With the music industry creeping towards its traditional December shut down, and one of our tips for 2014 creeping in on the buzzer for a last gasp shot at musical glory, it seems as good a time as ever to review our start of the year predictions.
[A short aside, what other industry just gives up for a month and says we can’t compete with Christmas, so we wont even try. Fair play music executives as Phosphorescent said, here’s to taking it easy!]
As is traditional we’ll start at the top. Number 1 (with a bullet) our first tip for 2014 was the Mississippi Kid, John Murry. Another good reason to start with John was what a roaring success 2014 was! He’s become a chart superstar in Australia, released the brilliant Califorlornia, of which we said “you could argue it is the perfect EP” and played one of the shows of the year at the Islington Assembly Hall which has us declaring him “a true songwriting legend.” We think you could call that a rather resoundingly good year!
After excellent lead single Love Is To Die landed at the end of 2013, we were getting stupidly excited about Warpaint‘s self-titled album appearing, and appear it did. It was successful sure, going top 10 in the UK and top 50 in the US, it lead to huge festival dates including Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, and Reading & Leeds. Was it good? It was hit and miss, as we noted at the time “one half is meandering, lacking ideas, lacking melodies. The other bristling with energy, ideas and creativity.” If we’re being honest, we wanted more, but it wasn’t a disaster!
We were anticipating a stunning debut album of modern folk-music from Sam Airey, and whilst he hasn’t got around to releasing a full-length album, possibly held up by a broken thumb, there was Station Approach; a stunning single, hinting at the great promise a debut album from this talented chap holds. In the press for his upcoming Christmas show his debut album was described as forthcoming, so we might just copy and paste last years entry into our 2015 tips!
Mogwai‘s new album Rave Tapes seemed to slip under the radar a little, but was a potent reminder of the talent of the Scottish Post-Rock legends, who seem to have mastered gently manipulating their sound into subtly different places. Our hopes of hearing some new Explosions In The Sky material didn’t amount to anything more than a soundtrack album, and by the sound of their latest updates we might have a wait on our hands. The band were heading into the studio in October, but were quick to dampen expectations noting “we have a lot of new sounds floating around, but it may take us awhile to figure out how they can all fit together” they’ve promised to keep us updated, and we’ll keep you updated too!
It would appear rumours of Neil Young‘s possible retirement were a tad premature, 2014 has been one of his busiest, most hectic and successful years in a long time! There was the superb retro-album A Letter Home, the stunning world tour with Crazy Horse, a guest slot on the debut album from Chrissie Hynde, and a brand new high-resolution digital music-player Pono. The only downsides came with a unnecessarily public spat with David Crosby and the rather inconsistent new album Storytone. Minor disappointments aside it was yet another wonderful year from a true legend.
Picking out Let’s Buy Happiness as one of the most promising bands of the year was looking an awful decision when they parted company earlier this year, luckily with debut album, Chants For Friends finally seeing the light of day, they produced a superb record, and one that lived up to all our expectations.
We were very excited to hear the new album from Beck, especially with its promise to be a companion piece to the superbly miserable Sea Change. What we got was incredibly pleasant on the ears, and highly accomplished, but lacking a bit in the hooks and consistent song-writing of some of his career highlights. There will be better Beck albums, and with his work-ethic they might be along very soon!
Sadly our last two picks have been something of a damp squib! Ex-Midlake frontman Tim Smith may be working away under the name Harp now, but what has appeared thus far is absolutely nothing, the website still has the same “coming soon” message it had this time last year. Fingers crossed the work continues and we’ll hear something from this superbly talented fella in the near future.
Our final pick was Joanna Newsom, we were anticipating new music, a new album, a new single, anything?! What have we got? Well aside from being announced as the voice of the narrator in the admittedly very exciting new Paul Thomas Anderson film, Inherent Vice, we’ve heard not a pip about new music. The wait since her last album, 2010’s Have One On Me, goes on – and with each passing year we just get more and more excited!
We’d love to say we were spot on, a series of resounding success stories…but you can’t win them all, and there’s certainly been some wonderful stuff along the way!
GOLDEN FABLE – ANCIENT BLUE
Back in 2012 Golden Fable emerged with their charming debut album Star Map. It introduced us to the stunning voice of classically trained singer Rebecca Palin. Over electronic-fused folk backdrops, her voice soared, a breathtakingly rich, sonorous soprano. The music they created played out like a gorgeous musical backing to their beautifully picturesque home in North-Wales, like Sigur Ros before them they found a way of taking an idyllic landscape and putting it onto tape.
On their second album Ancient Blue, they set out to attempt to do the same again, which does bring with it certain issues, for starters the backdrop hasn’t changed. Unlike when Bowie went to Berlin, or Nick Cave left Australia for at various points nearly every city in the South of England, the inspiration and imagery for their follow up remains the same as on their debut. Again it’s littered with references to nature, exploration and escaping the modern world as most of us know it. Though most 20-something’s aren’t making music from a home-studio in rural Snowdonia! Their minimal, almost pastoral electronic back-drops are so far removed from the sort of crisp-modern electronica being made by the likes of James Blake or Jon Hopkins, that you worry who they’re appealing too, beyond escapism what can the average listener relate too?
That said, look at the success of End Of The Road, or even more so Greenman Festival, and you can see that providing the youth who’ve been gradually broken down by the strains of big city living a sense of escapism is a workable thing. Golden Fable are trying to take the listener into their world, and on this follow up they’ve once again made it a very pleasant world to be in. Tim’s background in instrumental music, demonstrated to stunning affect in his solo project Honesty Box earlier this year, mean his approach to writing music is always to infuse the musical background with layer after layer of melody, placing this alongside Becca’s crystal clear vocal mean the music is always produced with a lightness of touch, the music is often complex and layered with a huge variety of instruments but it doesn’t become dense or bogged down. In fact sometimes you want a bit of scuzz and filth, the odd error to punctuate just to make you appreciate how beautiful it is elsewhere.
It doesn’t shift far from the mould of their debut album, but listen carefully and there’s hints of progress. The Four-Tetish scatter-beat and staccato vocal add a harshness and gritty edge to Ancient Blue, the beautifully down-beat Warm Sun has the gentle-electronica meets acoustic guitar sound that made the criminally underrated Adem such an intriguing prospect, whilst the albums lead single, Breathe In is laced with enough pop-hooks that it has potential to bring them to a far wider audience.
It’s an album that builds on the promise of their debut, it makes just enough moves to suggest they’re a band who are gently progressing and shaping their sound in new directions. A strong album from a talented band, but one that you can’t help but feel will be overshadowed by what they do next, they’re growing in public which is notoriously tricky in the current climate but they’re gaining high profile fans from Simon Raymonde, who guests on bass on some of the tracks here, to Marc Riley, so let’s hope they are able to stick at it and fulfil their unquestionable potential.
Ancient Blue is out now on Golden Fable’s own label, Full Of Joy records.
The bands UK tour is drawing to a close, with a show at The Lexington in London on Wednesday and Telford’s Warehouse in Liverpool on December 2nd.