I think this year has been a mixed year for music. There has been a lot of hyper marketing going on (Lady Gaga, Daft Punk), lots of expectation (Janelle Monae, Empire of the Sun), bags of great concerts (sadly some of which I didn’t manage to attend) and some nice surprises.
Taking all of this into consideration I have to label this as my top ten for the year and there are a few things here that I would not have anticpated.
My Favourite Ten Songs of 2013
- Drew – Goldfrapp
- Alive – Empire of the Sun
- In Your Care – Bright Light Bright Light
- Magnetic – Fenech Soler
- You & Me – Disclosure
- Volcano – Woodkid
- Dorothy Dandridge Eyes. – Janelle Monae
- Axis – Pet Shop Boys
- White Noise – Disclosure
- Pharrell – Happy
Paul and I went to see Goldfrapp play at Somerset House in the summer and to be honest I knew some of their work but wasn’t a fan. All that changed during the concert as Alison Goldfrapp has the most amazing voice and certainly knows how to put on a performance. I soon acquainted myself with the back catalogue and looked forward to Tales of Us being released this year.
I was not disappointed. I haven’t heard such a beautiful and sublime album in so long, nor an album that feels complete from beginning to end (apart from Woodkids The Golden Age last year). I’ve been bored of my music recently, taking to apps and online services to discover new material and yet when I reverted back to iTunes or my playlists on Spotify I always seemed to head back to Tales of Us. Such a wonderful album that it should belong in everyone’s collection.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J81vCwexfWg]
Whilst Paul and I were waiting to go the Goldfrapp concert I happened to spot a handsome bearded guy at the bar whom I recognised. Turned out to be Bright Light Bright Light. Of course I had to say hello – turns out he is a Goldfrapp fan too, (sadly I had changed from the Bright Light Bright Light tee-shirt I had been wearing earlier in the day)
Although Rod (his real name) didn’t release any new albums he did manage to re-release his first album Make Me Believe in Hope as a cut down piano album, tour the hippest clubs and bars in London and America and then produce a mature and established sound in the EP In Your Care which was released in November.
Rod has grown in the last year and his sound is more rounded now – I was always a fan but the latest EP shows a great strength and new direction. The title track is lovely and tells such a heartwarming story.
I cannot be so gushing or positive about anticipated albums from Janelle Monae, Pet Shop Boys nor Empire of the Sun and as a big fan of all of these, this is surprise.
The hype finally caught up with Janelle in 2013 and with Prince getting onboard The Electric Lady was destined to be great. The hype says it’s great. The young R&B fan base love it too but sadly to me it lacks the sparkle and the inventiveness of The Chase Suite or The Archandroid. I was especially fed up that the suite had been extended and all that Janelle managed to do was slot in a few random radio segues which felt like a really lame attempt at pulling together a story.
I love Q.U.E.E.N. for it’s laid back licks and it’s Jam & Lewis esque style, I raved about Dance Apocalyptic which was a fresh energetic track but I have not really gone back to listen to the album since it was released.
Dorothy Dandridge Eyes though is simply stunning and has been played on Jazz and Smooth listening stations and it works – it reflects the quality of Janelles voice and has some fantastic lyrics and vocals. I wish it had been released as a single but sadly not.
I had a massive admiration for Electric when the Pet Shop Boys released it and must admit it took me back to my teenage years where I would learn an album’s lyrics very quickly and find myself dreaming about them. It did saturate my mind on release but has all been forgotten.
Oddly though for an album to have such impact, I seem to have forgotten about it now!
I have not been bothered by any of the singles – I purchased most but have lost interest in them as I do not think they work as solo works.
Axis is an amazing piece but there are no lyrics. I comes alive when played on a decent system or played loud and seems to stand alone as a single – although not released as one.
This was however a great direction for Neil and Chris and a fantastic first release on their new record label. It’ll be interesting to see what they have planned next.
Alive from Empire of the Sun Ice on the Dune makes the top ten as it’s a brilliant dance track and a highly motivational song which has got me through many a run and training session. My endearing memory of Alive is listening to it whilst running along the Costa Del Sol.
The rest of Ice on the Dune is fun and lively but Alive really is the shining star.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRupdVVAPwY]
Thankfully some other anticipated releases faired a little better: Enda and I watched Fenech Soler perform at Birthdays and felt like we were old enough to be the parents of the crowd. It was a fun (if not a bit grotty) evening in Dalston and Fenech Soler put on an amazing performance. Their earlier material is anthemic and lends itself to live performance.
The new material from Rituals (which seemed to take forever to get a release date) was great live and Magnetic is a great example of this verve and energy. I cannot say if the whole album was captured like this when they performed last month as I missed the concert due to my hurting my back. I have heard good reviews from Paul and the videos he took show a good show…
Magnetic is included in my top 10 as it got into my head and I still find myself simply singing “when the nights magnetic…” – pop perfection.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_vM8ePGuRM]
Disclosure were an act I had never even heard of this time last year. iTunes had listed them as one to watch and gave away White Noise as a free track. I remember having a conversation with Enda about them and thought we should keep an eye on the Disclosure boys. We were not disappointed – boy what an act and with the backing of fresh vocal talent to deliver maximum impact track by track.
Settle was the first album I have purchased in a long time that made it straight in at number one in the charts and it was such a breath of fresh air. Nothing has been able to come close to Disclosure for energy and fun and they deserve all the success they have gained in 2013. In a world drowning in EDM it’s great that two young guys from the UK can prove to the world that great dance music is still possible.
Woodkid makes it into the chart with a track that hasn’t even been released yet. The Golden Age tour at the beginning of the year felt like a massive gamble. I raved and raved about him and it felt like I dragged Bogdana, Paul and Enda to the concert only to come away with them saying I told you so. Turns out my instinct was right and Woodkid delivered the best concert I have been to in years.
Of course he had to improve on perfection by performing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and this is my massive disappointment of 2013 as I didn’t get to go as I had just done my back in. Paul and Enda did their best to spare my feelings but both admitted that the show was even more magical than the previous. Enda in particular was singing high praise for a new track which we now know to be Volcano. It really is testament to Woodkids amazing talent that such an instrumental track can be so emotional and high energy.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVSqd1SzkQE]
If you watch the live video remember that this track is not electronic – it is performed with a live symphony orchestra…
With The Golden Age drawing to a much-anticipated climax in 2014 next year could be even bigger than ever for the bearded Frenchman.
Happy makes the top ten as this is Pharrell Williams are his best. Fun, upbeat, energetic vocals with great pop melodies. It features in one of the funniest film franchises in years Despicable Me and sums up the mood of the film perfectly.
Of course Pharrell couldn’t rest there and created the worlds first 24 hour video for Happy. I defy anyone not to be moved or have their spirits raised by such a lovely, fun song.
I’ve made some other great discoveries this year such as John Hopkins, The Late Dave Turpin and Sam Sparro’s follow up album (Return to Paradise) which have kept me entertained throughout the year.
Richard and I got to see Eliane Elias who was simply spell binding – although she hash;t made the top ten she should get a special mention as she really is a great vocal talent.
Oh and of course there was Will.i.am…
So that is my round up of the year in music for me. A collection of music which simply includes tunes I have enjoyed. I hope 2014 is another great year of live performances and surprises. And of course with great music and concerts comes time spent with friends and loved ones so may it long continue.
I have put my top ten and a few other gems together into a Spotify playlist: