As is traditional, it’s time for my ‘favourite new things I bought this year’ music post.
There has been a lot of amazing music released this year. As has been the case for the last three or four years, I haven’t really heard any ‘bad’ music at all. I’ve got way too good at filtering. I heard some things that ‘weren’t my cup of tea’, but they were all interesting and worth investigating.
I’m going to do a full list of all my favourites of the year at the bottom, but there were a handful of records this year that have gone straight into my ‘all time favourites’ list. Properly incredible music. So let’s start there:
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown And Treaty
Having had their previous album nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, this album was hotly anticipated by people who know about these things. I was more interested in having followed bits of the journey of its creation via Twitter. None of that expectation prepared me for just how amazing the album would be. Everything about this is wonderful – from the hat tips to pop’s greatest songwriting traditions (particularly the ‘grown-up post-new-wave’ 80s stuff like David Sylvian, Prefab Sprout, Talk Talk, The Associates, Eg White etc.) to the utterly sublime drumming (pop records can be made or broken by the drumming, IMO). It’s a pure delight. Go have a listen on Mojo’s website, then buy it.
Emily Baker – All At Sea
Emily’s last album, House Of Cards, is already a deep favourite of mine. She’s one of the greatest songwriters I’ve ever come across, a stellar performer and a deeply lovely human being. All At Sea is, at least for me, a hell of an emotional ride. Emily’s draws pictures with words with a skill that I’ve rarely seen anywhere. Joni Mitchell-level skillz. I could probably quite happily spend all of 2013 with this as the only music I was allowed to listen to and still not get tired of it.
Neil Alexander – Darn That Dream
now HERE’S a record I was waiting for for a long time. Neil’s an exceptional talent, and turns his hand to a mind-boggling array of musical styles and situations as if he was born to play each one. But this album reveals the piano to be his true home. Melding the introspection of jazz, the flamboyance of the romantic solo piano tradition and the unexpected twists and turns of the world of improvised music, this album takes us on an epic journey. Any solo record this long has to be pretty damn special to not outstay its welcome. This one can come back for a visit time and time again.
Julie Slick – Terroir
Not content with being one of the greatest rock bassists I’ve ever heard, Terroir sees Julie growing as a composer, arranger and producer – not remotely swamped by the dazzling array of collaborators she’s assembled here, her musical vision is front and centre for the entire record, and shows that her self titled debut wasn’t a fluke, but was a signpost to what was to come. A startling record.
The Alvaret Ensemble – S/t
I know next to nothing about this! I bought it just two weeks ago on Sid Smith’s recommendation, and immediately fell in love with it – a core quartet, with various additions, recorded in such a way that it’s often not entirely clear what the instrumentation is anyway. Hugely compelling minimalist improv. Check it out on their site.
Mister Barrington – II
One of those records that seems to come out of nowhere – so many recognisable influences, but in SUCH insane combinations. Funk, soul, electronica, disco, jazz, prog and weirdness rolled together by one of the most amazing trios you’ll ever hear. check it out at www.misterbarrington.com
Just outside this top six are the brilliant 2012 releases from Hope And Social, Denison Witmer, Dave Douglas, Clatter, Adrien Reju, Christine Bougie, Darin Wilson, Jake Dubber, Jez Carr/Simon Little/Mike Houghton, Nik Kershaw, Scott McLemore, Ihsahn, 4 Sided Triangle, John Lester and Alex Machacek.
And probably a load that have slipped my mind.
Such is life – it’s been a bumper year for amazing music, with nary a dud track between all of these. You could quite easily spend all of 2013 just listening to my favourites of 2012 and still not have ‘finished’ them all in the year!by