2013's been a year filled with great music but, at times, it has felt like you've had to search it out.
It's been a year of truly brilliant sounds even if there may have been a few disappointments along the way. Take hip hop, for example: unlike 2012's records by Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, there was nothing that really demanded your attention. Yes, Kanye's album 'Yeezus' was technically brilliant, but it's a record I'm still struggling to digest properly. Similarly, Jay-Z's 'Magna Carta, Holy Grail' (which, in my opinion, is as good as West's effort) was less immediate than the likes of 'Blueprint 3', which means it's got somewhat lost in the public consciousness.
Both those records had an interesting release as well, materialising on shelves seemingly from nowhere. They're not the only ones either; My Bloody Valentine's 'mbv' appeared online out of the blue in February after a gestation period of 20 years. Equally, Mazzy Star, Boards of Canada, Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie made unexpected and impressive returns following long hiatuses. There were also some great reissues and live records; Rilo Kiley's 'Rkives' acted as the epitaph the band deserved, Bob Dylan repainted his self-portrait with the 'Bootleg Series' and revealed songs well worth revisiting, Steve Albini finally got to share his vision for Nirvana's 'In Utero', The Velvet Underground's 'White Light, White Heat' finally got the deluxe treatment it deserved following Lou Reed's sudden death and Neil Young presented what could well be his best live album to date with the 'Cellar Door' addition to his archives series.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top 10 Albums Of 2013
What's Dom Gourlay's number one album of 2013?
After an immense year for music, here's reviewer Dom Gourlay's favourites for 2013 - and possibly for a long while after!
Arcade Fire 'Reflektor' - Early reviews were ridiculously negative, probably because journos were invited to a one-hour listening session in a plush Soho bar while being plied with free booze. The test of time has proved otherwise. And some.
Continue reading: Dom Gourlay's Top 10 Albums Of 2013
This year saw the release of so many incredible albums, that trying to list the top 20 really doesn't do 2013 justice. However, after some strong analysis of what the year had to offer, we unveil the most listenable collections - from the super-hyped major label releases to the lesser-known but just as sensational offerings.
Vampire Weekend 'Modern Vampire in the City' - 'Modern Vampires in the City' makes it three for three for the New Yorkers and their latest release could very well be their best yet. It shows evolution for the band, but they have retained that essential quality that made 'Contra' and their self-titled debut such wonderfully upbeat and genuine pleasures to listen to each time. 'Modern Vampire in the City' is also the release that marks Vampire Weekend as a band that should be taken seriously, but one who you can still have immense fun with. 'Diane Young' is yet another indie floor filler, standing shoulder to shoulder with previous bangers 'A-Punk' and 'Cousins.' Where the album really excels, however, is when VW reach out to new quarters and sound completely inimitable. The yelps of 'Ya Hey' bring fun to a song that essentially deals with the theme of lost conviction, the graceful 'Hanna Hunt' erupts in the most complete song released this year and album opener 'Obvious Bicycle' sets the whole thing in motion with its refreshingly angelic melodies and steady, train-like clunks that lie beneath all the splendour. Vampire Weekend are no longer the Brooklyn minions rattling at the gates of eminence, the gates have been swung open for them and the welcoming committee should have made them feel rightly at home.
Continue reading: Contactmusic.com's Top Albums Of 2013
Shields, who reformed the cult Irish band in 2007 following a 10-year split, hit headlines in October (13) when he urged bosses at the U.K.'s secret service Mi5 to open classified files from two decades ago.
He believes there was a secret government agenda to "push" the Britpop movement, with Oasis frontman Gallagher and his brother Noel as its figureheads, and now he has suggested singer Liam was deliberately left alone at the height of his fame on the insistence of the powers-that-be.
Continue reading: Kevin Shields Suspects Liam Gallagher Was Protected By Officials
FYF Fest 2013 presents yet more new acts for its 10th annual weekend this August including comedians Doug Benson, Brett Gelman and Karen Kilgariff.
FYF is an alternative music festival spread over two days - this year, August 25th and 26th - at the LA State Historic Park. This summer we'll see no doubt spectacular headline sets from New Yorkers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Dublin rockers My Bloody Valentine, as well as performances from MGMT, Devendra Banhart, Les Savy Fav, Holy Ghost!, Deerhunter, New Jersey's Yo La Tengo, chillwave producer Toro Y Moi, the chart hitting Kurt Vile & the Violators and Californian duo Foxygen.
Just announced are some equally brilliant comedy acts (as if you weren't going to have a massive laugh anyway) from the likes of 'Home Movies' writer Brendon Small, 'The League' star Paul Scheer with Rob Huebel, 'Eagleheart' comedian Brett Gelman and former 'Last Comic Standing' contestant Doug Benson.
Continue reading: FYF Fest 2013 Announces More Live Acts For August!
The festival folded after being a reported £4.4 million in debt last year
We’re not sure how Hop Farm is back in 2013 after going into administration last year and posting alleged losses of some £4.8 million… but good news, everyone! Hop Farm’s back in 2013! And it’s announced its first two headliners as shoegaze veterans My Bloody Valentine and, well, just plain veteran Rodriguez.
A host of other names have been announced, including The Cribs, Dinosaur Jr, Jimmy Cliff and Martha Wainwright to name just a handful, and in a press release statement Vince Power, the festival organiser, said “I am pleased to announce the sixth Hop Farm line up this year, which includes headliners My Bloody Valentine, exclusive to The Hop Farm Festival, off the back of their much awaited new album. Plus I’m excited to add international folk legend Rodriguez to the bill this year. Searching for Sugar Man, has just won an Academy Award and a BAFTA, so this is a very special year to welcome him to the Hop Farm. Last year has been tough for me, as it has been across the board for the festival market. I wanted to keep the festival going, but I’ve had to make changes for it to continue.”
That difficult year was the aforementioned folding of Hop Farm last year, which makes it somewhat puzzling that it’s been allowed to return, with the NME claiming that some bands hadn’t been paid from last year. However, they also posted a statement from him that said "The Hop Farm will happen this year, this is one blip in my career spanning over 30 years. All suppliers and artists are working with me and many of the suppliers have been with me for many years, through the Reading, Phoenix and Homelands days. They are being very supportive. I spent and paid artists alone approx £350 million over the years. The losses reported are inaccurate. The Hop Farm never lost 4.8 million. These losses included a group of companies in Kent Festival Ltd." So there you go.
A Week in Videos...The popularity of Unknown Mortal Orchestra has been on a slow burning rise for some months now. Taken from their forthcoming second album, helpfully entitled II, ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ sees the band in a particularly catchy mode, a lilting melody lifting the trademark stoner vibe. The video features the actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse (you’ll know him as McLovin’ from the movie Superbad) causing a scene and trying to snatch a hippy from a scene that could well be set in a 1960s era Venice Beach.
In this video, Nina Simone talks about freedom and love, before the film cuts to a grainy performance of her performing ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.’ One of music’s legendary performers, Simone’s rendition of the song showcases her warm and passionate vocal. On the subject of freedom, Simone insists that she couldn’t possibly describe how it feels to be free, just as much as its impossible to describe the feeling of being in love. To hear her perform the track, though, you get just a glimpse of what freedom might feel like.
Twenty-two years may have passed since My Bloody Valentine last released an album (1991’s Loveless) but the band have not lost their ability to whip music critics into a frenzy. Writing for The Telegraph, Bernadette McNulty comments that the strangest thing about reviewing a MBV album (entitled mbv) in 2013 isn’t the fact that there’s been 22 years of silence from the band but the fact that - in order to review it ahead of its release – she’s listening to the music via digital files. My Bloody Valentine are one of those bands that almost embody the allure of vinyl (and fear not, MBV devotees, the album is available to purchase on vinyl) and a the bewilderment of a digital MBV experience becomes the focal point of McNulty’s review.
Dudley Colley’s blog post, republished by Huffington Post, approaches the album with trepidation yet finds, with some degree of surprise, that it’s actually rather good. “I'm loath to even describe much of the rest of the album, simply because every listen is leaving me a little more in awe, and I don't want to try and pin it down yet… like the LP just falls into place at the beginning, it similarly just falls out of place at the end.”
Our own reviewer, Jordan Dowling gave the new release an impressive 8/10. In comparison to its most recent predecessor, Dowling writes “Inevitably with such a diverse palette the cohesion of Loveless is forsaken, but mbv is all the better for it. It is not necessarily a stronger record than Loveless, but it is certainly better than what Loveless Mk II would have been.” The message is clear, then; mbv is well worth your pennies, just make sure you splash out for the vinyl, for a true MBV experience.