We’re not usually big on self-aggrandisement or mythologising. More or less, we just do one thing — we rate pop songs out of ten — but we love it and we do it well. We don’t pay attention to the consensus around us; we build our own (sometimes, but we often disagree). And we’ve now been doing it for five years.
Of course the story of the Jukebox goes back further than that. We started as a pair of columns on Stylus, one for UK singles and one for US singles, which ran until the site closed in 2007. A chance meeting between two writers in a pub led to a few emails going across the globe, and all of a sudden the band was back together, just like we’d never split up. Sure, our friends at Pitchfork began to focus on individual tracks in earnest a month earlier, stealing our thunder somewhat, but we’ll always have the extra decimal place.
In the last five years, there have been nearly 3400 songs covered from over 60 countries, with about 30,000 individual paragraph-long reviews from us adding up to about 2,000,000 (two million) words. It’d take you a week solid to read the site from front to back. We don’t recommend you do that, so here are some highlights from our first five years. Feel free to share your own in the comments!
Here’s to another five just like these.
Happy birthday to the blog that’s hosted my musings for nearly two years now! Also shoutout to myself for creating those fun ‘n’ fresh banners featuring each of the year’s champions.
I may like the new Rita Ora single? Like, maybe a lot? What is going on?
ETA: Wait it was produced by Calvin Harris but doesn’t sound like you’d expect that to sound!!! WHAT IS GOING ON
Sohn – Tremors
I don’t care that Pitchfork hated this. I’m similarly disinterested in finding out why I find Sohn’s distillation of glitch&B-via-James Blake et al. far more compelling than the source material. There are some other reference points – some Nigel Godrich drums here, some Rhye vocal affects there – that endear Tremors to me. The sounds are unique, the rhythms tricky, and the vocals are straining to push past it all. I’ve hinted before at my predilection toward male voices that aren’t quite there; I’m sure it’s pure empathy on my part. “Paralysed” feels like something that will destroy me soon but hasn’t yet. A slightly detuned piano plinks along as a vacuum sucks up beats around Sohn, who’s lying on the floor, paralyzed. It follows, appropriately, with “Fool,” opening with an angrily throbbing bass and twinkling bells. Lest one think that Tremors is all beatless, there are fine pop moments to round it out: “Lights” is a solid tech-house piece, and the clattering single “Artifice” finds Sohn truly owning his sound.
Betty Who – Slow Dancing EP
As the title suggests, these songs are a slower affair than The Movement. Indeed, “Heartbreak Dream” is the most propulsive offering here. The rest of the songs are strong testimony for Betty Who’s songwriting skills, though ultimately there’s nothing that stands out wildly like “High Society” did. It’s always a thrill to hear more from her. “Alone Again” is charming, but the double meaning of the title (in the verses, one person is left alone; in the chorus, Betty Who yearns to be alone again with someone) is sneaky. “Lovin’ Start” seems more geared toward the indie sphere; interestingly, it’s also the rare moment where Betty’s typical vocal processing falls away, and we can hear her clean voice up close. The guitar ode “Silas” at the end is an obvious choice, but it gives the EP a lovely moment of pause. As a standalone EP, Slow Dancing does the job (though that’s it), but with The Movement, it helps to round out her oeuvre.
Ms. D – “My Pen”
I imagine this is where the Dawn Richard comparisons are coming from. Like “Black Lipstick,” “My Pen” is an anxious drum ’n’ bass song that ruminates on the darker side of fame. For Ms. D, she fears critics who want to tear her down and make her quit (surrendering her tool, her pen) which, sure, one could extrapolate to hating on “haters.” Nonetheless, I adore this song. Its meaning seems specific to the concept of celebrity (“Should I cut my nose to spite my face?” she asks), but it’s been taking a very personal meaning for me this week. I can extend the critics to include any group of disparate people who are judging, cutting, and threatening to destroy me. “My Pen” succeeds because of its determination; she hasn’t lost yet, and the driving beats are pushing her forward. I’ve had this on repeat since Tuesday. And it’s got a beautiful music video to boot.
(there’s another album that I’ve fallen in love with that I haven’t mentioned here, but I’m going to give it its own space)
It’s sunny and warm enough for me to go for a run today, which, by my standards, means spring. Here are my top 10 songs I’ve loved from the first 1/4 of the year, arranged in rough order.
No idea how this’ll look by the end of the year, but I’m pretty satisfied so far.