'Tis the season to make lists. Everyone's making a list, so we made one too. OUTSIDELEFT'S Top 20 LPs from 2019... Here's another part of the list...
20. Biiri – Nihiloxica
Nihiloxica's debut album was one of the genuine delights of 2017.
A disorientating blend of fierce, pulsating Bugandan drumming and unsettling electronic soundscapes.
Two years later, these strange sonic bedfellows are brought even closer together on the new album 'Biiri' - most notably on the menacing techno of opener 'Diggi Digga' and the cacophonous closer 'Ding Dong'.
Clocking in at just under 20 minutes, 'Biiri' is another tantalising, but far too short, visit to Nihiloxica's the darkly brilliant world.
19. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains
In her most famous poem, Stevie Smith tells of a man who was ‘Not Waving but Drowning’.
Although David Berman, the poet, singer and songwriter behind the remarkable Silver Jews had made no secret of his depression, we took it for granted and continued to delight in his brilliant melancholy, bitterness and heartache.
When he re-emerged with the eponymous Purple Mountains album earlier this year we were elated. Less than a month later, he had taken his own life. Watching the video for the single ‘All My Happiness is Gone’ is now as distressing as the feeling that came after first viewing Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ or David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’. A visual portrayal man in agony. Elsewhere, the sardonic style of these lyrics (Night’s That Won’t Happen” opens with "The dead know what they're doing when they leave this world behind"), now seem devastatingly and poignantly sad.
‘Purple Mountains’ is a difficult listen, but as with the artists above, the songs that he chose to leave us with are utterly remarkable.
18. Eton Alive - Sleaford Mods
After the less than essential 'Stick in a Five and Go' EP, Jason Williamson has returned to what he does best: picking apart the ridiculous, the egotistical and the banal minutiae of contemporary British life. The result is Sleaford Mods most focussed and satisfying album since the breakthrough 'Divide and Exit' in 2014.
Opener 'Into the Payzone' mocks the banality of consumer culture ('Get your backside thrown back in / as you lush out more plastic') whilst lead single 'Kebab Spider' derides the fakery of celebrity soundbites ('... you're just saying it all to look good').
'Eton Alive' sees Sleaford Mods expanding their musical palate like never before. Andrew Fearn's soundtracks vary from the dirty funk of the aforementioned 'Kebab Spider' to the ska/punk influenced 'Discourse'. The standout though is the haunted electronica of 'When You Come Up To Me', that compliments Williamson's soulful vocal, with understated subtlety.
After five albums (eleven if you include the pre-Andrew Fearn releases), Sleaford Mods are still improving, still exploring new sonic and lyrical directions and never running the risk of being repetitive. As the country looks set to enter one of the most toxic periods in living memory, we need this band more than ever before.
17. Brighde Chaimbeul - The Reeling
With her debut album, Scottish Small Pipe Player Brighde Chaimbeul achieves that essential, but often neglected, task of creating music that paints a vivid and utterly engaging scene.
Like imagining the lark in the textures of 'The Lark Ascending' Brighde's music will allow you to enter the landscape and mysteries of her native Scottish Highlands. Her music also evokes her other influences from Ireland to Eastern Europe.
'The Reeling' was recorded live at a Church In the Georgian town of Cromarty, the sound that you hear in the first minute and a half is that of a harmonium that was found there, it’s like the introduction to a film, setting the scene for the magic that will follow.
‘The Reeling’ has been received with unequivocal praise and much deserved awards. It is a spellbinding record.
16. David Benjamin Blower . 'We Really Did This and We Really Existed
OUTSIDELEFT DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR
Back in September, David Benjamin Blower performed live at our first Outsideleft Night Out. We were deeply honoured that he agreed to play and we were delighted at the appreciative response he received.
Prior to the show, Ancient Champion described in these pages the unique appeal of the artist:
'...David Benjamin Blower is a remarkably demanding singer and songwriter. Imagine, say, John Cale reimagining his folk roots, ennervation and innervation all at once, in a single intimate and unnerving breath…
... 'We Really Did This and We Really Existed' is...a dynamic confluence of acoustic instruments and eclectic electric possibility. It is to be immediately and patiently absorbed. It's one of the LPs of the year and the best recording of music and lyrics as a piece to come out of Birmingham, since, I don't know, probably since Steel Pulse's Handsworth Revolution. Such pure genius demands attention.’