I can’t decide anymore.
2013 was such a ridiculously good year for music that I have had no choice but to name what I have named, but first, let’s have a wander back down memory lane…
The Flaming lips pushed deeper into double figures with their 13th album The Terror. A sonic masterpiece exploring the sadder sides of the human condition. Grandiose and spectacularly off-beat, the Lips record was a keeper.
I have to level with you here, I didn’t get to spend as much time with Jon Hopkins’ Immunity as I wanted to, but what I heard made for a very engaging, involving album littered with details one might only hear on headphones or in a quiet room. I’m definitely going to spend more time with Immunity over the summer, but as for now Jon Hopkins gets the dubious honor of being my overlook of the year. One I feel like I really missed that I shouldn’t have.
Every year The National have released a record lately one of my grandparents has died. We lost my first grandfather in 2010, the year High Violet was released and England was the soundtrack to his funeral for me. In 2013 I lost my second grandfather to bowel cancer and the song above was playing on my phone as we placed lilies on his casket.
Boards of Canada marked 2013 with a triumphant return to the electronic music scene in the form of Tomorrow’s Harvest. An album that exemplified how to create good hype. The cryptic records, the numbers station sounds, the hidden codes on the BoC fan site, the listening party at Lake Dolores, all of it built up to an album that initially felt like a letdown, but became so much of a grower I bought it twice. On iTunes and on double vinyl.
The Tuareg guitarist who has taken the world music scene by storm (with help from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach) Bombino’s debut Nomad needs to be heard more widely. Like, by everyone. Audio people need to listen to it for the production, guitar lovers need to listen to it for the chops, synth lovers need to listen to it to prove guitars are not as bad as all that, world music lovers need to get their more mainstream friends to listen to it so you both have a talking point. While I’m at it, I heard most of this album on a show called Portil Presents before buying it through Portil itself (yay for local record stores!!). If you want to widen the geographical boundaries of your music listening, check out that show, then go to that shop.
Richard Mellville Hall has changed a lot since I started listening to his music at the turn of the century and Innocents feels like an album that reflects his move to LA and his desire to live a little more quietly than he has in the last decade (despite the mass of collaborators that have come in and worked with him on the new album). The Innocents tour consisted of a handful of shows at a small theatre within walking distance of his apartment. That’s a big change from the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 10 years prior. Innocents isn’t just an album, it’s a piece of a puzzle. Like all Mobys previous albums it’s a glimpse into who he is as a person and where he’s at in life at the time.
Somewhat of a contrast to the album above. Zach Saginaw’s new album, No Better Time than Now under his moniker Shigeto is seeing him get some serious attention. Despite the fact that I’ve given it some serious listening time, No Better Time than Now still defies simple description. A showcase in drumming, textures and the art of chilled beatmaking, it’s the kind of album you want on your device for Summer.
And then the are the countless albums I haven’t been able to get to yet. Jinx, Tim Hecker, Kiln, Shapehsifter, King Dude, Sigúr Rós, the sophomore release from Poliça (all of which are on my phone to listen to while I’m away in Uganda again). 2013 was so full of great music that deciding my album of the year was an absolute nightmare. So much so that I simply decided to stop deciding and choose the one I planned to be Album of the Year in the first place.
So in 2013, my Album of the Year is Lusine’s The Waiting Room.
I finally settled on this album for three reasons. Reason the first, I was looking forward to this album for years. I had it on pre-order before I’d even announced last years AotY. Ever since discovering Seattle-based Texan Jeff McIlwain and his many ventures into the world of electronic music I have been enraptured, so much so that every new release leaves me wanting to hear more and more from his expansive discography. The Waiting Room captures the essence of McIlwain’s sound from albums past, and stirs that sound into a new, more aged mixture. Like new wine in an old bottle. The big highlight for me is By This Sound, which instantly stuck with me, and I have gone back to it throughout the year.
Second reason, this album was my solace when I needed it. When I arrived in Invercargill for my second year studying Audio Production, I found the flat I had signed up for had been rented out from under me leaving me homeless. Happily, I have some real stand-up classmates who were kind enough to host me on a mattress on their floor for a fortnight while I resolved said accomodation woes, but the experience was still pretty disheartening. When Ghostly International emailed me to say The Waiting Room was… err… waiting in my inbox I couldn’t have downloaded it fast enough. The album gave me something to smile about (although objectively I have nothing to complain about, full disclosure here) in a time where I needed cheering up.
On that subject, my third reason for picking this album is that it is devoid of most of the abject melancholy of most of my picks in 2013. With the exception of No Better Time than Now, most of the years music was rather sad, especially when it comes to The National. I’m not saying sad or melancholic music doesn’t have a place in my life, how could I? The guy who bought two copies of Tomorrow’s Harvest. It’s just that The Waiting Room will make me smile when I think of 2013.
So that’s it for this year. Parenting and preparing for our next African adventure have left me without the time to cover Stuff of the Year like I usually would. Hopefully 2014 will be a little more relaxed since I’m only planning to cycle over 200km from Mt. Cook to Oamaru. That’ll give me heaps of time!