As well as our Top 100 tunes of the year posts over the past five days, each of the MM contributors have put together their own lists. Third (the hairy chest) is Barry Sean…
20 Hey Sholay – Wishbone
This lot aren’t particularly popular amongst the mackerels and those who swim alongside them. But I really like this track and hope Hey Sholay put out more of the same. The song goes in waves, starting gently and building up to the first crash as we hit the chorus. Then gentle and building up again. Hey Sholay are on the same Fierce Panda record label as The Walkmen and The Maccabees but, for me, they bring to mind Dr Dog. That’s a good thing.
19 We Are Augustines – Chapel Song
This is The Jam’s, The Bitterest Pill brought bang up to date and made better. The song is from the view of a fella stood in a chapel whilst the love of his life walks down the aisle … with another bloke. Suffice to say, he’s not in a good place and the vocals lend to this feeling of impotent misery perfectly. Strained, angry and a little menacing, the lyrics match the tune perfectly which is … well … strained, angry and a little menacing. I had tickets to see the Augustines play in Oxford last summer but wimped out because I was too tired after travelling back from London. I am an arch-idiot.
18 Gravehurst – The Foundry
Blimey, this one is dark even for me. Its like a modern-day story from The Brothers Grimm. The whole song carries with it a threat and a sense of foreboding. I think the meaning might lie in the rise of Nazi Germany and how ordinary people can get swept up in a rising tide of violence and persecution. That’s my interpretation but I’ve been known to be wrong. Anyway, have a listen and heed the message well. Just in case you had it in mind to burn some books and persecute some unfortunate section of our society.
17 Willy Mason – Restless Fugitive
So there I was, happy that my MM 2012 top 20 was all done and dusted. Then I put on all my favourite songs of 2012 (a smartlist of 92) whilst doing some mid-week baking. And Restless Fugutive came on. And I remembered how much I loved it and put it on another three times. It’s a slow and ominous beat that is undeniably contemporary Americana but reminds me a little of reggae and The Clash too. It’s hard to explain. I don’t think I’m into Mr Mason as much as The Mackerels (and I include young Joe Mackerel) but I’ve just bought Carry On and it’s certainly grown on me over the last week or so. Mr Mason, I’m sorry I missed you in my first top 20 submission to MM. First Aid Kit, I’m sorry but that fine tune of yours Blue had to give way. It was the right decision for me though.
16 Magnetic Fields – Andrew in Drag
This song is really a bit of fun and it makes me smile every time I hear it. A guy turns up to see his mate, Andrew, dress up in drag. He does it on a whim for a laugh but ends up fancying him. An amusing story that bobs along with a catch but low-key tune.
15 Father John Misty – Only Son of the Ladiesman
What a voice. This song is worth a listen just for Father John Misty’s delivery. It’s like Radox without the bathwater. There’s nothing high-tempo here. The song and vocals are a hymn to the dead ladies man. You’re not going to jump around the kitchen with this on full volume whilst pretending the skillet you’re holding is a guitar. As if I would at my age. But do try sitting back with a cup of coffee, closing your eyes and letting this track soothe away your mental aches and pains.
14 Wave Pictures – Seagulls
MM introduced me to Wave Pictures by way of Stay Home and Look After the Chickens. I didn’t get it (or them) at first. But Wave Pictures have a way of growing on you. The jangling tunes remind me of 80’s indie bands like Brilliant Corners as do the clever lyrics. When you take those and put them together with David Tattersall’s distinctive voice it all works wonderfully. Interestingly, I think of them as the UK’s answer to the brilliant Mountain Goats. Considering the two groups have collaborated, I guess they see a bit of each other in themselves too.
13 The Walkmen – Heaven
What can I say? The title track of The Walkmen’s 2012 album is another piece of genius from the Washington rockers. I don’t need to say any more other than ‘LISTEN TO IT’.
12 Beck – I Just Started Hating Some People Today
This is a track of three very distinctive parts. The first is Beck telling us that he’s seen the light and that people really aren’t very nice at all. He hates them all and would love to punch them in face (amongst other things). All this to the twang of a country guitar and cowboy vocals. Then, just when you think he’s had his say, your ears are suddenly assaulted by a volley of fury reminiscent of late 70’s punk. It finishes on a smooth, jazzy note as a young lady with silky tones lets a bloke called Randy know that he is ‘Sooooooooooo dead’. Insane but brilliant.
11 Tom Williams and the Boat – Teenage Blood
I’m just trying to think of some new superlatives to describe Tom Williams and the Boat. But I reckon, between us, we’ve used them all up. This is another dark look at life through the eyes of a young man who is obviously ahead of his years in so many ways. Who’d have ever thought that Tom’s hometown of Tunbridge Wells would ever give rise to such grim lyrics. Carrying some of the meaningful insanity of Nick Cave with the miserable wisdom of Morrissey, Tom Williams and his Boat crew have delivered another dark gem in Teenage Blood. If you haven’t listened to Tom Williams before now, go ahead and do so. I reckon you won’t be sorry.
10 Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament – Elizabeth Clarke
For centuries the upper echelons of British society have covered up their own misdeeds by getting the lower orders to turn against each other. These days, so called benefit cheats are vilified in the tabloids. The 17th century equivalent were called witches and strung up. Thankfully we’re not allowed to string people up these days. This song is about the hanging of an 80-year-old lady who gave her confession after being tortured by Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. It’s not a cheerful listen but is beautifully executed (oops!) by Darren Hayman who really captures the atmosphere.
9 Quickbeam – Seven Hundred Birds
Chill out, close your eyes and drift away on this tune of pure atmosphere. Scotland has always produced fantastic bands with distinctive but diverse sounds (I’m not just saying that for the benefit of my Killie wife). Over the past couple of years I’ve loved Frightened Rabbit. This little gem shows a gentler, more ghostly side of Celtic music. If you’re still into the Butthole Surfers or Rage Against the Machine, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’d rather lose a bit of anger for 3 mins 50 seconds, give it a try.
8 Ray Wylie Hubbard – Drunken Poet’s Dream (Daytrotter Session)
Yes, this was originally a 2011 track. However I missed it and, seeing as Ray did this version as a 2012 Daytrotter Session, it’s just too good a song to overlook for a second year running. Honestly, this is a brilliant tune perfectly matched with simple lyrics and Ray Wylie Hubbards’ ‘gargling-with-gravel’ voice. The story is told from the perspective of the drunken poet who introduces his girlfriend (who sounds like she’s quite a character) and tells us of his Bohemian lifestyle. And of course, he provides some brilliant drunken poetry as a chorus. Simple, contemporary country from the man who brought us Choctaw Bingo.
7 Felice Brothers – Lincoln Continental
A cheerful, rollicking, foot-tapper of a tune with a chorus as infectious as Chlamydia. If you’re ever feeling a bit down, stick this on and you’ll be as right as rain and imagining yourself leaving the Garden State with your soft top down. Unmistakeably Felice, understandably brilliant.
6 Walkmen – Love is Luck
This is my favourite track from the sublime Heaven album that was released earlier this year. I saw The Walkmen at End of the Road in 2011 and spent an hour in euphoric mesmerisation as they jangled and strummed their way through the set whilst Hamilton Leithauser held everyone enthralled (specially the ladies) with his powerful, pitch-perfect vocals. It was one of the happiest hours of my musical life. I never really know exactly what The Walkmen are singing about but, truth be told, I couldn’t care less. Their music makes me feel good about life and that’s enough.
5 We Are Augustines – Juarez
This might not be the first song written about the troubled Mexican border city but it’s the best by a country mile. From the outset, you’re sat beside the storyteller under a ferocious Mexican sun and the car you’re in is kicking up dust as it speeds away from Juarez. The lyrics are harsh and drip with regret and sadness but they paint a fantastic, brutal picture. The vocals are unmistakeable and the tune both memorable and uplifting. Beautiful in every way except for the sentiment.
4 Tunng – Jenny Again
This murder ballad is set to a really jaunty, cheerful tune and sees the deceased telling us about how he was stabbed and left to die whilst his girlfriend (the lovely Jenny) buggers off with the fella who killed him. He goes on to tell about how his Jenny and the murderous ‘other man’ go on to live perfectly normal lives whilst keeping their secret. This won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I love the fact that Tunng have crafted a really sad story around a cheerful, jog-along tune.
3 Maccabees – Pelican
This is my ‘safe bet’ for this year’s Mad Mackerel Top 10. Safe, as in everyone loves a bit of the Maccabees, don’t they? This track bounces along at a pace in a confused ensemble of instruments that feel like they shouldn’t make sense … but do. It just works. But what’s the song about? It’s a 3 minute 45 second run through life. From being born to when we push up the daisies. Sounds miserable but it isn’t. If it doesn’t raise a smile, it’ll get your foot tapping. Not sure why it’s called Pelican though.
2 Simone Felice – Hey Bobby Ray
Yay! It’s another murder ballad. This time the perpetrator is young Bobby Ray. A young man born on 4th July who gets himself into a whole load of trouble when his ‘pick-up date’ doesn’t think too much of his advances. Bobby Ray doesn’t think too much of her refusal. So he kills her. This song is a lament. The fragile tones of Simone Felice complimented beautifully by a choir in the background of the chorus. A beautiful tune, intelligent lyrics and sung as only a Felice can. Hey Bobby Ray, you’re going to get yours, sunshine!
1 Last American Buffalo – Baby I’m Alive
My MM number 1 for 2012 is a lament to a lost love. The first verse contains some of my favourite lyrics of the year ‘I swear I saw a ghost, I swear I saw his eyes, since when we fell in love on Mulholland Drive’. The riff is catchy and the vocals are perfect for the sentiment of the song. It’s a broken heart that will bleed all over you from the opening notes to the final chord. If you’re the lady with coffee-coloured skin who inspired this piece of art, thank you. Now go back to your lover and make him happy again.