Tag Archives: music

2016 (belated)

Hello internet-dwellers,

The observant few that read my end of year lists might have noticed I didn’t do one for 2016. Sorry. It’s March now, so that’s over. But, I did start writing something, so I’m going to post it here anyway:

2016 was not a great year for many of us. From widespread political discontent, a strengthened far right, atrocities committed across the world, as well as our personal, intimate struggles. The loss of loved ones, the mourning of cultural heroes. There’s neither merit nor sense in believing adversity is good or necessary for great art – the price is far too high to pay – but the solace, hope and resistance we find in music is something I hope reached everyone this year. However, I’m not here to answer the big questions today. I’m here to talk about some records.

Beyoncé – Lemonade
Joyce Manor – Cody
Muncie Girls – From Caplan to Belsize
Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
I Love Your Lifestyle – We Go Way Back
Martha – Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart
Tiny Moving Parts – Celebrate
Forth Wanderers – Slop EP
Touché Amoré – Stage 4
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

The reason I didn’t produce something ‘proper’ is that I got pretty busy at the tail end of 2016/start of 2017 with a big job change and a nasty bout of tonsillitis (ew.) Also, around that time I wrote my first piece for Track 7  an essay called ‘Why I’m no longer a punk rock ‘cool girl’‘.

The essay was something I had in my head for a long time. In fact, I had started writing it a year or two ago, with the intention of posting it on here. But, anxiety talked me out of it. I felt I couldn’t write it without being 100% open and honest, and in doing so, it would become a very personal piece. The vulnerability that came with that felt a little too much.

By pitching it, I was forcing myself to write it. Turns out that’s what I need in order to do the things that scare me.

Down to the incredibly supportive Track 7 editorial team, it ended up taking off and reaching a lot of people. For a couple of days, my phone was going off constantly with people (mostly women) who had reached out to say they had read it and identified with it. Amazing and terrifying, equally.

Among the people who reached out were 404 Ink, an independent publisher, who approached me to include it in their ‘Nasty Women‘ book – in the company of some of the most talented writers, artists and activists.

Having my work published was an absolute life-long dream, and receiving that book yesterday with my words in it made me do the most embarrassing dance in my kitchen. I’m committing all of this to a blog post, if for no other reason than to remind myself to always do the things that scare me.

Looking ahead, I’ve got a few pieces in the pipeline that I’m really excited about, as well as all of the things that have yet to manifest. Hit me up with any ideas.

Kristy x

2015.

Here’s the stuff I was into in two thousand and fifteen, in no particular order. Let’s get on with it.

Spraynard – Mable (Jade Tree)

Spraynard are up there amongst the very finest of punk bands of recent years. The kind of band that make you love your friends more, that help you accept yourself a little more, that make the anxiety subside even if just for a few songs, the band for the punk kids that struggle.

I won’t patronise anyone by saying Mable is more ‘mature’ than previous records (there’s still a reference to a burning bag of shit within five seconds) but the level of songwriting keeps getting better; it’s so packed with truly great songs that it’s almost obnoxious. There is not one single bad track. Not even an average one.

A rundown of my highlights, however, would include the impossibly catchy moments of Buried and Everywhere, the inescapable sadness in the delivery of ‘I want to see you next to me’ in Bench, and the quite literally perfect Lost Boys.

Tigers Jaw – Studio 4 Acoustic Session (Memory Music)

One of my favourite things about music is being proved wrong. Like many that have come before, I got Tigers Jaw wrong. So wrong. They were always one of those bands I just didn’t get. I enjoyed 2014’s Charmer, but in a kind of passive, non-committal way. Then one night I sat and listened, really listened, to this acoustic record and it clicked. There was a week in July where I listened to Nervous Kids hundreds of times, I swear. I still prefer this version to the original.

This newfound enthusiasm served as an excuse to go back and re-listen to 2010’s self-titled. The Sun, I Saw Water, Plane vs. Tank vs. Submarine, all on fresh ears like I’d just discovered a new band and all of the excitement that comes along with that.

The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven (Hopeless Records)

This is a record about death. It came out on September 4th 2015.

On September 22nd 2015, I came out of a meeting to three missed calls and a message from my Mum, asking to call her. I sat on a step on a very steep hill and she told me my uncle had been found dead in his flat.

Music is one of those things that makes you feel everything in detail. Love, sadness, excitement, grief. After September 22nd I couldn’t listen to this record. I couldn’t get through 30 seconds of Brothers without feeling utterly devastated.

I couldn’t listen to any music for weeks. I’d lost people dear to me before, but this time the shock was suffocating. Listening to the lyrics in Cardinals was like looking at myself in the mirror. Regretful.

 “I should have been there when you needed a friend.”

I regret I didn’t spend more time with him in recent years. I regret that I wasn’t around when he was struggling with his mental health (he died of natural causes, I should clarify). I regret that I couldn’t find better words to say to my cousin at the funeral.

I could have told him things about his Dad that he wouldn’t have remembered because he was too young, like when he lived with us and would always bring me home apple doughnuts from the bakery he worked at. About how we used to argue over football. About how he would listen to the same songs on repeat.

I could have said

“I want those years back.”

The ‘woah-oh’s in A Song For Patsy Cline made me feel more than some entire records have in 2015. It’s still a tough listen, but I’m really glad it’s here.

Svalbard – One Day All This Will End (Holy Roar)

So this year I started writing for Upset magazine, and this was my first review for them. You could probably go read it there. Spoiler alert: it’s great.

Carson Wells – Tread A Northern Path (so many labels)

Carson Wells are probably the most exciting emo band in the UK. For real. Following 2012′s Wonderkid, Tread A Northern Path isn’t a huge departure or a rewritten book, more so a continuation of challenging post-hardcore which avoids predictability. The driving, frantic guitars, furious and emotive in the actual meaning of the word, from stirring opener Palmistry to the standout Northern Path, Southern Lens – more delicate in tone but equal in anger and urgency. A seriously overlooked record.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath)

To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t an easy listen, and certainly isn’t enjoyable in same way the way that good kid, m.A.A.d city is. As intrinsic as the funk bassline of King Kunta, the ferocity of The Blacker the Berry, and the defiant optimism of Alright, is a detailed and personal examination of race, power, and one’s relationship with oneself, and if listening to it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, go back and listen again. A demanding record, but one that makes it almost impossible to deny that Kendrick Lamar is a genuinely peerless artist.

Lord Snow – Winterhold (Self-released)

Chicago’s Lord Snow do that classic type of chaotic, endearingly awkward screamo and asmr request is easily my favourite song of the genre in 2015. The frenetic gang vocals and crashing guitars will end you. They’re currently recording a new full-length in 2016, and I wouldn’t recommend sleeping on it.

Alimony Hustle – Gutter Gutter Strike Strike Gutter Gutter (Self-released)

This kind of fell into my lap on the internet (so 2015, right?) and became one of my great discoveries this year, getting me through many bleak commutes. Catchy indie-punk with Braid-like melodies, fucking great lyrics and probably the best Bandcamp bio ever.

Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint (Young Money/Cash Money)

(I know this came out in December 2014 but, quiet, no-one asked you.)

I could write for days about the deep personal and political reasons for my total adoration of Nicki Minaj. I’ll rein it in here, because I’m planning a 2016 zine project about her and need material for that, like, but The Pinkprint really is a masterpiece. It’s Nicki at her best, with the divide between her hardcore rap and pop identities bridged by great production, songwriting and collaborations (The Crying Game, Buy A Heart) and Only, where Nicki, much like her appearance on Kanye West’s Monster, embarrasses everyone else on the track.

Feeling Myself is my song of 2015. There’s so much to love here – not least the unabashed girl-love and mutual respect as artists between her and Beyoncé – but also the ownership of sexuality, the permission for self-love without shame, and Nicki’s razor-sharp flow. Perfection.

Sleep Kit – II (Big Scary Monsters)

It’s going to be super hard to not just write ‘This band, though’ and be done with it, but that’s the general vibe though, so settle in.

II is a triumphant follow-up from 2014’s self-titled EP from start to finish – the propulsive emo-punk of Discontent/Disconnect, to the more reflective and charming moments as seen in Foster Ghost Plan, Solsbury Chill and I’d Called You Eti, Erik. Masters of the climactic moments, Sleep Kit peak on this record, and as a band, on Piñata Beehive.

Dikembe – Ledge (Jeremy Records)

As long as Dikembe keep making records, they’ll keep appearing in my lists. Worst In The Fury was one of my favourite tracks of the year, with the EP as a whole keeping in the vein of Dikembe’s slower, more subtle sound. I could get lost in those vocals for days. I probably did.

I did some honourable mentions so we wouldn’t be here all day: Foxing – Dealer, Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, TWIABP – Harmlessness, CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye plus all the stuff I probably forgot about.

Mixtape mini-project

At the end of last year, I was thinking of ways I could keep myself out of trouble (figuratively) over the Christmas break. I thought about making things with my hands then remembered I’m not very good at that sort of thing. However, I’ve made a lot of mixtapes over the years.

I started DJ-ing when I was 18, and kind of stopped when I was around 24; the demands of my career made playing records and drinking rum until 4am impractical at best. (Although I am coming out of retirement to DJ a mate’s wedding in a few months. They started seeing each other when my old club night was big, which is lovely.)

Anyway, I’d been missing a specific part of the DJ life – not the hangovers, or the having to keep up to date with what Other People Like – but the curating music bit. Finding tracks that sound perfect next to each other, killer intros, builds, transition tracks that help you get across genres seamlessly. If there’s anything I’ve ever been good at in life, it’s that.

So I thought I’d make some mix CDs out of actual CDs (novel). The invitation was extended on Twitter – it was fun, it did keep me out of trouble, and I sort of did make things with my hands.

The track listings were printed on an amazing photo of Victoria Park in my beloved Leicester (by Tawny Photography, from a shoot we did last year). This was the one I did for @ClaudetteDoom. It gets bigger when you click it.

Zoe

CDs

I’d like to do another set of them at some point, so hit me up on here or Twitter if you want one. I’ve already been set a themed one by @SamanthaLindley (with a CHALLENGING track limit). Watch on, sports fans.