I don’t know, you wait ages for an album influenced by 80s video games and analogue synth sounds and then two come along at once, in the shape of Muse’s Simulation Theory and John Grant’s Love Is Magic.
Muse albums, like incarnations of Doctor Who, tend to be a reaction against the last one, so the riff heavy guitar rock of Drones has been regenerated into an album of eleven short synth pop classics, any of which could be a single. The clear influence is the Stranger Things soundtrack by Survive ( also known to Sean Keaveny listeners as the 8 till 9 dead zone music bed).
This is the opening track, Algorithm, which sets up the concept of the album. Muse love a good concept, often a whacky one, but the problem is that real life seems to be converging to the degree that they don’t seem quite so strange now. This is worrying. Simulation Theory posits that we are in fact all trapped inside a computer simulation. This is clearly untrue as any computer simulation that produced Donald Trump and Boris Johnson would surely have been pulled by now and the programmers sacked. Unless we are caught in a simulation being run as a deterrent to a watching audience in the real world?
Anyway here is the video for Algorithm. Any video that features Terry Crews from Brooklyn 99 is OK by me.
Just quietly sneaking into the top 10 in a very understated way we have someone who already has (at least) six albums tucked under belt and she’s still not reached the age of 30. Completely coincidentally, following on from Richard’s choice, Laura launched “Reversal of the Muse” a couple of years ago, which is a podcast of conversations with other creative females. This comes from her “Semper Femina” album, which was released in 2017, but this track came to my attention right at the start of this year, so I’m including it! No video, I’m afraid, so, without that distraction, you can just sit back and listen to her beautiful voice…
Its not often I agree with 6Music Queen Lauren Laverne’s prouncements but she’s completely right about this track being one of the singles of the year. Interesting back story here is that my eldest daughter is now a media ops planner for OMD (digital marketing) with Vevo one of her main ‘vendors’. Her team were invited to a Vevo exclusive performance, where she came across this artist, performing this track – needless say she was shocked when I told her not only did I know the track but it was one of my favourites from this year! The lyrical dexterity and sonic composition with 70’s US funk & TV theme samples are both outstanding; the most innovative hip-hop track I’ve heard for some time. #10 Little Simz ‘Offence’.
Technically, my #10 is not a new single. Marlon Williams released “Dark Child” in 2015. But it was the song’s appearance in the Netflix Rajneeshi documentary “Wild Wild Country” that brought it to my attention this year. Sounding like a contemporary version of Roy Orbison (and a little like the Everly Brothers), the themes, melody and heartbreak of the original video make it almost perfect modern country. Having heard “Dark Child”, I purchased, unlistened, William’s self-titled debut album and his 2018 release “Make Way For Love”. In contrast to my previously mentioned disappointing experience with Khraungbin, these albums have both grown on me more and more after repeated plays.