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Japanese gems, maligned boybands and ‘the Dan’: the best old music Guardian writers discovered this year | Music

Marcia Griffiths – Candy and Good (1974)

Marcia Griffith’s debut solo album – launched between her UK hits as one half of Bob and Marcia and her membership of Bob Marley’s backing vocalists the I-Threes – is the form of document you’ll be able to’t imagine you haven’t already heard, or at the very least heard of: certainly folks ought to have been banging on for years about one thing this good? Griffith’s tough-but-tender vocals are unbelievable, and whereas the sound appears to pitch her as one thing greater than an easy reggae artist, it was made the year after Bob Marley’s breakthrough album, Catch a Hearth, had proved Jamaican artists may attain a large worldwide viewers.

Marcia Griffiths: Right here I Am (Come and Take Me) – video

No matter the considering behind it, the outcomes are simply beautiful: the variations of The First Time Ever I Noticed Your Face and Simply Don’t Need to Be Lonely – a then-recent hit for the Primary Ingredient – sound like proto-lovers rock; The whole lot I Personal takes the tune at a Northern Soul-like clip, there’s a vaguely psychedelic funk aura about Kids at Play and the astounding opening cowl of Al Inexperienced’s Right here I Am (Come And Take Me). The model you need is launched by the exemplary reissue label Be With, which provides an entire further album of additional tracks, together with an superior cowl of the Beatles’ Don’t Let Me. AP

Varied Artists – Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-field Pop from the CD Age (1989-1996) (2021)

Yosui Inoue: Pi Po Pa – video

Extra diamonds from cratedigging’s present coalface, Japan. Amid releases from Mild in the Attic and 180g surveying the nation’s pop, folks and ambient sounds comes this compilation on Dutch label Music From Reminiscence, during which Osaka-based collectors Eiji Taniguchi and Norio Sato burrow into a fantastic nook of their nation’s musical historical past. A UK comparability could be the wistful pop of Discuss Discuss or the Blue Nile, blended with the “fourth world” atmosphere of Jon Hassell, however after all there’s a really specific non-western temper right here: whether or not it’s trip-hop, new age, nu-disco or playful jazz-pop, every transporting monitor evokes a utopian, pastel-shadowed mirror-world exterior linear time. Highlights embody Yosui Inoue’s Pi Po Pa, the most delicate ska tune conceivable, and the stirringly romantic violin melodies of Keisuke Kikuchi’s Retro Electric. Shopping for a bodily model is important, as not all the tracks are licensed for streaming/obtain. BBT

Pat Metheny Group – Pat Metheny Group (1978)

Pat Metheny Group: San Lorenzo (stay in New York) – video

The pleasure of being a jazz neophyte means I get to take pleasure in lightning-bolt moments with the style that deliver again the mind-expanding feeling of first listening to Bowie, Bush or Pleasure Division as an adolescent. Mingus! Aki Takase! Cecil Taylor! Evidently, I’m not plotting a linear, or by any means logical, path by means of its historical past, however going purely by ear (and typically the beneficiant steerage of Guardian jazz critic John Fordham). After I first heard San Lorenzo, the opening monitor from the debut album by the Pat Metheny Group, it was as if Lee Krasner had began flinging paint round my kitchen in the drabbest days of the pandemic. It was splashy, jubilant and alive in a means I hadn’t felt in months, and made area for contemplation amid its vivid trills. The entire album expands on these themes, braving moments of just about tacky optimism (match to soundtrack my favorite form of big-city 80s movie), and balancing them with quieter, extra skittish grooves. At some point I may need the language to method this refined document by itself phrases; for now, I’m content material to enjoy its vibrancy. LS

The Marvelettes

The Marvelettes.
Hopeful high quality … The Marvelettes. {Photograph}: Dezo Hoffmann/Rex Options

I solely actually knew the Marvelettes although Bananarama’s cowl of Actually Sayin’ One thing however a point out by Elvis Costello led me to their deeper catalogue. It’s a treasure trove of songs which have grow to be extra related to later artists, equivalent to Please Mr Postman (the Carpenters), The Hunter Will get Captured By the Sport (Grace Jones) and When You’re Younger and in Love (the Flying Pickets). With Motown’s best songwriting and manufacturing groups at their disposal, the Inkster, Michigan vocal group had been clearly spoilt for songs however, with two lead singers, Wanda Younger and Gladys Horton, their supply is kind of totally different to glossier friends equivalent to the Supremes or the Ronettes. Highschool mates who shaped a gaggle initially referred to as the Casinyets (as in “We will’t sing but”), their Nineteen Sixties profession confronted setbacks from a breakdown to severe sickness (key member Georgeanna Tillman died aged simply 35), however their voices have a youthful, gleeful, hopeful high quality that I’ve discovered actually touching. DS

The Marvelettes: Please Mr Postman – video

Lonnie Liston Smith

Lonnie Liston Smith: Shadows – video

For somebody who considers themselves a rap pattern connoisseur, I’m embarrassed to confess I solely discovered Lonnie Liston Smith’s wider catalogue earlier this year. I knew the famed jazz keyboardist as the architect of 1000’s of samples in hip-hop, equivalent to the mournful keys from A Backyard of Peace that seem on Jay-Z’s Dead Presidents. I had been listening to the latter monitor and searched the authentic out of bored curiosity. The invention felt like a door opening in my thoughts. Smith’s trademark jazz-funk fusion is so expansive it borders on psychedelic, and the tune titles themselves recommend an urge to attain the fantastical. The glimmering synths of Shadows and rolling piano runs of Inside Magnificence engulf the thoughts, additionally due to the musician’s penchant for beautiful, chimerical work as cowl artwork. Most lovely of all is his dedication to bringing serenity to his listener by means of what’s not there: largely sans human vocals, his compositions are a spot the place the devices themselves discover a solution to sing. CO

A1 – Make It Good (2002)

A1: Caught in the Center – video

Everybody remembers the controversy surrounding gravel-voiced hitmaker Bob Dylan “going electrical” in 1965, however maybe we’ve all been targeted on the incorrect musical volte-face. In 2002, with seven UK High 10s below their Burton Menswear belts, Ben, Paul, Christian and Mark, AKA boyband A1, took an enormous artistic danger, ditching Identical Old Model New You’s plastic drum machines in favour of lilting full-band instrumentation. Alongside producer Mike Hedges (the Treatment, Travis), they created Make It Good, a Radio 2-focused opus that preceded Take That’s soft-rock relaunch by 4 years.

At the begin of lockdown 2020, I turned absolutely obsessive about the album’s keening lead single, Caught in the Center. All acoustic ripples, gently percolating drama and an immaculate, heaven-sent refrain melody, it tickled my mind for months. By the begin of 2021 I’d moved on to the complete album. Seems the featherlight title monitor is simply as moreish, whereas Be taught to Fly, One Final Track and Right here Comes the Rain are laser-focused boyband ballads dressed up in Coldplay’s Yellow-era saggy cords. Positive, the album flopped, and one member give up, however what’s life with out danger? MC

Itsuroh Shimoda – Love Songs and Lamentations (1973)

Itsuroh Shimoda: Everyone Anybody – video

The YouTube algorithm gifted me this on a crisp, dwindling October afternoon. Ever since, the Japanese artist’s 1974 psych-y folks/pop/rock album has acted as a comfy consolation, lightening my seasonal despair. Given a lot pop in 2021 reverted to pared-down songwriterly richness, this feels recent and well timed. Alongside the heat, intermittent prospers from vocalists Alex Easley and Vicki Sue Robinson, and the huge melody of Shimoda’s acoustic guitar and weaving piano, his personal singing flies above all of it with quiet depth. As the title suggests, these songs communicate to craving and tenderness – and although a lot of it’s in a language I don’t perceive, you’ll be able to nonetheless hear the feeling pouring straight from Shimoda’s chest – candy and unbound, fierce in its intimacy. TJ

Carter the Unstoppable Intercourse Machine

Carter the Unstoppable Intercourse Machine: The Solely Dwelling Boy in New Cross – video

Earlier than this year, the solely factor I knew about Carter the Unstoppable Intercourse Machine was that they’d a tune referred to as The Solely Dwelling Boy in New Cross, a pun on the Simon and Garfunkel classic that I discovered pleasingly bathetic, in a quintessentially British kind of means. Then, in January, I moved to New Cross and quickly the title started circling my mind on a near-daily foundation. For months I walked spherical vaguely imagining what the tune seemed like, however continually forgetting to really take heed to the factor. After I lastly did, it didn’t disappoint. Melodically rapturous, ridiculously sentimental indie-punk with eye-wateringly try-hard lyrics: the form of music I can’t assist however love. It additionally sounded extremely dated, in the best potential means: the band’s early-90s sartorial decisions – fisherman beanie, garish knitwear – could have returned to SE14, however guitar music this exuberant, earnest and gloriously embarrassing not often will get a look-in lately. RA

Steely Dan

Steely Dan: Any Main Dude Will Inform You – video

Perhaps it’s due to their important re-evaluation in recent times, their arrival at meme status thereafter, or just right down to inevitability, like the passing of time itself: I spent 2021 absorbed by the vibrant, fabulist yacht rock sound of Steely Dan. I used to be a fan earlier than I knew I used to be, due to De La Soul’s genius interpretation of Peg. Although the authentic stays an irresistibly enjoyable story detailing the distance between ex-lovers (as does Reelin’ in the Years, from the reverse finish), the Dan are at their most lovely when taking part in the a part of commiserating pal.

They’re performing in unhealthy religion at occasions – the insincere coaxing of Rikki Don’t Lose That Quantity and the self-pitying, assumed camaraderie of Midnite Cruiser, for instance. However a pal is a pal, and no higher help has been prolonged, no higher recommendation provided than on Any Main Dude Will Inform You. In one other year that feels misplaced to world despair, spent preventing dropping battles and properly, feeling like a loser, I’ve taken solace in taking part in their Rikki, their Felonius, their funky one. TA

Eliane Radigue – Trilogie de la Mort (1994)

Eliane Radigue: Kailasha – video

My 2021 Spotify Wrapped is a brutally sincere, hilarious evaluation of what I’ve been as much as this year: pacifying a toddler in the automobile (The Lion King soundtrack, a Spice Women best-of) and writing a ebook (Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon and different mood-softening ambient epics on countless repeat). However Eliane Radigue’s Trilogie de le Mort – one other common – has supplied one thing extra significant than a easy playlist to accompany work. Impressed by the six states of consciousness in the Tibetan Ebook of the Useless, it might probably silence the noise in my head, serving to me lose myself solely in the unbelievable magnificence and simultaneous unease of Radigue’s ARP synthesiser drones. I’d admired different works by her in live performance earlier than, however my consideration usually wandered, craving brighter melodies and rhythms. Now not. On my headphones at evening at my laptop computer, I marvel at how a contemporary instrument can create such guttural, primordial reverberations. JR

Which historic music gems did you uncover this year? Share your new-to-you revelations in the feedback.

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