THE BEST OF 2013

2013

Yep, it’s that time of year again, and as I mercifully find myself in the rare position of being finished my year’s work early for once (!), I thought I’d list my highlights of the year.

I do love a good list, but not necessarily to rank ‘x’ over ‘y’ – I find that it’s really helpful to read other peoples’ lists and maybe get a good sense of any albums/songs/films that may have bypassed you during the year. It’s so easy to overlook records when you’re listening to so much stuff for work, and it can be difficult to keep up with the sheer volume of stuff being released. Nevertheless… below are my  favourites of 2013.

Have a lovely Christmas!

BEST ALBUMS

1. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City”

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It was a tough call between this and the magnificent John Grant, but the New Yorkers just edge it with possibly their best album yet. They’re more ambitious than ever, yet can still write short, sharp, intelligent pop songs like Diane Young that just burst from the speakers. I thought it’d be the soundtrack of the summer with tunes like the Caribbean lilt of Unbelievers and the fingersnapping, singalong stomp of Ya Hey, but it really is a record for all seasons. The best thing about Vampire Weekend is that you don’t even feel that this is their crowning glory – the best is yet to come.

2. John Grant “Pale Green Ghosts”
3. Arctic Monkeys “AM”
4. The National “Trouble Will Find Me’
5. Little Green Cars “Absolute Zero”
6. Villagers “{Awayland}’
7. Johnny Marr “The Messenger”
8. Anna Calvi “One Breath”
9. Lisa O’Neill “Same Cloth or Not”
10. Matthew E. White “Big Inner”

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 BEST TRACKS

1. Daft Punk “Get Lucky”
Hard to escape, impossible to resist. A combination of factors tied together by the bona fide genius of Nile Rodgers made this a modern pop classic; sexy and slick without having to resort to out-and-out sleaze (we mean you, Robin Thicke).

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2. Vampire Weekend “Unbelievers”
3. Lorde “Royals”
4. Franz Ferdinand “Right Action”
5. Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?”

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BEST IRISH ALBUMS

1.  Little Green CarsAbsolute Zero
I knew they were good, I just didn’t think they were this good. I was absolutely gobsmacked by the maturity of songwriting, proficiency of musicianship and the sheer beauty of LGC’s multi-part harmonies; this sounded like the third or fourth album, not a debut – and there’s only so much credit that can be attributed to their producer, Markus Dravs. A hugely impressive calling card from a band who could well go on to be hugely influential in Irish music – not that we’ll expect to see them ’round these here parts that often… the world is theirs for the taking.

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2. Villagers{Awayland}
3. Lisa O’NeillSame Cloth or Not
4. O EmperorVitreous
5. The Duckworth Lewis MethodSticky Wickets
6. Bell X1Chop Chop
7. CrayonsmithMilk Teeth
8. Foy Vance Joy of Nothing
9. Girls NamesThe New Life
10. ChequerboardThe Unfolding

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BEST GIG

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pic c/o Ed Webster

A tie between John Grant @ Electric Picnic (September), Johnny Marr @ The Academy (March) and Little Green Cars @ Vicar Street (May)

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TOP 10 FILMS

1. The Place Beyond the Pines

placebeyondthepines

A film that caught me totally by surprise. I’d seen Derek Cianfrance’s ‘Blue Valentine’ and liked it; he is obviously a filmmaker that spends a lot of time crafting his output and getting the tone right. The Place Beyond the Pines is not without its flaws, but it is a visually beautiful, exciting, brilliantly-directed and superbly-acted film of real depth, with an extremely engaging storyline. At times, it felt like I was watching a play in three acts – a quality that won’t resonate with everyone – but it seemed like a Scorsese opus at times. I can’t remember enjoying a film so much in ages.

2. Gravity
3. Prisoners
4. Django Unchained
5. Captain Phillips
6. Nebraska
7. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
8. Wreck-It Ralph
9. The Way Way Back
10. Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

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WORST FILM

counsellor

The Counsellor

Written by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Fassbender, Pitt, Bardem – what could possibly go wrong? Umm… pretty much everything. The most bloated, pretentious, awful thing I’ve seen in a cinema this year. And I’ve seen jOBS (shudder).

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BEST TV SHOW

bbb

Breaking Bad, hands down (side note: Biggest Disappointment: Arrested Development S4)

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BEST BOOK

spinningheart

Although published in October 2012, the best book I read in 2013 was Donal Ryan’s ‘The Spinning Heart‘. Looking forward to getting stuck into his second one over the Christmas break. (Honourable mention: Morrissey – ‘Autobiography‘)

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JOHN GRANT: ELECTRIC DREAMS

Originally published in The Irish Times, March 1st 2013.

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THERE ARE confessional songwriters, and then there is John Grant. The Michigan-born, Colorado-raised musician had been celebrated as a lyricist throughout his tenure with The Czars, the band he fronted for ten years until their split in 2004. Yet it was the release of his astounding solo debut Queen of Denmark in 2010 that his propensity for pouring his heart and soul – metaphorical warts and all – brought his music to a wider audience.

Continue reading

DOMHNALL GLEESON: THE TIME IS NOW

Originally published in The Irish Post, September 3rd, 2013.

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Domhnall Gleeson creases up, eyes widening and shoulders shaking as he tries to suppress a bellyaching laugh and avoid spraying the room with the mouthful of water he’s just gulped back. I have just asked the young actor whether he is ready to be hailed as the next big rom-com dreamboat – what’s so funny about that? – but a line in his new film About Time may go some way to explaining his mirth. By modern standards, Gleeson is, perhaps, “too pale, too skinny, too ginger”, as his character puts it, to be your stereotypical leading man. Continue reading

IN MOZ WE TRUST

The Entertainment Editor of The Irish Post recently asked me to write about my longstanding and occasionally irrational love of Morrissey, to coincide with the release of ‘Morrissey 25: Live from Hollywood High’. Sometimes, you just have to put your journalistic impartiality to one side and allow your inner rabid fangirl to run rampant. 

Originally published in The Irish Post, August 28th 2013.

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A KITCHEN sink may sound like a strange place to fall head over heels in love with a band, but in a way it is the perfect setting for a love affair with The Smiths, who drew so much of their imagery and lyrical inspiration from the ‘kitchen sink’ dramas of the 1950s and 1960s.

I still remember the moment clearly; it was 2001 and I was in my parents’ house, washing the dishes and listening to the Very Best Of CD that I’d bought earlier that day. The music shop that I was working in part-time had been playing this new collection on a daily basis, and I like to think that even as I went about the monotonous task of stickering CDs and answering inane customer queries, the music was subconsciously seeping into my brain.

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LET’S GET QUIZZICAL #3

Congratulations to the winner of the last quiz, Amy, who was one of four people who got all ten answers correct.

Here are this week’s questions. Email answers to theworldwontlisten at hotmail.co.uk by next Wednesday. Good luck!

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1) Jimmy Kimmel was the focus of which rapper’s wrath on Twitter earlier this week? Continue reading

LET’S GET QUIZZICAL #2

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Thanks to everyone who entered last week – the first installment had a good response and you proved yourselves a generally honest bunch, as only one person actually answered all ten questions correctly: congratulations, Ciarán! (correct answers are at the end of this post)

Here’s a new batch for this week. Email answers to theworldwontlisten AT hotmail.co.uk by next Wednesday and I’ll post the winner a bunch of CDs.

Good luck… Continue reading

FILM REVIEW: INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2

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Let’s face it: decent modern horror films are hard to come by. Striking the balance between tension, genuine scares and an original storyline is something that has largely eluded mainstream cinema in recent years, which explains why a lot of horror films fail to make it to the big screen and are fast-tracked to DVD before you can say ‘I’ll just go and check the basement out’.

James Wan has had mixed form up to this point. The Australian is best known for his role as co-creator of the dreadful Saw franchise (and director of its first installment); movies that were huge money-spinners, movies that caught the imagination of the multiplex masses, but not exactly the sort of art that a filmmaker would want to have quoted on their epitaph.

And then along came Insidious. A film that impudently borrowed from the golden age of horror – from the Hammer-style title to the superb Bernard Herrmann-esque score and sound effects – it was a revelation of the modern genre. Not without its flaws, certainly (the last third in particular saw the story majorly lose its way), but it was nevertheless a compelling narrative about a young family whose son’s talent for ‘astral projection’ leaves his body exposed to a host of malevolent ghosts and a scary red-faced demon, all of which want to possess him. Far-fetched? I’ll say, and that’s without going into ‘The Further’, the purgatory-style no-man’s-land where the dead supposedly wander around waiting for an ‘in’ back to the world of the living. Still, the film’s slow-building, creepy nature and multitude of clever jumps made for a hugely entertaining mainstream horror and Wan’s promising work on The Conjuring earlier this year only served to heighten the anticipation for this sequel.

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