2013 - the year in review: The best pop music of the year
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
Push the Sky Away is Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ best album, a thoughtful, oceanic work whose pulsing, mesmeric keyboard and string drones establish a brooding, contemplative mood which perfectly fits Cave’s ruminations on age and desire and spirit and the infinite flexibility of truth and belief in the internet age: big themes, dealt with imaginatively by a singer and a band both operating at the peak of their powers.
Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
Once I Was an Eagle is a mature examination of turbulent emotional terrain, undertaken with typically unflinching honesty. A song cycle shifting gradually from anger and frustration to regret and acceptance, it’s set to a sparse palette of guitars, hand percussion and cello most completely realised in the 16-minute opening sequence, four songs segued together along an unspooling thread of guitar figures and hypnotic modal drones.
David Bowie: The Next Day
Rarely has a comeback been effected with such panache as David Bowie displays on The Next Day. These songs fizz and crackle with echoes of Bowie’s classic Berlin period, but somehow sound fiercely contemporary, charging along with bullish rude health as Bowie muses upon such matters as memory, misery and the celebrity undead with their “radium smiles”.
Elton John: The Diving Board
Mostly recorded with just piano, bass and drums, The Diving Board is Elton John’s most vital release since his mid-1970s heyday, with reflective, intelligent lyrics addressing themes of art, ambition, age and adversity, set to emotively apt melodies: a collection that both harks back to the intrigues and interests of his earliest recordings, yet manages to break new ground – quite an achievement for an artist in their seventh decade.
Jake Bugg: Shangri La
Recorded with producer Rick Rubin, Shangri La depicts an artist expanding exponentially beyond the rudimentary rockabilly diatribes of his tyro debut, finding his true voice in spiky protest skiffle and poetic folk-rockers about the need to escape the restrictions of circumstance and expectation, rendered in a forthright, strident tone which brings to mind Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan.
Discovery of the year
Valerie June’s Pushin’ Against a Stone is all about her strikingly individual voice, a reedy, piercing intonation that owes little to contemporary R&B mores, but instead is grounded as much in bluegrass and Appalachian singing as in Southern soul, gospel and blues. It’s utterly disarming in its directness, whether oozing sultry sensuality, sincere devotion or brooding menace, and it’s sensitively presented here in arrangements (co-produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach) which imaginatively apply flavours drawn from gospel, girl-group pop, swamp rock and even Afrobeat. A prodigious talent.
Turkey of the year
In a year when former child-star icons plumbed new depths in their desperation to leach the teenage dollar, and established heavyweights such as Clapton, Texas and Depeche Mode offered creaky, withered echoes of former glories, it took some going to secure the title of Turkey of the Year, but Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell did it easily by managing to sell only a few hundred copies of his debut solo album, Borrell 1, an achievement which sets the career-limbo bar at an almost impassably low level. “I heard some words and music, but it didn’t sound much like a song,” runs one lyric, and by jingo he’s not wrong. Expect the new-look Razorlight to be back in the studio earlier rather than later.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response from Ellen DeGeneres
- 2 People all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos to draw attention to mental health
- 3 Greek debt crisis: Yanis Varoufakis's funniest (and most memorable) quotes
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
James Blunt was special guest on the highest-rating Top Gear episode ever
Wireless 2015: Nicki Minaj 2 hours late to main stage due to 'travel issues'
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
Contemporary art is a fraud, says top dealer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture