential and the chance to quickly promote a wrestler into the main event picture. Of course, this potential is more often than not completely squandered, because WWE are generally incompetent and we’re not allowed to have nice things.
Ranking the matches is difficult, because save a handful of amazing bouts and a smaller, Jeremy Beadle sized handful of slightly poorer ones, they’re almost always a similar level of ‘alright, pretty good, I suppose’. However, I am perhaps the greatest blogger of my generation- the ‘Heart Blog Kid’ Blog Michaels, or ‘Stone Blog’ Steve Blogstin, if you will- so I knew I had the ability to do it. I had initially planned to write this list in the build up to the 2018 Money in the Bank pay per view, back when there had been exactly 20 matches, and it would have made so much more sense. Alas, now there are 22 and, to be completely honest, I can’t even promise to finish it in time for 2019’s event exactly two weeks from today. But it’s a cash cow that the WWE are unlikely to put down for a long time yet, so there’s always the chance of a top 24 in 2020. Or perhaps a top 26 in 2021. I mean, I’ve started it now and I’ve already realised it’s going to have to be two parts…