Andy Gill

Andy Gill is The Independent's Music Critic.

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Books of the year 2013: Music

The music publishing event of the year was undoubtedly Morrissey's Autobiography (Penguin, £8.99), which is as verbose and vindictive as you'd expect, though rather less droll than might be hoped. Effectively the story of how a plucky, fragile flower bloomed despite the weed-killer antagonism of a cabal of authority figures, it catalogues the merest, most insignificant of slights in exhausting detail and endemically overwritten prose. His legendary lyrical wit seems entirely absent from metaphors like the "swarm of misery" gripping Manchester, and the "drooled gruel face" – of a headmaster, naturally – although his total recall of arcane corners of '60s/'70s telly and pop-culture kitsch is impressive. But sadly, celebration of The Smiths seems to matter less here than subsequent recriminations over their dissolution.

Rebecca Ferguson, Freedom: Album review - 'A heartwarming journey from loss to fulfilment'

Emotional power raises the album above a simple collection of songs

Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik of One Direction performing in New York

One Direction Midnight Memories, album review: 'A clumsy attempt at rock'

The boy band's third album is a fumbling transition from pop to rock

Take That member and X Factor judge Gary Barlow has released his first solo album in 14 years

Gary Barlow, Since I Saw You Last: Album review

Sleek solo set shows that Gary’s back for good

Album review: Keith Jarrett No End (ECM)

Given his legendary allegiance to acoustic piano, it's astonishing to hear these 1986 home recordings of Keith Jarrett overdubbing himself on drums, electric bass, percussion, recorder, voice, piano and, mostly, electric guitar. Across two CDs, they resemble Jerry Garcia on one of the Grateful Dead's more reflective days, with individual tracks offering other echoes – there's a lyrical, African soukous flavour to his guitar on "V", for instance, while the jazzy tone and elegant phrasing of "I" recalls John McLaughlin's early Extrapolation work. It gets a bit noodly-doodly at times, but with some stand-out moments, notably the lovely, meditative grace of the bass and guitar alliance in "XII" which supports Jarrett's sleevenote query, "How could I have left it in a drawer all these years?"

Download: XII; V; I; II

Album review: Gareth Malone, Voices (Decca)

Gareth Malone deserves credit for popularising singing as a social, community activity rather than a staging-post to celebrity, but as this album demonstrates, there are limits to the aptness of the choral approach. On a work specifically written for the medium, such as Paul Mealor's "Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal", the burring murmur of baritones and soft caress of distant sopranos are arranged with subtle spatial attention; but elsewhere, the likes of Radiohead's "No Surprises" gain little from the procedure, while the whispered hubbub of Death Grips' "Guillotine" is repellent. Best of the secular pop treatments are Fleet Foxes' exultant round "White Winter Hymnal" – little changed here – and Bon Iver's "Calgary".

Download: Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal; Calgary; White Winter Hymnal

Album review: Kurt Vile, Wakin' On A Pretty Daze (Deluxe Edition) (Matador)

One of the year's more celebrated Americana albums, reissued here with an additional mini-album also available separately as "it's a big world out there (and I am scared)". Some of the tracks are extensions or remixes: "Never Run Away", his love ode to a girl who fell for "a wild child who harmonizes keys in his dronin' mind", is re-cast with additional string synthesiser, while the trippy, dense-textured "Snowflakes Extended" adds three extra stanzas to "Snowflakes Are Dancing". "Feel My Pain" muses on empathy over a gentle putter of drum-machine and guitar. Vile displays a deceptively ragged frailty reminiscent of Neil Young, with his band The Violators conjuring up the chugging momentum of Crazy Horse.

Download: Snowflakes Extended; Feel My Pain; Wedding Budz

Jake Bugg plays a home-grown ballad

Album review: Jake Bugg, Shangri La (Jake Bugg Records/Virgin)

Album of the Week: Brilliant Bugg is more than just a rockabilly rebel

Album review: Minor Alps Get There (Ye Olde)

Minor Alps is a collaboration between American indie stalwarts Matthew Caws (of Nada Surf) and Juliana Hatfield, an alliance so congruent that Get There is surely the best work of their careers. The voices blend magically, while the guitars of "I Don't Know What to Do with My Hands" and "Far from the Roses" employ a pleasing mix of Neil Young grunge and REM arpeggios. "If I Wanted Trouble" could be an outtake from REM's Reckoning, although its hard-won wisdom echoes Nada Surf's "Weightless". Elsewhere, the two-note pulse of "Buried Plans" evokes the stasis of a loner whose projects are never realised, while "Radio Static" celebrates being able to find beauty everywhere, "even in the foggy air".

Download: Buried Plans; I Don't Know What to Do with My Hands; If I Wanted Trouble; Radio Static

Album review: Cypress String Quartet, The American Album (Avie)

This pioneering American quartet here offers razor-sharp interpretations of a fascinating programme of American-themed pieces, starting with Dvorak's String Quartet No 12 in F, the American. It's evocative of a bright new dawn, whereas Charles Tomlinson Griffes's Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes has a more sombre, ethereal tone. Commissioned by the Cypress String Quartet as a response to string quartets by Beethoven and Mendelssohn, the solemn, haunting melody of Kevin Puts's Lento Assai is unsullied by extreme activity, and thus provides a fine bridge to Barber's String Quartet in B minor, with its emblematic Adagio presented in a more refined, less lushly sentimental manner than usual.

Download: String Quartet No 12 in F; String Quartet in B minor; Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes; Lento Assai

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