Jim Carroll is no longer a music writer. You can find him at RTÉ Brainstorm and on Twitter.
Lads, look, I’m out of the game. I gave back my writing-about-music pass years ago. I’ve moved on. I’ve quit chasing that high you get when you’re writing about new music and want to be FIRST. I’ve stopped getting worked up about having to have opinions about every new fecking release which gets slung around. I’ve even deleted my PromoJukebox account.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually started to enjoy not having to have opinions. I still have them, mind, but I just enjoy not having to write about them. I said as much to Andrea Cleary a few weeks back during our Banter arts review of the year at Other Voices. Nialler9 was in the audience and the fucker picked up his ears. “You can still pick a good tune, right?”, he said in an email which read to me like some sort of medieval challenge to a duel-at-dawn involving
capes and capers. Or maybe that just was the bizarre font he used. So here we are. The only reason I said yes – or was able to say yes more to the point – is because of The Far Side, a playlist of old and new bangers which I stick together every week. There are 1,327 tunes on that list for 2021 so far, including these 10.
Bored Lord – GNC NRG
More bonkers noise here. Hardcore ravey acid tweaking and twisting all coming together in the shape of a big old-fashioned banger.
Fred again & The Blessed Madonna – Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)
This tune seemed to get under our skin just when we were missing the dancefloors and that euphoria and release the most. It’s a lament for what we’ve lost in these strange times when a virus – how much more medieval can you fecking get than a virus, ha? – has turned off everything we love and treasure. It went hand in hand for me with Still Until, a lovely exhibition from artist Bríd’s Higgins Ní Chinnéide of venues, cafes and spaces shuttered by the lockdown.
Serpentwithfeet – Same Size Shoe
Way too many of y’all slept on Josiah Wise’s debut album so I hope you’re making amends with this year’s landscape-expanding DEACON. I think I spent a week after I first heard this track with it running around 24/7 in my head. A bop with a simple joyous chorus (“me and my boo wear the same size shoe”); a lovely, sweet, warm groove and a mighty sense of enjoying the simple pleasures of contentment in a world largely gone to hell in a handcart.
Soulé – Queenish
I don’t think I’ve ever included a tune from Balbriggan in a Top 10 before but sure, there’s always a first time for it. Mesmeric, audacious, alluring and fresh, “Queenish’ sounds like the handiwork of a boss woman who knows just what she is doing and just where she’s going. A totally superfly banger.
Melanie Charles – Woman of the Ghetto (Reimagined)
Again, any of the tracks from the album could be here. Y’all Don’t (Really) Care About Black Women is a record of cover versions, but there’s some delicious magic in how the Brooklyn artist goes to town with sings by Billie Holiday, Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter and Ella Fitzgerald. Here, she takes a song made into an alt-standard by Marlena Shaw for a waspy, willowy walk around the block.
Villagers – The First Day
The law of averages dictates that there will be a time in the future when Conor O’Brien makes a bad record but that time is not now. This taster for the Fever Dreams album was one of those tracks which took up residence in my noggin for weeks. It followed me around like a friendly puppy and did not poo on the rug. Joyous vocals, trippy melodies, gorgeous moods.
Parquet Courts – Walking At A Downtown Pace
I was completely captivated by their Sympathy for Life album and really, any of the tracks from it could be on this list. It’s a record full of smart, twisty, propulsive slices of avant-punk pop which sounds like what a band a decade and more into the game should be making.
Emma Jean Thackray – Venus
The Yorkshire jazzer’s Yellow is one of the albums of the year for me and this cut is a real scene-setter. It reminded me of NuYorican Soul and Kamasi Washington and all those exciting new London jazz cats who know that groove is in the heart. But it also had this really sweet essence and magnificent feminine power which made it stood apart from the pack. A very special musician .
Gabriels – Love & Hate in A Different Time
Gabriels had a colossal 2021 and they’re probably going to booming out of all the Spars and Eurospars near you in 2022. Their live show is something else: Jacob Lusk has a voice which has won the lottery and the band swing and swoon and swoop like Sweetback meets Love Unlimited Orchestra. The magic is in how they buzz and blur golden age rhythms and grooves into a compelling, magnetic, moving gospelRnBsoulfunkjazz hooray you sense you haven’t experience before.
Blawan – Under Belly
You will never go wrong with a tune which sounds like it’s beaming in from another planet where everyone is walking around like they’re Billy Big Bass. Maximum oomph-oomph bassbin bollox business going on here, with serious swerves and welly at every other end of the spectrum. Can’t wait to stand in front of a massive speaker and have this wibblywobbly wonder slap me in the face a few times. Maybe there’s another reason why I stopped writing about music…