by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC
As a man gets older …
As a man gets older he cares less and less that his albums of the year tend not to feature among those chosen and celebrated by the major on and off line publications. With age comes sagging chins, expanding waistlines, night visits to the bathroom but also that “couldn’t be bothered” confidence that allows you select what you really like, irrespective of official opinion. So here, for the third year running, and in no particular order, are the 10 albums that delivered the most enjoyment, sheer delight and inspiration to me in 2013:
Paper Lions, My Friends
The MacPhee brothers from Prince Edward Island were unknown to me prior to 2013 and came onto my radar via a recommendation from Tony Curtis (@735songs), one of two arbiters of cool whose selections rarely disappoint (although I was challenged by Windhand and Tocsin, two of his favs for 2013). This entire album is pure pop delight.
The Silver Seas, Alaska
Daniel Tashian’s Nashville based band got an honourable mention on my 2011 list for Chateau Revenge, an album that I’ve come to treasure even more over time. 2013’s Alaska fuses a slightly more country idiom with the band’s impeccable pop sensibility to produce 10 scintillating songs that sparkle and shine.
Pure Bathing Culture, Moon Tides
Dan Hindman and Sarah Versprille, the creative duo behind PBC, previously backed alt folk artist Andy Cabic in Vetiver so they have form, albeit in a different musical context. Moon Tides is a joyous musical celebration, reminiscent of last year’s Beach House beauty, Bloom. It’s all soaring vocals, synths and electric guitars. You’ll hear Prefab Sprout, Cocteau Twins, even Enya in there. Stand out track is Pendulum
Haim, Days Are Gone
Taylor Black of Extraordinary Events in California, like Ovation’s Tony Curtis, has been a great source of musical leads for many years now. Thanks to him I was a Haim fan from way back waited with baited breath for the release of the album. It didn’t disappoint and even went mainstream here in Europe giving me immense credibility with my GenY children. (Well maybe that’s an exaggeration!)
Ron Sexsmith, Forever Endeavour
If there’s a leit motiv across my 2013 selections it’s Canada. This Canadian has been churning out pop masterpieces for over 20 years now and this adds another 14 songs to his extensive canon. I saw him in Dublin this year with Eugene and he was wonderful – he’s humble, self-deprecating and an all round nice guy as well as a killer tunesmith. There’s low-fi feel to this album with the vocals standing proud of the backing track highlighting Sexsmith poignant, plaintive vocal style and Elvis Costello-like clever-clogs lyrics.
Miles Kane, Don’t forget who you are
This is pulsating retro-rock from Alex Turner’s partner in The Last Shadow Puppets. While it doesn’t quite match the unique brilliance AM (see below), it’s still a great record that showcases a kid in his mid 20s whose musical framework draws on the best of British from the 60s onwards. Stand out track for me is the mellow “Out of Control”
The Nines, The Nines
The Nines are yet another Canadian band, from Toronto, who have been making music together for 15 years or more and who sound so incredibly like The Beatles that it’s a wonder they haven’t been summoned to court. They’re in that Paul McCartney / Jeff Lynne district and must be next door neighbours there to Thomas Walsh of Pugwash and The Lewis Duckworth Method. Like Walsh they produce amazingly sweet melodies with delightfully unexpected twists and turns.
Arctic Monkeys, AM
This most British of bands decamped to the West Coast with James Ford on controls to make this most eclectic of albums. Alex Turner’s lyrics and vocals link it unmistakeably with its country of origin but the variety of musical references – blues, rock, hip hop, metal, soul – makes easy categorisation impossible. There’s even a Beatles under-current in the mix here on “No 1 Party Anthem” but this is definitely John, not Paul.
Paul McCartney, New
And speaking of Paul, he’s back! New is undoubtedly his best album in years with melodic echoes of the Beatles years alongside his more recent Fireman experiments. On “Early Days” he may have to strain his vocal chords to reach notes that came easily and naturally 50 years ago but there’s something extra special and magical about a song of private, precious memories of days that changed the history of music forever.
Prefab Sprout, Crimson / Red
This album fits thematically and stylistically with Let’s Change the World with Music, the 2009 release of a collection of Paddy McAloon songs originally demoed in 1993. It reaches across a broad arc of time, therefore, and doesn’t fit into any contemporary pigeon hole. Once again it’s proof of McAloon’s superior skills as a maker of sublime, extraordinary music. It’s also sad evidence that undeniable talent is no guarantee of success if things conspire against you. Crimson/Red is full of musical swerves and bends and there’s a Joycean attention to lyrical detail, mostly sweet and but sometimes savage.
These too I have loved:
- Bill Ryder-Jones, A Bad Wind Blows in my Heart;
- The Pastels, Slow Summits;
- Tired Pony, The Ghost of the Mountain;
- Caitlin Rose, The Stand In;
- Bille Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, Foreverley;
- Patty Griffin, American Kid;
- London Grammar, Settle;
- The Lewis Duckworth Method, Sticky Wickets