We start this list off at the number fifteen position with “Once around the block”, the first single released off “The hour of the bewilderbeast”, Badly Drawn Boy’s debut long player.
I first caught on to Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) in 2002, two years after the release of this debut, when I fell hard for the instrumentation that soundtracked the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s “About a boy”. If you’ve never read the book or seen the film, it is about a rich and single 30-something living off the royalties of a song his father wrote, who meets a young boy without a father. They become friends of a sort and in trying to help the boy learn to be cool, the man grows up. The man is portrayed by Hugh Grant, a role he was seemingly born to play, perhaps it wasn’t even much of a stretch, and the music Damon Gough provided for the soundtrack perfectly reflected his character. It was slick and cool (though perhaps not as hip as it thought itself) and meandered seemingly without aim and at its own pace, until it went on to the next thing, no song, or snippet of a song, lasting more than a few minutes.
After playing my way through the soundtrack many times, I went back to explore “The hour of bewilderbeast” and discovered it was very much of the same ilk. Laid back and slacker cool, teasing us knowingly with nods to his influences. It even plays like a soundtrack, cinematic in sound with interludes between the proper tracks. If it sounds accomplished for a debut, it’s likely because he cut his teeth releasing a string of EPs beforehand and with this album he continued the trend he started with those EPs by performing most of the instrumentation himself, though he did enlist the help of Doves members on some tracks. Incidentally, Doves was one of the bands he beat out in winning the prestigious Mercury prize for best album with “The hour of the bewilderbeast” in 2000.
But back to “Once around the block”, a song that was, truth be told, originally released in 1999 but I can get away with including here due to its re-release a year later. It’s a track that has for its backbone some wild wah-wah guitars and a wicked jazz shuffle and Gough throws in his vocals almost incidentally, as if the words he starts with could easily be replaced by the scooby-doo-wah-wah scat singing he moves into later in the song. The song ambles along cyclically, instruments dropping in and out, showcasing each, with no real climax or peak, it’s like a jazz piece in this way, and structured like a leisurely walk around the block. And then, it all just fades away with the vibes being the last voice to peek back as it turns the corner and out of earshot.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.