Of course, it does look like the cynicism has finally taken over and that I’m making a very pointed gesture by releasing the ANBAD Best-Of-2013 list on the final day of the year.
Actually, like much of the latter half of the year, I was simply too busy to get it online during December’s pre-Christmas LISTAMAGEDDON period. Maybe it makes more sense this way.
Maybe you’re already reading the 2,014 Bands You Have To Listen To In 2014 blog posts, and this is hopelessly late. I dunno.
Either way, this ANBAD End Of Year List is as haphazard as ever, with scant regard given to size of band, influence, buzz, etc. These are just the 10 songs that have got stuck in my head this year, and thus are the Best 5 Bands Of The Year. It’s as good a system as any, right?
There are only five this year. There were 15 last year. This is not because there are ten fewer great bands, but because there is no point in me complaining about the noise outstripping the signal in the new music world if I’m contributing to this unfortunate state of affairs too.
(Last years much more comprehensive lists, featuring the marvellous Seward, Straw Bear and many more, are here, BTW.)
If you’ve been paying attention over the year (and I hope someone has been, because I have been all over the shop), then most of these will not be a surprise. One of them, for the first time, wasn’t even featured on ANBAD. Heady times, friends.
Here’s the top five – please rearrange as you see fit.
5) Champagne Jerry / Business Pony – here’s the inevitable last-minute addition, and it’s the only one that I didn’t get around to writing about on ANBAD.
Many people will blanche at the fact that Champagne Jerry’s ouvre is jokey, throwaway hip-hop-pop, but if a joke is funny, a joke is funny.
And Business Pony is not only good pop music that it makes me smile each time, but the production is, indeed, ‘tight’ (and occasionally by Ad Rock, who performs and collaborates with Champagne Jerry – see below.)
In a world where so much music is po-faced, narcissistic and, frankly, a boooooringggg rehash of guitar music from just over 20 years ago, here’s a reminder that pop music can be light-hearted and inventive, in the way that the songs the Beastie Boys used to bury in the second half of their LPs are. Hate it all you want, because Champagne Jerry is ace.
4) Bridie Jackson and The Arbour / Scarecrow / Original ANBAD post – I’ve been banging the drum for Bridie for so long that I was positive this song was reviewed in 2012.
Actually, it came out in the early days of January and it’s testimony to both the song (written by Louis Barabbas of the Bedlam Six) and Bridie & the Arbour’s performance of it that it’s been hovering in my mind like a friendly shadow all year.
The song is simply gorgeous.
Bridie Jackson and The Arbour went on to win the Glastonbury festival Emerging Talent Competition, played a brilliant, big gig there, and had this song played all over big BBC radio shows. It feels good to back a winning horse now and then, so please excuse any smugness in the above paragraphs.
3) Pincers / A Sociopath To Fame / Original ANBAD post – This is what I wrote when I first heard Pincers‘ A Sociopath to Fame, and my thoughts and responses haven’t changed at all:
… it plays out like a series of dreamy vignettes or a scattering of half-memories, both sonically and lyrically… a gorgeous-sounding song: like all the most immediate recordings, some instruments sound like they’re being played just behind you, and other sounds feel like they’ve been beamed in from another solar system. At one point, I swear the 90s-era internet log-on noise creeps into the mix.
The lyrics – an element that I’ll freely admit to generally ignoring – are a series of remarkably confident statements. (Read them here.)
Sociopath is almost so sparse at times that I worried it would just fall apart, and at that exact moment, it would swell and re-build into a glorious kaleidoscopic flurry of melody… Wonderful.
2) Ezra Furman / My Zero / Original ANBAD post – Yes, yes, Ezra is a bit of an old hand.
But he’s technically a new band, kind of, so who gives a shit – especially when My Zero was as good a song as I heard all year. Hell, it even made it’s way onto the BBC 6 Music playlist for a week or two.
Maybe I’m getting soft, or maybe I’m less strict than I used to be when it comes to technicalities.
But this song deserves to be at #2 simply because, even today, occasionally a near-perfect guitar pop song comes along, and this is a near-perfect pop song. Brilliant.
1) Painted Zeros / Call Back / Original ANBAD post – I love that Painted Zeros’ Katie misspelt her own artist name and instead of correcting it, just decided to stick with it, and I simply love Call Back.
Yes, it’s gorgeous.
No, it’s not a ground-breaking or bleeding edge song, but it is very now in a more important way: the self-released output of a single artist (and occasional collaborator Andy) that eschews a whole host of tedious, short-termist traits that many of today’s new bands can’t resist.
Thus, in quiet and understated way, Painted Zeros avoids not the lust for buzz-friendliness by dodging flavour-of-the-week drum samples, by not mining whichever bunch of late80s/early-90s bands are de rigueur today (are Pop Will Eat Itself hip again yet?), and by not worrying about production values more than songwriting.
Hence, Call Back is merely a song that is lush, charming, disposable, sweet, lusty, gentle and hooky as hell.
The breathy “Oh well…” chorus has been lodged in my head since I heard it. And, while there’s a hundred more, that’s a good enough reason for me to name it the best new-band song I’ve heard this year.
The follow-up EP, Svalbard was just as good. I hope that Painted Zeros gets the wider attention she/they deserve in 2014, because I have a niggling feeling that there’s a lot more to come.
And that’s it. Hello, 2014!