Records of the Year 2020.
Here is a little commented on fact, Daniel Defoe, author of The Journal of The Plague Year was only 5 years old in 1665. His Journal, considered by some to be the definitive first-hand account of the Plague, is a work of Fiction. Sure, there would have been some investigative journalism in there, but this eyewitness account is fabricated from his brilliant and vivid imagination.
And so, I think it will be with 2020, in a few years’ time its history will be written by those who weren’t really here. Therefore, I shan’t try to capture what has passed in the last 12 months, suffice to say it been difficult for everyone, everywhere. In terms of considering Records of the Year, it feels slightly disjointed, in some sense I’m not sure my emotional brain has ever fully come out of the initial lockdown and as such it feels like it is still early April, how can one possibly be compiling Records of the year!?! And yet, the calendar tells me this is the task at hand. Let’s get to it!
No 5- Waspjuice – Private View:
Local hero(ic) artist Chris Blunkell and his band serve up a platter of fine plaintive and melodic songs which will both tear at your heart and nag in your memory. Written, arranged and played with a lightness of touch which belies the Art at the centre of this collection. This is adroit pop music for those who have been through life and loves travails and wear the scars fondly.
No.4. – The Hamrahlíð Choir – Come and Be Joyful
“Iceland, Beloved Country” the opening song on this album starts with a salvo of horns and then melds into a slow nationalist march delivered by a deadpan choir. That doesn’t sound too much like record of the year territory. However, this Choir, a college choir of some 40 years that can include Bjork in its alumni, bring the chordal harmonies and polyrhythms of
Icelandic folk music to the masses with a transcendental beauty. The strangeness of their native language matches the idiosyncrasy of the choir’s delivery. It’s really hard to summarise it, this is an odd fish of a record, but I love it!
No.3. – Kylie Minogue – Disco
A very good customer of ours commented when this record came out, that Kylie had saved 2020. He was not wrong. “Disco” is the perfect antidote to the gloom of Lockdown. We will have no tiers on the dancefloor we are wearing sequins and we are dancing all night long.
Kylie pulls off the fantastic trick of an album of original bangers that you will feel you have known and danced to all your life. The production and arrangement is both ancient and modern. Kylie shimmers and shimmies on a record which will remain a stone-cold classic for a long time. She has dabbled and experimented in a wide range of musical genres in the course of her career…but this, Disco, is her home.
Our top two records of 2020 on the face of it have a lot of similarities, and yet…both are solo musicians who swim in the nu jazz/rap waters which are running so rich at the moment…both feature a dazzling array of contributors/collaborators.
No 2.- Oscar Jerome – Breathe Deep
Oscar Jerome is a guitarist, and this is a guitar album; his guitar sound, which pays its dues to Ronnie Jordan, George Benson and Ivan “Boogaloo” Jones rings pure, throughout this album. From the noodling around with ‘spacey’ effects on the opening all the way through to the acoustic slightly diminished major chord which closes the album. Oscar’s Guitar intwines itself through some full-on grooves and vibes which will move your feet and engage your mind. Crowd pleaser “give back what you stole from me’ should be an anthem for the hip members of Extinction Rebellion crowd. Those who say mixing pop and politics is futile, shhhss yo noise! Breathe Deep feels like a contender to crossover from that hipster Jazz world into the world of the Radio One kids which might upset the purists (as if Jazz can ever be pure) but this album may become an entrée for those currently on a diet of the trite and transient. Which is a good thing because this record is the antithesis of that world, and yet still Pop!
No.1. – Wilma Archer – A Western Circular
A Western Circular shares many things in common with Breathe Deep, but this ain’t Pop! The hard to identify Wilma Archer, formerly the artist known as Slime (seriously check out the 2015 release “Company” by Slime it is just stunning) presents a record of depth and maturity, complexity and beauty, simplicity and awe. Multi-instrumentalist Will Archer and his cohorts create a genre defying soundscape, though it occasionally leans on Jazz chords and Hip-hop vibes, it brings a whole lot more to the melting pot; Cellos, Electric Guitars and Soprano, Alto & Baritone Saxophone dance around each other in a perfect synergy. Songs emerge from the rhythms and melodies like the human form carved from marble. It’s a hard record to pin down, but that doesn’t make in disjointed, it unfolds around you like an aural novel. It is challenging but offers continued reward and each new listen offers further revelations. No one track stands out and demands your attention, but rather the record exists as a complete article. Not in some proggy /concept album, theme laden way but rather through a firm but gentle insistence common in true Art.