Countdown: 2017: Tracks

Onto week two of Countdown: 2017 on amodelofcontrol.com, and this week I’m looking at the best tracks of the year. These might be the singles, they might be album tracks, they might be one-offs. But all of them are songs I love in one way or another. Weirdly, some of these have been really difficult to explain why I love them so much.

Countdown: 2017

28-Nov: Best Compilations and reissues
05-Dec: Best Tracks
12-Dec: Best Albums
19-Dec: Gigs

Playlists

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Deezer

Countdown: Tracks

2016: School of Seven Bells – Signals
2015: CHVRCHES – Playing Dead
2014: seeming – The Burial
2013: Seabound – Nothing But Love
2012: Death Grips – Hacker
2011: Frank Turner – One Foot Before The Other
2010: In Strict Confidence – Silver Bullets
2009: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
2008: Mind.in.a.box – What Used To Be (Short Storm)
2007: Prometheus Burning – Battery Drain
2006: No tracks of the year list
2005: Grendel – Soilbleed / Rotersand – Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
2004: No tracks of the year list

But in the end, I found a way. Over two months or so since I began collating this, some songs have dropped out of the list, others were late entries, and there are likely more songs that I could have included that maybe I haven’t even heard.

It also goes without saying that I set myself limits on this list – there was no way it was going to be more than forty songs, and also, no artist would feature twice. This ensures only the best songs I’ve heard make it in, and I can cover as many artists as possible.

Yes, amodelofcontrol.com broadly covers industrial music, by the way, but as I’ve said many times before, industrial is a broad, broad church – and it seems to get wider by the year. There are influences of the style in so much music nowadays, in fact even in mainstream, mega-selling pop music nowadays.

But as well as that, I also listen to other music, and thus the spread here is perhaps a bit wider than you might otherwise expect. You know what, though? Try some of this music. Especially the stuff you don’t recognise, or don’t know. Go for it – I love hearing new music that someone else has enthused about, trying to understand what’s so awesome about it. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it will take days or weeks to click, and hopefully something here will do that to you.

Time to cue the music. You can listen along on Spotify, Youtube or Deezer. Links to the right.

Next week: Albums


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Number_40Marilyn Manson
WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE
Heaven Upside Down

His best album in some years, sure, but it barely made a splash, not helped by the fact that one of his long-time bandmates was kicked out of the band after revelations of past abuse were made public. Before all that kicked off, the first track released from the new album was quite something. A savage, brutal track with the feel of the MM of old, this is ugly, abrasive industrial-tinged metal that wants to start a fight, and frankly doesn’t care if it’s you, you or you. The likelihood is that it will be everyone.


Number_39The xx
Dangerous
I See You

The first couple of albums by the xx seemed like the listener was intruding on intimate, late-night pillow-talk, the music as subdued and dimly lit. Which made the new album all the more surprising, as they returned after a couple of years away and this was them bursting out of their darkened rooms into the glittering light, and nowhere was this shown better than on this wonderful song. It skitters along on a restless breakbeat, and a glorious horn sample provides an almost celebratory atmosphere as the twin vocals intertwine and interact between each other, as they cast off the shackles of night for something all the more fascinating and hummable.


Number_38FIRES
Red Goes Grey
Red Goes Grey

It still seems like such a simple concept: on Talk Show Host: 037, Eric Sochocki explained that his “rules” for writing music under the FIRES name had to make him dance, had to make him feel something, and had to be “Pop”. For the most part, he could consider this mission accomplished, then, as this is hugely enjoyable, catchy industrial-pop. Pop no longer is such as the dirty word in this scene, as artist after artist has finally, belated realised that melody and accessibility is actually a good thing, as KANGA so brilliantly proved last year.


Number_37Randolph & Mortimer
Society
Hope Tragedy Myths EP

After what seemed like a while away, one of the most promising new(er) acts in British Industrial returned this year with a new EP and perhaps a subtle shift in style. Always fiercely political, this EP continues that, particularly on the lengthy lead track Society, which appears to be a prod at those on the right trying to dismantle the welfare safety net in various ways. Musically, though, things have changed a bit – and maybe those remixes for and by the likes of Schwefelgelb have rubbed off on R&M, but then it is worth reminding that R&M came from a techno background in the first place. This is a rhythmic, techno-infused industrial workout that pounds away like the forges that have characterised the history of the Steel City, but retains an edge of subtlety that means it isn’t all bludgeoning force, and is all the better for it.


Number_36Charlotte Gainsbourg
Deadly Valentine
Rest

Something I’ve got back into this year has been listening to the radio for music, and regular listening to 6 Music has perhaps altered the emphasis of my listening habits somewhat. It has certainly exposed me to music I might not have heard otherwise, such as this wonderful song from Gainsbourg’s first new album in some years. A cascading, near-celestial sound, as it feels like the air is sparkling as I listen to it, and Gainsbourg’s breathy vocals are the perfect match for it.


Number_35Nine Inch Nails
Dear World,
Not the Actual Events EP

NIN returned to action over the past year with a pair of EPs (one right at the turn of the year, the other in the summer), and both saw a continuation of the sonic evolution seen in recent times – and a clear sign of Atticus Ross’s increasing involvement, and indeed now a permanent member of the group. I have to admit that I prefer the first of the two EPs, although both have excellent moments, and for me the pick of the ten tracks across them is the spare, taut electronics of Dear World,. A complex drum pattern drives the song forward, with vocals that switch between a growled whisper in the verses to a melodic, pretty chorus, and bubbling electronics that phase in and out of focus. It is tense and atmospheric, and one of the best tracks Reznor has put his name to in some years, to my ears.


Number_34Amnestic
Harbinger
Future

I really liked the first Amnestic release, but this new EP, released just recently, sees this act turn all their weaponry on the dancefloor. The whole EP – but most particularly this, the lead track – is slamming industrial music to dance to, with thundering beats, sleek synths and appropriately glitchy vocals. This is music for a club in a dystopian sci-fi movie, and it sounds awesome. Amnestic refers to disorders where you lose memory, lose the ability to create memory, or even lose the ability to learn new information. None of those apply here, with the band building on their previous work, learning from that and releasing by far their best, most immediate work yet.


Number_33Royal Blood
Lights Out
How Did We Get So Dark?

Somehow I missed out on the first album, but their follow-up this year was actually rather good, brash rock. Yeah, so they are yet another two-person rock duo (bass and drums), but fucking hell they sound huge when they get it right. This lead single from their album this year was exactly that. All low-end and snarling vocals, it is delivered with a groove and swagger that brings to mind prime-era QOTSA, which is no bad thing, and has a chorus that is rather difficult to dislodge from my brain every time I hear it. There wasn’t a great deal of straight-up rock to enjoy this year, so this filled a void nicely.


Number_32Controlled Bleeding
TROD (Defiler’s Song)
Carving Songs

The return of CB last year – with their excellent Larva Lumps and Baby Bumps – was quite something, and it was perhaps no surprise when a remix album arrived this year, and it was a hefty beast. It was led, though, by a fantastic new track that was easily the equal of anything on the parent album. TROD casts aside sonic experimentation for utter, brute force. A huge drum sound dominates the track, with synths cutting through the mix like buzzsaws and vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on a Godflesh track complete the grimy, uncomfortable palette.


Number_3111grams
Machine Malfunction
Panacea

An intriguing album by a US-Australian partnership, Panacea was a bit of a throwback to the electro-industrial days of yore. Not all of it worked – particularly the track sequencing, which seemed rather odd and disjointed to me – but the best moment by far was the lead single and opening track, the brooding, slamming Machine Malfunction. This weaved together thundering beats, ominous NASA transmission samples, dense synths and treated vocals that despite the clear nods to the past, actually sounded like it belonged in 2017. Better promotion from their label, you know, and this could have been something much bigger than it was.


Number_30Cease2xist
Make The World A Bitter Place
Zero Future

Somehow, I’d never previously noticed that presumably the name for this band comes from, of all places, a Ladytron song. Why is that surprising? Well, one listen to this brute of a track will make it rather clear. As I noted when featuring it on Tuesday Ten: 284, this is the aural equivalent of a chained dog straining at the leash, a four-minute blast of industrial breakbeats, processed guitars, snarling vocals and a general aura of hatred and fury. This young band have promised much over the past few years, and this is the sign of them starting to deliver on that promise in some style.


Number_29KLACK
Do You Klack?
Do You Klack?

Far from the only artist to be mining the past this year, KLACK is (yet another!) collaboration from Matt Fanale and Eric Oehler, and it’s not surprising that it is under a different name. This is pure New Beat, with a neat groove and excellent use of a Speak’n’Spell (an idea that’s kinda an old one now, but it works well here), and is very much a release that is tipping its hat at both Matt and Eric’s formative influences, that’s for sure. The whole EP is excellent, and worth picking up if you haven’t heard it, but the title track is the pick of it for me.


Number_28The Golden Age of Nothing
When We Die, There’s Nothing
Monuments

I featured their exceptional single Black Wings high up in last year’s roundup, and I was therefore eagerly awaiting their follow-up album. It is perhaps true that Monuments works better as a whole album than individual songs (and there is no shame in that – and it’s no spoiler to confirm that I’ll be featuring the album next week too), but one song in particular here stood out. Perhaps in a year tinged with death at every corner (seriously – four friends, a colleague and a grandmother, never mind the various musical heroes lost this year), this song had particular resonance. A hazy, reverb-heavy track where the vocals seem to float through the bass-led gothic doom, the title refrain in particular appealed to my agnostic brain. That’s it, the end, finito. And in some of those cases, it came far too soon.


Number_27Teho Teardo + Blixa Bargeld
Hey Hey My My
Fall EP

YouTube-icon-full_color Watch on YouTube

I don’t often include covers in these lists – I’d prefer to celebrate new music, frankly – but I will make exceptions, and this is one of those. One of those covers that takes the original song, and while keeping an essence of it, is otherwise dramatically changed. Teho Teardo conjures up a stirring, striking string-based backing – to which are added percussion bursts like cannon fire – while Blixa Bargeld is, well, Blixa, delivering his vocals in his trademark style, half-speaking, half-singing. Truly, this is a glorious cover and done in such style that it made the purchase of the Fall EP an essential one, no matter what else was on it – and kinda makes you wonder quite what Neubauten songs would sound like with an orchestra behind them. I suspect it would also be quite something.


Number_26Arnocorps
Mr Freeze
The Unbelievable EP

The greatest band dedicated to righting the wrongs of Hollywood Austroploitation (by doing punk-metal songs based around Arnie films, basically) have been doing this for a great many years now, remain one of the best live bands going, and this year released their latest recorded missive, digging into the comic side of Arnie’s work – as opposed to his all-action films. Needless to say, this resulted in some pretty unexpected songs (Twins, Jingle All The Way, neither of which are films I’ll be returning to anytime soon), but the pick of the bunch was easily the anthemic punk-blast of Mr Freeze, with a song way better than the film of Batman & Robin, that’s for sure…


Number_25Dead Animal Assembly Plant
Rise With Me
OFH: Prime Cuts

Ok, so there is a nod to both American Head Charge and Marilyn Manson (of old) here, but elsewhere, there is a nihilistic, nasty edge to this industrial-tinged metal band who appear to have at six members and an approach to outfits that suggests some affinity with sci-fi films. But none of that would count for anything if they didn’t have the chops to provide such a fantastic tune. The rabble-rousing chorus chugs like a motherfucker, and I’m loving that cyclic riff that closes it out.


Number_24Daughter
Burn It Down
Music From Before the Storm

A seething song whose lyrics appear to relate to teenage life, which makes perfect sense when you realise that it is from a soundtrack that the band created to a game called Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, which is indeed about exactly that. The song, though, has rather more grown up conceits, with a rippling fury delivered through the vocals that are like cold steel against the ethereal, backing vocals and rather lighter music. I really must investigate this band more.


Number_23Boy Harsher
Motion
Country Girl EP

Despite a couple of opportunities, I was scuppered at every turn to catch a young band apparently very much on the up. Their pair of London gigs at the end of November were both rather oversubscribed, and have – to my amazement – also had airplay during primetime on BBC Radio 6 Music. Their music is – much like a lot of electronic music in our part of the realm, anyway – somewhat preoccupied with the past, with there being a distinct EBM-funk feel to this recently-released lead single. The vocals have a woozy, resigned quality that reverberates across the mix, and provides as a neat counterpoint to the energetic, busy electronic backing. Clearly a band with wider appeal than just industrial tastemakers, that’s for sure, and I suspect it won’t be long before we hear a lot more about them, mark my words.


Number_22Sparks
Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
Hippopotamus

It really does seem that the exceptional FFS collaboration with Franz Ferdinand has given Sparks a new lease of life. An active act for beyond forty years, parts of their latest (and 23rd!) album teem with fascinating life, but nowhere more than this glorious single. A sweeping mini-epic in just four minutes, it appears to be a musing on a life well-lived, and whether regret should be part of that. With the fact that they appear to disagree with Piaf’s signature song, perhaps they are taking stock and wondering what they could have done instead. At face value, the Mael brothers have done a lot, particularly in being a formative influence on any smart-arsed indie/post-punk since, for a start, and a bevy of brilliant songs like this. Also well-worth catching is the extraordinary stop-motion video that was released for this song, too.


Number_21Queens of the Stone Age
The Way You Used To Do
Villains

There were various eyebrows raised when it was revealed that QOTSA had been working with Mark Ronson for their new album. An undoubtedly slick producer, best known from his retro-throwback production on just about everything he touches, seemed an odd fit for a band that are very much the embodiment of scuzzy, down-and-dirty rock. Sadly, the takeaway I got was that while the singles were great, that slickness rather squeezed the life out of much of the album, leaving it too clean by half. The exception was the hip-swinging, groove-monster of the lead single, which is a song that just oozes sex appeal, with guitars like cars revving into the distance and a beat you could time a few things with. If only, if only, the rest of the album had been as great as this.


Borghesia
Rodovnik [A Genealogy]
Proti kapitulaciji [To Surrender]

I had a fascinating chat with [lead member] of Borghesia earlier in the year over Skype, that sadly technical issues destroyed most of (I hope to resurrect this in due course). The reason for that chat was inspired by this single song, released in the spring as an apparent precursor to a new album that I believe is still awaited, but hasn’t yet appeared. Their comeback album And Man Created God was broadly in English (something of a departure from their past), and their angry comments on world affairs didn’t always hit the mark (and indeed were somewhat too blunt at times), not to mention the music having shifted towards industrial-rock from their earlier forceful EBM. So it was a kind of relief to hear the band here returning to their native Slovenian, and intriguingly their own cultural history. This song starts a longer project of putting a number of Slovene poet Srečko Kosovel‘s poetry to music, and the result was a startling one. Punchy beats back a twin-vocal delivery of a scathing, political poem that appears to seethe at the craven nature of Slovene leaders over the ages (Slovenia being at least partly occupied by other nations, not for the first time, in the early 1920s when this was written).


The Duke Spirit
Magenta
Sky is Mine

I knew little about this band aside from this song, but it’s so, so brilliant that so far I’ve just had this on repeat. The rest of the album has a mellower, more languid feel – and with something of the stripped-bare fuzz-rock of JaMC and Spiritualized, too – but this opening track is raw power condensed into three minutes. That propulsive bassline is at the heart of the surge of energy that this song has, and while vocalist Leila Moss’s delivery is initially sweet and reserved, she then explodes with emotional energy in the chorus, and it is a compelling, attention-grabbing sound. At just three minutes, every time I hear it, I’m left wanting so much more of just this song.


Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand
Control
Shadows EP

Quite aside from the difficult to pronounce name (those without a grasp of German probably need not apply), this British industrial act have taken a very different route to most of their peers. While hard industrial beats and guitars are very much in vogue right now – not to mention something of an obsession with reworking and pulling forward styles from two decades ago – these folks have instead taken a different style of industrial from back then. That of Coil in particular – of dimly lit, forbidding soundscapes, sparse vocals and a disquieting sense of something not being quite right. Cavernous, uncomfortable spaces open up in the mix, too, as synths swirl around the edges. This is music for nightmares, and it sounds quite brilliant.


Garbage
No Horses

Garbage have spent a lot of their recent years looking backwards, touring their first album in it’s entirety (with all the B-sides, too, rather marvellously), and they are doing the same with Version 2.0 next year. In between, of course, they did return with a new album, that was admittedly pretty good, but this track eclipses all of that and most of the rest of the material since V2.0, too. A one-off song that is one of their most political releases, this is a spiky, fuming track that rages at the destruction of the environment by monied interests, in effect, and musically builds from a quiet intro to a thundering rhythm that is not far off full-on, rampaging industrial rock. Sure, a one-off, but I’d love to hear Garbage explore this side of their sound more in future.


Godflesh
Be God
POST SELF

Godflesh returned late this year with their second album since reforming, and this one has a more murky, less metal sound than the last album – and this song in particular absolutely reeks of malice. The dense, bass-dominated swamp grooves drag the rest of the track in its wake, Justin Broadrick’s vocals distorted and menacing amid the depths, and the bleak desolation of the track is only made more overt by the way that the track runs out of steam, in the last seconds the (comparatively) delicate picking of a guitar is all that remains before even that fades into nothing. Nihilism never sounded so great.


Cigarettes After Sex
Apocalypse
Cigarettes After Sex

A band that initially sink without trace, then go viral a couple of years later to their total surprise – and now, they have a successful album and some big live dates. The latter is rather surprising, though – this is music of extraordinary intimacy, with sparse instrumentation and close-mic’d vocals that sound like he is singing directly into your ears and yours only. It is sexually frank (to put it mildly), an alternative version of the pillowtalk that the xx did so well on their first place, but most of all, it really does sound like the skeletal, bluesy elegance of Mazzy Star, but perhaps isn’t quite as languid. The best song, though, is the exceptional Apocalypse, a surprisingly catchy, memorable track that has a lightness of touch that gets past the oh-so-clever rhyming (“Your lips / My lips / Apocalypse” – Yes, very good), by being simply gorgeous to listen to.


Korsunnuz
Half Life

Picture the scene – old heads consider a reformation, bin the idea and turn their attention to an adjacent genre. Generally, that’s not going to work, right? Well, generally, maybe, but here it really does. Who they were isn’t especially important – although if you listen closely you’ll pick up the odd nod, particularly in that tight-as-fuck rhythm section and of course the vocals – but who they are shows a lot of promise. This is dry-as-all-hell, door-kicking rock with a rhythmic punch like a prize-fighter and a soaring, blood-pumping chorus that befits rock music like this. Oh, and that chugging breakdown has me moshing in my seat every time.


Bodycount
No Lives Matter
Bloodlust

Of all the various political songs in recent times – and there has sure as hell been enough to protest about of late – Ice-T stopped beating around the bush and delivered this like a punch to the face. His eloquent explanation to begin with is necessary – reminding just how reductionist and unhelpful “All Lives Matter” was to the “Black Lives Matter” protests – but then, he reminds us, the reality is that for those not rich, “No Lives Matter”. The rest of the song is a direct, anthemic song that should be required listening for anyone who thinks there isn’t any point in protesting. This four minutes will have you writing placards and marching on the Government by the time it is finished.


Black Line
Shut It Down
Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities

DJ Cyrus Rex and Douglas McCarthy opened up their musical partnership this year, with a whole host of other guests assisting across the first album under the Black Line name, and as so often happens when so many people are involved in the creation of a musical release, it rather diluted the impact a bit. That said, there were some great moments on the album, particularly on the one track where the tempo was returned to EBM levels. Yes, it sounds rather like Nitzer Ebb with a 2017 industrial-techno build and beat – with a gloriously off-kilter guitar hit in the cliff-face changeup of a chorus – but why not? McCarthy was there when this sound was forged in the first place, and the beat-driven menace of this track was the sound of him reminding everyone who the king of this stuff still is.


LEGEND
Cryptid
Midnight Champion

In some respects, we should have known that the band’s follow-up to the excellent Fearless was going to be different. Krummi and his bandmates have been chameleons musically over the years, rarely staying in one place stylistically, but even so the move on this album was quite the jump. While Fearless was very much the sound of a rock band dipping their toes into an all-electronic, gothic world, this is the Rock side of their DNA taking charge, but songs like the staggering opener Cryptid provided a bridge between the two. This is all drama, emerging out of the murk of the intro and building up to a wave-crashing, cliff-edge of a chorus (and then the middle-eight, oh my god) that is one of the finest melodic moments I heard all year.


Fever Ray
IDK About You
Plunge

Amid another intriguing album from Fever Ray, the best song on it by far was the one that took her furthest from the debut. IDK About You is a riot of drumming and bone-shaking rhythms, looped vocals and a sense of joy and abandon that is conspicuously absent from the rest of her solo work. This actually brings things a bit closer to what the The Knife were eventually doing, around the time of Shaking The Habitual, but even they never had energy like this.


Blanck Mass
Rhesus Negative
World Eater

As glorious as Fuck Buttons could be, I have to say that I’ve come around to preferring Benjamin John Power’s “side project” Blanck Mass, which casts aside the proggy diversions of Fuck Buttons for what can be astonishingly direct, powerful electronics. Rhesus Negative, the nine-minute monster from him latest album, is perhaps the ultimate example so far. This is a maelstrom of intense volume and depth, with synths swirling around a pummelling, jack-hammer beat, twisted and distorted vocal samples, and fathom after fathom of bass, with hidden depths and new sounds that just keep on being introduced, until it reaches an astonishing, chaotic climax.


Seeming
Talk About Bones
SOL: A Self-Banishment Ritual

On such a brilliant album (But Listen: 156), that works amazingly as a whole piece, it seems kinda wrong to be picking one moment from it – and indeed my choice of song from it for this by-track rundown has now changed five times. But there was one song, and one refrain, that I kept coming back to. “What sets your soul on fire?” is the hook of closing track Talk About Bones, a song that bounces around breakbeats and piano-led sections, found-sounds (breaking glass in particular), but really is led by an impassioned vocal from Alex Reed, where he implores a message of self-discovery, hope and mental rebirth, effectively summarising the key messages from an extraordinary album: you can make things better, you can improve.


Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Isotype
The Punishment of Luxury

While the title track was an exceptional, punchy synthpop hook-fest, I was rather more taken with the track that followed it. A lengthy electro-exploration, Kraftwerkian nods abound, including Autobahn-esque vocals at points – as well as a Metroland-esque nod to design and style (a pictorial method of communicating information, in effect), but more than anything this glorious six-minutes is OMD reminding us, the listeners, that you can do so much more than just singing about the same concepts over-and-again, instead paying tribute to information technology and the changes to our lives that they have brought. That, and it has a hook that wedged itself in my brain for months, too.


LOCKS
Wishbone
Rattle Them Bones

My find of the year turned out to be on my doorstep. We discovered them supporting deux furieuses earlier in the year, where they were described as “Murder songs & death shanties”. Oh really, said us, so we ensured that we were there in time, and by the first minute of opening song Wishbone, I was totally sold. A rolling, queasy rhythm, an equally unusual vocal line, and a chorus that stays with you for days. This is somewhere between Irish folk, Tom Waits and some of PJ Harvey’s starker moments, but perhaps most remarkable is how they don’t sound like slaves to their influences. A new single is imminent, and I can’t wait to hear where they go next.


Misery Loves Co.
Would You?

It has been a tentative return for the Swedish industrial-metallers, with a drip-feed of live shows, various press commitments (including an interview with this site on Talk Show Host: 021), and just the one new track so far (with the promise of more to come). But what a first track back. Brooding, bass-led verses lead into an explosive, emotional punch of a chorus, that has a much heavier feel than it perhaps really is. That is partly, much as MLc always used to do, because of the dense, oppressive atmosphere that the band build around the song, like an impossibly dark shroud. Misery Loves Co. were never a band for the happy listener, and I’m happy to report that this is a band that have returned picking up where they left off, and sounding just as brilliantly bleak as they always did.


LCD Soundsystem
Tonite
American Dream

The band resurrected and thrilling once again…and in typically obtuse style, the best song on the album is about getting old and dying. Or more to the point, about other artists all singing about dying and getting old, and James Murphy considering his place within that. The joke of course is that this song is an irresistable dancefloor banger, the type of song that Murphy seems capable to writing for fun, and absolutely teems with life, and continues to reach peak after peak that surely must be out of reach. Also, this track has the best use of cowbell since Blue Oyster Cult.


Goldfrapp
Ocean
Silver Eye

After a near-acoustic, somnambulant sound for the last album – that divided many, although I thought it was quite pleasant – it was something of a relief to see Goldfrapp return with a bang this spring, with their most energetic, vital album in a great many years. Better than the singles, though, the extraordinary closing track Ocean towers over just about anything Goldfrapp have done. Reputedly the vocals recorded in one take by a seething Alison Goldfrapp, the vocals have a slightly ragged, desparate quality that only serves to enhance the emotional force of the track, and a pulsating electronic backing ebbs and flows with her vocals, providing a forceful backing when needed, and drifting away into shards of effects when not. The more I hear it, the more amazing it sounds, and the more I’m sure that this is very much the best performance of Alison Goldfrapp’s now lengthy career.


Public Service Broadcasting
They Gave Me A Lamp
Every Valley

Each PSB album thus far has at least one stand-out track that absolutely nails the whole point of the thematic concepts that underpin each one, and the third PSB album – about the growth, decline and aftermath of coal mining in South Wales – had this track as the extraordinary heart. Giving a voice to the women that stood beside their husbands, family members and friends that went on strike in the eighties, it is a poignant, thrilling four minutes of dedication and political awakening that is terrifically moving and inspiring. The voices at the heart of this are testament to what can happen when a decision is made to make a difference, to empower ones-self, and is the greatest embodiment of what the band’s mission statement was from the off – “Inform, Educate, Entertain”.


Zola Jesus
Siphon
Okovi

On a near flawless album, picking highlights is tough, but the sheer, desperate emotion within Siphon puts it a nose ahead of the rest of the album – not that the same feeling doesn’t permeate through the whole of it. Most of this album is about dealing with the aftermath of shocking events – deaths of loved ones, sudden life changes, or, in this case, the suicide attempt of someone close. And the sheer shock of what Zola Jesus was witnessing comes crashing through in this extraordinary song. Lyrically it is a tender, but stark, take on dealing with it, detailing the actions of the one attempting to end their life.

But also it is about those who have to pick up the pieces, before it culminates in a dramatic, breathless chorus where pleas to think again and a message of deep love comes across, one that is clearly heartfelt and from first-hand experience. Add to that the claustrophobic, unflinching video of her apparently standing unclothed and unflinching under a shower of bloody water, and the realisation comes that the best music comes from bitter, desperate experience. Here, she has faced up to difficult odds, faced it down and released music that moved me, spoke to me, and in a year that has frankly stank of death from start to finish, reminded me that there is hope, and fighting back against the darkness can result in seeing light again.

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