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
The three day spectacular mixed music, arts, comedy and more in what continues to be one of the UK's premiere festivals - and we've got plenty of pictures from all three days
Henham Park in Southwold, Suffolk once again held the coming together of music, comedy, arts and more in it's scenic woodland surroundings to a rapturous reception from the many revellers who travelled to see the likes of Foals, Kraftwerk, Texas and Bobby Womack rub shoulders with the likes of Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran and Daniel Kitson. And that's just scratching the surface of what was on show.
Kraftwerk have been touring their 3-D show across the globe
On the first day (Friday 19 July) Bloc Party lit up the main-stage, having seen the likes of the Maccabees, Yo La Tengo and The Leisure Society come before them. Elsewhere, on the smaller BBC Radio 6 stage, Texas were the headliners of the night, with Willy Mason, Villagers, Beth Orton and more coming before them, whilst Japandroids and DIIV were among the bigger names on the smaller stages. Meanwhile, bringing the laughs to the comedy stage was Lee Nelson and Sean Lock, to name but two.
A Week in Videos...The popularity of Unknown Mortal Orchestra has been on a slow burning rise for some months now. Taken from their forthcoming second album, helpfully entitled II, ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ sees the band in a particularly catchy mode, a lilting melody lifting the trademark stoner vibe. The video features the actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse (you’ll know him as McLovin’ from the movie Superbad) causing a scene and trying to snatch a hippy from a scene that could well be set in a 1960s era Venice Beach.
In this video, Nina Simone talks about freedom and love, before the film cuts to a grainy performance of her performing ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.’ One of music’s legendary performers, Simone’s rendition of the song showcases her warm and passionate vocal. On the subject of freedom, Simone insists that she couldn’t possibly describe how it feels to be free, just as much as its impossible to describe the feeling of being in love. To hear her perform the track, though, you get just a glimpse of what freedom might feel like.
It seems funny to start thinking of such things so early in a calendar year, but I'm going to call this right now. Local Natives' second album Hummingbird is going to be one of the best records you're likely to hear all year. It's not perfect, but it's as close as you could hope for from a sophomore effort. While its charms aren't always immediate, the infectious and hazy melodies are persistent.
2009's Gorilla Manor certainly had its moments, but Hummingbird's strength is the overall quality and confidence of the material. Bringing to mind the grandeur of Beach House's Bloom, the soaring vocals and impressive drumming creates a fascinating aural tapestry. Bringing in The National's Aaron Dessner as producer certainly hasn't hurt either. Perhaps that's why the loss of bassist Andy Hamm isn't acutely felt throughout Hummingbird. Instead, Dessner shifts the focus throughout to Local Natives' ample strengths.
Opener 'You & I' demonstrates one of those early on, with Taylor Rice's lyrics. Lines like; "And I woke up with my green eyes blue" are loaded with melancholy. Coupled with falsetto delivery, there's an emotional hook for the listener almost instantly. While the instrumentation is subtle and dreamlike at times, the drums provide the essential heartbeat to the 11 tracks, as guitars and keyboards drift in and out of focus. Lead single 'Breakers' is a highlight as it unleashes an array of instruments, handclaps and harmonies that build to an almost deafening crescendo. But the quitter and more contemplative moments like the piano that underpins 'Three Months' are just as memorable.
Continue reading: Local Natives - Hummingbird Album Review