Thanks to getting Covid (again!) I’ve made only slow progress on the poll track write-ups – in fact I only finished this selection after all the matches ended (oops). YouTube playlist here:

Here they are though! 

Day 2 – 5 Discoveries:

  • Anderson Neiff etc – “O Neiff Me Ligou”
  • Burial – “Dark Gethsemane”
  • Mon Laferte & Gloria Trevi – “La Mujer”
  • Shannon Lay – “Rare To Wake”
  • Young Dolph ft Key Glock – “Aspen”

Qualifier 7

BTS – “Butter”: One thing about being out of touch is understanding broadly why a sound is popular but not getting what the most popular examples are doing right. Why BTS precisely? Why Dry Cleaning? It’s not that there even is an answer, just that you’ve lost the skill to convincingly post-rationalise one.

GIRL IN RED – “Serotonin”: A song about the mechanics of depression which works better for avoiding metaphor and just being as blunt as possible, quite frankly.

HALSEY – “You Asked For This”: Good songwriting & catchy but I found all the shoegazey surges a bit mannered, maybe it feels like it misses the point of texture to suborn it to song like this? Not sure.

SUECO – Paralyzed: Nu metal pop which sounds unpleasantly like the times Busted tried to be serious. 

Qualifier 8

DAYFLOWER – “Sonic”: Proves my point about shoegaze, it shouldn’t be caged up in a pop song but free to roam in a loving recreation of its original habitat, viz. the Fulham Greyhound in 1988.

DOLOUR – “Pick Up The Phone”: Cheerful example of what used to be called ‘sunshine pop’, I originally pegged it as a mid 70s vibe but Jeff W wisely mentioned mid 90s Boo Radleys and I think that’s a better spot, has strong NME single of the week vibes. In a good way!

SERENGETI – “Our House Cover”: Simultaneously one of the most straightforward and weirdest nominations this year, Anticon associate and underground MC Serengeti doing an entirely straight cover of Madness’ “Our House”, so all-in enthusiastic in fact that it manages to reinvent the sound of Bus Stop ft Daz Sampson.

WYCH ELM – “Scold’s Bridle”: “I Sold My Soul To The Forces Of Darkness And All I Got Was This Old PJ Harvey Record” – a track that doesn’t seem to be delivering on anyone’s prior expectations of what a song called this by a band called this might be like but on its own terms this one’s growing on me. The Peel Rule stops me voting for it tho.

Qualifier 9

BURIAL – “Dark Gethsemane”: I generally found that a little of Burial’s ASMR for crate-diggers thing went a long way, so I was surprised and delighted by how much this 10 minute track made sense to me, particularly when it switches gears and just becomes about playing with one joyful vocal sample.

DRY CLEANING – “Strong Feelings”: My first time hearing this much hyped outfit – first play I was rolling my eyes, second play I think I got more of a handle on it, there’s an Alan Bennett like mildewed sadness which is more interesting than the brash approach some of these bands take.

KYLIE x DUA LIPA – “Real Groove (Initial Talk Remix)”: Points for the k-k-kylie bit, in fact if that was all there was I would be more into this. It’s lively and works in a historical recreation society sense.

TYLER THE CREATOR – “Sweet/I Thought You Wanted To Dance”: One of those long, languid prog-rap epics which I (rightly or wrongly) blame/credit Frank Ocean with. As is often the way with them I enjoy the parts as they’re happening without getting much coherent sense of a whole – that said this one dips into cod-reggae at the end which made me happy.

Qualifier 10!

ANDERSON NEIFF, MC TERROR et al – “O Neiff Me Ligou”: Loved this. The spacey, melancholy backing initially seems like a bit of flimsy decor but really it’s the discreet glue that holds together all the different directions the beat wants to go.

BACKXWASH ft AVA ROOK – “I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses”: Rook’s burned-lung howling steals the show from Backxwash’s confrontational but ponderous rapping. 

BANKULLI ft NOT3S – “Foreign”: Smooth, lonesome Afrobeats with some typically diffident MCing. I like this (especially on headphones where the crisp production really comes over) but it’s not going to convert anyone who isn’t into the genre.

CHEEKFACE – “Crying Back”: Spot-on Malkmus imitator channeling the spirit of Weird Al or They Might Be Giants or (sez its nominator) Half Man Half Biscuit. As addictive or intolerable as you’d expect from that description.

Qualifier 11!

JPEGMAFIA – “HAZARD DUTY PAY!”: I’ve liked everything I’ve heard by JPEGMAFIA and this is no exception; messy, chaotic sound with urgent rapping – so I need to explore deeper even if his catalogue is big and daunting.

MON LAFERTE & GLORIA TREVI – “La Mujer”: Love this, a big unexpected slab of belting Spanish pop – no fancy stuff, just big woozy brass and lung-busting dismissals of (I assume) some feckless lover or rival.

PRIYA RAGU – “Chicken Lemon Rice”: My understanding is this was a big TikTok thing, but I’m not sure which bit they’d extract – there’s a ton going on, it’s a really busy, hook-stuffed dance-pop-rap record. Very tasty.

YOUNG DOLPH ft KEY GLOCK – “Aspen”: This track by the late Young Dolph took a few plays to resolve for me – the flow is fine but it obscured how nice those organ stabs and bar piano twinkles in the beat are. Really good, and sad that it landed in a very strong group.

Qualifier 12!

HANNAH PEEL – “Emergence In Nature”: I’ve not spent enough time with the Fir Wave LP – Peel is prolific, and tries lots of different things, and some of them take a while to latch onto. Heard on its own this semi-electronica piece works really well, though, bustling with life like a water droplet under a microscope.

JULIANNA HATFIELD – “Mouthful Of Blood”: One of several “are they still going?” reactions in the poll, but unlike some of the veteran tracks this year, “Mouthful Of Blood” earns its place – solid indie-rock about the discomfort of feeling silenced.

SHANNON LAY – “Rare To Wake”: Blissed-out Americana in a slightly Fleet Foxy vein, but with a mystical, earnest push to it which drives past the hokiness you might expect. Basically I don’t usually vibe with this kind of track but I was absolutely struck by this.

SONS OF KEMET ft MOOR MOTHER – “Pick Up Your Burning Cross”: No great leap forward for the Sons (& related acts), but there doesn’t need to me – there’s a lot of mileage in this itchy afro-jazz sound they’re working with, all these mazy thickets of percussion and horns springing up around the listener.