Here are the annual choices of the past year’s top tuneage from the admirable Chris T Popper.
10. Protomartyr – Processed By The Boys
The first song from their new album Ultimate Success Today was everything I’d been waiting for. Loud reverb with a clumping sense of doom from the ever reliable Joe Casey. He’s singing about a future so scary it can’t be that far away now. Little gems studded all the way through from the occasionally wailing sax/bassoon to my favourite line amongst many of Casey’s ‘everybody’s hunted with a smile’.
9. Immigrant Union – The Ballad of Bill Hicks
From that gently picked guitar opening through to the drawn out ending I’m held in some sort of cataleptic trance. There is a gentleness to this song which seems strangely at odds with the external events of 2020 and an enjoyable wooziness as it potters along for over seven minutes. Melbourne’s Immigrant Union opened their new album Judas with this track and you can see why. An album well worth checking out.
8. Suave Martyrs – Tell Me What You Wanna
Teleported back to my youth with this one. Reminded of that golden late 80s/early 90s era of the jangly guitars and songs which made you sway around like a half inebriated, half ketamined ape. Throw in ‘ear of Beach Boys’ and ‘toad of 60’s psychedelia’ to the pot and sit back and enjoy without prejudice. Rather brave and it comes off – bravo.
7. Holy Fuck (feat. Angus Andrew) – Deleters
Slight change of tempo here with Holy Fuck featuring the brilliant Angus Andrew of a band I also like a lot Liars. Big synth beats and Andrew’s distorted vocals (along with Brian Borcherdt’s) collide to form something quite dark and also quite wonderful. Starting out as an improvised track at a woodland party in rural Quebec, this is truly a party I would like to have attended. ‘Are you fighting for a cause, are you fighting just because?’ asks Andrew, the chant fast becoming a hook you could hang your Christmas decorations on.
I nearly talked myself out of including this tune from Belgian trio Teen Creeps. Seeing Shapes is a straight up pop/rock song which is certainly not breaking any new ground. Hell, I love My Name Is Jonas which obviously helps. But forget all that, it’s so likeable you are swept up by it’s sheer energy and spirit. As catchy as a really infectious disease. But you knew that.
5. Suuns – Pray
I’m a big fan of understated aggression and Suuns really nail this bastard. Slow burner which adds layer upon layer until you’re dragged in. The beat/guitar that enters around two minutes is one of my favourite bits of music of the whole year, getting even better when the whip like sample cuts in. Beautifully distorted vocals and feedback guitar crash about at the end causing a scene. So many things to like about this. Doesn’t hang about at the end either with any superfluous send off, which I imagine must have been a temptation.
Also the song I traditionally look back on and say to myself sadly ‘that should have been higher than number 5 dude’.
4. Miranda Winters – Double Mirror Light
I am pretty new to Miranda Winters, the vocalist/guitarist of Melkbelly. Now pursuing a solo career I happened across this song released along with B side Little Baby Dead Bird on the All Purpose single. What blows me away is her intricate delivery of words and phrases which serves up little surprises and complexities throughout providing moments of sheer ‘ahhhh’. I wasn’t aware until writing this that the song was about the sheer bliss and joy of having her first baby, so it makes perfect sense. Strings quietly soar in the background during the second half providing even more atmosphere to lose yourself in. The arrangement is spellbinding with great backing vocals by Lala Lala’s Lillie West.
3. TRAAMS – Intercontinental Radio Waves
Well, here we are again. TRAAMS. I’ll repeat until my dying day they are a band so good it’s inconceivable they aren’t playing arenas. It really puzzles me but hey we live in troubled times – why try and make sense of it? Anyway, early October brought this tune along with another brilliant track Greyhound. Recorded in Brighton with Theo Verney, Intercontinental Radio Waves was actually written whilst the band toured Paris with Car Seat Headrest in 2017. It’s classic TRAAMS with old friends ‘thudding guitar’ and ‘metronomic drum beats’ present and correct, yet it still feels fresh and creative and most of all it absolutely fucking rocks.
2. Sea Wolf – Fear of Failure
Now… I have a decision to make. Do I bore you with ‘my story’ during this review and start this with ‘I soooo relate to this song’ because it talks of failure and…
Okay, no I won’t.
Instead I’ll tell you how this has a guitar lick which picks you up and carries you along like an old mate who knows you’re 46 years old so some restraint is called for. The refrain ‘I have to be brave, even though I’m still afraid’ felt like good advice in 2020 and the song has a warmth and vulnerability which never fails to gladden my heart.
Oh, and I do really relate to it as well.
I’ve kinda been dreading this moment. How do you explain a nine minute ten second song like this beast? Over the year it has sort of morphed in to becoming a track of three parts. Act I: The melancholic opening which is almost a song in itself. Gentle guitar and almost spoken lyrics give way to… Act II, a Pink Floydesque (can I even say that, for so many reasons!) feedback and sweet, odd little sounds including birds twittering and… a cymbal, before…
…Act III which is basically some of the best, most emotion inducing, damn well epic guitar work I have heard. It just flies on the air thermals going bigger and higher, lifted to impossible grandiose heights by All Them Witches. Yeah, that sums it up. It’s over the top alright, but still a towering feat of guitar work and something which has consistently helped me get through the year. It’s been part of my medication.