there were a lot of great albums released this year, so this was a hard list to cut down to, and even harder to rank. these are my top ten albums purely down to how much I enjoyed listening to them since the start of the year.
I may expand on this list later this month to explain my choices, but this is pretty definitive (even though technically two of them aren’t even out yet…)
songs in the key of sadness: compiled between 29/11/13 and 01/12/13
Spotify link: fear and loathing 4: songs in the key of sadness
Youtube link: fear and loathing #4: songs in the key of sadness
Marching on stage to be met with either harsh ignorance or adoring adulation from the audience, Eliza and The Bear is a band handpicked by Paramore to open the night. Playing before a crowd of hundreds with triumphant hope and optimism, their music comes with many recognisable tones of recently successful bands like Fun and Mumford and Sons whilst incorporating the more optimistic tones of the headlining act, not far from the pop punk attitude with a reminiscent feeling of Dashboard Confessional but in a much more upbeat way. Whilst the band do represent an electric version of so many faux-folk bands that have come before, they present little substance or gravitas in the face of their stiff competition.
The famous voice and writer of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”, Charli XCX is the newest in a long line of new outspoken female artists. Where so many before her have succeeded with great penmanship backed up by fantastic producers, Charli’s dance-oriented sound is fronted by lacklustre and monotone vocals. With a timid and acceptable ‘dubstep’ sound matched by a sugary pop attitude, it all seems rather fake. The attitude of a famous-by-luck starlet is matched by her clear annoyance of the lack of interest in her act, until of course she launches into her astronomically famous collaboration track which has everyone reliving the summer just gone. Possibly an artist born of a one hit wonder and probably should stay that way.
Paramore are a strange beast of a band. Notoriously fronted by the iconic Hayley Williams and associated with the pop punk revival, the band has always been plagued by the tumultuous relationships that come with being a young act. Williams was signed to Atlantic Records at 14 as a solo act and Paramore was the band that came of it, growing an incredibly strong fan base from grassroots beginnings. Now that the band is at its height, they seem on the precipice of a new direction but who are doing so whilst struggling with their young audience. Angry, indignant, and far from the teenager pop rock that defined them so well in the past, their latest album (self-titled) smarts of the split between the current band and the Farro brothers who were the main musical force for the previous three albums.
The past hits are tinged with a sense of new malice and grit whilst the newer songs dart between the optimistic and the downright happy. The dirt present shows a longing to break free of the genre box they’ve been put in. As the band have grown however, so has their audience and the band should be willing to accept that they’re ready to hear something new. Live, the act has lost something with strong songs being put over weakly, far removed from the band that played the same venue a couple of years previously. Williams relies on the audience for too many refrains and there seems to be a confused sense of purpose with the three original artists out front and the three session musicians behind. Whilst Paramore may be a group lost in a myriad of confusion, but putting it through well on their record, at least they’re not perpetuating the lie that they’re a band – well, at least that’s how it feels.
Commonly compared to something from the 80’s, Fjords are far from. Taking on various influences from Welsh homegrown talents, they are an impressive collective who create soaring choruses and paranoid verses all in one sitting. They cross the emotional spectrums well and really power out their sound. Fascinating to watch and a hard band to get out of your head.
Ellie Makes Music
Practising the solitary task of singer/songwriter with obvious influence, but with a very thin mask on her emotions, Ellie sings from past experience with such vehement meaning and aggression at points that it almost seems like pages from a very well balanced and insightful teenage diary are being exposed to the world. A great songstress and a wonderful musician.
Francesca’s Word Salad
For the music lover with a sense of humour and wicked mind, Francesca’s dirty irreverence is shocking yet brilliantly funny. Complete with puppet guests and a punchline around every corner, to see this act without laughing is a crime. Hipsters beware, you will crack a smile.
Dark, brooding and insanely comical - all ye who enter be warned that Quiet Marauder whilst making light of murder and stalking, is a deadly concoction of strange instruments, terrifying songs and *gulp* audience participation.
Right Hand Left Hand
They are as impressive to watch as they are to listen to, and you’ll find yourself being distracted by one or the other. Looping, drumming, destroying, RHLH are a long-loved Cardiff staple and they always put on an impressive live set.
Recent winner of The Big Gig, Maddie is an excellently proficient singer and guitar player - often backed by an equally talented band. Unashamedly scything as well as creating excellent songs, it’s a wonder to behold someone with so much on-stage abandon and a great live set.
Nanook Of The North
Quietly explosive, this array of musicians are a mixed bag of jagged guitars, deep samples, crashing drums and the smoothest, sweetest voice you’ll hear this weekend. A fantastic up and coming band with all the rough edges solidly in place to catch you out once you think you know what is coming next.
Junior Bill & The Scallies
Precocious upstarts with a viscerally political tongue, designed to make you uncomfortable whilst you dance. Branching across too many genres to name, their music will grip you as much as the lyrics. Fantastically well trained, hard-working and an excellent opportunity to hear something worth feeling passionate about.
A well-focused band with one of the most exceptionally talented frontperson in the festival. Estrons are a power-punk delivery of shouting, layered guitars and fantastic arrangements. A stand out band with a lot more to come. Gripping musically and sharp as tacks.
Bands I haven’t seen yet but you should check out anyway:
Stalin’s Street Party, The Bones of St. James, Third Party and more when there’s none of these on!
Two years ago Exit_International released their debut album ‘Black Junk’. The album was an impressive first strike into the noise rock community. Since then the band have toured the UK and hopped over to Japan, as well as being shortlisted for the Welsh Music Prize. The band also gained airplay for a week on Radio 1 with a re-imagined version of ‘Chainsaw Song’, which included the bemused Fearne Cotton introducing them and not knowing quite what to say. They are well known for their raucously loud and abrasive shows as well as for dominating eardrums with two bass guitars and a drum set. Lead singer Scott pounds out melodies whilst Fudge backs on a terrifying bass rhythm and Adam is erratic but on well defined drums. ‘Black Junk’ was a foray into the interesting idea of crossing the weird with the popular.
After their explosive debut the band decided to kick things up a gear, and inspired by mentor and friend Ginger Wildheart (who took them out on tour with him a couple of times) they launched a PledgeMusic campaign for their next album – sort of like a Kickstarter based solely on music. With incentives such as vocal, bass and drum lessons, as well as the chance to buy a cover off the band, fans jumped at the chance to fund the new release. The outcome was ‘Our Science Is Golden’ recorded in Monnow Valley Studios, and the new 12 track album is a massive step forward for the band. Two years ago I did a track by track review and I thought it best to do that again. With insights provided by Scott, here is ‘Our Science Is Golden’ in its entirety:
So The Guardian published an article today written by Jon Cronshaw that lacked any imagination or even accuracy about my favourite band of all time, Nine Inch Nails.
Firstly, the long awaited new album from Trent Reznor is named "Hesitation Marks" which is easily googleable. (update: The Guardian have now corrected this error) Let’s put that aside for now and just focus on what you should listen to and why.
Reznor himself put together four compilations unofficially via torrent sites under a pseudonym and with great cloak and dagger ability to counter his record label. This series is named “The Definitive NIN” and can be found here at the NINWiki. The series is made up of the singles and ‘deep cuts’ (stand out album tracks) as well as heavy and quiet songs.
To limit this unofficially official list down even further, I’ve put together a list of ten Nine Inch Nails songs that not only span all the albums (‘The Definitive NIN’ does not currently include all the albums), but give a sense of the breadth of the work. The list is not in chronological order, but in order of accessibility. I will also be putting together a list of tracks made outside of the NIN moniker but involving Reznor soon.