The Happiest of New Years to you all. How many well-meant resolutions have you broken yet, then? It’s OK, you can tell us. We don’t judge.
As is blog tradition, the first week back must, must, must involve casting an eye – or ear, preferably, in this case – back at the year that’s passed us by all too quickly – starting with the music.
Ah, the music of 2013. Don’t sit too comfortably now, this shouldn’t take long. What an underwhelming year. Those horrible ‘Blurred Lines’… It was all either synth-heavy, scantily-clad, or so terribly dull, I find myself now agreeing even more with those grumps who grumble that perhaps there are just too many complacent, white public-schoolboys making (gap year?) pop and rock music (hear, hear, Sandie Shaw).
To be honest, maybe it’s my current state of mind, but I don’t feel they have much to say of relevance any more, and I find it both refreshing and exciting at the same time to find angry youths singing – nay, shouting – about real life’s many injustices again. I don’t know if the bias is because the most comfortable and privately-educated of the burgeoning middle-class will always be that much more wiser, confident, with a deeper understanding of how to get along in life, or because gutless record companies are increasingly appearing less willing to take a punt on those from poorer backgrounds, maybe favouring those who are able to support themselves (perhaps with a back-up plan and degree should it all fall to pieces), or because the genres I happen to have little time for, such as hip-hop and grime, tend to appeal more widely to the angst of the masses nowadays, leaving rock and pop sadly misrepresented and all too twee as a result.
How many poor kids get an electric guitar for Christmas? How many of their schools provide the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument? How many community centres has austerity kept open in which to rehearse?
Anyway, I digress. No need to point out that George Orwell and John Lennon, obviously, and others were all quite well-off and still brilliant.
So, as for albums, I bought just two new releases in 2013, possibly the fewest I’ve bought in any year, and the few downloads were mainly from decades long gone. Shame. How many did you buy?
David Bowie released his twenty-fourth studio album, The Next Day, back in March; Elton John his thirty-first, The Diving Board, in September. Push the Sky Away was the fifteenth from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, released in February. Pearl Jam presented their tenth, called Lightning Bolt, in October. Paul McCartney’s New, which also came out in October, was his sixteenth.
Did I miss anyone else when I was blowing the dust off my old CDs in search of inspiration and raw emotion? I should confess, I didn’t buy any of the above, didn’t even listen to much of it, although there were some good tunes on Paul McCartney’s that received fair radio-play.
For me, the best album of 2013 – by a long, long way – was Jake Bugg’s Shangri La. His second album (his eponymous first from 2012 was actually released in the US last year, so can fortunately be included here to make 2013 look better than it really was) and, could you believe, the boy’s not yet out of his teens? It’s as if someone decided to mix Ray Davies, Donovan, Peter Noone and Gene Pitney in a blender, if that doesn’t sound like the type of disturbed thing only someone who has seen too many gory horror films would suggest. (More on films and TV later this week, when we’ll see once again that they continue to put the music industry to shame.) In any case, I think young Jake’s so good, frankly, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about whatever else disappointed or bored me rigid in 2013. So there.
I offer up a few more tracks that stood out, just for the hell of it. Let me know if you like any of them and, please, for the love of music, include some suggestions of your own for us all to listen to.
– Jagwar Ma, ‘The Throw’
– King Krule, ‘Easy Easy’
– Paul McCartney, ‘New’
– Pearl Jam, ‘Mind Your Manners’
– Primal Scream, ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’
– Sankofa, ‘Guttermouth’
– Stereophonics, ‘Graffiti on the Train’
– Telegram, ‘Follow’
– Temples, ‘Colours to Life’
– The Varese’s, ‘Spotlight’
Before I leave you to your clicking, I wouldn’t wish any lover of music to forget that 2013 was also the year we lost Peter Banks (Yes), Jeff Hanneman (Slayer), Ray Manzarek (The Doors), Reg Presley (The Troggs) and Richard Street (The Temptations); as well as hugely influential singer/songwriter/guitarists, J.J. Cale, Richie Havens and Lou Reed; and Country legend, George Jones. If you’d rather remember 2013 by recalling the myriad songs these great talents helped create in their lifetimes, nobody could blame you.
2013’s best television and film next time, then books. It’s going to be the busiest week we’ve had here in… well, about a year, probably.