Shrine to Domestic Heroes, 2019
Favourite music of 2019
Shrine to Domestic Heroes is a playlist with what's bounced the most off my walls in 2019, regardless of year of release.
Here's the Spotify playlist.
Below, my comments:
"Is It Always Binary", Soulwax
It was a long time since I was mesmerised by drums alone. That was something belonging more to my teens and early twenties. But it just so happens Soulwax make a very smart and creative use of the technique of 3 different drummers and have them perform live to a very simple but effective pulsing electronic track. It might sound programmed and computerised, but as can be seen in this video, it's actually performed live with a setup specifically designed for this concept, and was toured around Europe to prove it.
"Barbara", The Fearless Flyers
There is not a single note on this track that does not contain swing, groove and attitude in abundance. A jam band in essence, The Fearless Flyers are a genius concept developed by music label Wulf. They have one of the best videos I have ever seen, where the recorded LP version of the track you're listening to is actually seen being recorded live on tape.
"Drop It Like It's Hot", Snoop Dogg, Pharrell Williams
John Cale says he had never heard anything like it, which, coming from the man responsible for the eardrum-churning violin drones of the Velvet Underground, is a lot. This track is the best example of how hip hop just leaves what's necessary for a groove, cutting out anything that is not helping carry the track along. Sparse as a Japanese teahouse: sampled graffiti spraying (genius), bass drum, snare drum, treated vocals and funky 80s synth in the chorus. Can't stay still.
"Pacific 202", Williams Fairey Brass Band (curated by Jeremy Deller)
Now this is fascinating... Turner Prize winning artist, Jeremy Deller, curated this as a work of his unique art. He basically took legendary acid house track "Pacific 202" and had it performed by a brass band. The idea is just mind-blowingly simple as well as effective. Fascinated by 1989's Summer of Love in the UK, Deller takes an acid house track and takes it to a more classic realm, making sure we understand that some cultural artefacts are timeless in that they touch something within us, regardless of the zeitgeist or the fad in vogue. I think it's pure genius to come up with something like this and have it work so well, so simply. To hear more of what Jeremy Deller, check out his new documentary "Everybody in the Place", where he discusses house music and its sociopolitical context to a bunch of 17 year olds. It's great.
"Like It Is", Yusef Lateef
This song just makes me let go. Not very well known, Yusef Lateef, comes up with a beautiful jazz arrangement involving strings, bass flute and tenor saxophone. Bluesy from the gut.
"Going to Where The Tea-Trees Are", Peter von Poehl
It sometimes happens that you bump into a song which makes you stop in your tracks. This gem of a tune, by Peter von Poehl (unkown to me or the rest of the world -he's remained quiet ever since) is just beautifully sung, performed and arranged. Simple home-friendly drums, ukelele, airy synths and a simple saxophone solo. My bet is that it was conceived very quickly. A spurt of inspiration which fortunately was able to be recorded forever. I love this tune.
"Back Together", Metronomy
I think Metronomy are a super clever pop band with lots to show for. This song has a really weird syncopated structure which just makes me dizzy figuring out what exactly is happening. Not only that, but it's actually super fun to listen to. It's a 4/4 but sounds like something way more esoteric. Only when (at 2:08) it hits a rock-steady festival-friendly place do you realise that all along, it was going down a very simple road. It was just daring you to walk at a different pace. I love everything Joseph Mount does.
"Wild Jungle", Machito
This is an old favourite of mine. It just distills everything I like about big bands, Cuban music, African music, jazz, fusion, etc. It's got grit, it's got power, it sounds bountiful and full of joie de vivre. Its initial burst of music just makes me want to glow from the chest (or something like that).
"Rosa Elvira", Julio Mori
I discovered this track at my favourite Peruvian restaurant in Madrid, where I go to at least once a week for its delicious ceviche. Apparently Julio Mori is a classic in Peru and is considered the "uncle" of the alto sax. I just love the tragicomedic tone of the song, something my late father would have thoroughly enjoyed, this being considered by him as utterly ridiculous 60s music. I quite love this. Authentic and heartfelt.
"Ketamine Honey", Dizraeli
I could have posted any other track on Dizraeli's BRILLIANT album "The Unmaster". It's the music I would have loved to make myself. It's basically percussion and vocals squeezed to the utmost limit. The lyrics are great and Dizraeli just pushes and pushes and pushes the format. It sounds crazy, it sounds exhilarating, never boring, always wondering what's coming up next. I've never heard anything like this before. One of my favourite albums of last year.
Baiuca is a Spanish electronic musician from the mysterious and beautiful region of Galicia, in the Northwest. He belongs to a very interesting trend in Spain where musicians are suddenly proudly discovering local culture and investigating music specific to their region. This in a country that is still coming to terms to its heterogeneity. "Muíño" is a very smart amalgamation of Galician sounds (bagpipes, percussion) with smart and simple electronic music. Can't wait to hear more from this man.
"Moments of Love", Art of Noise
Anyone born in the 80s will immediately jolt at this tune. It just brings me back to my childhood within a split second. I can only wonder what it would have sounded like to a musician back in the day. Futuristic as hell. It's aged well, that's for sure. The "Firebird" sample (still sounding strong) and the smart play of compressor attack and release all throughout the track are great to listen to. I do not get bored listening to this wonder.
"BATTICUORE", Alessandro Cortini
I'm sure Cortini had Art of Noise in mind when making his own music. Beautiful textured sounds and a great pulse. It so happens Cortini was performing live at less than 500 metres from my house, unbeknownst to me, while I was listening to this recording in my living room at exactly the same time he was on stage. It was great to be at home listening to this at full volume, but when I later found out the truth, I felt like a complete dick. Next time, I'll make sure I check my agenda carefullly.
"Better in My Day", Gazelle Twin
Gazelle Twin makes excellent scary music, which I find very hard to do. I love her aggressiveness, I love her nerve, I love her attitude. This is the most interesting music I have heard in a long time. Unique and challenging.
"Zmirneikos Balos (No Hope But You)", Marika Papagika
I don't know where Marika Papagika came from, but she has the most heart-breaking, gorgeous, note bending singing voice ever. Her vibrato just makes me want to curl up and die with a smile on my face. The exoticism of Greek music in the style of Asia Minor is obviously a plus and is just daring me to travel the Silk Roads on foot all the way to China. Marika, where were you all these years???
"Tehillim - Pt. I & II", Steve Reich
Steve Reich is one of my favourite composers of all time. His music is more than just a listening experience, it's art in the form of sound. Conceptually, everything he does is simple, effective and never-ending in its interest and wonder. It really makes me feel happy to be a human being and experience what his mind has to offer. I love his music and I love this song in particular: vocals, clapping, drum, clarinet and strings with a time signature not of this world.
"Hic et Nunc", Monodrama
The drummer of this band, Alberto Brenes, is someone I had been thinking of after having seen him perform only once 12 years ago. 12 years later, he agreed to perform with me. It was only then did I discover he had the most interesting and daring jazz band I have ever seen live, Monodrama. I'm still wondering why it is that they are not playing the festivals of the world. This track, from their last album, "Anathema", builds the most wonderful, narrative harmony I have ever heard. Sounds medieval, sounds futuristic. I don't know how they do it. I love them, dearly.
"Shoulderblades", Girl Band
I discovered this Irish band about 5 years ago and had the priviledge to see them rip my heart out at a live performance. It was like experiencing a rave in slow motion and in reverse. They've just released their last album "The Talkies" and could have put any song from it here, but "Shoulderblades" is a force and has the best song title ever. I've never been a fan of noise rock, but this is fantastic. It makes me want to break cars, run naked in the street, snort everything I can find on tables, rip my hair out, with a smile on my face. I am a certified fan.
"Open Eye Signal", Jon Hopkins
Of this man I am certainly a fan (and so is Brian Eno, by the way). Jon Hopkins is my favourite electronic musician out there. I don't know how he does it, but his music just falls into my ear drum with grace and loving tenderness. It's dark music, but it's somehow uplifting. It's got a buzz I can dream to and brings me back to a time when everything was possible. Tears to my eyes.
"Myrrhman", Talk Talk
I have to add this song. Talk Talk's frontman Mark Hollis died in february 2019 and I was deeply saddened by the news. "Laughing Stock" is the album I have most listened to in my life, I think. How it was conceived is as mysterious as legendary. Hollis apparently decided to ditch his bandmates and record musicians separately, for months, in a church, without them knowing what everything was going to sound like together. A collage of sorts. It's a cinematic listening experience that gets me EVERY TIME. What is even more fascinating is that after the release of Laughing Stock, Talk Talk quit and Mark Hollis, the genius behind the album, disappeared forever from the music scene. This integrity I find unique. i will forever miss Mark Hollis. RIP.Go back to Blog