22 Songs I Loved in 2012 by Lucy Cage
M.I.A. – Bad Girls
When this video was posted on Stereogum there followed a stream of barely literate dismissive grunts from their (apparently almost entirely male) Facebook followers. M.I.A. was a stirring self-publicising bitch, the song was unoriginal, the lyrics were shit, how could Stereogum stoop to give it coverage? Etc. It baffled me because this is clearly a great pop song. The deadpan vocals, the itchy/sweet flutters of flute, the percussive drive, heavy and flat and slinky, all the hip-swung swagger and attitude… The lyrics pull off the trick of being ostensibly dumbass rock’n’roll simple (“Live fast, die young, bad girls do it well“) while making reference to the fact that M.I.A. is playing (in both song and the utterly glorious video) with images of freedom and rebellion and commenting on the lot of women in the Middle East, where transgressive women (“bad girls”) put their lives in danger, sometimes just for the freedom of being able to drive.
I can only conclude that the existence of an outspoken, anti-Imperialist, confusingly successful, politically-active woman of colour who makes smart pop music is too much for some people to handle and they have to reduce all the confusion and complexity and subtlety she represents to the level of their own base stupidity.
Spoek Mathambo – Control
Another one from last year that only caught up with me in this one but is more than worthy of inclusion for being such an extraordinary cover of such an iconic song. Rooted up and repotted in fresh soil, this Control is both more jittery and more spacious than its progenitor; you gotta relish the fact that South African producer/musician Spoek Mathambo has managed to recast a song that has long been held precious as a canonical white boy post-punk anthem as clattery electro dance (‘township tech’, apparently). Kudos for that.
And the video is brilliant.
And he has a new album out this year.
Human Don’t Be Angry – Asklipiio
Malcolm Middleton’s new project, Human Don’t Be Angry, is based on largely-instrumental Roy Montgomeryesque (if that name doesn’t mean anything to you look it up) effects-soaked guitar scintillations. This track, which meanders over seven languorous minutes, has Middleton’s usual way with words and all the hazy torpor of a too-hot holiday afternoon spent in bed, all daydreams and memories and promises and sticky sensuality. Here’s a live version which isn’t quite as lush as that on the record but does at least a third again as much sprawling…
Death Grips – Hustle Bones
Yes, I know everyone’s been going on about them. Well, they have a point, don’t they? Fast, furious, switchback thrilling, this is the sound of driving games at the arcade and too much Tizer. Scary good.
THEESatisfaction – Deeper
Seeing these two women in a small sweaty room above a pub was a highpoint of my spring. Although it was disappointing that they sang to a backing track – the sound they made should’ve been bigger, should’ve been overwhelming, should’ve blasted our ears clean off – they certainly had the moves. This track is reminiscent of the hugely over-looked (but newly reformed) Luscious Jackson, that same brilliantly nonchalant combo of sass and swing, deft beats and sweetly odd harmonies.
US Girls – The Boy Is Mine
Distorto-magick cover from the end of last year. Much dirty warped noise behind a gorgeous sepia voice that seems to have come, quavering and wailing, through a portal from the Sixties. Irresistible.