ET’s 30 favourite songs of 2018

Low Double Negative

I know it’s three weeks into January. Shit’s been going down. I know 2018 was not the greatest of years for me. I wanted to document it nonetheless.

These are in no particular order, and I know I have missed loads but I was not writing for large periods of last year. Here it is anyway, and I kinda like it.

Oh, not all of these came out in 2018 either.

1. Suburban Death Twitch – A Layer of Fat and Mold
One dear friend saw Brighton’s Suburban Death Twitch perform recently and found himself dismayed and more than a little angry that such casual, soulful brilliance should go unrecognised. He has little recourse to publicity like many of us, so he used what he could. He bought a copy of their new EP for me, knowing that I could not fail to love this beautiful, soulful music (like a general scouring in the area that involves ABBA’s break-up albums, the mould at the back of your fridge, half the towns of Hastings and St Leonard’s, the three-point acerbic harmonies of The Roches, the wayward belligerent swagger of Band Of Holy Joy, #metoo, friends that still cannot grasp why half their world seems to give up soon as they have a steady revenue and a person, any person, to fill the void, and so forth).

There’s comforting cello and trumpet, or something. There are harmonies to kiss for. There is intelligence and awareness, so much of it painful. (How can this be nostalgia when it hurts so bad?)

2. Nadia Rose – Skwod
My friend comments, “like who would give a shit what i have to say about that”. I write back, and say that’s the point. That’s the whole point. I ain’t qualified and she ain’t qualified but… wait a fucking second WHO THE FUCK IS QUALIFIED? someone who gets paid fuck that shit… Anyways, if you know you’re not qualified it liberates you to write what the fuck you want again. See also, the fact I know NO ONE gives a shit what I have to say about anything any more.

That’s to the good. That’s liberation.

Like I don’t understand freestyle? Like I can’t dig and groove to rhythms and shake my head Like I can’t appreciate attitude. Like I can’t do this.

3. Corporationpop – Ted Hughes
Observational, despairing, witty. Suburban beat poetry for the disenchanted, disinherited, atonally dispirited generation. Authentic in a world where the word has lost all meaning. Altruistic – she gives of herself and sprinkles magic. Of course she reminds me of my new suburban Southern sweethearts.

LINK TO MUSIC IS HERE

4. Tracyanne & Danny – Alabama
I love Jonathan Richman. I love Go Violets. I love Nadia Rose. You think you understand, but you really don’t. There is nothing else. Nothing. Not when I slip into this somnambulist dream world and for a few precious moments can tear myself away from the grey mundane and chase stars in my head. During times like this – and with no reflection on my kids who I would right now step in front of a lorry for – music is more important  than eating, breathing… my reason for existing and loving and failing. This is why I am still able to fall and laugh and fall again, even through the grey, unbearably lonely, single existence. This is the stuff that haunts my dreams and whirls round my head on meaningless train journeys and endless car rides. Nina Simone, Dexys, Beyoncé… FILL IN YOUR OWN NAME

5. Cardi B – Be Careful
This is the shit I like.

My reading of her is different to yours. I’ve never been into champagne unless to wash ladies’ feet. I like her music in small bites, like my older lovers. I ain’t cool or stuck in a dead-end job or pretty ass or transgender or female or American or blessed with financial clout or holiday somewhere. Wish I was. Wish I did. I ain’t macho or don’t aspire to be macho either. I don’t get off on aspiring to be part of her brand, I don’t want to exchange sweet nothings with her bodyguards, I don’t get my kicks from her bragging or use of profanity or delicious sense of timing. I like all of them sure, but they ain’t the main reasons I keep returning to Invasion Of Privacy. There is a feeling of fragility at the heart of the toughness and poetry, a gaiety and playful way round the beats, a sense of fragility that fuels the name calling and spooked sounds. Here a glimpse of a heart best treated carefully, there a glimpse of a heart shattered, everywhere a fragility. A rub-a-dub-dub.

6. Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel
Adult, but not dull given-up Haywards Heath half-cut hair salon adult. Sexy MF adult, alert and alive and appreciative of all of life’s possibilities and twists and graveyard turns. ‘Pynk’ is a salacious drool, a knowing tease that straddles the line between fantasy and reality with a wicked knowing wink. ‘Make Me Feel’ takes it all to a next level that even Radio One DJs can understand and that is some fucking trick I can tell you, take it to a level that even Nick Grimshaw does not feel uncomfortable discussing. Sex. This video haunts my dreams in a way only Amanda Palmer has managed. At least, I wish this video would haunt my dreams in a way only Amanda Palmer has managed.

7. Crayola Lectern – Rescue Mission
This is beautiful, beautiful music. Sinister, compelling and so welcoming. The four names I have typed out are Roy Wood, Neil Innes, Robert Wyatt and The Addams Family but if you want the truth of it – and why the hell wouldn’t you want the truth of it? – none of the four names means as much to me, have ever meant as much to me, as the music from Mr Crayola Lectern, even with its woozy space-age proggy leanings. Especially with its woozy space-age proggy leanings. I finished up Neil Gaiman’s spellbinding spell-encrusted The Graveyard Book two days ago, and this music feels like my head playing catch-up. My dreams are no longer filled with wonder and mostly the realm of bleakness does not allow me the luxury, the necessity of music but if it did… this would be my succor, this would be my balm, this could be my beautiful Gothic dreaming.

8. Suggested Friends – I Don’t Want To Be A Horcrux For Your Soul
It’s all mid-American mid-1990s twin guitar interplay swagger (yes, Blake Babies I am looking your way) except it is what London and Leeds and it is 2018 and I really should stop eating these packs of Asda Mint Imperials like they’re rice cos I think my teeth are gonna fall out before the hallucinations and sugar rush kick in.

9. Totally Mild – Today Tonight
Please accept this. Beauty is found in the most mundane of places. Your smile, your eyes. This is like Nick Cave fully realised, his songs performed the way he always intended them to be. This (incidentally) is absolutely nothing like Nick Cave. However futile these words may be. The important thing here is document and eyewitness.

10. Jorja Smith – Blue Lights
This cut through the inane banter on Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show this morning like a ice-blue blade through rancid butter. Desolate, chilling. Bleakness filtered through forgotten council estates and crumbling tower blocks. Sirens wailing. Neosoul. Nostalgia for an age when it was perceived there was not so much of a need to be nostalgic. Painting a portrait of paranoia and alternate realities.

11. The 1975 – Give Yourself A Try
Every time, Daniel goes “You like this song don’t you dad?” as I’m negotiating another two cars parked on a blind corner, cyclists holding up a line of 30 cars treating the country roads like their own personal gymnasium, horns blaring in fading frustration, another couple of hundred quid added to the bodywork bill. And I’m like, “NOT NOW DANIEL” and then realise how I am too late and stutter an apology for my grumpiness, my lack of good humour. He’s right, I do like this fucking song. A lot. Killer guitars, Killer riff. And now I’ve listened to it eight straight times on YouTube I like it even more – smart lyrics. Smart, smart lyrics. And in the context of Nick Grimshaw’s Breakfast Show it’s a near-miracle. Moonlight in the palm of your hand.

12. Goat Girl – Cracker Drool
The NME has it about Goat Girl that, “The four piece’s debut album is a grubby, clattering thing that takes its lead from 1980s LA punk trailblazers like X and The Gun Club” [delete rest of sentence for a) not being entertaining and b) not adding anything to the dialogue around the music that cannot be summed up in the one word ‘scrappy’ even though that one word is misleading]. I do not mean to devalue my colleague’s writing by spiking the sentence even though I wanna throw in the screamer “she drawls like Courtney Love when Courtney stops pretending to be Stevie Nicks for one moment”, cos mostly what she has to say is relevant. I do however want to bang the heads of the rest of my colleagues together for spouting cliché after cliché about “girl gangs” and “Brixton” and for overlooking the Courtney Barnett influence on ‘Country Sleaze’. Thing is though, by bringing in the NME quote, as staple as it is (not an insult: you need staples in your music reviewing, otherwise how can you music review?), you have a sense of where the music of Goat Girl is coming from, even a little cultural and attitudinal context – context that would be greatly increased if a) I could be bothered to put links in to their forebears and b) you could be bothered to click on them but a) I can’t and b) I know you won’t, so we will leave it there for a moment, shall we?

* Uh, you do need to be aware that X and The Gun Club were not punk in the way most people understand the word.

13. Jimmy and The Worn Out Shoes – Bramble Path
I love Jimmy and the worn out shoes.

I love near everything about them*, the way Jimmy dances, the way Jimmy’s moustache hangs there droopy and gentle, the soft shoe shuffle, the unassuming but so smart lyrics and deadpan way round a harmony, the presence of other musicians, the lack of presence of other musicians, the chugging rhythms and self-deprecating putdowns, the idea he communicates simply by being there that we should not give up however stupid and unfriendly the odds against us are, the slender soft shoe shuffle, his height, the laconic melodies, the box drums and skiffle beat, the fact he shoves dodgy recordings of songs about Viv Albertine out on YouTube and you can’t understand a single word even though you know that if you could understand even a single word your life would be enriched in so many different small ways, the way he’s from Brighton but a Brighton you were always attracted to not a Brighton you wish you could turn your back upon, the way he used to be in a band that released possibly the greatest Christmas single ever, the empty beer glass, the way half his songs could be doubling for Clive Pig or O-Levels B-sides from 1985 or 1981 perhaps, the stupid soft shoes shuffle, his fondness for chips, the way he understands nostalgia should mean more than marketing, the whistling, the wrong shoes the wrong shoes the wrong shoes the wrong shoes…

14. Eminem – The Ringer
Shortly as I was coming up the final approach to Haywards Heath, a new track started up. Didn’t pay too much attention, then I started getting into the nasty-ass lyrics and obstructionist worldview, the steady flow of invective, the aggressive double-speed rap and… damn, I was just loving the flow. I sat there in the car outside my house, engine running, lights on, neighbours beginning to peer out their windows, while the track built inexorably to its cussed climax. I wanted to know who it was (although it was clearly Eminem). I wanted to know what it was. The volume kept building. The invective kept flowing. Damn, it shook my late Thursday evening up.

15. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete The Kisses
Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

16. Amyl and the Sniffers – Westgate
Wow. OK.

Clash magazine has it that Melbourne band Amyl and the Sniffers are “a bunch of deviant children enjoying illicit behaviour and the odd pineapple juice”. Beat My Bones says, “Their songs are as fast as the Ramones with the obnoxious smuttiness that the Sex Pistols had”. It is not in my nature to quote other writers when it comes to hyperbole but OK. Wow.

Watching Amyl and the Sniffers at The Windmill in Brixton yesterday evening is what I imagine it must have been like going to CBGBs in ’75. Not that there’s anything four decades old about Amyl and the Sniffers. Not even vaguely.

17. The Legend! – Live at the Haunt
I owned that stage, for what it’s worth. I had a backing tape of desolate beautiful disturbing violin music supplied to me by Maria because she could not make the show, and that fed into the isolation and sense of bereavement too. As did my divorce, and the fact I could not find a single friend to accompany me to the show.

18. Yoko Ono – Teddy Bear
Now, you tell me. Was I wrong to put my faith in Yoko all these years?

19. Let’s Eat Grandma – It’s Not Just Me
Within seconds of listening to the luscious ‘Hot Pink’, I’m reminded of Gothic Americana popsters, the sisters CocoRosie, with a much more immersive understanding of EDM. I am not trying to pull Let’s Eat Grandma down by making this observation (also, this is superficial, based around a certain Helium trill in the intertwined voices and love for esoteric slightly jarring sound) – just pointing out the danger of calling something like “nothing else in pop right now” (thank you Pitchfork) when a statement like that is more revealing of the writer’s own lack of immersion than the music itself. Indeed, the description Pitchfork applied to Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album could so easily be applied to Cocorosie’s early work, “If anything, I, Gemini’s everything-at-once psychedelia spoke directly to the feeling of being a young teenager—a kaleidoscope of unknowns, as terrifying as it is cool.”

That’s not to say it’s not a great line. It is. It’s a great line, especially the phrase “a kaleidoscope of unknowns”

20. Flight Of The Conchords – Father & Son
So, Isaac. Hello.

“Hello.”

What is it that you like about this song?

“It’s quite funny.”

How so?

“I don’t know.”

Is it something about the self-deprecating way the two singers tackle the subject material and their downbeat wry manner, or is it the delicious delight of the (vaguely taboo) subject material itself, the way the duo sometimes throw in an unexpected sting at the end of a line, the understated pathos that is none the less sweet or moving despite the fact the song is satirical (like all the greatest comedy it holds truth), the underplayed but heartwarming musicality, the way the song builds up into mini-crescendos and dies away again, passion momentarily spent, the smart interplay between the two disjointed narratives, the smart way “Trevor” rhymes with “live together”, the wry nastiness of some of the more ostensibly throwaway lines, the way the song becomes funnier and funnier with familiarity and repeated listens, the unmusicality of the voices as the song draws closer and closer to its climax, the gentle chugalong of the rhythm and melody, bodies swaying gently in the spotlight, the…

“I don’t know. Er. Sorry. Something like that.”

21. Robyn – Honey
Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn! Robyn, Robyn. Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn. Robyn, Robyn, Robyn! Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn Robyn!

22. Kristin Hersh – Lax
This new album – her 10th studio album, it says here – is so full. So fucking full I cannot begin to muster the energy required to equal it with words (thereby failing RULE NUMBER ONE OF MUSIC JOURNALISM: always be more entertaining than the music you write about). Everything claimed for her former 4AD soulmates The Breeders, obv – but without the cosy familiarity that helps so often when confronted with casual genius, the intimate stranger. Brooding. Broody. Squalling. Squalled. Mysterious like Lyra Belacqua. I am just pleased that I am not the only one unable to measure up here.

23. Noah Cyrus, MØ – We Are…
Brexit is fucked.
The government’s fucked.
We’re all fucked.

24. Ariana Grande – God Is A Woman
I come at pop not from a teenage girl perspective (that would be absurd) or even a middle-aged white dude perspective (although undeniably this must influence me). In 2018, Ariana is first and foremost a diva, and one that has been greatly affected by tragedy and heartache. (Think Judy Garland, for the archetype.) I come at her music from a gay perspective.  I wrote an article for The Stranger about this once – I can’t find the original, but I reference it here.

25. Big Joanie – Fall Asleep
Nice nice nice, but decide I fractionally prefer the production on the old songs more. Prefer them (a little) more when the guitar sound reminds me of The Petticoats. I do like the way the YouTube algorithms take me immediately on to Hole (first time), Solange (second time), Beyoncé (third time) and Skinny Girl Diet (fourth time) following this song.

26. Little Mix – Strip
What if you have long thought that Nicki Minaj is way more entertaining and imaginative and creates (I dunno) way more adventurous noise pollution than anything the more feted rock and avant-rock and doom metal and whatever genres have thrown up in decades?

What if you started believing in stars like Lauren Bacall or Katherine Hepburn again?

27. Rosalia – Di mi nombre
She’s from Catalonia in Spain, she’s 25, she has a grace and style that I find bewitching, she spends a lot of time in hotel rooms doubtless, dreaming. The music sounds steeped in tradition. Interesting it should feel like that (to me). Signals and noise. I first encountered flamenco singing on a visit to Athens, Greece in the 1980s – the heat was oppressive and the noise and fumes even more so. I was tasked with uncovering the English-speaking Greek rock music scene when all I wanted to do was listen to flamenco at open-air concerts and watch the flames flicker, the dancers shift. I know little of the tradition it encapsulates and am content to be watching on the sidelines still, the dancers shifting shape and form around me, ribbons fluttering. The music here is not overstated.

28. Clean Bandit – Baby (feat. Marina & Luis Fonsi)
I feel like I’ve slipped over the edge of the vortex. It’s dark here, and full of unfamiliar smells. (Is this what cultural appropriation smells like? The smell of pine disinfectant?) Clean Bandit belong in the same category as Dua Lipa as Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne, the anonymous pop stars who have risen without trace. Found yourself stuck in a loop listening to the same 90-minute segment of Radio One over again, unable to differentiate between any of the music being played (or banter, or jokes, or “human interest” pieces, or competitions)? Blame these artists: pop Polycell designed to clog up any living, breathing arteries: there to muffle the not-silence and blare of headlights streaking towards you down darkened West Sussex country roads; the smile is not on the face of the tiger. The rise of sad pop. Not melancholy, just sad.

29. Christine and the Queens – 5 dollars
I do not know why I am starting off by talking about passion, about desire here. This is not how I hear this song. To me, this song is a beacon, a full-beam headlight steering me away from the ever-looming rocks – or maybe it’s towards, I cannot tell – a ray of hope, of understanding, that even as the grey and tumble of detritus threaten to overwhelm me, remind there are still Voices out there that can aid, inspire. Her music has feline elasticity, supine grace. Oh no… wait. I mean the opposite of that.

30. Mitski – Nobody
Nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nodoby nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nobody nodoby nobody nobody nobody moves me like Mitski does right now. 100,000 of those 2.8m listens are from me.

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10 Most Read Entries on How NOT To Write About Music

Wolf Alice 1

1. How NOT to write about music – 27. Television Personalities
I have been aware for as long as I can recall that music has provided me with a sense of belonging, a sense of community and sharing, give and take. And if that no longer exists then surely that is my fault and no more and no less than I deserve. Music scorns me like a former lover. Back when I knew Alan McGee and Dan Treacy in the early 1980s the music provided a palpable sense of belonging, clubs like (Alan’s) Living Room at the Adams Arms and (Dan and Emily’s) Room At The Top (Chalk Farm Enterprise) providing a living community of outsiders, bloaters, the braggarts and the bullies, the shy and the emotional, the Sixties obsessed guitar freaks and the psychedelic losers. Alan gave me Dan, Dan gave me Marine Girls and so much inspiration in his own personal, heart-torn songs – no separation between performance and performer, much as Dan attempted to insert some. Amazing fucking pop songs.

2. How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh
I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not.

3. WORLD EXCLUSIVE! Live review of ‘fake’ metal band THREATIN at Camden Underworld
Surely, this is of interest? We were there. “Three people show up and one of them’s a music journalist! Jammy bastard! What are the chances of that?” Quite high, actually. It’s what we do. As keen metal fans here at How NOT To Write About Music, we posted this report a couple of days ago – but no one paid attention. So here it is again: whether the band is ‘real’ or not is not of importance to us here at How NOT To Write About Music. To us, they were real when they played. What is far more important is the question: does the band rock? And trust us, like you’ve never trusted a music critic before: this band… well, read for yourselves.

4. How NOT to write about music – 25. Salad
Where are we now? This is silly-good catchy. This is Elastica good. Also, it reminds me of my long-term Worthing sweethearts La Mômo… and that makes me happy. Don’t know why the following is only a short preview, but why the fuck not. First new stuff since 1997 apparently, but … uh … not that I’d know it. So catchy I wanna go back and listen to the old shit, see if I did miss something first time round.

5. Everett True’s 10 favourite albums of all time* … and one that changed his life
This is reprinted from my Brisbane website Collapse Board, originally written for an Australian publication that never ran with the article. My original intro pretty much covers it – to this list of omissions I would now add most obviously Beyoncé (Lemonade, duh), but also St Vincent, some gospel (this, for instance), Blind Blake, Metal Box (PiL), more ska and bluebeat for sure, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and dub reggae circa late 1970s, Talking Heads, Undertones, Tunabunny, Little Mix, some female grime (this, for instance – or this), my own stuff, Miley Cyrus (seriously), The Cramps, The Saints, The Go-Betweens (but also this!), The Roches’ first two, Daniel Johnston and so forth.

6. How NOT to write about music – 6. Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice remind me of two favourites from the early 2000s – Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia and Life Without Buildings. With some Northern Gothic leanings and bog-standard indie guitars thrown in, obv.

7. How NOT to write about music – 31. Mumford & Sons
Mumford & Sons is shit, Cath Kitson folk shit, Occado Levellers shit. Shout it from the tops of night buses and at office parties. Waistcoat-bothering, fake folk dinner party shit. Slumming shit. Tweed clad, Morris-dancing jizz wizard shit. Tripe shit that needs to be sellotaped to a Frisbee and thrown into a fire shit. Mumford & Sons is shit. They make Bono sound restrained. They make Billy Corgan shine with integrity, Ed Sheeran shine with an inner fire, Trump dance the media with rascal grace. They put the grey into perspective.

8. How NOT to write about music – 11. Tracyanne & Danny
The Tracyanne & Danny album is one of my most played this year and it has soundtracked many a solitary train journey and rushed car ride, many an empty afternoon spent wasting away in the depths of loneliness in Haywards Heath, the overwhelming emotion being one of shock. Not awe. Just shock, delayed reaction. Other people have their Ed Sheerans and Red House Painters and that is fine. Bless them. This is not what I look for in music, not when I seek solace and reassurance and some form of comfort. I am looking for voices that can transport me out of this mess, this delayed shock – pure and open and laden with understanding. Voices that understand the secret history of The Pastels. I am looking for Tracyanne & Danny. Both singers, all their songs.

9. How NOT to write about music – 9. Amyl and the Sniffers
Watching Amyl and the Sniffers at The Windmill in Brixton yesterday evening is what I imagine it must have been like going to CBGBs in ’75. Not that there’s anything four decades old about Amyl and the Sniffers. Not even vaguely.

10. How NOT to write about music – 8. The Breeders
Hunched over in my tiny own personal space on the 7.47 to Clapham Junction, eyes closed, trying to ignore the brutish commuters walking in desperate search of a seat banging into my tucked-in elbows and nearly upsetting my flask of homemade coffee, headphones wrapped tight round my head, hunched in more, trying make myself so small as to be invisible, retreating further and further inside, so wanting to create a tiny inviolate bubble, I make the decision to play the last Breeders album on my crappy iPhone (battery lasts 30 minutes max). This is a big moment for me. Back in April, a day before my birthday, I wrote a blog entry for The Friendly Critic that I later turned into a song and performed several times on stage, about how I found myself unable to listen to the new Breeders album, how listening to the new Breeders album upset me, how the very idea of being upset by listening to a Breeders album upset me, and how…

How NOT to write about music – 26. Kristin Hersh

Kristin

I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but I am not sure my words are equal to it. Hers are:

“Sometimes the most subversive thing I can do musically is adhere to standard song structure, sometimes the creepiest chords are the ones we’ve heard before, twisted into different shapes, and sometimes a story is lived a thousand times before we can ride it like a roller coaster. Nothing wholly unfamiliar is gonna make you look twice. When you can describe a record as being ‘deceptively’ anything, you’re hinting at the sociopathic nature of music. Something I love. Imagine truly buying your own sunshine and charm, but also your darkness and violence; the two sides of your psychology showing each other off in relief. Songs can do that…we can’t, really. Darkness we’ve seen. Dark sunshine? Still cool.”

I want to write about the new Kristin Hersh album Possible Dust Clouds but it’s late at night, I have two children sleeping upstairs, the washing has reached its final cycle and soon-come sleep is painting a mist across my eyes. If I was on my sofa I’d be fighting off unconsciousness by now – and unsuccessfully.

I want to write about Kristin’s new album but the music keeps intruding, in a way music rarely – if ever – does when I am attempting to write about it. Full immersion. The way the music and guitar lollops and loops and curves, and throws off sunshine and charm (NB: stolen from press release), the way her voice sounds wise beyond understanding, the way a pink birthing ball is resting over there by the torn-out fireplace, the shallowness of my breathing, the tears splattered across my car’s windscreen… I find myself unequal to the task. She’s not:

“I usually play all the instruments on my solo records – essentially the sound of having no friends – but sociopaths can’t realize their potential without people to work out their grievances on and this record is a freakin’ sociopath. So I invited my friends to the party I wanted to hear. Not a live record but an alive record.”

I think the reason I do not listen to Kristin Hersh as often as I might (and file her away under “to be admired” rather than “to be loved”) is that her music, not needlessly and certainly not callously, reminds me so poignantly of my own shortcomings, the same way this is one of the greatest lyrics I have ever encountered

My diplomacy, my security, my hope and my ice-cream
My tomorrow and my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration
My notebook and my limit, my importance and my glycerine
My customer, my function, my lawlessness, my charm
My hunger, my refusal, my tissue and my vodka
My ommission, my ability, my telephone and my holler
My relaxing, my distress, my bedroom, my cassette
My dictation and my pulse, my fortune and my death
My flake and my restlessness, my headache and my dirt
My paper and my charity, my rose and my pallor
My guess and my closet, my light ‘n’ my time
My worry, my perversity, my transgression
My temptation and my polythene, my gunshot
My jealousy and my water
My demands ‘n’ my angels ‘n’ my waiting ‘n’ my distance
My death, my curtness, my insulin, my memory
My partner ‘n’ my sadness, my story, my wantonness
My wish, my despair, my erasure, my plantation
My white chocolate, my thoughtlessness, my gracelessness
My courage and my crying, my pockets ‘n’ my mistakes
My body and my sex, my gaze and my helplessness
My letter, my sugar, my homework, my walk
My records, my smile and my struggle
My reflection, my eyelid, my fragility, my discretion
My hair, my austerity, my tattoo, my demise
My fooling and my terror, My problem and my judgement
Oh my disguise, my tongue
My ownership, my formula, my property, my thought, my razor
My blessing and my silence, my lust and my practise
My sincerity, my penicillin, my window and my androgyny
My mother, my recorder, my pity and my posing
My light, my carelessness, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer, my drummer
My tenderness ‘n’ my car, my undoing and my history
My bottle and my drugs, my drugs, my drugs
Tomorrow, my temperature, my lips and my selfishness
My cigarette, my uncertainty, my penetration, my notebook

And so forth.

This new album – her 10th studio album, it says here – is so full. So fucking full I cannot begin to muster the energy required to equal it with words (thereby failing RULE NUMBER ONE OF MUSIC JOURNALISM: always be more entertaining than the music you write about). Everything claimed for her former 4AD soulmates The Breeders, obv – but without the cosy familiarity that helps so often when confronted with casual genius, the intimate stranger. Brooding. Broody. Squalling. Squalled. Mysterious like Lyra Belacqua. I am just pleased that I am not the only one unable to measure up here.

Exhibit number one: the press release

Feedback and phasing gyrate from simply strummed normality, imagine Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine cranking up a Dylan couplet.

I love the simply strummed normality bit, but… you what? So much wrong contained within these final dozen words: devaluing the very artist they set out to praise by throwing in random selected assortments from indie rock’s rich canon (a canon that should NEVER be taken for granted, ALWAYS be questioned). Why not throw in Joy Division, Nirvana and The Beatles and be done with it? It’s a bit like saying Joni Mitchell is almost as good as Bob Dylan, with implicit gender preference thrown in. Kristin Hersh is an artist in her own right, easily the equal if not superior (if we MUST turn music into a competition) to the aforementioned… the comparisons are the wrong way around. She’s not Courtney Barnett, you know.

Hell, though. I understand the PR’s problem though. How to put Kristin into words that she hasn’t written herself? Let the lady speak:

“Because a lot of live records don’t sound live, just poorly recorded. And self-conscious musicians can’t let fly. I wanted to recreate the impact of a show. Unpretentious, with a muscular song body running through the room. This entailed seriously messing with both extremes of the sonic spectrum: the fundamentals (basics, rhythm section, roots) but also with the detail (percussion, high end, effects). These two strata asked to sound eccentric: atonal and arrhythmic. So when the song body runs through the room, it’s not wholly unfamiliar, just dressed oddly enough to make you look twice. Dark sunshine, still cool. Hopefully, anyway.”

She reminds me most of… ha. You ain’t gonna catch me like that. Let the lady speak:

“My friends helped me make a nice party noise, a goofy sociopath. Everyone who stopped by the studio was asked to make some noise and they pretty much did. A party that lasted for a few years, it’s only now dying down. A friend called this morning asking when the bus was leaving. A rickety, squealy, squeaky bus…none of us want to miss it.”

Peerless.

She still sounds better because she leaves much to your own imagination.