My five favourite albums this year…
Grumbling Fur – Furfour (Thrill Jockey)
When I reviewed this for NARC back in September, I said that this album was ‘so fucking lovely it keeps making me weepy in public places’. Whilst the public weeping has subsided a bit, the loveliness hasn’t. This is magickal and radiant and melodic and that rarest of things, an esoteric, underground pop record.
PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project (Island)
Harvey’s previous ‘music as journalism’ album Let England Shake left me cold at first, it felt remote and distant (which was obviously the intention, I was just too stoopid to work out what she was up to). But when it finally fell into place, I realised how special it was and how poorly I’d understood it. No such issues with The Hope Six Demolition Project, which is angry without being didactic, musically thrilling, powerful and moving and just generally excellent. The second greatest person to come out of Dorset has done it again.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed Ltd)
It’s difficult to know what to say about what’s probably the most written about, pored over album of the year. While it’s not about ‘that event’, it’s still saturated with the after-effects. It’s hard to unpick the album from the backstory but I like to think that even without the immense sadness that surrounds Skeleton Tree, it would still count as a truly great Bad Seeds album.
eMMplekz – Rook to TN34 (Mordant Music)
I really went to town in my April Panic & Carousels column about this one, describing it as ‘a solid-state of the nation address from a tatty seaside town… ominous and unsettling, dubbed up and paranoid, glitchy and filthy… utterly unique and disturbing’. Mixing Baron Mordant’s ‘streams of digital ephemera and soundbites and buzzwords and cultural detritus’ to Nick ‘Ekoplez’ Edwards’ broken machines is a masterstroke, and this album – apparently a half-joking attempt at a Sleaford Mods album – is absolutely vital.
Handsome Family – Unseen (Loose)
Another album I reviewed for NARC, where I said this was ‘gothic in the truest sense… immerse yourself in something ‘other’, something dark and beautiful and beyond compare’, which about covers it. In a career of underrated gems, Unseen is up there with their very best.