I’m under no illusions about the fact that very few people give a hoot about the music I listen to. Problem is, I really like music, and I quite like writing about too. Rock, metal, hip-hop, pop… it’s all good. Unless, of course, it’s not. Among the other things you may or may not need to know is that I still buy CDs; I also go to gigs on my own, and I read the lyrics of the albums I buy while I’m sitting taking a dump.
Anyway, in light of these facts, and bearing in mind how much the internet loves a list, I’ve written a few words on a bunch of albums that were released this year—albums I enjoyed listening to. I hope you enjoy reading about them… even if you’re never going to listen to any of them. Which, let’s face it, is more than likely.
Lana del Rey ‘Honeymoon’ (Polydor)
‘K, first up, I don’t know who Lana del Rey is. I mean, I know who she is, but I wouldn’t know how to label her or her music. I don’t whether she’s an auteur or an exploiter. A mainstream pop star or an indie songstress. Quite frankly, I don’t care. All’s I know is I love her lips and the sounds that come out of them, and the way she caresses my ears with her detached, morose musings on life, love and the dark side of Hollywood dream. Accusations of artifice and melodrama be damned: her last album, Ultraviolence, was fuh-lawless. This one, which comprises fourteen tracks and clocks in at just over 65 minutes, requires a little more patience. It’s a slower affair, for sure; more meandering, you might say, and it does get a bit irritating in places with a couple too many clichés, lyrically. But, hey. No one’s perfect. Ultimately, this is LdR being who she is and she seems happy with that, even when she sounds sad. Wait, what?
Drug Church ‘Hit Your Head’ (No Sleep Records)
Drug Church—as their name might suggest—make horrible, horrible music. Music which, in the words of Grampa Simpson, “angries up the blood” and causes me to crash into roundabouts and run down old people as they’re crossing the road. Their 2013 debut, Paul Walker, was still on heavy rotation when this dropped in early November, and like that piece of crap, this one sounds like it was recorded, produced and engineered in less than a week. Consisting of eleven tracks, each about two minutes long—save for the beautiful bummer of a spoken-word piece that closes the album—Hit Your Head well and truly hits the mark. This is a blistering, breakneck punk-rock assault of an album, with one foot placed firmly in the nineties’ grunge/alternative scene. Patrick Kindlon’s brilliant lyrics are the bile-flavoured icing on this sonic shit-cake (“Well, aren’t you just the Aleister Crowley of bad neighbourhoods? Aren’t you just the dark spirit of the liquor store…”) and his unbridled ire and exasperated articulations on the banalities of life in the 21st Century make my heart simply soar. Album of the year, hands down.
Faith No More ‘Sol Invictus’ (Reclamation Records)
Faith No More’s last record—excluding all the cash-in compilations released by their former label—was actually titled Album of the Year. Cheeky, but ultimately untrue. Eighteen years later and they might just have a case. With most of the band now into their fifties, and with very little still to prove (vocalist Mike Patton, in particular, having done more for music in the last twenty years than most mainstream artists would manage in twenty lifetimes) the original odd squad from San Francisco was finally able to create an album entirely on their own terms. The result is a collection of songs that’s concise, quirky, and altogether astonishing for how relevant it sounds. Although bassist Billy Gould was, as always, the driving force behind this endeavour, each player’s presence is most definitely felt on Sol Invictus. Okay, so there’ll be a bunch of people still whining about the fact that Jim Martin isn’t back in the band, but for me Jon Hudson’s less histrionic style suits the group’s current incarnation perfectly. I love the more restrained passages on tension-fuelled tracks such as ‘Separation Anxiety’, which somehow sits comfortably next to the completely contrasting ‘Sunny Side Up’ and ‘Black Friday’—the latter a jaunty number that seethes with the band’s trademark cynicism. Patton’s chameleonic performance, meanwhile, is so good it makes me want to puke. (Which, I suppose, is apt, given that Patton’s own record label, Ipecac, is named after a cough syrup used to induce vomiting.) “I’m only happy when I’m pissin’ you off!” he shrieks on the album’s crowning moment, ‘Cone of Shame’. Me too, Mikey. Me too.
Deafheaven ‘New Bermuda’ (Anti-)
The George Clarke who fronts Deafheaven is not the same George Clarke who hosts the brilliant TV show on Channel 4 about people that build houses out of old vinyl and bits of wood they found on a farm. At least, I don’t think it is. That would be cool, though. Wouldn’t it? I don’t know. What I do know is that Deafheaven’s sophomore album, Sunbather, was a frickin’ masterpiece, despite giving rise to the term “black-gaze” due to its blending of black metal and shoegaze stylings. The hipsters quickly latched on; the purists, meanwhile, were outraged. Aren’t they always? The rest of us shut the cuss up and rejoiced in the stunning sounds created by Mr Clarke and co. On New Bermuda the band has upped the ante once more. Lord knows what label the critics will give this, but again it doesn’t really matter. The drumming alone is worth the record’s purchase price, while the guitar solo on ‘Baby Blue’ will leave you utterly exultant. Or at least it bloody should do.
Clutch ‘Psychic Warfare’ (Weathermaker Music)
Now, here’s a little secret. If you ever want to see me dance you can do one of two things. Either fly me to a major European city and get me drunk on Jack Daniels Honey, or—more practically—put on some Clutch. Because the minute these blooze-rockers from Maryland start playing, live or on disc, I want to move my body. Wildly, and totally unselfconsciously. Happily, I’m not alone in this affliction. This one time, at a Clutch gig, I took a guy from work who’d never even heard the band before, and we ended up getting hammered on pints of cheap lager. When the band hit the stage, we pushed our way to the front and rocked harder than a hard thing in a rocking machine turned all the way up to RAWK. The next day, the guy never showed up for work and was subsequently fired. Good times. Anyway, Clutch has a new album out, titled Psychic Warfare, and it rocks. Go and buy it, and I’ll see you in a couple of weeks for Part Deux.