Annual anthems ’13

OK, so in November I posted about the Mercury prize and I thought I’d follow up, now I’ve caught up with some of my album backlog with my top albums of 2013. No reviews, just a list that you should definitely listen to:

  1. Daughter – If You Leave
  2. Darwin Deez – Songs for Imaginative People
  3. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  4. Villagers – Awayland
  5. Foals – Holy Fire


Mercury Prize 2013

I follow the Mercury Prize religiously each year because it always includes the four or five albums I want it to and the rest are always gems I’ve missed. It’s basically my source of ‘what you should have been listening to’ each year and this year is no different. The nominees were:

  • Arctic Monkeys – AM
  • David Bowie – The Next Day
  • Disclosure – Settle
  • Foals – Holy Fire
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg
  • James Blake – Overgrown
  • Jon Hopkins – Immunity
  • Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle
  • Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon
  • Rudimental – Home
  • Savages – Silence Yourself
  • Villagers – {Awayland}

Villagers, Arctic Monkeys, Bowie, Foals, Jake Bugg, Laura Mvula and Laura Marling were already firm favourites of mine that frequent my turntable weekly and the rest were welcome additions to my list.

Last week the winner was announced in the ever pretentious and ill-informed coverage that accompanies the award annually. James Blake scooped the award for Overgrown which I have only heard in passing. I always try to listen through all the nominees thoroughly and this year I spent so long on Villagers & Foals I’ve barely squeezed a listen to the others in!

Les Revenants

This week my trusty turntable is spinning Mogwai‘s Les Revenants. In the traditional sense of the phrase, this LP is an OST for French TV drama ‘Les Revenats‘ (or ‘The Returned’ if you’re watching the subtitled version on 4 as we were). However, Stuart Braithwaite in interview with Edith Bowman explained how they had produced and mastered the album as a stand-alone piece of music. Interestingly then, as an avid music junkie and someone who had followed the series on television before listening to the album, the album flows beautifully instead of flitting from intense instrumentals to soothing ambient pieces like one expects from most OSTs.

Mogwai are a five-piece post-rock group heralding from Glasgow. A former housemate of mine was a borderline super fan of theirs so I had heard a fair amount of their work before. I’d even usedone or two tracks to set a motion graphics project to. Their back catalogue is extremely interesting, showing a stark transition from gritty, distorted post-hardcore to an almost Eno-esque ambience. Seemingly, the band have unconsciously drifted into a wonderful niché in soundtracks after having produced music for 2006’s ‘Zidane: aA21st Century Portrait’ a French documentary about Football legend Zinedine Zidane.

The Returned is an etherial and moody drama set in a small alpine town where the dead begin to rise. This may sound like flogging a dead horse as it’s exceptionally rare to find any true originality in zombie flicks these days. Even AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ and it’s basis in Robert Kirkman’s comic series (which is currently adorning my bookshelf) rarely introduces new ideas, perspectives or angles. The Returned plays on the dichotomy of the living and the dead within the returned characters. A fresh angle which is not hugely dissimilar to BBC Three’s In The Flesh.

The soundtrack is an atmospheric, almost ambient affair with a real Mogwai hallmark to it. Time singatures vary, strings descend into crackling guitar and moods shift fluidly from track to track. The album reminds you of the moods within the show without echoing them exactly. It acheives exactly what they wished it to in that it holds it’s own as a record. Had I not seen the program I am near-certain I would have equally enjoyed the music and, equally, had I not known of Mogwai I am sure I would have enjoyed the show. The music is a true stand-out feature for me in the series which sent me straight to the nearest record shop but I feel it’s worth noting that the music is in no way the ‘hero’ of the show. It elegantly accompanies and heightens the moods in the series without ever stealing focus as you would want from such a thing.

TL;DR – Check out Channel 4’s ‘The Returned’ and then enjoy the album. It’s a match made in eerily foggy French heaven.

Fat sounds

I’m going to try and post weekly what I’m listening to…this week it’s a very old classic – The Fats Waller Collection. Fats was an extremely influential pianist who shaped the sound of early jazz and helped make modern music what it is today. Sadly, he died on Pneumonia in 1943, aged just 39. His music is an incredibly soulful mix of jazz piano and blues standards that makes for an excellent 12″ to accompany beavering away on pet projects.