Words & selections by Balearic Mike.
I know we’re now into 2022, and lots of people have already bombarded you with their best of 2021 lists, but I like the year to actually finish before I decide what were the best records I listened to, and besides, I was busy drinking and eating over the holidays. Anyway, I hope you don’t think it’s too late for one last look over your shoulder at the year that’s just gone. I figured if I got it to Rob before January ended it would just about still feel relevant.
Although 2020 was a strong contender for shitshow of the century, if anything 2021 managed to ‘up’ the shitshow factor, with me getting a diagnosis of skin cancer just before Christmas 2020. But what gets you through tough times – why records of course, and there were loads of bloody good ones to cheer us all up.
This is a very loose set of lists, as I’m not one of these people who’s a particular stickler for release dates, etc. Also, you have the sometimes huge lag between a digital release and the physical record arriving, which has taken on epic proportions in the last two years. If I bought it in 2021, and I listened to it in 2021, it’s in the 2021 chart. My lists, my rules.
All lists are in no particular order, except where stated, although if you’re in the top 5, you’re definitely one of my favourites!
NEW SINGLES – 7s, 10s, and 12s
I’d be hard pushed to pick a number one favourite out of the top 10 records in this list. Considering I didn’t really buy any ‘dance’ records this year, I sure bought some great ‘dance’ records! Archeo pile in with a late contender for the top spot, with a bit of a change for the label, in that it isn’t a classic old Italian record, but rather a track by a contemporary artist, with a ball busting set of remixes. My pick is the ‘Mushrooms Project Disco Maxi Single Mix’, which brings to mind cosmic, nu-beat and Italo-disco vibes and sounds like it was made specifically for the dancefloor at ALFOS, or maybe an Adriatic boat party. The Gabriels record is hi-tek soul music of stunning quality, which I spent the entire year listening to digitally – well worth waiting a year for a re-press! On any other day / year Common Saints – probably my most played single – since Balearic Wife approves- Alex Kassian, Craig Bratley, Cole, Akio, Falle or Andy Meecham, all could have taken the crown. There’s loads of gorgeous mellow stuff on those nice little ones as well, as I finally signed up to the Wonderfulsevens club. A very solid year.
Sara Loreni – Neve A Maggio (Mushroom Project Mixes) – Archeo Recordings 12”
Gabriels – Love And Hate In A Different Time – Atlas Artists / Parlophone 12”
Alex Kassian – Leave Your Life / Spirit Of Eden – Pinchy & Friends 12”
Craig Bratley feat. Amy Douglas – No In Between – Magic Feet 10”
Falle Nioke & Ghost Culture – Youkounkoun EP – PRAH Recordings
Cole Odin feat. Eddie C. – Little Boxes (40 Thieves Version feat. Guavatron) – Leng Records12”
The Emperor Machine & Severine Mouletin – Dance Par Amor – Leng Records 12”
JARV IS – Swanky Modes (Dennis Bovell Remixes) – Rough Trade 7”
JARV IS – House Music All Night Gonz (Chilly Gonzalez Remix) – Rough Trade 12”
Amanda Whiting – Little Sunflower EP – Jazzman 10”
Jah Wobble – Old Jewish East End Of London / Lovers Rock Dub – Jah Wobble Records 12”
Jpye & Renato – Cosa Ti Va – Claremont 56 7”
Peggy Gou feat. OHHYUK – Nabi – Gudu Records 7”
Arthur Melo – 2012, o Ano Bege – Wonderfulsound 7”
Sometime Songs – Shooting Stars / Borderline – Wonderfulsound 7”
Laura Groves – A Private Road EP – Bella Union 12”
Rheinzand – Obey (Hardway Brothers Stereo Odyssey Mix) – Music For Dreams 12”
The Sweet Enoughs – Weekend At Brian’s / Lena’s Song – Wonderfulsound 7”
Marcus Lopes – Despedida – Wonderfulsound 7”
There were some excellent releases this year, with SAULT sitting at the top spot, simply because it’s probably the most listened to LP, because Balearic wife loves it as well. Ditto the Little Sims album. It’s been a very laidback year for home listening, with surprise of the year coming from the Nashville Ambient Ensemble, and with just one LP of club bangers from Ms. Murphy. Extra marks go to Mark Rae, who’s beautiful LP of deep, melancholic house “subconscious Balearic” (subconscious my arse!) and electronica came with a bonus CD extended ‘ambient’ mix of the album, and a fucking great novel as well. Well canny!
Sault – NINE – Forever Living Originals
Little Simz – Sometimes I Might Be Introvert – Age 101 Music
Jane Weaver – Flock – Fire Records
Mark Rae – The Caterpillar Club Soundtrack – Marks Music
Leo Almunia – Minor Circle – Claremont 56
Nashville Ambient Ensemble – Cerulean – Centrifugal Force
Cleo Sol – Mother – Forever Living Originals
Sven Wunder – Wabi Sabi – Piano Piano
Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Mas – Banana & Louie Records
Velour – Velour – Wolf Music
Roisin Murphy – Crooked Machine – Skint
Warpaint – The Fool (Andrew Weatherall Mix) – Rough Trade
REISSUE SINGLES, REMIXES, AND RE-EDITS
Again, Archeo pile in with a stunning reissue of two tracks that I didn’t even know I needed, with excellent remixes from Leo Mas and Fabrice. Staying on the Italo tip, Casco’s Cybernetic Love gets a great re-work from Danilo Braca into Cyberlover – an imaginative update with great strings and a slower tempo. Kenneth Bager`s new Age Orchestra finally got a reissue, while Eddie C provided a great house’d up version of that live bootleg of Prince. Trunk were at it again with more excellence from Roger Webb, Viva La Musique has a couple of excellent entries, while Re:Warm released another beautiful package with the original and Quiet Village remixes of Winston Neale’s soulful masterpiece.
Prince / Eddie C – Forever In My Life (Eddie C’s Schneller 7” Mix) / Believe In Love – Bump’n Grind 7”
The New Age Orchestra – Let’s Dream Together – Music For Dreams
Winston Neale – Sinnerman (Quiet Village Mixes) – Re: Warm 12”
Casco – Cybernetic Love / Cyberlover – House Of Music 12”
Roger Webb – Shadows Of Fear – Trunk Records 7”
Jika Jika – The Boogie Man – Viva La Musique 7”
B;Dum B:Dum sound – Do / Don’t (feat. Istanbul) – Mysticisms 10”
Roisin Murphy & Crooked Man – The First Narcissus – Bitter End Records
Jean Luc Ponty – In the Fast Lane – Viva La Musique 12”
Donna Summer – I Feel Love Medley (Edit By Francois K) – Sunshine Sound 10”
Sylvester – You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (Soulwax For Despacio Remix) – Soulwax 12”?
Chico Mann – Come Inside / Sorrow Tears And Blood – Ubiquity 7”
Sam – American Cars / Life – Wah Wah 45 12”
Passion Theatre – Strange Desire / Mannequin – Spacetalk 2×12”
REISSUE ALBUMS AND ANTHOLOGIES
It`s been a challenging year for the bank balance, with some expensive boxsets in the mix. Arthur Russell is definitely up on top, as I’ve longed for a nice reissue of Another Thought for ages. I would say the top six here are probably the most played records this year. Odd that Prince and The Beatles aren’t higher, but the Prince LPs aren’t anywhere near his best work – although Welcome 2 America is way better than most of the reviews made out. The Beatles Let It Be / Get Back boxset however surpassed my expectations. I often dismiss this album as disappointing, but the beautiful job they made of putting it together, especially the bonus double LP of outtakes and rehearsals, acts as a beautiful companion piece to Peter Jackson’s wonderful documentary, and made me fall in love with the record all over again. My wonderful wife treated me to the Fela Kuti boxset for Christmas, and some of the LPs therein are just staggering. Don’t be put off by it having Chris “Coldplay” Martin`s name on the cover, it’s all killer. I have definitely been in quite a library music / soundtrack / jazz frame of mind for much of the year, while it was great to have the Fila Brazillia LP on vinyl for the first time. Pork Recordings` output was the reason I finally bought a CD player in about `94 / 95.
Arthur Russell – Another Thought – Be With Records
Rober Webb – Bartleby OST – Trunk Records
Fela Kuti – Box Set 5 – Knitting Factory Records
Jay Richford & Gary Stevens – Feelings – Be With Records
Amancio D’silva – Konkan Dance – Roundtable
The Beatles – Let It Be / Get Back (Deluxe Edition) – Apple
Nino Nardini & Roger Roger – Jungle Obsession – Farfalla Records
Prince – The Truth – NPG Records Inc.
Prince – Welcome 2 America – NPG Records Inc.
Roy Budd – The Marseille Contract OST – Beatball Records
Rubinho E Mauro Assumpção – Perfeitamente, Justamente Quando Cheguei – Tony Records / American Music
Fila Brazillia – Luck Be A Weirdo Tonight – Fila Brazillia
Blackbeard – I Wah Dub – More Cut Records
The Durutti Column – Deux Triangles – Factory Benelux
I didn’t buy many, but the quality is outstanding. I’ve already written previously about the superb Home compilation on Re:Warm – probably my record of the year – and the two compilations of simply stunning `80s and `90s Japanese Music, and I also posted photo of the superb Bruton Records compilation from Trunk Records, which takes an interesting detour into the more ambient, atmospheric sounds of the label, rather than the funky stuff which normally gets talked about and featured. I listened to that solidly for the first few months of the year – very wintery sounds – that I have dug out again to play. Ritmo Fantasia takes the novel idea of actually putting some Spanish records into the context of the Balearic sound, and is a beautiful package, both music and stunning artwork. The Naya Beat comp has a few numbers I’m not so keen on, but the hits are very big hits, with the superb cover of State Of Independence a highlight.
Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds Of Japan 1980-1988 – Light In The Attic
Bruton Brutoff: The Ambient, Electronic and Pastoral Sounds of the Bruton Library Catalogue – Trunk Records
Naya Beat Volume 1: South Asian Dance And Electronic Music 1983 – 1992 – Naya Beat Records
You know I’m not a fan of digital. If it’s digital versions of records I own, then that’s fine, but otherwise the music just gets lost in the ether for me. However, one of my favourite tracks of the year was this wonderful thing from Begin, which will almost certainly never see the light of day on vinyl. Put some bloody records out Jim.
Begin – Hey Joe