This might just be my favourite song of the year to date (kindly ignore that it was actually released in 2016). A beautiful lo-fi ballad, it unfolds at glacial pace and has an almost hymnal quality, backed only with skeletal drums, quiet keyboards and guitar that, until the outro, is barely noticeable.
The hushed, almost spoken vocals bring an intimate quality to the song, and lyrically it manages to be both dryly funny and poignant, a trick few can pull off successfully. I know essentially nothing about Mario D’Agostino, but will be following closely, hoping for more songs like Muad’Dib.
For my 500th track of the day, one of my favourite tracks of all time, Unravel by Bjork.
Last week I gave you my albums of the year, today the ten songs that gave me most pleasure in 2016.
10: Frankie Cosmos – Sappho
Any number of tracks from Frankie Cosmos’s excellent album ‘Next Thing’ could have made the cut, but Sappho encapsulated her melodic, lo-fi indie perfectly.
2016 may not have been a great year (well let’s be honest, it was absolutely terrible), but there were plenty of great albums released. My ten favourites are listed below, but I’d also like to give shout outs to David Bowie, Cate Le Bon, Colin Stetson, Cross Record, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Anna Meredith, The Julie Ruin, Frankie Cosmos, Factory Floor, Mitski, Xam Duo, Diiv & Danny Brown who all released wonderful records this year but didn’t quite make the list
10. Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
Lisa Hannigan’s first two albums were also excellent, but At Swim represents a new artistic peak for the Irish singer-songwriter. Her voice is as gorgeous as ever, but there is a new subtlety and depth to her songwriting, with songs managing to deliver immediate melodic hits yet still reveal new pleasures on each listen. The production from The National’s Aaron Dessner is also excellent, never do the arrangements overshadow the songs themselves, but the album is not afraid to step away from a standard folky palette to incorporate sounds from other genres (as in the electronica-influenced Undertow). An excellent album from an underappreciated artist.
Sometimes you find beauty in the most unexpected places. I was compiling a playlist of songs about wood for my wife last week (this isn’t quite as strange as it first sounds, it was our 5th wedding anniversary on Saturday, for which wood is the traditional gift. I did buy her a proper present as well), and was looking for some songs to include alongside the more obvious choices (Knock on Wood, Norweigan Wood, Feed The Tree etc.). I happened upon Ivor Cutler’s ‘In The Chestnut Tree’. I was a little familiar with his work already. He had cropped up regularly on the John Peel show, before both men passed within 18 months of each other a decade ago, and I had a song of his on a Rough Trade compilation I used to own. I knew him to be a slightly eccentric man, producing quirky little songs and poems, they were funny and unique, but I expected little from them.
In The Chestnut Tree is different though, it’s a simple thing, less than 90 seconds long, just a few lines of Cutler’s surprisingly pretty singing voice (I am a bit of a sucker for a Scottish singer, as my King Creosote review will attest), accompanied by a sparse piano, but I find it to be compelling, beautiful and deeply romantic, more so than I ever could have though possible from a track from a 40 year old spoken word album. I hope you love it too.