[18] The Avalanches, ‘Because I’m Me’


There are people who’d have gone from reception to graduation in the time it took The Avalanches to get off their sample-clearing backsides and release a second album. I kept a faith that was looking increasingly stupid, wishful and, frankly, futile all those years, but was improbably repaid. Wildflower – I’m not going to review it now; I did that quite comprehensively here – was almost everything I wanted, and certainly good enough to top my 2016 list, even if half that impetus was powered by nostalgia.

Nostalgia – that’s what The Avalanches are built on. ‘Because I’m Me’, Wildflower’s riotous, sunshine intro, pulls from The Honey Cone and 1950s street sounds to recreate The Jackson 5 (with some J Walter Negro-style block party rap) and makes you hug yourself to have them back.

“Ohhh Frankie Sinatra,” sings J2 because she knows what’s coming next, but not here. J1 likes the anonymous kid’s voice. That’s the feedback. The rest is dancing.

[5] Manic Street Preachers, ‘So Why So Sad (Sean Penn Mix – Avalanches)

Is this really the done thing? Heroes of the year, The Avalanches took the Manics’ dreary and slightly odd Showaddywaddyesque plodder and kicked out the stinking chorus, droning Nicky Wire echoed vocal lines, misplaced moog and general sense of melodic dead-end – and replaced all the tired parts with Beach Boys glitter, sun-kissed Hawaiian keyboard strokes and chugging percussion, creating a dizzily gorgeous seaside twilight happy mix. Then they named it after Sean Penn. Pure crazed genius. It’s just a pity for the Preachers that these Aussie samplesmiths couldn’t be around every day. Pity for us too – think of the records we would have been spared.

Junior stood before me, wielding a plastic sword. That might have been how The Avalanches did it, come to think.

[19] The Avalanches, ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’

Junior ran the rule over this yesterday, on her third birthday. She’s come a long way since she was ruthlessly tearing a strip off Julie Andrews and Antipop Consortium (separate singles, not some breathtaking minimalist hip-hop/prim-yet-somehow-racy-nun mash-up) when she was 20 weeks old. Her critical faculties have sharpened, perhaps, but right now she dances to pretty much everything, willy-nilly. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ witnessed some wiggling about and a dashed-off mime to a violin sample, before she returned to the more demanding matter of unwrapping piles of presents.

It’s a silly record, representative of its parent album Since I Left You only by dint of the ear-popping collage of samples. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ is a bit Fatboy Slim; Since I Left You is warm, inspired, mood-driven and dazzling. If I were the type to stat these things up and make list upon list – and I am – I’d say it’s not just the album of 2001, it’s the album of the century so far. From the thrilling four-song build-up to ‘A Different Feeling’ to the gorgeous come-down of ‘Summer Crane’, ‘Etoh’ and ‘Three Kings’, it’s a seamless tapestry of ideas, emotions and balls-out party fun. Where’s the follow-up, lads? If they’re making one – and they occasionally insist they are, still – they must be clearing even more samples this time.

As the vinyl presence in charity shops starts to dwindle, you have to fear for The Avalanches’ source material. I might beat them to the punch myself, cutting up rough with those 93 BBC sound effects 7”s I bought in Oxfam last year…

[11] Gomez, ‘Rhythm & Blues Alibi’


Does anyone listen to minidiscs anymore? My Sony player is about eight years old now, and the clearest and sharpest-sounding walkman I’ve ever owned, but it’s still been booted into touch by the inferior mp3 player. Now I can carry 40 gig of music around in my metrosexual manbag; who can resist that?

We shared great days, the MZ-R50 and I. There was that time I recorded The Avalanches’ album onto a minidisc, and listened to it. And the time I wrote “Remain In Light” in pretty letters on another disc, and listened to that too. And the time the record function broke, and I tried to replace it with one of those swanky Net MD players. It was rubbish, so I returned to the old faithful. Ah, I’m welling up.

I’m sure there’s a withering insight into our attention-deficit society here – something about one album not being enough for a 35-minute commute nowadays – but I’ll leave that to the style mags.

Oh, Gomez. Bring It On is the only album I bought on minidisc. This single’s from their second album, it’s a beauty and very big with Junior.  In fact it appeals to all girls. No, I can’t back this up with anything so prissy as proof.

[1] Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx, ‘Gold Digger’

It’s funny, clever, catchy, singalong and groovy. It has chutzpah in bags. I mean, it kicks off with a Ray Charles sample and then has the bloke who played him in the film repeating the sample throughout the track. That must show chutzpah. Or it’s a legal issue.

We can’t stop ourselves dancing to this. Junior is having a go at the move that Kanye’s so pleased with in the video. You know, the one where he jerks back and to the side, elbow leading, as if a particularly appealing lady has just gone by at speed. You can tell that he’s practised it in the mirror countless times and has come to the conclusion that he looks pretty fly doing it. Junior looks fairly fresh too. Mum and Dad give it a whirl as well, and we become quite the coolest family on the block.

The album’s not as good as his debut, despite what the latecomer critics might tell you, but the peaks are loftier. ‘Gold Digger’ is the highest of these, and “we want pre-nup!” is the winning shout. I mean, it’s so romantic. Yet Kanye does still love her, faults and all, not caring a jot how jiggy she’s got with Usher and Busta. They’re fine upstanding chaps, after all.

That’s it, then. In the albums, Kate Bush edges out the Arcade Fire, but you knew that already. Junior’s looking forward to 2006 now, choosing a new theme for January and maybe getting a few of those requests out of the way. She’ll buy the Belle & Sebastian and Strokes albums, expecting nothing too exciting, and will continue pestering the Avalanches for new material.

Merry Christmas.