Whilst Kid A, the album that How To Disappear Completely is taken from, may have been named by Pitchfork, Rolling Stone & The Times as the best album of the noughties, I’d guess that for those of us who aren’t music critics or die-hard fans of the band, it doesn’t get anywhere near as much play as other Radiohead releases, probably coming somewhere between their (underrated) debut album Pablo Honey and, its even more abstract sister-release, Amnesiac.
Kid A is undoubtedly a brave collection of music, with no official singles, and music that bore more resemblance to the output of Mo’ Wax and Aphex Twin than their previous releases. With its sparse instrumentation, muffled beats and angular rhythms, the album certainly wasn’t aimed at the mass market. Nick Hornby even suggested that, similar to Lou Reed’s Metal Music Machine it was an attempt at “commercial suicide”. That review received a lot of criticism, some rather over-blown, but I’d argue that he has a point, even if some of the tracks, such as Everything In Its Right Place and The National Anthem are truly great.
However, even when trying their best to be obtuse & abstract, there is something in Radiohead they just can’t get away from: their ability to write killer tunes. How To Disappear Completely is one of the most ‘normal’ tracks on Kid A and that’s really no bad thing. Although it verges on being Radiohead by numbers, with it’s slow build, epic climax, and haunting melodies, amongst the, admittedly very artistic, insanity that makes up much of Kid A, it’s like an oasis of calm.
How To Disappear Completely may be unlikely to make lists of the best ever Radiohead songs to my ears, it makes a very pleasing break when fighting through the artistic challenge that is Kid A.
#shfl11 is a self-set challenge to write a post every day in 2011 about whatever song pops up 1st on shuffle on my iPod.
Radiohead image by Wonker on flickr
Many moons ago, when I’d not been blogging all that long, I wrote about a Radiohead cover I’d heard on Gilles Peterson’s show. It was a cover version of Just by some hip young New Yorker by the name of Mark Ronson; I thought it was pretty good and predicted big things for the lad – just goes to show how little I know.
Because of the Ronson cover of Just I bought the album it was taken from – Exit Music, a whole collection of Radiohead tributes by a variety of artists, mostly from the left of centre side of 21st Century soul and, by & large, I was disappointed: they tended to be rather self-indulgent & flabby. However, recently, due to the, well, genius of iTunes’ Genius recommendation system, I’ve started listening to one of the tracks from the album – High & Dry by Pete Kuzma, featuring Bilal on vocals.
I know next to nothing about Pete Kuzma, other than that he used to work with Jazzy Jeff (good enough for me), or Bilal, apart from the fact that he’s worked with Common and was interviewed by Gilles recently (again, that’s good enough for me). Their version of High & Dry is, however, IMHO, stunningly good.
It starts with a blissed out R&B jam, with Bilal providing some stunning vocals, drops into a full on jazz breakdown, before coming back with some more space-age soul. It is, I think, and I realise that many may see this as sacrilige, better than Radiohead’s original. There, I’ve said it. And now I’m going to listen to it again.
High & Dry by Fouse Photography on flickr
In its ongoing bid to have more sub-brands than any other media owner, Absolute Radio recently launched a new niche-station, this time one tailor-made for those of us currently experiencing the dizzying pangs that come with realising nostalgia isn’t just something that happens to your parents: Absolute 90s. And, as part of the ongoing celebrations of the launch, they’re compiling a list of the Essential 90s Albums.
Now, anyone who has ever read this blog before (Hi Mum!) will know that I love a good list and so, taking Absolute 90s compilation of such a list as a challenge, I thought I’d have a go myself. And here, after much thought, is my 20 essential albums of the 90s. It was hard enough keeping it to 20 (and they’re likely to change) so they’re in no-order other than chronological. I’ll happily admit that it tends to skew towards British music & hip-hop, but it’s not my fault that most grunge was shite.
Anyway, for anyone that cares (Hi Mum!), here’s my 20 essential albums of the 90s.
- Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet (1990): Proving that rap & politics made perfect bed-fellows, the decade got off to a storming start with Public Enemy’s magnum opus.
- Happy Mondays - Pills ‘n’ Thrills And Bellyaches (1990): Whilst baggy seems like an 80s phenomenon, it’s crowning glory was released in the 1st year of the decade. A sprawling epic, the likes of which they’d never make again.
- The Sundays – Reading, Writing & Arithmetic (1990): Whilst the 90s was the decade that indie conquered (in the form of Britpop), the fey, jangling type that had ruled the 80s alternative scene was lost along the way. Which is a shame when it’s as beautiful as the début by the laziest band in rock.
- Massive Attack – Blue Lines (1991): Era defining. Genre defining. Proof that the UK could do its own blend of hip-hop as well, if not better than the US. You need to own this.
- Primal Scream – Screamadelica (1991): Indie never-weres discover house music, and drugs, and get remixed to the hilt. Genius ensues and a generation of white boys learn to dance. Almost.
- Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992): Ex-member of NWA drops his anti-drugs message and starts dropping caps, blunts & bitches. Utterly un-PC, utterly amazing and owning a sense of humour that so much of the crap that came in its wake would lack.
- blur – Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993): Having proved that indie could top the charts, blur decided to try to kill grunge. They failed (at this attempt) but shaped a very-British type of pop that would soon sweep the nation.
- Paul Weller – Wild Wood (1993): The greatest British musical chameleon since Bowie went home, realised that growing old in Surrey wasn’t so bad, and released one of the most beautiful albums of the decade.
- Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers) (1993): Brought rap back to its spiritual home in New York, and stripped it down to its basics. Wu-Tang Clan aint nutting ta f*ck wit’! Remember that.
- Oasis – Definitely Maybe (1994): Gave the British a band to believe in, even if the dream was to prove short-lived. Life-changing.
- Tricky – Maxinquaye (1995): Responsible for some of Massive Attack’s greatest rhymes, Tricky went solo, discovered Martina Topley-Bird, and created an album of paranoid beauty.
- Coldcut – Journeys By DJ: 70 Minutes Of Madness (1995): The greatest mix album of all time, this took eclectic to a new level. House, dub, jungle, hip-hop, Dr. Who. Impossible to explain.
- DJ Shadow – Endtroducing… (1996): Trip-hop was always dead before it was really alive, but DJ Shadow managed to make its obituary an amazing piece of work.
- Manic Street Preachers – Everything Must Go (1996): Despite originally claiming they’d split after one album, even the loss of their muse couldn’t stop them. Showed that 90s rock didn’t have to be brain-dead to sell millions.
- Radiohead – OK Computer (1997): The best album ever according to every music magazine under the sun. Not sure I agree with that, but it really is breath-taking in its ambition & execution. Made most other bands look like they minnows they were.
- Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms (1997): Despite being doubly cursed, as a Mercury winner and that year’s choice of coffee table album, this was & is a fine catalogue of the only truly British music genre to emerge since the 1960s.
- Daft Punk – Homework (1997): French house. Never before or since would those words make so much sense together.
- Lauryn Hill – Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998): Left the biggest hip-hop band in the world to release an album showing that R&B could be intelligent, and that soul still meant something.
- Presence – All Systems Gone (1999): Probably the least well-known album on this list, but also one of the best. Imagine that Massive Attack had grown up listening to house instead of hip-hop; this is what Blue Lines would have sounded like.
Now, the observant amongst you will have noticed that the list above only has 19 entries.So, I want you to make suggestions as to which album should fill that space and I’ll choose one of the suggestions and add it to the final list of the 20 Essential Albums Of The 90s.
I should probably warn you now that it’s very unlikely that I’ll add any album that had a picture of a baby chasing a dollar bill on the cover. Just thought I’d mention it.
On Friday Absolute Radio announced the result of its song of the decade vote: shockingly the top 10 doesn’t include the Arctic Monkeys, Strokes or White Stripes but does include two songs each by The Killers & Snow Patrol, a sign that whilst the station may be excellent, the average Absolute Radio listener gets most of their musical taste from the latest copy of Now That’s What I Call Indie. Oh well.
Anyway, in order to prove that this decade should be remembered for more than some sell-out Scottish Coldplay wannabes and a half-decent American 80s British indie tribute band, I thought I’d note down the albums that have made the last ten years such a musical treasure trove. As always, these are in no particular order.
- Paul Weller – 22 Dreams: Whilst, like most double albums, it would have benefited from a bit of judicious editing, this was still one of the finest albums Weller has produced in years. In fact, with its wide-ranging eclecticism & its towering sense of a man ageing yet still having an unparalleled love for music, 22 Dreams is simply one of the best records Weller has ever made.
- Common – Be: Kanye West may have been, along with his mentor Jay-Z, the man who stole all the spotlight in terms of noughties hip-hop, but his best work was often as a producer. Like a 21st Century Gil Scott Heron, on Be Common blended soul, funk and a stridently political view of the world to amazing effect.
- José James – The Dreamer: Anyone who says that jazz is dead clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but if you’re determined to prove them wrong then give them anything by Soil & “Pimp” Sessions or their Brownswood label-mate José James. He brought a hip-hop swagger to his take on classically cool piano-led jazz. With the voice of an angel, James may well be one of the most exciting discoveries of the noughties.
- The Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not: Talking of exciting discoveries, the Arctics burst onto the music scene like a fresh Yorkshire breeze. From the dead-pan intro to the video for their début, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (“We’re t’Arctic Monkeys, this is I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. Don’t believe the hype.”), to their scathing take on British bands thinking they were Californian (whatever happened to The Thrills?), they showed that they were more interested in making amazing rock music than matching any passing fads.
- Tuomo – My Thing: Sounds like stone-cold perfect 60s/70s era-American soul. Actually written & performed by a ginger guy from Finland in 2007. So perfect it probably shouldn’t be allowed.
- Marc Mac Presents Visioneers – Dirty Old Hip Hop: Better known for his role as part of hardcore & drum & bass pioneers 4hero, Dirty Old Hip Hop could well end up being Marc Mac’s best ever work. It basically takes classic hip hop tracks, and tracks famously sampled for hip hop records, and recreates them with a lush live soul band. The cover of Pharcyde’s Runnin’ is just one track that now sounds better to me than the original.
- Ohmega Watts – The Find: Like a mix of Visioneers & Common, Ohmega Watts, on splendid independent US label Ubiquity, used soul samples that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early-90s golden-era track with ryhmes that avoided all the nasty rap cliches. Good old-fashioned, pure party music, this deserved to be huge. Obviously it wasn’t.
- Radiohead – In Rainbows: Whilst Kid A may be getting most of the end of the decade plaudits, personally I prefer Radiohead when their biggest experiments are saved for their retail mechanism and they remember that there’s nothing wrong with a tune. Blended the avant garde spirit of OK Computer with the stone-cold tunes of The Bends.
- Amy Winehouse – Back To Black: Her 1st album was a lovely blend of old-time jazz vocals and hip-hop sass & beats. Her 2nd, produced by soon-to-be über-producer Mark Ronson, jumped forward, providing a 21st Century slant on the Motown girl-groups of the 60s. And, as with her first, Winehouse’s amazing voice was used to catalogue her ‘interesting’ private life. Unfortunately it was soon anything but to be private and I think we all wish she had gone to rehab. Whether she’s release anything as good as this in the next ten years, or even releases anything at all, we” always have this amazing record of being a young woman in the noughties.
- The Strokes – Is This It: If the title of this album was a question, the answer looking back from 2010 would probably have to be yes. Whilst they seemed poised to take over the world they never really equalled the brilliance of their début, but what a début it was: drenched with New York cool, it married the stripped down sound of The Velvet Underground with a glamour that was very un-indie. Did for the US what the Arctics did for the UK.
- Kings Of Leon – Only By The Night: They started the decade being written off as a southern Strokes, but ended it as, arguably, the biggest and best rock band in the world. As with so many American acts they first found an audience in Europe, and especially the UK. And the years of touring their first three albums were apparent in the perfectly pitched and incredibly tight tunes on Only By The Night.
- Omar – Sing (If You Want It): Briefly famous in the acid jazz days of the 90s, Omar resurfaced in the noughties with a beautiful album of modern British soul. The album reeks of London, blending as it does sounds & styles from around the world, a fitting tribute to the most multicultural of cities. It’s also one of the few albums to feature a Stevie Wonder duet that doesn’t sound like it’s been phoned in.
- Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid: The band everyone wanted to succeed finally did. Their rendition of One Day Like This became the defining song of Glastonbury 2008, the album won the Mercury and now we all await their next record with bated breath. An achingly lovely record which could only have been born in Britain, and with a lead-singer who wouldn’t have made it past the auditions on the bland production line that is the X Factor.
- Ty – Closer: Prior to Dizzee Rascal’s take-over of the charts, Roots Manuva was probably the highest profile British rapper. But whilst his music was often dense and claustrophobic that of his protege Ty was soulful & full of melody. That’s not to say that he was any less serious, his rhymes covered every topic imaginable, but did so with an infectious joie de vivre. How this album wasn’t massive, superior as it is to any number of huge selling American hip hop albums, I really don’t know.
- Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes: A stunning record that brought to mind everything from Gregorian chants to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s classic Deja Vu, this is the perfect winter record and manes expectations are very high indeed for their follow-up next year.
- Jazzanova – Of All The Things: Jazzanova are best known as producers of high quality electronic dance music, but on the showing of this record, they’re even better at producing organic 21st Century soul. With a stellar line-up of contributors from the world of contemporary music, every song on this record sounds like a single and is a pleasure from start to finish.
- Zero 7 – Simple Things: dismissed as mere Air copycats, they’re so much better than that. Obviously huge fans of soul producer Charles Stepney, this oh-so laid back album positively drips with strings, which act as a perfect backdrop for the lush vocals of the various contributors. Just because the swathe of ‘chill-out’ albums that came in the wake of Simple Things were mostly shit, doesn’t mean that we should discard this great record along with them.
- Norah Jones – Come Away With Me: Another record that has suffered because of the pale imitations that have followed it, Jones’ début was a delightful blend of jazz & country, and her stunning voice became a staple on Radio 2. But that doesn’t mean the record isn’t amazing.
- The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed: His first album perfectly caught a moment in time and defined a genre just as it outgrew it, his second was hailed as a modern equivalent to Shakespeare and, in Dry Your Eyes, spawned a Wonderwall-size hit, his third was shit but his fourth, with its move to a more organic sound, and intensely personal lyrics, was his finest. Apparently his fifth will be his last, I really hope it’s not.
- Kanye West – Late Registration: After nearly losing his life in a car crash (as he never bores of telling us) Kanye’s debut was a miracle of some sorts. Not just because it actually got made, but also because it saw a mainstream black rapper admitting to being human, rather than spitting out the same old boring ‘guns & hos’ rhymes. Jesus Walks is massive, Through The Wire touching and All Falls Down just plain brilliant.
- Gomez – How We Operate: Most people probably think the one-time Mercury winners have long-since disbanded. In fact they’ve gone from strength to strength, quietly ploughing their own furrow of intelligent, eclectic rock. This album is the perfect demonstration of this, packed as it is with sunny melodies and wistful vocals. Unsung heroes.
- Jamie Lidell – Jim: Lidell was probably signed by Warp because he was a geek creator of weird electronica. They can’t have expected him to turn into the best producer of blue-eyed soul the decade has seen. He sings like he went to church with Otis Redding but looks like he went to Reading Polytechnic.
- Nitin Sawhiney – London Undersound: Apparently this record was Sawhiney’s musical response to the London bombings of July 2005 and the events that followed them. If so, it’s the perfect response to the religious fanatics who try to rule us with fear, being as it is an example & celebration of the beauty that secular multiculturalism has to offer.
- J.A.M. – Just A Maestro: In their ‘day-job’ they make up half of experimental Japanese ‘death jazz’ band Soil & “Pimp” Sessions. But with their splinter group J.A.M., they’ve produced a record more consistent, and more listenable, than anything by the Pimps. It might be slightly more mainstream, but it’s still modern jazz of immaculate quality and would be enough to get a corpse dancing.
- Estelle – Shine: After being unfairly ignored by the, border-line racist, British music industry, Estelle went to the US to be produced & mentored by John Legend. She had a worldwide smash with American Boy but also produced an album that should be compulsory listening for the likes of Beyonce, Leona Lewis & Simon Cowell, who generally seem to think that R&B has to be bland. Catchy but still intelligent, this is a great modern pop record.
Well, there you go. I’m sure that I’ll think of some more, and there are probably a load you think I’ve missed. But
2010 image by Doug8888 on flickr
So, when Absolute Radio announced their quest to find the best songs of the decade, I said that I found it hard to pick any. Well, I’ve changed my mind, thanks to some inter-office discussions (ending in this playlist) and listening to a lot of stuff from the last ten years. Like this.http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6rk52
And so, without further ado, here are my Best Songs Of The Decade – I should add that these are simply my favourite songs – I don’t claim that they’ve necessarily defined the Zeitgeist or anything like that, I just really like them. Oh, and they’re not in any particular order.
- Amy Winehouse – Rehab: Not my favourite song off of Back To Black, but this song, and the singer, have certainly defined the last few years. And, along with Lily Allen’s début album, is the reason that Mark Ronson has the career he does now. And on that note…
- Lily Allen – LDN: Maybe it’s because I moved there in 2000, and find myself moving back there in 2009, but London has (again) loomed over this decade, just as it did in the 60s & 90s. And Lily Allen blended genres just as London mixes cultures, and came up with an absolute belter, with a little help from that man Ronson.
- Mark Ronson – Just: Valerie is the one that really got him the fame (and royalties) but his cover of Radiohead’s 90s indie classic, for an album of Radiohead covers, is simply wonderful. The ‘indie tune with brass’ thing still seemed fresh then, and the video was rather wicked too.
- The Strokes – Someday: Making rock cool again, The Strokes channelled The Stooges & The Velvet Underground whilst looking like they’d been spawned by specially reared supermodels (most of them probably had): they’ve not lived up to expectations since then, but by clearing the path for the likes of Kings of Leon, they’ve earned their spot here.
- Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody: It may not be cool anymore in these days of firework bands, who explode onto the scene and then disappear from sight (see above), but the Kings Of Leon spent the decade tirelessly touring the globe, building a devoted European following, whilst slowly improving their music. It led to them owning the last couple of years with Sex On Fire and this, Sex’s more pared down, moody brother.
- Radiohead – Weird Fishes: They spent the early part of the decade experimenting with electronica, but then decided to shake up the recording industry by giving away In Rainbows, which also happened to be their best album in years. And this was the best song from a very strong set.
- Arctic Monkeys – I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor: To show how quickly times have moved on since this stormed to the top of the charts, but just think about the fact that the Arctics were lauded for their use of MySpace (something the band always denied). Whatever the case, they were like a British Strokes, making rock cool again. Except that, if anything, their second album was even better that their début.
- Sebastien Tellier – La Ritournelle: This track can only be described as a French Unfinished Sympathy, with the (several minute long) piano intro alone being worthy of inclusion on this list. The word epic is one that is over-used in music reviews, but is just about the only word that truly does justice to this track.
- LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends: As if being the mentor for the early 90s New York punk-funk scene, James Murphy also found the time to create amazing music as LCD Soundsystem. He’ll probably be best remembered for Daft Punk Is Playing At My House but for cataloguing the terror of ageing for music loving hipsters, All My Friends has no peer. And it reminds me of Marquee Moon by Television.
- Amerie – 1 Thing: Beyoncé may have had her boyfriend rapping on Crazy In Love, causing many people to laud it as the greatest R&B record of the decade but, for me at least, this takes that title. Like Crazy In Love it’s a product of Rich Harrison. With that awesome Meters sample it’s still a song that could be used to test whether people are medically dead, because if this doesn’t make you want to dance, there’s something seriously wrong with you.
- Coldplay – Everything’s Not Lost: Though they were famously derided as making ‘bedwetters’ music‘ (no Alan, they just made music for people not overwhelmed by admiration for one trick pony Beatles wannabes) and have followed an Oasis like trajectory where quality of output is directly inverse to their popularity, there’s no doubt that Coldplay’s debut Parachutes was bloody good or that this, it’s epic closing track, is pretty hard to beat. They’d never have had a career without Travis though.
- Travis – Driftwood: It may seem hard to believe now, but in the early years of this decade Travis were poised for greatness. Their album, The Man Who, had swept the UK and they were poised to do the same to the rest of the world. Then their drummer broke his back and the career had to be put on hold. In the meantime Coldplay took their formula of gentle indie music and sold it to the world. Driftwood is a nice reminder of exactly why Travis were the men who nearly did.
- Common – Go!: Kanye West is probably one of the biggest musical phenomenons to come out of the last ten years, but much of his best work has been his productions for other people. This, a track from Common’s amazing Be, is a brilliantly up-tempo paean to what can only be described as an interesting love-life. But, being Common, it lacks any of the lazy misogyny that blights so much other hip hop.
- Aqualung – Strange & Beautiful: Plucked from obscurity thanks to this beautifully understated track being used as the soundtrack to a lovely VW ad, Aqualung is viewed in the UK as a 1-hit wonder. Apparently he’s done pretty well in the US, thanks to his tracks being used in popular dramas, but this is the one that whisks me back to a time when I couldn’t imagine being 30, let alone approaching my mid-30s. Ho hum.
- Paul Weller – Have You Made Up Your Mind: 22 Dreams is Weller’s best album for years (in fact it’s just one of the best albums for years) and this is one of the many amazing tracks on it. For a man who will never see his forties again he sounds fresher & more full of life than artists half his age. A national treasure, this goes to show why he’s one of the best British artists of the last few decades.
- Gorillaz – Feels Good Inc: Talking of the best British artists of the last 30 years, Damon Albarn’s reinvention of himself since 2000 has been amazing. His ability to invent the ultimate rock-band and then use this vehicle to produce cutting edge 21st Century pop with collaborators such as De La Soul has even seen his nemesis Noel Gallagher expressing admiration. The début was made with uber-producer of the time, Dan The Automator but the the follow-up, including this track, was a collaboration with the even more ubiquitous Danger Mouse.
- Gnarls Barkley – Crazy: Fresh from conquering the world with Gorillaz, Danger Mouse created another ‘virtual band’ (of a sort) when he teamed up with Cee-Lo (the man who, by writing Don’t Cha, gave us The Pussycat Dolls – I’m not sure if he should be shot or sainted). This was their biggest hit and, despite being a look at mental illness set to a thundering beat, is an absolute belter.
- Zero 7 – Destiny: Chill-out, and the dreadful coffee-table CDs it gave us, has thankfully fallen out of fashion. But, as with most fads, it produced some amazing music. Zero 7′s début Simple Things was one such record; for me it was the soundtrack to countless summer holidays and never fails to make me think of Mediterranean sunsets and chilled white wine, which is no bad thing at all.
- Jamie Cullum – Frontin’: Another fad that swept the decade was jazz-lite, as exemplified by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Madeleine Peyroux & Jamie Cullum. It was an unfair tag as they all had their moments and for Cullum his greatest moment was this inspired cover of Pharrell’s stripped down hip-hop classic.
- N*E*R*D – Provider: As with Kanye, Pharrell Williams nearly always saved his best work for other people. Having said that, Provider is a truly fantastic track: raw 21st Century soul which lacks much of the bombast that spoils so much of N*E*R*D’s other work. A true classic and one which Zero 7 did a rather lovely remix of.
- Snoop Dogg – Beautiful: If you needed proof that Pharrell was always very generous with his genius (for a hefty fee, of course) then I give you Beautiful. It more or less reignited Snoop’s career as well as featuring a fantastic Brazilian drumming break-down. Oh, and it also demonstrates Pharrell’s other stroke of genius – insisting he feature in the video for just about every track he produces, thereby getting paid by others to build his profile ready to launch his solo career & clothing range (which he wore in most videos) – pity he didn’t keep some of the best tracks for himself.
- The Streets – Weak Become Heroes: Mike Skinner managed to encapsulate UK garage just as he was outgrowing it (much like Dizzee & grime). There are a bunch of his tracks that could figure on any Best Of The Noughties list, but this one, with its craving for the more innocent early days of the UK house scene is one that will always be close to my heart, and not just because it was the focus of one of my first ever posts.
- Ben Westbeech – So Good Today: One of the best aspects of the noughties as far as I’ve been concerned has been the return of Gilles Peterson to the position of record label owner. This was the 1st single released on Brownswood and remains one of its best releases to date. I really don’t think I could ever get bored of its fantastic simplicity, though I’m still disappointed that his album, though great, didn’t live up to So Good Today’s promise. Not something that can be said of all the artists on Brownswood Recordings though…
- José James – The Dreamer: Another début single from Brownswood, this featured on the first Brownswood Bubblers compilation and is, like much of James’ work, simply stunning. Classic jazz delivered with a hip-hop attitude the single and the album of the same name it came from should be must-haves for any discerning music lover. Here’s hoping the next ten years sees him develop a career of sustained quality.
As I write this I keep thinking of more I could add but I’ve decided that, like all good things, this post needs to come to an end. I think I’ve shown what a good few years it’s been for music, even if nothing has really had the over-whelming cultural significance of house, punk, hip-hop or even the New Romantics. But maybe that’s just a sign of these splintered, multi-media times that we’ve lived through. Whatever the case, I’d love to hear which tracks you think I’ve missed – maybe this one?
Over to you, and I’ll see you in 2010 (if not before) when we can start working out what the hell we’re going to call the next decade.
So last night the winner of this year’s Mercury Music Prize was announced as Speech Debelle’s debut Speech Therapy. I have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed by the decision: it’s not a bad album, but I wonder how many people will still be listening to it in a year, let alone 17 year’s time. Why 17? Because that’s how long the prize has been running.
To be fair to the judges, Debelle was probably as worthy a winner as any – looking at the short-list it’s hard to see any future classics: in fact it was probably one of the weakest selections since the prize’s birth in 1992. So, having had a look at all the winners since the prize launched I decided to pick what I think is the best winner of them all. And, in the end, I ended up back at the start.
The winner of 1992′s début prize was Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Very few albums can claim to be truly iconic, let alone era-defining. Screamadelica can. With its blend of blissed out house and gentle rock & soul, Primal Scream provided a soundtrack to a million Saturday nights & Sunday mornings. The cover art became a badge for the rave genaration, like a clubbed up Watchman smiley. And they didn’t even include the amazing track that gave the album its name, which instead ended up on the brilliantly named Dixie-Narco EP and which you can see below: it’s good eh?
Since then there have been some other great winning albums, though scanning through the short-lists it does feel like more often than not, the best album has not been the winning one. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, OK Computer & In Rainbows by Radiohead, The Verve’s Urban Hymns – all were left unrewarded – let’s not forget that in one year alone Parklife, Music For The Jilted Generation & Wild Wood were all beaten – by M People.
So if Primal Scream’s Screamadelica is the best ever winner of the Mercury Music Prize, which is the best album that was shortlisted but didn’t win? I’m torn between OK Computer, Parklife & Definitely Maybe. What do you think?
PS – Am I the only one who thought it ironic that in the same week the Mercury Prize was announced, T-Mobile, the brand that killed Mercury when it took over its One2One mobile operation, announced a merger with Orange which will see the T-Mobile brand itself killed off in the UK.
Screamadelica stained window by Gordon Watt on flickr
I am the only one that got through
The others died where ever they fell
It was an ambush
They came up from all sides
Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves
I’ve seen devils coming up from the ground
I’ve seen hell upon this earth
The next will be chemical but they will never learn
The words above are those of Harry Patch, the last survivor of the Great War, who died last week aged 111. Now, in what amounts to a beautiful act of coincidence to mark his life, and his passing, they’ve been made into a song by Radiohead.
Recorded live in an Abbey, with strings arranged by Radiohead’s guitarist Johnny Greenwod, the song was & is, according to Thom Yorke, meant as a tribute to Patch who, from the age of 100, became a living reminder of the horrors of war. And, showing that being a pacifist doesn’t mean disrespecting those who have died so that we can live the lives we lead, Radiohead are donating all proceeds from the sale of Harry Patch (In Memory Of) to the Royal British Legion, the charity which cares for British soldiers and their families. I suggest that you download it now.
In a similar act, this week also saw the announcement that the Arctic Monkeys will be releasing their new single as a 7″ and will be selling it in branches of Oxfam, with proceeds going to the charity. It is, like Radiohead’s move, an extremely admirable one. It also makes me think of an article I read recently about how marketers need to become ‘Chief Meaning Officers‘: it’s rather overblown in its language and its theses, but there’s also definitely something to it, and I think both of these releases are signals of that shift.
The Arctic’s single, Crying Lightning, is released on August 7th and, for those who think that a 7″ is something that shouldn’t be talked about in public, will include a code to allow the track to be downloaded as a free MP3 too.
Before I go I’ll just leave you with the thought that Britain’s biggest cunt wears a poppy badge every day, despite pleas by the British Legion not to. If you live in his European constituency of the North West, and you didn’t vote in the recent Euro elections, then it’s your fault that he can cheapen the sacrifices made by Harry Patch & his comrades on a daily basis and get paid by the taxpayer whilst doing so.
Poppy field by foxypar4 on flickr
I realised the other day that I had lost my copy of Radiohead’s OK Computer. You’ll be relieved to know that I have now rectified that situation. This is my favourite song off of the album, although I’ll probably have a different favourite tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy.
Radiohead gig image by albyspace on flickr
As part of my ongoing nostalgia trip (I think it’s an end of year thing) & because I was on the subject of artists introduced to me by Gilles Peterson, I also checked out Ben Westbeech’s MySpace profile to see if he has anything new in the offering, and sure enough there was a new tune up there.
I Can See is a collaboration with Jazzanova from their most recent album Of All The Things, which I will now have to endeavour to check out before the end of the year to see if it’s one of the best of 2008. If this track is anything to go by then it should be pretty good: it backs up my feeling that with a couple more killer tunes Ben could have been where Jamie Liddel is now. With any luck this track signals that next year he will be.
What’s also interesting about I Can See is that, like Radiohead with Reckoner, DJ Shadow with the video for This Time, (and many other artists before that) Jazzanova have asked fans to remix the track. The best remix of I Can See, as judged by the Jazzanova boys, gets a load of prizes but the closing date is January 15th, so you’ll need to be fast. There’s already been 183 remixes submitted and whilst I’ve only listened to a couple, one of them is really good.
The tom lown mix which is #2 on the widget below, keeps the original track’s soul vibe but gives it a very stripped down feel – I can well imagine it being played at some impossibly cool bar in Ibiza or similar. Oh God, Ibiza – here comes another nostalgia trip.