James Spearing: Nina Simone – ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ – Not heard it in years. It came on the radio and it was special. The best use of the perfect cadence in the history of popular music.
Sam Atkins: Kesha – ‘Raising Hell’ (Feat. Big Freedia) – It feels right that a decade after her debut hit ‘Tik Tok’ made her the biggest new popstar in years, Kesha ends the decade with a true return to her pop roots. She’s admitted that she’s ‘Got her balls back’ on new album High Road and you can clearly hear it on ‘Raising Hell’. If Praying was a much needed moment of healing then this is her moment to finally enjoy life again.
Nick Parker: Nick Cave – ‘Bright Horses’ – I know I’m always banging on about tone and compression and mic-levels and all that music geek shit. This month though (under a blanket of undeniably lovely tone, etc. etc.), Nick Cave’s albums of songs surrounding the death of his son launches into the following words, and I just STFU:
‘Horses are just horses and their manes aren’t full of fire
And the fields are just fields, and there ain’t no lord
And everyone is hidden, and everyone is cruel
There’s no shortage of tyrants, and no shortage of fools
And the little white shape dancing at the end of the hall
Is just a wish that the time can’t dissolve at all
Well, this world is plain to see
It don’t mean we can’t believe in something, and anyway
My baby’s coming back now on the next train’
Read Lisa Whiteman’s review of An Evening With Nick Cave in Cardiff.
Fran Slater: Phoebe Bridgers and Matt Berninger – ‘Walking on a String’ – This song was announced alongside the recently released Netflix movie, Between Two Ferns, but wasn’t released at the same time. I waited unpatiently. Two of my favourite voices in music right now, two of my favourite lyricists of all time. Surely I would love it. And then, of course, I did. A lovely slice of indie/folk/pop and potentially the best vocal performance by Bridgers so far (which is saying a lot). Just. Fucking. Lovely.
Kathy Halliday: Chris Isaak – Heart Shaped World – If only I had been born a few years earlier, I would have been old enough in 1989 to fan-girl over Chris Isaak. With his lonesome, acoustic-blue vocals, Heart Shaped World is almost impossible to resist. Especially in Autumn – when the days are long, dark and cold, Heart Shaped World is a warm hug for the soul. Like most people, I came for ‘Wicked Game’, but ended up staying for ‘I’m Not Waiting’, ‘Blue Spanish Sky’, and ‘Forever Young’. I absolutely adore this album, almost as much as I adore pre-90s Chris Isaak in a crisp white t-shirt. Just stunning.
Fat Roland: Octo Octa – Resonant Body – Sometimes I think kittens are so cute, I want to kick every other animal in the face for the simple crime of not being a kitten. This is what I feel about the third album from Brooklyn DJ Octo Octa. Their previous work span out echo-laden house tracks in pleasingly subtle ways, but Resonant Body is quite different: it’s a flat-out tribute to 1990s dance music. Breakbeats meet sampled vocals reminiscent of early Moby. There’s a nod to Orbital and, so nicely, to Metalheadz. And that breezy drum fill on ‘Can You See Me’ is one of my musical highlights of 2019. Actually, to call this a “tribute” is a reductive for a work of such depth, especially when you see how this album is rooted in their journey coming out as trans. But just on a musical level, when something as immediate and as joyous as this exists, why on earth would you listen to anything else? This is the kitten’s nadgers. Kick everything else in the face. Pow! Splat! Meow!
Kim Fernley: The Duke Spirit – Cuts Across The Land – I rediscovered Cuts Across The Land when I was reflecting upon my favourite female artists for Picky Bastards’ Women of The Decade playlist. The record is a mixture of raw, garage rock, with bluesy elements. I love the way Liela Moss contrasts big, powerful vocals with more hushed undertones. So much attitude! I can’t even pick a favourite song, it’d be like choosing a favourite pet. The whole album flows, and every song is fantastic.
Matt Paul: Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO – In the summer I got obsessed with Billie Eilish’s album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO. And it came back to bite me again this month. It’s a fun and intimate album. Pop music at its universal best, while DIY enough to be authentic. And though it can be fairly shiny, it is also filled with darker undertones. This has been the album I have reached too whenever I didn’t have something specific in mind, whatever my mood.
Tom Burrows: Danny Brown and JPEGMAFIA – A couple of hip-hop releases from two of the genre’s oddballs stood out this month for me. Danny Brown’s distinctive yap and left-field influences have dominated this decade, and uknowhatimsayin¿ finds him in nothing-left-to-prove mode as he eases his punchy raps over Q-Tip’s stellar production. Though it’s unusually short for him, he’s delivered another hugely enjoyable record. JPEGMAFIA is more of an emerging star but clearly bears some of Brown’s outsider influence (the two collaborated on Brown’s new record), and his second highly replayable record in the last two years, All My Heroes Are Cornballs, is just as likeable as Brown’s latest. Impressionistic and chaotic, once your ears are attuned to the idiosyncratic styles of these two, the rewards are plentiful.