ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2013

It’s that time of year again innit? Fire crackling (I don’t have a fire), stocking hung (I don’t have a stocking) and sherry in hand (I don’t have any sherry)….it’s time for that odd, and slightly unnatural, annual yuletide tradition of PUTTING THINGS YOU LIKE INTO AN ORDER FOR NO APPARENT REASON. But, like watching Jack Frost (the terrible Michael Keaton-is-a-snowman one…), drinking Advocaat (why would you do that at any other time of year?) and eating sprouts (January to November they are banned from my plate)…it just has to be done as December’s darkness envelopes us all…

So….ready? Heating on? Carols being sung? Astonishing amount of pastry based snacks at hand?

My (me. Wit. Hello.) Albums of the Year 2013. GO!

#10) Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run

A band that seem to have gone through a whole load of shitty stuff just to get the chance to make their second album (which certainly resonates with us…) and the end result is ruddy fantastic. A record that skillfully blends swelling, subtle, gorgeous tunes with informed and thought-provoking lyrics. A theme that seems to crop up lots in the following artists….

#9) Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter

The Erased Tapes label really is a goldmine and Olafur is probably their…er….shiniest nugget? (Sorry Olafur…that was meant to be a compliment). All of his work is beautifully evocative and this’n is no exception. They (who are ‘they???’) call it ‘neo-classical’ but daft genre titles don’t really interest me. What does interest me are subtle electronic beats, sparsely layered string quartets and even some cheeky, sexy vocals popping up this time round. A wonderful, wintry album.

#8) Midlake – Antiphon

An all time fave band of mine returning with an album that’s much more impressive than it really has any right to be. Eric Pulido taking over on vox from Tim Smith has only invigorated things as far as I can hear and the songs themselves are as classy, inventive, well executed and lyrically inspired as ever. Well played sirs. Well played.

#7) Nadine Shah – Love Your Dum and Mad

An artist who I was unaware of until very recently and I’m ever so glad I am now. I think she’ll be a mighty force to be reckoned with in years to come. Fantastic lyrics and fantastic musicianship. The restrained power in her voice really is something to behold too. What’s not to love? I believe Wild Beasts like her n’all so that means I must be right.

#6) Sigur Ros – Kveikur

A tricky one this. On the one hand, if you held a gun to my head (please don’t…I’d probably wet myself…), I would more than likely say – depending on what day of the week it is – that Sigur Ros are my ‘favourite’ band overall. Kveikur certainly has some of their most immediate, ‘catchiest’ (not really the right word for Jonsi & co…) work on it but I will admit, when push comes to shove…(guns, pushing, shoving…what’s going on?)…I prefer the Ros in full on soundscapey mode. In fact, the album of theirs I’m probably fondest of is Valtari. Saying that, it’s a bit like comparing eating Wensleydale with watching snooker. They’re both lush so let’s just enjoy them all and STOP COMPARING EVERYTHING YEAH???

#5) The National – Trouble Will Find Me

It’s rare these days that you get a band who deliver album after album of top notch stuff. Even rarer when each album bests the last. Mid-period REM spring to mind (for a while anyway…) and I think this lot are their natural successors. Again you get those people (often dullards…) that are all ‘Alligator/High Violet/Boxer is the best and nothing will beat that’ but I couldn’t care less – I think this is easily up there with some of their finest stuff. Sounds even better live too.

#4) John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

I’ve been hooked on Johnny-boy since I first heard his dulcet tones a few years back. He just has that certain quality where you need to hear what he has to say and want to know everything that he’s thinking. A wonderful album that’s quite different from his first solo record and, to these ears, even better for it. The Gus Gus involvement in production meant the album was always going to be a bit ‘dancier’ (for want of a better word) but it still manages to be packed full of emotion and meaning. Also, the third Bella Union act on this list. They know what they’re doing them lot.

#3) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

It’s Nick Cave for fucks sake. I don’t need to say anymore.

#2) These New Puritans – Field of Reeds 

Firstly, most of the reviews I’ve read about this album bang on about how it’s ‘like, almost classical man’ or that it’s mind-bogglingly, genre-spanningly, boundary-pushing…er…ly…different from everything ever in music. I’m not quite sure I completely agree with all that BUT what I do hear is an incredibly strong album, packed with excellent songs and interesting arrangements from a band at the top of their game. It goes to show how homogenised and derivative a lot of current music is at the moment that, when a band come along who do have a definite and specific vision, people whip out the over-the-top superlatives like ol’ Jack whips out the Taiko drums and samurai swords. Still superb though.

#1) Mogwai – Les Revenants OST

Now I’m no Mogwai purist/die-hard fan like lots o’ folk. I’ve always liked what I’ve heard by them and owned a few bits and bobs but I’m not what you’d call a completist (about anything to be honest…I don’t think I have the patience or attention span…). Hearing this album though, and intrinsically linking it in my mind to some of the beautiful imagery from the excellent French TV series it soundtracks, just made me go a bit Mogwai-mad. There’s something rather special about it. In general, I like a bit of instrumental post-rock as much as the next man but occasionally I find there can be a wee bit of emotional detachment involved. More nodding and beard-stroking than actually feeling like your heart may explode. This album, however, really does deliver it all. A cardiopulmonary whilst rubbing ones chin approvingly.

Special mention goes to Everything Everything for making one of the more interesting mainstream(ish) pop albums of recent times in ‘Arc’ and the following two albums I still don’t actually own but have been listening to loooaaaaads and intend to purchase ‘em as soon as possible (unless Santa is reading this…I’ve been reet good this year big man…) – those albums in question are Nils Frahm ‘Spaces’ and Anna Calvi ‘One Breath’. Cracking stuff.

Tons more I’ve heard bits of this year too but just haven’t yet had enough time or dosh to make up my mind and buy (as usual) including:

Emiliana Torrini, Boards of Canada, Volcano Choir, No Age, Tuung, I Am Kloot, Eels, Deerhunter and probably loads of others I forget. SO MUCH MUZIK.

So there you have it. Some will agree, most won’t. That’s the joy of art isn’t it? If you find this list rubs you the wrong way so hard that you’re face goes red and you want to send a strongly worded email on how wrong I am then send it here: elliottgregg@thedrummer.com

I think I’ll post up me top gigs of the year somewhen this week too. Just because.

SPEAKING OF GIGS (see what I did there…?) – come to this next Wednesday and you really will feel that Christmas miracles can come true:

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Facebook Event – http://www.facebook.com/events/479932588788715/
Pie & Vinyl Event – http://www.pieandvinyl.co.uk/events/2784/
Wedgewood Rooms Event & tickets – http://wedgewood-rooms.co.uk/WhatsOn/LiveMusic/LIVELOCAL.aspx
In the words of Tiny Tim…..MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS
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Gigs of the Year 2012 (and a new song for y’all…)

Another list coming at’cha…..drum roll please…….

 

1) Wild Beasts – ATP Camber Sands

 

An incredible performance. The album ‘Smother’ in full, plus a few other choice cuts. I was on my stag do. Very tipsy. Questionably dressed. Best man/TBOTB geetarist David claimed it was ‘the best gig he’d ever seen’. I’m tempted to agree.

 

2) Eric Pulido & Friends – The Slaughtered Lamb, Clerkenwell

 

A secret gig in a tiny London pub that featured Jason Lytle of Grandaddy (covering Neil Young, no less…), John Grant, half of Midlake and Ed Harcourt. Probably only about 50 people there and felt like watching some mates play in a living room. Some mates though…

 

3) Olafur Arnalds/Nils Frahm/Winged Victory For The Sullen – Hackney Empire

 

A beautiful evening in a beautiful venue. WVFTS were incredible. I’ve seen Olafur a few times now and he’s always an utter joy to watch and Nils (down to 9 working fingers…) had the entire place spellbound. Also they were all very amusing between songs. Which was nice.

 

4) Sigur Ros – Laugardalshöll Arena, Iceland Airwaves

 

Every show at Airwaves this year could probably go on the list but this really was special. An absolutely amazing performance with visuals to match. Even after the hour-long drone that preceded them which seemed to annoy a few peeps (I quite enjoyed it….)

 

5) Asgeir Trausti – KEX Hostel, Iceland Airwaves

 

I knew nothing about this lad before we went to see him so he’s discovery of the year for me. The excellent taste of my ladyfriend guided us his way as he’d been called the ‘Icelandic Bon Iver’. There were certainly similarities but also touches of Jeff Buckley and some lovely instrumentation. I predict big things for this lad and he’s only 20. Bastard.

 

6) The National – ATP Camber Sands

 

At the very end of an emotionally draining stag that probably should have seen me hospitalised at the very least….one of my favourite ever bands playing everything you’d ever want to hear them do for 2 hours. Including an unplugged ‘…Crybaby Geeks’ which by that point I actually was…

 

7) Bon Iver – Latitude Festival

 

The last time I saw Mr Vernon at Glasto he just had a coupla folks backing him and an acoustic guitar. This time he had a ten piece band, an expansive stage set-up and a sawnky, fancy light show. Both times he was no less than brilliant. The man certainly has skills.

 

8) Efterklang/John Grant – Brighton Dome

 

Efterklang playing this years ace ‘Piramida’ album in full with an orchestra. Peter Broderick played with them. They were supported by one of my favourite ever artists who debuted some fantastic new songs. In one of my favourite ever venues. What’s not to like?

 

9) Dirty Projectors – Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland Airwaves

 

Bjork was wandering around whilst these were playing (we’d seen her watching Purity Ring earlier on. Wearing a puffa jacket and a veil. As you do…) and she has splendid taste. Very very very good indeed….even if aforementioned TBOTB six-stringer Dave missed it due to too much vodka consumed from a mouthwash bottle….

 

10) Field Music – Electric Ballroom

 

Infuriatingly talented, those Brewis brothers. They played for nigh on 2 hours, swapping instruments, changing song structures and even threw in a few Week That Was numbers too which sounded fantastiche. Hadn’t been to the venue before either and rather liked it n’all….

 

11) Josh T Pearson – Latitude

 

Magnificent beard. Magnificent hat. Magnificent guitarist. Magnificent man. Had the audience in the palm of his hand. Also had a mean line in blue jokes. Brilliant.

 

12) Lianne La Havas – Great Escape

 

Quite a surprise for me to be honest. I’d heard a couple of her songs and they sort of passed me by a little as standard pop stuff. What a fool I am. She was incredible….especially when performing solo. Definitely want this album as soon as poss. She seemed genuinely happy to be there as well which is a welcome change from some of the usual dour indie nonsense I generally see. Like when we play.

 

13) Kerbdog – The Garage, London

Hundred Reasons/Hell is for Heroes/Cable – Kentish Town Forum, London

Therapy? – The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

 

I’m not generally one who likes to wallow around in nostalgia…it’s pretty rare I listen to stuff from my teens really (except Idlewild obviously….that borders on dangerous obsession) but these 3 gigs were all absolutely amazing. I can definitely see why some people’s music tastes get stuck around 16 years of age as these gigs evoked some lovely memories that I’d almost forgotten. I was accompanied at all these gigs by good friends too and everyone was there to have a right old time. That first little hi-hat count of ‘I’ll Find You’ by HR just does something to me….

 

14) Sharon Van Etten – Latitude Festival

 

I missed her at ATP due to playing the drinking game ‘Leanmaster’ but it was OK as her performance earlier in the year was enough to keep me going for some time it was so good. She really is something else this lass.

 

15) Clock Opera – The Registry, Portsmouth

 

I’ve seen Guy and co a few times now and they’re always entertaining. This gig was late, there were technical problems and the sound wasn’t as clear as some of the times i’d seen them before but it was my favourite performance of theirs. Possibly as I think it was the last night of their tour and they seemed really up for it. Top stuff.

 

 

Honourable mentions also go to Richard Hawley & Lisa Hannigan at The Pyramids, Southsea. A freshly reformed 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster at Concorde 2, Brighton and Elbow creating some of the biggest sing-a-longs going at Latitude….

 

So….what are your gigs of the year? Maybe the one this coming Saturday?

 

http://www.pieandvinyl.co.uk/events/pievinyl-presents-the-official-christmas-party-2012/

 

To get you in the mood here’s a brand new song of ours.

 

https://soundcloud.com/thebofthebang/the-b-of-the-bang-chemikals

 

Merry Xmas everyone!

 

xxx