2013 was the last year of my 30s, and was a pretty OK year for me all round. I didn't have to move house, no-one super-close to me died, my work situation was good, and I played a couple of gigs.
There was a pretty intense meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia, a papal resignation, a 3D-printed ear, some Snowden disclosures, an Egyptian coup, an Indian Mars orbiter and a pretty bad typhoon. Oh, and a prince.
10-4, over and out, sayonara, take it easy to Michael Winner, Hugo Chávez, Clive Burr, Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths), Margaret Thatcher, Storm Thorgerson, Ray Manzarek, Iain Banks, James Gandolfini, Mel Smith, David Frost, Lou Reed, Nelson Mandela, Peter O'Toole and Mikhail Kalashnikov (among, as always, many, many others).
I've lived with my 2013 shortlist for a full year now, and have thus decreed:
Alter Bridge - Fortress
Well what more can I say about the semi-divine Alter Bridge? Really, you've heard me wax lyrical about them enough. Know this though - this is their heaviest disc to date, and the most cohesive, and the best. Get on it in 2015 if you haven't already. Top track: "Addicted to Pain"
Ólafur Arnalds - For Now I Am Winter
I think I saw Mr Arnalds on the programme at the Barbican at a Max Richter concert and took a gamble on tickets. Top choice. This is his first work to include vocals, and it's utterly gorgeous. Top track: "Reclaim"
David Bowie - The Next Day
Bowie infamously recorded this album without even his record company knowing. It was his first release in ten years, and it's the freshest sounding thing he's done in… well, decades. It's great. Top track: "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
Hugh Laurie - Didn't It Rain
While I loved Hugh's first blues album, I did find the roster of guest vocalists a touch irritating when Hugh's own voice is so soulful and gritty. Great, then, that this album sees him tying things down with his Copper Bottom Band and singing most of the leads himself. Better than the first one, if such an idea is to be entertained. Top track: "One For My Baby"
Plini/Sithu Aye - I
Well. These guys. Plini from Sydney and Sithu Aye from somewhere in Scotland have between them reinvented what it is to be a young shit-hot solo guitar player, by having amazing production chops, great songwriting abilities, technique out the yin-yang, incredible musical sensibilities and a massive amount of fun releasing music. Or so it appears, anyway. Check out both of their catalogues on Bandcamp while you're about it. Top track: "Rupture"
And the winner is…
Jon Gomm - Secrets Nobody Keeps
Jon is flat-out one of the most incredible musicians I can name, and if you've never heard of him I urge you to stop here and spend the next 7 minutes watching his incredible Passionflower.
Yes, he really is doing all that live, at once. He pretty damned good, n'est-ce pas? I confess to not really digging his previous album Don't Panic - I'm not sure why, really, I think I just didn't get on with the production, or his vocals at the time, or something like that. But this album is flawless from start to finish.
It's true that Jon's current wave of success was catapulted forward by Stephen Fry tweeting one word ("Wow") about that "Passionflower" video, but all that did was accelerate the process a little. Jon would have got there anyway, he's that awesome.
And to cap off the splendid, Jon is an independent musician. This album was originally funded through Pledge Music, and there's no record company behind him scraping profit off his earnings. (I was, naturally, an early backer.) I usually link to the albums in these lists on Amazon, but for the best karma and to keep supporting independent music, you should really buy this album direct.
He's also a really nice bloke. Sickening, really.
Top tracks: "Everything", "Telepathy", "Passionflower"
Turkey of the Year
Johnny Flynn - Country Mile
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