So, starting at the beginning, [Strangers] I came across via the Bas 2 event; in an earlier time I believe ‘Shine On You’ would have been a No.1 single, the charts were a better place when songs this good stood a chance. I only really got into Jake Bugg’s album during the last month of the year, being pretty much unaware as it sat atop the charts and it’s the only record with two tracks on my end of year compilation, both tracks are blinders though and very difficult to separate.The Elton John vs. Pnau album was a surprise. I investigated after reading good reviews and was pleasantly surprised that the reviews were spot on, the album reminding me of Daft Punk at their poppermost. Springsteen’s album mixed rock and folk and has not let the man’s great standards down. Richard Hawley went all psych rock but my favourite track was the more typically Hawley-esque ‘Seek It’. PiL’s album was better than you’d expect without actually being very memorable, but this track is a corker. Rumer still hasn’t delivered an album that’s deserving of her vocal qualities but this version of Isaac Hayes ‘Soulsville’ is to me the best thing she’s yet recorded. Trembling Bells and Bonnie Prince Billy’s track is my track of the year, from the poppy keyboard motif to the two minute nervous breakdown that dominates the second half of the track. Also the best lyrical reference to Johnnie Ray since ‘Come On Eileen’.
Frank Ocean's album lived up to the hype, ‘Crack Rock’ the track that drew me back for most repeat playing. Blur did it again, ‘Under The Westway, repeating the trick of ‘Fools Day’ leaving you wanting an album now please. Dexys return was understated, this soulful toe tapper perhaps the most accessible. The Stones released two great tracks on their latest greatest hits, ‘Doom & Gloom’ just shading it, but check out ‘One More Shot’ too. Paul Weller’s album topped the charts and hit the musical heights, and Leonard Cohen made a surprisingly cool record. Muse basically turned into Queen with knobs on and Fiona Apple delivered, again. Kylie won the poptarts battle, Christina Aguilera’s album being flat and without a classic moment. Kylie kept it cool, covering her own songs, getting Nick Cave involved again and making the most eye popping video of the year. Phil Burdett released two albums, arguably his best. Sinead O’Connor made a comeback that very few cared about, this cover of John Grant’s album title track coming hot on the heels of the original and sounding as if she’d written it herself. Bill Fay was a music mags critic’s favourite, perhaps slightly overrated but this track deserved all the praise, delivering with Lennon-esque stature.
I’m sure there are songs I’ve forgotten. First drafts of this list included songs from Scott Walker and Donald Fagen, both in my top ten albums of the year but difficult to present on a more immediate list like this.
We’re not even two weeks into 2013 but already Bowie’s got the world excited, and I’m also looking forward to John Grant’s 2nd solo offering (due out the same day as Bowie’s). And this morning my deluxe copy of Villagers new LP turned up, a first highlight of the year….roll on the rest of 2013.