Posts from 2020

4
Dec 20

The Christmas We Get We Deserve

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It was sometime this Summer that I decided to do a Christmas poll in December, which later expanded to include other Winter festivals.

I didn’t think the idea through because it was a long way off – and I also felt there was a real chance I wouldn’t run it: more »

1
Dec 20

WESTLIFE – “Mandy”

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#965, 26th November 2003

The tears are on their mind and nothing is rhyming. Sometime between previous single “Hey Whatever!” – a very non-Imperial number 4 – and this cover version, Brian McFadden decided it was time for the dream to end and handed in his notice. Sometimes when boys quit a band it’s a shock – a profitable enterprise cut cruelly short. But Westlife shedding a member felt like part of an ongoing process, a group winding gently down.

1
Nov 20

BUSTED – “Crashed The Wedding”

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#964, 22nd November 2003

“You Said No” was an uneven mix of Busted’s charms and their weaknesses; “Crashed The Wedding” is all upside. All of Busted’s singles so far have played like episodes in the band’s imaginary TV show – a vaguely naughty comedy story; a goofy sci-fi pastiche; a high school melodrama. “Crashed The Wedding” is more like the climax of the group’s first movie, the riotous denouement of a pop-punk rom-com. Though the ‘punk’ side is getting even more vestigial – this is scruffbag power-pop, and all the better for it.

30
Oct 20

Omargeddon #17: A Lovejoy

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Unlike several other Omar Rodriguez-Lopez albums, the contents of A Lovejoy are accurately reflected by its cover. The bright colours, glitzy lights and disco font signpost a collection of infectiously catchy dance tracks, so despite the name, there are no weird curve balls concept-wise about Ian McShane’s mystery-solving antiques dealer and/or Springfield’s resident pastor.

Spotify has a lot of obvious moral failures, as well as, I’m coming to realise, vexing technical issues. I’ve accepted randomly vanishing tunes, because at least that can be somewhat explained by label interference or artist whimsy. However, I was recently stumped by the realisation that their version of A Lovejoy is both incomplete and inaccurate. The final song is given as “Tlaquepaque”, which is indeed correct, but what you hear is in fact the song “Left For Dead”, which doesn’t appear on the track list, meaning “Tlaquepaque” isn’t there at all. At first, I found this extremely irritating, but I suppose it means that I got a bonus ORL song this year that I wasn’t expecting, and it also prompted me to push the purchase of this album up my current Bandcamp queue. You could argue that I should have bought these albums years ago, but I’m doing it now, so kiss my ass.

24
Oct 20

World Cup of 1980 Preview

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This is the third time I’ve run a poll event based on a single year – 1980 follows 1990 and 2001, and they’ve all presented different challenges in terms of building out brackets that are fun, fair (well, fair-ish) and tell a story about what happened that year.

Go to a site like Rate Your Music and they make sense of 1980 in a familiar way. Their “Top 20 Singles” are entirely white and 95% male: Joy Division, Talking Heads, The Clash, Bowie, and so on.

All these people are represented in our version of 1980 – it’s entirely possible one of them will win the tournament – but to claim they tell the story of the year is nonsense.

21
Sep 20

Omargeddon #16: Cizaña de los Amores

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I joined last.fm in 2007 because I’d seen some of my friends use it to tag their LiveJournal entries with the song they were currently listening to and thought this was a pretty boss idea. But I soon realised that as far as I was concerned, its primary feature was the radio stream (which has since either disappeared or has been made a premium feature). I’d play it solidly as work* background music and appreciated the mix of 95% stuff I knew and liked and 5% random shit. At the time, I couldn’t possibly imagine anyone being interested in viewing my profile and so had no hesitation in publicly sharing my listening data. Then, after many enthusiastic years of scrobbling, I logged out in the summer of 2018 and haven’t been back since. This is largely due to this project, because seeing in black and white how often I listened to the same albums over and over in a short span of time made me cringe.

I had a similar amount of embarrassment at the end of last year when Spotify generated a slideshow of 2019’s top artists/songs, and I genuinely worried that if someone were to analyse that information, they’d conclude that I should be placed in some kind of a home. This weird and pointless self-shaming has certainly motivated me to seek out more new music this year, but in my heart of hearts, I know I’ll always find a lot of comfort in a select playlist of firm favourites played incessantly. I’ve previously likened it to being a small child who wants to hear the same bedtime story for months on end, and now more than ever, I just want to know that the story ends if not happily ever after, then at least how I expect it to.

Cizaña de los Amores (“Love’s Tares” and “Love’s Darnel” have both been offered up by machine translations) was recorded in Clouds Hill Studios, a location much beloved by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez for many years now; his most recent release was also recorded there. With Ximena Sariñana on most lead vocals, an eerie digital collage album cover by artist Sonny Kay, and a psychedelic pop core, the similarities between it and Solar Gambling are fairly obvious. Both feature recurring lyrics and melodies that often blend into a continuous flow, and instrumental or near instrumental songs acting as codas, so the parallels between the two make me regard them together as an unofficial double album.

9
Sep 20

#16: Can’t you see I’m trying?

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The final bracket spotlights the great hopes of indie rock – at least as far as the NME was concerned – The Strokes. Googling magazine covers for the lead-in illustrations to the poll brought home a couple of points. The first is how quickly and heavily the NME went all-in for The Strokes. The second is how little else they had to talk about in the same breath – their natural tendency to roll a few acts up into a “scene” seems initially thwarted. That would change, fairly quickly, but it accounts for the way Detroit’s White Stripes, already on their 3rd LP, would be swept up and treated as a new band.

#15: Looks good, sounds good, looks good, feels good too

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It’s the electroclash bracket! Er… kind of. Maybe half the tracks here would have some claim on that hotly contested genre, but the vibe of this bracket is “what might have been played at a hipster club night?”. Did I go to hipster club nights in 2001? Ah, not really.

7
Sep 20

#14: Es swingt dich in die Knie, denn der Riddim is Hardcore

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For the fifth poll in a row – it’s become a tradition! – we have a bracket dedicated to non-English language pop. This started as simply a couple of groups in the People’s Pop Poll in May, but it’s grown as we’ve done the polls. In the 1990 poll there was almost enough for an entire bracket – in this one we had too many for one, and a certain amount of sleight of hand was needed to accommodate it all.

#13: Hey, must be the money!

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This is the mainstream hip-hop bracket, with a chunky three tracks each from the critical King and Queen of the genre in 2001, Jay-Z and Missy Elliott, and appearances from a host of other royals – Nelly, fresh off months at #1 with his Country Grammar LP; snarlers Ludacris and Mystikal; Outkast and Wu-Tang. Debutants too – the Timbaland-produced Bubba Sparxxx and kinda-conscious rappers City High.