So why on earth would I have Mary Berry as the poster girl for my A Year of Songs for 2018? How could she be relevant? Let’s just get straight to it, shall we . . .
Idles: Well Done
This band. They’ve done amazingly well, and they fully deserve it. The energy of the songs and performances, the funny, tongue in cheek, but heartfelt messages, the social awareness, the music! I played this to my nephew, instantly he was jumping around, thrashing about, tongue out and arms everywhere – he does that every time I play it to him. As much as his reaction is hilarious and cool, it’s positive too. Unbridled enthusiasm. My sister, a primary school teacher, said that she’d use it as a lesson for her class. I’m not certain that she did.
(I’m posting this live version, because you really don’t see many (read: any) bands performing like this any more. Who knows what new bands Idles will inspire. There will be definitely be some.)
Ray Lamontagne: Such A Simple Thing
The first time that I heard this song was live (I’ve been really lucky again this year with some amazing live concerts. No one breathes when Ray is singing. His voice and songs could turn the toughest person to mush). This song is so Ray, and the album is a true return to form. He looks so massive up on the stage, yet shadowy, vulnerable and somehow disassociated, lost in the story of his song. A man who really means every word that he is singing.
When I like a song, I’ll listen to it endlessly, at volume, and at any time of the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this song this past year. It is such a simple thing, of such amazing beauty. (This version is from Jools. It gives a good impression of what a Ray performance is like.)
Cid Rim (feat. Denai Moore): Control
This style of electronic indie music has captured my attention in the past couple of years – bands like Glass Animals, Whitney, Jungle. It comes across as pretty original to me, the style of music that is to come. From when I first heard this song, it inspired all kinds of imagery, and that’s what I like music to do for me, whether it’s by Ray’s words, Idles’ energy and passion, or a kaleidoscope of sounds, like Cid Rim does. It’s cool, and I like it.
The Prodigy: Light Up The Sky
This year saw the return of The Chemical Brothers and Orbital, but most significantly, I think, The Prodigy. It’s dangerous, a bit scary, and an awesome album. I listened to an interview with Liam Howlett where the new music was referred to as a return to rave, and he was quite passionately dismissive of the tag. And I agree. There is much more to it than that. The songs are so well constructed, energetic, enigmatic, packed full of their unique sound, and inspiring on all levels. No British band does dance music better. One of the most relevant musical returns of the year. What. A. Tune!
The Good, The Bad & The Queen: Drifters & Trawlers
This almost didn’t make the list. But the more I really listened to the theme of the album, the purpose behind the words, the patriotic melancholy of the elephant that refuses to budge from each newspaper, room, work place, pub, bar, office and shop. It ended up as a harder task to choose which song from the album Merrie Land to include. This is another of this year’s significant returns. Again, I was so fortunate to catch the band playing in their short run at EartH. That’s when the songs really fell into place for me. Hearing the songs live leant an entirely new ear, a deeper meaning. Thoughtful and inspired, I think that the album is a classic; it demands to be listened to.
Arctic Monkeys: Four Out Of Five
While we’re chatting about successful returns to the scene, we must mention the most divisive album of the year. Part of what I like about Arctic Monkeys is that they always try something new. Challenging their fanbase and critics alike. Oh, this album did that. And I think that it was another brilliant return. Probably the album that I’ve listened to most in its entirety this year. And very possibly my album of the year. My favourite albums are always the ones where the favourite track changes with regularity. This album was exactly that. I like songs that I can singalong to when I’m bumbling and buzzing about doing my thing. Various songs on Tranquillity Base Hotel + Casino stuck in there and slipped out whenever they fancied. The amount of obscure references and hidden meanings on the album is quite unique to new music. So I’ve learned from it too.
I chose this song for the list as it was the song that they opened with their incredible Albert Hall concert, a great opening live track. (I told you I’ve been lucky; what a show!)
Dream Wife: Hey Heartbreaker
The return of the Riot Grrrl scene. That took me back to my youth, and I’ve been super-happy about it. This was one of the first songs this year that jumped out at me. I love it and haven’t stopped listening to it. You can hear how much fun they’re having, full of zest and recklessness. It’s angry, fierce, electric and empowered – the essence of the scene. A very cool band.
Courtney Barnett: Hopefulessness
The rise of Courtney Barnett. It seems like she’s been around for decades, one of the most important new singer-songwriters on the block. Her new album is in my top few of the year. It’s pretty close to perfection, dripping with her spirit and heart. It’s so, so good. This track is the opening song to the album, an inspired choice as opener. This would sit happily against any early-90s albums – although it would probably be more likely to slump down next to them, with a smile – and is definitely here to stay. Her wit, fun, disdain and personal reflections are just captivating. She’s the queen of picking the right words at the right time. I would loved to have heard her and Kurt Cobain collaborate – I hear a lot of his essence in what she’s doing.
Riton & Kah-Lo: Fake I.D.
I would have liked this song at any stage of my life, it’s a banger. Sooo catchy. I love dancehall and dub music, and with this housey mashup it would be too much to miss. It’s good to see it coming back around and getting some attention. This song has led me towards some of the underground scene that’s bubbling under. I saw Little Simz last year, and she’s another that is trailblazing such a funky scene. And Chaka Khan, no less! All exciting and a bit different from a lot of what I’ve been listening to. Both of the aforementioned were really close to making the list. But this one does.
Cosha: Do You Wanna Dance
This is like a naughty Corinne Bailey Rae, a really sweet voice, and a great tune. A beautiful voice. She knocks a few more potential songs from the list because of the effortlessness of this. I said in last year’s A Year of Songs that this would be great year for music. It’s been so tough to choose. So to decide I’ve chosen songs that I can listen back to and be taken to moments of significance and memories. This is one. Super-love for this.
Christine and the Queens: La Marcheuse
So, Christine and the Queens. I was listening to Chris’ new album with a couple of other people. I really didn’t like it. I still don’t – I find it a bit pretentious, boring and, simply put, just not the sort of thing that I like. They both really liked it. I wasn’t going to change my mind, but I will always compromise. So we continued to listen to it. I didn’t change my mind. I still haven’t. The new album was packaged as a double album, so in compromising I discreetly switched from the English version to the French version. And then this track came on. I set it back to the beginning of the song and turned it up. This song I really really like (even if my feelings about the album remain). So it’s the strangest choice to include in my songs of the year, but a really lovely song.
(Just please don’t tell anyone, right?)
Sunflower Bean: Crisis Fest
We’ve been listening to this album a lot. I would have been real happy to have chosen any number of songs from Twentytwo In Blue, but I like rock ‘n’ roll, so this is the one – and I think that it’s the first of their songs that I heard, right back at the beginning of the year. More Riot Grrrl action, such a good band. Perfect pop. With a message. And another track with a blinding choice of words.
Smashing Pumpkins: Solara
This is another song that I just have to turn up real loud. Another great return. I liked this from when I first heard it. Typically SP, it is a bit strange (in a good way), but from turning up the volume I found that I heard lots of hidden layers in this, which makes it a proper story where you can make up your own tale as to what’s going on. Really dark and impressive in its imagery, so you might not want to make a tale of it.
(But I don’t like the video. I find it a tough and pretty horrible watch. Even if it fits the song well. So beware.)
SOAK: Everybody Loves You
There was one of these last year, too, when I just can’t place what I reminds me of. It’s a tune that can get at me, so that I want to hear it again straight away. A great voice, a stripped back song, it captures my senses. And again, it has its surprises. Strange and beautiful.
Wolf Alice: Beautifully Unconventional
Such worthy winners of the Mercury Prize. A great album. And a very pertinent song relating to a story that I posted a few months ago called About a Girl. When life imitates art, sort of. I met someone almost immediately after finishing that story who was just like the girl of the tale. I’ve never met anyone who has connected with any of my characters in the way that she did. And then about six weeks later she disappeared. Until I opened up the paper one day to find that she was the interest of the world’s media! It didn’t surprise me. She wanted me to write a second part to that story – thanks for the inspiration, I will! This is dedicated to her.
On last year’s A Year of Songs I mentioned what my earworm for the year had been – a kind of summary in song. The subject of this year’s is Here’s Where The Story Ends by The Sundays. I love the idea of having souvenirs of a year, and that’s what these song lists are for – not that this has been a terrible year, like in the subject of the song – what many songs are for in many different ways, and like the amazing live music that I’ve been to over the past 18 months, or so. But also I chose that earworm as personally next year will be a great year of change, of achieving new goals, ambitions and dreams – you might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much this past year; I’ve been in the lab with a pen and a pad, to quote Dr Dre. There’ll be more about all that in the New Year at some point.
All that’s left is to wish a very Happy New Year to you. Thank you for letting me take up so much of your time – I did get quite carried away. I do. Have fun . . .
I can’t resist adding an extra song, just because I can. This is the final song on the Arctic Monkeys’ album. The very last note is such an original ending to an album. A quirky, unpredictable little number. I hope that you enjoy this, and the rest of the songs on the list. I love making lists.
Arctic Monkeys: The Ultracheese