BEST OF 2013: Honourable Mentions & Near Misses – Part 2

The Best of 2013 features come to an end with a further ten albums for you to investigate over the last vestiges of the festive period. Click each title to have a listen. Should you wish to peruse, all of the pieces from this month of retrospective writing can be found under the Best of 2013 section in the top right of the page and don’t forget to submit your albums of the year list by the end of January 1st in order to be in the draw for some splendid records. Speaking of splendid records…

Near Misses 2

Mazzy Star – Seasons Of Your Day

They came back sounding like they’d never been away. Worth it for the noodling, swirling guitar on opening track ‘In The Kingdom’ which is lovably hypnotic. My love for it was restricted by some woeful vinyl mastering and pressing, although I’ve been assured that a new run will be available in early 2014.

Charles Bradley – Victim Of Love

On the morning of Record Store Day 2013 at Rise, those of us peculiar enough to have been queuing since the rest of Bristol was just thinking about going home were allowed in at 6am for a little restorative breakfast in the rather splendid Friska cafe that opened a little over a year ago now. As I sat there cuddling coffee, the music playing was this wonderfully sincere soul record. Yes, there’s a little pastiche and plenty of aching for the sound of the late-Sixties and early Seventies, but Bradley’s been there and it’s as authentic coming for him as anyone. Well worth a listen.

These New Puritans – Field Of Reeds

A wonderfully immersive, occasionally rather strange and always fascinating listen. Not one I often turn to for pleasure, mind you. The ambition of this band has always been evident and this is a musically exquisite record. As others have said, the vocals require a little more taste acquisition, if you will. One of those records I can’t help thinking will mysteriously click, entirely at random, some years down the line. Be sure to have it so that it can.

Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

Ah, so close to the main list after the wonders of ‘Gentle Spirit’ in 2011. Featuring musical contributions from Crosby, Nash and Browne, ‘Fanfare’ is every bit as grandiose as its title suggests. The beautiful Steinway piano which opens the album also forms its core, functioning as the frame onto which orchestral flourishes and intricate riffs are layered. While his distinctive voice and keening melodies are as enchanting as ever, Wilson has added a cinematic heft that neatly avoids being saccharine. And yet, the purring intimacy of his vocals always shines through. A beauty.

Lily & Madeleine – Lily & Madeleine

With due deference to Rise in Bristol, once again, this one came very late in the year and scratched my First Aid Kit itch. It’s gorgeously sung and delicately arranged folk music which only very occasionally becomes a little too saccharine. Worth it for moments like the truly bewitching ‘Disappearing Heart’ which is Sunday morning music of the highest order.

Cian Ciaran – They Are Nothing To Us

Not quite as all-consumingly-amazing as last year’s ‘Outside In’, which you really should have by now, you know, but still a very fine album. Rockier, rougher round the edges and with a bucket load of attitude, the key facet is still Ciaran’s absolutely magical voice. ‘Sewn Up’ has a pretty addictive chug, whilst ‘Down River’ seems to have been beamed in from the early-Nineties.

Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down

Ah now, with New Year celebrations about to commence all over the place, you could do far worse than put this on repeat for the entire evening. Loud, funky, jazzy and relentless, this is music for the feet then the heart. Evolving from Acoustic Ladyland and likely to appeal to anyone with ears, Melt Yourself Down make music with a staggering number of riffs and hooks and relatively minimal structure. It works.

Elvis Costello & The Roots – Wise Up Ghost

Could it work? EC has been peddling slightly dreary country-rock bollocks for a few albums now, in between re-releasing his first fifteen albums on a six monthly rotation, and it started to seem like the early Noughties reboot was wearing off. Not so! Snarly Elvis is back, with revitalised vocals and songs built out of parts of his older material in a genuinely inspired bit of recycling. The Roots provided a laid-back back drop which never gets tired. Really rather decent.

Phosphorescent – Muchacho

They don’t make bad albums, you know. I’m not sure I’ve ever truly loved a Phosphorescent record, but everybody should have a couple of theirs in their collection and this should probably be one of them. Luscious, melodic and the musical equivalent of a beautiful sunrise, ‘Muchacho’ is the band’s most musically varied offering to date and contains several of their finest ever songs.

David Bowie – The Next Day

And so he returned. Better than ‘Reality’? Yes. Better than ‘Heathen’? Hmm, maybe. A decent listen? Yes. The earth-shattering, mind-melding, triumphant return to late-Seventies form that some would have you believe? No. However, ‘The Next Day’ is probably Bowie’s most contemporary release in thirty years and we had missed him terribly, so who can blame a bit of good will seeping through? Be sure to check out the James Murphy remix of ‘Love Is Lost’ if it’s somehow evaded you thus far.

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