Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Of The Year 2013 - Music

Every year, for the past years, I've made a best of year cd, partly for my own entertainment and partly for friends who get them with Christmas cards. I'm one of those people who think I should always be discovering new music, and every year I'm shocked to discover my best of year selections are a mix of old favourites and new stuff. John Peel I'm not. 

But it does represent both the best new stuff I've heard this year, and some older stuff I've either rediscovered or found for the first time.....

I did play with the idea of simply whacking up a Spotify playlist this year, but the cds are nostalgic so they stay. However, should you want that Spotify option, this should do it: Richard's Best of 2013 Spotify List

Everest  - Public Service Broadcasting (2013)

When I first heard the strains of PSB's Everest, I knew it was special, that beautiful, haunting melody just so enticing. Just as with Spitfire from 2012, this is spoken word footage that inspires, the rhythms building so well, until the moment...
"two very small men cutting steps in the roof of the world....."
Beautiful. Hairs on arm standing up time. Did the first time I heaard it, has done every single time since.

What Goes Boom - Pixies (2013)

Pixies are back (again). This is great news (again). Missed them in concert for many years after first hearing Monkey Gone To Heaven on Peel. Had the chance to see them in '88 at Burberries Birmingham when they toured with the Throwing Muses, and never had chance after that until 2004 when they were doing a reforming tour, playing second on the bill at Manchester Move Festival under The Stereophonics (I know, how ridiculous? I've never seen a crowd empty so fast for a headliner as I did that night). That gig was amazing - they came on and everywhere I looked during the first few songs all I could see were middle aged men with shit eating grins of near diselief on their faces.

Ok, they may be missing Kim Deal here, but there's still the essence of the band's original sound here. Or rather there's the essence of the band's later sound. This sounds like a cut from Trompe Le Monde that never made it but should have.

Oh, the Jools Holland performance is the first time I ever heard this song, and just sat there delighted at the sheer noise coming from the tv. Loved it.

Dream Come True - Jim Bob (2013)

Jim Bob, ex Carter USM, full of invention and ideas still, many years later. In Carter the biggest draw was Jim Bob's words, so playful, so clever, puns and poetry combined. Years later, he's still doing it.

Lost In The Plot - The Dears (2004)

Okay, this is a fair few years old, but I only heard it for the first time this year, and instantly loved it. Thought it was a weird Blur song I'd never heard before at first, or something from Damon Albarn's patchy solo career. Lead singer's voice goes from Albarn to Morrissey, and that's just fine.

Best bit is still three and a half minutes in, when the vocals crash back in, lead singer screaming his way through the last minute of the song.

That's Alright - Laura Mvula

Great vocals, great lyrics, a tune to die for, one that you'll hum and hum and hum. The first of three great new female voices this year.

You Will See Me - dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip (2013)

Late entry onto the best of year list this one, and in truth the album this single came off is a bit poor. But not this, this is typically lyrically inventive, laden with threat and doom, Pip screaming to the world with invention and passion against a minimal backdrop of synth.

We No Who U R - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)

The album is a thing of beauty, few better this year. Even putting this cd together I had three songs from it in contention, but when it came down to it this opener was the one I loved most. It just drifts along so beautifully, Cave's vocals so languid and lugubrious, Leonard Cohen's angry love child.

Reflektor (with David Bowie) - Arcade Fire (2013)

Simply epic, in length and scale. So much to it as well, and a little Bowie mixed in there at the end.

Metroland - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (2013)

I heard this early in the year and was impressed with the stripped down classic sound OMD had regained. Yes, it was actually Kraftwerk's striped down classic sound, but they were upfront about that in interviews at the time. Essentially this is Trans-Europe Express done OMD style. The single was spectacular, the album a huge disappointment.

Dance Apocalyptic - Janelle Monae (2013)

Janelle Monae. A star, a huge, huge star. Glastonbury 2011 she lit up the stage with a performance that blew almost everyone else away. Dance Apolcalyptic captures almost everything that makes her electric live.

Work Bitch - Britney Spears (2013)

Nope. I'm not being ironic, not trying to be clever. Work Bitch is simply a staggeringly good pop record with a stunning beat underpinning it. So there. I do embarrass my daughter at times such as these.

Section 39 (Blurry Up The Lines) - The Polyphonic Spree (2013)

Another great song on a poor album, Blurry Up The Lines is The Polyphonic Spree at their over the top best.

Is Your Love Big Enough - Lianne La Havas (2013)

Final fantastic new female voice of the year. Everything about it is perfect, the clapping background, the soaring vocals, the playfulness in her voice, the stop start things going on. And ice cream.

At My Most Beautiful - R.E.M. (1999)

I've had something of an R.E.M. re-evaluation this year (thank you Spotify) and worked my way through their entire back catalogue to discover that some of my absolute favourites come late in their career. None more so than this, a truly beautiful piece of music, with Michael Stipe's voice against a simple backdrop, a perfectly beautiful Beach Boys style love song. And Mick Mills is just superb on those harmonies. Get me in the right mood and the tears flow to this one.

Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA) - David Bowie (2013)

It was going to be Where Are We Now, the mournful, melancholy single that so surprised everyone this year. Until I heard this remix by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Steve Reich clapping, simple synth lines, a great bit of Bowie 2013 mixing with a perfect Ashes To Ashes moment. 10 minutes of perfect Bowie weirdness. The clapping that starts as a minimalist echo comes in again halfway through,m a small but significant round of applause for a masterpiece before the remix kicks in for the latter half of the song.

Great way to round out the year.

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