Our hundred favourite albums released between January 1st 2010 and today:
In recent months, news coverage has again become dominated with reports from Iran, with President Trump and his counter-part President Hassan Rouhani stuck in a now-familiar war of words in response to Trump escalating sanctions against the beleaguered Gulf nation, with Rouhani recently calling the Trump “mentally retarded”. Retarded… maybe not. Simple? Most definitely. Yet the US administration’s latest escalations with Iran are not the birth of a new conflict but exhaustively predictable behaviour from a nation which has been behaving this way for decades, even when it was ruled by much sharper minds than Donald J. Trump.
It is notable that Iran can take credit for being one of the few prizes for aspiring rulers of any international hegemony which has resisted subservience to America, the dominant world power. The country has become economically crippled and a fundamentalist, autocratic Islamic theocracy along the way. The Republican administration of 2019 has not radically hardened America’s response to their resistance: Democratic and Republican administrations alike have pursued the same neo-realist approach which requires rebellious, resource-rich and strategically important states such as Iran to be brought in line or duly punished. (more…)
In a year which has heaped upon us a depressing deluge of exposés of revered figures in our popular culture, from Michael Jackson to Rolf Harris (okay, not always that revered either…) there are few of us music fans who haven’t been touched by the dilemma of separating art from the artist. In music especially, it has become impossible to ignore that fact that some songs which have formed the soundtracks to some of the best days of our lives were made by humans whose actions we abhor. In the last week, many Morrissey fans may have found themselves struggling to listen to his new LP over a different moral quandary, thanks to his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon wearing that badge.
At least the medium, sound, was always innocent in all this: there are no liberal chords and fascist riffs. Imagine that you come across a 1970s flamenco album on a spurious random internet blog, you download the ZIP file and find that it touches you deeply. You don’t speak Spanish, but the music is joyous and you want to share that joy, by hijacking playlists at parties and sending a link to your mother. Then, years later, you make the mistake of sharing your little find with a Spanish-speaking friend, who is shocked to find you endorsing an old album with lyrics which can be best described as rampantly fascist. You are horrified, but what are you meant to do? It’s too late, you’re already in. You may loathe the politics, but nothing has inherently changed about the music itself. (more…)
In a decade when more art is released in a month than could be considered properly in a lifetime, and every song recorded in the past century is just a quick Google away, our ideas of originality are changing. Once true uniqueness – the conquest for the unseen and unheard – was one of the first aspirations of art, but now it’s all laid bare: every source of inspiration, every melody borrowed from an unknown artist from the other side of the world or remembered in a dream. In 2017, Robert Shore’s book Beg, Steal and Borrow helped to shatter the myth of originality in art, and even more-so remove the stigma of weaving your influences together to make something new: a newfound embrace of artistic copying and pasting.
In the art world, it was the 20th Century fashion for collages which put originality on the back-burner, by stitching together other works from across mediums (as if a millennium of painters copying Greek statues shouldn’t have done that already). Hip-hop’s sonic collages did the same for music, with producers digging crates in order to find samples and create a hot beat.
However, when it comes to music made by more traditional bands, the perception seems to remain that there is a direct correlation between the talent of an artist and the extent to which their work can be considered ‘original’ to them. (more…)
Dance-Punk may be a genre you haven’t heard of before. That might well be due to the fact it’s not a genre, and what? That doesn’t even make sense? Dance. Punk? What does the rebellious grime of punk have to do with the glamorous strut of disco, or worse, Diplo? But it is also, undeniably, a thing. Inconcrete and still the subject of much debate, yes: but the music the term is used to define stretches across two of the most iconic eras of popular music. It thrived in the New York punk underground of the late 1970s, and saw an even grimier revival at the start of the 21st century, where bands like The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs became pin-ups for a new generation. Dance-Punk also contains some of the most confident and potent music ever laid to wax, in the form of the Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and New Order.
The fact that most of its finest music was produced in two distinct periods of time, and the specificity of its New York-roots, have left Dance-Punk cocooned as a “scene”: a concept so alien to anyone who started seriously listening to music after the release of the iPhone that it might as well come etched on a scroll. The musicianship is undeniable, but exploring it can feel more like embarking on an archaeological dig. These songs and albums are enduring though: a thrilling melting-pot of ideas which span funk, punk, dance, disco, synth-pop and acid-house, producing some of the finest grooves ever recorded, all with an attitude more capital-P Punk than the so-called ‘political’ bands whose names ended upon on MasterCards.
One of the strongest impressions is that, in both its original form and it’s revival, Dance-Punk emerged in times where the zeitgeist was in need of some serious lightening up. One of the genres’ touchstone (more…)