1. “The Charade” – D’Angelo
2. “King Kunta” – Kendrick Lamar
3. “Black Eunuch” – Algiers
4. “Accelerate” – Susanne Sundfør
5. “Feel You” – Julia Holter
6. “Realiti (Demo)” – Grimes
7. “Dot Net” – Battles
8. “Archer On The Beach” – Destroyer
9. “Nest” – Young Fathers
10. “A New Wave” – Sleater-Kinney
11. “Play Mass” – Sons of Kemet
12. “Peroration Six” – Floating Points
As 2015 draws to a close, we inevitably turn to our ‘best of the year’ choices. Having already played the two albums that would probably have been my singular choice (Four Tet and Polar Bear), and knowing that Graham had bought no new albums this year and Tom had bought not many, I thought I’d try and give a small overview of what I’d been listening to, so as to cover as many previously untouched bases as possible. The result? A 12-track, 50-minute-ish playlist, burnt on to a CDR like we used to do in the olden days, and then judiciously ignored because we were eating curry and talking over the top of it.
My mix for DRC is a close cousin of the playlist I put together for Exeter Record Club a couple of weeks ago, with things like Polar Bear and Mbongwana Star removed (because I had played the whole album here) and D’Angelo added (because I played the whole album there). I also took out a 12-minute Aphex Twin synth oscillation, because, though it’s very beautiful, it’s very long, and enabled me to get a couple of other tracks in instead, and thus cover more bases.
Oddly enough I started the playlist with something from 2014; D’Angelo’s magnificent “The Charade” from Black Messiah, which he dropped with about 36 hours’ notice almost exactly a year ago, and thus missed out on all the 2014 lists. Is it eligible for a 2015 mix or poll? Well it’s in a lot of them, but more importantly it’s amazing, so who cares. I’ve seen “All we wanted was a chance to talk / instead we got outlined in chalk” pitched as one of the best lyrics of the year; I’m not a lyrics person as a rule, but in terms of efficiency, impact, and message, I’m inclined to agree.
“The Charade” is the first of a trilogy of tracks from American artists who explicitly addressed the broiling civil rights issues facing the country through 2014 and, sadly, into 2015 (and beyond). I’m a white man from south west England, so “King Kunta” (enormous bass groove, echoes of p-funk) and “Black Eunuch” (scratchy guitars, handclaps, gospel) are most definitely not about me and the culture I live in, but I can recognise that they are powerful and compelling. And that they move hard and brilliant, albeit in three distinctly different ways.
I’m also not a Norwegian woman, but Susanne Sundfør is, and she made a fabulous album of emotional, diverse synthpop called Ten Love Songs, of which “Accelerate” is just one. Julia Holter, meanwhile, made an incredibly mannered album of precise, sophisticated art-pop – I found it harder to love than Loud City Song, but very easy to admire.
I found it easier to love Grimes’ music, even though I didn’t hear any of her 2015 output until last weekend, when the physical release of Art Angels finally hit the shops. The demo of “Realiti” strips back some of the overloaded (but enormously fun) production ideas and sonic touches of the rest of the album, and lets the tune shine. Similarly packed with hooks and ideas was the Battles album, which seems to have been ignored almost everywhere; if anything I enjoyed it more than their debut.
Destroyer originally released “Archer On The Beach” as a single about five years ago, and back then it was a basically Dan Bejar half-singing over some ambient backing provided by Tim Hecker. Re-recorded for Poison Season, it is a wonderful, subtle, slinking piece of pseudo-jazz. I’m disappointed, if not surprised, that Poison Season is getting none of the end-of-year plaudits that fell enthusiastically on Kaputt; for me it’s every bit as good, but it’s eclecticism and lack of over-arching schtick compared to its predecessor makes it less easy to mentally categorise and, thus, appreciate.
Young Fathers go a bit Motown on “Nest”, one of the loveliest songs I heard all year, before Sons of Kemet play some thoroughly modern-sounding, African-derived, dance-influenced jazz, with tuba, sax, and double drum kits. The only band I saw live this year: a great choice.
Somehow I missed out on noticing Floating Points until this year, despite his singles over the last few years all seemingly being right up my street, and him being mates with loads of other people whose music I love (Four Tet, Sons of Kemet, etc). “Peroration Six”, the closing track on his debut album, was the first thing I heard by him, and it practically took the back of my head off. Sadly the rest of the album isn’t quite as good – the middle third goes a little too Tangerine Dream – but this makes up for it; maybe my favourite track this year.
Rob listened: Well, the curry was pretty distracting… I loved the list. It’s always a wonder to see other people’s end of year lists, especially those that you might reasonably think will be quite similar to your own until it turns out they just aren’t. It’s an old saw by now, but Nick’s list also reminds me why I love record club so much. In the venn diagram of our tastes, the overlaps may be big in absolute terms, but they are still relatively small. We’re each out there in our own orbits, occasionally brining back messages from other worlds.
So, we ignored much of this, but I remember some. the D’Angelo track sounded much more immediate and arresting than did ‘Voodoo’ when Nick dragged us through that a year or so ago. Enough for me to definitely want to go back and check out ‘Black Messiah’. I tarried with the Algiers record in the middle of the year, but found that I liked the concept better than the music. One I need to revisit. Susanne Sundfor sounded terrific and Grimes unrecognisable, as it turns out that Realiti is not on the vinyl version of the album. I disappointment, but a nice coincidence in the context of the meeting.
Battles sounded really charged. Amazing how this band seems to have completely disappeared from the radar. Fair enough, they haven’t really crossed my mind since 2007/08, which now sounds like my loss. Destroyer doing what Destroyer does is pretty good by my estimation.
‘Nest’ was the big revelation of the night. I haven’t really tried Young Fathers, probably having made some hopelessly false assumptions about what they would be. This track sounded really great, strong, scuzzy, motown rock with melody, urgency and nagging vocal hooks. Time for me to check them out, finally.
Sons of Kemet was great too. Floating Points kind of drifted by, but in it I could just about grasp the bits that would have lodged in Nick’s particular musical medulla. the album has recnetly topped the Resident Advisor poll of the year, and in their summary they specifically mention that the bits that didn’t seem to work initially absolutely come to form a major strength of the whole piece eventually, so, one for me to start out on and for Nick to persevere with.
Thanks Nick. Here’s to 2016.