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…
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:
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.