PART ONE OF THE CHRISTMAS DOUBLE-EDITION OF THE MOUTHCAST, LOOKING BACK ACROSS THE MANY INTERVIEWS OF 2013, WAS POSTED LAST WEEK (here). THE SECOND PART WILL BE POSTED IN THE NEAR FUTURE. IN THE MEANTIME, HERE’S A ROUND-UP OF TWENTY OF OUR ESSENTIAL TRACKS OF THE YEAR.
Storming through the fierce set which opened London’s indie mini-festival SCARED TO GET HAPPY in June (The Mouthcast, here), it was impossible to not wonder why melodic powerhouse THE WOLFHOUNDS hadn’t been bigger. After years when songwriter David Callahan fronted Moonshake, the aggressive Sugar-meets-Sonic-Youth band returned in 2013 with a clutch of new material – single DIVIDE AND FALL being the pick of the bunch. Q&A with Callahan, from November, here.
The video for PERIOD PIECE by LLOYD COLE, from album STANDARDS (buy here), featured son Will in snapshot images around New York. The film was like glimpsing a young Cole playing back through his own time in the city after bohemian favourites The Commotions split, in the late 1980s. STANDARDS – after years as a folksinger, his first electric rock record in over a decade – set a new high. Cole also released an electronic album with Hans Joachim Roedelius (interview here).
Scoring chart hits such as GREAT THINGS and INSOMNIAC during the mid-1990s Britpop boom, while working under the name Echobelly, singer Sonya Aurora Madan and guitarist Glenn Johannson returned after years of absence with the more reflective and acoustic-leaning project CALM OF ZERO, and a series of online EPs (buy here). Highlight of the first was FROM THE DEEP. The duo featured in an edition of The Mouthcast recorded in a churchyard in York, in July (here).
Arguably, 2013 belonged to DAVID BOWIE in a way no year had done since the artistic highs of the 1970s. Returning after a decade with the mournful WHERE ARE WE NOW and album THE NEXT DAY, our coverage reflected Bowie’s standing. Musical director and guitarist Gerry Leonard featured on The Mouthcast, here, and interviews with authors Pete Doggett (here) and Simon Goddard (here) sat alongside a pre-opening viewing of DAVID BOWIE IS AT THE V&A in London, here.
Fusing New-Doctor-Who-as-hipster electronic flair with vintage documentary voiceovers, PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING went from strength-to-strength during 2013. By year’s end they had supported New Order, the Rolling Stones and Manic Street Preachers and issued album INFORM-EDUCATE-ENTERTAIN (buy here), which contained single EVEREST. J Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth featured in an edition of The Mouthcast recorded during the band’s Easter tour, here.
Dubliner Craig Walker began his musical adventure with indie band POWER OF DREAMS in the 1980s – debut IMMIGRANTS, EMIGRANTS AND ME was the subject of a special edition of The Mouthcast (here), while Walker’s new outfit MINERAL (interview here) were a more esoteric affair. Fusing his songwriting gift to an electronic / dance sensibility, debut album PLASTIC EKPHRASTIC (buy here) was one of the year’s best surprises. LOVE DIVINE perfectly showcased Mineral’s European cool.
SAMARIS, the ambient trip-hop trio of teenagers fusing cutting-edge electronica with pining clarinet and ethereal vocals to create a stately and mysterious soundscape, take lyrics from their native Iceland’s ancient poetry. UK debut single GODA Y TUNGL, an ode to the moon, was one of 2013’s most unusual first outings. An album was issued by One Little Indian in July (buy here) and vocalist Jófríður Ákadóttir featured in a Q&A with The Mouth Magazine shortly before its release, here.
In December, hip label Bella Union issued the dreamlike SHOW TALKED WINDOWS, an intimate debut single by Gothenburg-resident SUMIE. Older sister to Little Dragon singer Yukimi Nagano, half-Swedish-American / half-Japanese Sumie had previously released an EP of tender and timeless-sounding low-fi demos via Bandcamp, and her album (buy here) followed the same intricate, almost private, path. Sumie featured in a Q&A with The Mouth Magazine in mid-November, here.
ROBIN GUTHRIE, soundscaper extraordinaire and one-time creative force behind 4AD darlings COCTEAU TWINS, now lives in France and rarely ventures to UK shores to perform. Early in 2013 he came over for a handful of low-key dates, and offered a revealing chat to The Mouth Magazine in a coffee house in York (here). CADENCE, the stately opening track from instrumental album FORTUNE (buy here), was the perfect expression of Guthrie’s highly emotional craft.
TOOTH AND NAIL (buy here) saw Barking protest singer BILLY BRAGG embrace Americana for the first time since his Woody Guthrie project with Wilco, MERMAID AVENUE. Recorded in spit-and-sawdust producer Joe Henry’s home studio, and with one take only allowed for each vocal, raw songs such as SWALLOW MY PRIDE stripped back Bragg’s personally political layers even further than usual to reveal a soulful, sometimes painful, consideration of middle-aged love.
The polaroid snapshot romance of ITALIAN GIRLS ON MOPEDS, by Belfast-born adopted Aussie ANDY WHITE, perfectly captured a moment in time. The song’s tumbling acoustic and lilting melody first featured on White’s 2003 album BOY, 40 – but was resurrected for a double album which accompanied impressionistic book 21ST CENTURY TROUBADOR (buy here). White featured in an edition of The Mouthcast recorded during one of his rare UK tours, in February. Listen here.
LULUC were asked by legendary producer JOE BOYD to take part in his series of WAY TO BLUE tribute concerts to English singer-songwriter Nick Drake, who died in 1974. The Australian duo performed the graceful summer lift of FLY which, alongside Lisa Hannigan’s howl-into-the-void version of BLACK-EYED DOG, was amongst the best moments of the subsequent highlights album. Joe Boyd talked about his association with Drake in a poignant edition of The Mouthcast, here.
Disproving the lazy theory that all Scandinavian music is an ambient by-product of Sigur Rós and Björk, ASGEIR‘s UK debut single KING AND CROSS was upbeat acoustic pop. The 20-year-old’s folk-tinged songs were translated from his natural Icelandic by the great John Grant (the pair toured together in 2013) prior to the UK release of album IN THE SILENCE (buy here), which contained the hopeful SUMMER GUEST. Asgeir featured in a Q&A with The Mouth Magazine during August, here.
Devon-born JOHN SMITH‘s classic-sounding album GREAT LAKES (buy here) followed a period of artistic block – but it was difficult to tell as it was so heavily steeped in Smith’s great songwriting and dextrous playing. Infectious first single SALTY AND SWEET, a cheerful tale concerning mermaids and mermen, featured additional backing vocals from the mighty Lisa Hannigan, whose touring band Smith had been a recent member of. Smith featured in The Mouthcast in May, here.
TOM McRAE‘s lilting BELLY OF A WHALE was lifted from 2013 album FROM THE LOWLANDS (buy here) and scored him an unwitting radio hit in Belgium. The singer-songwriter – whose work had previously appeared in the soundtracks of cult TV shows SIX FEET UNDER and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER – talked about how small-scale success in Belgium helped him become thankful for all victories, in a great edition of The Mouthcast recorded before a York gig in April, here.
Doncaster Dylan JOHN LENNON McCULLAGH was amongst the first signings to Alan McGee’s new label 359 Music. McGee himself featured in an edition of The Mouthcast (here), and 15-year-old McCullagh followed suit a few weeks later (here) – performing impromptu exclusive ‘live in his living room’ session versions of single NORTH SOUTH DIVIDE and album track COLOUR OF THE SUN. His album – also titled NORTH SOUTH DIVIDE (buy here) – was released in mid-October.
“They should have been massive” said Alan McGee, referring to THE HOUSE OF LOVE, who’d spent time on Creation in the 1980s before imploding under pressure in the early 1990s. Returning after almost two decades with album SHE PAINTS WORDS IN RED (buy here), which featured HOLY RIVER, it was as if frontman Guy Chadwick and guitar-genius Terry Bickers had never been away. The band performed an exclusive video session and featured on The Mouthcast in April, here.
Very rarely does a cover version eclipse the original, but on an album of Peter Gabriel songs REGINA SPEKTOR managed to come close. Stripping out Gabriel’s painterly tendencies for the more defined lines of a simple band set-up, Spektor’s piano-led take on the classic BLOOD OF EDEN was one of the highpoints of AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS, the concluding half of a song-swap exercise which had also featured Lou Reed, Elbow, Joseph Arthur and Bon Iver. Buy AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS here.
DAVID FORD‘s book I CHOOSE THIS documented life as a troubador: a succession of good times, trials and bad luck. 2013 album CHARGE (buy here) was a tour-de-force, from rakish upbeat tales to simple balladry. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE, channeling sentimental Tom Waits and the low-fi Phil Collins of FACE VALUE, proved hard times have in no way diminished Ford’s exceptional craft as a writer of emotionally resonant broad-appeal material. He featured in The Mouthcast in March, here.
TANYA DONELLY, former member of Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Belly, announced her retirement in The Mouthcast during August, here. She’d broken years of radio silence with a series of EPs (buy here), her way of “throwing a little retirement party”. On the evidence of the first one alone – particularly euphoric bitter-sweet love-letter to a memory CHRISTOPHER STREET, one of her finest songs – Tanya’s absence from music will leave a hole in 2014 and beyond…