I know what I want in a number one album. I want fat chunky chords dancing for my pleasure, or Aphexian ambience dripping over the sides, or drum machines that seem out of control, or cool samples that I can make into memes or...
I did not expect Mas Amable. Nobody expected Mas Amable.
What an astonishing piece of work. This is the second album produced for Anthony Naples' Incienso imprint by DJ Python, who is a person and not a snake. There's little in his techno discography that suggests that one day he'd come up with an album so beguiling, it renders any concept of track listing meaningless.
It's like you're listening to a secret album beyond what's laid out in front of you.
Mas Amable is a reggaeton album (Python calls it "deep reggaeton"). The unmistakable rhythm conjures images of sunny beaches and palm trees, yet Python uses this as a basis for something quite unique. Is it eight tracks? Is it one long track? Is it three tracks if you squint your eyes hard enough?
The beats occupy some ethereal moon, and your mind is a pebble being washed by the tide.
It starts in an ambient haze, until that ubiquitous rhythm tumbles in. The drums begin to morph, not that you notice. A third of the way into the album, wistful IDM chords appear. They rarely venture beyond variations of the same triptych, and indeed it's a three-chord structure that subtly begins and ends the album, albeit at different tempos.
When the spoken word comes, you're so deep in the Mas Amable spell, you don't notice the darkness of the lyrics: "It's okay to feel hopeless because the world is hopeless. It's okay to think about dying." I can feel the universe falling away around me.
She also says, "Where was the place where you felt okay? Go to this place."
Throughout this countdown, I've said that there isn't much that separates the the briefest of 'special mentions' and the top level of my list. Such was the quality of albums this year. But it was always going to be Mas Amable for the top spot. There's nothing else like it.
We are all unique snowflakes, and this is the snowflakest of them all.
I know what I want in a number one album, but I'm wrong. This album has shown me something different. I've gone to the restaurant expecting my usual hot-flagged chicken and fries. But the waiter has shown me a plate of delicious steaming fog that is on, but not quite on, the plate and I really want that fog, and now the fog is telling me to find my happy place because the world is a mess and is it one fog or three fogs and I squint my eyes and I wonder if it tastes like pea soup.
Addendum: I've just found out that Boomkat also selected this as their top album of 2020. They called it a "mutable organism imperceptibly transforming before our eyes". This is very okay, Boomers.
Congratulations to DJ Python. And thanks to you for reading my words in 2020.