Saturday, December 07, 2013

Obligatory "records of the year" post because the world absolutely needs one more of those

It would appear to be that time of the year.

There were two important albums released in 2013. (There may have been three, but I don't feel qualified to comment on the Bowie album, on account of having largely ignored his output since the early 1980s.) Obviously the Daft Punk is my favourite album of the year. I just love it so much (apologies to the many who don't). But why is it important? I think because it serves as a timely reminder of how a record can be made, and what a record can sound like, and stand for. It's all about the music. (And yet the music is frequently insane, some of it may not even, as Sasha Frere-Jones pointed out when it came out, be any good, but nevertheless the entirety of it is magnificent.)

The other important album this year is the 10th entry in Dylan's "Bootleg Series": important because the armchair Dylanologists (those of us with -- ahem -- some semblance of a life outside of the pursuit of Bob) had long sensed that the "Self Portrait" era could not possibly have been as awful as it seemed to be. And here, 40-some years later, is the proof that in fact Dylan was making music as alive and meaningful as any he had made up to then, and any he would make after. You could listen to this music forever, and dream about what might still be lurking in the archives.

Even in the absence of those two signifiers, though, this has been a bloody good year for recorded music. There is a long list, if only I could remember them all, of albums that have advanced, even if ever so slightly, what music can be. In no particular order:

"Psychic", by Darkside.
"News From Nowhere", by Darkstar.
"Lux", by Brian Eno. (Technically late 2012, but took time to absorb.)
"Immunity", by Jon Hopkins.
"Beautiful Rewind", by Four Tet.
"World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?", by William Onyeabor.
"Push The Sky Away", by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. (I know I haven't written anything about this record; I'm not sure I have the words to do it justice, also my take on it is even more than usually personal. In short, it's a big one.)
"Four: Acts Of Love", by Mick Harvey. (That colon is important.)
"Chance Of Rain", by Laurel Halo.
"R Plus Seven", by Oneohtrix Point Never.
"Cupid's Head", by The Field.
"m b v", by My Bloody Valentine.
"Seasons Of Your Day", by Mazzy Star.
"Dysnomia", by Dawn Of Midi.
"Pull My Hair Back", by Jessy Lanza.
"Empty Avenues", by John Foxx And The Belbury Circle.
"Engravings", by Forest Swords.
"Nepenthe", by Julianna Barwick.
"The Weighing Of The Heart", by Colleen.
"Roaring Lion", by Lee Perry & His Upsetters.
"Joy One Mile", by Stellar Om Source.
"Open", by The Necks.
"Tomorrow's Harvest", by Boards Of Canada.
"She Beats", by Beaches.
"Box Set, Volume 2", by Cleaners From Venus.
"The Next Day", by David Bowie. (Because, "important" or not, it is still one of the year's best.)
"The Elektrik Karousel", by Focus Group.
"Overgrown", by James Blake.
"Evidence", by John Foxx & The Maths.
"Change The Beat: The Celluloid Records Story 1979-1987".
"Afrobeat Airways, Vol 2: Return Flight To Ghana 1974-1983".
"Sweet Sensation", by Embassy.
"Fade", by Yo La Tengo.
"Berberian Sound Studio", by Broadcast.
"Across Six Leap Years", by Tindersticks. (Old songs done in new ways; wonderful stuff whichever way you cut it.)
"The Skeletal Essences Of Afro Funk, Vol 3 (1969-1980)", by Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou.

Not to mention the countless other I have no doubt forgotten.

That is rather a long list, isn't it? (In almost any other year "Engravings" would loom very large. Actually, it still does.)

And the song of the year? Well, if it wasn't for "Get Lucky", that would be "Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA)", by David Bowie.