And now, the end is near…it’s time to face the final curtain.
I’m not dying.
Well, I am…but aren’t we all?
Merry Christmas etc.
When I wrote my last “review” of the year it was 2019 and I selected ten albums. That wasn’t my top ten…it was the ten. Ten albums that I bought. I listened to lots of other albums, but none of them were new. Of those ten albums in 2019, four of them were by Britpop bands, one of them was a compilation…that means half of my purchases were not by new bands. That doesn’t mean those albums weren’t great…they were, but it’s difficult to trust a “best of” list when it’s made up of ALL the new albums the person writing the review bought that year.
This year I have a list of fifty of my favourite albums of the year…all fifty I bought, and I had to work hard to get a list of fifty. I listened to more new music this year than at any point since…ever? Of the fifty only 8 of them are by bands/artists I already own music by. A huge number of them are debut albums. A lot of the albums I really loved were made by people operating in the world of electronic music…a scene that I reconnected with after years of neglecting it. And about thirty of them are by female artists…that wasn’t a choice, some desperate attempt to show how much of an “ally” I am, it was just a response to the reality that most of the truly great music I listened to this year was made by women.
These aren’t the “best” albums of the year…at least they may not be the best albums of the year for you…but they are the albums I love most from this year. Each of them brought me joy and uplift, some of them forced me to work really hard to “get” them and lots of them introduced me to new musical forms.
Before you get cross about anything that hasn’t been included, or even the things that have been included, please remember that I genuinely don’t care and you are perfectly free to write your own list.
I thank you.
And now…the FIFTY GREATEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2021 FACT…
- “What Do You Mean It’s Not Raining” - Afflecks Palace (Spirit of Spike Island)
Here are a band who love the bands that have inspired them so much that they feel that to do anything other than create something as delightful and delicious would be a crime. You can hear it on every beat and in every word. Love runs through every groove. This is not Crap-a-OKAY. This is not homage. This is what happens when music moves you, inspires you and propels you to get up, stand up and do it for yourself. This is the sound of people who don’t want to sound like the bands they love, this is the sound of people who want to the band other people love. A crucial difference.
- “Shout Out! To Freedom…” – Nightmares on Wax (WARP
As the longest serving signing on Warp with thirty years on the label, he has been at the forefront of modern music. He is both composer and musical chef…blending electronica, dance, funk, soul and blah, blah, blah together to make a dizzying array of new musical forms that leave you wanting more, like Oliver in the poor house, the gruel of other musicians leaves you always feeling empty. Or something. In his own words Evelyn says of this latest offering; “I wanted to ask: what is freedom? Everybody’s got a different concept of it…we all want to be free of our shit and it doesn’t matter what it is”. This is his hymn to that search for freedom.
- “Cheater” - Pom Poko (Bella Union)
Like Joanna Newsom on acid. Which, in case you were wondering, is a wonderful thought. Pom Poko are what indie music was always meant to sound like; peculiar, fun, arty-farty and intelligent.
- “Inkling” - Spindle Ensemble (Hidden Notes)
A chamber quartet who have produced an album of such delicate beauty that it is almost impossible to listen to it without feeling…everything. Fragile, gentle and careful this is the sound of musicians of great skill and craft. Beautiful in every way.
- “Lustful Sacraments” - Perturbator (Blood)
A grand, Gothic, gruesome and utterly thrilling, electronic pop/rock masterpiece. The ghosts of early Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode at their darkest loom in the shadows…and there are lots of shadows here. Pounding, furious, relentless and sinister. Just the way we all like it.
- “Charged Attachment” - Nostalgia Deathstar (State of Bass)
Retro from the get go and yet it still manages to sound fresh and futuristic. Something very exciting is happening in the world of UK electronic music…retro-futurism would be a good way to describe it. Nostalgia Deathstar take a wild mix of influences from the pioneers of electronic music and forge something instantly recognisable and yet totally original from them. Clever.
- “Psychological Colouring Book” - Scissorgun (Cue Dot)
Wild, ferocious, disconcerting, unsettling and, at the same time, exciting and intriguing. This is a electro-jazz album, with inspiration coming not from early New Order and Depeche Mode but from the likes of Miles Davis’ “Rated X”. This is a journey through the minds and emotions of its creators, which in turn makes it a journey through our own minds and emotions.
- “Moogmentum” - Lisa Bella Donna (Behind the Sky)
A journey into the earliest moments of the Moog and the endless possibilities it afforded musicians as well as an aural journey into…time and space and emotion and everywhere. From the first moment to the last it is impossible to break away from what is happening. Like swimming deep in the ocean or far into space, surrounded by the unknown but never afraid by it. Irresistible.
- “Silence Will Be Assumed” - Amongst the Pigeons (Peace and Feathers
“Listen, I have something to say” is how “Silence Will Be Assumed” begins and indeed it does. An electronic album that moves your feet to the beat, but that demands you think about issues without ever lecturing you. Dance floor activism. Be the change. What is interesting about ATP is the fact that he exists in the world of British electronica, a world where artists are, truly, independent and “indie”, his influences and tastes stretching further and wider than many more successful “indie” artists, but because there is no cagoule and no feather cut; the big voices in indie simply ignore what is going on. For shame.
- “When You See Yourself” - Kings of Leon (RCA)
A return? A return to form? That all depends on how you see things. For me “When You See Yourself” stands on its own merits as one of the best albums in the now, almost, two decades of their existence. Standing closer to 2003’s “Youth and Young Manhood”, like an older sibling, than it does to 2016’s “Walls”, it sounds like a band who have made peace with themselves.
- “Still Woman Enough” - Loretta Lynn (Sony)
Loretta Lynn is, of course, an icon, a legend and one of the most important voices in country music. Any material from her is worth your time. What makes “Still Woman Enough” special is the fact that Lynn has refused to be anything other than herself…there is no attempt to make herself “relevant” by bringing in a “hip” producer or to insert a rap into “Coal Miners Daughter”. Instead we hear that voice and that sound. It is, of course, as marvellous as it always is.
- “The Solution is Restless” - Joan As Police Woman (PIAS)
I first heard JAPW at the start of the misery of the Covid era when Tim Burgess played one of her albums on his listening party. I listened and then I bought all of her albums in one go. Quite how I had managed to not hear her before that point is both a mystery and a shameful commentary on the sort of cultural cul-de-sac I had been living in up to that time. I can ask only for forgiveness. As ever there are lyrics that prove, beyond any doubt, that she is one of the finest writers in the industry and a dizzying mix of sounds and styles. Working alongside Tony Allen and Dave Okumu, as well as someone called Damon Albarn (ahem), the album has a world music feel, with jazz notes and near hip-hop beats. As ever, this police woman is arresting.
- “Spare Ribs” - Sleaford Mods (Rough Trade)
What more is there left to say about Sleaford Mods? Fiercely political and wildly funny they are a sonic Ken Loach, offering a commentary on broken Britain and unafraid to say exactly what is broken and who did the breaking. But there is more here too, with the personal sitting front and centre at times…the sort of personal that feels universal. “Mork n Mindy, Action Man and Cindy, I don’t mess about, I make them kiss each other, when mum and dad go out…” from “Mork and Mindy” starts off making you laugh at the ridiculous scene of childhood sexual exploration before descending into a dark tale of what goes on behind some closed doors. They are that rarest of beasts, a pop group with something important to say.
- “Hovering” - Moth Effect (Cue Dot)
Dance music for the Jilted John generation? I’m getting carried away with what I thought was a clever alliteration. What I mean is that amongst the gently thumping beats and breaks of this album there are nods, to my cloth ears, of acts like the Buzzcocks, specifically on something like “When the Bloom is Off the Rose”. Whatever. This is a smooth groove of an album with a spiky underbelly.
- “Enter the Zenmenn” - The Zenmenn (Music From Memory)
I walked into Edinburgh’s “Underground Solushn” a few months ago and explained that I was looking for something new. I didn’t know what. Could they recommend something they had been enjoying? They recommended “Enter the Zenmenn” and I won’t ever be able to repay them. A fluid, floating, fluttering, footloose, album of electronic experimentation and classic songwriting. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t already know that are the most exciting.
- “All the Colours of You” - James (Nothing But Love)
The resurgence of James continues with their fourth album in seven years. All the usual elements are present and correct, it sounds just like James…and yet it doesn’t sound like the James of three years ago. They are constantly evolving, constantly willing to shake things up, to go where their hearts take them and to do whatever feels right. Emotional, honest, spiritual and political.
- “Screen Violence” - Chvrches (Virgin)
With cover art that pays homage to “Poltergeist”, an appearance from King of the Goths, Robert Smith, song titles like “Good Girls”, “Lullabies” and “Final Girl”, it is obvious that Chvrches were eager to take their classic dance/pop/indie delights and marry them to horror film iconography/themes in order to use both to make a comment…on life and love and the world around us. It’s a metaphor or summat, innit? Whatever else it is, this is their finest album…and when you consider how good the others were, that’s quite the claim.
- “Ash Dome” - R. Seilliog (Cue Dot)
The second, but not the last, entry from Cue Dot records. This one, from R. Seilliog, is a deeply affecting piece of aural architecture, with Seilliog creating soundscapes that take you from your sitting room and deep into nature. This isn’t pop music, rock ’n’ roll or electro, this is contemporary classical music, with all the skill and craft that involves. Affecting and exhilarating in equal parts.
- “Ignorance” - The Weather Station (Fat Possum)
Rhythmic and enigmatic. Pop and art. A colliding of styles, genres, techniques and goals. Tamara Lindeman has, once again, refused to stand still, to occupy the same space, or to meet the demands of other people. Instead she has fashioned something new from her own past work. That is what sets her apart from so many of her peers. An evolution, a revolution.
- “FuturePast” - Duran Duran (Tape Modern)
The wild boys return with an album where the title tells you everything you need to know. Six years after “Paper Gods”, which was an absolutely wonderful album, they return with what may well be the best thing they have done…ever? It certainly deserves to sit alongside the classics. All the things you want from Duran Duran are here, synth pop beats, bass lines so sexy they make you go weak at the knees, anthemic choruses, melodies that lodge in your head for days and the whole thing is so cool it is almost ridiculous. Oh, and “Wing” is the best Bond theme never to feature in a Bond film.
- “Ocean to Ocean” - Tori Amos (Decca)
These are songs of renewal and self-discovery. Of failing, failing, and rising. Of plunging into the ocean and breathing. Broken hearts, broken parts and broken dreams. These are songs that reveal an artist who, after sixteen albums, is still finding new things to say, new ways to say those things and new ways to impress upon us all that she matters.
- “Crooked Machine” - Roisin Murphy (Loaded)
You could view “Crooked Machine” as a remix album. On one level you would be right. But, if you really listened, really thought about it, you would see, and hear, that what is going on here is something grander, something more intimate than a simple remix album. This is a companion piece to 2020’s “Roisin Machine”, but it isn’t some cash grab “bonus” album. The reworking and reimagining of the songs from “Roisin Machine” create something that stands on its own merits, nothing sounds the same, everything sounds fresh. This is down to the brilliance of Murphy as an artist and, perhaps as importantly on this album, of the genius of Richard Barratt (Crooked Man). A new album from an old album.
- “Midnight Train” - Jorja Chalmers (Italians Do It Better)
Berlin era Bowie, Eno, Bryan Ferry, John Carpenter, David Lynch, Vangelis, Badalamenti…with Jorja Chalmers we are dealing with an artist who casts the net wide in search of inspiration and who’s influences can be felt, possibly more than they are heard, as she strives to compose moments and movements that will resonate with the listener. This is, in places and in some ways, pop music but it is much grander in its ambitions and the skill and craft of Chalmers is far beyond those of many of her peers. A gifted multi-instrumentalist and an adventurous spirit, this album is disconcerting, unsettling and exciting in equal parts.
- “Yellow” - Emma Jean Thackeray (Movementt)
Emma Jean Thackeray is a rare, and precious, talent and this is an, at times, wild and disorientating album which, at other moments, is cut through with soulful grooves and calming melodies. It is an album that demands your heart, soul and mind in order for you to navigate your way through it. That might just be me…a jazz novice, practically a jazz virgin, but the effort and time this album demanded of me was richly rewarded.
- “Legacy +” - Femi Kuti and Made Kuti (Partisan)
- I’m way out of my depth here. There are people who actually know about world music and who understand its history, I am not one of those people. You should ready Joey Akan’s review for Pitchfork from February of this year for a thorough examination of this album that places it in its cultural, political, context as well as providing a short history of the creators. All I can say is…I love every note, every word and every feeling on this album.
- “Bumps Per Minute (18 Studies for Dodgems)” - Anna Meredith (Moshi Moshi)
It’s Anna Meredith. You already know it’s going to be great. It’s got dodgems, sort of, so you know it’s going to be double-plus great. Even before you listen. Then you do listen and it is exactly as brilliant and bonkers as you might imagine. Everything about this album seems designed to irritate people who think that music starts and stops with a bloke with a guitar. There are beeps, bleeps and beats throughout and nothing, absolutely nothing, sounds anything like “Rubber Soul”. The only rubber is on the bumpers.
- “Collapsed in Sunbeams” - Arlo Parks (Transgressive)
You already know all about this and, if you have a heart, you already love it. Poetry, emotion, poetry in emotion, soul, jazz, smooth grooves and soaring melodies all combine to make this one of the most important debut albums in a long time. “Wouldn’t it be lovely to feel something once?” Parks sings on “Hurt” and by the end of the album you haven’t felt something, you have felt everything.
- “I’ve Been Trying to Tell You” - Saint Etienne (Saint Etienne)
At the start of what would become Britpop the key players included Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs, Suede and Saint Etienne. Genuine outsiders, arch, camp, retro-futurists, intelligent, articulate, postmodern and with zero interest in the Union Flag. They all, immediately, sought to distance themselves from any sort of “British identity” movement and would all, consistently, seek to distance themselves from the label. Saint Etienne were always an outward looking, European, pop project, drawing on literature, dance music, film, television and rocks back pages for inspiration. Nothing has changed, they prove here that they remain adventurous, creative and bold in every decision they make and with every note they create.
- “Flowing Fades” - Saccades (Fuzz Club)
Dreams and visions. Laid back, chilled out, classic grooves and genuine floor filling, roof raising, cuts. Saccades are the sound of where indie should have gone after “Screamadelica”…an uplifting fusion of Cocteau Twins dream pop, shoegaze attitude and club culture. The best band in Britain that you don’t know about.
- “Hey What” - Low (Sub Pop)
Brothers and sisters, let us bow our heads and give thanks to whatever Gods may, or may, not reside above. Give thanks for the fact that the greatest pop group in the history of Mormonism’s contribution to popular culture have released their best album…ever. It seems like a long time ago since the lo-fi, mumblecore, musings of 1994’s “I Could Live in Hope” and, in many ways, the Low of “Hey What” are not the same band. This, of course, is exactly how it should be. People grow, age, change, move on…and so the music they make should reflect that. “Hey What” is loud, experimental, electronic, unsettling and brilliant all at once.
- “Bright Magic” - Public Service Broadcasting (Test Card Recordings)
There is pop music. There is pop art. Occasionally pop art makes pop music. But it is rare for a group in the world of popular culture to create art from music. Public Service Broadcasting have achieved exactly that with “Bright Magic”. This is composition and craft, not three chords and three and a half minutes. I love three chords and I rejoice in those moments when pop in just three and a half minutes delivers. But we must have higher hopes for the form than re-re-peat and re-re-wind. There is no repetition or revisionism here. This is the future past.
- “The Hill, The Light, The Ghost” - Haiku Salut (Secret Name)
Hmmmm. Much of the discussion of “The Hill, The Light, The Ghost” centred on hauntology and whether the album was, in fact, hauntological. My reading of Derrida is rusty, and wafer thin, and my understanding of how the concept applies to popular music/culture is Wikipedia-lite. Look it up. Give me a call. What I do know is that Haiku Salut have produced one of the most beautiful and intriguing albums of the decade. There are moments of such grace and solemn beauty that it reduced me to tears. It has haunted my listening, and my thoughts, since its release…but I don’t think that’s what they mean when they talk about hauntological.
- “Shunyata: Emptiness” - Toby Wiltshire (Cue Dot)
“Shunyata: Emptiness” draws its title from the Sanskrit, “Sünyatå”, which means; “emptiness” or “voidness”, but is the description of a concept in Buddhism that can relate to the non-self. It’s getting a bit heavy now, right? But this, I think, is important. Wiltshire has created an album that is bigger than itself, where there is form, but where, crucially, there is space…emptiness…voidness…and it is in those spaces where there is time to allow the music to work and weave it’s magic.
- “The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows” - Damon Albarn (Transgressive)
You can find a debate on which Blur album was the bestest of them all on a near daily basis on Twitter, polls looking to rate which of the myriad hit singles that Albarn has written are the greatest…you can even find people who will defend “Country House”…all good fun, and I am not averse to participating and driving those conversations, but if you have lived, loved or lost in the years since Britpop and Cool Britannia, then you will discover here, an album that speaks to the you who has survived all of that, an album that is for the you now, and not the you of then. Some artists find themselves trapped in a moment they cannot escape from, stuck as a caricature of themselves, playing the same old songs and never moving forward. But Damon Albarn is not that…cannot ever be that. The past is his to play with and use for his pwn purposes, but it doesn’t define him and it cannot control him.
- “Before I Die” - Park Hye Jin (Ninja Tune)
Singing and rapping in both Korean and English, producing all of her own beats, building her debut album, in its entirety, during the madness and misery of a pandemic…Park Hye Jin is an astonishing talent. She is absolutely, almost brutally, honest in her lyrical approach to everything from sex and relationships to mortality. Quite why she isn’t the biggest female artist in the world right now is a mystery…to me, and I would imagine to anyone else who has listened to “Before I Die”. Maybe next year?
- “Private Sunshine” - Lou Hayter (Loaded)
Where do you start with Lou Hayter? New Young Pony Club? Tomorrow’s World? The New Sins? Take your pick. What does she “do”? Electro-pop? Disco? Synth-pop? House? Maybe even yacht rock? All of it? There are more questions…maybe more questions than there are answers, and maybe that is how it should be. Hayter is an enigmatic presence and with “Private Sunshine” she has revealed…nothing, but maybe everything? Questions. Whatever, it’s bloody incredible.
- “Boro” - Yarni (Klassified)
Straight outta Tokyo-yo. Not quite. Yarni is the Sheffield based producer of one of the most fascinating and intriguing albums of the year. “Boro” is a Japanese patchwork technique and throughout the album there is the sense of things, people and emotions, being patched together. Perhaps it is a reaction to the anti-social distancing measures imposed on us during the lockdowns, or perhaps it is simply a recognition of the fact that the world around us appears to be pulling us all further away from the things that bind us together?
- “Daddy’s Home” - St. Vincent (Loma Vista)
If you thought that in a year when St. Vincent released an album that it wouldn’t feature in a list of my favourite albums of the year…then you don’t know me at all. You should be thankful for that, I suppose. If St. Vincent released an album of one note being repeated for 45 minutes, it would still be one of the best albums of the year. She is a remarkable talent. Achingly, and seemingly effortlessly, cool. Possessed of more talent in her eyelashes than your average indie bloke contains in his entire back catalogue of stolen riffs and half baked “ideas”. If she did what she does while wearing a cagoule and being in possession of a penis…she would be headlining every festival in the UK, forever. A genius.
- “Flock” - Jane Weaver (Fire)
Let’s cut to the chase, if an album includes a song with the title “The Revolution of Super Visions”, you put it in your list of the best albums of the year. It’s that simple. A good title is as important as anything else in pop music. Hell, Morrissey has built an entire career out of just great titles…arguably. But, Weaver is more than an artist with a neat line in groovy song titles…she is a master of her craft, a singer and songwriter, a producer, a musician who has shifted from Britpop beginnings through folktronic releases and on and on and on. A restless native of pop. Constantly searching and creating. “Flock” may just be her finest work to date.
- “Fir Wave” - Hannah Peel (My Own Pleasure)
Pipped at the post for the Mercury Prize by Arlo Parks, “Fir Wave” is, to my ears, the sort of album that should have won. It is brave, experimental, intelligent, thoughtful, inspiring and modern. That sort of thing deserves to be rewarded. Peel is, like so many others on this list, an artist who just happens to be using sound as her medium. As with any great art this album forces you to look/listen closely and carefully, to think about what is being said and then to allow it to weave its way into your subconscious where it can take up residence before, without warning, resurfacing at the most opportune moment.
- “Here” - Veryan (Cue Dot)
Elegant, dreamlike, haunting, comforting and uplifting. In very many ways “Here” is the album we need. While the world is burning, where chaos reigns and when hope seems impossible, it is important to have music that can spread a smile across your face, calm the troubles in your soul and bring tears not born of fear and pain, but of joy, to your eyes. That might sound like a grand claim for an album by an artist you haven’t heard of but, I promise you, when times are troubled and I listen to something like “Embrace”, nothing seems as troubling as it did before.
- “Dream Again” - Joon (Italians Do It Better)
When Joon was involved in a car crash it became the starting point for something else entirely, a determination to take the song within and to make it real. To make sure that her voice was heard. To give form to the thoughts, dreams and ideas that were swirling inside her head. So she did. The results are one of the most astonishing debut albums in a very long time. The sounds here will, at times, fill the dance floor…of course…but, underneath the glossy beats and the shiny production, courses and pulses the sound of an artist presenting who she is, what she was and what she may yet become. There are songs of heartbreak here, or at least songs that will break your heart with their fragile beauty.
- “Penelope Three” - Penelope Trappes (Houndstooth)
There is a cinematic quality to everything on “Penelope Three”. It plays like the soundtrack to a film about love, loss, internal disturbance and external yearning. As if David Lynch had relocated to Brighton and reimagined Polanski’s “Repulsion” in a seaside bedsit. If you don’t know why that’s great, I cannot help you.
- “The Sticky Fingers” - Albertine Sarges (Moshi Moshi)
Where do you start with this? An album that is cut through with feminist thinking, musings on sexuality, comment on mental health and thoughts on gender stereotypes, is always going to be a tough sell…to people who don’t want to hear about things like that and who, instead, want to roar along to songs that rhyme moon with June and tell you that everything is gonna be alright. But if you are not that sort of person, and why would you be, this is one of the most incredible albums you will hear in 2021.
- “Colourgrade” - Tirzah (Domino)
Trip-hop, hip-hop, actual pop and production that thrills and terrifies in equal parts…sometimes at the same moment. Enigmatic, haunting and, very often, thrilling. Album opener, “Colourgrade”, is a nightmare made flesh, and yet it became one of my tracks of the year. As with so many other albums on this list, Tirzah is pushing at the boundaries of what popular music can, maybe should be, doing. Not content with making something that sounds like something else. No desire to be like anyone else. Instead a desire to be…herself, present and to write her own story.
- “Californian Soil” - London Grammar (Ministry of Sound)
After four years away, London Grammar returned and landed their second number one album. A gorgeous blend of cinematic, dream-pop, electro-pop, folk and soul. Few bands are confident enough to create something like this and even fewer have the talent to do so. There are echoes of the dull beats of both Tricky and Portishead to be discovered here, particularly on the title track, but it also has all the heart and soul of West coast, nineteen-sixties, Americana running throughout.
- “Former Things” - Lone Lady (Warp)
Eight tracks of the most carefully crafted and constructed, electronic, industrial, postmodernist, pop (de)constructions that anyone could ever want. The ghosts of sounds past haunt this album and yet it remains, at all times, entirely modern. A backwards glance…both feet rooted in the now…both eyes looking to the future. What is most obvious here is the fact that Campbell is careful and considered in everything she does, nothing here is accidental. Like an engineer she understands that one wrong decision could have catastrophic consequences for both the “product” and the “users”. That may make things sound clinical, forensic even, but instead this approach creates something with warmth and heart.
- “The Internet” - Glüme (Italians Do It Better)
Part performance art, part Marilyn Monroe tribute act and entirely brilliant. Glüme delivered the sort of Lynchian dark-pop masterpiece that should have propelled her into hearts, and charts, around the world. She is a gloriously peculiar, arch and careful performer/writer. As with all the greats she cares about everything…the clothes she wears, the face she presents, the voice she uses (in all ways), videos, artwork, it is all so careful, in the way that all truly carefree things are. It may look, maybe even sound, contrived or performative…and it is, which is exactly why it is so wonderful.
- “Prioritise Pleasure” - Self Esteem (Universal)
In her own words, this second album from Rebecca Lucy Taylor, is fucking wizardry. Fierce and ferocious, dressed in the glitz and glamour of stadium pop, this was an album that demanded you listen…and hear what was being said. “It’s not something I’m proud of…” she sings at one point, but with this album she has crafted something to be more than proud of, it is immaculate. An immaculate collection…gasp, like what Madonna released. There is something of Madonna about Taylor, like a funfair mirror version of the Queen of Pop…a resolutely English take on women in pop/rock. Strident and confident…on the surface, but underneath insecurities and worries bubble. I love Madonna…but if I wanted my daughter to take notes from anyone, it would probably be Taylor.
- “Let Me Speak” - Gemma Cullingford (Outre Disque)
Best known, perhaps and for now, as one half of Sink Ya Teeth, this debut solo album from Gemma Cullingford was a revelation. An astonishing mix of danceable beats, revelatory lyrics, social commentary, personal politics and all delivered with more grace and style than Ginger Rogers at her most sublime. This is a deeply affecting, wildly personal and gloriously uplifting album. The influences are there if you want to hear them, New Order, Depeche Mode, A Certain Ration and Throbbing Gristle. But there is more…on a track like “Wide Boys” there is dance, dance hall, Afrobeat, experimentation and psychedelia. It takes great talent, enormous skill and a deft touch to produce something like this. And while certain people who claim to care about indie music will be yelling for, yet another, album by, yet another, group of boys who can’t see past the same old faces and influences, Cullingford embodies the true spirit of independent music better than any of them. Make no mistake, this is the album of the year.