The Year That Was – Part Three

The year of the selfie; the year of the paedo and the year of the suspicious meaty filling. Post-modernists appear to have been proved pretty much entirely right in 2013. Maybe the world should have cut its losses at the end of its last cycle and taken the easy way out paved for it by the Mayans. But then, should it have packed in then we would never have seen Miley Cyrus fulfil the sacrificial prophesy set out by Matt Stone and Trey Parker; discovered just how delicious horse meat is and of course enjoyed a few of those music tapes that people seem so keen on.

That Royal Baby

royal baby 1Ok, so it might not be strictly musical, but boy was so important for us all. It really transcended genre and specific interests of people, drawing the whole world in together as we witnessed first hand via the internet and television that the Royals are indeed sexual beings just as we are. We may now all drop our undies and revel in the glow of our genitals knowing that we are doing so with the blessing of Old Blightie’s old Queenie. It truly is a magical age in which we live, God save the Queen.

Jagwar Ma – Howlin’

A really great debut album by those Aussie scamps. Crammed full of hooks and breakdowns the album is truly addictive, be aware that your first listen almost certainly won’t be your last. They have been largely followed by descriptions that at some point involve the word “baggy” as well as a complaint or two griping that the lyrical content occasionally stops short of the meaninful. However, it’s important to remember that not everything has to be devout poetry, most of life arguably isn’t, Howlin’s charm, which it has oodles of, is derived from it’s melodic indie dance grooves rather than it’s cutting lyrical edge.

Trwbador – Self Titled

An advert for the cultural value of Wales, literally. Their song Red Handkerchiefs featured on the visit Wales ad, which surely should be enough to turn a few heads in the direction of Wales even if the national gallery etc did not. Not quite folk, not quite electronic, not quite anything really, other of course than brilliant. Its stunningly unique and makes for a brilliant live show too as I found out at Sŵn festival, luckily managing to catch the end of their set at the Angel Hotel after a busy day. Wall-to-wall sound combined with a bizarre sort of Blair Witch, woodsy charm of a folks tale.

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Bloody enormous. Listening to Brainfreeze for the first time gave the sort of sensation of standing a little too close to a large drop. That mix of wonderment and “ooh bloody hell.” It does an incredible job of mastering imagery without the need for lyrics, through its masterfully intense sound. If a stalker was to themself be followed eternally by a theme tune it is safe to say that it would have to be their namesake track from Slow Focus. It might not be the ideal album for relaxing to but I challenge you not to experience something whilst listening to it. Pitchfork said of it: “There are few albums this year that offer this much space to get lost in.” And since I simply cannot find any better way of putting it, I’m going to steal their voice instead. Along those lines, the Slow Focus might have made a nice soundtrack to blockbuster Gravity as both offer spectacular enormities of space while avoiding any form of meaningful dialogue. With that malicious zinger cruelly settling in the very heart of Alfonso Cuarón I shall move on, sporting an evil and smug grin as I do.

Sigur Ros – Kveikur

Sigur Ros‘ latest outing has seen them shed their light and airy persona in favour of an album that erupts with all the power of a relatively ticked off volcano. Much like Fuck ButtonsSlow Focus it’s all about atmosphere, something that the Icelandic group create plentifully. An unfortunate side effect of the album is that air travel in your area will be impossible for a number of days due to the resulting ash cloud. The album is cinematic and unabashedly enormous, providing what feels like, at least to a person who is yet to visit the isle, a stunningly authentic soundtrack to the brash yet irrepressibly divine natural power that gives Iceland such an enchanting aura.

Money – The Shadow Of Heaven

Another Sŵn band and another next big thing, the band have developed a reputation as superb gloom-mongers, which in the majority of cases might be deemed something of a backhanded compliment, however not  in this instance. Downbeat emotions play a starring in The Shadow Of Heaven much as they do in the film Amour, a choking beauty that that is saddening by its very nature, yet not entirely undesirable. It truly is a spectacular debut album. They also put on a very good live show, such a downbeat album might suggest that a captivating live show would have to be perfectly balanced or risk flopping in a fashion that Fosbury would wrinkle his nose at, thankfully their live poise appears to come effortlessly and they avoid the high jump (hmm).

Savages – Silence Yourself

Not just a band with an album to plug, Savages come with an ideology. An ideology that boils down to this: put your bloody camera/phone/camera-phone down and stop experiencing life through a screen. This no-nonsense approach is strongly represented also within their sound. Gruff, brutish guitar riffs tear brazenly throughout producing brilliantly relieving angry rant of an album. The bass driven sound exists with all the charm of a dystopian future, but it wasn’t made to be lovable, it was made to bring your blood to the point where it begins to bubble over and make a ruddy great mess, a feat which it achieves, metaphorically of course.

Mazzy Star – The Season Of Your Day

Arguably most notable or, at least, most known for producing one of the most famously cinema-friendly tracks ever, Mazzy Star have generally flown pretty much under the radar. If you were to play Into Dust to someone and to follow up by asking them to name the artist, many would likely respond something along the lines of: “ooh I know it, but I don’t know. If you know what I mean?” What they mean of course, is no, I don’t know it. But it’s not like anybody is holding a grudge so it’s ok. The fourth studio album by Mazzy Star has been a long time coming, their last release came back in 1996, which means if you own an original copy of it that you’re probably dead by now. Their 2013 effort shows absolutely no signs of rust or cobweb, in fact it’s really quite wonderful, from it’s beginning with the wondrous nostalgic-sounding Into the Kingdom to its low flying ending. The album could be applied unaltered to a David Lynch film, bizarre dark and outlandish all at once, constantly drawing the listener inwards with intrigue. Crack it on and prepare to feel cool as funk.

Marika Hackman and Fryars at St Johns

UntitledIf there could possibly have been a more perfect setting to hear these two, well, I would have to review the evidence you may put forward and make a calm unbiased decision on the matter, because that’s the mature thing to do. St. John’s played host to Sŵn Festival’s Saturday night and did so with an intense wonderment thanks to the stellar acoustics, stunning surroundings and brilliant performances of both Marika Hackman and FryarsMarika released an EP this year: That Iron Taste, which in itself deserves a spot on this list, though hasn’t got one for political reasoning (its all a big cover up! Everyone is involved!). One of the most affecting parts of Marika’s style for me is her annunciation of each plosive sound, never skipping one, which when combined with such ecclesiastical acoustics the result is simply irresistible. Similar is true of Fryars, whose electronic buzz spread throughout the church, filling every nook and cranny with sound sublimely.

Jack Meredith, JackMeredith7

That’s it, the definitive list, bin the others, cease your existence and prepare yourselves mentally for the end of days. Tell your neighbours that you tolerate them; tell your friends the same, tell family members that you love them and kiss your kids goodbye (be sure that they’re your own kids or else some of 2013’s trends might spill over into 2014). Though should you find yourself disagreeing then I suppose that you could let us know, the best ways of doing so would be in the comments or via Facebook or Twitter, the worst would be to obnoxiously shout it at a formal dinner or to smear it (what you smear doesn’t tend to matter as smearing is rarely a pleasant act).

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