Kim Fernley: Chameleons Vox – The Ritz, Manchester – In December 2019, Chameleons Vox recreated The Chameleons’ 1985 gig at The Ritz. I never thought I would enjoy being in a big room full of reminiscent middle-aged men! It was a fantastic atmosphere. Mark Burgess and co very much still have it. They were incredible – from the music, and their presence, to their politics (always nice when a band you‘re into is on your political wavelength, and vocal about it. Especially in these strange times…). They’re one of those bands that are consistently brilliant live. One of the many highlights was ‘Second Skin’ – it was euphoric, and I wasn’t even that drunk. I’m already excited about seeing them again next year!
Fat Roland: Nathan Micay – Original Schvitz 001 – Nathan Micay’s a weightlifting producer who chugs protein shakes during DJ sets. There’s certainly something aerobic about Original Schvitz 001, a new EP in aid of community collective Give Something Back To Berlin. It’s a welcome return to rhythm after Micay’s largely beat-less debut album earlier this year. Guitar-heads will hate the decidedly European club vibe: the stylish trance, the smooth synths, the pumping bass in the style of early Fluke. Just imagine me treadmilling to this dance music, sweat flooding my every orifice, my moobs vacillating as if conducting an imaginary orchestra. You like the sound of it now, don’t you? Now can someone get me a protein shake. I’d like it flavoured with vanilla please. And chocolate. And Fruit Pastilles. And Babybel. And a Christmas log. And beef. Don’t forget the beef.
Tom Burrows: Moses Sumney – “Polly” – With all of the end-of-year and end-of-decade playlists going round, this month I’ve largely been catching up with (a lot) of stuff that I’ve missed – but December’s highlight was a new track. I loved the delicate genre-hopping folky sensibility of Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism a couple of years ago, and “Polly”, the second single from upcoming album græ, has already given me something to get excited for in the New Year. In essence a song about unrequited love, it delivers some stunning lines (“I want to be cotton candy / in the mouth of many a lover / saccharine and slick technicolor / I’ll dissolve”) that stand out in its bare-bones construction. Bring on 2020.
Matt Paul: Jorge Elbrecht – ‘Here Lies’ – Imagine Depeche Mode in their ‘Enjoy the Silence’ heyday. Now energise it a little more and make it a bit weirder. You have ‘Here Lies’. This didn’t change my world, but it was the perfect soundtrack for the descent into Winter.
James Spearing: The Big Moon – Take a Piece – No it isn’t a typo, it really does say the The Big Moon and not Big Thief. With its melody and hook, this is pure indie-pop perfection. It’s simple without sounding so and it’s impeccably realised.
While the subject matter of the lyrics isn’t groundbreaking, they say something familiar in a new way and even make longing for love sound cheerful as they celebrate what might yet be.
There’s a new album in a few weeks’ time and it could see them set to become the British HAIM.
Nick Parker: The Gossip – ‘Standing in the way of control’ – I had an honestly amazing couple of hours of sitting with my 10-year-old son this week, helping him to populate his very first playlist on Spotify (hey, I take my parental responsibilities seriously, ok?).
Among the songs he wanted by various rock gods and hair metal stars (his taste seemingly informed pretty much entirely by what he’d heard in MCU films), I managed to sneak in songs he remembers from his infancy. Even as a baby, he was obsessed by The Gossip’s ‘Standing in the way of control’, and why not? It’s simply an amazing piece of driving guitar pop, dressed in Beth Ditto’s rage against conformity. There’s still time to save him from GnR, I think.
Fran Slater: Beyonce – ‘Sorry’ – You might well have heard our Albums of the Decade Podcast by now, in which case you’ll already be aware of my recent about turn on Mrs Knowles.
I raved about Lemonade on the episode, but now that our month of listening to that playlist has come to an end there is one song that has stuck with me non-stop. This is a slice of pop-perfection that I wish I’d got on board with years ago.
Sorry. Not sorry.
Sam Atkins: FKA Twigs – MAGDALENE – Not exactly a December release, but I think the second proper album from FKA Twigs finally clicked with me this month. Among the debate over album of the year the sense that this genuinely was her best work yet started to creep in for me, ‘Mirrored Heart’ is heartbreaking, while ‘Fallen Alien’ is probably her greatest song. Give it a few listens and this is an essential record.