Dear Sirs (let’s not kid ourselves here)
I am writing to you all on behalf of one Mr Bingo Little esq.
I cannot, with any certainty, forecast the extent of the cache which herein remains affixed to that name, but I am assured that in the not-too-distant past it constituted an iron-clad vouchsafe of quality such that all doors would open, hearts would flutter and underwear would drop upon its mere utterance. I trust that remains the case and that, accordingly, each of you will voraciously consume what follows, moist with tremulous anticipation.
You will, of course, all be aware that – via a combination of villain circumstance and fickle providence – Mr Little’s attentions have, necessarily, for some time been diverted elsewhere, and that in that interim the Afterword Blog has become unto him as melody to The Fall; a sadly neglected acquaintance. Nonetheless! The festive season remains the perfect opportunity for a man to step back and consider all that he has overlooked in the months preceding, and it is in that spirit that Mr Little has acted entirely in accordance with his status as a member of the much vaunted Metropolitan Liberal Elite, and entrusted to me, his faithful manservant, the most solemn task of attending to the blog and visiting upon it what I’m certain will be a most anticipated end of year retrospective.
Before attending to the matter at hand, I must offer the following rejoinder. In the course of my preparations for the appointed task, I naturally conducted some considerable research into the contents of the blog; paying particular attention to its manners (or lack thereof), its central preoccupations and themes. I noted, in particular, that it is now convention for visitations of former dignitaries to be accompanied by plangent statements as to the condition of the Blog. In that spirit, I cheerfully note that your musical tastes are anodyne in the extreme, your resistance to modernity alarming, and that your cowardly aversion to cultural friction of any sort has rendered you collectively dull and diminished. I trust that these statements will suffice to satisfy one and all, and to meet the requirements of tradition.
With those formalities now attended to, we turn to the matter at hand. Mr Little has considered this an excellent year for new music. This may surprise some. It may horrify others. It certainly discomfited me. For those of a similar bent, I can recommend only that you bear in mind that my employer is a man of considerable talents, and that one of those talents is his engagement in a perpetual and successful lowering of the bar. Nonetheless, he has assured me that these recommendations will be received, as in previous years, with near rabid pleasure and delight, and so it is in full confidence that I bequeath unto you….
Bingo Little’s Best of 2019 Playlist
Per the request of my benefactor, and much against my own wishes, I have included in respect of each of the following a brief note of my thoughts. Taken together, they form an account of an afternoon so harrowing that I found myself adding a hitherto unheard of second tablespoon of sugar to my evening tea.
1. Sunglasses (edit) – Black Country, New Road
Mr Little confidently proclaimed that this song would already be the subject of some fevered excitement in these pages, featuring as it does “real instruments and other old fashioned shit”. What, to me, appears to be an atonal racket punctuated by the lurid yelpings of a madman, is considered by my employer to be “the year’s single most quotable record” and “a proper tune, with a riff that makes you want to start the revolution”. Not for the first time, I find myself forced to ask the question: can overly tight jeans affect the blood supply to the brain?
2. Funeral – Miguel
I am assured that this song is akin to an imagined collaboration between something referred to as “Sexy Back-era Timberlake” and Prince. This gratifies me, because I have heard of Prince; I feel he was subject to considerable rough treatment by Emily Maitlis, thought I doubt the necessary apologies are forthcoming.
3. Keisha & Becky (Remix) – RussMB, Tion Wayne
I must confess that I am writing this section of the year end review under some considerable duress. So irresistible did Mr Little consider this offering to be that he was insistent we sit and listen to it together. I had hoped that its somewhat menacing opening would yield to music of an altogether sunnier disposition, but was swiftly disabused of this notion by the lyrics, such as they are. I am unsure at to the life conditions which have prepared Mr Little to enthuse over – ahem – poetry quite as abject as “baby shake up your bum bum”, much less “big big big big up my chocolate darling”, but suffice it to say that I consider this record to be simply abhorrent. Mr Little, however, is – I am assured – a man of the people, and he has asked me to inform you that Keisha & Becky is “2019’s gold plated banger” and “a record that every Afterworder should listen to and attempt to live their life by”. I must apologise. I can only apologise.
4. Back to Basics – Headie One
Apparently, this song features an appearance by an artist named “Skepta”, who should be familiar to you all. I am forced to admit that, to the extent he is a great artist, I found it difficult to detect his hand at work in this, another shallow and aggressive shouting match between various angry men. If any positive can be taken, it’s in the section in which one of the vocalists proclaims a desire to “switch off my iphone, back to basics”. Which of us has not recoiled from technology’s dread touch and dreamed of a simpler time in which thoughts are best expressed by quill and parchment, with all the dignity and esprit de corps that entails?
5. Audacity – Stormzy
One hates to quaver in the face of duty, but I am afraid to report that this exercise has begun to take on some of the character of a regrettable practical joke. I am assured that Mr Stormzy is a cultural titan whose every utterance serves to form the lingua franca of a generation. Sadly, I am not of said generation. But then, perplexingly, nor is Mr Little. Clearly, it would be beyond the pale to question the character of one’s employer, but suffice it to say that an eyebrow has been arched at the prospect of a man of his advanced years “rinsing” such music in his “whip”. I think I may need a cold compress.
6. OK OK – JB Scofield
I must admit to having approached this song with much greater anticipation than those which preceded it. JB Scofield was a favourite school master of mine; his histories of pastoral England were as tender but occasionally biting as his own use of the birch. I cannot begin to communicate to you the delight which filled my heart at the prospect that he might have turned his considerable talents to matters musical. I cannot say with absolute certainty that this song is not his handiwork, but I can certainly confirm that the man I knew would seem incapable of having penned anything so vulgar. Predictably, Mr Little adds to my growing despair by pointedly referring to this as “a bop”.
7. No Diet – Digga D
Again, I found myself disappointed here. I had come to this listing expecting a paean to the body positivity movement, instead of which I was treated to what sounds alarmingly like a to-do list for a miscreant engaged in the preparation and distribution of illicit pharmaceuticals. With as close as I can politely come to a curled lip, I pointed out to Mr Little that some or all of what is described in the lyrics is almost certainly illegal. He seemed unmoved, and offered in response a statement that the song “slaps”. He also – and I really can’t stress this enough – insisted that I post the attached (see foot of missive), a charmless internet fabrication pairing the song with far more innocent visuals, which he declared, seemingly without irony, to be “the musical moment of 2019”.
8. Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot – JPEG Mafia
On to matters spiritual. Having listened to this song I remain none the wiser what a “thot” might be, but I can only assume it denotes some form of moral corruption. As abrasive and downright worrying as some of the sounds and imagery contained herein may be, I for one take succour in the knowledge that at least one young person still has sufficient decency and shame to cast themselves to the feet of the almighty and beg for absolution.
9. Psycho – Denzel Curry and Slowthai
I’m afraid that I was forced to turn this down because it startled my cat. And by “startled”, I’m afraid I mean “killed”.
10. Headwreck – Press Club
A welcome relief, showcasing as it does a female voice. Albeit a female voice in what appears to be a state of perpetual pain. At this stage in proceedings, I was at least able to relate somewhat.
11. Seventeen – Sharon Van Etten
This tickled me somewhat, as several years ago I spent an enjoyable Summer in the employ of Baron Van Etten and his family. Safely cocooned in his retreat in the Swiss Alps I witnessed the family enjoy countless charming games of charades, conduct their domestic affairs (some of which produced illicit children of which I was later charged with disposing) and occasionally descend on horseback upon the local village, drunk on their own power and thirsty for the blood of peasants. I have to admit that I rather allowed this song to pass me by as I spent four minutes in a dreamlike reverie, reliving those golden days. I wonder to myself whether Sharon Van Etten might be a direct descendant of the same lineage. On reflection, I suspect it rather likely to be the case. Glorious.
12. Happy Not Knowing – Carly Rae Jepsen
This song was upbeat and pleasant enough. I will concede that occasionally I may have solemnly tapped a foot in the listening. I must extend thanks to Messrs Carly, Rae and Jepsen, for between them they have succeeded in crafting a song far less vulgar than anything else that has graced the list so far.
13. In My Room – Frank Ocean
I found this song oddly redolent of my own professional life. Who among the brotherhood of professional dogsbodies has not at some point watched on in deferential respect as their employer has declared his intention to enter a period of seclusion in his quarters? Always a tender moment between master and servant, possessed of an almost electric charge which this offering tenderly duplicated. It produced in me a confusing swirl of emotions which I could address only through later self-flagellation.
14. Wasted Youth – Jenny Lewis
I have to confess to having taken umbrage at this. “I wasted my life, on a poppy” quails Ms Lewis, in what appears to be a direct attempt to dismiss or otherwise undermine what I understand to be one of life’s great joys; the smoking of opium. If granted an audience with Ms Lewis I would observe that what she considers to be a “waste”, others regard as a vital daily constitutional, without which it would be quite impossible to bear the rigours of overseeing a vast country estate and all the many and varifold responsibilities that come along with such a position. It’s moments like this that one really does fear for the younger generation.
15. OMG – Gryffin
The very essence of boundless youthful lust and energy. Most regrettable.
16. Violence – Grimes
Listening to this, I could not help but be reminded of the occasion on which a particularly insolent chambermaid spiked my evening cocoa with a military grade horse tranquiliser. Unaware of this sordid turn of events, I went about my nightly routine in blissful ignorance until becoming party to an excruciatingly embarrassing conversation with my then employer which I am only relating here under heavy heavy duress. After serving his lordship’s brandy I took the highly unusual step of informing him that I found the music to which he was listening quite delightful, and asking as to its provenance. He looked at me in startled alarm and observed that he was not listening to any music, and that I would be a damn fool to think otherwise. I was horrified, but pressed my case – could he not hear the sweet melody, sounding as it did as if it had been emitted from the very larynx of a swooning angel? It later transpired that what I had heard as music had, in fact, been the flatulent explosions of his lordship’s dog, lolling idly by the fire, transformed by my addled ears to sounds so utterly blissful that the almighty himself would have wept. Oh, the humiliation. Needless to say, I left the castle that very night and spent six months wandering the woods in search of absolution. This song reminds me of the canine flatulence, and is therefore deeply appalling to me.
17. The Greatest – Lana Del Rey
It is always profoundly saddening to hear a young lady in such obvious distress. I can only hope that whatever is ailing Ms Del Rey is swiftly remedied. That is all.
18. Manifest – Andrew Bird
Naturally, I own everything Andrew Bird has ever recorded. His best since Noble Beast? I think so.
19. Light Years
All a bit namby pamby, isn’t it?
20. Moonlight Motel – Bruce Springsteen
A new name to me. I once met a “Bryan” – perhaps “Bruce” is some sort of variant? Regardless, I found this oddly moving, the singer’s voice possessed as it is of a sort of working man’s authenticity that one rarely enjoys in the rarified climes to which I have long since become accustomed. I can only assume he is a doorman or common labourer of some variant, taking a brief respite from his toils in an attempt to earn an additional penny via the medium of song. More power to him (provided that he does not lost sight of his station).
21. I’ve Been Dazed – Michael Kiwanuka
Mr Little informs me that including this song on the list will be, at this juncture, akin to “throwing a bone to a mangey pack of starving dogs”. I trust that makes sense to all of you.
22. Invincible – Tool
I drew some comfort from arriving at the last song on the list. Had I glanced at its length, I may have felt otherwise. For me, this was interminable, and I speak as one who once rose to attention during a visit from the Queen Mother and stood, fully erect and proud before her regal splendour, frozen in fulsome salute, for the duration of the period during which she and I co-occupied the same room. It was the longest afternoon nap I have ever witnessed.
Well, there we have it. I must confess; in my career I have been party to depravities and injustices that would shock even the hardiest of souls, but never have I found myself so driven to ask serious questions about the mind and soul of my erstwhile employer. Mr Little has been exceedingly generous with me over the last few months, and I have grown fond of him and his ways, but – much as it pains me to consider it – I must confess that this exercise has rather strained our professional relationship. In fact, as I write these final words I find myself wishing he had asked for my assistance in a rather more normal endeavour; the disguise and disappearance of a firstborn, perhaps? Or maybe the disposal of a corpse? This…. This has been of an altogether different flavour.
As I step out into the evening air to ponder the future, I thank each and every one of you for your time and patience. Mr Little had assured me that your docility, not to mention your choked pipeline of quality content, was such that you were likely to read every golden word of this entry, but I have to confess to having had little faith in that promise.
All that remains is to which each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and leave you to return to your witterings.
The Office of B.Little esq.