And the start of our third arc, with Kate Brown on art in the main story (and Jamie/Matt doing a short back-up.) Yes, that means if you pick up the trade and feel the need to jump aboard, you totally can.
I’ve been putting this off. It’s not the latest I’ve ever put one of these up – that would be August 27th, 2006 where I put up my tracks of the year 2005. That was delayed by life collapse, and the time I’d put aside for writing it being eaten alive by a rent-a-mob dirtying up the place. Posting it during then would have just been throwing meat to the crowd, so I delayed it.
I had started writing this list back around November. Here’s the opening…
An atypical year.
I don’t want to write about 2014.
I suspect I may have to write about 2014.
I want to take 2014 out behind the chemical sheds and shoot it through the head.
I don’t want 2014 to ever end.
And it went on, in a slightly less melodramatic style. But not by much, and I probably crammed in at least a couple of other V for Vendetta reference. Something changed around Christmas. I opened the document, re-read what I’d written and just felt disgusted by that wallowing bullshit.
2014 was a horrible year and I was entirely complicit. Fuck that guy.
If I had to sum up me and music this year, I’d use an anecdote from near the end, when C and I decided to actually disappear for a week to an actual holiday resort with sun. It was, shall we say, not our usual demographic. In a year of Peak Beard jokes, I could count the number of guys with beards who were under 60 on one hand I saw across the entire week, across the whole city. Anyway – we’re sitting, drinking cocktails and watching some of the entertainment. The singer has been basically doing the big pop hits of the last fifty years. I know them better than I know my reflection. I’m surprised when they play something I don’t recognise. I lean over to C and ask her if she knows what it is. She looks incredulous.
“That’s Happy, Kieron. Happy by Pharrell.”
I knew Happy was one of the year’s biggest hits. I had no memory of it.
I had no first hand experience of Happy in 2014.
So returning to it has been tricky, primarily due to my feelings towards the year. Having to spend a lot of time there for WicDiv is bad enough. I’m aware that I’m doing a lot more to keep myself on a mental even keel. I can’t help but notice that I have listened to less new music in 2015 than the last few. I still listen to a lot more than most 39 year old men, but I’m using the energies elsewhere, as anyone who’s seen hipsterhammer may suspect. It kind of dovetails with me playing a lot less videogames post 2013, which was the time my Dad died, and I pretty much sat there tapping on the Ipad waiting for the Reaper. Some art forms become toxic. I half wonder whether this will be the last of these lists. I love music and can talk and argue about it and its past and its concepts, but I suspect I may be retiring from the active battlefield.
(Which, of course, that cram-everything-you-love-in-a-Wicker-Man-and-Set-It-On-Fire is exactly what WicDiv is designed to do. Be careful what you wish for.)
Or maybe not. The only thing you can predict about life is its unpredictablity.
That said, Pop Music did its work in 2014. Pop music provided, often in an uncanny way. Songs came into my life as they had been commissioned especially for the current requirements of playing forty times in a loop and getting through the day, or at least making the day seem a little more connected to a higher purpose.
The rules are the same as always – these are my tracks of the year.
Let’s break that down.
My: There is no pretence of objectivity here. This is what 2014 felt like, what mattered to me.
Tracks: this normally means singles, except when it doesn’t. No more than one song by any single recording artist, though individual musicians and creators who are involved in multiple places can get multiple entries that way (So, Robyn could appear for both singing with Royksopp and her own material). If an artist has multiple tracks I love, or is a track attached to an album I really adore, I pick my favourite song from it, and give it a boost in position. In past years, things like The Go Team! and Outkast have gained from this stipulation.
Of The Year: Songs released this year, obv. This can be a single release from an album that dropped in a previous year. Late last year releases get a little wiggle room, especially if they only blew up in a big way this year. Re-released singles from previous years also can fit in, but only if I really, really want to write about them.
The other change is that I suspect this will be more off the cuff than usual, and more stripped down. This is, at least in part, to get it done. I have a Birthday Party to get to. Also, as I said above, the latest I ever did this was August 27th. That was Reading weekend that year. Glastonbury is on as I write this. I quite like the idea of Fesival season as a deadline for these things.
Here’s the songs on Spotify. 39 of the 40 are on Spotify.
Here’s a Youtube playlist version. 39 of the 40 are on there.
The missing one is different. Missing from the Youtube is Swans. Missing from the Spotify is Taylor Swift.
The following was strimmed down from a much larger list. In the spirit of GETTING THIS DONE I’ve not over-agonised it. Sorry, Cheetahs. I couldn’t work out which of your songs I like most. Man! And going through and making the spotify playlist of it makes me reconsider a bunch, which I’ll resist doing. Del Ray should probably have been in here though, but you probably know that. This however…
40) Too Young To Die – Vulkano Let’s start, as I tend to do, with some manner of cheat. A 2014 record I discovered in early 2015, and found itself onto the WicDiv in about three seconds. It makes me think of the first time I was exposed to Neon Evangelion, when my flatmate was watching it. He was approaching the end, one of the episodes where Asuka has a Very Bad Day. I walk in, wondering why on earth Gril seemed to be watching something which solely consisted on teenagers in extreme distress. Anyway – Vulkano sounds as desperate as that, like Asuka realising she can’t take the angel down, and everything she’s done is for nothing and all that’s left is the screaming. Musically like Zombina and the Skeletones without the laugh track, I think of this when a knife is falling on one of my cast. So, yes, a fun time for all.
39) Often – Weeknd Introduced to me by ex-Journo Cara Ellison, who couldn’t remember who it was by, but spent the entire car journey to the airport informing me about this record where the gentlemen explains exactly how much he likes to do it, which is often. I like the actual version, but Cara’s Aberdeen politeness take is immortal. You make pop music your own.
38) Action Cat – Gerard Way That time Gerard Way got his crowd to cheer at us sorry bunch of comics people (+ Viking Warrior Becky Cloonan) was quite the time. I think of that, and smile, and think that 2014 did have its actual unreservedly happy party moments. Also seeing him on stage made me think how glad I am that there’s pop stars basically doing what he does, with a careful and encouraging hand. Talking about pop stars I’m glad that exist…
37) Pills N Potions – Nicki Minaj I didn’t have much time for many of the big pop hits this year, noted by most of their absence. I just typoed “Midtown Funk” which strikes me as tellingly Freudian about my feelings towards that record. In the case of Nicki, the (oft excellent) thought pieces that slithered out of Anaconda rarely seemed to have very little to talk about its impressively vacuously grating (It’s certainly this year’s example of a Smack My Bitch Up where the conversation around the video distracts everyone from the shittiness of the record.) Excellent theatre, perhaps even interesting irritant pop, but unbearable as music. Which is the point, but “that’s the point” remains a so-fucking-what of an argument.
But Pills’n’Potions? Nicki does the big ballad with all the bruised dignity she can muster, which is enough to make my skin feel like bruises.
36) Bury Our Friends – Sleater-Kinney I still haven’t got around to doing a Sleater-Kinney Phonogram story. I suck so hard. Good to have them back, in short.
35) Crooked – Akira The Don The Don’s swansong was this cover of G-Dragon’s single, which I owe for letting me know what G-Dragon area actually singing, plus the slightly lairy sadness of the take is a little close to home. Very WicDiv playlist, in short.
34) She’s Not Me – Jenny Lewis This list is comprised from a big document I compile from another larger document. When re-listening to this, I tried to work out how it found its way on it. I remember being mildly obsessed by it, and the pleasant, somewhat wistfully regretful and longing MOR is something I like, but something that rarely makes the list. And then I hit the middle eight, and someone punches through a wall, and then I remember. Oh yeah. That. Always weak for a fist in a velvet glove, especially when the fist is made of knives.
33) Nobody’s Empire – Belle & Sebastian Here’s an early 2015 anecdote for this. I’m in Denver, at a con. I haven’t been since 97, the year I lived there – or rather, the year I had no life there. It was my bedsit year, and (ironically enough) the year I discovered Belle & Sebastian with their Songs Of Track And Field. Eighteen years later, I’m there, I’m someone the world thinks worth flying there as an attraction. I’m walking into the con, and glance to the left, and see an enormous animated billboard advertising Belle & Sebastian’s forthcoming gig there. I think of how far we’ve both come from that Bedsit, and also what we’ve lost. And what we haven’t.
I’ve been doing this for eleven years now. Any year B&S do an album, they get a track in here. This isn’t a surprise. So when Stuart takes it up a gear with the She touched me when I was in hell shouldn’t be a surprise, and shouldn’t make my eyes wet, but it does, so they’re here, they’re still here, and they’re not going anywhere.
32) Gangsters – LOLO Found its way onto a playlist, and set up turf, defending it fiercely. Just a sad little modern soul record with enough swing to make it imply it’s not entirely sad that it keeps on waking up in bed with those gangsters.
31) Digital Witness – St. Vincent When I first heard Birth In Reverse, I thought it was pretty shit. And hey! I haven’t changed my take on that any way. This, however, is confidently great, fashioning pop out of the nearest twenty instruments to the studio, with Annie holding it all together with her focused singularity of an aesthetic vision.
30) Fuckers – Savages Serious, Serious, Lemon Serious. I actually worked out to this one regularly, which is probably what we call an inappropriate motivational record. Not as bad as the time I tried running to the Johnny Cash version of Hurt, admitedly. I have also discovered you cannot squat to From Her To Eternity. This has been your health goth update.
29) Let Me Down Gently – La Roux I obsessed over this when it came out, as much as any song this year. Later, when I returned, I found myself surprised at how much I disliked much of it. It lets itself make too many excuses for itself. I imagine myself across the table from La Roux and having to hide my eye-roll. But… the sadness is undeniable, its propulsion, its storytelling. There’s much to unpack, to lose yourself in. And its details remain wonderful – that losing-yourself-in-her-breath of an intro, the soaring empty atrium in its heart. I put it down more quickly than I once did, but I find myself wanting to to be gentle. In which case, I must be more convinced than I think I am.
28) Every Time the Sun Comes Up – Sharon Van Etten Prime quality mope company.
27) Something About Lemons – Chumped I just dropped SOPHIE’s Lemonade out of the list as I just can’t face faking a semi-credible opinion, so let’s have this 90s-teen-movie theme in waiting. Will Trudy make the right choice between Jake and Chad? Oh, Trudy. Chad doesn’t love you! Choose Jake, Trudy! CHOOSE JAKE!
26) Goddess – Banks I’m sorry. I’m still upset about Trudy. Can’t write more. Just file next to all the superior moody girl-singer electro.
25) Rebel – Ghetts Watched very little music television this year. There was one session at god-knows-o-clock and head full of a friendly fog, and this just lurched out of the speakers and went for my throat.
24) No Rest For The Wicked – Lykke Li Also no Rest For The Divine! ahahahahahahahahahahahaha
23) My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit You know, I’ve really liked this all year, and when I come to write it, I’ve gone right off it. It was top 10 in my original list, and I’m going to drop it way down. What’s changed? I don’t know. I’ve only got a few left (I write this out of order) and maybe I’m hungry. Sorry, First Aid Kit. You’ve fell into a trap called subjectivity.
Okay, let’s try properly: pretty.
I’ll try again.
I give up.
22) Take Me To Church – Hozier Didn’t go into Hozier as deeply as many people. Hit exactly at the time when I wasn’t in the move for this big emotion secular-religion permanence. Eventually I found myself in the mood, and hey – here it is, waiting for me, giggling in the pews.
21) Gimme Chocolate!! – BABYMETAL Back in the early 00s, I used to think if One Life Left’s Ste Curran had designed a metal band, it’d be Melt Banana. I think that’s correct. For the early 00s. If Ste designed a metal band in 2014, he’d have designed BABYMETAL. In short, trust Ste’s aesthetics, even if you don’t trust anything else about him (Note: never trust anything about Ste.)
20) Screen Shot – Swans As great as this is piece of atmospheric nastiness is, its inclusion this is high is because of the couple of months when I was writing Crossed where I was primarily just listening to Swans’ previous album. If you want an image of me in this period, imagine me naked, holding my iPad above my head like a holy tablet, then proceeding to stomp around my house, while chanting solemnly along with Lunacy.
19) Lariat – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks I ALSO LOVE THE NINETIES!
18) Fighting Fish – Dessa I just deleted Boom Clap from the list (What I wrote: BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! CLAP!) to make room for this. Album last, video this, so really is sort of edging its way in, in all kinds of ways. This has three quality I always find entirely beguiling – the sense of a song that believes in the universe its presenting, a sense that it has something to communicate and cannot help itself and an ambience which turns my smile into a glare. It makes me feel flinty and necessary.
17) Seasons (Waiting On You) – Future Islands Everyone seemed to be happy for the Future Islands sudden breakthrough. I wasn’t, until I was, and then I was into this, and preparing to do my Courtney Cox Dancing In The Dark moves to it on the nearest Dancefloor-styled surface.
16) Solo Dancing – Indiana Almost lost its place due to the video which does the comedy-take-on-actually-atmospheric song thing which never stops me seeing red, but cooly level dancefloor solipsism is at least 97% of one of my masks, so it was never really going to be in danger of dropping off the list. Makes me want to lose all my friends, and follow its pulse wherever it takes me.
15) Love Letters – Metronomy The eponymous track from their 2013 album, which I continued to listen for all of 2014. And hey! 2014 single, so I’m not even cheating. This year had many oddities – at least one of them was the rediscovery of the letter. I’ve written more long, intense and personal mails this year than at any point in my history this side of 1997 – for all the horror, it was a formalist, classical kind of year. There was a 19th century mood to the conversation, at its best, like Austen, and if not, leaning a bit towards the Big Doez.
Also, I always think of Metronomy as the closest the world has come to Frozen Gold, the band from Espedair Street. Irrelevant, but I wanted to mention it somewhere, and here is definitely a where.
14) Crying for No Reason – Katy B Hmm. Sometimes this list looks less like Kieron’s Tracks Of The Year 2014 but rather Kieron’s Favourite Social Activities of 2014.
13) The Next Jet to Leave Moscow – Manic Street Preachers I didn’t go to many gigs last year. The last one was the Manics, at the Roundhouse, which I secured a ticket for at the last minute. They were playing the whole of The Holy Bible, which for five years was my standard answer to “What’s your favourite album of all time.” They were performing it, then doing a normal set centered around their new album Futurology. I left as Revol was echoing away. Don’t take that as a comment on Futurology – which, I suspect, is their best album since the 90s, which (as many have noted) finally delivers on the attempt of a clean European Dream of an album – but rather after 45 minutes of suicide, anorexia, the holocaust and a skinning alive of human hypocrisy, you don’t really feel the need for anything else. What can you do after that?
That’s the dilemma the Manics have faced ever since the Holy Bible. By now, they’ve realised there is no solution to that dilemma. They will live in that shadow forever. And while they’re not comfortable there, they can live there. This is scatching and sharp, and clearly about what it’s about no matter what they say, and I’m glad they still exist.
12) Eurydice – The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart You know that thing where an male indie pop record shimmers along creating its soft atmosphere, setting it up for the woman’s voice to arrive three minutes in and tear the record apart? Still not over that. Still would die for that.
11) Braveheart – Neon Jungle When you discover a record at the beginning of the year, and you find yourself still turning regularly to it towards the close says many things, but at the absolute least, it claims a pretty high place on Tracks Of The Year. If I played more videogames this year, I’d have hoped this would have turned up in one. A neat and efficient Katamari of hooks, rolling at you.
10) Wanderlust – Wild Beasts I spend the first three minutes letting the Wild Beasts swan around in their best Billy McKenzie cosplay soaring and just waiting for the bit where the angel feathers fall away and we plummet down to the pits, and waiting there is a single synth line that takes us by the hand and leads us to a voice telling us “Don’t confuse me with someone who gives a fuck.” That works for me.
9) German Whip – Meridian Dan Clearly, having spent the year playing Warhammer, I think a German Whip is some manner of weapon upgrade for the Empire. Really though? That I can still write things like “retro early-00s Grime revivalism” with a straight face probably says I’m not as out of music as I may protest above. Plus so many great lines. Pick your fave. Mine is “Twenty pounds of diesel mate – if I fill up my tank, it’ll make me late.” By far the best walking-to-Aldi-to-buy-cheap-crap record on this list.
8) I Blame Myself – Sky Ferreira From last year’s album, single this year, and – like much of the album – played until the 1s and 0s became blurred indistinguishable. Obviously, extremely WicDiv. Sky is one of the big influences on Laura. Also a good marching song when you want to feel like you deserve to be crucified, which I often did, as you never quite stop feeling Catholic.
Basically, in my circle, there was a running joke where things were hashtagged #BlameKieron. This was its theme tune, and by far the best thing about that particular gag.
7) Everyday Robots – Damon Albarn Small d-depression, wandering the foggy streets, not sure if it’s going to bump into the capital-D or actually find a way home.
6) The Motherload – Mastodon \m/
Oh, okay. I’ll try properly. One of the two Metal Albums I listened to this year (for the other, see BABYMETAL above). This is the opening, and opened up my chest and kept my heart beating. Often when I reach for metal, it’s to coat myself, to take whatever hurts me, concentrate it, and turn it into armour. Fundamentally: Exoskeletons. This was the opposite, finding its way inside you, and slathering my bones like Wolverine. In a year when I oftened wondered why anyone could believe in anyone else, let alone me, this made me think that someone believed in someone else, and that’s enough, and that’s precious and that’s fucking \m/.
5) Two Weeks – FKA twigs FKA Twigs entered my life when my friend Nat Guest tweeted a link to it with a one word description: filth. Being Nat, I knew this wasn’t a criticism.
Nat was not wrong.
It’s also holy.
4) Do It Again – Röyksopp & Robyn Again. Again. Again. I’m surprised that it took as long as it did to find its way onto the WicDiv sound-track – putting aside the recurrence and sex of it all, on the Meta level, Do It Again is Robyn and Röyksopp doing pretty much what Jamie, Matt and I doing. Through all the confidence, as it starts, it sounds a little callow, a little blasé, a little too sure of itself. It’s best at the capturing the sense of growing arousal – that shiver buried right there, and the release, but it’s all really just set up for the magnificent mood swing in the middle, as you fall down that echo hole in the middle of the floor and the repeated dread of “We should not be friends/we’ll just do it again” which never resolves, just remixes between the wanting and the dread, and the dread decision. All we’re left with is the increasingly empty and panicked Again. Again. Again. It sounds like a death sentence, like Joffrey calling for another head to roll, bouncing across the Kings Landing floor. Always Again, Again, never enough. It starts as fun and ends in inescapable tragedy. That’s my kind of pop record.
3) Taylor Swift – Blank Space I’m also writing this as many of my friends are in Hyde Park, waiting for Swift to appear. I’m envious. Seeing her would have been closure on 2014, as in a real way – both personally and to the rest of the world – it was her year.
It’s one of those tarot decks of a record, which you can shuffle and see what Taylor has to say to you. It uses every trick that Swift has gathered over the years, but done to a next level – from the the moving between voices (both in terms of singing voice and in terms of idiom). It has a bit which sounds like Starbucks Lovers. All life is in here, as if the Brother’s Karamazov were sassy and oft problematic favey.
(Smerdyakov is original problematic fav, etc)
This is one of the ones whose position is high both to its own merits, and the love of the rest of the album. I think Shake It Off keeps its ambition to be the next Call Me Maybe for about 30 seconds, then loses it. It’s also telling that in 2014, I still managed to make it pretty dark, with the music in her mind telling her “Everything’s going to be all right” feeling like a ghost of the Everything’s Going To Be Okay that haunts WicDiv. Eventually Out Of The Woods made me think I may be, or at least I could see the light. Other songs did the opposite. It’s a big pop statement of an album.
I’m going with Blank Space, because it’s the most complicated of the singles, and that sort of fascinating game of personality and image, of how we’re trapped in it, and how we escape it, or how we don’t. Plus taking the posture of I’m Everything You Ever Said About Me is just about the most exquisite Fuck Off one can make.
In short: None More Taylor.
2) The Knife – Kyla La Grange Of all the sad girl electro, this was my favourite, with an mood which somehow recasts the Secret Of Monkey Island as an actual horror story, with Kyla a barely-there spectre who can’t rest until vengeance is done, ideally by your own hand. This asks nothing but questions and implies the answer is always no, or at least not enough. It puts everything on trial, judges everything and lets you decide upon the sentence. And then passes you an certain steel-bladed implement to do with what you wish. “It sounds like the worst thing in the world. It sounds perfect.” as some hack once put it.
1) Water Fountain – tUnE-yArDs I treat music as many things. I’ve written many times, both in my journalism and my comics, about how art attaches to things, and becomes inseparable. As such, this list – like every list – is intimately connected with times and places. It brings them back. But at least now, I don’t want to bring back 2014. As such, I don’t want to reward a song with a Number 1 which is tangled up with all that mess. That’s most of them. I don’t want to give them the crown. I want out.
Water Fountain is an exception. Water Fountain was my way out.
I know exactly where I was when I fell in love with it – a hotel in the Lake District, somewhat oddly – but it’s not connected with there. Any time I listen to it, it is connected to itself, to pure music, to the moment, to that moment, to that string of moments, of the slow build, of the build at 2:01 when it finds a gear which just leaves my jaw hanging every time. It’s surely the thousandth time I’ve heard it, and this is the first song that has stopped me writing and encouraged me to somehow break my own neck in an attempt to find the exact series of angles to express the way it makes me feel. That it is beyond my ability to understand or express is very much the point.
Above everything else, Music is Magic. I’m an autobiographical writer. It’s what I do. However, in a year like this, fuck autobiography. Fuck the “Of The Year” and restate the core assumption based in the “Tracks.” That’s why Water Fountain sits at the top of the list disdainful of drama, believing in music, believing in the magic, convincing that there is wonder and joy, and for three minutes and three seconds, giving it to me.
I’ve lost a lot of illusions over the last few years. I still believe in art, and this is why.
The first Secret Wars book with my name on, where Marguerite and I swap seats, Stephanie takes over the lead story and we get guest artists, starting with Marguerite Sauvage as our firstl. Which I write for. And I’m basically writing Black Adder here.
This collects issue 18-22 of the ongoing book. Four volumes. That’s actually quite an amount of stuff now. This basically takes us from the Atomic Bomb and all the way through the Shadow War, with a lot of attention on the Eastern Front.
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #1 story: Kieron Gillen art / cover: Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson August 12 / 32 pages / Full Color / Mature Readers / $3.99 The team behind the New York Times bestselling and Eisner-nominated smash hit THE WICKED + THE DIVINE return to the acclaimed urban fantasy where they first made their names. Nearly a decade ago, Emily Aster sold half her personality for the power to rule a coven of phonomancers. I’m sure nothing could go horribly, monstrously wrong now. In a world where Music is Magic, a song can save or ruin your life. In THE IMMATERIAL GIRL, we discover what a video can do.
Here’s the first three pages.
If you want to make sure a copy is there waiting for you on August 12th, you should talk to your retailer and say you want to pre-order. Not sure how to do that? Well, here’s my pre-order guide, which remains very embarrassing.
The penultimate part of our opening arc, and where we start to show our hand. I’ve smiled at some early interpretations at this one, as very much no. Looking forward to getting the last part in your hands.
It’s is available from your local comic shop or digitally.
The conclusion of PRICELESS, our first arc, and generally gets all apocalyptic. I think this issue is very much the book at its best. We had to do an awful lot of set up to get here, of course, so I hope it’s worth it.
Minima Plus is based on blogger template Minima, originally by Douglas Bowman. Enhanced and ported to Wordpress by Theron Parlin. Code mutilated for his own purpose by Kieron. Remixed header image done by Julie McKelvie friend, because she was so bloody annoyed at Kieron's hack-work.