2013 has been filled with many a fantastic track… But, this week, in light of it being the end of the year and all that, I have scoured through my weekly reviews to pick out the ten that I have enjoyed the most.
Radkey – ‘Romance Dawn’:
Still in their teens, the Radke brothers have caused quite a stir over the year, and deservedly so. Radkey’s second UK single, ‘Romance Dawn’, is an exhilarating, buzz-filled rush of punk-rock that seems to have been missing from the music scene for quite some time. And what a breath of fresh air it has been to hear something like this on the radio once more. With Ramones-esque pulsating drum beats, and seething vocals reminiscent of old timers Bad Religion or AFI, ‘Romance Dawn’ is a climatic anthem, a thrashing frenzy of enthused teenage vigour and rebellion.
Unlike some other ‘punk’ songs, however, Radkey are able to generate the fierce energy and fist-clenching power whilst retaining strong melodies and thoughtful musicality. Don’t be fooled by the song-title, however, there is nothing ‘romantic’ about ‘Romance Dawn’ – as it gets faster and faster throughout, the blistering guitar riffs and Dee Radke’s distinctive voice make for a truly inspired, hyperactive thrill. And I really am quite excited about what these crazy kids will come up with next year.
Arctic Monkeys -‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’:
‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ was the Arctic Monkeys’ third offering from the phenomenal ‘AM’ album. With a Nabil-directed video, featuring a wasted and hallucinating Alex Turner, this song appears to be a straightforward story of intoxicated man making failed booty call, with simple, conversational lyrics. However, this predictable storyline is accompanied by the dark undertones of Turner’s paranoid hallucinations as he wanders the streets alone at 3.30am. And, whilst the title may be self-explanatory, and the story simple, the musical inspirations for this song are characteristically complex – “We took a Dr. Dre beat from like 2001, gave it like an Ike Turner Beatles bowl cut and then set it off galloping along on a Stratocaster into a liquid live show” Turner has told Rolling Stone. The Arctic Monkeys, therefore, succeeded yet again in creating a modern-day masterpiece – so simple it’s complex, unpredictable in its predictability. And here lies Turner’s genius; in creating something confounded and awe-inspired out of the humblest of beginnings
John Smith: ‘Master Kilby’:
A take on the traditional folk song, John Smith’s ‘Master Kilby’ is a charming slice of folk that warms the cockles and takes one back to the hay-bales and cider-jars of summer festivals.
Despite the generic name, John Smith is anything but ordinary – with his beautifully smooth vocals, he tells emotive tales of romance and nostalgia with a clarity and sensitivity that will compel and captivate. Whilst reminiscent of crooners such as Ray LaMontagne and Bon Iver, Smith’s talent remains uniquely mesmerising and exceptionally lovely.
Signed to the same management as fellow folky troubadours Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan, Smith released his debut album ‘Great Lakes’ earlier this year, has toured with the likes of Iron and Wine and Richard Hawley. He also played a mesmerising set at the historic Union Chapel in November.
QOTSA – ‘If I Had A Tail’:
From what is probably my favourite album of the year, ‘If I Had A Tail’ sees QOTSA at their sexy, hip-rotating best. Although it’s tricky to pick just one track from the masterpiece that is ‘Like Clockwork’, I do have a particular soft spot for ‘If I Had A Tail’: a spine-tingling, sensual offering with eerie undertones, that takes us back to the wonder years of the almighty Songs For The Deaf.
And live at Wembley it was a truly phenomenal performance, proving that – although Homme may have mellowed, he’s definitely still got it.
The 45s – ‘It Ain’t Over’:
At just sixteen and seventeen years of age, rhythm and blues quartet The 45s deliver raucous rock n roll with endearing charisma and vigour, and November’s single ‘It Ain’t Over’ was no exception. Inspired by vintage legends such as Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry and Canvey Island’s finest – Wilko Johnson – these four Carlisle lads are certainly not your average teenage band. With immaculately executed guitar riffs, skillful bluesy harmonica, husky vocals and an impressive rhythm section, ‘It Aint Over’ is an explosive blast of retro rock, a slice of real, honest music.
Oozing bundles of youthful energy, as well as heaps of talent, The 45s are definitely a must hear for all lovers of good music. And if the aptitude and dedication (and haircuts) that the boys clearly possess is anything to go by, I have a feeling we may be in for a revived wave of Beatles-esque mania…
Laura Marling – ‘Master Hunter’:
It seems hard to believe that the raw emotion and bitterness that is so palpable in Marling’s ‘Master Hunter’ can be felt by someone so young, but that seems to make it all the more powerful. Probably the stand-out track of ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, this impassioned song is sung with conviction and it is impossible not to get lost amongst the flurry of feelings that flow from this talented and emotive musician. The theme of fragile naivety, intertwined with the regret and wisdom that comes with age, runs throughout the album and seems particularly evident in Master Hunter.
With this track, like so many of her others, Marling succeeds in entrancing the listener with her exquisite, crystal-clear vocals, complex, folky guitar-riffs and her trademark innocent charm juxtaposed with that inherent, underlying angst.
A wonderful creation, that will keep me listening for many years to come.
Filthy Boy – ‘That Life’:
Following their catchy and eerie single ‘Jimmy Jammies’, Peckham lads, ‘Filthy Boy’ continued their lyrical storytelling with the equally eerie and ominous ‘That Life’. With dark lyrics, filled with a sense of apathy and doom, Paraic Morrissey – along with twin brother Michael – seems skilled at observing the imbalance and complacency of society, and poetically putting together engrossing and appealing songs.
With the dark undertones of Nick Cave, along with the storytelling ability of songwriters such as Alex Turner, this track has been one of my most listened to of the year; and it seems I’m not alone as 6music’s Steve Lamacq featured ‘That Life’ on his ‘Rebel Playlist’ in August. And ‘Rebel’ seems a fitting term for these young lads, skilled at creating such appealing, dirty Indie, with a ‘Filthy’ name and songs such as ‘Naughty Corner’.
‘That Life’ and it’s intimate observations, however, would imply that this band are wise beyond their years. With a lyrical sentiment reminiscent of Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ , the Morrissey brothers have succeeded in creating a cool, yet thought provoking, song. With serious subject matter, and an eerie tune, intertwined with Doherty-esque whistling and la-ing, one is left wondering what the song is really about – are two stories being told in parallel to one another? Or is it simply a tale of a tragic demise? Either way, this clever and catchy tune is a great feat for this young band.
Filthy Boy’s debut album, ‘Smile That Won’t Go Down’, was recorded at the inspirational Edwyn Collin’s West Heath studio, and released earlier this year.
Sivu – ‘I Hold’ (feat. Marika Hackman):
Whilst we have become familiar with Sivu’s pretty alt-pop and youthful charm, ‘I Hold’ – which features the soaring vocals of Marika Hackman – has darker undertones than previous material and an added introspective depth. ‘I Hold’ combines Sivu’s characteristically emotive lyrics with Hackman’s captivating vocals and flawless, heartfelt harmonies all set against an eerie electronic backdrop. The end result is what can only be described as truly enchanting, a perfect slice of ethereal beauty that it is impossible not to become utterly immersed in.
And, if you were lucky enough to catch Sivu and Hackman on their joint headline tour earlier this month, I am very jealous.
Catfish And The Bottlemen – ‘Pacifier’:
Following the success of previous singles, ‘Homesick’ and ‘Rango’, my favourite Welsh indie-rockers – Catfish And The Bottlemen – continued to treat us to another stomper of a song, ‘Pacifier’. Lyrically inspired by a friend’s experience of losing her mother at a young age, ‘Pacifier’ retains the immediacy and buoyancy of previous tracks, but with a heartfelt, emotive edge.
Reminiscent of early Kings Of Leon, ‘Pacifier’ is filled with slick licks, pounding percussion, twinkly melodies and McCann’s alluring, sharp vocals: the result, a compelling indie anthem that it would be a shame not to let your ears feast on.
Catfish And The Bottlemen have had a stonker of a year; they’ve been labelled one of Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Records In The World’ (and, of course, Gigslutz Track Of The Week…), wowed crowds at Reading and Leeds and been selling out shows across the country. 2014 looks set to be a big year for these Welsh youngsters.
Royal Blood -‘Out Of The Black’:
With stupendous, pounding drums, heavy riffs and intensely raw vocals, Royal Blood’s second single ‘Out Of The Black’ is a colossal rock and roll anthem that excites and invigorates. With just Benjii Talent and Mike Kerr making up the band, this impressive power duo from Brighton deliver an impressive, fury-filled walloper of song, that makes it easy to realise why they have received acclaim from the likes of Zane Lowe, and even been heralded by Sheffield’s own heroes The Arctic Monkeys.
With hints of the thrashing side of QOTSA, the stripped back rock of Jack White and with traces of Matt Belamy-esque vocals, ‘Out Of The Black’ is a climatic, riff driven blast of energy filled with crashing drums and crunching guitars that creeps towards the borders of Metal with intense momentum. It’s honest, it’s addictive, it’s real. It’s just what the doctor ordered in this confusing world of sledge-hammer-licking and lamb-groping…