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
Laneway Festival hold their last event of 2013 in Detroit during their first US appearance.
The St. Jerome's Laneway Festival 2013 made its US debut as it hit Detroit over the weekend, bringing a hell of a lot of fun Sunday, September 15th 2013.
Musical celebrations kicked off marvellously with 7,500 in attendance. Among the definite highlights were early performers CHVRCHES, Frightened Rabbit and Deerhunter; Icona Pop also drew a massive crowd with a wonderful set of catchy tunes from their 'This Is . Icona Pop' album - number one hit 'I Love It' went down a storm! Up-and-coming Aussie musician Flume brought some life to the Meadow Stage, while Sigur Ros held the rapt attention of their main stage crowd. Co-founder Rogers was more than pleased with the turn-out. 'Our first venture into North America could not have gone better', he said. 'We were always confident that the people of Detroit would embrace this event. Not only did they come out in droves to see their fave bands but local artists, designers, painters and chefs turned on the hospitality of the region and all demonstrated why the city is on the brink of a major revival.'
Continue reading: Laneway Festival 2013 Makes Its Long-Awaited US Debut In Detroit
The Icelandic band are popular amongst 'GoT' fans
The popular swords n' dragons drama Game of Thrones – yet another string to HBO’s impressive bow – has added the Icelandic band Sigur Ros to the cast of season four, which is set to debut in Spring 2014.
Sigur Ros and GoT are a perfect fit
The band spoke of their TV triumph on their Facebook page, posting: “goggi, jónsi and orri are currently shooting an appearance for the fourth season of Game of Thrones!” Despite the shows period setting – sort of, it is a fantasy – plenty of contemporary bands have enjoyed turns on the show.
Continue reading: Sigur Ros Enter The 'Game of Thrones' - HBO Drama Casts Musicians
Gaga gears up to bring 'Artpop' to London during next month's iTunes Festival.
Lady GaGa has left the irritation of Monday's 'Applause' new single leakage behind her and has turned her attention to September, tweeting her excitement for next month's iTunes Festival. The singer announced that she's be gracing Camden's Roundhouse on the 1st September - the first night of the month of free concerts - with the Tweet: "I'M HEADLINING ITUNES FESTIVAL ON SEPT 1 AT ROUNDHOUSE IN LONDON. ONE HOUR OF ALL NEW MUSIC. #UKMonstersGetReady" to make sure all her UK fans knew what awaited them.
Lady Gaga's New Look.
The NY singer called a "911 pop emergency" on Monday after a snippet from the lead single from her upcoming album, Artpop, leaked on the internet. "Little Monsters" rushed to their idol's aide by reporting illegal uploads to record company UMG but the hot new track spread like wildfire across the internet. Gaga made the radical decision to change the single's release date to the 12th Aug, dropping the new track immediately on American radio stations to combat the pirates.
Continue reading: Lady Gaga Promises "One Hour Of All New Music" At iTunes Festival
Glastonbury & Hard Rock Calling see 2013's festival season move into full swing
Albums of the week... Following 2011's massively successful collaborative album with Jay-Z 'Watch The Throne', Kanye West makes a return with a new solo effort entitled 'Yeezus'. He proves yet again that he is one serious hip-hop artist as he introduces a brand new edge to his sound that has not failed to engage his devoted fans with a number one spot on six charts including the US, the UK and Canada. As Joe Wilde summarises, 'This may be his best album to date and is probably his most discussed one too, but one thing it definitely is, is a Kanye West album and no-one can do anything quite like what he can do.' Read the Yeezus album review here.
Another album that's gaining some serious attention is everyone's favourite Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros, whose seventh album 'Kveikur' has not left any disappointment in the wake of its highly anticipated release. Their sound remains familiarly ambient as on 2012 offering 'Valtari', though has definitely become noisier and a little darker. Our reviewer Jim Pusey had only good things to say, revealing, 'Despite all the darkness to be found here, Sigur Ros have managed to create one of their most compelling albums to date by embracing that darkness and quite literally shining a light on it.' Read the review of Kveikur here.
It took me just three minutes to fall in love with Sigur Ros' seventh album Kveikur. It's not because that's when something momentous happened, rather that's how long it took to overcome any preconceptions of what the album would offer. Hot on the heels of 2012's Valtari and the departure of multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson, there was a feeling that Kveikur could be a portrait of a band unsure of its trajectory. Instead, it's one of the Icelandic trio's most arresting and concise works to date.
Sigur Ros' international success has always overcome the obvious language barrier and, indeed, Jonsi has used that to his advantage on a number of occasions, choosing to use noise to emote in his own made up language rather than to use traditional lyrics. However, in recent years the band had seemed to rest on its laurels, creating complicated and delicate, but ultimately meandering soundscapes. That Valtari was their most understated album was no surprise. With its over reliance on classical orchestration and near absence of percussion, the Sigur Ros' experience was starting to feel a little repetitive. And yet, a mere thirteen months later, their newest effort finds the band revitalised in perhaps the most unexpected way. While the beauty and majesty of their previous albums has brought to mind wide screen and desolate Icelandic landscapes, Kveikur sounds quite simply like they've opened the gates to hell and strolled inside.
As first single and opening track 'Brennisteinn' (which literally translates as 'Brimstone') crackles into life, it becomes quickly apparent that the type of industrial metal made by the likes of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails may have informed some of the decisions made on Kveikur. Drenched in feedback, with an ominous cymbal led drum beat and shuddering bass, the first moments of the album seem strangely alien, yet an air of familiarity is maintained when Jónsi's falsetto emerges from the ether. Crucially, this isn't going to be an album that's afraid of noise; it's loud and seems to revel in the swathes of sound it pushes through your speakers. Even as the track draws to a close and it descends into an almost lethargic brass led fade, you can't help but feel energised by what you've already heard.
Continue reading: Sigur Ros - Kveikur Album Review
As far as eclectic genres go, iTunes Festival have pretty much covered all the bases with a host of exciting acts ranging from Jake Bugg to Jessie J, and Queens of the Stone Age to Einaudi.
Since yesterday's (19 June) mega announcement that superstar 'Sex on Fire' rockers Kings Of Leon,had been added to the bill, along with 'A-Punk' New Yorkers Vampire Weekend, there's a palpable excitement in the air as fans apply for tickets and sit tight.
Gone are the old ways of leaping to your laptop at 9 am as tickets go onsale and hitting the refresh button with shaking hands whilst thousands of others do the same in a bizarre battle of the F5 keys. iTunes have revolutionised the festival - instead of making fans shell out hundreds to be treated like medieval peasants, wading through excrement whilst clutching a £5 pint of warm beer - they're holding their month long celebration of sound at the recently refurbished and highly trendy Roundhouse venue in Camden.
There's enough pop acts to make any fan of the mainstream wet themselves, including Jessie J, Justin Timberlake, Jake Bugg and Rizzle Kicks, with an added healthy dosage of big-hitting names in the rock world, such as Paramore, Queens Of The Stone Age, Primal Scream and Kings of Leon.
Continue reading: A Mighty iTunes Festival Line-Up
American rockers Vampire Weekend and Kings of Leon have both been added to this year's free iTunes Festival, which will be held at London's Roundhouse venue throughout September.
It won't be solely a festival of rock though - artists from other genres have also been invited, giving everyone at this September's festival something to look forward to, such as Justin Timberlake, Jessie J, Jake Bugg, Rizzle Kicks, and classical composer Ludovico Einaudi.
Having being held since 2007, the annual iTunes festival is held over every night in September and this year will host over 60 acts at the Camden venue.
Albums of Note... David Bowie’s return to the shelves of our local record shops (well, the few that still exist) has been met with a grateful and adulatory fanfare, across the board and it’s been no different here at Contactmusic. Having run out of contemporary influences upon which to draw, Bowie took the old adage that pop will eat itself and made an album to fit. On The Next Day, Bowie largely references himself and his own body of work, recalling his Berlin days, as well as providing an extension of the tracks he released in the nineties.“Assessing how The Next Day sits alongside anything else he's done is irrelevant; an artist who has gone through as many character changes, taken on as many styles and moved through as many eras as he has defies such lazy list making. What can be said is that it is, at this point in time, at this point in his life and career, probably as good a record that David Bowie could've possibly come up with.”
Some of the mystery of Rhye’s cloaked existence has been unveiled and the band’s two components have been revealed as Toronto born producer Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal of Quadron. They draw comparisons to The XX, partly thanks for Milosh’s falsetto, which led many to believe that it was a woman on vocals. Possibly part of the reason they choose to entitle the album Woman...? “'Woman' is a chilled, tranquil listen but not a boring album by any means. The duo creates songs that fill with distant, mysterious moods. But, it still feels like an intimate album piled high with textured layers.”
Although Sigur Ros have never been anything less than a great live band their current incarnation is their strongest for over a decade, since the two year period that bookended their landmark release ( ) in 2002. Like it, their current tour finds them at a creative peak, happy to give as much focus to unreleased material, if not moreso, than the album you would typically expect them to arrange a set around.
It also sees them partially regain the veil of mystery that made their music so alien and irresistible before they appeared on big-budget blockbusters and all manner of daytime television. Their stage show is much bleaker than the technicolour extravagance of their Meo suo í eyrum vio spilum endalaust & Hvarf/Heim tours, and it is also much more intense and overwhelming. A physical veil shrouds the band for the entirety of the first two tracks, dropping at the climax of Agaetis Byrjun's ' 'Ny Batteri',and projections, smoke machines and lasers further obscure them.
On their new material the Icelandic trio's sound has re-evolved to become as equally foreboding as their live show, particularly on the mammoth 'Brennstein', perhaps the heaviest song they have written in nearly twenty years of existence and certainly one of their most effecting, with a pulsing overdriven bassline and pounding drums that bare the echoes of trance, giving way to swathes of brass and strings that die the feedback of Jonsi's trademark bowed guitar. It is wrought with a nervous energy the band hinted at on Valtari but never fully explored, and it is instantly more powerful than 7/8ths of their latest full-length, the sole exception being 'Varun', which is incidentally the only track taken from it that the band choose to play live. Jonsi has stated recently that their next album will be the 'Anti-Valtari', and it is already shaping up to be a step-up from its ambient-leaning predecessor.
Continue reading: Sigur Ros - Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 5th march 2013 Live Review 2013