Shall we get the pop predictions for this year out of the way first? Taylor Swift will continue to conquer the world; the charts will continue their descent into meaninglessness; some long-forgotten group or style will become inexplicably popular because kids use it to soundtrack their TikTok videos. There. That’s the coming year taken care of. And how did the old one wrap up? With a week of gigs in the run-up to Christmas that was so overloaded it was impossible to get to them all.
That still left plenty of treats, though, beginning with Jockstrap. The band was joined on stage by strings, a percussionist, a soprano, as well as someone on stilts dressed up as a monster straight from the props cupboard of Terry Nation-era Doctor Who. This was the first of three consecutive nights that offered three visions of what English – and I mean English, rather than British – pop is and can be.
Jockstrap – singer/guitarist Georgia Ellery and keyboard player/programmer/producer Taylor Skye – are a group who see possibility in everything: four-to-the-floor rave, finger-picked folk songs, big ballads. The song ‘What’s It All About?’ would fit comfortably on a Radio 2 playlist. The closing track, ‘50/50’, which is all glitchy electronics, was more second hour of John Peel with the headphones on.
The duo exemplify a pop trait that’s much more common here than across the Atlantic: the notion that having good ideas counts for an awful lot more than musical or melodic proficiency. That’s not to say Jockstrap are musically or melodically incompetent – two sold-out nights at the Barbican reflected the fact they have captured imaginations over the past year – more that they refuse to sit still, not just from song to song but within each track.