A couple of days ago I was listening to an Ultravox track and lamenting that bands don’t seem to do ‘proper’ videos anymore. Promos tend to be either straight performance videos or a short film in which they don’t even appear. The 80s video aesthetic – getting to act in your own movie! – seems to be gone. Austerity Britain. So I was delighted to find that The Horrors have actually blown some record company dosh and made a proper video with a plot for my number 4 track of the year, ‘Something To Remember Me By’. It is faintly NSFW, so you have been warned, but well worth a view.
I was discussing with Roy that The Horrors are a really strange band: recent albums have ranged from Simple Minds anthem stadium pop, through krautrock to, on the latest one, electronica and dub. Are they commercially successful? I guess so, as this video would have cost a fortune to make, so they must be doing OK.
In their short review of the album in an albums of the year rundown, The Guardian described this track from ‘V’ as ‘morose new wave’. They could not be more wrong, this is uplifting early 90s pop in the style of the Beloved’s ‘Your Love Takes Me higher’. All of my top four tracks are real favourites and this could well have been number one in past years.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, this year the tracks at the upper end of my Top 20 are all taken from albums I’ve bought and enjoyed. When a favourite band release their 7th album, as this lot did at the start of the year, I tend to be torn between excitement and a feeling that it probably won’t live up to their previous work. This was certainly my initial reaction when “Little Fictions” came out. However, one of the great things about music is that over time you can start to appreciate the subtleties and nuances that weren’t necessarily apparent in the original assessment. Another of the great things is when you get to see it performed live it gives it a whole new dimension, as was the case when myself and Richard saw them in Hammersmith in March. Probably the hardest decision was which song to choose, as first single, “Magnificent (She Says)”, live opener “Gentle Storm” and the album’s title track are all worthy of inclusion. However, in the end, I plumped for a re-recorded version of the album’s closer, as it features the wonderful and hirsuit, John Grant, as well as having some of my favourite lyrics of the year:-
The silence and the waiting and the rush of all aboard
Fifty souls to a carriage I’m trying hard to be ignored
Then my telephone shakes into life and I see your name
And the wheat fields explode into gold either side of the train
Here we go triple crossover time alert! As already signposted in several comments on previous entries, 22 years after their last album, Slowdive returned with a set of songs of pure sonic majesty. Number 4 is ‘Sugar For The Pill’
Number four on my list comes from multi-instrumentalist California hipster Beck. His new album “Colors” was only released in October, but includes material recorded progressively over the period 2013 to 2017 (indeed, one of the main tracks “Dreams” was released in 2015. As a long term admirer of Beck’s talent (from the early slacker anthem “Loser” through the “Songbook” collection of sheet music ) the multi-instrumentalist is not afraid to experiment with different musical styles, with albums frequently reflecting his dominant musical affection at the time (for example, the lo-fi “Mellow Gold”, blues/folk “Odelay”, the funk of “Midnite Vultures” etc). “Colors” in all probability will be seen as Beck’s pop album. It probably won’t receive the glory or recognition of his earlier work but tracks that have been set to repeat frequently include the fuzzy “I’m So Free”, the upbeat “Up All Night”, the Beatle-ish “Dear Life” and the title track “Colors”. However, the chosen track “Wow” is there just because it doesn’t really sound like Beck at all.