Best of ’91

1991, not a bad year for music it turns out. Here we are 30 years on and there are quite a few tracks that stand up pretty well.

This playlist gives you 5 hours of the biggest hits from the year. As you’d expect it is pretty damn eclectic. By my count it roughly goes: Folk – Rock – Shoegaze – Alternative – Hip Hop – Rap – RnB – Dance – Techno – Club – Trance – Pop – and then winds up with some ballads. Enjoy

Some credit goes to this BBC article on the best 19 albums from 1991 as well.

Note for the nerds: tracks qualify they were released as a single or on an album that year.

Let me know if I’ve missed any big’uns.

This is Just Some Songs – This American Life

In a change from my usual programming, here is a podcast episode about music (and the power of the mixtape).

To paraphrase the narrator:

I don’t want to sound too grand, but there is a power of mixtapes when you put them together a certain way– the power of music, even. Or at least the power that we believe it has. That it can confess devotion on our behalf, even in the form of an exploded puzzle. Even the most casual mixtape– or playlist these days– that you make for a friend, you’re saying, this is what I like. Or a lot of times, this is what I’m feeling right now. In a way, you’re saying, this is who I am.

Songs gathered together like that are a kind of parlance, a language. The words are someone else’s, but they’re also our own. So that’s what’s coming up on today’s episode, kind of a mixtape of its own, because we have a crush on you, and because the particular songs in this show tell you a surprising amount about the people listening to them. We can’t wait to play them for you.

Apple podcasts link

Google podcasts link

Website link

Euphoria – KVRVBO

KVRVBO is the project of Karabo Moloi, a South African producer from a township in Johannesburg. He released his debut album Euphoria in July. In it he brings in no fewer than 8 collaborators, most of whom are also South African.

If you are being critical, you might say that for a deep house album, it is slightly lacking in outright bangers. However, what it lacks there, it more than makes up for with real depth and variety. Each of the featuring artists bring their own flavour, putting together a really nice 80 minute listen.

My top tracks to listen out for: Billow Made Me Do It, In the Jungle (featuring Bongani Mehlomakhulu) and Celestial Dreams.

Wairunga – Fat Freddy’s Drop

This one caught me off guard. Wairunga is a sumptuous 1 hour live album that has come out of nowhere. Better yet, it is accompanied by a film of the recording, which takes you right there to their secret little concert.

The album is named after the location that the tracks were recorded. It is a little town on the New Zealand’s East coast that appears to have one road, but is a regular retreat for the band. For this recording they set up shop on a grass tennis court, and got to work. As they play, the weather starts to come in around them – they plough on and it feels like the elements of Wairunga leave their mark on the recording. It feels right that they credit it in the name.

This is utter alchemy from everyone’s favourite Kiwi seven-piece.

Mirrors – DJ Seinfeld

After a little Summer break I’m coming back at you with a few new stellar releases over the next few days.

First up it is the wonderfully-named DJ Seinfeld with his debut full length album, Mirrors.

Mirrors is a set of tuneful electronic jams, and it comes with a sweet story attached. When DJ Seinfeld shot into the limelight out of nowhere in 2017 with his now-trademark dusty lo-fi house sounds, you might have noticed that the track names and general vibe were a tad depressing. At the time our man Armand Jakobsson was going through a break-up. Fast forward 4 years and he has found love. Out with the I Hope I Sleep Tonight and the I saw Her Kiss Him in Front of Me and I Was Like Wtf? and in with the She Loves Me, the Walking with Ur Smile and The Right Place. Ain’t that nice. Live your best life Armand.

DJ Seinfeld’s other project is also worth getting to know, under alias Rimbaudian.

Finally, he is playing live at EartH in Hackney in October – see you there.

Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub) – Groove Armada

They just don’t make albums like this anymore. Throwing it back to 2001 with Groove Armada’s seminal third album, Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub). Andy Cato and Tom Findlay shot to stardom with their previous album Vertigo; that release was certified Platinum in the UK and is a huge lounge record – think Inside my Mind (Blue Skies). Then, just one year later, as the title of the album suggests, they left the lounge behind to craft some bigger beats. This move was not a simple one, since ‘Chill Out’ was at the crest of a wave in 2001 (a movement that they had a hand in creating). The move also alienated some of their fans, but you have to say that history has proven them right on this one.

There is so much to love about this album. First up, Suntoucher. Six and a half minutes of the highly talented Jeru the Damaja channeled into a new world of groovy electronica. “Focus like a samurai, stronger than a Mai Tai”. Massive rhymes. You can read more of my thoughts on Jeru and this track here.

Suntoucher is followed by Superstylin’ which still hits different. The BBC wrote at the time that its bass line was “big enough to bowl over a bungalow.” You’ll understand when you listen to it.

And then we have My Friend. Try and listen to the opening two seconds and not get carried away.

Finally, a new find for me is Fogma. Groove Armada pick up a sample from the (now heavily overplayed) Bam Bam by Sister Nancy and take it into pretty brutal Chemical Brothers electro club territory.

All in all, the album is a classic. Not much more needs to be said.

Eye of the Storm – Justin Martin

I have to admit, this new snorter from Justin Martin really caught me off guard.

The build up is a relentless industrial hum which didn’t fill me with confidence. But wait until 2 minutes in (by which point you’ll feel fucking on edge) and there is a massive hi-hat-led drum fill which fires into colossal synths and plucked melodies that just shine. Real ‘shivers down your spine’ territory this one. Turn it loud.

My only criticism, and this is a serious one, is that the track is so short. At 3 mins 33 secs it only has time for 1 minute of the good stuff, and then it exits as quickly as it came. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for an extended edit.

Bonus tracks: Justin doesn’t play about does he? I’ve posted another solid gold Justin Martin number for your delectation below. Or you can also read my thoughts on his remix of Marshall Jefferson’s Mushrooms here.

It’s A Business Doing Pleasure With You – Panthera Krause

Coming at you this fine Wednesday morning with German producer Panthera Krause’s It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You. It has been described as “…lush, funky and highly infectious…” and who am I to disagree?

My pick is Birthday Club. It has an inventive double time synth line that might be annoying if it wasn’t so goddamned groovy. Imagine the kind of track that Project Pablo and Matthew Herbert would get silly to and you won’t be far off.

Another fave is the title track from the album which closes out the release. The piano chords have a touch of the Harvey Sutherland’s about them, which is never a bad thing. Enjoy.

Animal – LUMP

As the final track will tell you, LUMP is the product of Mike Lindsay and Laura Marling. Laura Marling hardly needs an introduction, as one of the leading folk artists over the last 15 years. Mike Lindsay is best known for his role in the folktronica band Tunng, but has an impressive list of producer credits spanning pop, rock and R&B. Their co-creation is LUMP, which they characterise as both a mythical creature and a creative mindset that the pair invoke to create music together.

So, Animal; the talent of Laura as a writer and vocalist is evident throughout the album. Her vocals have a unique, instantly recognisable quality that work just as well in this more electronic setting as her usual acoustic folk. Similarly, Mike’s production quality is high. The music for each track (with the possible exception of Phantom Limb) is interesting to the ear, but without being jarring. Pairing those qualities is a tough thing to do. Contributing to this, some of the album is written in a 7/4 time signature – it gives it a sense of urgency, but never feels forced. The third single from the album, also titled Animal, is where this combination comes together best. The final single, We Cannot Resist, is another pleasing pop track (although slightly marred by the use of a gimmicky vocoder).

There is a lot to really like about the the album, which leaves me questioning why I like it but don’t love it. I think the answer lies in my favourite track on the album, Oberon. It is 2 minutes of beautiful, heartbreaking songwriting. The tenderness of the music and the lyrics feel perfectly in sync. This level of synchronicity feels within reach throughout the whole album, but the energies of singer and producer never align as well as they do there. This is illustrated by the final track Phantom Limb which immediately follows and seems to have been written in an intentionally discordant way. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it doesn’t land for me. That said, overall Animal is a really intriguing listen with a good number of really high quality tracks.

As a sidenote, I had the pleasure of listening to the Premiere of Animal at a Pitchblack Playback event – a blindfolded immersive album-listening experience – I highly recommend checking out their events if you are London or Auckland-based and see an event that piques your interest.

Photo credit: Christian Cargill