Song Of The Day – The Best Songs Of 2021

So that’s Christmas out of the way, only New Year to go, then onto 2022. Lots to look forward to; more Covid-19, general political idiocy, rising food and electricity prices and a World Cup being held in fucking Qatar. Still, I’m past the point of giving a toss, sweating the details and things I cannot change, bring it on.

And while we’re on the subject of being hostile and disparaging, I just want to say a huge fuck off to WordPress and their editor, which is completely broken. I know I pay £70 odd quid a year to get adds removed from the site for the sake of the sixty-eight souls who have the mis-fortune to stumble upon it every year, but it would be nice if the user interface wasn’t completely fucking shite. That would help.

Rant over. Yes, music. You’ll notice that Bunny Is A Rider by Caroline Polachek isn’t in this list because I loathe it with every molecule in my possession. The Auto-Tune (when oh when will this trend end!?), the annoying whistle, the baggy chorus. I’ll not dwell on the lament that this passes, in terms of popularity, as the zenith of pop music these days. Comparatively it makes Material Girl by Madonna sound as sophisticated as Vivaldi or Bach. Forty years ago Don’t You Want Me by The Human League was number one. This period of generic, stale tastes we’re living through is not progress. Trap has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, enough of me being a middle-aged man bore (starts weeping uncontrollably at the realisation), this is a list of ten songs I quite enjoyed. Quite a lot of stuff here is sans lyrics, or have a minimal amount. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen recently (well more than usual), so I can only posit that my incisive wordplay quota has been salubriously satiated, and instrumental music becomes more enticing in lieu of or sounds better in comparison than all other kinds of music.

Bandcamp and Soundcloud links supplied here, because YouTube are taking the absolute fucking piss with the frequency of the adverts now. It won’t make one iota of a difference but I’m taking a stand. I realise some of this is by choice of those supplying the content. Still, it’s the platform offering them the option to insert mid-video adverts, but even if you exclude them, the multiple ads YouTube run, irrespective of content, before and after each video is getting out of hand. And providing direct links may help support these people with a few quid when and where you can. Catch you on the flipside homies.

Bodytronixx – Waitin’

From the EP ‘LGHTR KRU: Nite Mode Vol. 1’

Currency Audio – Riverside

From the EP ‘Humanism’

DijahSB – Overtime

From the single ‘Overtime’

Gnod – Inner Z

From the album ‘Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy’

Loft – Wish It Would Rain (Massive Vibe Moment)

From the single ‘Wish It Would Rain’

Remotif – Gondwana At Noon

From the EP ‘Gondwana AT Noon’

Skee Mask – Fourth

From the album ‘Pool’

Sunburned Hand Of The Man – Pick A Day To Die

From the album ‘Pick A Day To Die’

System Olympia – Lousy

From the album ‘Always On Time’

The Umlauts – Boiler Suits & Combat Boots

From the EP ‘Ü EP’

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Song Of The Day – Do You Hear What I Hear by Bing Crosby

From the Christmas single ‘Do you Hear What I Hear’ (1963)

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Essential Listening: The Best Albums Of 2021

Amidst the threat of yet another lockdown, cancelled Christmas parties, the prospect of me spending my first Christmas ever alone and potentially no football on Boxing Day (which is a defacto referendum on whether greed for the few is more important than common sense for the many, you’ll never guess who I think will win), instead of dwelling of the oddity of the new normal and whether this fucking nonsense will ever end (the pessimist in me is beginning to have doubts) I’m going to accentuate the positive. No roast Turkey for Christmas dinner! I’ve always hated that tradition. And a quiet Christmas of solitude sounds as if it’ll be a good opportunity to retreat into my own headspace for a couple of weeks; no work, no thoughts of Covid, or catching it, and generally taking measures to avoid as much irritating bullshit as I can.

So to this best releases of 2021 list. Ignore the post title, it’s a legacy of a time when I adhered to stringent criteria, in an attempt to…be more journalistic? How pathetic. There’s a lot of Bandcamp stuff on here this year. You can glean from this, that, similar to Soulseek, it’s a great resource for all kinds of music, new and reissued, that I can’t live without, and that I’m probably spending too much time (and money) on it.

Still, the world’s going to hell in the most tedious way possible, so if you enjoy something, I say indulge yourself. I just can’t abide the blithe, retrograde demonisation of consumerism, hedonism and materialism. But hey, let the attention seeking try-hard lot try and cancel them and see where it gets them.

Speaking of tedious, and this is yet another reason to be good to yourself (albeit in moderation) last Friday I queued in the cold for six hours to get my second vaccination shot. I should be thankful I got it and that it wasn’t even colder and raining, but man, waiting six hours for anything is misery. I could offer a long rant on many governments failing to offer a larger capacity for access to vaccines, that we’ve botched the whole thing from the beginning, but there are enough people making that point without me labouring it here. Yes I had the discipline for altruism, and so do a lot of other folks, but that alone won’t sustain me and this whole thing just doesn’t feel sustainable.

Even the topic of Covid in infecting our thoughts, leading to morose and inane conversations. I got a cab to the walk in vaccination site and when I told the cabbie I was going to get my second shot, he started ranting about how all this is a result of our unhygienic society. Before regaling me with examples, including when they were cleaned annually, that a disgusting amount of scum came out of the taps in the takeaway he used to work in.

What made the whole day remotely bearable was a really good pair of in-ear Sennheiser buds (and lossless audio – MP3 is shit, and Steve Jobs is scum to us audiophiles), and that you can listen to practically anything anywhere at any time. It made me appreciate music’s companionship and how much better our lives have become by technology (and vaccines).

And in an effort to not be boring I’m going to keep my reasons for these album recommendations concise, because you’re here for that and not pretentious prose, or anymore chat about fucking Coronavirus.

As per usual this list arrives in alphabetical order, no hierarchies here. Just ten releases that I enjoyed and will continue to. I’ll post my top songs of 2021 next week. Merry Christmas to the lot of you.

Bodytronixxx – LGHTR KRU: Nite Mode Vol.1

Stripped out atmospheric Vaporwave. Soft base lines and keyboards married with sharp inflections and sultry vocals. Certain elements made me think of Vangelis’ Blade Runner sound track, while also evoking the bedroom producer aesthetic. Another release that deserves your support.

Can – Live in Stuttgart ‘75

If you’re as undercapitalised in your collection of live albums as I am this is a good place to start, and if you mistakenly believe Pink Floyd to be truly avant-garde prog rock, this will correct that too. It also works well as a vector into Can’s wider discography. For the uninitiated Tago Mago might be disorienting, but five long jam sessions, where Michael Karoli’s guitar work secures central billing, will make sense to everyone.

DJ Sprinkles – Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits: 1998-2017 12 Inches & One-Offs

An absolute must for deep house heads. While Midtown 120 Blues is Thaemlitz’s most celebrated album (and the Will Long remixes are also stonking), this reissue/compilation is as close as you can get to that. Offers a thorough overview of an influential career that deserves far wider recognition than it’s received.

Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & London Symphony Orchestra – Promises

It’s a combination that promises (see what I did there? :rolleyesemoticon:) much and delivers. The lush Orchestra strings and Shepherd’s pings marry with Sanders’ sax eventually initiating a cataclysmic crescendo. If this doesn’t give you the feels then you’re an emotional husk and or serial killer.

Gnod – Easy to Build, Hard to Destroy

Influenced by Spirtualised (Spacemen 3), Brian Jonestown Massacre and Sun City Girls. Regardless the signatory vastness of their sound remains. More psyched out and less abrasive than Mirror or Infinity Machines – two other recent releases of theirs that I checked out and enjoyed.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!

Ignore the esoteric and silly album title. The song titles are far more fitting of a serious noise album, which this is. This is immersive music that’s menacing, yet that also ascends dramatically and emphatically, carrying you with it. Good pair of over-ear headphones recommended.

MMM (Errorsmith & Fiedel) – On The Edge

If you’re into early Booka Shade, this’ll work. It also borrows grime inflections, and utilises sound isolation that Stockhausen and Gage were famous for. Found it good music to exercise to, even though you can tell it’s been put together with delicate precision.

Planet Love Vol. 1 – Early Transmissions 1991-95

Embrace the quaintness of its pastiche. Let’s you nostalgically travel on the SS Hacienda through space, back to certain time where wearing a garish shell suit while on acid and ecstasy was an average weekend. Song titles such as ‘Mad Monks On Zinc’, ‘3 Nudes In a Purple Garden’ and ‘Dionysian Dream Statement’, gives you hint of what to expect, but think a mixture of Tangerine Dream, Underground Resistance and B12 if you still aren’t getting what I mean.

Skee Mask – Pool

The case for diversity and a homage. The punchy rave sonics are almost Aphex Twinian, there’s a nod to LFO with a track titled LFO and towards the end it sounds very early Squarepusher at times. I mean, the album doesn’t really have a theme or thread, but it’s a bloody good collection of tracks and ideas made with impeccable execution.

Various – Tresor 30

There’s a good chance you’ll already own a few of these offerings in this compilation, and I do, but don’t be dissuaded, as a collection this works cohesively. In case you didn’t know the specifics, this is an ode to the artists that the Berlin Tresor club has hosted in its thirty year existence.

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My wee Black Friday hypocrisy

So I received Black Friday emails titled ‘check out our great Black Friday discounts’ in early November this year.

What’s more grating, the slow creep of Black Friday becoming a month long event, or the Christmas fanatics who start counting down the days from, well, any date before the first of December? Or that shops now start punting Christmas tat in early autumn to appease them?

Clearly they’re all signs of the times and how the face of consumerism has changed. With the advent of the internet shopping in person (for most things) was always on borrowed time. That it’s taken this long for the paradigm to shift to the virtual sphere, is a testament to our weddedness to tradition and routine. But they’re no match for the combination of this peculiar time we’re living through and modernity, especially when the latter is utilised in the pursuit of profits.

I’ll concede this cascade of Black Friday emails from every company I’d consummated a transaction with is partly my fault. Buy something once and you’re on their list. Forever. It’s the new form of junk mail that you used to get pre-internet – do you remember? How on earth did we cope with such hardships? Yes most of them offer you the option to opt out of promotional offers when you sign up, but that’s semantics in the small print, lies at worst. Take opting out of promotions as a euphemism for tailored offers for you, not circulars. And just how smart are these algorithms anyway? Clearly you know I purchased a television recently, but why are you trying to sell me another one? Wait, am I meant to glean from this that there are people who buy a television every year or every other year? Is that what the market analytics say? As a bonkers Italian man once said, “are we crazy?”

Being anti consumerist is extremely futile. Its associated pathos occupies the same sphere as Veganism, it understands it’s a busted flush, hence the angry posturing of its acolytes (converts are always the worst, I find). Veganism and anti-consumerism are now surrogates for socialism, the grand-daddy failure of idealism – if we’re not having it, you shouldn’t either. I can’t take the side of the argument that says repent, don’t be taken in by the marketing, save your money for something meaningful. The word mellowed doesn’t sit well with me, but I can’t think of a better way to describe my attitude towards this. It’s your money, spend it however you please. Who am I to judge? I buy things too, so do you, and, get this, this year I’ve made a purchase during black Friday. In fact, make that several.

So, to avoid being a hypocrite, I have to renounce (some of) my previous ridicule of Black Friday. Which leads me back to a column (linked below) I wrote six years ago. I marvelled at the sheer oddity and mania of customers and the tactics that businesses had to adopt, including potentially turning away custom, just to protect the rabid Black Friday consumer from violent interactions and possible crush injuries.

What is progress? And how do we measure it? Egalitarianism? Diversity? Inclusion? These are sensible and important goals but hard to measure with absolute certainty or consensus. In regards to Black Friday, while comparatively unimportant, the roadmap is clear and here. We can measure that it has progressed past the chaotic and bewildering scenes that characterised it’s hideous height mid last decade. It’s evolved into a predominantly online operation that’s slick, efficient, less anarchistic and removes some public displays of narcissism. The imposition of Covid has not only altered the nature of materialism and capitalism for most of us – it’s shown us that life is much better when stressful face to face interactions and hassle over trivialities are removed from your day to day existence. The vast majority will be doing their discount shopping online, not because it’s safer, but because it’s easier. Instead of sprained ankles, strained muscles lugging a heavy piece of equipment, a crushed rush through sliding glass doors when they first open at an ungodly hour, a sudden release which bears an uncanny resemblance to an obese cat finally fitting through the flap after an inelegant struggle, which includes two seconds of mortal thrashing panic that it might not make it, you’ll be on the couch, on the toilet, sitting at your computer, relaxed, warm, safe from infection, injury and infecting and injuring others. Soon this will become government advice too – Stay home when shopping. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.

So, how did I do in this brave new world? I bought a pop up plug replacement for my en-suite sink for £4 (can a sentence be more bourgeoisie?), a new electric pepper grinder (USB rechargeable with a motion sensor bitches! – ohhh snazzy) and some replacement lightbulbs for a tenner (okay, this one’s practical). None of these are grand purchases, but they’re things I could live without, well, apart from the lightbulbs.

While I’m not a Black Friday bargain hunting baller smugly buying that Sony OLED for £300 less than it cost a month before, and my small purchases are frivolous, I’m also not sniping at Black Friday with Trotskyist conviction. The tilt towards online shopping has normalised Black Friday for the indifferent and made me more normal in the process. Say it aint so?

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Song Of The Day – Vein by Cannibal Ox

From the album ‘The Cold Vein’ (2001)

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