The Essential Listening 2013 series has so far taken in Live4ever publisher Paul Bachmann’s top music video picks of the year and photographer Andy Crossland’s favourite gigs of the past twelve months. Now, editor Dave Smith has taken a look back through a busy year’s worth of Radar music to select 25 of the very best for our Essential Tracks of 2013.
Through New Tunes Guides, Presents features, videos, interviews and reviews, Live4ever’s Radar section has showcased in excess of 300 new and emerging bands during the course of the year, with everything from brash young indie, laid back Americana, solo troubadours and East Coast new wave making the cut for this final rundown. You can rediscover and immerse yourself in all of the selected tracks by clicking on each individual artwork.
Live4ever’s Essential Listening series is here to share, not preach! An interactive celebration of rock and roll where your favourites can contribute. Make sure your stand-out tracks, singles and EPs of the year all get a deserved mention by leaving a comment below.
25: Sparrow & The Workshop – ‘Shock Shock’
Sparrow & The Workshop were a highlight of our New Tunes Guide back in February with the single ‘Shock Shock’. The track got a release through the independent Song By Toads label, and arrived after support slots with the likes of Brian Jonestown Massacre, British Sea Power, the Lemonheads and Thee Oh Sees.
24: Forest – ‘Sweetcure EP’
“Main vocalist Henry Barraclough leads from the front with a smoky style that seems almost older than his years, echoing elements of Julian Casablancas, Gaz Coombes and Alex Turner, with a timbre that supplements but never overwhelms the hazy backdrop.”
23: Vladimir – ‘Come Over’
On free download ‘Come Over’ – packed with haze and distort – it’s easy to see how Dundee teenagers Vladimir have sat well backing Peace and their more established Scottish counterparts The Twilight Sad on tour this year.
22: Pickwick – ‘Lady Luck’
Taken from the debut full length album ‘Can’t Talk Medicine’, Pickwick’s single ‘Lady Luck’ was included in the New Tunes Guide way back at the start of the year on January 26th – a strong week for new tracks, it’s one of three to feature that week which have now made on to our Essential Tracks rundown.
21: Section 60 – ‘Welcome To The Dream Factory EP’
Armed with their ‘Welcome To The Dream Factory’ EP, May saw Section 60 pop in to talk to Live4ever contributor Carl Stanley when they described their sound as, ‘A bit of every band that’s ever been the bollocks. The thing with Manchester is that when you talk to somebody over there it’s always, ‘So when you gonna make it’, not ‘do you think your going to make it’. We love that attitude and we think that comes out in the sound of our band’.
20: Guards – ‘Silver Lining’
The breezy West Coast vibe of Guards’ single ‘Silver Lining’ is the second of three New Tunes Guide tracks from January 26th to make it on to our Essentials countdown. Guards couldn’t really fail, what with being led by the talents of former Cults cohorts Richie Follin and Loren Humphrey. The debut album ‘In Guards We Trust’ followed in April.
19: Fist City – ‘Boring Kids’
Fist City’s ‘Boring Kids’ cropped up on Live4ever at the height of spring, but couldn’t be further from the joys of that season. It’s dark and intense, but immediately memorable at the same time, and is given a further shadowy element with a self-made video borne out of necessity after things didn’t work out with their original director. Instead they ‘threw a weird party and got fucked up’. Well why not?
18: Temple Songs – ‘Passed Caring’
Temple Songs’ songwriter and frontman Jolan Lewis clearly displays a Sixties pop influence on debut single ‘Passed Caring’, but there’s an underlying current of Eighties alternative US which elevates it way beyond mere British nostalgia.
‘In My Bed’ found its way on to our New Tunes Guide as part of the ‘Sycamore’ EP as songwriter Benedict Rubinstein explored the relationship between love and death. “Sycamore came from a period when I’d gone to a lot of funerals in a very short space of time,” he said. “I was thinking about death a lot but I was also in quite a good place in my life and very much in love, so felt quite able to write about the most terrifying thing from a pretty contented place.”
16: Miraculous Mule – ‘Satisfied’
“The trio seem to pride themselves on their love of the classics, and just from the tone of the echoed backing vocals that’s clear to hear. The attention to detail could even fool you into thinking it was an old vinyl dug up from a long lost collection of treasured memories.”
15: Ivan & Alyosha – ‘Running For Cover’
And the last of the three January 26th highlights is Ivan & Alyosha’s ‘Running For Cover’. The ‘All The Times We Had’ album track is a delicious slice of laidback melody from the same barn which has gathered mainstream attention for the likes of The Lumineers, Passenger and plenty more this year.
14: play_rewind_eject – ‘Innocence’
Ten years on the circuit and a mountain of material for Suffolk singer songwriter Pete Thompson eventually resulted in the ‘Maryland’ EP under the banner play_rewind_eject – the passionately delivered acoustic track ‘Innocence’ led the EP perfectly.
13: Suburban Dirts – ‘‘Lost In Transcription’
Hertfordshire based six-piece Suburban Dirts released their second album on November 18th, citing the likes of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams and The Band as chief inspirations. On ‘Lost In Transcription’ they immediately showed-off a very ‘Bringing It All Back Home’-era sound, specifically as if they had been to bed and shared Dylan’s 115th dream.
12: John Lennon McCullagh- ‘North South Divide’
Live4ever was delighted to chat with John Lennon McCullagh shortly before he became the first act to release an album on Alan McGee’s new 359 label. The ‘North South Divide’ single provided a welcoming signpost to the make-up of the parent album with its bare bones acoustic and harmonica. “I’ve just written about what I’ve seen growing up, and people’s day to day lives,” John told us.
11: Cold Committee – ‘Iceman’
“New single ‘Iceman‘ begins with a pulsating, early-Kasabian echoing bassline run, moving into a song reminiscent of Beatles-era throwback Miles Kane’s recent solo work, with additional vocal input from guitarist James Cairns allowing for the incorporation of joint harmonies into the mix, segueing into powerful, stridently biting chorus pleas of, ‘Call me the iceman, I know you do’.”
10: Kill For Company – ‘Alternative To Living’
The impressive groove heavy spiral of ‘Alternative To Living’ was made possible after the Manchester duo Kill For Company went and invented themselves a ‘Guibass’ – that’ll be something of a guitar/bass hybrid channeled through a lead and bass amplifier.
9: Farewell Jr – ‘Night Wolves’
Farewell Jr’s ‘Night Wolves’ was a highlight of 2013′s first New Tunes Guide. The ‘Health’ EP proved to be a truly international affair, with frontman Nick Rayner retreating to Cambridge for the majority of its writing. Layers were then built in Ireland, while the violins – very much an important cog in the machinery of the EP – were laid down in Australia.
8: Davis Fetter – ‘Born’
“It is almost guaranteed that the rocky, forthright single ‘Born‘, which was officially released at the start of this year, will wrap itself around your head like a pre-H.R Giger monster from a 50s B-movie and not let go. A song that begins with thick slabs of fluctuating three-chord heavy guitar, which rhythmically underpins the tune and is joined by rolling back up bass and anthemic crescendos of further axe work.”
7: Israel Nash Gripka – ‘Woman At The Well’
It’s comforting to know the warm, welcoming Americana which dominated the States in the Seventies is still alive and well in the hands of Israel Nash Gripka. ‘Woman At The Well’ was the first cut to be lifted from his third album ‘Israel Nash’s Rain Plans’.
6: Teleman – ‘Steam Train Girl’
“‘Steam Train Girl‘, the sophomore single after the well received ‘Cristina’, is a slow-builder, opening on a metronome of a bass line, matched by minimalist drums which provide an almost hypnotic backdrop to sit back and listen to as Johnny Sanders vocals rise and fall between the accented verses and the higher, catchy climb of the chorus.”
5: The Dirty Rivers – ‘The Kid’
“With their second offering ‘The Kid‘, released at the end of June, the quintet instill every seeping pore with an addictive, smoldering energy, whipping up a dancey beat that smokes its way through the eardrums with a visionary-tinged, lightly psychedelic vocal that flies over a catchy, shady mesh of tight, elegant guitars and bass, all coerced gently to Earth with a skittish bedrock of thunder struck drums. Melodically, the track sounds not a million miles south of Kasabian‘s ‘Club Foot‘, albeit with a dirtier intensity; more drenched in sweat and fag butts than the trace electronics of their Leicester predecessors.”
Top Less are another band to have an international feel having formed while on holiday in Scotland, and now residing in Canada. Their debut album, with the wonderfully quirky title ‘Top Less Gay Love Tekno Party’, was released in September, supported with the textured and ornate qualities of lead single ‘Danger Love’.
3: Imaginary People – ‘Fresh On’
Imaginary People centre around Dylan Von Wagner, and after forming in late 2012 they released their self-titled debut EP just not long ago. Lead track ‘Fresh On’ is a truly sublime slice of, well, indie pop which actually causes that god awful term to make a bit of sense all of a sudden.
2: Waylayers – ‘S.O.S’
Waylayers hit the spot with their synth-led track ‘S.O.S.’ on the May 25th edition of the New Tunes Guide. The track entirely justifies their ‘atmospheric pop’ tag, and formed a part of the wonderful ‘Fault Lines’ EP.
1: Best Friends – ‘Nosebleeds’
We end with Best Friends’ ‘Nosebleeds’ – one half of a brilliant double A-side single along with ‘Happy Anniversary’. It’s one of those effortless, simple guitar anthems which bands only ever scribble when they’re young and carefree. It won’t change the world, but it’ll brighten up any day for three minutes at least.
Essential Listening 2013 Series: