OK. So this is it. The last week of the league. We had forty one entries this week so, mathematically, only three people can still win: Picky Bastards, William Mallin, and Sleepy.
I struggled with whether to do Z or not. Each week I think about what I would nominate* and Z was definitely the hardest week, I think. There really aren’t that many bands beginning with Z. In the end I decided to loosen the rules somewhat, and accept anything that people could justify as a Z. Most of you came up with a band beginning with Z but, honestly, I wish more of you had cheated. Halfway through my second Frank Zappa album of the week I would have bitten your hand off for the chance to listen to something by She & Him or Rage Against the Machine. Half way through my third I would have looked upon One Direction pretty favourably. There is such a thing as too much Frank Zappa.
*For the record, I would probably have nominated The Greatest Showman soundtrack (on the basis that it features a duet by Zac Efron and Zendaya) (and also because it absolutely bangs and/or slaps to the maximum, hashtag don’t @ me etc). There were two other albums I thought about but we’ll get to them in a minute…
My mate Rob nominated Misekake by Jaguar No Me
Mostly because (I think) his brother is the record label (or works for the record label, or something something record label) that is releasing it. It’s a very good album, but his brother didn’t come up with a reason why I should accept it as a Z, so I can’t award it any points. Soz.
(I was also aware that if any of you had lost out on the title because I had assigned points to what is essentially a plug for a mate [you can find the album by clicking on the word bandcamp btw and I recommend you do if you are a fan of “Japanese cinematic psychedelia and garage punk”] you would, rightly, have been quite annoyed. So I didn’t do that.)
Right, that’s enough free promotion for other people’s stuff. Let’s award some points.
Graeme (except not our Graeme, a different Graeme) recommended about six bands…
…and when I asked for just one he sent me six individual tweets, each with an album by one of those bands. I found the whole process a bit intense. A bit much. Just read the rules, other Graeme. Anyway, I listened to the first thing he recommended and it sounded like lots of pots and pans that had been put in a cement mixer. There was a man’s voice too, and it was whispering, “I’m going to bite your ass,” and, “lick my thing why don’t you?” and things like that. Those might not be his exact words, but you know, sex stuff. It would be an understatement to say it wasn’t my sort of thing. One point.
Talking Bullocks recommended 50 Gates by Z’ev
I would categorise this album as being more interesting than enjoyable, more an experience than a set of songs. I don’t mean that as an insult though. Unless I am mistaken, that is sort of the point of it. It’s an experiment in sound. Echoing clangs and bangs echoing. As I say, it’s interesting.
I absolutely hated every second of it though, so only two points. Soz and that.
Plashing Vole recommended Zemlinsky’s 4th Quartet
Quite modern, your Zemlinsky, a bit discordant and that, a bit angry. It’s the sort of thing that I struggle with normally so I looked him up on Wikipedia for some context.
Did you know he met his second wife when she was in her twenties and he was in his fifties, and he was her teacher? I mean, ew. Men, eh? Jesus. Not that that has much to do with his music, really, but it was reason enough for me to give up on whole looking for context project and just judge his music on face value. As I said earlier. I struggled with it. Three points.
George Sandison recommended Hot Rats by Frank Zappa
Even if you were to limit yourself to jazz albums recorded in 1969, I would expect better than this. I would have accepted the wonderful Izipho Zam by Pharoah Sanders or In a Silent Way by Miles Davis (which would qualify because it features Joe Zawinul on electric piano and organ). Both of those would have got you in the top five this week. Hot Rats gets you four points.
Adrian Slatcher recommended Cruising with the Ruben Jets by Frank Zappa
I’ll confess, I don’t really get Zappa. To me, this is just bad doo-wop. What is it even for? Five points.
Nicholas Royle recommended Joe’s Garage by Frank Zappa
In some ways this was my least favourite of all the Zappa albums, partly because it is eighteen hours long (or seems it) but mostly because Zappa seems incapable of completing a song without mentioning dicks, or someone having (or getting) a sexually transmitted disease, or doing a five minute monologue about somebody’s breasts. I think it is supposed to be a satire, but of what? Dicks? I would argue you don’t need eighteen hours to satirise dicks. Ten minutes would be plenty.
Joe’s Garage does have the advantage of not staying in one musical style though. Small mercies etc. Six points.
Dan recommended A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, starring Zero Mostel
I’d never got round to listening to or seeing this musical. You know, I had always assumed the funny thing that happened on the way to the forum was funny ha ha. It isn’t. Seven points.
Nick Rayney recommended Mary Star of the Sea by Zwan
I mean, Zwan. Blimey. Brave choice. Brave choice.
Because even I, somebody who is a big enough Billy Corgan apologist to be prepared to argue that TheFutureEmbrace is actually a half decent album [and that Mina Loy (M.O.H) is a verifiable banger] even I find it hard to see value in Zwan. It does feature the lyric, “a black swan rode me to my place of destiny,” which is peak Corgan, and also well funny and that, but it won’t get you any more than eight points, however much we’d both like it to.
Donna Morris recommended Collision Course by Jay-Z and Linkin Park
I’m man enough to admit that had I been fifteen when Linkin Park came out I would have been a fan. I wasn’t though, so I’m not. That’s just maths (or possibly history). I don’t hate this album but I certainly don’t love it. “Slightly better than Zwan” seems about right. Nine points.
David Hartley recommended Gladiator OST by Hans Zimmer
Wrong Zimmer imho. Should have gone for X-Men: Dark Phoenix OST, a soundtrack so good that when I went to see Dark Phoenix at the cinema I was so swept along by the music that it took me an hour to notice the film wasn’t exactly perfect. Gladiator OST has got all that swishy hands in the swishy wheat stuff. I’ve got no time for that sort of thing. Ten points.
James Beck recommended Who Killed…… The Zutons by The Zutons
A recommendation that had a certain amount of venom to it, I suspect. Payback for the horrible things I said about Cat Stevens. Fair enough, I say. Fair enough.
And I was dreading listening to this album because I really really hated The Zutons when they came out. Time though, eh? It truly is a great healer and all that. I’m not going to pretend I love this album now, but I certainly can’t see where all my anger toward it in 2004 stemmed from. Hormones, probably? I dunno. It’s a pretty inoffensive album. I wish it no ill. Eleven points.
Rebecca Holland recommended Songs from Cold Seas by Hector Zazou
Which, considering it has so many of my favourite singers on it, I’m surprised I didn’t like more. I didn’t like it more though so, long story short, twelve points.
Fat Roland recommended Beats by Design by DJ Zinc
Ah, the dangers of recommending a Friday night album when it’s going to get listened to on a Saturday morning. I feel bad only giving this thirteen points because it almost certainly deserves a lot more but, you know, blimey that’s too thumping for first thing.
Neal recommended Prison Dorée by Zoufris Maracas
I had no strong feelings about this one way or another. Fourteen points.
Justin Chisnall recommended Basta Mafia by Zdob si Zdub
This was alright too, and gets fifteen points for the music. However, bonus points are in order because Zdob si Zdub are from Chișinău, which sounds a bit like Chisnall, doesn’t it? I found this a pleasing enough coincidence to double Justin’s score to thirty points.
Picky Bastards recommended The Blueprint by Jay-Z
What were the chances of finding the one person on earth who considers this a strangely dull album? Whatever they were, you found him. Hello.
I don’t know. I really like a lot of Jay-Z’s stuff. I do. He’s obviously a great rapper. I just find The Blueprint a bit hollow. He spends more time saying he is the best than being the best. If you are the best you shouldn’t really need to say it that often. We should just know. At one point he slags of Nas for the gaps between his albums compared to Jay-Z’s five in five years. But what he is describing there is consistency, not excellence. There isn’t an album in Jay-Z’s back catalogue that stands up to comparison with Illmatic, is there? Anyway, I’m starting to ramble. Sixteen points.
But, it isn’t quite that simple. Picky Bastards’ first choice was Ziggy Stardust and, upon finding out that somebody with a faint possibility of winning the title had already chosen it, he changed his recommendation to The Blueprint. An action that almost certainly cost him the championship. It was an admirable example of kindness and fairness that should not go unrewarded. And so, I would like to offer ten bonus points, giving you a total of twenty six points. I would also like to give you the 2020 Fair Play Award. Congratulations. It may not be the title you wanted but it is one that you deserve. Sorry if it is a poor consolation for the real thing.
Desmond recommended Stridulum by Zola Jesus
Moody, but in a good way. Seventeen points.
Mat Pringle recommended Zulu Rock by Lizzy Mercier Descloux
Zulu Rock is a Graceland recorded several years before Graceland (though arguably one with nothing quite as good as The Boy in the Bubble or You Can Call Me Al). I liked it though, so eighteen points.
Hannah Hunt recommended Conatus by Zola Jesus
Moody, but in an even better way than Stridulum. Nineteen points.
Geisterhaus recommended Devil is Fine by Zeal & Ardor
Which is a mix of spiritual songs and black metal that works far better than you might imagine. Twenty points.
Graeme recommended Everything Is by Nine Black Alps
Qualifying because an N on its side is a Z (I told you I was happy for you to cheat this week). It’s a good album, and great cheating, so I am giving it twenty one points (plus five for the blag) making twenty six points.
jummo70 recommended Zammuto by Zammuto
Once this album had calmed down a bit, I really liked it. Twenty two points.
Kate Feld recommended Ancestry in Progress by Zap Mama
This got a bit too smoooooooth for me at times but mostly I really liked it, so twenty three points.
Sorry everybody to rush through all these choices with quite bland “I liked it” reviews but I was out this morning doing a WeBS count so I am a bit behind schedule.
Em recommended Zaba by Glass Animals
I liked it. Twenty four points.
Dan Edmonds recommended Zodiac OST by David Shire
I liked it. Twenty five points.
Dan Carpenter recommended The Black Album by Jay-Z
My favourite of the Jay-Z ones recommended this week. Part of me thinks I’m doing him a disservice by giving what are widely recognised as classic albums such low scores but nobody recommended him when we did J, so, you know, whatevs. Twenty six points.
David Coates recommended an album by the fictional 2000AD character, Zenith
Which doesn’t exist, obviously, what with Zenith being a fictional character and everything, so I was set the task of imagining how good it was. I reckoned about twenty seven points good.
As an aside, while I very much liked the ‘fictional album’ gambit employed here, it’s something I would discourage anyone trying again. I might imagine a terrible album next time. Like, Frank Zappa awful. You have been warned.
James Hannah and Adam Farrer both recommended I Paint Pictures on a Wedding Dress
Which I had some problems tracking down all of. I managed to find about eighty percent of the album scattered over Youtube, and what I found I decided to give twenty eight and a half points to. However, what about the tracks I didn’t hear? The only fair thing I can think to do is to divide that score by four and then multiply it by five (giving a 100% score, if my maths is correct, which it is, because I am proper clever and that). That means that James and Adam both score 35.625 points.
Tom. recommended When It Falls by Zero 7
Which is very good, so, as I’m rushing a bit now, let’s just say, thirty points.
James Park recommended Bossa Cubana by Los Zafiros
I think I listened to the right album but I’m not certain. Sorry. What I heard I liked though, so it was probably the right thing. Thirty one points either way, I suppose.
Chris Bissette recommended Kicker by Zella Day
Not your usual Chris Bissette choice but a good one. Thirty two points.
Graham Cox recommended I Grow Tired but I Dare Not Fall Asleep by Ghostpoet
Justified on the basis that someone who can’t fall asleep would need some zzzs, which I think we can all agree is a very good wheeze indeed. I think we can all agree it’s a great album too. Thirty three points.
Benjo recommended Led Zepplin by Led Zepplin
Look, I’m as surprised as you that I’m giving a Led Zepplin album thirty four points. That debut album does have some absolute bangers on though, doesn’t it?
Nick Portnell recommended Odessey and Oracle by The Zombies
Which is a proper lovely album. I could say more about it but my tea is in the oven and I don’t want it to burn. Burning roast parsnips is a crime I hope never to commit. Thirty five points.
William Mallin recommended Paêbirú by Lula Côrtes and Zé Ramalho
A head trip, but a very nice one. Thirty six points. Enough for the title. Check the leaderboard to find out…
David N Atkinson recommended Songs of an Unknown Tongue by Zora McFarlane
Fancy getting thirty seven points on your first week but your first week is the last week. A possible contender for next year? If he keeps recommending stuff as good as this then I should certainly think so.
Sleepy recommended Warren Zevon by Warren Zevon
The last track of this album, Desperados Under the Eaves, oh my, welcome to my life. Thirty eight points. Enough for the title? Check the leaderboard to find out…
Georgia Boon recommended The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
Top quality rule bending. Top top top quality album. Thirty nine points.
You know what, if Boon had bothered to recommend something every week she would have walked this competition. Hopefully she will learn an important lesson today and come back next year with all guns blazing.
John Power Jr recommended The Bridge Between Life and Death by Zoon Van Snook
I’m not even going to pretend I liked this album more than Ziggy Stardust, but this competition has always been about more than what was the best. If you can bring me something I haven’t heard before, and that I love, you will always have a place in my heart. At the risk of getting a bit soppy, I really do want to thank of all of you who have recommended things over the last few months. I’ve loved every moment of it (except the moment when I had to listen to that Collage album and the moment where I heard Duchess by Robert Wyatt, obvs) and been introduced to countless brilliant albums. You are all wonderful people.
This week the album that caught me most by surprise, that said hello most firmly, was The Bridge Between Life and Death, So John gets the forty points and a guaranteed place in the second round of the cup.
And so, the time has come to reveal the sixteen seeds who will start in round two of the cup…
- Beth Woodward (winner of week X)
- Daniel Carpenter (top eight finish)
- Em (top eight finish)
- Fat Roland (wildcard)
- Georgia Boon (top eight finish)
- Hannah Hunt (winner of week W)
- James Park (winner of week Y)
- John Power Jr (winner of week Z)
- Jummo70 (top eight finish)
- Mat Pringle (wildcard)
- Nick Portnell (wildcard)
- Nick Rayney (top eight finish)
- Picky Bastards (top eight finish/Fair Play Award)
- Rebecca Holland (wildcard)
- Sleepy (top eight finish)
- William Mallin (top eight finish)
If you aren’t on the list, I will contact you at some point tomorrow about Round One of the cup. Thanks again to everyone who took part this year.
BUT WHO WON THIS YEAR’S COMPETITION?
WHO WINS THIS FABULOUS PRIZE?
- A copy of Mat Pringle’s An Alphabet of Musicians! (and while he said I didn’t need to plug his website, you really should have a browse because there is some lovely stuff on there. I’ve got my eye on a I Know Where I’m Going! print and am quietly waiting for the Christmas money to turn up so I can buy one).
- A limited edition mini-cd Fall single!!
- A copy of Under The Boardwalk by Bruce Willis on 7 inch!!!
- A hardback edition of Jon Ronson’s exploration of outsider music, Frank!!!!
- Ten terrible portraits of Meatloaf that I drew one night when I was a bit bored!!!!!
You need to pop on over to the leaderboard to find out. Here’s the link, should you need it.