Friday, April 18, 2014 


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Friday, April 11, 2014 

Baby face.

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Friday, April 04, 2014 

Killa sound.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2014 

So many tears: Frankie Knuckles, 1955 - 2014.

For all the deserved plaudits rock and pop stars receive, few will end up being remembered as having inspired an entirely new genre, while even fewer could plausibly be described as helping to tranform popular music as a whole. Despite this, plenty of people this morning will have responded to news of the death of Frankie Knuckles with "who?"

Not that Frankie cared the slightest about his relative anonymity. Had he wanted to he could have played the superstar DJ game, or been the David Guetta of his day. About the closest he got to mainstream fame in his home country was when he won the inaugural best remixed recording Grammy in 1998, or more recently when a certain Barack Obama recognised his contribution to Chicago, renaming the street where the Warehouse had once stood after him. Instead he kept true to the sound he and others in the city had pioneered, first adding drum breaks and loops into the mix during live DJ sets, later along with Jamie Principle and David Morales among others producing the template from which so much of contemporary dance music and indeed pop in general takes its cue. There were of course other influences, as well as offshoots from the outset, most notably Detroit techno, with house progressing into acid house, but if rave culture as we know it can be traced back to anywhere, it's to the Warehouse and Frankie Knuckles.

Proud as we are (or at least should be) of the hardcore continuum, and with how it was this country more than any other that popularised house, it didn't begin at Shoom, with MDMA or illegal raves, but with tunes like Your Love.  Your Love was in fact produced by Jamie Principle, but credited to Knuckles.  Those he did produce, often with others, are no less seminal.  Under the alias Nightwriters he released Let the Music Use You, its riff since sampled and reused countless times, while the opening to Baby Wants to Ride is one of the most recognisable in all of house music.  Alongside Promised Land by Joe Smooth and Strings of Life by Rhythim is Rhythim (aka Derrick May), two other tracks stand up as being the very pinnacle of house, almost certainly never to be bettered.  Tears, produced with Satoshi Tomiie and featuring Robert Owens on vocals is simply an incredible piece of music, while Knuckles and Morales' Classic Mix of Alison Limerick's Where Love Lives is one of the greatest club tracks of all time, appearing repeatedly in top 5 lists.

As Alexis Petridis writes, despite the apparent contradictions in being a gay man and playing to what were at first predominantly gay crowds, there is a gospel influence to be heard in Knuckles' oeuvre, and in much early house music, just as there had been in disco.  The aforementioned Promised Land made it overt, carrying both a spiritual and emancipatory message, but it's also there in Where Love Lives and Knuckles' transformation of Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart.  This came full circle in 2008 with his gorgeous remix of Hercules and Love Affair's Blind, vocalled by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons.

Apart from his own music, Knuckles' ultimate gift has been house.  Without house, there wouldn't have been hardcore.  Or trance. Without hardcore, there wouldn't have been jungle.  No jungle, no UK garage, no drum and bass. No UK garage, no grime or dubstep, and arguably, considering its debt to "purple" grime and dubstep, no trap.  Naturally, without house we would also have been spared the Guetta Euro-dance sound that has dominated the past few years, yet all things considered it's been a small price to pay.  More than that, Knuckles remained consistent to the very end, never deviating, at one point stepping back from production as harder styles not to his liking took popular preference.  Fashions may change, but just as disco has seen a resurgence, so house will always come back.  Frankie, thank you.

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Friday, March 28, 2014 


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Friday, March 21, 2014 


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Saturday, March 15, 2014 


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Friday, March 07, 2014 

Your native god.

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Friday, February 28, 2014 

Missing persons.

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Friday, February 21, 2014 

Shadow boxing.

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Friday, February 14, 2014 


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Friday, February 07, 2014 

Let it be known.

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Friday, January 31, 2014 


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Friday, January 24, 2014 

It's all gone sideways.

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Friday, January 17, 2014 

Play the game.

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Friday, January 10, 2014 


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Friday, January 03, 2014 

Ghetto Kyote.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013 

The best music of 2013 part 2 / 16 best albums.

(16 just to be awkward, although technically it's actually 17.  To be honest, there's not that much between the top 7, while there's also little between the bottom 3 and the honourable mentions.  Let's do this properly, eh?)

Honourable mentions, in no order:

The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Holden - The Inheritors
Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
65daysofstatic - Wild Light
Factory Floor - Factory Floor
Manic Street Preachers - Rewind the Film
Cults - Static
Young Knives - Sick Octave
Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Laurel Halo - Chance of Rain
Zed Bias - Boss
Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister

16. VA - Rinse 22: Mixed by Kode 9

As head of the ever expanding and adventurous Hyperdub label, Kode 9 has had a major hand in giving the world Burial, Ikonika, Zomby, Laurel Halo and Jezzy Lanza to name but five.  His third released mix, Rinse 22 couldn't be much further from his seminal collaboration with Spaceape on Dubstep Allstars 3, and yet you wouldn't bet against it being held in the same pantheon in a few years' time.  A perfect summation of where bass music stands in 2013, he starts off with Burial, runs through tech-house from former dubstep producers, takes in a couple of trap tracks and then ends with a whole suite of the finest footwork.  Only the grime mixes from Slackk come close to equalling this for repeated listenability.

15. Zomby - With Love

To call Zomby frustrating doesn't quite do justice to just how prickly the incognito producer can be.  Having built a reputation for either not turning up to his live dates or doing things distinctly half-arsed, his idiosyncrasies also make themselves evident on all his material, the most obvious being his refusal to make tracks that have a proper intro or outro.  The result is his music often feels like unfinished vignettes, and yet the virtuosity of so many of his productions (the ones he hasn't attempted to steal, that is) makes such objections seem slight.  Some have found With Love disappointing as a follow-up to his sort-of breakthrough Dedication, but I much prefer it, not least for the return of the jungle that underpinned his retro debut Where Were U in 92?

14. Eleanor Friedberger - Personal Record

Her second album as solo artist after Fiery Furnaces went on hiatus, the rather obvious clue to how Friedberger feels about this collection is in the title.  Where Fiery Furnaces often seemed to be doing everything other than focus on the here and now, Personal Record charts the highs and lows of a very much real life.  It's also Friedberger's most out and out pop album to date, the kind that with the right amount of push ought to have crossed over.  While it's a shame it hasn't achieved the success it deserves, it remains one of the year's most accessible while still rewarding listens.

13. Alix Perez - Chroma Chords

Drum and bass on its own may have been somewhat stale in 2013, yet those artists who cut their teeth in the genre who have since diversified have relatively prospered.  Few however have put together not just one but two commendably consistent albums as Alix Perez now has, his debut 1984 having graced this list a few years back.  Where 1984 was almost strictly D&B, Chroma Chords goes from genre to genre, taking in dubstep and trap while still remaining true to where Perez started out.  More than anything it's Perez's sense of melody that underpins Chroma Chords, a value often lost on most of his contemporaries.

12. DJ Rashad - Double Cup / RP Boo - Legacy

I'm going to cheat slightly and put these two footwork albums by stalwarts of the scene as one entry.  If I had to choose which should be higher, it would have to be Double Cup, as it's an album that looks forward, as you would expect of one full of new material, while Legacy brings together some of RP Boo's output over the past decade, but both of examples are how syncopated, seemingly simple repetitive beats can draw you in.  Double Cup is an album of collabs and occasionally suffers ever so slightly for it, but the coming together of Rashad and Addison Groove is almost worth it on its own, while The Opponent on Legacy samples Aaliyah in just about the most surprising way I've heard.  Vital music that is finally getting the recognition and wide release it deserves.

11. Sigur Rós - Kveikur

Kveikur was almost certainly the surprise of the year.  Sigur Rós as a band seemed to be fading away, each album after their enigmatic ( ) being more disappointing than the last.  The departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson seems then to have been the catalyst if not quite for an reinvention, then most certainly a reinvigoration.  Rós could always deafen with the best of their post-rock contemporaries when they wanted to, it's just that they did beauty better than almost everyone with the exception of Explosions in the Sky. While the beauty is still there on Kveikur, it's the heaviness of it as a whole that thrills, draws you in, and demands that you return.

10. James Blake - Overgrown

No one was quite as surprised as James Blake himself that his second album won this year's Mercury prize, a result that left him almost speechless, as well as making him forget to pick up the trophy as he walked off the stage.  His rise certainly has been meteoric, having started out producing off-kilter dubstep, playing at the legendary DMZ before landing a record deal that saw him transform into a singer-songwriter, and is all the more impressive due to the resolute lack of hype that's followed him around.  To use that dread description of an album, Overgrown is a more mature record than his self-titled debut, and while Retrograde and Voyeur are outstanding, I don't think it's quite as cohesive as a whole as his first.  Nonetheless, still easily one of the year's best.

9. Future of the Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident

How to Stop Your Brain... is an angry record.  Andy Falkous has always come across as enraged, more at the way we live now than anything else, but here everything is furious.  The guitars saw, the drums boom and Falco himself snarls.  Recorded thanks to the funding of fans, this is the album Falco clearly always wanted to make, and it shows.  It's not without flaws, but then that seems to be the whole point of Future of the Left: we're all very far from perfect, but we could be so much better if we wanted to be.  It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham that Tom Odell gets a record deal and FotL have to work part-time jobs to make ends meet, which is exactly why you should buy this and bring a little more justice to the world.

8. Arctic Monkeys - AM

Seems I'm in the minority, but for me each successive Arctic Monkeys album has been better than the last. (With the exception of Humbug, which is nonetheless far superior to the now almost unlistenable Whatever They Say...) Yes, there's something especially thrilling about the punch of much of Favourite Worst Nightmare, yet I find Alex Turner's lyrical dexterity on Suck it and See to just about outweigh it.  AM, despite a very slight dip in the middle outdoes them all.  Boasting a series of near perfect songs, Turner and pals have packed in solos, the usual wittiness and a heavily refined sound which makes them the best successors to the Smiths we're ever likely to get.

7. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

Winners of the inaugural band least expected to feature in the Olympics opening ceremony award (although considering Danny Boyle used Godspeed You! Black Emperor's East Hastings in 28 Days Later it's perhaps not that surprising), Slow Focus had more than a little to live up to after the critical response to both Street Horrrsing and Tarot Sport.  Thankfully Fuck Buttons' third album is just as inspired, playful and punishing as their first two, a kaleidoscope of colour that has only been matched in recent years by Rustie's Glass Swords.

6. Savages - Silence Yourself

Another surprisingly hype free band, especially considering the almost complete dearth of exciting new guitar groups, Silence Yourself was a statement of intent.  Other bands that issued caps lock messages would be sneered at or mocked, and yet without saying Savages are "4 real", their way of communicating manages to avoid being arrogant, patronising or over-the-top.  Sounding more than slightly like Siouxsie Sioux while taking inspiration from Sleater-Kinney amongst others, and not just because they're an all girl group, no one else was quite as blistering this year.

5. Forest Swords - Engravings

Having somehow managed to miss Matthew Barnes's 2010 debut EP, I came to Engravings having never knowingly heard a note of Forest Swords.  The instant comparison was to Burial, but where Will Bevan originally took his influences mainly from garage and jungle, Barnes' pallete is even wider, encompassing roots dub and post-rock while remaining intrinsically electronic.  Barnes described Engravings as being a "balance between really intense euphoria and this almost bleakness", and for once an artist couldn't have described what they have managed to achieve any better.

4. Tim Hecker - Virgins

Another artist I've been late to discover, Hecker's soundscapes are ethereal and open to endless interpretation.  One track is called Incense at Abu Ghraib, while the cover art echoes the most infamous image to emerge from the torture and humiliation the prisoners were subject to by US forces.  The music itself is the polar opposite to that which was used as a method of sleep deprivation, recalling GY!BE's most beguiling and sensitive movements, without ever becoming as desolate as post-rock can.  An album with very little parallel this year, or any year.

3. Daniel Avery - Drone Logic

Daniel Avery is that very rare thing in the modern music industry: someone who's achieved what they have through nothing other than sheer hard work and word of mouth.  Coming from seemingly nowhere just 2 years ago to gaining a residency at Fabric, Drone Logic is an album that simply delights in the sheer versatility of house music.  It wears its influences on its sleeve, taking equal parts acid and Detroit techno, and yet it doesn't pastiche either genre or come across as pure nostalgia.  Comparisons have been made between Avery and artists as diverse as Anthony Shakir, Underworld and the Chemical Brothers, but Drone Logic stood almost in 2013 with marrying the best of the past with the sheen of the present.

2. Special Request - Soul Music

Soul Music didn't have any right to be this good.  Paul Woolford's back to the old school project isn't exactly the most original, as the mention of Zomby's debut above makes clear, yet Soul Music is far more than the sum of its parts.  Yes, in some ways it is just a techno DJ going back to the period between 91 and 96 when hardcore and jungle ruled the pirate airwaves, but it's the sheer love that emanates from Woolford's production that makes it so much more.  Without going into out and out amen terror as say Breakage did on his initial releases, there's more than enough choppage here, not least on Soundboy Killer or the epic VIP edit of Ride, while Woolford's sense of structure ensures you're never overwhelmed by one element over another.  Alongside Tessela, the year's key breakthrough.

1. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

I really didn't want to like Reflektor.  While I admired Neon Bible, it didn't begin to measure up to Funeral, while The Suburbs was an intense disappointment.  When I then found out Reflektor was a double album despite being able to fit comfortably on one CD, and discovered the first track was an interminable ten minute wait for something to happen, I was all but ready to wield the hatchet.  Problem is, what follows on until the midway point on the final track when it begins to loop is without doubt the best music of the year.  It still doesn't quite equal Funeral, but then it wasn't meant to.  Impassioned, urgent, and without doubt at times pretentious, Reflektor is a band rediscovering themselves.  Can't quite see them going over too well as headliners at Glastonbury though.

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Monday, December 30, 2013 

The best music of 2013 part 1.

Best Song/Track
Tessela - Hackney Parrot

It's been a strange year in a number of ways, not least in how what were already fragmented scenes seem to have atomised even further, the one exception perhaps being the continuing crossover between dubstep and drum and bass, further fuelled by the slow/fast footwork influenced sound that became prevalent over the past 12 months.

This isn't to say there haven't been some great tunes that have crossed over, but for the most part everyone seems to have kept themselves to themselves.  The best in dubstep this year once again came from those associated in one way or another with Youngsta's Rinse FM show, Seven's Walter White and various tracks by Amit lording it over much else.  We also saw the long awaited release of Kryptic Minds' Badman VIP, while Mala repeated the surprise of last year, this time round pressing 2 Much Chat to wax just in time for Christmas. VIVEK gave us first the Asteroids EP, featuring the most enveloping subbass of the year, and then the Mantra EP.  Also superb, and which might yet get a further mention, was Kahn's Kahn EP, the highlight being the Flowdan featuring Badman City.

Over to what was once the post-dubstep side of things and is now really the house side of things, the reliable Joy Orbison released Big Room Tech-House DJ Tool - TIP!, while Four Tet gave us both Kool FM, a tribute to the long-established jungle station, and That Track..., a tribal house number which shouldn't work but just does.  Best grime of the year arrived from Missingno, whose self-titled EP sampled both Rihanna and R Kelly, honourable mention going to Spooky for finally releasing Coolie Joyride, while DJ Rashad unleashed the outstanding footwork bombs Rollin and Let it Go on the same EP.  Machinedrum also mined the what the fuck do you describe it as genre covering footwork, drum and bass and dubstep with both Gunshotta and Eyesdontlie.

Best of the lot by my reckoning has to be Tessela's Hackney Parrot, the kind of track that is all the better for being deceptively simple.  Almost all it is is a vocal sample, breakbeats, rumbling subbass, and a drop, and yet it slays.

Best Remix / Bootleg
Digital and Spirit - Phantom Force (Fracture's Astrophonica Edit)

Each year I say there hasn't been much action on the remix front, and no exception again this time.  There were nonetheless some fine bootlegs, especially Walton's Brandy sampling Baby, or Kingdom's take on Ciara's Goodies.  Worthy mentions must go to Special Request's retoolings of, err, Hackney Parrot and Ghostpoet's Cold Win, Andy Stott's takes on Tricky's Valentine and Kowton's Shuffle Good, Distance's revamp of Tunnidge's Seven Breaths, Tessela's rework of Alex Dust's Smoke and the again late to the party remixes by Distance and Commodo of Mala's Changes and Miracles respectively.  Best of the lot though and in pretty much every drum and bass set of the year worth listening to was Fracture's superb slow/fast remake of Digital and Spirit's Phantom Force.

Best Reissue
Ruff Sqwad - White Label Classics

Absolutely no contest this year on the reissue front (although again technically it was out in December last year and I somehow managed to not pick a copy up until half way through this one), and if I hadn't included it here it would almost certainly place extremely highly on the albums list proper is the long awaited compilation of Ruff Sqwad's classic grime white labels.  If you haven't heard of Ruff Sqwad, and chances are you might not have done, you almost certainly will have heard tunes like Pied Piper and Functions on the Low in sets by the likes of Oneman, without necessarily having had any clue what they were.  Almost every track here is incredible, foundational music, made on bare bones software by people barely out of school.  If you listen to absolutely nothing else I've talked about over these three posts, I would say go for this.  Then buy it.  And copies for all your friends.

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Friday, December 27, 2013 

The worst music of 2013.

Here's what might be a first for our annual shit room round-up: considering how low the bar was set by 2012, it's hardly surprising that for mainstream music 2013 saw an uptick in quality in general.  Problem is, perhaps to make up for that very slight improvement in listenable pap, the "underground" seems to have suffered as a result.  It could just be me, but by my reckoning 2013 has been mostly extremely disappointing, whether it comes to dubstep, drum and bass or bass music in general.  Perhaps this is understandable in that there has been so much innovation in recent years that there was bound to come a point when productivity suffered as a result, yet it also might signal we've a few years of stagnation to persevere through, akin to the point between 2001 and 2003 when UK garage (not that I liked garage, or the commercial variety at the time, sadly) was in the doldrums and yet to mutate into both grime and dubstep.

This isn't to say there haven't been gems released this year, as there always will be, and a couple of developments have been very welcome indeed.  Dusk and Blackdown continue to carve out their own niche, with their Keysound label revitalising the too fast to be house and too slow to be dubstep/grime 130 bpm sound on its own, releasing albums and EPs galore.  Also encouraging has been the resurgence in instrumental grime, again mostly precipitated by the Butterz crew, with this year seeing the release of the Grime 2.0 compilation on Big Dada, as well as a whole EP worth of remixes of Youngstar's foundational Pulse X.

Also prevalent have been breakbeats, whether used by Tessela and Special Request to devastating effect, or as the bedrock of a couple of the best pop songs of the year.  Both John Newman's Love Me Again and Olly Murs' Dear Darlin' co-opted the amen break (or something remarkably close to it, as actually sampling Amen Brother properly would involve paying the Winstons, and extremely sadly they've seen almost no money whatsoever despite their music being integral to the development of entire genres) and while doing absolutely nothing original whatsoever with it, there's just something about that break which transforms what would otherwise be entirely run-of-the mill pop tunes into something even snobs like me can say they don't dislike.  True, Emeli Sande somewhat started the trend with her Funky Drummer sampling Heaven, without the slightest doubt her best song by a factor of a thousand, but let's not be too cynical about a trend that isn't completely ghastly, right?

At the other extreme, one of the most depressing trends of the year also involves Ms Sande.  Her album Our Version of Events, despite being released in February last year is also the best selling album of this year, or at least was 2 weeks ago with Michael Buble and One Direction bringing up the rear, having sold an incredibly puny 640,000 copies.  2013 hasn't been a stellar year for albums as we'll discover in a couple of days time, but for an album that wasn't much cop to begin with to come out on top nearly 2 years on from its release suggests the rise of streaming services and download sites allowing you to pick and choose which songs to buy could spell the end for the album as we know it, as the more hasty have been predicting for years now.  I may well be in the minority, as ever, but I like listening to a record as a whole; plenty of songs don't make proper sense listened to on their own without being complimented by the surrounding tracks.  What's more, when the biggest sites continue to churn out whole albums for £5 or less, there isn't really an excuse for not buying something in its entirety.  Add in how I can't see the bailed out and taken over HMV lasting much more than a couple of years when habits are changing so quickly, and there's an extremely uncertain future ahead.

We have though digressed somewhat from the worst music of the year, so let's plunge back in.  We may as well restart with the aforementioned La Sande, and while she hasn't been as ubiquitous this year as she was last, her presence has still been disconcertingly constant.  In keeping with the continuing promotion and celebration of mediocrity as being the height of musical aspiration, when you're constantly assailed by her collaboration with Labrinth on Beneath Your Beautiful (which was actually released last year, but seems to have been in rotation all this year as well), certain things come to mind.  Mostly that Labrinth is both an idiot and a cretin, as only someone who thinks grammar is for English teachers could possibly be.  Beneath Your Beautiful isn't only grammatically confused, it seems to be English as spoken by someone with an extremely rudimentary grasp on the language.  One presumes the protagonist of the song wants to see beneath the "beautiful" and "perfect" exterior of his object of affection, and yet that isn't clear as regardless of whether you're is misspelt as your, you cannot see beneath someone's "perfect" or "beautiful".  You can want to see what lies beneath the skin, or get to know someone as a person as opposed to an object, but this doesn't seem to be what Labrinth means either, as the implication appears to be that he wants to, err, get inside their body as opposed to their mind.  If you weren't confused or annoyed enough by the lyrics, there's also the gloopiness of the music and insipid delivery of said words by Labrinth to contend with.

Almost as bad is Sande's own Clown, yet another of those hellish tracks where producer and singer have decided less is more, meaning there's no getting away from the lyrics.  Supposedly about how awful it is being an aspiring pop singer and being subject to the indignities of interviews by record company execs, it instead strikes as yet another of example of an established star complaining about their lot in life while the rest of us proles continue to go through our far more mundane drudgeries.  Do execs really laugh at those like Sande and demand they sell everything out from the very beginning?  Perhaps if Sande had started out on a talent show you could understand it more, but she didn't; indeed, Simon Cowell gave her a boost when he said back in 2010 that she was his favourite songwriter of the moment.  It isn't quite as bad as Jessie J's Who's Laughing Now (probably not Jessie or those who decided she was the Next Big Thing, considering the way her second album has flopped), but it's not far off.

It would be remiss to not mention the two biggest "controversies" of the year in pop, both of which predictably involve naked flesh.  In a move that could only have been more cynical and transparent if it was spearheaded by an anthropomorphic jellyfish fiendishly rubbing its tentacles together, Miley Cyrus was rebranded as an extremely curious mixture of Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga, only given a wardrobe with even fewer clothes.  The video for We Can't Stop can't be called beyond parody; it can be better be described as the moment when parody died, like when satire died the moment Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  It's as though some colossal joke was being played on Cyrus and those who fill their ears with such crud, as no cliche was considered too mined or example of outlandish behaviour felt too crude.  A man then bites into a sandwich full of $100 bills, while at one point Cyrus pulls a stuffed animal of some kind on a lead, while wearing a white fur coat and holding a stuffed lamb.  If this itself was meant to be satirical, it was a point lost on pretty much everyone, unsurprising considering the rest of the video seems to the appropriation of everything wrong with modern, "glamorous" pop music.  For Wrecking Ball any such comment was abandoned, and Cyrus instead swings on, err, a wrecking ball while buck ass naked, with a shot every so often of her licking a sledgehammer.  According to Cyrus this was indicative of the collapse of her last relationship, while everyone else just thought it was a pop star getting naked and simulating something remarkably close to fellatio.

By the same token, the entire point of the video for Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, which in its unrated version features a variety of ladies in a state of undress from the first frame, seems to have been to delight teenage boys and wind up feminists and parents.  Like Cyrus, Thicke defended the video, saying the song was about his wife, an interpretation that is stretched to breaking point by the verse where T.I, who talks of how his "last bitch" wasn't "as bad as you", and how he wishes to give the woman "something big enough to tear your ass in two".  Quite apart from the misogyny inherent in the lyrics, even if it doesn't warrant banning as some student unions have, it's just how dire the song is that really offends.  It's one of those records that despite being terrible in every way manages to lodge itself in your head, the key as usual being its repetitiveness.  That, along with the video has been the key to its success, beating Daft Punk's diametric opposite Get Lucky to be the biggest selling single of the year.  If it reminds of anything, it's the Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up, a track designed to get a reaction and which had a video with a "twist" ending which supposedly made everything seen before it all right after all.  It signalled the Prodigy's collapse into insignificance, and one suspects Thicke won't be around for long either.

2013 also saw the return of perennial favourite, Lily Allen.  I really can't be bothered with broaching the controversy surrounding her video supposedly satirising the way women are used in pop videos, so let's concentrate on the music instead.  Her cover of Somewhere Only We Know, which unaccountably hit number 1, isn't just mediocrity recorded, it's the sound of the very least possible being done to even constitute a song.  Allen's real crime however wasn't her personal output this year, but rather her "discovering" of Tom Odell.  Odell makes previous hand picked "critics" winners at the Brits look positively radical, such is the conservatism of his music and more unmentionable, the fact that his voice just isn't strong enough to convey the emotion he thinks are in his lyrics.  Another Love is an utter dirge, the kind that makes Adele's Skyfall seem positively lively.  The only small mercy was his album wasn't nominated for the Mercury prize, despite some columnists being disgruntled that it missed the cut.

Finally, we come to the artists the critics have either been incredibly kind to or could possibly have been "persuaded" to praise.  Lorde's Royals was a huge smash in America, and to be fair, the message of the track that pop and television often portray a very unrealistic picture of the lives of the young is a reasonable enough point to make.  It's that I just can't stand the track itself, can't understand how anyone could when the words are delivered in the most aggravating fashion imaginable, and also can't fathom how anyone could possibly say it's a better track than anything produced by Lana Del Rey, who I also didn't rate.

Even more unfathomable though has been the rise and rise of Disclosure.  Pitchfork rate Settle the third best album of the year, the Graun has it as their sixth, and yet depending how much weight you give to certain publications, the album overall is either the 8th best or, err, the 92nd (the same method does also rank Arcade Fire's Reflektor as 94th, though).  Settle does absolutely nothing that far superior artists have either done in the past, or are still doing now.  Nobody Else by Dusky knocks everything released by Disclosure into a cocked hat, for instance, with next to no recognition for doing so.  What they clearly have had is record company largesse, first to get them the likes of Eliza Doolittle to "feature" on their beats, and second some of the most laughably soft coverage a group has had for some time.  It would be easier to take if the Lawrence brothers also didn't say that they had hated dance music, or pose the question of which people would rather hear, their stuff, or the likes of David Guetta on the radio.  As Blackdown responded, there is a third way, and if your music is indistinguishable from that of 10 years ago, there's almost certainly something wrong with it.  Whether it's down to ignorance, plain bad taste or as you sometimes have to suspect, "persuasion", there's no excuse for mediocrity being a critical as well as commercial success.  Sort it out next year, please.

Yeah, right.

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