It is traditional at this time of year to write a list of one’s favourite albums released in the year but it’s been such a weird and fucked up year that I’m binning that tradition and just writing about my favourite music of the year, whether it was released in 2020 or 1980. Might as well do the new ones first though…
Sarah Davachi – Cantus, Descant
I’ve been interested in Sarah Davachi’s music for some time but none of it quite landed. It was admirable but not quite loveable. This release, however, hit me like a sledgehammer. Its organ sounds from around the world provide truly Deep Listening, an immersive experience of an album. Without a doubt the album that most made me sit up and think “wow”.
Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders
This is a beautiful album. Produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, who sprinkles guitar and dub textures all over it. Together the pair create a kind of organic dub music, equally evoking terra firma and inner/outer space. If Halstead had teamed up with Lattimore after Slowdive had released Pygmalion, they might have released something like this. It takes Pygmalion’s dubby ambience into beautiful new directions. Lattimore’s harp is one of the wonders of the musical world. She has said she’s hoping to team up with Halstead again – lockdowns permitting. Let’s hope so. Together they create a warm glow that is almost unparalleled.
Ana Roxanne – Because of a flower
I have a pet theory that it is relatively easy to create beautiful melancholy music and dark, brooding music – stick it in minor keys and Bob’s Yer Uncle. It is much harder to create a joyful noise or to create genuinely pretty music. This is genuinely pretty music.
The Cocteau Twins – Treasure Hiding: The Fontana Years
This was one of the year’s revelations. I always liked The Cocteau Twins. I still have the tape of Blue Bell Knoll from 1988, which remains my favourite album from them. But I completely lost track of them after they released Heaven or Las Vegas in 1990. I’m probably not alone here.
By 1991 rave had grabbed hold of my soul and I’m fairly sure the music press semi-dismissed the Twins’ post-4AD work. As the beautifully written ( but oddly presented in CAPITAL LETTERS MAKING IT VERY DIFFICULT TO READ) booklet elucidates, we probably took them for granted.
Which is incredible because by anyone else’s standards The Fontana Years is an astonishing body of work.
The Twins’ last two albums Four Calendar Cafe and Milk and Kisses are here, plus a collection of EPs and rare tracks. The albums are more regular rock than the Twins had ever been but that is no bad thing. The relative simplicity of the the accompaniment allows the humanity to shine through, where before it might have been shrouded in choirs of angels.
Quite a few will have heard most of the Otherness EP, which contains the Seefeel-remixed tracks that took the Twins in a more ambient direction but the whole of CD3, which adds the Evangeline, Snow, Bluebeard, Twinlights and Tishbite EPs/singles is a delight…truly going where I would have hoped they would go. Indeed, it would have been nice if they had gone even further.
Kruangbin – Mordechai
If there was a funkier new album this year then I didn’t hear it.
Prince – Sign O the Times (Deluxe boxset thingy)
But there was some funky old shit to be found.
Of course, nobody could actually afford the damn thing. Well, unless you were really treating yourself. But luckily it was all available on Spotify and oh lordy, there was riches here. From deep within the vaults, the guardians of Prince’s legacy found gold. They’re doing a pretty good job those guardians. I guess they have some decent material to work with. But, y’know, that alone is a bit of a revelation. I always presumed the much trailed riches in Prince’s vaults were largely a figment of his muso pals’ imaginations – over-egging a pud’ that didn’t seem too tasty for most of the 30 years of output that followed Sign ‘O’ the Times.
The Meters – Gettin’ funkier all the time (The complete…)
Funnily enough, the thing that Kruangbin reminded me most of was The Meters. They don’t sound like The Meters but it’s that same warm funky shit that you can put on almost any time and it’ll make you feel better.
This is another giant boxset ting that nobody can afford. And frankly, it’s shit on Spotify. ‘Cos like, what album are you listening to? What year? What record label? Who produced it? These things are important, right? Right!?
But like also, fuck it, stick it on shuffle and bask in those grooves.