In our humble opinion, 2013 was a cracking year for music. So as it draws to a close, we thought we’d take a look back at some highlights, personal and general, and some thoughts and observations which, in all honesty, will likely be quite random. We hope you don’t mind.
2013 was, to all intents and purposes, the year of BIG. There were big albums, big shocks, big returns, big words and big scandals. There were controversies, outrage, political and social angst and sorrow; yet despite everything the world kept turning and new music was made and enjoyed across the planet.
Many of the main headlines of the year involved all three of shocks, returns and albums. Not least with the much hyped and long desired return of Daft Punk and their first new record since the much underrated and under-appreciated score for Tron 2, which most people don’t count as it wasn’t the album they wanted from the band. In the end, Random Access Memories was and wasn’t the album people wanted either. Many hailed it a masterpiece and many bemoaned its length and lack of traditional Daft Punkiness. Regardless, it sold a truckload and in “Get Lucky” they produced arguably the song of the year.
But the return of Daft Punk was overshadowed, or at least surpassed for pure shock value, by the return of David Bowie who randomly released a new track and video to the world without so much as a teaser campaign in sight. An album followed as did a series of limited edition vinyl re-issues and a sold out exhibition, yes exhibition – not a gig, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Yeah, take that Daft Punk, he probably never thought for one moment, stick your video wall at Coachella up your visor.
While Bowie eschewed modern publicity campaigns, others channelled Pete Rose (baseball reference there kids) and dived in head first. Boards of Canada returned with strange video messages beamed opposite the entrance to Rough Trade East in London, Cut Copy made their new track available to hear in four locations across the world (identified via longitude and latitude coordinates) and Metronomy stuck their new single in Space, or something. We’re still not entirely sure what happened there but the song was good.
But the last word went to Beyoncé who looked at her ‘WWBD?’ bracelet (What Would Bowie Do?) and dropped a full album with accompanying videos, unannounced, one cold Friday morning in December. It sold just under a million copies in 10 days as PR firms across the world just looked at each other and cried.
Arcade Fire also returned in 2013, calling themselves The Reflektors for some shows and hooking up with James Murphy for a hipsters’ wet-dream collaboration. They then pissed said hipsters off by requesting they dress up to attend a gig. Because it’s not easy to be ironic when everyone is wearing black tie Goddammit.
Oh, and Lady Gaga came back again but that album was pretty rubbish and overblown so we’re going to pretend it never happened. Much like we imagine Britney’s PR team wish ‘Britney in a field’ never happened and H from Steps wished he was called something other than Ian.
As far as new artists are concerned, 2013 was, as expected, very good for the likes of Haim, Chvrches, and London Grammar; but it was a young New Zealander who popped out almost from nowhere to really take the world by storm. With her refreshingly simple yet powerful and infectious stark-pop, Lorde had success pretty much everywhere, including topping the charts in America. She was also not backward in coming forward when giving interviews and she soon became one of the most quotable artists around, commenting honestly and often insightfully on anything and everything she was asked about. A complete contrast to some artists, who failed to say anything when controversy, not of their own making it should be noted, came a calling. Yeah, we’re looking at the ‘fit’ one now.
Words were not in short supply mind you, as Thom Yorke let fly with some choice ones in the direction of Spotify. More important words were being had in Russia where Pussy Riot were jailed and in The Guardian, where Lauren Chvrches stood up and shot down the misogynistic bullshit she is subjected to on a daily basis in and around the industry and as a public figure. Sadly many of the comments in response to her article merely proved her point.
We also lost some amazing people and musicians this year, not least the icon that was Lou Reed and the legendary Ray Manzarek. They, and the countless others from bands big and small, will be missed and their influence and impact not forgotten.
But what of our year? Was 2013 the year of BIG for us here at Alphabet Bands as well?
Well, yes in many ways it was. Hits, at the time of writing (with one day left of the year) are up 94% on 2012. A pretty impressive stat we think you’ll agree. Though to put that into a little context, one of our favourite bloggers recently commented on a slow day on their site, implying that the number of hits received was amongst, if not the, lowest they’d had this year. The number given was still above our highest ever day. We know our place and in reality we haven’t been doing this that long and besides, we do this for fun. Though it does mean a lot to know stuff is being read and appreciated, especially when a band or artist gets in touch to say thank you and to let us know we have helped them.
Randomly, our most read post this year (not including homepage views or clicks on the top links like ‘contact us’) was the same as last year, with more people viewing Free Download: MS MR – “Hurricane” than any other. In fact, it would appear that our readers do love their free downloads with gratis offerings from The Good Natured and Smallpools also featuring in our top 5 (at numbers 3 and 4 respectively). Only your apparent love and appreciation of Valerie June could compete with your desire for free stuff as our interview with her was the 2nd most read post of the year, and our review of her album was the 5th.
2013 was also the year that saw us step out from behind the keyboard and into new ventures as we hosted the very first Alphabet Bands presents… evening. With support from the fabulous people of Open in Norwich, Planet of Sound, Sessions Productions and Access to Music, we had our very first gig night, all so we could see Vuvuvultures play live again. We loved it so much that we even managed to get the good folk of the Norwich Sound & Vision festival let us have a stage; and continuing the theme of booking acts just because we want to see them live, blog favourites Waylayers, Strangers and Curxes all came along and amazed us with their performances. We had so much fun with it all, that we’re planning more gigs for next year as well. Watch this space for news on those.
So that was 2013, or at least a very brief and disjointed canter through it. If you want to see what records and songs particularly tickled our fancy this year, just take a click of the following links (Tracks, EPs and Albums) but for now, thanks for reading and we’ll leave you with some tracks we’ve loved recently (some of which you can download for free, we know you love that shit).
See you in 2014. Happy New Year everyone.