Thursday, 2 January 2014

Re-cap: 2013 in Music


How does one go about re-capping a whole year of music? - the question that isn't keeping me up all night, though it's gone 3am while I’m writing this, so maybe it is... Anyway, 2013 was a year for controversy, outstanding debuts, interesting follow-up's and disappointments - just like every other year. It's my job to pick out the highlights (good or bad) from 2013, and lay them out to you like I would feed my stomach with seven Yorkie bars per week. I like Yorkie's, and they're not a sponsor, but if you work for Yorkie please let us know.
~Eddie Gibson


Awards

Yeah this sub-heading goes way beyond the usual style and layout of Music Review Database, so this shall be very interesting and quite possibly embarrassing. It's such a broad heading isn’t it, awards... Well, best check out what's been happening on the awards Wikipedia page - I kid. The only royalist praise fest worth mentioning is Kate Bush, or should I say - Kate Bush CBE. That's right, Bush was knighted by the queen in 2013, an honour some might say, other may say it's just a simple elitist accessory for those who still believe in the royals doing more than filling our newspapers with non-new. Nevertheless, Bush deserves this award / title as she's truly one of Britain’s most innovative and skilful female musicians, especially after her most recent album 50 Words for Snow, which literally makes the autumn / winter months feel that little bit warmer.

Now, I’ll quickly rush over the rest of 2013's popular awards and lacklustre hand outs of trophies. James Blake won the Mercury Prize for Overgrown, an album that wasn't tipped to win it - by anyone. Jon Hopkins missed out again, Foals missed out again, Savages missed out for the first time (which will happen again,) and again, the Mercury Prize received more backlash than praise for its strict policy on album 'requirements'. How does one pick the best British (and Irish) album of the year from a list that doesn’t necessarily have the best British (I reiterate... and Irish) album of the year? They can't is the answer. Don't even get me started on the BRIT Awards, which is just one huge corporate sham. "BRITs Global Success Award," I can't believe that actually happened. And just to exemplify how useless music award ceremonies really are - Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" won Record of the Year at the Grammy's, in 2013 (it was released in 2011.)


Festivals

The time of the one day festival is among us, and it's never been more exciting. Weekend festivals are becoming more, and more of a strain on the audience. Because let’s face it, who wants to pay £300+ just for the experience? I sure don't. Prices are rising, acts are getting worse, and the actual quality of the overall festival is being smashed by the leaner, cheaper, and more alternative one day / two day music festival. I'm not going to ramble on about how great Glastonbury is, because I’ve never been there. And I won't bore you about Reading / Leeds, because I’m not willing to pay the money to see the nine bands I actually would like to see. I found my enjoyment at the Cambridge Folk Festival - no, I’m not 50 years old, though I am bolding. This small, but strong music festival reminded me about the ethics and legitimacy of music festivals, which is why I’m leaning towards the smaller festivals every year. When I was over in New York City this year, I saw several established artists play two stages in the scenery hip district of pier 17. It was put on by The Village Voice, and it was free! Then I saw Django Django and The Zombies in central park, also for free! And while all of this was happening, my home city Leicester was being berated with small music festivals celebrating local and far apart talent with the Handmade Festival, and Simon Says - not to mention all the one day events the Leicester council has been putting on, and the small venues too. You see, I’d rather attend the smaller alternative festival and pay jack squat (by the way my Cambridge Folk Festival was free too because of a press pass,) than have to pay £300 and beyond at a muddy, cringe-worthy festival with your usual mix of chav / hipster / has £300 to spend kid.


Controversies

It seems like more men are becoming open to the idea of universal feminism. It's not just equal rights which females are still fighting for, but it's their whole existence. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was directed by a female, but her depictions of pure and simple females was just too much for the feminists scratch that, for females to just sit idly by and have men think it’s okay to ignore the cry of 'nooooooooooo'. Thank god Thicke was sued for his feel-steal single, because to be honest, I’m just sick of hearing his name in Britain. Please send him back the anonymity where he came from. Though Miley Cyrus will have a few words to say about that I’m sure. I think Cyrus' performance at the VMA's were taken completely out of context, though the whole censorship of music thing has become too loose for Cyrus', a once Disney starlet, to parade around on stage like slagging it and twerking on a married man is the norm. 

I care little for misinterpreted lyrics too, but one must realise when the hip-hop scene and rapper by nature are using their own chauvinism to dwell on the reality of their own mistaken 'music'. These controversies are only good though, everyone's a winner - except Cyrus' father who's wandering whether Miley's lost the plot, or just being dictated by her management team - just like Lana Del Ray said at the BRIT Awards: "Thank you for turning my life in to a work of art." But yes, these so called artists are using their image and popularity for continued success and their twerking all the way to the bank - I haven’t got a problem with that, the music industry has been exposing phonies and mediocrity for decades. Though the one thing that's came out of these 'incidents', has been rebellion. Thicke has seen a major flaw in his artistry, and Cyrus' young fans are maturing by the day, questioning whether this is the work of art or a freak show for millions.

 
New Artists

Our end of year lists reflect the mass amount of interesting and innovative debut albums released in 2013. It's always great to hear new music, period. It's the new artists however that begin their careers with a higher level of intrigue. Jagwar Ma are starting a pre-00s revolution with their blend of modern dance and 90s acid house, with neighbouring country New Zealand offering up a spice of minimalism and popularity with Lorde. "Royals" topped the US charts, which is an achievement in itself. Then there’s the ongoing exposition of new British artists. Savages topped our end of year list - the first time a debut album has come out on top for MRD. 

There's also R&B in the air, as more artists are beginning to use these ambient and electronica elements as mentioned in the above sub-heading. We've seen Dev Hynes' Blood Orange release an album of pure funky electronica gold, and The Weeknd come out with his official debut. The hotly tipped British new artists didn't quite live up to their expectation, except Savages of course. Tom Odell was largely disappointing, as was the overall concept of AlunaGeorge's debut. There's still time for these artists to develop, but after what was a mediocre year for the British debutants, it doesn’t look too good - just listen to the Palma Violets debut and you'll understand where I’m coming from. Only CHVRCHES, Savages, and Vondelpark made our list from Britain (on their debut albums). It was very much a year for returning talent and the follow-up album, with some interesting third attempts. The new artist has struggled to achieve a certain level of success and popularity, though the return of artists such as Kanye West, My Bloody Valentine, Foals, and Vampire Weekend has outweighed the rising stars.

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