Friday, December 20, 2013

Back and forth

It is the season to look backwards, and forwards.  We are besieged by various opinion pieces on the best albums of the year.  The Guardian has taken two weeks to countdown and has, in turns, been interesting and bewildering. It also has the obligatory ‘controversial’ best choice. We are fortunate that Spotify is now free on mobile devices so that we can listen to some of this stuff and make our own decisions, often wondering what the hell those Guardian journalists are drinking.

I was fortunate to pick up a copy of The Fly and their top 50 which, in common with Pitchfork, had the effect of making me feel out of touch. Not only had I not heard most of the acts, there was a lot of them I hadn’t even heard of. There lies the industry’s eternal problem, how to break through. I find these lists very useful as they’re a snapshot of what others think and – reading the blurb – you can often find where your interests bisect. From both all these sources and others I now have a list of acts I’d like to hear and will begin to work through it. Among those listed are:
Drenge

Vampire Weekend (I hadn’t bothered with this album as the last two didn’t do much for me)

Kurt Vile

John Grant (both of these long overdue)

Parquet Courts

Warpaint

Chance The Rapper

Fat White Family 

Looking forward the Brits Critics Choice Award has gone to Sam Smith (not to be confused with John Newman), it appears to be a fast-track to success in the way that these things are a self-fulfilling prophesy. The five previous winners absolutely back up this theory – Adele, Florence And The Machine, Ellie Goulding, Jessie J, Emeli Sande and Tom Odell.


The BBC Sound of Poll  takes a wider view and has historically been a bit more hit-and-miss. Last year’s longlist featured easy-wins in the shape of Haim, Chvrches, Kodaline, Laura Mvula, Savages and the previously mentioned Tom Odell.  They had others that made less of an impact but with 15 choices not everyone can be a winner. This year they have a heavier RnB pop bias but echo the Brits Choice thing with both Sam Smith and Chloe Howl being on the longlist. There’s a noticeable absence of rock bands but that could be true of the music industry in general. Some have pointed to the economics of the recorded business being at fault for this but it may be more that the short-termism of the music industry is to blame. 
If 2014 is to be the year of the rock revival it’ll need to be underpinned by the return of major acts. Metallica and Aerosmith are returning to these shores and perhaps they’ll herald an upsurge in genuinely exciting and accessible rock bands – they may be out there already of course but there’s not much evidence in the lists I’ve looked at so far. For every list there is a dissenter of course but with media so fragmented these ‘critics choices’ become ever more useful, particularly for those like me who are interested but potentially lack the time to listen to as much as we should.

Of time, unless I find more of it to write about the Beyonce effect and the future of the album in 2014, this may be my last post of the year. I’ll see you on the other side and leave you with an act I haven’t seen mentioned in either backwards or forwards list, but I think they have potential. This is just good – and clever – pop music.


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