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
Albums of Note... Yeah Yeah Yeahs have returned after a lengthy break, with Mosquito. It’s a marked step in the band’s evolution and a further step away from their punky roots. Mosquito has opened up further avenues of creative possibilities for a band that once seemed shackled by their arty roots and somewhat more importantly, Karen O now has blonde hair, now folks. That’s the big news here.
“The possibilities for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs now seem endless. The inclusion of Kool Keith's alter ego Dr Octagon on 'Buried Alive' is one such example. Although slightly scattergun in its approach, Mosquito almost feels like a record the band needed to make to reach the next stage of their evolution.”
If you can get past the 50s B-movie title of The Besnard Lakes fourth record you'll be duly rewarded. The Canadian quartet have started to become the Great White North's equivalent of Sigur R½s. It's all dreamy, soaring melodies and fragile vocals stretching across wide open imagined landscapes. While Beach House refined the art of Dream Pop last year, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas take it one step further here into a widescreen soundscape of guitars and synths.
While there's no dramatic reinvention of The Besnard Lakes sound to be found in these 8 songs, there's a renewed confidence that shines through. The lyrics are cloaked in mystery, although there seems to be loose themes of separation that bubble to the surface occasionally. For example, 'People Of The Sticks'' repeated mantra of "I found you, I found you" or 'The Specter''s opening line; "Can you here me knocking from the other side of the beach?" But really the most arresting thing is the sound that's created by the constantly ebbing and flowing waves of guitars.
With the emphasis firmly placed on the sonic journey the record takes, Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO is remarkably successful in its endeavours. Balancing delicate moments such as the ethereal harp that opens the slow burning 'Catalina', with the feedback-laden cascade of guitars on 'Alamogordo', it's an exercise in creating a glorious noise as much as anything else. The latter track features a 3-minute fade to close the album, but it doesn't feel like it's showboating or surplus to requirement. While other bands may avoid similar flourishes, you get the feeling that Lasek and Goreas have developed a strong conviction to follow their gut instincts. That's perhaps the key to understanding why all the material here is so strong.
Continue reading: The Besnard Lakes - Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO Album Review