Our Favourite Albums Of 2019

This final End of Year list of the decade reads like a microcosm of the chaos of the nine years which went before it. Here there are pop albums made by underground musicians who can’t have expected anyone near a chart to hear them, R&B records made by rappers, pop records by rock bands and a million experiments in sound: from an album made of the sampled sounds of pieces of plastic to bluegrass revival. We are now in a place where it doesn’t seem absurd to place bandcamp sweethearts next to house DJs and chart-topping millionaires because we all listen to music on platforms which have them just a click apart anyway. 

We leave the decade with new icons whose names are scattered throughout this list: musicians like Blood Orange, Tyler The Creator, FKA Twigs, Danny Brown and Charli XCX who we simply hadn’t heard of ten years ago, and the behind-the-scenes revolutionaries like the producers of PC-Music who started the decade pastiching commercial music from their bedrooms and ended it writing the genuine commercial hits of today, reshaping the sound of chart music for the better. We also leave this year with new stars, from Billie Eilish to Little Simz and Floating Points, who we may well be speaking of in the same terms in ten years time. We celebrated the 80th anniversary of Blue Note records (which the header of this year’s list pays tribute to) while passed icons Miles Davis, Prince, Leonard Cohen and Arthur Russell had works unearthed which added to the depth of their legacies. We lost a few heroes too: João Gilberto, Scott Walker, David Berman, Kieth Flint and Bushwick Bill being just a few names among many. Many of the narratives which have emerged around music journalism are represented here, from the burgeoning London jazz scene, the reggaeton revolution and the grime takeover, but some of the most telling stories are not: the unstoppable ‘Old Town Road’ for example was a history maker specifically because it has nothing to do with albums. Most of all though, music is a perpetual provider of hope – giving voice to the forgotten, allowing the ideas of the future to be taken for a spin, providing resilience in the face of tyrannical forces, or simply daily reassurance from songwriters who capture the essence of what’s means to be alive and – in clubs, gigs and living rooms – make the living fun.

This list was compiled by a music fan with nothing better to do, based only the albums I managed to hear this year, featuring bias and ignorance of critical consensus. It is instead based solely on the music which impacted us, and which we enjoyed and listened to the most. From top to bottom, we consider all of these albums to be produced by incredibly talented individuals whose music this year will provide pleasure and inspiration for many more to come.

100. Plastic Anniversary – Matmos

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99. Flamboyant – Dorian Electra

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98. Odds Against Tomorrow – Bill Orcutt

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97. GINGER – Brockhampton

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Our 12 Favourite Documentaries Of 2016

2016 was a year in which reality began to seem rather unreal, where real-world developments beat satirical shows like Veep and Saturday Night Live to the punch with some of the most bizarre turns of events in recent years, with a reality-TV star and general man-child (or as he called himself on Twitter this month, “ratings machine DJT”), now readying himself to become leader of the free world. Like The Donald, documentaries this year have turned their hard gaze to globalisation, with John Pilger, Werner Herzog, Fisher Stevens and Adam Curtis all flitting between dozens of outsider communities whose human stories represent global hope, and tragedy.

Conversely, others have turned to hard introspection: particularly American documentaries who face down their fractured nation by confronting the effects of climate change, foreign affairs and race relations. Meanwhile others pursued an entirely personal philosophy: capturing the people facing huge challenges – be it cult seduction, artistic integrity or personal loss. What follows are a list of the 12 documentaries released in the last 12 months which best represent our planet, the challenges which face it, and the people who live here, as they often instill great faith and optimism when we need it most.

12. Into The Inferno (Netflix)

One of two Netflix documentaries helmed by cinematic pioneer Werner Herzog this year, Into The Inferno takes a deep dive into volcanoes.  It’s this kind of seemingly obtuse subject matter which Herzog utilises to cast a light on the manner in which one breed of natural phenomenon can shape whole histories and cultures; as for certain island tribes and the people of North Korea, who have given them religious status, while their sediment has preserved fossils which could help us solve the key of our species’ evolution. Threaded between a plethora of cultures are extended sequences of footage from the fiery core of three volcanoes, with images of explorers dwarfed by fountains of molten lava providing some of the most striking images of the year.  Continue reading “Our 12 Favourite Documentaries Of 2016”

Our 100 Favourite Albums of 2016

2016 was quite special for music. Perhaps the greatest year to be a fan of the medium so far this century, the quality has been such that it’ll take well into 2017 to fully appreciate the nuances of every great album released since January, where records which may have topped lists in years gone by barely make it into the top half of this one. Some years are defined by the names we now considered greats, some by fresh voices… This year had both, happening all at once.

It was a year where we bade farewell to Prince, David Bowie, Phife Dawg, George Michael and Leonard Cohen, several of whom released some of their best work in their final months… The myth that an artist peaks at middle age is no more. In a year of political turmoil dissident voices in music haven’t been as strong or as impassioned since the counterculture movement of the 1960’s and early 70’s, while pop culture’s biggest names in Drake, Frank Ocean and Kanye West undertook  some of the most hype-building, and frustrating, release cycles yet.

This list was compiled by three music fans based only the albums they heard this year, featuring bias and ignorance of critical consensus. It is instead based solely on the music which impacted us, and which we enjoyed and listened to the most. From top to bottom, we consider all of these albums to be produced by incredibly talented individuals whose music this year will provide pleasure and inspiration for many more to come.

100. The Madness Of Many – Animals As Leaders


99. Weezer (The White Album) – Weezer


98. Baauer – Aa


97. Shirley Collins – Lodestar

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“Just Breathe” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Album Review

This album is bad for your health. I know that because it’s all I’ve listened to once it was released last Friday and I’ve been nothing but melancholic since. There are a few precedents for material this mournful in popular music: Van Morrison’s ‘TB Sheets’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, David Bowie’s Blackstar: but Skeleton Tree stands almost alone as the blackest aural pit. It sits towards the top of the iTunes charts amongst Now That’s What I Call Music 94 and a dozen songs featuring Justin Bieber like a gaping wound. If none of this makes the record sound especially appealing, then I’ve captured it well: it’s not. But it’s also one of the most powerful and emotionally raw collections of music ever produced.

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Junkyard Poet: Nick Cave’s The Sick Bag Song Reviewed

Nick Cave is a punk-rocker from Victoria, Australia. Now living in Brighton, he got his start in music in the early eighties in a filthy punk band named The Birthday Party. After a few years he mellowed out and gained infinite sophistication as frontman for his band The Bad Seeds – producing albums packed with love songs, Greek tragedies and homicide (featuring Kylie Minogue.) The wordy musician has also written the screenplays for western movies Lawless and The Proposition and his first two novels And The Ass Saw The Angel and The Death Of Bunny Munro were lurid affairs dealing with murder and mortality. The Sick Bag Song is his third novel but, as the title might suggest, also acts as an elongated poem: a confusing mix of fact and fiction which tones down the murder but ratchets up the mortality to a deafening degree. Cave describes it as “the SCUM Manifesto meets The Shropshire Lad meets Apocalypto meets Kanye West meets PornHub…” and so on. I’d describe it as a freshly trawled shell. Difficult to grasp and hard to break: but if you can crack it, there are pearls to be revealed within.

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