Song, by Toad’s Top Albums of 2013 6-10
Welcome back to the utterly definitive, empirically more correct than anyone else, final once and for all list of the best albums released in 2013.
In fact, these aren’t necessarily even definitive in my own bloody house, and actually depend a little on various factors, not least of which is the amount of diligence I’ve put into actually listening to particular records.
I love the Flaming Lips new album, for example, but haven’t spent enough time properly listening to it to be able to put it in this list. Old Earth, on the other hand, I have listened to an awful lot because as well as loving his album, I also helped put him on twice in Scotland and recorded a Toad Session with the guy, so I have listened to his music a lot!
So yeah, don’t think I take this too seriously, there are plenty of factors beyond the specific excellence of the album which influence where it finished in this list.
This is something like the tenth album by this band, but the first I’ve ever really listened to properly, despite having been aware of them for bloody years.
It was a fine one to choose, too. A perfect balance of sketchy experimentalism and expansive Americana, there are some gorgeous tunes in here, and some delicious sounding meanders which seem to have nor require a direction, they’re perfect enough just existing.
I have to confess that after being less than keen on either the second Grinderman or Dig Lazarus Dig, I wasn’t holding my breath for this album.
My lack of enthusiasm seems idiotic in retrospect, because after the feral leering of Dig and both Grindermans, this was a revitalising change of direction, delivered with confidence and belief.
A bit like Nick Cave, I wasn’t particularly optimistic about this record.
Part of this was because of the fear of being unenthusiastic about a friend’s music to a friend’s face, of course, something I have to accept from time to time. And the other part what that the pre-release felt like the run-up to a folk-pop album, which is not really my favourite aspect of Johnny’s music.
This turned out to be total balls, of course. The album is dreamy and woozy and warm, and the eccentric and playful electronics make the folk-pop aspects feel like a happy change of pace in the end, because they actually end up being relatively few and far between.
Another one of the albums on this list which came entirely out of the blue. Mama Bird Recordings were represented by the brilliant Barna Howard on this list last year, and I actually think this might be even better, just with the misfortune of being released in a stronger year.
It’s an old-fashioned folk record, basically, in the Woody Guthrie/Pete Seeger style which could come across as pastiche, but just has too much charm and pathos of its own for that.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this part of the 2013 list, I have spent a lot of time listening to Todd Umhoefer’s music this year, and whilst I was just curious the first time I heard it, now I’m competely engrossed.
The sound is pretty simple – mostly electric guitar and vocals, aided by loops and additions where needed – but it treads an intriguing line between a sense of warmth and of keeping the listener at a slight distance.More: califone, nick cave and the bad seeds, old earth, pictish trail, vikesh kapoor