Right, that’s my lot for the year. Got the mince pies and crackers in for a proper old Blighty Christmas — except for the Queen on the telly and my Nan getting tipsy on Bailey’s. Get in the mood with this mutant yuletide classic from 1981.
Last year I wrote about how terrible 2016 had been but thankfully there were lots of good records to ease the trauma. 2017 may have been even more terrible-r in many ways but thankfully it also had plenty of great records. In the words of Frank Sinatra: It was a very good year. So good I couldn’t cut this list off 11 down to a more even 10 as they all deserved praise, and I couldn’t single one out as better than all the others either so this is only in a very vague order.
Masseduction – St. Vincent
With her third brilliant album in a row Annie Clark seems to be in the middle of an imperial phase when everything she touches turns to gold. Her music, visuals, and live performance are refined to a point of beautiful, diamond-hard sharpness to create a total art statement. She’s untouchable right now.
Music For The Age of Miracles – The Clientele
It’s usually not a good idea for a band to get back together as they rarely recapture the old magic. But after a seven-year hiatus The Clientele showed you can go home again with their swoony new album which might be the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s like finding a favourite old cardigan that still fits you — one that smells of wet leaves and fog.
Soft Sounds From Another Planet – Japanese Breakfast
Swinging from sad laments for her dead mother to bouncy synthpop numbers about being in love with a robot, Michelle Zauner’s second album was both the happiest and saddest record of the year. Full of swirling indie-pop kissed with cosmic touches, it was an utter dream.
The Navigator – Hurray For The Riff Raff
A Nuyorican street-corner symphony of folk, indie-rock, blues, acapella, and Latin rhythms. This tough and lyrical concept album about the immigrant experience was packed with great songs and, appropriately, sounded like America.
Visions Of A Life – Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice continued their evolution from cult band to arena rockers with a second album that sounded as big as the spaces they will probably be playing one day — the epic title track in particular seems tailor-made for dry ice and a laser show. It’s combo of Shoegaze and planet-shaking riffs pretty much swallowed me whole.
Communication – Hundred Waters
Probably the most gorgeous sounding record I heard all year. Nicole Miglis’ lovely voice cooing over these sumptuous electronic-acoustic settings was like a late-night warm bath for the ears. An emotional ride of intimate ballads and euphoric pop, it was simply swoonsville.
Melodrama – Lorde
The sound of a girl having her heart broken for the first time, feeling empty at the end of a party, the anxiety of becoming an adult. In short, all the melodrama of being young. 19-year-old Lorde could have made a big glossy pop album out of all that but instead she turned it into something beguiling.
Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey
If Lana’s albums are like movies then this was her blockbuster. Bigger and more lush than ever, filled with star cameos and crowd-pleasing hooks. She’s still the auteur of her own universe though as it was still unmistakably, narcotically, a Lana album.
I See You – The xx
The introverted Sarf London trio took a positive step forward on their third album which had brighter colours and tempos straight from Jamie xx’s solo album. Romy and Oliver still sound like they’re wearing hoodies and mumbling into their cellphones, but at least now you get the feeling they’ve gone outside for a bit.
Home Counties – Saint Etienne
It’s about time Pete, Bob, and Sarah were declared National Treasures. This was their Village Green Preservation Society, and was just as evocative about the suburbs as they usually are about London, turning the Home Counties into an Arcadia of mock-Tudor houses, commuter stations, and Radio 4. Even I almost wanted to live there. Almost.
I – Niia
A chilled cocktail of Bedroom Soul and Trip-Hop that was as smooth and sexy as a pair of silk boxers and just as likely to give you a stiffy. This video might do too.
I used to have a 45 of this with “Cold As Ice” on the b-side which I would play very loudly in my bedroom, rocking out and doing the white man overbite. But if anyone asks tell them I listened to nothing but The Clash in 1978.
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) –
Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
And the Beatles’ first LP.
Philip Larkin, Annus Mirabilis (1967)
You can add the Profumo affair to Larkin’s poem as one of the events of 1963 that blew the cobwebs off old, grey Britain and set the stage for the swinging, liberated decade to come.
As the young and beautiful girl at the centre of it all, the late Christine Keeler became something of an icon and a symbol of the new permissiveness — though her notoriety did her more harm than good in the long run.
It seems quaint now that a sex scandal could help to bring down a government (though there was also an element of national security in it) or that a politician would resign after being caught in a lie as Profumo did. One thing that sadly hasn’t changed is women being used and abused by powerful men which she certainly was.
I wrote a post a while ago about cars being metaphors for sex in rock songs, and auto ads can be highly suggestive too. The subtext is usually “Drive this and you’ll be fighting them off with a stick” but I don’t think I’ve seen one quite so blatant in equating cars with fucking as this one for MG. It has all the subtlety of a Benny Hill gag, and JG Ballard would have loved its erotic suggestion of a hand break being like a STIFF COCK.
It even makes this song seem subtle. “Pull up to my bumper baby and drive it in between” indeed!