Best of 2013 Review
We’re a week or so late with this 2013 round-up, for which apologies. Still, the following thoughts and content are still valid, no?
Which is to say, a quick canvass of the names you see regularly cropping up on these bylines for their favourite moments of last year – on record, in video or in the flesh.
We like the way it all stacks up as some kind of document of the last 12 months. How about you?
*By the way, we’re also trialling a new layout about which more anon. Feel free to drop some feedback on that over on the Book of Faces, www.facebook.com/wearenoisedotcom.
Best Irish Band:
The Altered Hours
My Bloody Valentine (Yes we are still calling them Irish – Ed.)
Best International Band:
My Bloody Valentine
Best Irish Album:
In this category, most of the votes were for this – more of an epoch-making event than an album, to be fair.
My Bloody Valentine – mbv
Very honourable mentions were also received for the following:
Cat Dowling – The Believer
O Emperor – Vitreous
Dott – Swoon
The Last Sound – Rainbow Xplode
Best Irish Single:
Many of the regular Noise contributors were inclined to pass on this category but those that didn’t were impressed by inventive electro from the sadly departed Saint Yorda, as well as some mind-boggling conceptual electronic funk and a healthy dose of psych rock.
Saint Yorda – ‘Disco’
Space Dimension Controller – ‘Welcome to Mikrosector-50’
O Emperor – ‘Contact’
Best International Single:
Another eclectic selection, taking in some stoner alt rock and ferocious techno punk. Enjoy also music from Brussels and Manchester from artists that may be below the radar of many of you – V.O. are the former, produced by John McEntire of Tortoise, making smouldering prog pop; Nancy Elizabeth the latter, producing Morricone-esque folk music with a cinematic sweep.
Kurt Vile – ‘Wakin’ on a Pretty Day’
Fuck Buttons – ‘The Red Wing’
V.O. – ‘When you see red’
Nancy Elizabeth – ‘The last battle’
Best Live Performance:
World Statesmen – Siege of Limerick X, The Warehouse, Limerick. (27/10/13)
No Spill Blood
Crow Black Chicken
The Altered Hours
Bat for Lashes, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (01/08/13)
Bjork, Electric Picnic
Dead Can Dance
Best Irish Festival
Hard Working Class Heroes
Best Irish Female Artist
Best International Female Artist:
Best Irish Male Artist
James Vincent McMorrow
Best International Male Artist:
Best Irish Newcomers
The Altered Hours
Best Irish Album Artwork
Space Dimension Controller – Welcome to Mikrosector-50
Best International Album Artwork
Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
Tor Lundvall – Structures & Solitude
The Complete Stax / Volt Singles [Box set] – Otis Redding
Best Irish Video
Saint Yorda – ‘Disco’
Benny Smiles – ‘Somehow yours do’
Bouts – ‘Pliable Me’
And to finish, some choice words from regular contributor Gary Hannon. In place of nominating for the above categories, Gary decided to revisit in long form a singular live performance from last year. Over to Gary.
Gig of the Year 2013 – Björk Live at Electric Picnic on Saturday Night, 31st of August
Review by Gary Hannon
Without doubt, Björk on Saturday night at Electric Picnic was hands down the best performance I was at in 2013, and one of the top three gigs I’ve been at since I started going out in the late 80’s! Her concert was a master class in how to give a performance. Here is what she did:
- Björk played her best songs, spanning the past 20 years as a solo recording artist. She did not play her greatest hits. She played just one song from her most accessible album, Debut, and two each from her next two relatively accessible albums, Post and Homogenic. These songs have evolved, been updated and improved. It’s fair to say that most of those present were not aware of any of the rest of the songs, nearly half of which were from her most recent album, her masterpiece, Biophilia.
- Björk began with a very slow, gentle song, initially without any beats. The focus was on her, and her unique, beautiful, expressive, vocals. The opener ‘Cosmogony’, was a song about four different beliefs regarding the formation of the Universe, spread over four verses. These range from early Miwok, Taoism, through dreaming, to the Big Bang. This song about the evolution of ideas and beliefs mapped out how the set would evolve…
- After she entered the stage and humbly bowed, she sung her opening lyrics of the concert, “Heaven. Heaven’s bodies whirl around me; Make me wonder.” The vast backdrop showed stars whirling slowly around her. Though she was wearing the largest headpiece since Chief Geronimo, along with a dress with grossly oversized inflatable female body parts, she was fittingly dwarfed by the graphics of the Universe. This set up the secondary aspects of the performance – the stage.
- She had one hell of a band! Most of the music was played or sequenced by the musical director, Matt Robertson, who controlled all the electronics and midi instruments. These included a massive pipe organ and a gigantic tesla coil, which came down from the top of the stage to shoot sparks of visual electrical charges across the stage as it gathered live electricity from the atmosphere to play basslines. Visually, this was stunning! Helping the instrumentation to appear more live, she had the incredible drummer, Manu Delago, who also played percussion, and on a select few songs, the hang drum. As Björk’s music is so vocally driven, she had the full support of the Icelandic Female Choir, led by choir conductor, Jón Stefánsson. They each had a mic, and they created a spine-tingling, aurally-orgasmic, orchestral setting for the songs. They were free to express themselves through dance as they saw fit.
- The sound was clear, crisp as day, and surprisingly for an outdoor gig, loud with even coverage. She consulted her musical director before every song. This gave the impression that Björk was deciding which song to play next, by going with her instinct and feeding off the enthusiastic audience. The huge stage was full with screens and instruments. This, along with the perfect sound made it easy for the many thousands present to fully experience the performance.
- The music was challenging. As I said above, this was not your usual band format – no guitarists, bassist, etc. Few of the songs, unlike most of the recorded songs in the Western world, were typical love songs. The themes included the love of nature, how we humans fit into the natural world, and how we should behave as nations. The songs had many different styles – from baroque to breakcore – and used different musical modes, such as the rarely used Locrian mode (in ‘Army Of Me’). The songs used obscure time signatures – set highlights such as ‘Crystalline’ is played in the highly unusual time signature of 17/8; and ‘Mutual Core’ is in 5/4. This was no middle-of-the-road, crowd-pleasing best-of set, complete with a quirky cover version. This was the best of the artist’s art.
- She built her set from a slow, gentle beginning to an enormous, riotous crescendo. She finished the set with ‘Náttúra’, a bonus track from Biophilia, about the preservation of wilderness. It features vocal samples from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, loud aggressive, panned polyrhythms, and a massive bassline. It is not an easy song to dance to, nevertheless, the crowd demanded more. The band came back on for an encore and played the techno punk anthem ‘Declare Independence’. This is as hard a song as you are ever likely to hear. Even the choir went berserk, moshing and head-banging behind Björk as she screamed the lyrics: “Start your own currency! Make your own stamp! Protect your language!… Damn colonists! Ignore their patronizing!” It was as if she had written it especially for the Irish audience. As she finished, completely solo, she demanded that we raise our flags “Higher! Higher!” in a call and response with the crowd. Inciteful and inspirational stuff!
Afterwards, people around me were planning to travel to wherever her next gig was. This was not a pop concert – this was a performance by a true artist at the top of her game. Essential!