Music: YEP writers pick their faves of 2013

Bruce Springsteen on stage at the First Direct Arena.
Bruce Springsteen on stage at the First Direct Arena.
Have your say

YEP writers pick their favourites of 2013...



The Next Day by David Bowie

In years to come, 2013 may well be regarded as one of the great years for pop music. Arctic Monkeys, Daft Punk, Laura Marling, Suede, My Bloody Valentine, Arcade Fire, Prefab Sprout, John Grant and Anna Calvi all released fine albums.

But the year belonged to an artist generally assumed to have retired.

In an age of endless internet chatter, how David Bowie kept his first album in ten years a secret until January 2013 was a marvel in itself. That The Next Day contained songs as good as Where Are We Now?, Valentine’s Day, The Stars (Are Out Tonight) and You Feel So Lonely You Could Die was ever better.

Angry, controversial, oblique, at times heartbreakingly poignant, it knowingly referenced one of his best records, ‘Heroes’, but never wallowed in nostalgia.


The Cribs at O2 Academy Leeds, December 19

Entertaining as shows by Depeche Mode at the new First Direct Arena and Johnny Marr at the Brudenell Social Club undoubtedly were, they couldn’t match Wakefield’s mighty Cribs at full pelt.

At the second of their festive shows at Leeds Academy Gary Jarman joked that the band were in talks with Government to make their ‘Cribsmas’ event a national holiday.

Essentially a greatest hits set, they delivered outsider anthem after outsider anthem, with Gary, in particular, intent on bellowing himself almost hoarse.

During Glitters Like Gold the audience was showered in sparkling ticker tape and Ross stood on his drums, hammering his cymbals.

Lee Ranaldo was there in spirit too, in video form, during an exceptional Be Safe, prompting thoughts that The Cribs would make a convincing Sonic Youth tribute act, should times ever get lean.

Two songs later Gary announced a special guest, “seeing as though it’s Christmas”. Cue the ever-dapper Johnny Marr to strut his way through We Were Aborted and We Share the Same Skies.

Gig of the year, hands down.



Fain by Wolf People

Wolf People’s 2010 debut Steeple had its roots firmly planted in the prog/folk scene of the late-60s/early-70s, finding influence in bands like Focus, King Crimson and Rush.

Their second album Fain is an album filled with excellent, well-crafted songs. Tracks like Empty Vessels and Hesperus are built around delightfully twiddly electric guitar noodling. When the Fire is Dead in the Grate and All Returns hark back to the indulgent, driving rock that could only be heard at a biker festival during the early hours of the morning.

Fain is the perfect album to blast out of your wound down windows on a summer afternoon whilst hurtling through the North Yorkshire Moors in a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429.

Their gig at Holy Trinity Church in May would also rate as my gig of the year.



Haw by Hiss Golden Messenger

Hiss Golden Messenger’s ‘Poor Moon’ (2011) was initially sneaked out on tiny printing and promptly vanished until its reissue last year. Haw received a whole lot more attention from the start, and deservedly so. Haw’s predecessor might have been the finest release in the Americana idiom for a long while, but Haw was even better, fine-tuning HGM mainstay MC Taylor’s riffs on the classic country-folk themes – sin, salvation, trouble, strife and, for a spot of light amidst the gloom, wary hope in a better tomorrow – into a truly distinctive songwriting voice. Musically, this is a potent, uncluttered yet musically adventurous stew that acknowledges the past but won’t conform to the rote-learning of any Americana rulebook.


Melt Yourself Down and Satelliti at The Wardrobe, Thursday November 28

The best gigs turn you from an average appreciator into a bona fide fan. This energetic double-bill managed this feat with both acts.

Signed to local label Cuckundoo, Satelliti allowed their improvisational electro-jazz-funk-whatever workouts enough sprawl room into bloom into hypnotic epics, with the Italian keyboards and drums duo’s seemingly telepathic, hyperactive interplay giving virtuosity a very good name indeed.

Melt Yourself Down’s self-titled debut (on esteemed Leeds label Leaf) was one of the year’s lesser-known delights, a genre-hopping, globetrotting array of genuinely unclassifiable 21st century world music.

However, this thrilling set made the album seem like a rough sketch. There was no time for individual showing-off as Pete Wareham and Wayne Francis wielded their saxes like assault weapons, the rhythm section pounded with the relentless aggression of an uncommonly agile metal act and vocalist/ringleader Kushal Gaya whipped the crowd into an even sweatier frenzy.


Album of THE YEAR

Tales of Us by Goldfrapp

True chameleons of music, Goldfrapp released their sixth studio album this year, the joyously melancholic Tales of Us.

Famed for their thumping disco beats and hooky synthesiser lines, paired perfectly with Alison Goldfrapp’s deliciously sexy voice, Tales of Us sees them return to their weird and wonderful roots originally explored in their debut album, Felt Mountain.

The other half of Goldfrapp, Will Gregory, gave his synthesiser a rest this time and showcased his amazing talent as an arranger, incorporating a full string section to the majority of the songs.

Apart from Stranger, each song is titled after a person’s name. The arguable highlights are Thea, a stomping and dramatic epic that sees Goldfrapp go to the very top of her range, backed by a mass of screaming violins; and Alvar, more subdued in sound, it is twice as chilling as the aforementioned track as Goldfrapp chants the chorus almost like a ghost behind a shrill guitar rhythm.


T’Pau at Leeds City Varieties

It’s been 25 long years since T’Pau’s first headline tour. Their quadruple-platinum Bridge of Spies album hit the number one spot back in 1987 and China In Your Hand has remained one of the most famous ballads of the 1980s.

To mark their milestone anniversary, singer Carol Decker and guitarist Ron Rogers teamed up with a new line-up and hit the road for a 28 date tour.

Ending at Leeds City Varieties, Decker immediately won over a full house of fans from the moment she strode onto the stage in her leather coat.

Decker and Rogers took fans of all ages through their back catalogue of hits and songs like Road to Our Dream, Valentine and Heart and Soul went down a storm.

A standing ovation and endless applause showed that here was one band that isn’t finished yet.


Album of THE YEAR

Cerulean Salt by Waxahatchee

Waxahatchee’s breakthrough release is the sound of being 18, confused and angst-ridden. It also happens to be the most refreshing album of the year.

Combining diary entry lyrics with the dry guitar sound of Liz Phair and the bubblegum grunge of Juliana Hatfield, Cerulean Salt (Wichita Recordings) emotionally connects with listeners in a starkly honest way that reflects the occasionally bare bone arrangements.

The nom de plume of Brooklyn-based Katie Crutchfield, the post-riot grrrl veteran is growing increasingly assured in her lo-fi song writing, with plenty to suggest that Cerulean Salt is just the start of her creative purple patch.


Low at Brudenell Social Club

Low may have been touring and recording for twenty years but they continue to be a spellbinding live draw.

The Duluth trio were uncommonly aggressive when promoting their tenth album, The Invisible Way, at Manchester’s Central Methodist Hall in April. By the time they played the Brudenell Social Club in November, however, the mood of their set had completely changed.

There were undoubtedly moments of coiled tension, but these were interspersed with moments of great calm.

The band’s ever shifting tone, together with their ability to incrementally advance their distinctive slowcore, lo-fi blueprint over the years, has been the key to their longevity and ensures they’ve remained such an essential live act.


Album of the Year

AM by Arctic Monkeys

This was the year Yorkshire band Arctic Monkeys went from boys to men. The writing was on the wall the moment Danny Boyle’s camera lens honed in on the Sheffield four-piece stomping through Come Together on a makeshift rooftop for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, seen by million around the world.

Within 12 months they played Glastonbury and Alex Turner – now resembling a 50s greaser on a milk round – was everywhere, from Heat Magazine to Newsnight, Radio 1 to Pitchfork. AM is the band’s swaggering, swampy fifth album which finally aligns their musical muscle with the prototype pop trailed on their previous efforts, and contains a glam-drenched barrage of cocksure hits.

The lads have developed into one of the best British bands of modern times – something we can all be proud of.


Bruce Springsteen at First Direct Arena, July 24 2013

The fact Springsteen’s return to Leeds was the best gig of the year is not even remotely contestable.

Even if you weren’t there, a big part of you knows that any other gig you went to this year paled in comparison.

It’s not just the fact he personally rescheduled his European tour to launch the city’s new, state-of-the-art, £60m arena space. Or the fact the arena actually excelled all expectations and met the challenge faced by a three-hour non-stop E Street show. Or the fact this was Springsteen’s first gig in Leeds for 28 years. Or that he played Secret Garden and Because the Night (which he never does), downed a pint, crowd surfed, took requests and danced with an entire family on stage. It is because of these things, obviously, but it is also because of this: at 63, he is still proving to artists half his age how to put on a real rock and roll show.


Album of THE YEAR

Beretta Suicide by Beretta Suicide

Looking through the albums that have been released over the last 12 months, selecting my album of the year proved quite overwhelming. To choose between, for example, Pteroglyph’s The Great Unseen and New Model Army’s Between Dog and Wolf is near enough impossible as they are absolute belters in their own ways.

There is always one album, however, that will shine through from the rest, dabble with notable audio exquisiteness, and one that will tantalise each of your senses. If you turn it up loud enough. And that’s what the boys from Beretta Suicide think too. They released their self titled debut album earlier this year, that hits the ground running, gives you some nice chunky guitar pieces, thundering drums from Kidd Kaoz, and some lovely yet filthy bass lines that rumble your guts.


Bowling For Soup at O2 Academy Leeds

2013 has again been one of the best for live performances in Leeds. Ranging from New Model Army to Bastille, I’ve seen a fair few performances that I will remember for the rest of my days, and this is a really hard decision to make. Alice In Chains, a band I have waited years to see live and who are one of my all time favourite bands absolutely tore the stage up when they graced the O2 Academy with their presence, and their set is forever etched in to my mind. However, the one band that really did put the performance of a lifetime on and for the last time in the UK, was Bowling For Soup. Each artist from that band, Erik, Gary, Chris, and Jaret are outstanding musicians in their own rights, but collectively, there is no other band that can deliver first class music, a fun atmosphere that’s (almost) family friendly, and stage presence that’s undeniable.


Gig of the Year

Public Service Broadcasting at Brudenell Social Club

There’s more to a great gig than a band playing well.

The audience and the venue are equally important factors. And if you get a disruptive gig-goer it can go either way.

Ultrasound’s show at The Library back in April was thrilling, but it was also the first gig where – and this is a sure sign of my advancing years – I’ve felt compelled to ask a chatterbox at the back to shut up. It spoiled the evening a bit, for him as well probably.

However, when an over-enthusiastic fan chose to get up on stage and dance with Public Service Broadcasting at the Brudenell Social Club back in May, and frontman J.Willgoose Esq promptly fired off a plummy “Do you mind?” from his sampler, it was a priceless moment.

Ironically, the savvy duo’s driving mash-up of Krautrock, techno and vintage vocal samples and their fascinating audio-visual show almost demands that kind of over-eager reaction.

Album of the Year

Excavation by The Haxan Cloak

It’s probably another symptom of my advancing years that, despite still having a healthy appetite for new music, I’ve struggled to find sounds that have floated my boat this year. I spent most of spring listening to Everything Everything’s awesome Arc and most other stuff sounded dreary and derivative.

By autumn things picked up. with some cool psych-tronica from American’s Son Lux and Botany, and then I arrived at The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation, a deliciously dark opus of sinister electronica that could either be the soundtrack to a Lynchian horror film or what you genuinely hear as you move from this world to the next.

Doesn’t sound like much fun? Well, just as a good horror film has no trouble getting bums on seats, there’s something equally thrilling about the journey you go on listening to these doom-laden bass throbs, disembodied utterences, cavernous chimes and rumbles, found sound percussion and waves of static. The fact that the man behind it, Bobby Krlic, started his music career in Wakefield ticks the ‘local talent’ box for me too.

If you’ve had your fill of Buble and Carey over Christmas, this is the mother of all aural purgatives.

Franz Ferdinand. Picture: David Edwards

Gig review: Franz Ferdinand and Albert Hammond Jr at O2 Academy Leeds