Words: Dave Tynan
I wouldn’t read this.
That’s what I’ve been thinking. The internet clanks and heaves and churns out more end of year lists than anyone needs. This is another one. In defence of them, I know I’ll get tip offs from digging through them myself, records I’m only really copping on to in the cold bright of January. That’s their value to me; they’re useful for the year to come more than the year gone.
Looking back over what you’ve picked years before shows you what you’ve missed and how predictable you are. This is where I start worrying whether I’m only adding to the noise.
Writing for yourself isn’t where it’s at. Writing should be communication. The flipside of that weirdly only makes me feel dumber for doing this. Because I’m sold on the idea that massive albums that are full of ideas and vision are the ones worth celebrating. The challenge must be how to talk to people who don’t think like you. Certainly I’m throwing no surprises at the good burghers who read This Greedy Pig, purveyors all of fine taste, more esoteric records and interesting runners.
I’m also finding myself in the weird and deadly position where I’ve been lucky enough to work with heads that made my absolute favourite Irish albums of the year (Mmoths and Rusangano). I’m happily compromised.
So I might give it a rest next year. In the meantime, here’s my five records.
She doesn’t have to do this. I’ve been reading about Michael Jordan. She’s Jordan to pop music at the moment. She is, like him, relentlessly, the best out there. Or Serena’s the better comparison, who’s here too. Hubby looks irrelevant compared to this. She reduced him. Her own older work feels like a warm up to this. An album half this good might have been lauded just as much.
The fire, the lungs, the sex. The venom threat of her.
There’s redemption - this is a big American life - and it nearly drops off the boil for me there. Reading him the riot act in those opening five tracks is better than the act of forgiveness. 'Sandcastles' feels chocolate box but in fairness, she still calls him a bitch. She gets to forgive.
Now that albums aren’t just albums (but they do just drop unheralded from the sky right into your phone now) I’m giving this the top spot because of the film too.
There were some extraordinary films this year (American Honey, Arrival, A Date For Mad Mary) but this deserves to be included as a notable film of the year. Let us praise co-director Kahlil Joseph, whose fully formed style is all over this hour long fever dream. Joseph worked under Malick. He’s taken that influence and made new work even as Malick wanders towards parody. Possibly even Malick doesn’t know how interesting his style is, or what further possibilities there are in it. Lemonade presents one path: where Malick’s voiceovers veer towards dopey, naively romantic, Beyoncé speaks Warsan Shire’s poetry: angry, sore, gutted from infidelity.
Her sister could be on this list too; a more resigned, sombre struggle through being a black woman. Solange’s might be a more elegant exploration, but it was an angry year and Beyoncé felt elemental.
It's so viciously evocative. I think that’s where his genius is. It seems hazed and meanderous but the moments keep sticking, trapped in Ocean’s amber, playing on loop near an infinity pool.
It's managing to fuck with time just the slightest bit more than should be possible. He’s writing with such precision, like a sushi chef with his characters, flicking his blade, catching and slicing insights. His finest lyrical shards linger.
“RIP Trayvon, that nigga look just like me.”
“Working through your worst days.”
“Wish we’d grown up on the same advice and our time was right.”
I wish he rapped more. I want an album with him and Earl, on holiday, like The Trip but the two of them stoned and arguing by vending machines in motels in Colorado.
If California is a few years ahead of the world and he’s a few years ahead of California, then Frank Ocean must be the future. He’s master of his own destiny now and if that means coffee table books and contract disputes, grand. Frank’s going to keep running lost summers over and over in his mind and ours. Rain. Glitter.
In lieu of being able to see any progress, Saul is out to name the world. At his best, he pulls down enough of it so you’re glued into his frenzied dives into the Internet, his own life, dreamworlds, Joplin imitating blackness, the shadow of religion, virtual freedom, avatar dust and the mockingbird, a field of bankers’ dung, Whitney Houston’s crackpipe.
'Burundi' followed by the chants of 'The Noise Came From Here'; the centre of this album finds fresh ways to drive his words. This is dense brilliance. Whatever Saul Williams will do next, he won’t patronise you.
He was the most electric performer I saw live: it was a gift to see him atop a table in the middle of the Sugar Club, that weird cruise ship of a venue. To see Saul Williams crushing it acapella is to see a self-ordained mastery. The conjuring authority of him melted my face.
He was back for Metropolis for an interview and the room was noisy with lads talking shite and getting pints in and he was there to speak. He stunned the room. No one speaks like him. He finished with a laugh and a breezy “Fuck outta here.”
Tracksuit Mafia and a new level for an old head. As a recurring lyrical theme, putting the Gucci in the bin felt as endearing as you could ask for. Konnichiwa was worth the wait, his crisp disdain for anything resembling authority the stance over 12 tracks, strong as a bleezeblock. No filler, no bullshit, no faith in anything outside his own crew. He built it with massive beats that he mostly crafted himself. It’s full of huge paranoid lurchers, street cleaners. A mature album in a still-young genre, Joseph Adenuga from Tottenham claimed the Mercury and thanked his friends’ mums and dads on stage. There’s a glory in the graft of this, the patience was rewarded, the industry won over. The People’s Champion got his shot at the title and took it. Konnichiwa is like your dad finally buying the car he always wanted.
I’m left with the overriding impression that Vince doesn't have to do this and knows it. He sounds vital and almost nothing sounds vital. People rightly clutch Run The Jewels (Round 3 coming 2017) to their chest ‘cos they're angry. Vince is already bored, unimpressed and unimpressible. If half of it is being a gangster rapper who doesn’t care about gangster rap, he’s not up for the queasy feeling that fame has brought. So you can have bangers but you’ve to sit through the interludes that lay bare his mental state too. He’s still rapping harder than anyone else at the minute. Don’t miss out on 'All Night', the Clams Casino track with the year’s most irresistible flow. He knows the bars of the cage in ways you can't and we're always, always catching up with him.
Dave's Honourable Mentions:
Nick Cave / Kiiara / ABRA / Kendrick / Rusangano Family / Bowie / Tribe / Mark Pritchard / Kate Tempest / Mmoths / Trim / Shura / Chance The Rapper / Anderson .Paak / Radiohead / Savages / DJ Shadow / clipping / Parquet Courts