2 SPELLLING: The Turning Wheel

2019 #10

Gee, thanks a lot Christmas Day…

Now I’ve got to start at the first day again! And finish, because it’s currently close to midnight on Boxing Day while I write this, and numbers two and one of this year’s list will be announced before many of the millions (and millions) of fans of this blog get out of bed. Isn’t it a damn shame that I had to stop at fifteen consecutive days though? I hear that when you reach twenty consecutive days you actually start earning money for writing. New York Times columnists get paid $350k a year, and you know how? They just never stop their daily streak! Charles Blow is currently on a 16,939 [SIXTEEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND THIRTY NINE] day streak! He started on his fifth birthday by harshly critiquing the level of presents that he was somehow expected to enjoy that year (“A Space Hopper, mother, really? And how, exactly, is one expected to improve one’s life by simply bouncing around on an inflated orange ball? What epiphanies is one expected to reach? Am I expected to gaze into that lifeless face and see myself reflected in his sad eyes? Perhaps this is intended to be Gerald Ford, whose ‘bouncing’ support is laughably intended to keep myself and others like me precociously and intermittently above the bottom line of the hard ground below us? And you said it talked. It definitely doesn’t talk, you fucking whore”. Yeah, some of Blow’s early work can seem a little problematic to modern sensibilities), and has just popped out another article every day since. Admittedly, he can sometimes obviously be struggling for material, His fourteen thousand eight hundred and seventy second article was just him ranking the different noises his chair makes when he sits down, his fifteen thousand and twelfth post was just the entire lyrics of Scatman’s World by Scatman John followed by the sentence “Is it not still the case? #ScatmanDidItFirst”, while his sixteen thousand four hundred and second post was just a piece of clickbait suggesting that Kylian Mbappe might be sighing for Liverpool. But you know what he did after writing each article? A spellcheck, yeah? To check the spelling? Or, perchance, the Spellling?? See, it all fits in, don’ tell me how to do my job.

I’LL BE RIGHT HERE, LITTLE DEER

6 Prince: Controversy

It’s a long way to the end if I want to jack you off. Year four of my approximately thirty year crusade to revisit and document each Prince album annually. I’ve so far found that His first two albums, unfortunately, really don’t stand up to modern scrutiny, but his third album ‘Dirty Mind‘ was as demonstrative a mark of His genius and as revelatory an LP in 2020 as it was in 1980. That album reached #7 on the year end chart and, fair warnings, we’re going to see a fair few of his following albums do the same, as that masterpiece officially kicked off one of the greatest run of albums any artist has done, ever.

While ‘Dirty Mind’ is much lauded over and intensely debated to this day, and His fifth album frequently joins it on lists of greatest albums ever (as does His sixth. And His seventh. And His eighth. And His ninth. And occasionally His tenth. Probably not His eleventh though), His follow up and fourth album ‘Controversy’ doesn’t get anywhere near the same attention. It seems to be looked upon as merely a transitional point between Prince really nailing down the style and the look on ‘Dirty Mind’ and then later finding the right mix of invariables to make him the biggest star in the world.

LET’s WORK

25 Shaun Ryder: Visits from Future Technology

2007 #14 (Happy Mondays)

No, wait…

Nononono, wait one second…

No, honestly, that isn’t a perverted fanart of Darth Vader after he loses his helmet and instead becomes a regular at your local shittiest bar who follows you into the bathrooms in order to try and sell you spice, that’s actually one of the UKs most notable rock stars, and he’s actually released one of the greatest albums of 2021.

call the cops

33 The Joy Formidable: Into the Blue

2018 #16, 2016 #112 (!!!), 2013 #15

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.

That retweet was from me, because it was fucking hilarious. And I stand with my response at the time:

I still think I suit a bald head,you know?

Continue reading “33 The Joy Formidable: Into the Blue”

Necessary Evil 2021 (81 -71)

81 Jon Hopkins: Music for Psychedelic Therapy

(2018 #62, 2013 #11)

I feel I can’t rank this record any higher. It’s designed to accompany a drug trip and I have been stone cold and continuously, shamelessly sober since its release three weeks ago. Well…kinda… all my prescription medications kind of mean I’m blissfully high as a kite 24 hours a day so as not to acknowledge the overwhelming pain of day to day existence. But that’s my norm, so it doesn’t count. Sometime in January, I’m going to take some psychedelics and then blog about my altogether more valid opinion. That’s not a joke. It’s an excuse to take drugs as a professional study, why on Earth would I turn that down?

Yeah, it’s a bad idea, but name one good idea in my wntire life? And look how succesful I am. Exactly. Expect a potentially life destroying blog entry some weekend in January. You realise that I’m killing myself for your entertainment? Good. Just checking we’re on the same page.

Continue reading “Necessary Evil 2021 (81 -71)”

Necessary Evil 2021: Where It All Begins Again

Do you reckon me a friend?
The sun to me is dark
And silent as the moon
Do you, sir, have a room?
Are you beckoning me in?

Hit it!!

Yes! For the eighth straight year* the highlight of everyone’s festive season is back. And what a year. What a couple of years. Personally, I mean, I’ve no idea what’s been going on in the wider world. I’ve noticed masks have come back into fashion, but that seems to have had its moment and is wearing off, bit of an embarrassing fad it seems, like scrunchies or caring about the environment. Remember when we all did that?? Mega cringe.

(*I am absolutely fucking definitely stopping this after the tenth year, you have no idea how much freaking work this meaningless piece of work takes. Or I might just turn it into a Google Sheet that I release on Christmas eve. Or a TikTok. I’ll just do a TikTok where I take my shirt off and tell you what I thought of the latest Shamir album. I’ll do a dance and shit. It’ll go viral)

So, when I did Necessary Evil 2019 I had never met my my future wife. Then I met my future wife on Bumble while I was doing a series about how much nonsense dating apps were. We really hit it off, but then she realised that I was writing a blog series about it (I didn’t mention her because, y’know, I kinda liked her. I know, mega cringe, right? Epic fail) so she cut off all contact with me, blocking me in ways I never previously knew were digitally possible. Then I wrote a post about the whole mess. She read the post, didn’t hate it, approximately five months later we were married. So, yeah, when I wrote Necessary Evil 2020 I was living with my new wife.

And as I start Necessary Evil 2021, to the excitement and joy of all five or six of the people who read this, I am back to living with my Mum, applying for an annulment of a marriage to a wife who has again blocked me on every digital avenue possible. It’s quite a journey. It’s, like, 92% my fault. I’m sure it’ll come up again. Entry #35 for example, I’ve no idea what I’m going to write for that, so might just do some primal scream therapy. The band Primal Scream, unfortunately, do not feature this year.

But what a year for music, ammi right?? We’ve got a Manics album (click click click click), we’ve got the continuing Prince journey and a ‘new’ Prince album, we’ve got Kanye (as always) and, fair warning, we’ve got a lot of Nick Cave. Three and a half albums. Too much Cave? No such thing. There are six former winners. Or perhaps seven. I think I proved in my stats regarding the Manics top 100 that counting really isn’t my strong point. I’m more, like, holistic when it comes to numbers, yeah? There’s eighty one albums, because I can’t do anything right. I’m going to try and brush through numbers 81-41 in groups of ten, then give the top forty their own dedicated posts, even though, as amazing as all the albums are, I can’t think of anything to say about most of them. I’ve also reluctantly made my peace with Spotify. I hate it, you hate it, it’s going to be the death of the entire industry, but I understand that it is the industry. I link to each artist’s BandCamp (the light side of the force battling Darth Ek) page but also host the album on Spotify, as I understand most people can’t be arsed to stream it on BandCamp, will never pay for music, and Spotify streams at least mean something.

Yeah, so I’ve sold out, but what have you done this year? That’s right, you’ve just drooled over that paparazzi photo where you can kinda see Billie Eilish’s cleavage again and again, haven’t you? Grow up, she’s young enough to be that woman that your third wife divorced you over!! I have two ex-wives now, so I can make those jokes.

Anyway, we’re gonna have a lot of fun, yeah?? Once again, the reason that album you like isn’t featured is because it’s shit and you’re an idiot.

I honestly love you all. Heart emoji. I don’t know how you do that on WordPress…

Love Their Mess and Adore Their Failures: Manic Street Preachers’ 100 Greatest Songs

Right, holy shit, so am I actually doing this…?

“Repeat after me…”

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.

“You stand there and you think about what you’ve done”

(*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.

If you don’t have time for such nonsense, here’s the Spotify playlist and here’s all the songs in order on YouTube.

And, er, you might wanna bookmark this page – motherfucker’s gonna be long. Your next 500 trips to the toilet are sorted.

Continue reading “Love Their Mess and Adore Their Failures: Manic Street Preachers’ 100 Greatest Songs”

Legit Bosses pt.3: The 40 Best Songs of 2020

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 one and 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…

Maybe, I mean, I still might change it…

#40 Fiona Apple: Under the Table

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.#

Continue reading “Legit Bosses pt.3: The 40 Best Songs of 2020”

Necessary Evil 2020 pt.16 (3-2)

#3 Hjaltalín: Hjaltalín

Firstly: what up brothers and sisters? Put you’re hands in the air, yeah? Like you just don’t care, yeah? Can I get a ‘what what’? Respect the flex of Necessary Evil 2020! We might have finished Necessary Evil 2015 by the 13th December, but that was beginning to feel like a much missed byproduct of a far simpler time. We didn’t finish Necessary Evil 2016 until November the 5th. Of 2017. Necessary Evil 2017 didn’t come all over all of your apathetic and disinterested eyeballs until the next year again, but at least had the grace to finish by April the 8th of 2018. Necessary Evil 2018 got so close to finishing in the year it was referring to, eventually wrapping up January the 3rd of 2019. And God fucking damnit Necessary Evil 2019 managed to bow for applause just one day into 2020. This year!! Baring an absolute calamity, Necessary Evil 2020 will somehow be finished before even Christmas, as we enter the final post on December 23rd and- holy shit!- I might get to relax and enjoy my festive period for the first time in five years!!

Continue reading “Necessary Evil 2020 pt.16 (3-2)”

Necessary Evil 2020 pt.15 (6-4)

#6 Katie Gately: Loom

Yeah, I know, because of the Prince entry this is technically part 16, but I just decided the optics didn’t look right. Don’t @ me

Grief will affect everyone in different ways. And, hey, what other year have we been forced to face silly, unbiased mortality more than 2020? Firstly, there is no intimacy league table with an imaginary line drawn across it- nobody who was less than this close to you can properly affect you. Oh, and they need to be bipedal animals with recognisable hands and a proven ability to use those hands to manipulate tools, so no excessive mourning for your pet dog passing away. But I guess if you have a pet gorilla or chimpanzee who dies, that’s covered so you’re allowed to grieve for that. Aw, man, imagine having a pet gorilla just hanging around the house, like a big hairy flatmate. And then that gorilla dying! I’m getting sad just thinking about it. And maybe crows are covered. You can mourn your pet crow dying. But the fact is, every death has the potential to affect you, and the arresting smack of mortality will smack you hard even if it’s an old schoolfriend who you haven’t seen in decades or somebody you’ve never even met, even an existence that you had no concept of occurring before it was snuffed out. A human life, an existence you know as being full of thoughts and dreams and opinions and love and hatred just suddenly being stopped isn’t easy to get your head around. You might laugh, but even the death of Prince in 2016- a person I have never met, a person who I’ve never even been close enough to spit on, a person with less than no concept of my existence- hit me hard and played a part in my mental downward spiral that led to Necessary Evil 2016 starting ten months late. Hey, here was a living, breathing, organic thing that was doing stuff– stuff that affected my life– and now that thing is no more and that stuff is going to stop. It’s actually pretty fucked up.

“Mate, those dishes are really piling up…”
Continue reading “Necessary Evil 2020 pt.15 (6-4)”