Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

The Official Chart of 2015, part 3: Favourites

Be tormented by me babe.

Album of the Year: Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion. Probably my favourite thing about pop music is how it takes emotions and painstakingly reconstructs them as artifice, like a jeweller cutting a lump of feelings into a sparkling gem, or a surgeon dissecting you and building you a more glorious body. That’s what Emotion does. When I first heard the album, although I liked it well enough I wouldn’t have thought it would end up being being my favourite album of the year. But it’s put together with such machine-tooled precision, I’ve come back to it again and again. The lyrics are full of gems: “who gave you eyes like that / said you could keep them” (the tumblr structure of feeling in two lines); “I still love you / I’m sorry / I’m sorry / I love you“; “I don’t want to work it out / I’m not going to work it out.” There are millions of brilliant production choices; one I particularly like is how the fuzzy multitracking of Jepsen’s voice in the verses of “Favourite Colour” snaps into focus in the chorus. And Jepsen’s vocals aren’t showy but are precise: that little catch as she stretches “revelation” over an extra syllable in “I Really Like You,” or the flip from slightly forced flirtatiousness to slightly too open insecurity in the gap between the two lines “if you know what I mean / do you know what I mean.” Read more↴

The Official Chart of 2015, part 2: Slept on

Every year at about this time, I make a big playlist of all the albums I can remember liking one or more tracks from; each year, I find a few album tracks I’d missed first time around, but this year there have been more albums than usual where I’ve found myself thinking, “why didn’t I listen to this all the time?”

I suspect the problem I had with Miguel’s Wildheart is that I liked “Coffee” so much, I forget how good the rest of the album was. Read more↴

The Official Chart of 2015, part 1: Disappointing

The record I was most disappointed by in 2015 was Demi Lovato’s Confident. Lovato is extremely charming and also admirable, but her last few albums have been hit and miss. I first heard her music back in 2009, when she was part of Disney’s market segmentation strategy (Selena Gomez was going to be the baby Karen O for tween hipsters, while Lovato was aimed towards fledgeling emo demographic). She released two excellent albums in this vein (probably the best example of emo-Demi is “Remember December“) before addiction and mental health problems derailed her career. Since then, I think she’s struggled to find a musical identity. Her obvious vocal ability combined, I guess, with the emotional narrative that’s more-or-less unavoidable when celebrity journalism forces you to live a breakdown in public, has led her sing a lot of big ballads (of which the best is still “Skyscraper“), but she’s also made the decision to pursue a more pop direction, with mixed results. The two great lead singles from Confident suggested she’d finally nailed the pop side of her career; unfortunately, the rest of the album consists of some of the worst ballads she’s ever recorded, with slick songwriting and production that is desperately aiming for Sia and ends up overwhelming the emotion Lovato is capable of portraying. Read more↴