(Such is my continued neglect of this blog that it seems destined only to be the site of an annual shortlist of those songs I have discovered and loved in the previous twelve months. Again…what follows is a transcript of some hastily written notes to accompany a mix CD)
So 2017 has rather blundered past in a clumsy whirlwind of incredulity, sadness, intolerance, defiance, hatred, strength and hope. I remain forever thankful that my immediate world is dominated largely by friends old and new, by mother nature, and by art…
Herewith the soundtrack to my sometimes wonderful, occasionally disastrous, existence over the last twelve months. As always, each song new to me this year, the whole presented by way of you indulging my tastes in the hope you’ll find something of appeal and/or interest. The provenance of the list a little more orthodox than 2016, given a welcome increase in exposure to 6music.
It is a fine list, much is new, an odd oldie and some pleasing segues. Stubbornly still on CD I am afraid (sorry James) as S**tify won’t have all of it and then it wouldn’t be the same.
1. ‘The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow’ – StevenSteven…
…comprising Steven Drozd of Flaming Lips fame and another Steven notable (apparently) as presenter of something called ‘Blues Clues’ (which has a blue dog, called Blue). This may mean something to you if you were born in the mid-late 90s.
The album ‘Foreverywhere’ was recorded a few years ago but for various reasons only made its way to Bandcamp early in 2017. Drozd is one of the greatest living musicians and the album is a beautiful, charming fairytale (apart from an incongruous ode to certain bodily functions). This opening track is just lovely.
2. ‘Some New Bones’ – Malojian
This made the list after just one listen on Gideon Coe’s show, only a couple of weeks ago. I know nothing about Malojian but the song feels like a strong, comfortable hug…compassion and physical reassurance.
3. ‘She Led Me Away’ – Lost Horizons
Lost Horizons are interesting not least as a project of Bella Union label boss and erstwhile Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde. What we also have here though is the unbelievably welcome return of guest vocalist Tim Smith. Hearing his voice again one of a few things that genuinely made my year.
4. ‘Hushabye Mountain’ – Belly
Fairly well known that Belly are by some distance my favourite 90s band and seeing them on the reunion tour was a highlight of 2016. We now await a 2018 album but in the meantime have been treated to this gorgeous Disney cover as part of a crowdfunding campaign.
(video/audio sadly unavailable outside of the Pledgemusic campaign)
5. ‘Do You Need My Love’ – Weyes Blood
An extraordinary voice and sumptuous arrangement – echoes of all manner of 60s/70s vocals – Carpenter, Slick, Baez, Cass – so beautiful.
6. ‘Fuck the Government, I Love You’ – The Burning Hell
Favourite new band at EOTR 2017. Ridiculously clever songwriting with sentiments that surely underpin how we are going to get through all of this…evidenced by the glorious choral participation of a festival audience. Someone pass the wine.
7. ‘Love You So Bad’ – Ezra Furman
A fourth consecutive appearance for Ezra.
(can’t find video at time of writing…)
8. ‘The Strangle of Anna’ – Moonlandingz
Stephanie told me this would be song of the year and I rather think it is. Gorgeous in every way.
9. ‘WANT’ – W.H. Lung
Quite something that a band not yet into double digit gigs played should be a definite highlight of both EOTR and Psychfest. They’re just kids and they’re brilliant. A bit pissed and much to the annoyance of an acquaintance, I referred to them in Liverpool as an infinitely more interesting Elbow.
10. ‘Star Roving’ – Slowdive
Slowdive’s reunion shows over the last couple of years have been a joy…any concerns of new material not hitting the mark well and truly dismissed with this glorious noise. Christian Savill’s guitar sound might well be up there with Thurston Moore.
11. ‘Brush With The Wild’ – Grandaddy
As with Belly and Slowdive, new songs from Grandaddy were never not going to be wonderful. Vintage Jason Lytle.
12. ‘Click Clack’ – Nap Eyes
Another EOTR 2017 discovery, courtesy of Simon and Rachel. I absolutely loved their set, somehow melding The Velvet Underground with a bit of Crazy Horse – all from the most charming and unassuming Canadian kids.
13. ‘Restart’ – BNQT
A restart indeed, if you will forgive something of a truck driver’s shift in proceedings. BNQT (pronounced banquet) are an extraordinary supergroup…somehow comprising the vocalists from Midlake, Grandaddy, Band of Horses, Travis and Franz Ferdinand…all of whom combine to produce this sterling ‘glamericana’, if you will. I fear I will regret enormously missing October’s Borderline gig…praying that EOTR get hold of them for 2018.
14. ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ – Queen
It feels a little odd to have only just discovered a Queen track, thanks to Mr Marc Riley of 6music, I thought we all knew all of them? Anyways, this is bloody brilliant and a great demonstration of what influence the band retains for the likes of rock and roll revivalists White Denim and Jim Jones.
15. ‘Speed And Velocity’ – They Might Be Giants
Conversely, I think I only knew one TMBG song prior to Lauren Laverne playing ‘Why Does The Sun Shine’ as part of a sciencey playlist. The album ‘Here Comes Science’ is probably my favourite discovery of the year…a joyous and instructive gem. This song makes me so happy and a dance routine is under development.
16. ‘Place That Are Gone’ – Tommy Keene
Sadly, it took Tommy Keene’s passing just a couple of weeks ago to alert me to his prior existence, let alone the fact he produced power-pop gems such as this. No surprise to hear he’s worked with Robert Pollard…modern music would benefit a great deal from more of this kind of thing.
17. ‘Everything’s Fine…’ – Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts
Having retained the will to live during September, Ezra Furman’s ‘Ordinary Life’ has been replaced as soundtrack to my life by this, from the world’s greatest living poet (maybs). I love Jeffrey Lewis so much and this is everything I want from music.
(neither song or video are officially available as yet, pending release of next year’s album, a version was available online from a 6music session…whether anyone managed to rip that is anyone’s guess)
(sorry Jeffrey. sorry BBC)
18. ‘Try It Out (It’s Nothing)’ – Guided by Voices
GBV are essentially America’s Fall, at least in terms of longevity, prolific output, numerous alumni, genius figurehead and unerring ability to produce wonderful pop songs. The 2017 album ‘August By Cake’ is up there with the best of 60yo Robert Pollard’s extraordinary career.
(no video available)
19. ‘Tourmalet’ – Electricity for Everybody!
I know absolutely nothing about this band other than the fact I loved this song the first time I heard it on the radio. There is an immediacy and energy to it all which sits it somewhere in the middle of The Walkmen, Ought and The Hold Steady…and oh it’s super.
(no video available)
20. ‘Do You Remember?’ (demo) – Husker Du
Talking of immediacy and energy…
I often wonder quite what it would have been like to experience Husker Du in their raw, youthful pomp. The closest many of us are going to get is the recent ‘Savage Young Du’ release of early material, rarities and demos. The live shows must have been insane.