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.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark finale episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove