Look at all those ‘T’s in the title. Beautiful! Alliteratively awesome! You don’t know how long it took me to come up with that!
I must admit to being slightly uncomfortable about dropping the ‘and’ though. It’s so…ahem…un-British.
The things I do for my art. Ho hum.
Anyway as we are fast approaching the last day of the ISO8601-designated year Two Thousand AND Thirteen (phew, payback!) it’s time to reflect on the high points of the past solar cycle. Life’s too short to dwell on stuff I hate, therefore this post won’t contain anything about politicians, rap or raw celery. Yes – only raw. Cooked is nom.
If my ears could talk* (or access a Twitter account) they would no doubt mention the fact that 2013 has been a fantastic year for them. My tinnitus definitely not included, some truly virtuous vibrations have occupied my ossicles, careened around my cochleas, camped in my cortexes (insular, cingulate and prefrontal, naturally,) harassed my hypothalamus and hippocampus and attacked my amygdala. They have emancipated my endorphins and endocannabinoids, drenched me in dopamine and nurtured my nitric oxide. Laughter, tears and all that lies in between have resulted.
Now, I’ve always been an albums kind of chap. My particular brand of OCD means I must listen to an entire album from end to end. I distrust the very concept of track shuffling, mixtapes and best-ofs – it just seems wrong, somehow disrespectful to the skipped tracks and to the artists. Perhaps it’s just my egalitarian nature – share the love!
This year, however, I am going to go against my nature. Here I present my list of favourite individual tracks from the past just-under-365-and-a-quarter-days.
Yes! Mr Clarke lives on the edge like this every day of his life…
Anyways, without further ado, I present my list of fave choons from this year!
…OK…just a little more ado.
My ranking system is simple. It’s a list of n tracks (where n is a number probably,) presented in no particular order. To get into this list, a song must:
- Be released in 2013.
- Still be played regularly by me.
- Make me grin / laugh / cry / dance (!) / drive erratically.
- Ermmm…that’s it.
Right, no more ado. I promise. All the ados have been used up. They’re all gone. Yes, no more ados whatsever. No siree Bob! This is now an ado-free zone! What’s an ado, by the way?
Big Big Train – East Coast Racer
Yes she bloody does!
Camelias Garden – Some Stories
While the entire album ‘You Have a Chance’ is a great listening experience, there’s something about the opening track that’s so warm, so inviting, and so delightful, that it has wormed its way into my brain, settled there, laid eggs and had a very large family. It has since built an extension onto its bungalow. And then the grandchildren came along…
I don’t really begrudge that it’s not paying rent.
Big Big Train – The Lovers
This was first released on the Make Some Noise EP, and then soon after on the utterly sublime English Electric: Full Power album which, if I was doing a Two Thousand Thirteen Top Ten Albums post, (which I’m obviously not…) would have easily taken at least the first 7 positions.
The track starts off relatively sedately and simple with acoustic guitar and flute, but soon builds into the most incredible listening experience. The instrumental break (surely meant to portray a love scene – which it does so well!) is just legendary – Danny’s electric piano, Greg’s bass and Nick’s drums doing something absolutely amazing to my brain – and then Dave’s guitar – oh the guitar! On it goes before reaching a very satisfying climax (so to speak) via sweeping melloton and David’s soaring vocals. So! Damn! Good!
Cosmograf – When The Air Runs Out
If you haven’t heard how good the Cosmograf album ‘The Man Left In Space’ is, you must have been left in space.
‘When The Air Runs Out’ is a track I can’t get enough of. Its a brooding epic – its musical acrobatics send a shiver down my spine every time I hear it. Actually I get a shiver every time I think about it. It’s definitely my favourite sad moment of 2013 – oh come on, we’ve all got to have one!
The rollcall of the ‘giants of their time’ is quite sobering – we’re all brilliant until we’re not – so what should we do when the air runs out?
A true tragic gem.
Thieves’ Kitchen – Of Sparks And Spires
There’s something about this song that got stuck in my head the first time I heard it, and it’s still there. It’s such a delightfully-put-together track with a real earworm of an organ riff. Lyrically this song tugs at my (admittedly somewhat idealised) view of an England far away in time and place. And what a great, uplifting finish! It’s crescendo almost takes the crown from the closing track of their 2008 masterwork The Water Road. Brilliant!
Spock’s Beard – A Treasure Abandoned
Uplifting and bombastic. And just when you thought you were fully lifted up and bombasted, it lifts you up and bombasts you even more.
This track seems to use every move in the prog playbook so in some ways I feel I’ve heard it all before but it’s just done so beautifully all is forgiven!
The Beard’s latest album ‘Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep’ has been a welcome return to a form that’s been missing for me since their last great album – V.
Big Big Train – The Permanent Way
I still remember the moment I first heard this track, and exploded in laughter and tears, pretty much all at the same time. I adore ‘Hedgerow’ from EE:Part 1 – I can’t sing along to ‘That is where you will find me…’ without choking up. Hedgerow perfectly captures so many of the feelings I have about my erstwhile homeland. Every time I hear it I’m taken back to happier, simpler times. So imagine my surprise and delight when the same refrain made an appearance in TPW!
Boom! It was an amazing moment to find so much new meaning in a phrase that had already become an old friend. Kudos, BBT!
Haken – Pareidolia
‘The Mountain’ surprised me this year. We were on holiday in Europe when I first heard a snippet of it and couldn’t wait to get home to order it. The album’s opening tracks ‘The Path’ and ‘Atlas Stone’ are immensely, arse-kickingly satisfying, but the standout track for me is Pareidolia. The roiling opening moments of bass, sitar, guitar, tabla build to what must be the most yellable chorus of the year:
Be the moon and sun
Be the wind and cross the storm
See the stars begin to swarm
Read the writings in the stone
Go on, try it!
Big Big Train – Seen Better Days
What can I say about this song?
Quite a lot actually.
Big Big Train’s four most recent albums have dealt pretty-much exclusively with the country in which I was born and raised – a country that I grew to dislike and then hate, and eventually in 2001 leave in a bit of a huff.
9 years pass…
…and so to the reconciliation…
I was very fortunate to stumble across BBT’s The Underfall Yard. Through listening to that album I faced and (mostly) resolved the disdain I had for my homeland, projected from the shores of New Zealand, where I now reside. Music is a very healing thing, you know! English Electric Parts One, Two, and now Full Power brought more stories of the amazing and the ordinary, of epic and personal themes, all of which I felt I have a strong connection to. So what does all that have to do with Seen Better Days? Well, to me it takes everything from the past 4 BBT albums and distils their essence to what, for me, is a most compelling story of greatness, decline, love and loss.
I don’t need to mention the incredible level of musicianship on display here as you all know BBT are second-to-none in that department, but I must give special props to Greg’s bass playing on this track. ‘MAJESTIC’ is the only word that’s appropriate.
Anyway that’s my list. Thanks for reading. Have a splendid December however you choose to celebrate whatever it is you celebrate. Personally I will be celebrating not having to go to work.
…ok not finally!
2013 has been a very special year, mostly because of Scott and I schlepping across the Equator to Europe and the UK (yes, the Brits don’t like to think they’re part of Europe. At least they and Europe agree on something.)
I may have mentioned this a few times, but The Big Big Weekend was a simply fantastic couple of days spent in the south west of England. Thanks to everyone for making it such a special occasion – the memories stay with us and I hope we can all get together again one day.
If, dear reader, you are one of the few who have managed to miss my incessant spamming of Facebook with these videos, it’s your lucky day. Never has Youtube contained video of such a delightful bunch of chaps and chapesses. And if you have seen it all before, watch it once more just for shits and giggles!
Mary Christmas! Whoever she is.*Rest assured, if my ears did start talking I would have them removed immediately, kind of van Gogh-like. The voices I already have in my head – the ones telling me to eat celery (raw), listen to rap and politicians – are more than enough to keep me company thank you very much indeed.