It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas...my Xmas CD 2021
Since 2007, I have made an Xmas CD. There's no Xmas music - one Xmas working in Woolworth's in Bexleyheath has ensured I NEVER want to listen to novelty Xmas tunes...But each CD isn't just random - there are a few rules:
1. Tracks must be released that year
2. Tracks must be discovered that year
3. Tracks must have some personal or cultural significance.
All of the CDs are now playlists on Spotify (you can find them all here) - if you find you have a spare 24 hours to fill, there are worse ways to spend the time...
I no longer make the physical CD as it's hugely time consuming and expensive, plus the licence, postage etc just made it unviable. But the version on Spotify is a good way to look back on a fantastic year in music and something to listen to while the Xmas tree is being decorated, journeys to see friends and family are undertaken or while you stand in the queue at the butchers for two hours wondering why we do this every year and do you really like turkey this much?
Anyway, here's this year's CD, 20 great songs that sum up 2021 - brutal decisions on what not to include were made....
1. Stages Of Phases - Jane Weaver
Taken from Flock, her 11th album, Stages Of Phases is an electro-Glam Rock stomp, out Goldfrapping Goldfrapp. Splendid stuff. My review of Flock is here.
2. All The Colours Of You - James
James have been making consistency good albums for so many years, but this album is a blinder. It covers death, loss, lockdown, a frightening USA and much more. This title track is the standout for me. My album review of All The Colours Of You is here.
3. Be Sweet - Japanese Breakfast
Pure ecstatic pop from the indie turned popstress, Korean-American Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast. Unlike the breakfast, this is firmly fish free and brilliant.
4. Hurt - Arlo Parks
Probably the album I have gone back to the most this year, it's wonderful, and this is its finest moment. Reviewed back in April, it's definitely one of my favourites this year.
5. You And Me - The Boo Radleys
The Boo Radleys' comeback this year was an unexpected joy. That the new material, written without songwriter Martin Carr, would be this good is an even greater pleasure. Mrs JO'B and I saw them play a quite superb gig back in October (see review) and this was one of the songs that really stuck. When we saw them, I thought it was Brotherhood-era New Order, but it's actually an homage to Leave Me Alone from Power, Corruption & Lies.
If You And Me was released by New Order, it would be hailed as genius. It's a fab piece of perfect pop.
6. Lipstick On The Glass - Wolf Alice
My favourite album of the year, it's a stone cold classic, as I said when I reviewed it back in June. This song is a brilliant indie meets Kate Bush and Liz Fraser and goes out for a night. Wonderful stuff.
7. Loan Your Loneliness - Gruff Rhys
Gruff was my first post-lockdown gig (and you always remember your first), which coincided with the release of his seventh solo album, Seeking New Gods. Both were fabulous, and this track was the best moment at both the gig and on the album. A slice of Beatlesy psychedelic pop.
8. Shades Of Blue - Paul Weller
When you see an artist is releasing their 27th album, it's fair to have low expectations, but Fat Pop (Vol 1) is great, and this duet with his daughter Leah is soulful, catchy and the best thing he's released in ages.
9. Bitter Taste - Billy idol
My friend Gill told me that Billy idol's new song was great. I didn't pay any heed, but checked it out when bored and couldn't believe it. Age appropriate, stately, cool - this was not the cartoon punk pop you could have expected. Great to see him defying expectations.
10. Around The Bend - Silver Synthetic
Signed to Jack White's Third Man Records, New Orleans' Silver Synthetic slipped out their eponymous debut to little attention, but it's brilliant. Eight killer, chilled out jingle-jangle psychedelic indie songs. This is the standout for me, a bit of George Harrison in there? Great stuff.
11. We Should Be Together - Sleeper
Sleeper's return back in 2019 exceeded all expectations, and they have since released two albums, toured their debut album Smart (Mrs JO'B and I traipsed up to Birmingham to see them, they were top banana), and are touring The It Girl in 2022. I still have a crush on Louise Wener as I did back in 1995 (consistency is so important). This is a flawless piece of pop.
12. Ardour - Maximo Park
This is a rousing, killer track from this year's Nature Always Wins, featuring Pauline Murray from Durham punks Penetration.
13. Change Your Mind - The Coral
If the Small faces were Scouse and a bit more jangly, this is what they would sound like. An ambitious double album, exploring the ups and downs of a fantasy seaside town, Change Your Mind was my favourite from an album full of favourites.
14. Last Day On Earth - beabadoobee
This is the definition of ear worm. Listen at your own peril.
15. Losers - Balthazar
Belgian lounge indie pop at its best - the album Sand was sadly overlooked by most radio stations and music magazines - you can read my review here. They also played a storming gig in Camden back in November. Do check them out when they next play, they are anything but losers.
16. Chaise Longue - Wet Leg
Like beabedoobee, this is another ear worm you just couldn't shift. Lots of blokes on music FB pages I read slagged it off as it's lightweight nonsense and "not proper indie" but they are talking b******s. This is fantastic and insanely infectious indie pop.
17. Be A Rebel (Mark Reeder's Dirty Devil Remix) - New Order
18. People, Let's Dance - Public Service Broadcasting
The album Bright Magic made my Book Of Brilliant Things back in September, it's ambitious theme look at the history of Berlin (never a band to do things by halves). The album is Propaganda meets Bladerunner meets Kraftwerk meets New Order
19. Do This To Me - Julia Bardo
The Italian turned Mancunian is wonderful, her voice reminding me on Natalie Merchant from 10,000 Maniacs. Melodic, charming, chilled, this is a great song. She's on my list to see in 2022.
20. Stand For Myself - Yola
Ex-Phantom Limb singer, Yola released her second solo album, Stand For Myself, supported by Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and Durand Jones & The Indications' Aaron Frazer. This title track is huge, making classics like Moving On Up by Primal Scream looked restrained and quiet. Hope you enjoy, and do check out the monthly Top Banana playlists, they keep me going during the commutes to work (now that such things are real again!). Stay safe! x