#AlbumsOfTheYear, no.20: Lanterns On The Lake - Until The Colours Run
An album that spans the full spectrum of life and experience, often in the same song: hope/pessimism, light/dark, confidence/restraint, extroversion/introspection. I think that Lanterns… are a band that make you work for it, but the perseverance reveals a rewarding depth of beauty and honesty.
#AlbumsOfTheYear, no.21: Dan Michaelson and The Coastguards - Blindspot
Dan Michaelson writes love songs, and he does so very well. Poets will proclaim that love is the greatest of challenges and people will persist through their ordeals because there exists hope that contentment awaits. His sombre, gravelled voice is the perfect vehicle for this expression of determination in the face of melancholia, and his lyrics are a well-constructed compliment. There is a concern that he will become a one-trick pony, but that’s next year’s problem.
#AlbumsOfTheYear, no.23: The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Drowned In Sound (I think) described this album as ‘less than the sum of its parts’ which is exactly right. Every song has its merits and charms, and some like ‘Pink Rabbits’ are remarkable, but all in all it feels like they are going through the motions a little. I suppose that’s what happens when you set the bar so unimaginably high as they have continued to do since 2005. I wonder whether my relationship with this album would be better had Alligator, Boxer and High Violet never existed?
#AlbumsOfTheYear, no.24: Cold War Kids - Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
Frustratingly, a theoretical Cold War Kids ‘Best Of’ album will probably be their best album. Irritatingly inconsistent, every album has a few moments of pop genius that makes you want to stop strangers in the street to tell them about them. Dear Miss Lonelyhearts, with ‘Miracle Mile’, ‘Bottled Affection’ and the title track, features some of the best tracks of the year. But, whilst this is still a really enjoyable record overall, you still feel like they haven’t yet produced the masterpiece I’m sure they are capable of.
An album that is as rewarding as you want it to be: for those interested, it is a wonderfully delicate yet complex album of songs with a spiritual undertone that come to life as you invest yourself in it. The greatest compliment I can pay it is that turning it off part way through leaves me disorientated and feeling very lost.
Daughn Gibson looks like the kind of person I would cross the road to avoid, for fear he would either pulverise me into the concrete or charm my girlfriend away. To be clear though, that undoubtedly says more about me than him. This is a tremendous album that sounds like nothing else I own: roots and Americana with an electronic current and even a hint of metal. Brilliant album from what I’m sure is really a lovely chap.
#AlbumsOfTheYear No.27: Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood - Black Pudding.
When you’re confronted with a voice as blessed as Mark Lanegan’s, it’s not unreasonable to feel slightly frustrated by his previous solo outputs. Every album I’ve heard shows flashes of coherence, but far too often the albums drift in and out of focus. It was a joy to hear this album for the first time because it finally brought the stability and consistency to make it the most accessible Mark Lanegan record, in my opinion.
Disclaimer: Shearwater are just about my favourite band. My relationship with The Golden Archipelago especially bordered on obsessive. So, in many ways it was inevitable that a Shearwater record – even a stop-gap one – would make it onto my list. This isn’t by any stretch of the imagination their best record, but it does have the distinct advantage of being a Shearwater record. A kind of cheating, really.
#AlbumsOfTheYear No.29: The Veils - Time Stays, We Go
I still can’t quite decide on this album. There are days when I would have rated it much higher thanks to songs like ‘The Pearl’, but on other days I find some of the lyrics too… trashy. I know that my reservations are my problem, not theirs, and I try not to let that distract from what is a very strong collection of songs.
#AlbumsOfTheYear No.30: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
I feel this is an album to be admired rather than loved. It has been created so meticulously that, to me at least, it lacks some of the more human elements of their previous albums, which has stopped me from ever immersing myself in it. This is a shame, although others would rightly point out that Nick Cave has absolutely nothing to prove to me.
Why I’m publishing an #AlbumsOfTheYear List and to hell with you all…
Over the coming 31 days until the end of the year I will be counting down my 31 favourite record releases from 2013.
I have been creating top ten record lists at the conclusion of every year since 2007. However, this year more than most I have been asking myself why I do so, and whether it is worth it. The following statements are all true and rational arguments against creating such a list:
No one will read it and nobody will care. For years I have been posting videos of songs, reviews and videos I like to Twitter and Facebook. The engagement from my friends has been at best lukewarm and at worst total apathy. My friends are almost all late-20s to mid-30s, so most have little or no interest / time in making popular music the centre of their evening when there are babies, jobs and other assorted grown-up things to be doing. My blog (this Tumblr) is subscribed to by 37 people. 37. Some of whom I know for a fact do not use Tumblr anymore. This does raise something of an existential crisis within myself along the lines of ‘trees falling in the forest…’
How and why would you want to rank music? I’m an Analyst by trade. Quantitatively ranking expressions of art based on qualitative preference goes against every professional instinct I have. There must be easier ways to bring order to my world and more logical things I can control.
Incomplete dataset. I created a shortlist for this list of albums released this year that I own and enjoyed. There were 37. I haven’t heard the new MBV album, or QOTSA, or Caitlin Rose, and these are bands I supposedly like. There is no way I can create a complete, well-informed and objective list.
Some of my favourite albums this year weren’t released this year. For example, a trip to Iceland Airwaves introduced me to Sarah McDougall’s wonderful ‘The Greatest Ones Alive’ from 2009 which I have listened to a lot. Which had the unfortunate consequence of making me question the validity of my 2009 top ten list; would ‘Tarot Sport’ by Fuck Buttons really still by #1 album in retrospect?
Nevertheless, despite the futility and borderline criminality of it all, I am going to do it anyway, because these lists create a sort of document of myself. They act like a diary or a scrapbook that reminds me of the person I was at the time. Far more than any photo or video or written text, the music that I respond too is an indication of the things that I valued, the philosophies and the interests I have.
More than anything though, it feels like a compulsion: a way of bringing order and finality to the year. In hindsight, I realise now that the internal debates I had about creating the list that gave rise to the points listed above was born not from the question ‘shall I create it?’ but from ‘where shall I post it?’ Facebook would probably provide an irritation to my friends, Twitter would be all too brief, and the blog to hidden. Considering the train of thought I have gone through in this post – that it is irrational, self-indulgent and for nobody’s purpose but my own – I have decided that the blog remains the most apt place for it.
So, here goes then: Starting tomorrow, 1 Dec 2013, my 31 favourite new album releases of the year 2013 (well, 30 new releases and one re-issue), for anybody who may be out there listening.