timscience: (SHOTP)
This is probably a meme somewhere. Whatever. Before we start, a few things to get out of the way:

Disappointment of the year:
MGMT – Congratulations
What on earth were you thinking? This is bobbins. It’s like prog, but without the Wagnerian lunacy that is prog’s redeeming feature. From the interviews they’ve given, it seems as if they have decided pop music is beneath them. Wrong decision.
The sound of a moderately talented indie band disappearing up its own arse.

Honourable mentions:
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Don’t get me wrong, I love LCD, but they have now made the precise same album three times. It’s a very fine album, but a fourth time would be jumping the shark. James Murphy seems to agree.

Holy Fuck – Latin
Doesn’t make the cut because it’s not quite as good as “LP”.

Darkstar – North
Elegiac, piano led synthpop, not dubstep at all. Doesn’t make it because the best tune on it is a Human League cover, and because live, the singer is quite annoying.

M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
Panned by the critics, unfairly, I feel. “Teqkilla” and the Sleigh Bells sampling “Meds and Feds” are as good as anything she’s ever done. Doesn’t make it because of the cod-reggae bollocks of “Story to be Told” and “It Takes a Muscle”, and because it was utterly eclipsed by the live show with added BASS.

Coloureds – Cameleopardalis
Local boys produce an excellent EP, which doesn’t make it because, being an EP, it only has three tracks (plus three remixes, but frankly two of them aren’t that great).

So, then, to the utterly subjective best albums of the year, in reverse order.

10) HEALTH - ::DISCO2

Remixes of last year’s “Get Color” by the likes of Salem, CFCF and Tobacco plus new track “USA Boys”. HEALTH continue to work the Indie/Metal/Electro crossover genre. This album is approximately a million times better than that sentence makes it sound. Awesome live, by the way.

9) New Young Pony Club – The Optimist

A make or break album for NYPC after jumping record labels and losing the guy with the porn star tache. Tahita introduced the live show with “Hello, we’re New Young Pony Club….back from the brink”. Hopefully this album sold enough to keep them going because it’s lovely, ditching the sarcastic spoken word vocals and allowing her to actually sing, which she turns out to be quite good at. Maybe now they can stop endlessly rereleasing “Ice Cream”.

8) Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

“Demon Days” was critically lauded but for some reason didn’t quite grab me. No idea why. This, on the other hand, hit the spot. Best track – Glitter Freeze, a glam rock stomp featuring an incomprehensible rant from Mark E Smith.

7) Chew Lips – Unicorn

This won’t be in everyone’s top ten. Fairly standard Kitsune female fronted electro, doesn’t even contain the hit critically acclaimed singles “Solo” and “Salt Air”. In because I keep coming back and playing it again, because it’s gorgeous.

6) Salem – King Night

Call it Drag, call it Witch House, call it Night Bus – this is the genre that defined hipsterism in 2010. Equally, it is the genre that those same people will drop like a hot potato in 2011. The critics who loved this album will be saying “Salem? Never heard of them, and besides, they were always shit”.
To be fair, the band haven’t helped themselves, with a string of irritating interviews and atrocious live performances, but this is a brilliant album that deserves better than the already-nascent backlash. Enjoy it while you can.

5) Tobacco – Maniac Meat/Mystic Thickness

Tobacco is the side project of some guy in Black Moth Super Rainbow, who I’d never heard of before. This album basically consists of huge basslines, crunchy synth chords, and noise. One of the tracks, “Creepy Phone Calls”, also crops up as a remix on the HEALTH album. They have three completely different tracks all called “Nuclear Waste Aerobics”.
That is all you need to know about Tobacco.

4) Tearist – Tearist

Like an electro version of The Creatures (minimalist Siouxie Sioux side project) consisting of simple synth lines, krautrock style drum loops and incomprehensible vocals. Nothing about it should work, and yet there is something oddly compelling about it. Another record I keep coming back to and playing, and the only record ever to have prompted me to buy a booster pack from eMusic becasuse I just couldn’t wait for my monthly downloads to clock before grabbing it.
The second witch house act to make this year’s top ten. There would probably be more if the acts concerned would release actual records I could buy instead of making me chase them through obscure internet forums (are you listening, White Ring?). I guess I must be a hipster then. This sounds nothing like the Salem record. It’s almost as if these bands aren’t that similar at all but have been pushed together into an artificial genre by lazy journalists but THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN.

3) Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (II)

In an interview in the Guardian, the famously grumpy Ethan Kath took great offence when the interviewer suggested that he writes great pop songs. He is wrong.
This record is ravier than a ravey thing. At a rave. Like the first album, it has a series of instantly memorable hooks which have been corroded almost, but not quite, into unlistenability. Works astonishingly well live.

2) Sleigh Bells – Treats

This record consists entirely of stomping beats, repetitive lyrics and enormous riffs. The production sounds like the whole thing has been fed through the automatic gain control on an old tape player. You remember, that button that cut out everything except the drums whenever there was a snare hit and rendered everything else unrecognisably distorted. It is insane. It is also a great pop record.
Somewhere there is an alternate universe in which Sleigh Bells and Crystal Castles duke it out for the Christmas Number One spot. I wish I lived there.

And finally….drum roll….

1) These New Puritans – Hidden

Yes, I know, it’s topped everyone’s list this year. That’s for good reason. This is a record of astonishing ambition that pretty much carries it off. Features a lead single – their best hope of an actual hit – seven minutes long, veering from taiko drum enhanced dancehall to Britten-inspired woodwind. The rest of the album is the same, only more so.
TNP’s record company gave lead Puritan Jack Barnett carte blanche to do what he liked, on the grounds that the boss reckons he’s a genius and is prepared to back him up to and possibly beyond bankruptcy. What he liked involved spending six months in Eastern Europe, teaching himself to score for woodwind, and experimenting with Foley film FX techniques. “Hidden” is the result.
The album is not without flaws. Barnett’s voice is very much a love it or hate it proposition, and someone needs to have a word about lyrics (“Some of these trees have been growing for years….” well, yes, that’s what trees do). But somehow the flaws pull it together, make it a more human proposition, and hint at the fact that there is still space for this band to get even better.
Brought to life at the Barbican where there was much enthusiastic smashing of watermelons (duct taping cream crackers to a watermelon then hitting it with a hammer sounds like a skull exploding, see?) and a giant drum taller than I am.
Taking to the NME Barnett floated the idea that the next record will be three minute pop songs. I have no idea what a three minute pop song is like in his world, but I can’t wait.

May 2017

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