A year in music 2013

2013. In music. Spotify has taken over. Whether I like it or not, and despite the fact that I continue to purchase CDs like some weird old dinosaur, almost all of my music consumption is done via Spotify. I promised myself this wouldn’t happen but it’s just too damn convenient. To try and make up for this I’ve made a concerted effort to buy from BandCamp if at all possible, but too few bands use it to make it a real viable way of guaranteeing that the band gets the money for what I’m listening to.

Albums of the year:

  • Volcano Choir: Repave (spotify) (amazon). Justin Vernon’s 4th album in the various versions of Bon Iver. The best yet.
  • Matthew E White: Big Inner (spotify) (domino). Gospel music like you’ve never heard.
  • William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor (spotify) (amazon). Fantastic, heavily disco influenced, Afro-beat from the eighties.
  • Darkside: Psychic (spotify) (amazon). Proper headphone music.
  • CHVRCHES: The Bones Of What You Believe (spotify) (amazon). 2013’s perfect pop album.

Albums I discovered and loved in 2013, despite earlier release dates:

  • The Asphodells: Ruled By Passion, Destroyed By Lust (spotify) (beatport). Andrew Weatherall. ‘Nuff said.
  • Mungolian Jetset: Schlungs (spotify) (amazon). “Too trippy for it’s own good” said the reviews (see also Tranquility Bass, below). Bollocks, says I. Moon Jocks and Prog Rocks is disco perfection.
  • Moonface with Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery (spotify) (amazon). The Wolf Parade album I’d been waiting for.
  • Gallops: EP (spotify) (bandcamp). Um. Just try it. You might like it.

And let’s talk about albums released in 2013 that I desperately wanted to like…

New Arcade Fire albums have been, for the last 6 years, genuine highlights. I just couldn’t get behind Reflektor. Or rather, I thought the first 30 minutes were fantastic, and the rest was shite.

John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts. I loved Queen of Denmark. Pale Green Ghosts is lyrically just a bit too close to the bone to listen to too often. Which is a shame, because he’s clearly brilliant.

And Midlake’s first album without Tim Smith. To be honest I’ve not listened to this enough to know outright. I think it’s definitely better than Courage of Others, but probably isn’t quite Van Occupanther. Time will tell – I’m still trying.

I managed to get a lot of gigs in this year too. I gig for the dancing so there’ll be no surprise to find that various versions of Hawkind (both Psychedelic Warlords and Hawklords), Wooden Shjips and LoOp provided the best gigs of the year by a country mile. The surprise package was Parquet Courts (who were fantastic, against expectations) and the disappointment was Junip (just too much head nodding and beard stroking).

I continue to be confused why no one dances at gigs any more. I’m clearly getting old. Perhaps the gig highlight was being shushed by some earnest beard toting chap during the opening chord of the Wooden Shjips set. We are not hear to listen, people, we are here to dance. He sidled away from us quite quickly once our limbs started flailing…

As previous years I’ve compiled a list of my most played albums per month, and linked to a Spotify playlist for every album played in the given month.

  • January: Tranquility Bass new album. Back in 1997 Tranquility Bass released what fast became my favourite album of all time (Let The Freak Flag Fly). Favourite to the point that I don’t listen to it too often, in case I accidentally ruin it through over-playing. Yeah. I know. Anyway. He disappeared. And then in late 2012 he reappeared. With the rather excellent Heartbreaks & Hallelujahs. You should try it.
  • February: Matthew E White’s Big Inner. Oh, as they say, My God. One or other remix of the main track Big Love was on pretty much every mixtape of the year, but the whole album (and unremixed Big Love) is absolutely glorious southern swampy soul music to die for.
  • March: I’ve never really listened to hip hop. Through not having a route in, rather than any disliking it. In March someone spent the time working out what I might like. Hence A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory being my most played album in March (along with Black Star and Madvillainy).
  • April: All excursions into hip hop aside, I’m still a fuzzy guitar space rock kind of guy… So Life Coach’s rather excellent Alphawaves & the new Besnard Lakes happily filled April.
  • May: Thisismyjam introduced me to Matthew E White in January. It also introduced me to !!! in May. Thr!!!er became one of my most played albums of the year, and led me to a more detailed investigation of the DFA/dance punk thing: The Juan Mclean, Outhud and Maserati all ended up on rotation too.
  • June and July: God I miss Wolf Parade. Seriously miss them. So Moonface’s Heartbreaking Bravery was a fantastic discovery. Spencer Krug’s half of Wolf Parade was the half I really liked – this is the natural successor to Wolf Parade for me, in a way that Handsome Furs and Divine Fits never were.
  • August: August (like December) is always musically a bit light through holidays and so on. Junip made a perfect soundtrack to those few evenings I was able to spend in the garden.
  • September: There is no question that I love Justin Vernon. Not only that, I prefer each new album to the last. Volcano Choir’s second album (Repave) is the best yet.
  • October and November: Like 2012’s Alt-J, CHVRCHES are all a bit calculated, industry insider, type stuff. But it’s absolutely perfect pop music, so fuck it.
  • December: Dunno why I bother recording what I listen to in December. Sufjan Stevens. Every year. (Although it’s worth noting that CeeLo made a Christmas album!)