Over the next four days I’m going to do what every other bore worth his salt does at this time of year, and that’s writing a big list showing off all the records I bought this year. I list them in reverse order of preference. Or I just put them all in a hat and drew lots. See if you can guess which. I might as well have drawn lots, because coming up with twenty decent albums that weren’t reissues of some sort was like shitting a building.
To be honest, it hasn’t been a vintage year for music. This year I’ve preferred to buy music from the past, because I worked out that there must be so much better music from the period zero to 2005 than music from today. Which is obviously true because even the top album on this list probably wouldn’t have made it into the top five of last year’s list. If I didn’t separate reissues and whatnot into their own separate list, they would have taken up most of the top ten.
Why has this year been so rubbish? Mostly because the media has been collectively masturbating to the boring drones of The Arctic Monkeys to the exclusion of almost everything else. These dullards are the future of music? I certainly hope not, because they could hardly sound less contemporary. It’s just like when The Strokes became huge five years ago for re-hashing the seventies. What is around the corner? There must be something… please?
Right. What you’re getting today is my list of top albums from #20–#11. The series will be rounded off with a top ten, and in between you’ll get a couple of other posts of other stuff. Enjoy!
20. FM3 & Dou Wei — Hou Guan Yin
A pleasant little album. There’s not much else to say about it. If you liked the music on the Buddha Machine, give it a shot. Even if you didn’t much like the Buddha Machine, you could well like this — although I’ve not spotted anybody else giving it much attention.
19. Pulp — The Peel Sessions
You see, I couldn’t even resist including this one. Although it isn’t technically a re-release, there is not a single piece of music on this record that isn’t at least five years old. It compiles all of Pulp’s Peel Sessions — including the 1983 session which Jarvis hoped would never be released — and some other live bits and bobs. It’s certainly an interesting listen, even if they hit the odd bum note. A must for any Pulp fan.
18. Plaid & Bob Jaroc — Greedy Baby
This audio-visual collaboration was hit by many delays, and it seems as though it was a right pain to make. Sounds like it will be a disaster, but it actually isn’t bad. Which is quite surprising really, considering how boring Plaid’s recent music has tended to be. Both the music and the visuals vary in quality from track to track, but overall this is not too shabby — as long as you’re not expecting too much.
17. Malcom Kipe — Lit
I wasn’t too keen on this album at first. It seemed okay, but nothing particularly special. But I really grew fond of it. I found that it was a great album to listen to in the summer. Very nice stuff indeed. A bit like the Plaid album, as long as you’re not expecting anything revolutionary, you might well enjoy this.
16. Clark — Body Riddle
The damp squib of the year. After all the hype, and the amazing Throttle Furniture EP that came out at the start of the year, this album was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps this was because expectations were so high, but I just found this album a bit underwhelming. In fact, I thought the freebie EP that came with it, Throttle Clarence (a collection of music from the Clarence Park era), was much better! If you lump in Throttle Furniture and Throttle Clarence, Body Riddle would easily enter the top ten; maybe even the top five. Body Riddle on its own, though, is a disappointment.
15. London Sinfonietta — Warp Works & Twentieth Century Masters
This is yet another album where none of the music came from 2006. Oh well. This is a compilation of highlights from the celebrated Warp Works concerts that explore the links between contemporary electronica a la James and Jenkinson and ‘avant garde’ composers of the twentieth century such as Steve Reich and John Cage. There is plenty of interesting music here. I know I’ll certainly be investigating Karlheinz Stockhausen more in future. Perhaps the most intriguing parts of the album are the bits where classic Aphex Twin and Squarepusher tracks are re-worked for acoustic and performed by London Sinfonietta. The results are sometimes patchy, occasionally rewarding — but certainly interesting.
14. Thom Yorke — The Eraser
It’s certainly been a good year for frontmen to be breaking away from their successful bands to pursue a solo career. Yorke is the first of three in my list, but his was the most disappointing album. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting too much. To be honest, it is quite an average album. But there are some great moments. My particular favourite is ‘Black Swan’, which like grey funk; cold but groovy. There is too much of the old fuzzy pampered rockstar politics as well. He ensured that carbon emissions were kept to a minimum, and he did this by chopping down more trees than was strictly necessary.
13. Boards of Canada — Trans Canada Highway
A lot of people have gone off Boards of Canada now. I guess the novelty has worn thin. I thought The Campfire Headphase was pretty poor, but the Trans Canada Highway EP is a little gem in my opinion. It gives you what you’re looking for as a Boards of Canada fan, without resorting to re-hashes or minor variations of their most-loved albums. What a track ‘Skyliner’ is!
12. Hot Chip — The Warning
This album is proof that all a half-decent band needs to get exposure is a major label deal. Everybody is banging on and on about Hot Chip at the moment — and for good reason. This is quite a good, enjoyable album. But I prefer their previous album, Coming on Strong. I shouldn’t complain though. It’s great to see such good music getting so big. So full marks in that respect.
11. DAT Politics — Wow Twist
This was my introduction to DAT Politics. I didn’t like this album much at first. Its pace was unrelenting, and there was very little variation in style (with the exception of ‘Fake Friend’). But after a while it really grew on me. If you like brash and colourful electronics, you can’t really afford to miss this.
Right, that’s the first ten sorted out. Tomorrow I will bring news of three sloppy turds.