A Reader's Digest: The Best Of The Quietus In 2016
, December 22nd, 2016 12:13
All that time off skiving from work reading tQ is going to send you insane, isn't it? Handily, we've compiled some of our favourite writing from the site in 2016 to stop you becoming addicted to Boggle and sniffing turkey farts
As this year shuffles off its mortal coil (and good riddance to it) we thought you might like the opportunity to hide from your drunken uncle's Brexit enthusiasms behind a glowing screen full of the best that The Quietus has had to offer over the past 12 rum months. Let's raise a mighty hail to our writers and, if you feel so inclined, we'd offer up praise and thanks if you'd consider donating to The Quietus cause. We're a totally independent operation with no financial backers and no revenue streams aside from advertising, but despite this we're massively proud that we're able to pay for more and more of our articles these days. The donations thus far (plus those of you who've been so good as to help save independent publishing by switching off adblocker) have been instrumental in this. If you'd like to help us out, please do visit the donate page here.
If it's new music you're after we'd suggest heading over to the Escape Velocity new artist features or our columns on punk & hardcore, all things French, the best of the esoteric and strange, electronic music, rap and hip hop, jazz, tape releases, psych and of course metal.
As we know how much you love our Baker's Dozen feature where artists discuss their favourite albums, the whole lot can be found here - this year we've had musicians and beyond including Teju Cole, Brix Smith, Richard H Kirk, Captain Sensible, Gonjasufi, Kathleen Hanna, Flowdan, Hayden of Wild Beasts, Rhys Chatham, Byetone, Bobby Gillespie, Kamasi Washington, Julianna Barwick, Brian Eno, Roly Porter, Norman Jay and Laibach.
The below is some of the rest of what we've printed on our digital websheet in 2016. We hope you enjoy it, and the best of the season to you and yours.
No sooner had the ink dried on Jeremy Allen's praise for David Bowie's Blackstar than we knocked for six by the news of Bowie's death from cancer. We paid tribute by collecting our Bowie articles from over the years, Chris Roberts penned this tribute looking at death in Bowie's lyrics, and various of our writers and friends also bade farewell. Our interview with Fat White Family looked at ideas of offence, as did the review of new album Songs For Our Mothers. We took the time to go back over the back catalogue of Animal Collective in this Strange World interview - it was a timely piece given that, as Lee Arizuno pointed out, the next album from "Little Donkey, Hello Kitty and Crazy Frog" is "absolute dogshit from start to finish". It was also time to ask the pertinent question who killed shoegaze?.
February began with a visit to the town of Driffield for a look at the chaos surrounding the recording of The Happy Monday's Bummed, as written up by Daniel Dylan Wray and Laibach guiding us through 13 favourite albums. Anticipating the return of This Heat in the form of This Is Not This Heat, we dug deep into their pioneering back catalogue. Our John Doran spoke to Kano about new album Made In The Manor. John also risked wallet and sense of airline carry on limits with a visit to Europe's largest record fair. Speaking of travel, we had a look at the huge issues facing British artists trying to visit the USA, and while out walking past his local bins David Stubbs managed to find NME magazine's hot off the free press guide to the history of rock & roll. Jude Rogers, meanwhile, explored the music of Bert Jansch and Adam Bychawski went to a London dance studio in order to take a class in footwork and ends up learning about the whole Chicago subculture.
David Stubbs' walks past bins once again proved lucrative for The Quietus as he found a top secret list of the releases planned for this year's Record Store Day. At tQHQ we're always great believers in calling bullshit where bullshit needs to be called, and were pleased to print this lambasting of Record Store Day by a shopkeeper who believes that the whole thing is more trouble than its worth. Kjetil of Arabrot told us what it's like to fuck and make fucking loud music in a church, and Dele Fadele looked at Nick Cave's Murder Ballads as if it were a gangsta rap album. Two features explored the Stranger World of Matmos and Of Montreal, Scot Ian of Anthrax spoke to us for a Baker's Dozen, as did Dave Okumu of the Invisible, while Luke Turner explored a fragile world in his review of Berlin's CTM festival - you can read all those here. We also did a Strange World Of Sunn O))), looked at American Psycho 25 years on and compiled a mammoth list of our 40 favourite noise rock tracks. Far away from that, Pete Paphides wrote a lovely piece on why he came to love Tony Blackburn.
ATP collapsed yet again in 2016, prompting Alex Marshall to pen this piece asking if we were all actually to blame. At the start of the month we launched our new radio programme, The Quietus Hour with the naive hope that this would be a weekly fixture for the rest of the year. We were also dead pleased when Brian Eno asked William Doyle round to his studio to discuss his favourite albums in one of the best Baker's Dozens that we've run on the site. Tim Burrows spoke to Jonathan Meades about his first art exhibition and Neil Kulkarni thundered that 1976 would be better remembered as a year of reggae, not crap old punk. By April 2016 was increasingly seeming to be a rum old year with the death of Prince, a rare genius here remembered by Simon Price.
As the EU referendum neared and the Labour Party twisted itself into a knots over Jeremy Corbyn, David Bennun provided a handy guide to whether or not you might be an apologist for racism. Iggy Pop live at the Albert Hall showed that some heroes of the 70s still had life in them while on the other end of the spectrum Guy Garvey told us about his favourite albums and we went to see OMD play Dazzle Ships and Architecture & Moralitylive. There was another big Baker's Dozen as Elijah Wood guided us through some of the highlights of his record collection.
Oh God, June, the month when Britain voted to leave the EU, prompting Bill Drummond to send us this essay and film wherein he played 'Ode To Joy' with a Roma band in a Birmingham underpass. Before the vote took place our arts section examined the impact leaving the EU might have on the arts. Billy Bragg had a chat with us about the EU and the state of things, while from the Morrissey side of politics we pointed out that The Queen Is Dead actually isn't the classic its claimed to be. Luke Turner met up with the Reverend Robert Hood of techno and the Reverend Alan Green of Bethnal Green for a chat about music, faith and sin. Jeremy Allen explained why it is a cold hard fact that Paul McCartney is the best Beatle and JR Moores went to Download to assert that Babymetal are one of the best rock bands on the planet. John Freeman visited Minneapolis to drive the streets and see the sites where the late great Prince lived and played - you can read that here.
The Quietus began July with the write-up of our annual pilgrimage to the Sonar Festival in Barcelona, where Karl Smith explored possible futures for live music. Lauretta Charlton wrote a brilliant in-depth exploration of Blood Orange's Freetown Sound. Three of the finest writers of the 90s and now met up for a long lunch chat, Jude Rogers asking the questions and Miranda Sawyer and Sylvia Patterson giving the replies. Christian Eede argued that community is key in his monthly electronic music column, Hyperspecific, and Lottie Brazier discussed anti-nationalism and countering right wing thought at the Roskilde Festival. In yet another depressing death, we mourned the passing of long-time Quietus favourite Alan Vega. Our art section, meanwhile, butted heads against concrete with an exploration of the return of brutalism.
Phenomenon one - Flowdan talked to us about 13 favourite albums. Laurie Chen read between the lines to find shifting, forever elusive portrayals of queerness from the introverted visionary Frank Ocean. Speaking of the elusive, we tried to get to grips with the vast work of Hieroglyphic Being in a Strange World feature. Kathleen Hannah gave an inspirational run-through of 13 records that changed her life, and Stewart Lee came to tQHQ to speak to John Doran about some of the ones that are currently changing his in a Quietus Hour podcast special. Speaking of guests, we were chuffed to run Jonathan Meades' first article for The Quietus, a piece on Chris Petit's latest book. More external landscapes were explored in Tome On The Range as Aliya Whitely looked at the uncanny possibilites of the English countryside. It's the music we hear more than nearly anything else, but rarely know who made it. Bobby Barry tracked down some of the people who made the library music that became some of our favourite TV and film themes. There was also a trip to Romania to discover the complexities of the local traditional music - read about that here. Anna Wood wrote a cracking piece on gender and Grace Jones with some help from Christine & The Queens at the Oya Festival: "To be subversive and radical and useful, we need to be having fun. How else are we going to keep it up, keep it up?"
The autumn in music was dominated by the fight to save the Fabric nightclub from closure. But this isn't just a London issue - as Luke Turner argued here, this is part of a worrying new trend towards a British conservative puritanism. Gary Budden offered up a tactic of resistance, suggesting that is a time for a new era of trespass. Anna Wood wrote that Fat White Family live offered an antiodote to corporate "zombie urbanism". In another critique of 1976 nostalgia, John Doran argued that the spirit of punk rock is not to be found in obscure band T-shirts, screaming distortion, authentic sounding lyrics or pedal boards. He might be a techno maestro but Karl 'Regis' O'Connor is pretty punk rock himself - he was the second Quietus Hour special guest. This is one of our office favourite features on the site this year: Mollie Zhang spoke to some of the luminaries of the scene for an investigation of the Tehran electronic underground. In a year not lacking in heaviness we went in deep on Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds' Skeleton Tree. John Doran travelled to Krakow to play darts with Leyland James Kirby and find out about how the Caretaker will be put to sleep with a series of albums that give the project slow dementia. Alzheimer's was the subject of John Freeman's interview with Hannah Peel about her extraordinary LP, Awake But Always Dreaming. There was also time to mark the return of Arab Strap by delving into their mucky history and Karl Smith went to see Bjork's manifesto for ferocious empathy at the Royal Albert Hall. Can you get from Wagner to Sleaford Mods via ten songs and the Frankfurt School? here's how. Finally, September saw us publish another favourite of the year - Laura Snapes' #longread delve into the Cornish identity and roots of Aphex Twin.
In odd times music is needed more than ever and can even be a place of active resistance - so we asked Quietus writers and various musicians and so on to write about their 40 favourite anti-fascist anthems. Are these songs more effective than the gaseous telly of Adam Curtis, who returned to the iPlayer this month with new film Hypernormalisation - Phil Harrison was unconvinced that Curtis isn't part of the problem. The internet got very annoyed with Angus Batey's assertion that Be Here Nowis the best Oasis album, possibly without having read the actual piece. We marked the return of Severed Heads with a Strange World by a crack team of 'Heads heads from Glasgow - you can read that here. Luke Turner went to one of the Arab Strap reunion shows to find that their dirty songs still had resonance in a digital age. David Bennun wasn't convinced by the decision to award Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature and here blasted it as a patronising affront to the noble art of pop. There was also a valiant attempt to get to grips with Alan Moore's 600,000 word new novel Jerusalem, read that here. Finally, Jimmy Martin revisited Judas Priest's Sad Wings Of Destiny to explore the roots of the heavy metal aesthetic.
As 2016 began to breathe funny and found itself needing to go to the loo more often, Noel Gardner spoke to tQ favourite's The Ex about their love of Ethiopian music. Our new TV column Box Fresh took the BBC to task for their decision to invite French fascist Marine Le Pen onto Andrew Marr's Sunday programme. Why do the bad ones not go? Luke Turner bade farewell to Leonard Cohen, who joined the silent majority like Bowie - after releasing one of his best albums in years. We released Sex Swing's debut album this month, and spoke to them about chess boxing, psychedelia and surviving plane crashes and being struck by lightning. There was a terrific article on the early days of The Sisters Of Mercy and the Leeds post punk scene. Writing on a record from around that time, Jeremy Allen argued that The The's Infected retained a terrific relevance to this day. We also went down to Lewes to speak to Shirley Collins, whose comeback has been one of the great happy stories of 2016, about some of her favourite tracks - listen to that here. Pete Paphides took the time to explain why Britpop staple Ocean Colour Scene's Mosely Shoals is an unfairly maligned LP. Towards the end of the month it was announced that Fabric was to reopen, prompting a huge "yay" on social media. Christian Eede, however, wasn't convinced this was the victory it was made out to be. Bill Drummond concluded November with another of his communiques to The Quietus - this one a response to that twerp burning a load of his daddy's punk memorabilia.
And so to December, a month as ever dominated by looking back and wrapping up loose ends. Make sure you check out and buy, like, all of our 100 best albums of 2016 and load up on reissues, mixes, compilations etc while you're at it. We did take the time to point out while Jim Jarmusch's Stooges pick was crap, had Richard H Kirk discuss his favourite albums and had Enslaved discuss the music of Enslaved. December is also the time for our Wreath Lectures that look back over some of the themes of the time just gone - 2016 provided bleakly rich pickings. It was such a bleak 12 months that Bobby Barry had to ask if it had even happened at all. Tim Burrows examined the rise of the alt-right and how they were exploiting the same counter-cultural instincts as the 1960s 'revolutionaries'. On the musical side, Jude Rogers looked back at the huge pop deaths of the year and revealed a change of heart on the role of public grief. Many dinners have been cooked in tQ's kitchens under the inspiration of Keith Floyd, and Harry Sword demanded that his ghost come and save us from the bland twee food nationalism of The Great British Bake-Off. With apologies to Ballard, Philippa Snow wondered if she might not actually want to fuck Donald Trump, and Joe Kennedy demanded a new aesthetic dissent. Rory Gibb said that the slightly fluffy direction of the BBC's Planet Earth II wasn't enough in an age of approaching environmental catastrophe - if that happens the world will have gone to hell in a handcart... and what will Mr Agreeable do then?.