Continuing the amodelofcontrol.com review of 2023 – and the twentieth year that I’ve done this – which this week turns attention to the best tracks of the year. Next week will be the wrap of the best albums of 2023.
/2021 /ACTORS /Killing Time (Is Over)
/2020 /seeming /End Studies
/2019 /SCALPING /Ruptured
/2018 /IDLES /Television
/2017 /Zola Jesus /Siphon
/2016 /School of Seven Bells /Signals
/2015 /CHVRCHES /Playing Dead
/2014 /seeming /The Burial
/2013 /Seabound /Nothing But Love
/2011 /Frank Turner /One Foot Before The Other
/2010 /In Strict Confidence /Silver Bullets
/2009 /Yeah Yeah Yeahs /Zero
/2008 /Mind.in.a.box /What Used To Be (Short Storm)
/2007 /Prometheus Burning /Battery Drain
/2006: No tracks of the year list
/2005 /Grendel /Soilbleed / /Rotersand /Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
/2004: No tracks of the year list
The tracks of the year post is often the hardest to collate and write. It is perhaps because I have so much choice – even from just the /Tracks of the Month posts in my /Tuesday Ten series this year, I had 125 tracks to choose from (needless to say, it’s not unusual for me to be writing about more than ten tracks each month!), and it’s also not unusual for a few more to pop into consideration in one way or another. For example, the release list file that I keep recorded 385 relevant releases to consider. In other words, there’s been a whole lot of new music this year once again.
Music is such a part of my life that I’m generally listening to music when I’m on my own. Even just going by my Last.fm stats, I’ve listened to 16,453 songs during the “qualifying” period for this list (see below). Working from home, for the most part, helps – music has long soundtracked my working day when I’m not on calls – and I like to try and vary and expand what I’m listening to. I’ve also continued DJing both on livestreams and in-person, and as always, this list will be far more than just industrial music.
A note on “eligibility” for this list. If the song was released between 01-Dec 2022 and 30-Nov 2023 and/or featured on an album of new material in that same timeframe, it counts.
I run /amodelofcontrol.com as what might be called a “labour of love”. I’ve written about music for twenty-seven years, nearly twenty of those years under this website banner, and I continue to want to celebrate all that is great about this corner of the musical realm. So this site continues to exist – with no external funding and no paid-for advertising – and I will continue to do so as long as I want to do it, and as long as people want to read it.
So thanks for reading, contributing, offering comments, or being one of those people that makes the music I want to write about. Look forward to more from me about the music I listen to in 2024.
My Spotify playlist was built initially by using my friend Dylan Beattie’s excellent utility.
The second album from Vincent Uhlig under the moniker 2nd Face continued the commitment by the artist to lush, intricately detailed electro-industrial. The best of the tracks is the seven-minute epic Formula Extinction, which uses elements of bass music and a whole host of tempo switching to create the shifting sands that the rest of the elements have to work around. Uhlig’s vocal similarly moves between clean passages and treated beyond recognition, while layer after layer of synths provide considerable depth to the mix. A quite remarkable release in many ways – taking the basic style he’s influenced by and moving it into new dimensions.
I’ve become rather fond of this Toronto trio, with a near-ungoogleable name if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Already, too, they’ve begun releasing new songs following their excellent self-titled debut last year, and this is the best of them: Make Me charges forward with a brittle rhythm and memorable hooks, a poppy take on 90s alt-rock that isn’t wallowing in misery, instead a pepped-up, powerful sound.
/Blackbox Life Recorder 21f
/Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / in a room7 F760
For an artist so famed for exploring pretty much every nook and cranny of experimental electronics, it was a bit of a surprise to hear Richard D. James returning to an older sound. Not that it’s a problem when he returns to the glitchy, surprisingly gentle, not to mention danceable (just!) sound of part of his nineties era. This is a lovely track, with soaring synth melodies flying over tight and complex drum patterns, but at no point is this a difficult or too abrasive listen – this is Aphex Twin gently caressing your ears.
This fascinating EP came to my attention late in the year – led by an Emirati-born, half-Egyptian artist who brings Arabic elements to shoegazey rock with fascinating results. Her striking vocals dominate the elegant z, with swooning guitars chiming out and a slow-paced rhythm that feels like it fades in and out of the mix, while the vocals swap being right up-front and being buried in the mix. Being mostly in Arabic, I’ve no idea what the lyrics are saying, but the effect overall is beguiling, and very much a strikingly different take on a familiar genre.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there have been a number of furious songs on the subject of bodily autonomy of late, and judging on the way voting in the US has been going, songs like these are just the tip of the iceberg. The much-trailed new Bestial Mouths album was led off by the fascinating SLITSKIN, with Lynette Cerezo at least obliquely comparing their own body to “a dwelling”, a place where they are safe, but crucially where they make decisions about upkeep and change. The musical backing is a dramatic, juddering heartbeat – with the hallmark precision of a Rhys Fulber/Greg Reely production – made all the more dramatic by the clever use of string samples.
/Explosions In The Sky
/Ten Billion People
The Austin, Texas post-rock veterans may now have left a bit of their mystique and deeply emotional earlier material behind these days – recent albums have seen them change their outlook dramatically – but their latest album, enigmatically titled End, as a reference to a variety of things as opposed to the end of the band, which they had to clarify, did at least nod back a bit. It did so most impressively on the swelling, swooning glory of Ten Billion People. It rachets the drama up almost imperceptably, until you suddenly realise that the band is firing on all cylinders before you know it, with their trademark guitar tones and piano drenched across the mix like teardrops. It’s nice to hear echoes of an old friend again.
/EBM Way of Life
One of the original bands that helped sweep the resurgence of EBM in the early 2000s – and particularly the Swedish strain, which sometimes felt like punk ethics crossed with EBM. Container 90’s take also felt like Oi! (the defiantly anti-fascist variant) elements coming in too, and that is still the case on their latest album, and particularly the album highlight EBM Way of Life, where the duo bark their celebration and love of the genre. As always, their sound comes across as part of a project that they see as a fun pursuit – and like going out dancing, an escape from the problems of day-to-day life – and this song bristles with a defiance that EBM will never die.
/The Comet Line
/Don’t Turn Your Back on the Sea
The Comet Line have continued to chip away with their exceptionally observed, taut rock songs, but have mystifyingly never quite broken through – and this is a damned shame, as I don’t think they’ve released even an average song yet. Their latest album continues that run – even the song that riffs on the Rainbow theme (!) – and especially the excellent Lumina, a song built around a big drum sound and lead singer James’s powerful, emotional vocals. As before, his songs are often around the failures of the heart, and Lumina gives off that feeling once again. Hopefully, one day, his luck will change – although that might end the supply of inspiration for these excellent songs.
I can very much thank our continued participation in Rockfit for discovering this Leeds-based, multi-racial rap-metal crew, and their punchy tracks tick all of the good boxes of the genre. Progressive politics and gender views, a willingness to threaten violence to racists and abusers, and, of course, a shit-kicking sound that must be enormous fun live. The marvellously titled Ballsmasher, from their recent EP, is a gigantic beat-down of a track that details exactly what will happen to knuckle-dragging idiots that threaten anyone in their inclusive audience, but also goes to some lengths to reassure their audience that they have their back. Now, about some London gigs, folks…
/The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
/The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
One of the few – if perhaps only – still culturally-relevant, and still evolving bands in popular music that originated in the sixties, Sparks returned with their twenty-sixth album this year, and their late-career renaissance continued apace. The lead single was Sparks to a tee: wry observations on modern life, a simple-but-quite-brilliant and immediately iconic video (this time Cate Blanchett dancing in a yellow suit, in front of the Mael brothers), and a remarkably catchy video. Those wry observations are key: Sparks remain some of pop’s greatest voyeurs, watching those details for the bigger picture. Here, it’s the middle-class ennui of life passing you by, of not taking chances, of endless stress. This song offers no solutions, but a realisation that others are dealing with it too.
It’s now a decade since Athan Maroulis released his debut album as NOIR, and since then there have been occasional releases – all of a high quality. The latest came this year, led by the sleek electronics of Fallen, which kinda sounds like Athan’s beloved Roxy Music if they produced our realm of dark electronic music. I mean that as the highest compliment – this has a decadent, smooth edge that suits his rich vocals very well indeed.
/We Eat Our Young
Probably the finest death-grind band still performing, this-these-days partially vegetarian band (the whole band were vegan once upon a time, but members have changed) are still offering up insanely technical, viciously heavy tracks about the folly of humanity and their penchant for eating and killing other species. The absolutely monstrous lead track for their latest album this year was We Eat Our Young, a song that amid the precise air-strike riffage and stomping beatdowns examines humanity literally shitting where they eat as they steadily kill the planet, leaving less and less for generations to come.
The latest of the post-reformation Godflesh albums saw an impressive return to the era when they used breakbeats and hip-hop-esque drum programming as their base (and live, they are now absolutely savage). Not that this is any nostalgic look at the past. Justin Broadrick and B. C. Green on Nero seemingly are attacking their instruments with gusto on this brutally heavy track, with a massive low-end of thundering drums and dirty basslines, with Broadrick’s guitar slashed over the top, and the minimal vocals bellowed out over it. At their best, Godflesh are astonishingly intense, and this is up there.
/To Synchronise No More
Promenade Cinema continue to make striking synthpop songs within the very distinct style that they’ve set out. It has perhaps been notable that they have – or at least it feels like – been releasing more ballads in recent times, which is perhaps why this song stood out on their EP released earlier this year. To Synchronise No More is a powerful, uptempo song that maybe borrows from a couple of prior influences (or at least there are hints that I can’t quite place), and is a defiant song that deals with moving on from heartbreak. Emma, as usual, puts in a powerhouse vocal performance, and musically this is a complex, elegantly produced track.
/Land of Sleeper
The wild success of this North-eastern band with the memorable name (Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) probably came as much of a surprise to their label Rocket Recordings as it did everyone else. A band who have clearly spent a lot of their time listening to Sabbath and an awful lot of stoner metal over the years, and have managed to create a sound and aesthetic that is a whole lot more entertaining – and dare we say it, more accessible – than most of their peers. The lead single to their latest album, Ultimate Hammer, literally hammers this point home. Dirty, scuzzy riffs, awesome shredding solos, grimy grooves and a sense that the band knows you’re in on the joke with them. Long may it continue.
/Poundland of Hope and Glory
/Hard Cold Fire
While Therapy? remain best-remembered for their outstanding 90s output (and particularly Troublegum, one of the high water marks for rock music of the time), they’ve continued releasing new music all the while, and Hard Cold Fire is, amazingly, their sixteenth album. They’ve certainly not lost their ear for a catchy tune, or the bruising edge to their sound – and going on the searing Poundland of Hope and Glory, their political edge, either. Rather clearly a missive against an out-of-touch, elitist Tory Government and their supporters, Andy Cairns is sick of misty-eyed nostalgia for “better days”, and amid the hooks that remarkably involve references to the hymn Jerusalem, this is the best the band have sounded in an age.
The new album by Zanias (Alison Lewis, also of Linea Aspera among others) was an impressive, emotionally complex electronic album, one that didn’t really fit within prescribed genres. The lead track Simulation is a fabulous, dream-like piece, dabbling in synthpop and dancefloor-bound electronics, as she questions the trials of life in a big city, clubbing and recreational drugs as an escape, and casual, club-originated one-night stands. Those concepts: that of loneliness, escape and desire, are universal ideas, sure, but here, in one track, she brings back all kinds of memories from times where I perhaps should have known better.
/Born Into The Twisting Rope
It is fair to say that Swedish punk/crust/hardcore/death metal rage supergroup Industrial Puke aren’t fucking around. Their debut album is twenty-two minutes long, and none of the ten songs overstay their welcome – indeed some of them have barely got through the door before it’s onto the next. I love Neurosexist Motherfucker, though: one hundred and thirty-five seconds of rampaging punk fury, pulling up the shitty transphobes while kicking them hard with reality: the world has changed, keep the fuck up or fuck off. There isn’t enough punk rage these days, and what is delivered here could power a small town.
/ALL HANDS MAKE LIGHT
/We Live On A Fucking Planet And Baby That’s The Sun
/“Darling The Dawn”
A very different take on Canadian post-rock came from vocalist Ariel Engle (Broken Social Scene) and instrumentalist Efrim Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) – and the shock sonically was that the cresecendos of guitars that are often the core of the GY!BE sound were nowhere to be seen. It doesn’t matter on the ten-minute epic We Live on a Fucking Planet and Baby That’s the Sun, though, as their voices intertwine amid increasingly urgent drums and drones that starts to sound like some kind of incredible sci-fi soundtrack. This wider family of Canadian artists never disappoint in terms of making fascinating music that sounds so different to trends elsewhere.
/Tall Tales EP
One thing I’ve definitely missed moving out of London is some of the opportunities to see local live music at short notice – like LOCKS, who were based near where we used to live, and frequently played within walking distance. Happily, they are continuing to release new music, and this first new EP in a while saw them widening their lyrical themes a bit – so not all murder ballads, but it is still death and nastiness, at least. Jars is a marvellous, Waitsian lament, with weird creatures talking, threats of unpleasant ways to die and a general feeling that everything is a bit odd in the shadows. Just the way we – and LOCKS – like it.
/Paradise Is Mine
This latest, epic Swans album ended up feeling strangely unsatisfying, the mellower moments mostly inferior to the exceptional Leaving, meaning., and the punishing, metronomic longer tracks simply feeling like rehashes of the past decade. That said, there was at least one incredible track, and that was Paradise Is Mine. Over nine minutes, it gradually builds from a gentle rhythm and just Michael Gira’s voice into a hypnotic trance involving multi-tracked voices and a lurching rhythm that feels like it could go on forever, at least until Gira asks a striking question, “Am I Ready to Die?“, over and over. It turned out that Gira was asking other questions about finality and endings on this album, as well. Is he beginning to genuinely consider how long he can continue doing this?
As I’ve noted before, I don’t think Matt Fanale and Eric Oehler ever suspected that their side-project making an affectionate nod to the EBM and dance music of their youth would ever blow up like it has. Part of the reason it has is because their mutual talent with songcraft is given full attention here amid the sparse, catchy tracks, and latest single Body2Body2Body (complete with a fantastic video set around a visit to IKEA (!) that feels like an affectionate nod to Front 242 and particularly their work with Anton Corbijn<) is an immediately-dancefloor bound track that isn't particularly challenging, but is a great example of a modern EBM track.
Black Magnet’s evolution over the past few years – from solo studio project to a four-piece band – has clearly had some impact on their sound, but at no point has band founder and vocalist/guitarist James Hammontree compromised. This is abundantly clear on latest single Birth, whose mighty power is quite possibly the best the band have sounded yet. A monstrous mechanised groove is what everything hinges on, with chugging guitars and a gathering storm of a mix that explodes into a riff-heavy maelstrom of a coda. The new future of industrial-metal?
/Haine x Guillotine
One of the most notable acts at Infest in 2022 has continued their excellent work in 2023. This two-track EP is aptly titled, as grabyourface has had enough of playing nice, and instead wants to vent their rage and aim for retribution. When they are dealing with venal politicians, the super-rich, the far-right, sadly the outcome is the same at the moment – fucking idiots are voting for people who are entirely against their own interests. grabyourface plainly asks “Why do you hate us” in the fast-paced industrial of Haine, listing a litany of grievances that isn’t far from an election pitch. Vote grabyourface: it certainly couldn’t any fucking worse than the shower of bastards running most of the western world right now.
/How to Replace It
/How to Replace It
The first dEUS album in a decade opened with a title track that set the scene for the rest of the album: one where Tom Barman in particular was in a reflective mood. About past choices, past mistakes, past relationships, but as always, the band had little interest in letting themselves be entirely bound by that past. The song barely sounds like dEUS to begin with, the rhythm entirely driven by a dramatic kettle drum sound, and the rest of the band join Barman on much of the vocals to provide a dramatic, enthralling return. The bizarre video, with recreations of their younger lives in Antwerp as well as some deeply surreal set-pieces, lightens the mood somewhat, too…
/Where We Sleep
One of the great things about Beth Rettig’s latest project Where We Sleep is that she’s not allowed herself to be pigeonholed in a particular style. While Blindness were very much shoegaze/electro-rock, Where We Sleep almost changes from song to song, but always revolving around Beth’s striking vocals. The latest single from her – and one of the last songs to be added to the list this year – is this moody, shadowy track, built around a sparse beat and synths, leaving more space for Beth to shine with a defiant, powerful vocal performance. The elegant video is one to see, too.
/Don’t Take The Light Away
/Don’t take the light away / Remember Me
KITE remain one of the most awe-inspiring live bands – and another glut of friends saw them live for the first time in London this year, and returned the same rapturous reports. What’s amazing is that KITE also are nearly as life-affirming on record, as Don’t take the light away confirms. It builds slowly, before exploding into a triumphant, roof-raising chorus with a host of voices pleading for the light, and hope, as they dance. I couldn’t tell you what it is, but KITE have something genuinely special, but be warned – they will leave you emotionally spent. It’s worth it.
/Hot (Don’t Date A Musician)
Dream Wife heralded their latest album with the scorching, raging power of Leech late last year, but it turned out that the new album had more gems to discover. Like the gloriously tongue-in-cheek (at least partly) Hot (Don’t Date A Musician), which to a cartwheeling riot-grrrl backing, sees the band suggesting that there’s hot musicians whichever gender you’re looking for, but you should be looking for love anywhere but in another band if you’re in a band too. I can’t help but feel that this comes from personal experience, but also it comes with a warning – why are men in bands (as it’s clearly about men) so insecure about their partners also being in bands?
Recommended by a friend up north, this young Scottish band released a cracker of a song as their debut. Let’s Play keeps things short and sweet, as it tears into an alt-rock dancefloor friendly rhythm, complete with squalling guitar solos and an anthemic vocal delivery that just screams “next big thing”. They are clearly far too young to know nineties alt-rock first hand, but as part of a new generation who are clearly rediscovering it, any thoughts of a revival could well be in safe hands…
/Road to Joy
It’s easy to forget with his lower profile these days, that Peter Gabriel was for a while one of the world’s most unlikely pop stars in the 80s. He blazed a trail for others by including music from outside of the usual Western, White tradition, as well as using new technologies extensively – and wrote some astonishing songs along the way. With i/o, his new album, being his first in two decades, and being drip-fed across the full moons, track by track, across 2023, I was sceptical. But it turns out to be his best album in an age, and is anchored by this callback to his pop era. As ever, his musicians along for the ride are just as important: Tony Levin’s distinctive basslines underpin the song, and the celebratory, storming chorus sees Gabriel backed by the Soweto Gospel Choir. This is Peter Gabriel bursting back to life, and celebrating every moment, and it’s amazing.
/Teeth of the Sea
The towering highlight of Hive takes up nearly a quarter of the album, and feels like it flashes by in a quarter of the time. An electronic take on a motorik rhythm provides the heartbeat to a track that has squalling guitars and synths reverbing into infinity, and the feel is of a track taking us on a trip into space, with passing planets and spacecraft providing the strange, otherworldly effects that dominate the track. Not all of Hive works as a cohesive whole, but this track is a mighty meisterwerk that, naturally, sounds absolutely phenomenal live (and brutally loud), too.
/unpopular parts of a pig
/unpopular parts of a pig / the digger you deep
Ok, so hands up who expected new Mclusky material to really, actually happen? Sure, Andrew Falkous has resurrected the band and has been touring, but I honestly didn’t expect new music to be part of the deal, and it turns out that this EP is the precursor to a new album in 2024. So colour me surprised. Less surprising is that the new songs absolutely rip. There are quiet bits, there are really fucking loud bits, Falkous shouts, roars and sneers, and lead track unpopular parts of a pig (no, me neither) does all of this and suggests that it should be enormous fun to throw yourself around a room to at an upcoming gig.
/and the colour red
Underworld have afforded themselves the chance to rework and reinvent themselves over the years since their period of mainstream success – while also allowing peeks back in the rearview mirror.
But musically, they’ve rarely revisited the old in the new, and this astonishing track does make you wonder why. and the colour red takes us on sleek techno odyssey, with squelchy synths and Karl Hyde mumbling the odd phrase here and there, and the perpetual motion of the track suggests – as does the fadeout – that this could be a twenty minute track and I’d still be rhapsodising about it.
Rhys Hughes moved to Armalyte Industries for this new release (and future work), and the move of label seemed appropriate, as there is a significant shift in style here too. While previous tracks were thundering, sample-led queer dancefloor industrial/techno, the two tracks here are dense industrial that nod to classic Ministry and Thrill Kill Kult as they do sweaty dancefloors. Providence is an exceptional track, too – a down’n’dirty groove with all kinds of synths and samples layered in the mix which doesn’t let the nods to the past drag it down to pastiche territory. This is Red Meat creating their own identity, and it is an impressive line in the sand.
The first new song from OMD in a while (the last being Don’t Go, which appeared on the Souvenir singles collection a few years back, and was reworked for this album) was the title track to their first album in eight years.
A stately, slower paced electronic piece, it works as the scene setter for the new album, and sets out their stall neatly tool. As is traditional with the group, there are references to modern art, but perhaps less usually there are also overt references to modern politics. Andy McCluskey makes no bones about his disgust at far-right politics, with clear allusions between the Bauhaus movement’s fight against the Nazis, and how we might fight back now, through culture, living our lives as we want to and through tolerance and support of the oppressed.
/…Out Flew Reason
Of the nine quite brilliant songs at last released after twenty-two years, Three Seconds is a formidable highlight. Dubby, almost sub-sonic basslines hum underneath David Francolini’s tight snare hits, while Bic Hayes paints guitar (and heavily effects-laden at that) over the top, as well as multi-tracking his bruised, delicate vocals where needed. If ever you needed a new example of why I adore this band so, here it is – all the elements I loved and still love about them in one four-minute song. Their sheer intensity sometimes put some off, but their music has got me through a lot. It’s just enough to be hearing from them again, frankly.
/Welcome To My Island
/Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
The frankly magical opener to Caroline Polachek’s latest album was, in retrospect, a neon sign proclaiming what was to come. Welcome To My Island begins with impressive vocal gymnastics, continues with a minimalist backing as she introduces things, before exploding into a spectacular earworm of a chorus, all the way borrowing from three or four genres at once. This is Polachek making a statement, that she cares not for musical gatekeeping, and will make use whatever she damned well pleases to get to where she wants: and it works against all the odds.
/Fear Keeps Us Alive
The internal fears given prominence on the latest Gazelle Twin album are at least partially universal – those childhood fears that sometimes manifest themselves into adult life too. But Fear Keeps Us Alive is a whole lot more primal than that – a heartstopping, unnerving four minutes of outright terror, frankly, that uses weird, distorted electronics and a phalanx of multi-tracked and treated vocals that makes the listener feel that there is an army of spirits just waiting outside to burst in and freak you out. Genuinely one of the most terrifying pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
/The New Division
John Kunkel’s work as The New Division never ceases to amaze: his (mostly) synthpop-based sound has a melancholy air quite unlike most of his peers, as if the weight of the world is pressing down. The highlight of their 2023 album was this utterly sublime song, that initially feels like it might drag you down with him, before a chiming guitar riff suddenly shines through – and left me open-mouthed the first time I heard it. The best music makes me feel something, and this song had – and has – the air of a song that entirely gets my state of mind, and soothes by the fact that someone else understands. The New Division: probably the best synthpop band you may not have heard of.
/Like A Dog
Maybe the flood of resurrectors of EBM has subsided a bit, but at least that’s meant the good new stuff has been easier to find. Such as the new project from Texas-based Keaton Khonsari, Semantix. Jettisoning vocals almost entirely, Semantix concentrates entirely on thunderous EBM dancefloor terror, with synth lines straight from the well of classic 242 and punishing drum patterns that pretty much demand your feet to move. The pick of the five new tracks here is Like A Dog, which uses all of these elements combined with an unstoppable forward momentum to provide the best pure-EBM track I heard in 2023.
/the fable of subjugation
Amid forty minutes or so of the most intense album you’ll hear in 2023, are nine minutes of harrowing power. Robin Wattie takes the narrative view of a controlling man, as she sings his apparently soothing words of control and coercion, and for the first four minutes, calming drones accompany her voice. Then drums tumble into the mix, the guitars turn jagged, and Wattie’s character turns violent, as she shrieks and howls phrases of ownership and threat. The whole album hinges on this astonishing track, as Wattie reminds what the appalling male nature can be if unchecked. It’s an uncomfortable listen to say the least.
/Days Move Slow
/Lucky For You
The barnstorming lead single to Bully’s latest album is one of those songs that sounds like it could take on the world and win, until you pay closer attention to the lyrics. The upbeat song belies Alicia Bognanno dealing with grief in the aftermath of the death of her beloved dog, as she ponders death and what comes next, and tries to kick herself into doing something again, to stop grieving and live life. That’s something we’ve all grappled with at some point, I’m sure, and that trying to move on bit is always the kicker. Musically, this is a fantastic alt-rock song that uses shoegazey vocal harmonies to add that mystery ingredient which just makes the song all the better. It is, too, a fitting tribute to a clearly beloved dog.
/The Skin and the Glove
/An Object In Motion
The headlines might have been taken by the appearance of Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) on the first new material by Drab Majesty in a few years, but the standout track of this (four track, thirty-three minute) EP was The Skin and The Glove. It was made clear that this was Andrew Clinco’s trip into experimental shoegaze – and sonically the EP takes in different elements of that resurgent genre – but this track is absolutely extraordinary. Combining the bleak gothic ear for melody of Drab Majesty with multi-layered, multi-FX pedal guitar drones and a stately rhythm, it goes on for six minutes and my only wish was that it went for at least four times longer.
A nice problem to have is trying to pick one song from an album that’s the highlight, when there’s a lot of competition – and Love Lines is very much one of those. But in the end, I went back to the lead single from the album, that had me hooked from the first minute I heard it. It’s obvious where the song is going once it gets started, but that doesn’t detract from the giant hit of a chorus when it lands, or Chelsey Crowley’s marvellously lovelorn vocals as she describes the internal rush of dancing away your troubles. An absolute belter of a single from an album that was just as great.
/The After Effect
I’ve written a lot about Cyanotic over the past eighteen years – and Sean Payne’s work has regularly featured in these end of year lists, too. The After Effect – an album released in the aftermath of traumas I cannot begin to imagine – is Cyanotic back to their best, and leads off with one of the strongest songs from the band in a long time. It takes in multiple references to Hackers, a stomping, robotic rhythm, guitar riffage, and a mechanical groove that could rip holes in the wall. No-one does cyberpunk/industrial better than Cyanotic, and this glorious track is part of a sparkling return.
/Dancer In the Dark
/Darkness Falls Again
German electro/synthpop veterans Beborn Beton are no strangers to writing dancefloor fillers – Another World remains a cast-iron dancefloor classic twenty-five years on – and so it perhaps should have come as no surprise that the lead single to their first album in eight years was yet another to add to the list. Dancer In The Dark is one of those songs that is a gloriously uplifting track musically, but the lyrics suggest tumult and worry, as the protagonist questions their life and future (and potentially relationships too). But this is a song to dance your troubles away, and it has been on regular rotation in this house since it was first released.
The astonishing highlight of the third Fever Ray album is one of the songs where Olof Dreijer was involved, and there are definitely elements of the Dreijer’s prior group The Knife in the sound here. But it’s not that which makes this song so amazing. Karin Dreijer is on the prowl, looking less for love and more for a hook-up that will make them…well, the title tells you the rest, kind of. It’s about the human need for that sensory buzz, a touch, a look, and absolutely drips with desire, as the elastic basslines roll around the bottom end, and high-pitched synths whirl around your ears, Dreijer leaving the music to explain the parts she can’t put into words. Sometimes, Dreijer’s music can come across as cold and distant, and this is absolute proof that when that distance is removed, the results are absolutely incredible, time and again.
/Go Dig My Grave
This might be the first time that I’ve featured a reinterpretation of a folk song in my end of year lists, but then, this track is not like your average folk song. Dublin band Lankum have taken their folk music in sometimes shocking and striking directions, particularly in their use of Uilleann pipes as all-encompassing drones and the sheer noise and volume of their sound, when they unleash it. The opening track to their outstanding album False Lankum does all that and a whole lot more. Radie Peat’s striking vocals in the first half of Go Dig My Grave are accompanied by subtle instrumentation and nothing more to begin with, as she offers a new spin on the spurned, suicidal woman in the old song The Butcher’s Boy, sounding tortured and furious on behalf of the woman in question. Then her voice fades away, replaced by clanging percussion and those pipes that come in waves, as if the dead have returned for vengeance. It’s terrifying, enthralling, and at a good volume, sounds absolutely incredible.
/Randolph & Mortimer
/Resurrector feat. Black Dahlia
/The Incomplete Truth
The ripping highlight of a cracking second album comes courtesy of a collaboration between R&M and Black Dahlia. Samples of an evangelist quoting (or perhaps paraphrasing) Matthew 10:8 provide the hook around which everything else revolves: a giant, ominous synth lead in the greatest tradition of 242 at their peak and a rumbling monster of a drum pattern are the key elements, and the end result is a fantastic dancefloor track. Indeed, I dropped this in an otherwise retro set at a private party the week after release, and it filled the dancefloor – and segued neatly into the Cab’s Sensoria, such that my wife didn’t notice the mix…
/Gimme That Boom
It’s tempting to speculate that there was a good reason Gimme That Boom was released some nine months before the release of Skindred’s eighth album Smile, and that is because the band and label realised they had an absolute monster of a track on their hands. Eight million Spotify streams, 1.7 million YouTube views of the video, a UK Number Two album and a fully sold-out UK tour later, it’s fair to say they were absolutely vindicated.
Too right, too, as Gimme That Boom is a groove-heavy, hook-heavy track that sees Benji Webbe and his band at the peak of their powers, and twenty-five years of this band has finally seen them at the top of the UK metal pile. Apparently inspired by fans interrupting Benji when he’s just going about his own life, with everyone now wanting a piece of Benji the rock-star – or just wanting everything right now – it’s amazing that an annoyance such as this is turned instead into an absolutely fucking joyous, roof-raising rave-up, and among other things has been in my head rent-free for months, and is also the /amodelofcontrol.com track of the year.