[14] Neneh Cherry, ‘Spit Three Times’


Junior 3 says we should’ve played this at Christmas. She then sings ‘Jingle Bells’ in a vaguely similar tempo, which is odd because there’s nothing festive or jolly about ‘Spit Three Times’, a song that explicitly references the “black dog in the corner”, the manifestation of Neneh Cherry’s depression after the death of her mother. Maybe it’s just that we remember lost ones at this time of year.

Cherry seemed like a lost one for so long. This year’s fantastic Blank Project is her first pure solo album in 17 years – she’s edged in here and there, notably going jazz freakout with The Thing in 2012 – but even a little bruised it was a strong, confident record, helped along by Kieran Hebden and RocketNumberNine. One of my stellar moments of 2014 was interviewing Cherry in a pub in Kensal Rise, where she’d taken time out from a friend’s wake to talk about the new album. That’s a punishing schedule that says a lot about the demands of trying to muscle back into the public eye, but she really wanted to talk about this – something that meant a great deal to her –and even understandably distracted, she was generous and lovely company.

Junior thinks this is “good, in a slooow motion way,” which is how we all described trip-hop in the early 90s. Cherry’s woven into the fabric of all that, as Massive Attack’s babymother in the late-80s, and into the Bristol sound in all its variety as a Rip, Rig & Panic pioneer even earlier. Gareth Sager of RR&P even barged into the interview halfway through, asking to sit on my lap. Old habits die hard.

[10] Haim, ‘Falling’


“We were pretending to be them,” says Junior and she’s right. Look, I’ve got three daughters, I can be a Mr Haim or Mathew Knowles too – the kindly Svengali putting his daughters on the stage, Mrs Worthington, and supplementing his pension. That Junior and her sisters attempt to be Haim with a plastic microphone, plastic keyboard (set to ‘Jingle Bells’) and a plastic guitar (with a dozen pre-programmed riffs) is neither here nor there. You have to start somewhere.

Everyone yaps on about Fleetwood Mac when they talk Haim – possibly subliminally influenced by their vicious ‘Oh Well’ cover – but they’re three Sophie B Hawkinses, aren’t they, peddling catchy pop with a gung-ho rock touch. ‘Falling’ has a dexterous earworm chorus and half a dozen of the 139 “I know”s peppered across Days Are Gone, and the top two Juniors sing as much as they can keep up with. Now, major labels, you know where I am.

[11] Goldie, ‘Inner City Life’

Apart from enjoying 4Hero’s messaround with ‘Mr Kirk’s Nightmare’ in the early ‘90s and enduring a terrifying hungover experience in a Brixton café one Sunday morning in 1993, I was never at the sharp end of jungle – or indeed its refined descendant, drum ‘n’ bass. But I like a bit of Omni Trio and, er, Marcus Intalex, and, well, this. I’m sure I’m committing all sorts of genre offences (there’s rarely been a more heavily policed form of dance music), but that’s what we’ll call this – drum ‘n’ bass.

Or jazz, let’s face it. Goldie’s urban odyssey is pilled-up, snare-fuelled jazz. It’s also thrilling; not that you’d know this from Junior’s response. She stayed resolutely down the other end of the room, playing a grotesquely speeded-up preset ‘Jingle Bells’ on her shocking pink keyboard. Yeah, yeah, you could hardly tell which was Goldie.