Minirambles – first half of 2013
Due to time constraints, other things occupying my idle moments and general non-ability to get things done in time, there have been plenty of albums released this year that I’ve bought, listened to and wanted to ramble about. Unfortunately for various reasons I’ve not been able to do that, or at least to the extent I want to go into things. Thus, a roundtable of notable 2013 releases and some short opinions on them.
DAFT PUNK – RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
The reason I’ve not been writing about this one is because I did a fairly massive review about it to a certain music publication; I didn’t fancy copy/pasting it here nor did I have any idea what I could write about the album after that that’d be something new. I suppose such quietness has been good in a way: when this came out, everyone was buzzing about it and it split opinions very vocally. Returning to it now that the initial wave of excitement has died now has nicely reinforced what was apparent from the very beginning: Random Access Memories is a really great album. It’s overlong and could do with skipping a few tracks (my votes go to “Beyond” and “Motherboard”), the flow is seemingly random (the move from “Give Life Back to Music” to “The Game of Love” in particular being one of the worst tracklist sequencing choices in the past years) and it’s not as brilliance-driven as, say, Discovery. But it’s a bloody great album. “Get Lucky” conquered the world because it’s just that perfect of a song, “Giorgio by Moroder” is one of the most breathtaking pieces of music of 2013, “Instant Crush” goes to prove once more that Julian Casablancas guest features produce gold even when his own band is pants, and overall the album is a marvellous piece of dedicated craftsmanship: the production in particular is downright phenomenal. It’s the duo’s most personal album and a great big love letter to everything that made them, an organically flowing throwback released to counter the current dance trends Daft Punk themselves had a hand in creating and which have now spiralled into something despairingly generic. It fights the battle well – this is still easily one of 2013’s top albums.
HUSKY RESCUE – THE LONG LOST FRIEND
They’re back! Sort of. With most of the lineup changed and only the producer/songwriter Marko Nyberg remaining out of the old troupé. There’s still traces of the old Husky Rescue on The Long Lost Friend (the wonderful single “Tree House” being the best example) but mostly the album sounds like something from a whole different group. The dreamy bliss has been changed into straight-up electronica that often goes a little bit abstract and even hectic. It takes a while to get used to but while I do miss the Husky Rescue of old, The Long Lost Friend does make a pretty good case for itself. It is more or less a whole new start with a whole new band though and should be seen as such, the start of a new chapter rather than continuation of old. An enjoyable album, even if “Tree House” threatens to steal all the attention once it hits. Bonus points for the super adorable packaging.
THE NATIONAL – TROUBLE WILL FIND ME
I haven’t been able to find the words for this. Simple as. I adore The National and I make it painfully obvious I view everything they do with a lot of bias. I’ve loved Trouble Will Find Me from day one – it’s an often gorgeous, often brilliant album that mixes together the weariness of Boxer and the band dynamics of High Violet. But I find it really hard to ramble about it at length – to put what I feel about it in words that make it justice. Especially since I’m still digesting it, this band’s tendency to create growers hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s an album of beautiful melancholy, subdued frustration and moments of brief content happiness amidst them all, with keyboards and synthesizers replacing the horns that have followed the band for the last few albums. It’s also an incredibly subtle album, far moreso than any of the band’s previous albums. These are all simple opinion-flavoured factoids: I’ve been trying but find myself unable to go beyond bullet points like this when writing about the album but so far no luck. Perhaps towards ends of the year because what’s clear is that this is going to be among 2013’s best. Clearly.
NOAH AND THE WHALE – HEART OF NOWHERE
I rarely, rarely say this – being the poster boy for accepting that artists change etc – but I think I’m ready to start giving up on Noah and the Whale. The first two albums were great but the third one already had its problems; back then I thought it’d be a temporary change due to the situation it was spawned from, but Heart of Nowhere makes it clear that the change is permanent. Gone are the witty, macabre romanticism of the lyrics and the brilliant indie folk touch – instead, we have a run of the mill pop/rock sound and Poundland Springsteen lyrics. There’s little to say about Heart of Nowhere because it does so very little: for most of its duration it’s simply a very non-descript, unexciting album. The opening title track is its best part and after that it’s all downhill. What a shame to see a group once so great to now sound so lifeless and bored of itself: it’s really hard to imagine the band are actually enjoying playing this considering how unenthusiastic they come off.