It might be a bit audacious to drag out list season this far into January, but I’ll be damned if I miss an opportunity to celebrate what was a moderately prosperous year for music. Amongst the stonking albums from Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Laura Marling were some pretty captivating singles releases. Here’s an un-definitive list of some of the ones I liked.
Mt Wolf – Climax
London based Mt Wolf were undoubtedly one of my favourite finds of 2013, and it’s no insult to pick a cover version of Usher’s Climax as the standout tracks from a short-lived existence which ended abruptly before the band managed to cement ‘dream-folk’ in the genre dictionary. Don’t skip over their modest catalogue without giving Life Sized Ghosts and Midnight Shallows a listen, before receding into a tearful state of despair at what-could-have-been.
Public Service Broadcasting – Everest
Public Service Broadcasting’s bio might read like a gimmick rushing to expire before it embarrasses itself, but in reality the archive-clip sampling double have crafted new-age-nostalgia that a modern day Kraftwerk would probably take pride in calling their own. Debut album ‘Inform-Educate-Entertain’ delivers on all 3 promises and makes for an even more impressive setup as a live experience.
Paul McCartney – New
This one may not survive in the deep end of the Beatles’ discography for too long, but for a man who’s (rightfully) experimented with every genre he can manage without losing dignity, New is a refreshing return to the jaunty melodic happy-go-lucky Paul that none of us actually remember from the sixties. Still, a track that weds a Penny Lane beat with a much more positive When-I’m-Seventy-One styled outlook is likely to force a smirk from the resilient of frowns…and even if you still hate it, it’s only three minutes long.
Foals – My Number
Remember math-rock? Neither do Foals, as they abandoned the complexities that earned them our respect in ‘Antidotes’ and returned after the impressive ‘Total Life Forever’ with Get-Lucky-killing single My Number. I owe a lot to my housemates for shoving the song so far down my ear canals that I had no choice other than to accept its existence and ultimately irresistible guitar-led dance riff, but I’ve got a feeling I’d have done it myself anyway.
CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share
Lauren Mayberry may be the most endearing (the least misogynist adjective I could find) artist to emerge in 2013, but The Mother We Share would still stand out as a remarkable track even if she wasn’t as cute as a kitten at a button convention (okay I slipped there). Nobody was under any illusion that Synthpop was on its way out, but CHVRCHES will be waiting in the confession box if it needs some help getting through 2014.
Kanye West – Blood On The Leaves
Kanye is a genius, dick, materialist, genius, misunderstood, egotist, saviour of fashion, dick, genius. Take your pick and run with it as it won’t stop ‘Ye making genre-defining music anyway; just don’t trip up on the white guys scrambling to get to Rap Genius on the way.
Billy Bragg – Handyman Blues
Talking of which, this is one song that Kanye didn’t have to storm the VMA stage for but in a parallel universe where justice is more evenly spread might have done. If the smorgasbord of lefties miming Bragg’s downbeat domestic disclosures isn’t reason enough to give Handyman Blues the once over then you’re on the wrong site. Still, it’s good to see in the year of Thatcher and Mandella’s deaths that Billy still has time to address the less pertinent issues of modern life in his timelessly charming way.
John Grant – GMF
And finally, from Bragg’s confession of incompetence with a screwdriver to a less humble proclamation of perfection from former Czars singer John Grant. We all know too many people who the line “I’m usually only waiting for you to stop talking, so that I can” apply to but few would openly admit it themselves, let alone as tunefully as Grant manages. And usually without Sinead O’Conner harmonising agreeingly in the background.
Written on January 15th, 2014