Music 200 (and 13)

December 20th, 2013 by Dan

I’m  back on the blog! Had some time out to explore depression and medication and lots of talking about how we don’t talk about those things but now it’s time for the albums that my ears and brain approved of the most this year, with words and music.

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1 to 10

Autoheart: Punch
“When in Moscow I just want to fold you up and keep you warm.”
The long-awaited debut album from The Artists Formerly Known As The Gadsdens finally arrived this year! Big hitters like The Sailor Song, Control, Agoraphobia Lent and Moscow alongside some quieter beautiful moments made this my favourite album of the year. Autoheart’s music comes from the (auto) heart and they have the tunes to match the atmospherics. Some of this album is brain shiver music, some of it is nod-along pop, all of it is an impressive debut long player.

Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
“What you are is lonely.”
I was aware of Tegan and Sara before this album but they never really got into my head. Heartthrob is a nice simple old fashioned set of ten songs, no filler, all worthy of praise. Call me a cliche but it must be the Greg Kurstin influence on the project that got me hooked, he knows how to get the ‘ooomph’ out of T&S and the increased pop feel doesn’t compromise their integrity.

Slow Knights: Cosmos
“How do you feel better when you can see on my face I’m miles away?”
Slow Knights couldn’t possibly fail for me due to the calibre of the talent. It’s the follow-up to Del Marquis’ excellent series of solo EPs and his recent EP with Xavier, it also features Rod from Bright Light Bright Light and it’s a bit like a compilation of several new favourite bands. Stand-out track Under Attack certainly owes something to Madonna’s Holiday but this is no pastiche record.

Alison Moyet: The Minutes
“When I was your girl I didn’t know that I would end where you begin.”
Alison Moyet + Guy Sigsworth = More than the sum of their parts. There was so much written about Alison’s comeback but she’s been making great albums for a long time now, luckily this one got a lot of attention. Delicious meaningful electropop, supported by an excellent live show that featured The Bloke From Artmagic on musical boffinry. Bloody fantastic!

Studio Killers: Studio Killers
“… Every night, they fall like dominoes. How he does it, only heaven knows. All the other men turn gay wherever he goes.”
I missed out on Studio Killers until suddenly lots of people whose taste I approve of online went mad for them. They were not wrong! A strange cartoon virtual band of non-specific gender making catchy quirky electropop. That’s my kind of music.

VV Brown: Samson and Deliliah
“I don’t really feel like trusting, It’s not worth it anymore. Like a knife overloving you, and you’re hurting me more and more.”
VV Brown’s second album was not what I expected at all. I loved the majority of her debut but the first single from this one did nothing for me… and then the whole thing appeared and it got into my brain. Atmospheric, complex and the kind of music that creeps up on you after a few plays: this is an excellent album.

Diane Birch: Speak A Little Louder
“Do you steal away when she’s asleep? Does she know that’s all the love you got?”
Another artist on album number two but I had no idea what to expect with Diane Birch (I bought the debut soon after hearing this one of course). A lazy comparison would be Stevie Nicks with more balls and less owls. I like lazy comparisons sometimes.

David Bowie: Next Day
“And they know just what we do. That we toss and turn at night. They’re waiting to make their moves on us. The stars are out tonight.”
Dame David returned. You may have heard about that. Luckily, it was a pretty amazing project with a wide range of Bowie styles and some amazing videos. Shame about the second special edition in a year but of course I bought it all over again because nerd etc.

Gabriella Cilmi: The Sting
“Why do good things happen to bad bad people? Why do bad things happen to good good people?”
The third album from Ms Cilmi is her best yet. It’s also her big independent moment, full of lovely sounds, big pounding beats, and that voice. Has a song about stealing honey from bees, which is clearly not going to end well.

Rebecca Ferguson: Freedom
“We are golden. We’ll be fine.”
Someone from the evil X-Factor made an album that I loved. I’m not ashamed. Great stuff, full of heartbreak and a bit of disco. She seems to be the new Gabrielle but the old Gabrielle (aka Gabrielle) has returned with a compilation that doesn’t count as a new album for my 2013 Albums list.

11 to 20

St. Lucia: When the Night
“Hold on to your heart.”
Sometimes you just need some sunny pop made by a band who seem to be having a lot of fun.

Jonny Cola and the A Grades: Spitfire
“I had it in my sights and then rain stopped play.”
Another solid collection of catchy slightly seedy tunes from the glam rock britpop pop fops.

Haim: Days Are Gone
“Never look back, never give up.”
California long hair sunny Fleetwood Mac Bangles-y pop gold. Marvellous!

Janelle Monae: Electric Lady
“Grandaddy, I think I wanna dance.”
She’s still a robot, with another impressive release. The skits are getting tired now but the music is as funky and energetic as ever.

Pet Shop Boys: Electric
“Searching for the soul of England, drinking tea like Tony Benn.”
The PSB dance music album was well received and it took a while for me to get into it. In the end it was a success to my ears with some very Pet Shop Boys songs but made me feel a bit old in places. Ooh me back.

Boy George: This Is What I Do
“What’s the word on the street? Have I lost my crown or will I be king again?”
A proper return for Boy George! None of this remix malarky or DJing, an actual album of good songs done with his band. This kept the reflective mood of his Mark Ronson collaboration and added lots of classic Boy George themes and sounds.

Fitz and the Tantrums: More Than Just A Dream
“A love song’s on the radio, but these words I hear, they’re not for me, no.”
We love Fitz & the Tantrums in our house. I don’t think they’re very well known in the UK but their second album has added an element of dance pop to their funky band-led soulful tunes. At first I was wary of the change but then I loved it.

Alice Smith: She
“He didn’t know he would get shot. Shot in the heart.”
Another second album! Another one of husband Jamie’s recommendations! The track which hooked me reminds me of a funkier Titiyo for some reason but this is one of those great reliable modern R&B – but- eclectic albums which is quite far from the current trend for autotune stripper music. Soulful!

Suede: Bloodsports
“Aniseed kisses and lipstick traces, Lemonade sipped in Belgian rooms.”
In a year of musical returns we had Suede making a new album, which was a pleasant surprise. Bloodsports is not their best album or their worst album but it sits happily in the middle of their catalogue. It does what it needs to by re-establishing them as a good band but the marketing and track allocation was a disaster across multiple special editions in different countries plus exclusives for here and there. Couldn’t we have just had all the songs together please?

Little Boots: Nocturnes
“Meet me on the motorway. Together we could make our great escape.”
It had been a while since Ms Boots was in the spotlight but her return was a welcome one. Some classy electropop growers on this album, especially the Saint Etienne – tinged Motorway.


Other formats that were not albums but deserved a mention:

Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time: B-Sides // Part 1
The album is not out in the UK but this ‘b-sides’ EP (do we even have b-sides anymore?) was released so represents Sky’s music. It’s been a Sky Ferreira year, what with the album and all of those unreleased songs that live on my ipod.

Gabrielle new tracks: Now and Always
Another musical return, the much-missed (by me) Gabrielle released a Best Of with some new songs that were all impressive, covering heartache, a trip to the disco and a bit of acid jazz.

Bright Light Bright Light: In Your Care EP
Rod Thomas released an EP to bridge his debut album and what comes next. It was exactly what you’d want from him: Emote-pop with drum pads and cracking tunes.

Rose Elinor Dougall: Future Vanishes EP
Rose is back! She’s still poppy with an atmospheric twist! New album please.

Betty who: The Movement EP
Betty Who is no relation to Doctor but managed to get a huge amount of attention with her free EP. Free! EP! It’s very good and poppy and smiley.

Solange True
This EP almost became a bit samey but took a while to get under my skin. Good stuff, but may need to be more varied next time.

Next year’s exciting things to come:

The return of (Dame) Lisa Stansfield!

Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s collaboration  with Ed Harcourt!

James Vincent McMorrow’s excellent second album!

A new album from Sia?

Something long from Florrie?


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