March 2014: The Playlist

So that’s the first quarter of 2014 done and dusted. Going by quick this year, isn’t it? Been plenty of new music for us all too; have already cracked the 100 barrier with regards to new albums, EPs and mixtapes that have managed to find their way into the world within the past 90 days. There goes my promise of trying to slow down I guess, but whether I’ll crack 500 like I did last year still remains to be seen/heard.

In any event, here is March’s mix. Enjoy:

Dibder’s 2014: March Mix

01) “We Got A Love” by Shit Robot featuring Reggie Watts

02) “Rhythm Of Devotion” by Sisyphus

03) “Buzz” by LE1F

04) “Salt Carousel” by Evian Christ

05) “Pen#1″ by Penny

06) “When We’re Gone” by Vijay Iyer

07) “Danceland” by Carla Bozulich

08) “Eyes To The Wind” by The War On Drugs

09) “Like The Moon” by Future Islands

10) “Mercy” by Mr. Little Jeans

xxxo

February 2014: The Playlist

Hey Everyone,

As promised, keeping it quick and simple this year, though this entry comes with a shout-out to Mixcloud, who’ve not only revamped their site something fancy, but have allowed their users with WordPress blogs to post their mixes directly into their entries via fancy new widgets, as evidenced below. Cheers, luvs! Anyhoo, here is:

Dibder’s 2014: February Mix

01) “Blue Eyes” by Katy B

02) “Lyk U Use 2″ by Moodymann featuring Andres

03) “OMG” by ceo

04) “Human Drama” by Planningtorock

05) “Weightless” by Neneh Cherry

06) “Mmmh Mmmh” by Young Fathers

07) “Déjà Vu” by Cibo Matto

08) “Windows” by Angel Olsen

09) “Micheline” by Sun Kil Moon

10) “Tahalamot” by Tinariwen

And that’s it… xxxo

January 2014: The Playlist

Hey Everyone,

Hope the new year didn’t treat all of you as badly as it is often accustomed to; as you’ll have noticed, the blog has adopted a cleaner, more-streamlined (re: far-fucking-easier-to-read) theme, as befits my attempting to adopt a new blogging strategy for this year. Considering how much I listened, watched and generally got up to over 2013, the idea for the next twelve months will be keeping all music-related waffle to a minimum, as part of an effort to try and get more entries about other things out into the world; I listened to over 500 albums last year, so I’ll be forgiven for wanting to slow down a bit and get some semblance of a life in order, especially now I’ve finished all those infernal Candy Crush levels, right?

But the monthly playlists will still be coming, as evidenced below. So, to ring in 2014 officially, please have a listen to:

Dibder’s 2014: January Mix

01) “True Trans Soul Rebel” by Against Me!

02) “Looking For Someone” by East India Youth

03) “Gaze” by Actress

04) “Pull Me Down” by Clams Casino

05) “Disclosure” by I Break Horses

06) “Strangers (Nocturnal Version)” by Little Boots

07) “This Song Is Not About A Girl” by Flume & Chet Faker

08) “Louie The First” by Duck Sauce

09) “Hello” by Axel Boman

10) “Awalole” by Angélique Kidjo featuring Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg

Till next time, xxxo

2013: My Favourite Music Of The Year, Pt. 2

OK, nearly done for the busy-bastard of a year that was 2013; sure, I had fun, but it’s all about the thankless struggle of another year to look forward to right now and I’d sooner get this out of the way so I can start listening to more new stuff. So, firstly:

Top 50 Albums Of 2013

(N.B. Click the album titles for Spotify links, where available)

50. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You by Neko Case

49. Somewhere Else by Sally Shapiro

48. the minutes by Alison Moyet

47. Shaking The Habitual by The Knife

46. Other by Data Romance

45. John Wizards by John Wizards

44. Matangi by M.I.A.

43. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

42. Spaces by Nils Frahm

41. Dynamics by Holy Ghost!

40. Dream River by Bill Callahan

39. Immunity by Jon Hopkins

38. Welcome oblivion by How To Destroy Angels

37. Reflektor by Arcade Fire

36. Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards Of Canada

35. Cosmos by Slow Knights

34. ilp. by Kwes.

33. Nepenthe by Julianna Barwick

32. Drone Logic by Daniel Avery

31. Wise Up Ghost And Other Songs by Elvis Costello & The Roots

30. Lost by Trentemøller

29. Soul Music by Special Request

28. Slow Focus by Fuck Buttons

27. Wenu Wenu by Omar Souleyman

26. Nightmare Ending by Eluvium

25. The Next Day by David Bowie

24. AMOK by Atoms For Peace

23. Pacifica by Segue

22. Behold, A Pale Horse by Ebony Bones!

21. Cupid’s Head by The Field

20. Anxiety by Autre Ne Veut

19. Krieg Und Frieden (Music For Theatre) by Apparat

18. Elsewhere by Sally Shapiro

17. Engravings by Forest Swords

16. Woman by Rhye

15. Yeezus by Kanye West

14. The North Borders by Bonobo

13. Pale Green Ghosts by John Grant

12. Excavation by The Haxan Cloak

11. Elements Of Light by Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory

10. Psychic by Darkside

9. Me Moan by Daughn Gibson

8. Cupid Deluxe by Blood Orange

7. Tales Of Us by Goldfrapp

6. Echoes by CREEP

5. Centralia by Mountains

4. II by Moderat

3. Nocturnes by Little Boots

2. The Electric Lady (Suites IV And V) by Janelle Monáe

..

.

A-ha! Well, before I get to the best, I have to make an acknowledgement of the absolute worst…

The Worst Album Of 2013

True by Avicii

True

I remember the first time I heard Swedish DJ Avicii’s massive hit “Wake Me Up“; the opening guitar riff sounded so similar to Eagle-Eye Cherry‘s lovely breakout single from 1997 “Save Tonight” that I thought maybe it was getting a bit of a resurgence in radio-play just because it’s still rather brilliant. Then it abruptly decided to turn into another song I hadn’t heard before, and I thought fine, I’ll give it a go regardless of the bait-and-switch I’d encountered. And whilst ideologically I’d normally appreciate what Avicii ended up doing with the song in mashing up two seemingly disparate genres into the kind of novelty pop hit designed for mainstream radio, the marriage of Mumford & Sons-style faux-authentic guitar strumming along with bouncy Eurobeat generics did nothing but make me feel sad and angry over how cynically put together the whole thing was. Sure it was slick and commercial, belying Avicii’s evident youth in his being able to put something so professional together, but the lack of heart and sincerity in the arrangement was too much for me to ignore.

The rest of the DJ/producer’s debut LP follows suit, all calculated soullessness with nary a genuine spark or idiosyncratic flourish to remove the plasticity from the music. It’s not that Avicii has bitten off more than he can chew with the direction he’s chosen to go with this album either; French band C2C‘s Tetra from 2012 is a shining example of how ebulliently silly this kind of dance music can get, plus some of the people working on this album try to bring as much of their own mettle to the table as they can (the Adam Lambert/Nile Rodgers collaboration is the closest this thing gets to being any good, as you’d expect). But by the time a particularly hideous sugary-rave cover of Antony And The Johnsons‘ “Hope There’s Someone” rolls around, all listening temperance is lost. I’m still open to see what Avicii has up his sleeve in the future (his remix of “Derezzed” on the Daft Punk TRON: Legacy remix album was one of the best dance tracks of 2011), as long as he gets this insipid-singer-songwriter/ravey-house mash-up shit out of his system, pronto.

Dishonourable Mentions

Anything will.i.am touches this year turned to horridness also… but y’all knew that already, and I don’t want to mourn over Britney Spears and Dizzee Rascal‘s albums in particular any more than I already have done.

So now that’s over with, here it is:

The Best Album Of 2013

Samson & Delilah by V V Brown

Samson

I’m a sucker for being proven wrong, especially with regards to something as emotionally intrinsic and spellbinding as music. Be it a debut album from a fledgling talent that defies to be categorized by genre as I try and muster up a reference to compare it to when I first listen to it or an album from a more experienced artist that flies in the face of everything I’ve sonically known them for previously, at the best of times you can’t beat that rapt feeling of discovery when you hear something and fall in love with it instantly because you have no idea where you are going to end up afterwards. Suffice to say, English singer/songwriter/producer/model/fashion designer Vanessa Brown has come up with something just that inimitably special with her third album, Samson & Delilah; a forlorn electronic opus simultaneously drenched in reverb and peppered with ominous passages but still club-friendly with its driving beats and beauteous synths, all the while pushing and pulling its frontwoman’s vocals from crystal clarity to zombified moans and eerie chants, it’s the kind of “holy-shit-where-the-fuck-did-this-come-from” moment that is precisely so amazing because it’s so unquantifiable. Of course, the best artists tend to reinvent themselves along with their work all the time, but not always this assuredly and arrestingly.

To offer a little perspective, Brown’s music career was on something of a bad footing before 2013. Four years previously saw the release her debut album Travelling Like The Light (after the typical rocky road of development deals and the like falling through), which enjoyed modest success with its chart-friendly mix of Mark Ronson-esque doo-wop references and left-of-centre lyrics but was hardly enough for Brown to emerge as a musical force of her own, even after having a hand writing songs for the likes of Pussycat Dolls among others. Still, Light‘s big hit “Shark In The Water” was enough of a success to get a second album up and running in the studio, and 2012 was due to see the release of Lollipops & Politics, which even got as far as being previewed in the Los Angeles Times (who gave a lukewarm review of her new material, mentioning one song’s “cartoonish electronics”) until Brown herself indefinitely placed it on the shelf marked “unreleased”, telling her fans that it “didn’t feel right” to release this particular album right now for her. Instead, an entirely new album was to be written, produced and released the following year, and Samson & Delilah was the result.

Created and released entirely off of Brown’s own back with the help of some of the more reputable indie electronica producers of recent years (among them The Invisible‘s Dave Okumu alongside Pierre-Marie Maulini and Liam Howe, former members of M83 and Sneaker Pimps respectively), the album is both minimalist and epic, often capturing the fraught tension between earthy sensuality and divine transcendence with sublime purity. Underlying all of this is a potent electronic surge that permeates throughout, as found either bubbling menacingly all the way through “Igneous”, saliently shimmering through the lyrical horror of opener “Substitute For Love” or fabulously prompting an action-packed crescendo on “I Can Give You More” that is so good that you hear it twice in the same song. Many have already compared it to Madonna‘s equally seismic shift towards rave-worthy spirituality displayed on 1998′s Ray Of Light; indeed, not only do the first two tracks coincidentally share names with two of that earlier album’s singles, but truth be told, if Madge was listening to the likes of The Knife and Zola Jesus as much as she probably should have done recently, it’s hard to imagine her coming out with an album that didn’t sound something like this.

This is Brown’s album though, and she never lets you forget that, navigating every song with a bracing presence that can somehow pierce through whatever pro-tool assisted distortion she finds herself intoning with and leave you aching to hear how each song ends. With pop music finding itself in something of an EDM-mire over the past couple of years (as evidenced by that aforementioned Avicii monstrosity), it’s so heartening for someone to deliver something seemingly outside of her wheelhouse so brilliantly especially because she’s clearly set out to make this all for herself with such a singularity of vision and depth of purpose. And if I’ve bigged up Samson & Delilah as something too alternative to be heralded by anyone other than no-life bloggers, rest assured that Brown is still in possession of those winsome pop-writing smarts that served her well a few years ago. For instance, “Faith” (a duet with co-writer/producer and long-serving musical ally Laurence Aldridge) is that rare thing in being an affecting ballad that doesn’t beat you over the head with how wrought up it gets and, of course, there is the fact that she came out with the best pop single of last year, as evidenced below:

In fact the whole thing is so good, have a listen here even if you are without Spotify:

So it’s a pop album at heart, a bold statement in intent and the best album of 2013. Thank you so very much, V V Brown.

And now, the next twelve months… xxxo

2013: My Favourite Music Of The Year, Pt. 1

Hello again…

Having missed the official deadline on accounts of sheer drunkenness and stupidly managing my time over Christmas, I wasn’t even really going to bother putting this out; but hey, my ideals of posterity married with the fact that I really did listen to too much music last year to not post anything (plus that I’m stuck at work with pretty much nothing to do as everywhere else is still closed until next week) have won out, so here goes:

Top 5 Mixtapes Of The Year

5. Government Plates by Death Grips

Government

Not strictly a mixtape, but the guys did release this for free online as per the same label-scolding remit that saw the proliferation of their previous album NO LOVE DEEP WEB in late 2012; and it still trades in the wonderfully-bonkers catharsis that characterizes their previous releases too.

4. The Abstract & The Dragon by Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip

Abstract

More of a compilation in that Busta and Q-Tip had been in the studio together previously to record one of the most underrated tracks of last year in “Thank You” and then decided to put together a celebratory mixtape of past endeavours spanning a good twenty-years just because they had so much fun.

3. Tree House by LE1F

Tree

The second mixtape of the year from queer-dancehall rapper LE1F takes a more sultry cue than his previous work, trading in the psychedelic electronics for something a little more accessibly sexier; it’s not very often homosexual desire gets such sensual treatment in hip hop, you know?

2. Run The Jewels by Run The Jewels

Run

Two MC’s who can’t seem to get enough of each other, El-P and Killer Mike follow through after the former single-handedly produced the latter’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music with a combustible collaborative mixtape that justly saw some of the best reviews of the year.

1. CUT 4 ME by Kelela

Cut

A mixtape so good that label-runner and good friend Kingdom saw fit to take it down from the Fade To Mind website and actually make people buy it rather than download it for free; you should have heard “Bank Head” already, and rest assured the remainder of this promising singer’s debut cut is just as prodigious.

Top 5 Compilations Of The Year

5. Think And Change from Nonplus+ Records

Think

A compilation featuring some of the most cutting edge dance music to see release over the past year, collating cuts from the likes of Four Tet, Joy Orbison, dBridge and SCB into an at-times galvanizing package.

4. Saint Heron from Saint Records

Saint

As curated by Beyoncé‘s über-hip little sister who has since found herself at the forefront of this new kind of hazy nu-soul/R&B, this collection features swoonsome choices from some of the more head-turning new artists of the trend (Kelela herself appearing twice on the set, alongside the likes of Jhené Aiko and Cassie among others).

3. After Dark 2 from Italians Do It Better

After

A seventy-nine minute-long calling card of beauteous synth-pop from songwriter/producer Johnny Jewel; for those still panging for a sequel to the Drive soundtrack, this should sate their appetites most welcomingly, featuring work from Jewel’s own Glass Candy project, as well as wares from Chromatics and Appaloosa.

2. Late Night Tales: Röyksopp from Late Night Tales

Late

The prolific Late Night Tales series of after-hour grooves and mixes from established musicians reached a pique in 2013 with this contribution from the Norwegian electro-pop masterminds, a truly intoxicating mix featuring the likes of Vangelis, Thomas Dolby and XTC, as well as a couple of tracks from the guys themselves.

1. School Daze from Dark Entries/Honey Soundsystem

School

A moving reminder that Giorgio Moroder wasn’t the only electronic music pioneer from the 1970s, as producer Patrick Cowley receives a post-humous tribute dedicated to his instrumental b-side experiments as well as his compositions for various gay porn flicks of the time.

Top 5 EP’s Of The Year

5. Mr Jones by Nina Kraviz

Mr

A not-so-short-and-sultry treat from Miss Kraviz after dropping her auspiciously-noticed eponymous debut album last year, featuring more of her celebrated brand of spacey beats, pummeling bass and sexily-disembodied vocal samples.

4. Saa by Saa

Saa

Debut release from up-and-coming electronic-R&B duo hailing from both the UK and Norway, this self-titled EP manages to summon up some of the more sonically-enveloping songs you’re likely to have never heard from all of last year.

3. Trust by Gold Panda

Trust

Before the long-playing follow-up to 2010′s critically-revered debut album Lucky Shiner dropped in the latter half of 2013, UK producer Derwin Schlecker released this starkly pretty bauble of a collection; Half Of Where You Live really should have sounded better on the back of this.

2. In Your Care by Bright Light Bright Light

In

The UK’s Best Kept-Secret Of A Popstar returned to the fold late in 2013 with this valuable cache of intelligently-written pop, entirely typical of the man responsible for one of the most criminally-ignored debut albums of last year.

1. Rival Dealer by Burial

Rival

The closest thing to perfect that any music release of 2013 came to being, Will Bevan continues to enthrall with his patented brand of industrial soundscapes, dusty beats and tortured vocal samples, this time however offering up something close to redemptive solace and light amidst the gritty darkness.

Top 5 Comeback Albums Of The Year

5. the minutes by Alison Moyet

Minutes

Tapping wunderkind pop extraordinaire Guy Sigsworth to help birth your first album in six years is one of the better ways of saying you’re getting back to your electro-pop roots something sharpish, and Moyet’s return to the synth-ey mold really was something to get all smiley about on its release last spring.

4. Shaking The Habitual by The Knife

Shaking

Having not released anything together in seven years, perhaps a bit too much electro-pop goodwill may have ended up riding on Karin and Olof’s fourth album; many were thoroughly discombobulated when it finally arrived (especially when their live show hit further heights of bemusement), but there’s still no denying the album’s powerfully-punky spirit.

3. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

Random

Many are still reeling from how off-puttingly sincere and reverent helmet-heads Thomas and Guy-Manuel’s LP is as a throwback to the past glories of yesterdecade disco, despite downloading “Get Lucky” in their millions when it first came out; others like myself still find the whole thing rather sweet and moving though.

2. Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards Of Canada

Tomorrow

Tipped off by a genius rabbit-hole campaign that had fans encyclopedically-noting developments until Warp relented with an official release date, Scottish brothers Michael and Marcus’s first album in eight years finally arrived in all its analogue-based, serene-yet-apocalyptic glory.

1. The Next Day by David Bowie

David Bowie's The Next Day

The most high-profile and laudably recognized comeback of the year however belonged to the former Mr. Stardust, who brushed aside rumours of ill-health due to lack of public appearances with the fact that he was actually making his first album of new material in ten years, and it was still full of as much blood, feeling and iconoclastic majesty as we’ve come to expect.

Top 5 Debut Albums Of The Year

5. Drone Logic by Daniel Avery

Drone

The first UK dance music producer to find his way on to this list is Mr Avery, who has been giving deep-house techno-heads plenty to rave about over the past few years via numerous remixes and singles, only to launch his debut album in fine style with some of the more luminous notices of the year.

4. Soul Music by Special Request

Soul

Otherwise known to his friends as Paul Woolford, his double-disc debut album is one of those grand everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affairs that manages to stick much more of what it throws at the listener than it likely should with regards to its myriad genre influences in grand-yet-laser-focused style.

3. Engravings by Forest Swords

Engravings

The last UK prodigy to find their way on this list is Matthew Barnes, an electronic producer who deals in soundscapes a lot more bucolic than most (he recorded this LP outside in his garden, apparently) and infused with plenty of English Gothic imagery that nonetheless makes for a head-turning listen at the very least.

2. Woman by Rhye

Woman

This half-American/half-Danish singer/songwriter/production duo managed to get tongues wagging enough last year with a couple of their minimalist soul-pop singles last year before dropping their premier LP early last year; so ornate, so sad, so mournful, and still so very beautiful.

1. Echoes by CREEP

Echoes

However, the best debut album of the year was one that was hardly noticed by anyone, despite featuring enough of a starlit guest roster (Sia, Lou Rhodes, Tricky, Romy Madly Croft from The xx) and some gorgeously-arranged post-trip-hop electro-pop to gain at least some traction. Hopefully it will be discovered to greater effect in 2014; it and the sister-DJ/production duo who created it certainly deserve to.

Phew… And breathe.

Not quite done (hence the Pt. 1 in the title); but give me a while to catch my breath and I’ll get the rest done in a little while.

Thanks… xxxo

2013: My Favourite Movie Of The Year

Spring 3

Considering the sheer volume of awards-friendly films that have crammed themselves into cinemas over the past couple of months, I’m rather moved by the fact that what should have been a relatively-minor pop culture footnote of a movie released in early spring has still got me remembering it so fondly. What should have been a salacious “Disney Girls Gone Wild” guilty pleasure actually turned out to be something of a dark, arty romp into the candy-coloured, vacuous soul of teenage self-destruction, not without its moments of drama but still refreshingly devoid of the moralizing and finger-wagging that normally cops these sorts of films out of their own marketable conceits. Admittedly, it’s a strictly love-it-or-hate-it affair, as many finding Harmony Korine‘s vaporous, illusory fable as invigorating as they do inconsequential; let it be said though, there was no other movie more 2013 than Spring Breakers, and that’s exactly the kind of plaudit that earns a film a cult status without even trying.

For Korine, an enfant terrible of American indie cinema whose biggest moment of media exposure in the UK up until now was randomly getting name-checked on an episode of The X Factor a few years ago (yup, that happened… and something inside me loves the fact that Simon Cowell of all people is at least trying to say he has heard of something as batshit-crazy as Gummo), Breakers was something of a breakthrough in the fact that this idiosyncratic filmmaker familiar to those for making very personal and incredibly weird cinematic trifles dared to make something that felt like a mainstream movie (especially seeing as his last one was, well, this). He had a sizeable budget, managed to stunt-cast some name actors into headlining and an arena-filling dance act to co-score the whole enterprise, all the while trading on the MTV-endorsed iconography of all those spring break parties featuring nubile young things wearing swimwear seemingly made out of nothing more than dental floss. And yet, all qualms over lack of auteuristic authority are quashed in the opening sequence, which is basically an alternate music video to the aforementioned Skrillex‘s barnstorming “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites“, featuring booze-soaked boobies and sunshine-strewn drunken revelry filmed and edited in a way to be simultaneously alluring and off-putting (think “Windowlicker” without the faces). It’s to Korine’s credit (along with his director of photography Benoît Debie and editors Douglas Crise and Adam Robinson) that this queasy tone pervades the rest of the film and isn’t relinquished once, a bizarre euphoria constantly chased, almost felt, but never fully realized.

Spring 1

Much like the rest of Korine’s cinematic oeuvre, Breakers‘ plot is pretty-much non-existent and thoroughly linear in its construction, establishing characters and situations and then following through with a causality-style narrative. The first twenty-minutes do little but set up the titular foursome as just girls aching to let loose and party, though Selena Gomez‘s Faith is given more to flesh her character out with being set-up as the more straight-laced audience surrogate, whilst the other three are found in their first scene together either passed out or smoking whatever it is that creates that acrid-looking mist (rather awesomely, the film is so blasé about drug use it asks the audience to work out whatever it is someone’s using, if they’re so inclined). In a more conventionally-motivated film, the lack of development between the trio of wanton party-harders would be a problem, but Breakers asks us early on to identify these girls as signifiers of go-getting, devil-may-carers fully capable in their knowledge of what they can do and what they want, which on that level, you have to applaud it for, even through to the very end. Sure, the fact that two of these petite girls can hold up a fast-food eaterie with nothing but water-pistols and hammers is frankly fucking stupid, but as shot by Korine and Debie in a terrific, dreamily-orchestrated single take (with Nicki Minaj‘s “Moment 4 Life” playing in the background, natch), it’s almost whimsical. And so the girls manage to get to Florida via ill-gotten gains (which handily sets up the film’s theme of wherever there’s a party, something terrible had to occur for it to happen), wherein during about five or ten minutes of partying footage, the girls have the time of their lives and the film gives the audience what it came for (Gomez writhing around in a bikini, Vanessa Hudgens snorting coke off of a young topless girl, Korine’s wife Rachel cavorting with a visibily-aroused bunch of jock-strapped frat boys… all way before Miley decided to goad the media with her so-called ratchet-reinvention), until they’re busted by the feds at a particularly ravey party and then James Franco‘s drug-and-arms-dealer Alien enters the picture…

Spring 2

And it really cannot be overstated how much Franco brings to this film, giving a full-tilt, go-for-broke, bonkers performance that would torpedo any other film this creature could possibly find itself in but in Breakers actually anchors it and steers it into something almost iconic. Though he may have plagiarized his look, speech and behaviourial tics from established Florida-resident rapper RiFF RAFF (who is apparently suing Korine over such claims), Franco is this substance-blinkered film’s Prince Charming (or perhaps more appropriately, it’s Cheshire Cat, given his spectacular grill), someone that I can’t help but feel that RiFF should feel earnestly proud of having inspired into being. So galvanizing is his entrance into the film that not only does he create the rest of the action’s resultant conflict via his territorial beef with fellow dealer Big Arch (an impressively-imperious turn from rapper Gucci Mane), but he actually scares the only vaguely relatable character of Faith out of the action, a double-edged sword in the fact it gives Gomez a chance to actually act, quietly powerful in her moment conveying that frightening place where a party just gets way too much for someone to handle. But she leaves, prompting the remaining girls to indulge in further criminal activity with Alien and plumb even darker depths to satiate their wanna-party urges (soundtracked to Britney Spears‘ “Everytime“, obviously), culminating in a breathlessly-fanciful finale featuring bikinis, balaclavas and uzis that really can’t be spoiled by any more of a description than that. Needless to say, production company A24‘s Oscar campaign for Franco is one that in a just world really ought to be taken seriously, if only for being the only nominated performance in Oscar history to feature a tattooed miscreant deep-throating a pistol.

Of course, Breakers can’t be fussed how seriously anyone takes its lurid, neon-lit charms or not. Unapologetic in its trashy decadence, it’s never didactic enough to admonish its characters or its audience for enjoying themselves, even when it acknowledges the dark side of the greed and posturing that exploits as much as motivates all of these lost people into doing terrible things, ultimately in search of some moment of transcendence that can rescue them from their banal lives, or as Faith declares early on in the film “a chance to see something different”. You can take it as a dark treatise on the futility of escapism, a substance-fueled female empowerment fable, a showcase of some of the most committed performances you’ll likely ever see… I’ll take it as one of the most ambiguously evocative films I’ve seen in a long time, as well as being the film that finally broke my disdain for Skrillex and as a result introduced me to the song I’ve had on repeat (or is that “REE-PEET!”) for most of the year.

Spring Breakers, my favourite film of the year.

Spring 4

2013: The MegaMix

Hey y’all…

Hope the festive season is tiding you over most assuredly. Am currently making use of the only Friday I’ll have left wherein I can be left to my own devices to hammer out some words about what the last twelve months hath wrought upon me. As you may have noticed, I’ve done well to score each month of the year with a playlist, so it’d be rather fitting to kick things off with one of those; if you have a spare four-hours and a decent Internet connection (as I know a few of my fellow UK citizens would have found themselves caught in all this weather-influenced public transport buggeration anyway), here’s a 50-track playlist of some of my favourite songs to see release over the past year (some previously featured, some not), foolhardily curated from over 500 albums, EPs and mixtapes, handily divided into three CD-shaped chapters like some sort of Lars von Trier opus or something, but without all the boners and a random cameo from Udo Kier (I could very much stand-in for Charlotte Gainsbourg though in all facets of expression, right?)

But enough digressions, courtesy of the rather-spiffing Mixcloud and the ever-accessible Spotify, here is…

My 2013

2013

Chapter One: The Days

01) “The Apple” by V V Brown > Taken from her album, Samson & Delilah

02) “Night Sky” by CHVRCHES > Taken from their album, The Bones Of What You Believe

03) “Hearts Like Ours” by The Naked And Famous > Taken from their album, In Rolling Waves

04) “It Must Be The Weather” by Holy Ghost! > Taken from their album, Dynamics

05) “Cherry” by Chromatics > Taken from the Italians Do It Better compilation, After Dark 2

06) “Don’t Be Afraid (Lost Years Remix)” by Sally Shapiro > Taken from their remix album, Elsewhere

07) “I Blame Myself” by Sky Ferreira > Taken from her album, Night Time, My Time

08) “Satellite” by Little Boots > Taken from her album, Nocturnes

09) “Say Ooh Damn” by Del & Xavier > Taken from their mixtape, Tickle

10) “School Daze” by Patrick Cowley > Taken from the Dark Entries compilation, School Daze

11) “Dance Apocalyptic” by Janelle Monáe > Taken from her album, The Electric Lady (Suites IV & V)

12) “Flatline” by Mutya Keisha Siobhan > Single taken from their untitled forthcoming album

13) “Jets” by Bonobo > Taken from his album, The North Borders

14) “36″ by Kwes. > Taken from his album, ilp.

15) “Bank Head” by Kingdom featuring Kelela > Taken from his EP, Vertical XL, and her mixtape, CUT 4 ME

16) “Jack” by LE1F > Taken from his mixtape, Tree House

17) “Ego Free Sex Free” by Autre Ne Veut > Taken from his album, Anxiety

18) “Blue Ocean Floor” by Justin Timberlake > Taken from his album, The 20/2o Experience

Chapter Two: The Nights

01) “Water Me” by FKA twigs > Taken from her EP, EP2

02) “Strange Emotion” by Jessy Lanza > Taken from her album, Pull My Hair Back

03) “Your Sword Is Your Silence” by Saa > Taken from their EP, Saa

04) “Jessica King” by CREEP featuring Dark Sister > Taken from their album, Echoes

05) “Bring The Noize” by M.I.A. > Taken from her album, Matangi

06) “Black Skinhead” by Kanye West > Taken from his album, Yeezus

07) “Run The Jewels” by Run The Jewels > Taken from their mixtape, Run The Jewels

08) “Big Room Tech House DJ Tool – TIP!” by Joy Orbison > Taken from the Nonplus+ compilation, Think And Change

09) “Broken Dreams” by Special Request > Taken from his album, Soul Music

10) “Drone Logic” by Daniel Avery > Taken from his album, Drone Logic

11) “Bad Kingdom” by Moderat > Taken from their album, II

12) “Everything” by Maya Jane Coles featuring Karin Park > Taken from Coles’ album, Comfort

13) “She’s Been High” by Data Romance > Taken from their album, Other

14) “The Weight Of Gold” by Forest Swords > Taken from his album, Engravings

15) “Dieu” by The Haxan Cloak > Taken from his album, Excavation

16) “Hiders” by Burial > Taken from his EP, Rival Dealer

17) “Westcoast Trail” by Segue > Taken from his album, Pacifica

Chapter Three: The Morning Afters

01) “Reach For The Dead” by Boards Of Canada > Taken from their album, Tomorrow’s Harvest

02) “Went Missing” by Nils Frahm > Taken from his album, Spaces

03) “No. Other” by Ólafur Arnalds > Taken from his album, For Now I Am Winter

04) “Gravity” by Steven Price > Taken from his score album for the Alfonso Cuarón film, Gravity

05) “What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?” by Mogwai > Taken from their score album for the Fabrice Gobert TV series, Les Revenants

06) “Tilt” by Mountains > Taken from their album, Centralia

07) “Song For Zula” by Phosphorescent > Taken from his album, Muchacho

08) “Kissin’ On The Blacktop” by Daughn Gibson > Taken from his album, Me Moan

09) “Paper Trails” by Darkside > Taken from their album, Psychic

10) “Porno” by Arcade Fire > Taken from their album, Reflektor

11) “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” by David Bowie > Taken from his album, The Next Day

12) “The Fall” by Rhye > Taken from their album, Woman

13) “In Your Care (Solo Piano Version)” by Bright Light Bright Light > Taken from his EP, In Your Care

14) “GMF” by John Grant > Taken from his album, Pale Green Ghosts

15) “Touch” by Daft Punk featuring Paul Williams > Taken from their album, Random Access Memories

And there you have it, fifty of my favourite songs of the year… But what of the albums, you say? All in due time.

xxxo

December 2013: The Blogmix

To quote the namesake of one of my favourite songs, “so here we are”

500 (and 1) albums/EPs/mixtapes later and I am ready to call it quits for 2013 with regards to this blogging malarkey, as far as digesting new music goes anyway. I will be indulging in the customary End Of Year posts later in the month once I’ve got the infernal build-up to Christmas week out of the way; is it just me or does anyone else feel like all this enforced commercial jollity is infuriatingly visited upon us that little bit earlier every year? I wouldn’t normally complain, but if we live in a world where Kelly Clarkson can come out with an admittedly-rather-good Christmas album the Monday before Halloween, then all I can do is feel a twinge of despair at how aggressive the corporate Yuletide agenda has become. But hey, at least I’ll get over a week off from work at the office once Christmas Eve rolls around…

In the meantime though, courtesy of Mixcloud and Spotify, may I present the last in the 2013 series:

2013 BlogMix#12: December

December

01) Haunted // Beyoncé >> Seemingly in-keeping with the tone of Christmas in the vein of last-minute gift-giving, Mrs Carter recently dropped her fifth album on iTunes with nary a sign of a teaser campaign online or on the airwaves (though her announcing 2014 tour dates and myriad sightings of video shoots had fans guessing for some time); the result musically probably stands up as her most grandstandingly assured yet, BEYONCÉ leaning more towards adult-contemporary R&B and ominous electronics than it does to radio-friendly pop smashes.

02) Hiders // Burial >> Another late-comer to the fourth-quarter fold is the latest EP from Will Bevan, London’s most reclusive electronic music producer and whose Rival Dealer reps as his most purely uplifting release to date. Which isn’t to say that his customarily dusty beats and industrial soundscapes aren’t as menacing as previously, but that they are here prone to bursts of salient hope in the sound design that consequentially offer up some of the most conventionally euphoric work of Bevan’s career.

03) Virginal II // Tim Hecker >> Having finally encountered something of a breakthrough with his critically-lauded sixth album Ravedeath, 1972 a couple of years ago, this Canadian ambient droner returns with Virgins, an album that brings his loops into more operatic, confrontational spheres with its incorporation of live instruments recorded within confined studio spaces. The result is an often-masterful exercise in epically claustrophobic sound design, with more than a dash of Gothic religion thrown into the mix.

04) Nightcrawler // Patrick Cowley >> Often compared with Giorgio Moroder as one of the early pioneers of electronic dance music (and cited by Pet Shop Boys and New Order as being a heavy influence on their respective outputs), Cowley’s profile enjoyed something of a modest renaissance this year with the release of School Daze, a compilation of unreleased electronic instrumentals he recorded between 1973 and until his death in 1982, some of which were used in gay porn films from that era. And yes, it’s very often as gorgeously sleazy as that sounds.

05) Nameless // Gesaffelstein >> But one of the bright, young, European things that helped Kanye furrow rap music’s brow with the acidic-electro distortions of Yeezus earlier this year, French techno producer Mike Lévy did well to release his debut full-length album Aleph shortly thereafter. Two years in the making, it certainly has the kind of galvanizing scope and laser-sharp focus that would have turned West’s head in particular towards itself, sounding like a more austere companion to Kavinsky‘s OutRun.

06) Remember (Epic Moment Mix) // Nina Kraviz + Luke Hess >> Having turned dance-heads around last year with the release of her beyond-sultry eponymous debut LP, Russian DJ Kraviz decided to do a victory lap this year with the release of her latest EP, Mr Jones. Needless to say, those that were fond of her penchant for disembodied vocal loops married with strictly-for-early-hours beat signatures (think house music for the bedroom) will find much to enjoy here, particularly on this sexy collaboration with fellow DJ Hess.

07) Love Inc. // Booka Shade >> Spoiling you with the sultry house grooves now, this time courtesy of German duo Arno and Walter and the lead single from their fifth studio album, Eve. Despite celebrating over eleven years on the international dance music scene and helping to establish German house as one of its more eminently fruitful sub-genres, this fifth album sees the duo clearly still fueled with enough ideas to keep their particular brand of beatsmithery going.

08) Feelin // DJ Rashad featuring Spinn and Taso >> Having established himself as one of the godfathers of Chicago’s footwork dance music scene, Rashad’s debut album Double Cup, released on über-hip London label Hyperdub, finds the producer solidifying his ethos into something that certainly reps as being available for mass consumption but never loses sight of its propulsively-urban roots, as this opening track’s soulful-yet-fraught-danceworthiness testifies.

09) Eternal Mode // Ikonika >> Since she made her prodigious start in dance music with her brand of IDM-laced dubstep five years ago, Sara Abdel-Hamid has had to endure the typical patronising plaudits of being a “female DJ who can perform and compose just as good as her male counterparts”; truth be told, one listen to her sophomore album Aerotropolis ought to silence such back-handed compliments and finally give the musician her dues, seeing as its laden with some of the most intelligently-crafted electronic music of the year.

10) An Open Heart // Bright Light Bright Light >> Remember the high-energy pop music boom of the early-mid 1990s and how effusive and clever it all was? Rod Thomas does, and despite the disappointingly lukewarm reception to his Make Me Believe In Hope album last year, he’s done well to keep himself busy on Del Marquis‘ similarly-themed music project Slow Knights and still have the time to release his own In Your Care EP, which retains pretty much all of the yester-decade production flourishes and emotionally adroit lyrics that have become the man’s raison d’être.

11) I Blame Myself // Sky Ferreira >> And finally to close us out, we have The Best Pop Song Of The Year. Sky Ferreira’s career as a pop starlet is one more famous for its never-was status that actual bona fide credentials, tempered with enough label interference to make her debut album Night Time, My Time‘s appearance this year something of a lovely surprise. Of course, one listen to the album’s grunge-pop stylings reveals an alienated, jaded figure, not least in this strident, self-effacingly tragic tome that bounces giddily along synth lines cribbed from Madonna’s “Borderline” whilst simultaneously admonishing both Ferreira and the unnamed subject of her ill-focused furore for her “reputation”.

And that’s it for the monthly blog series, everyone. As I said earlier, keep ‘em peeled for some end of year stuff. But in the meantime, if you’d really like to do something special this Christmas, you could donate at least your time to read further on this Kickstarter project.

Merry Christmas, xxxo

November 2013: The Blogmix

Nearly there, everyone… nearly there…

However, unlike Rough Trade and Zane Lowe, I won’t be posting all my End Of Year gubbins just yet; as I do with pretty much every facet of December, I’ll be leaving things until the very last minute, though my customary 50-track playlist is on its billionth draft already and shaping up very nicely, thanks very much! Am currently deciding whether to divide the whole thing into three CD-shaped chunks or just hurl the whole four-hour opus online but will worry about that when I get to it…

In other news though, I’d like to divert the attention away from music for a few sentences on what has been unquestionably been my favourite Podcast series of the year so far. Beginning humbly a couple of years ago, How Did This Get Made? is a comedy-review gab-fest featuring a fixed panel of three US comedians (Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas) ribbing the shit out of various movies that fall in the vein of what-the-fuck audio-visual anarchy. What with being a huge fan of this specific kind of B-movie carnage where all common sense and taste appears to have escaped an entire film crew’s collective consciousness to spew forth something uniquely and insanely absurd (I did honestly recommend Sleepaway Camp on my last blog entry, didn’t I?), hearing this trio grow more and more hysterical as they dissect their chosen subjects really is the kind of off-the-cuff geek manna that the Internet was made for. Previous entries in their series have included lambasts of infamous bombs (Batman & Robin, Gigli, Jaws: The Revenge) and the toe-up failures you’ll have forgotten about (Barb Wire, Street Fighter, pretty much most of Nicolas Cage‘s filmography) as well as the odd well-intentioned curio that will catch you completely off-guard for even existing; I mean, my jaw pretty much fell out of my head when this show alerted the Gary Oldman-as-a-dwarf drama Tiptoes to my attention.

And don’t even get me started on the gymnastics/martial arts spectacle of Gymkata

(I… Know…)

Needless to say, it is also stuffed with tantalizing tidbits of Hollywood trivia too (the episode on Wild Wild West is worth listening to just for special guest Kevin Smith‘s anecdotes on his experiences with that film’s producer, the prolifically bonkers Jon Peters) and has amassed such a cult following that they’ve dropped the odd live recording in front of a comedy-club audience into their run (the Birdemic episode featuring the one and only “Weird Al” Yankovic), not to mention quite a generous roster of guest contributors (Vanilla Ice himself turns up for an extended “I was there” segment for his misbegotten would-be Purple Rain epic, Cool As Ice). The main component of the series’ success though is certainly the chemistry of its core troika of increasingly bemused critics, who are not shy enough to hold back some sharp jabs at Hollywood royalty but also warm and gracious enough to let each of their special guests feel right at home. In tribute, here’s the first episode I had the pleasure of listening to, featuring Parks And Recreation‘s formidable sass-merchant Retta:

All they need to do now is review Event Horizon, Cool World and The Lady In The Water and I’ll most certainly rate this as the best thing on the Internet ever!

And now, back to the music; courtesy of Mixcloud and Spotify, may I present:

2013 BlogMix#11: November

November

01) Nahy // Omar Souleyman >> Syria’s most prolific wedding singer releases his international debut album Wenu Wenu after high profile appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties and Glastonbury, alongside collaborations with Björk and Damon Albarn; produced by London-based electronic wunderkind Four Tet, it is his usual mix of ferociously hypnotic dabke, folk and electronica.

02) Y.A.L.A. // M.I.A. >> Way over a year after lead single Bad Girls whetted everyone’s appetite, Maya Arulpragasam’s fourth full-length album Matangi finally drops and has the rambunctiously-wordy rapper/producer drawing inspiration from the Hindi goddess of her (sort of) namesake; the result is certainly more playful and heady than /\/\/\Y/\, but no less barmily scattershot in its production.

03) Relax // Starchild >> Courtesy of the frontman for indie-soul band Starchild And The New Romantic, this chillwave-funk track is but one of an album’s worth of gorgeous songs as found on Solange‘s recent Saint Heron compilation; acting as a handy compass for this popular vein of nu-soul, it also features valuable contributions from previous blog subjects Cassie, Kelela (whose actually featured twice down to sheer awesomeness) and of course Miss Knowles herself.

04) Wings (Floating Points Remix) // The Invisible >> More dreamily soulful electronics now, courtesy of this remix as featured on another compilation released this month that’s positively primed for swoonsome chill-time, that being English producer Bonobo‘s contribution to the Late Night Tales series, which as a whole fuses vintage jazz, earthy world roots music and percolating electronica to handsome effect.

05) WTH // Jhené Aiko featuring Ab-Soul >> Another contributor to the Heron compilation was this charismatic chanteuse, who had previously enjoyed plenty of near-success throughout the 2000′s before finally turning heads with her debut mixtape a couple of years ago which featured none other than Kanye West himself; now, with her gorgeous debut EP Sail Out, she seems poised to really make some waves (sorry).

06) It Is What It Is // Blood Orange >> Tying up all this Prince-flecked, 80s-style R&B for the time being is none other than the gentleman behind Solange’s Losing You (which arguably kick-started that specific sub-genre’s popularity last year); known to friends as Dev Hynes, this wistfully funky cut from his second album under the moniker of Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe, is indicative of the rest of its parent album’s delights.

07) Lushoto // John Wizards >> Primarily comprising of South African producer John Withers and Rwandan singer/songwriter Emmanuel Nzaramba, Wizards is a project started out of pure serendipity whose results are as plaintive and joyous as you are ever likely to hear this year; their eponymous debut album is a delicate mix of bright indie pop and calming Afrobeat that radiates giddy poignancy throughout its duration.

08) Here Comes The Night Time // Arcade Fire >> After firmly securing their status as modern rock superstars with their epically broad-sweeping third album The Suburbs, could have phoned the follow-up in; whilst it may be hard to swallow at times, the one thing you cannot accuse Reflektor and its progenitors of is being lazy, instead thrashing out a beautifully sleazy and urban counterpart to those fabled suburbs of yesteryear.

09) Atomica // David Bowie >> You may find it a little sad that even someone of such monumental pop importance as Bowie would do something as commercially dubious as release a special edition/mini-album of extra tracks to his album The Next Day; but seeing as that album is still rather glorious, and The Next Day Extra EP contains yet more timeless wonders to be cherished, who are we to argue, eh?

10) Came Back Haunted // Nine Inch Nails >> It would appear it took me all year to get NIN’s comeback album Hesitation Marks on to this blog, not least reignited via many a friend’s excited web-based slaverings over their upcoming live tour; and whilst I still have reservations that Marks isn’t quite as good as it should be, there’s no denying that Reznor still has it in him to create some decent industrial goth-pop when he wants to.

11) Undead // Special Request >> Keeping the dark vibes chugging along is this urban dystopian fancy courtesy of verteran DJ/producer Paul Woolford and his debut album, Soul Music, which ranks alongside efforts from Daniel Avery and Data Romance as one of the better dance music debut LP’s of the year; taking cues from jungle music, drum and bass and post-dubstep rumblings, it really is a dark tour-de-force to savour.

12) Vertigo // CREEP featuring Lou Rhodes >> The electronic debut of the year to truly beat though is the debut from DJ/producer duo CREEP, Echoes, which has taken all of three years to finally see release, enough time for the “rape-gaze” controversy to be forgotten (if remembered at all) and for the “witch-house” would-be craze to settle down; loaded with an esteemed featured guest roster (Rhodes, Romy xx, Tricky), it has the sweeping beauty of a Craig Armstrong album, it’s that gorgeous.

13) Familiar // Nils Frahm >> Drawing all this darkness to a close is a beautiful piece taken from this German prodigy’s sixth album of neo-classical piano pieces, as much indebted to The Field-style hypnotic loops and sequencing as it is to chillingly still and fervant solo pieces; proving throughout that the piano serves just as well as a percussive instrument as it does a melodic instrument, Spaces is a beguiling mix of ornate ingenuity.

Right, time to dust off both of my Black Christmas discs (and yes, I rather like the trashy 2006 remake actually) and I’ll see you on the other side… xxxo