Earlier this morning right here on this site I read about the top 10 music moments in a 2013 in review piece. It was embarrassing to read that the alleged highlights of the year were Kanye West videos (tying with a parody of a Kanye West video and the "controversy" around the song Blurred Lines, the rise of Lorde, the success of Flume and a few other things.
The list really showed it wasn't - at all - about music when it suggested that the transformation of Miley Cyrus was a moment; her tongue-wagging desperation is so far removed from music and was dreamed up by 10 men in suits two years ago. The only thing that would make it "pretty cool" would be if in a Scooby Doo-styled reveal she pulls down really hard on that tongue one day and the head-mask is removed to show that the whole time it's actually been James Franco. But that still wouldn't mean it was a music moment. Just a decent/ish prank.
These - for the most part - were 10 gushing PR placements, 10 stories we've all been hit over the head with too often. I get that the Lorde news is - actually - news. She is a star. This year. A success. I don't care for her music (which I think I've made clear) but at least she is making music.
And her success has been about that, around that, it's savvy marketing and all of that too - but people are investing in a product, something they presumably believe in. That the most interesting thing about Kanye West's terrible album is the idea that a parody of his horrific video could make for a great music moment...well...it makes you not want to live on this planet anymore.
So I thought we could share our own Top 10 Music Moments. Make it about the music. Remind yourselves and each other about the good stuff that happened this year, that turned you onto more music - that sent you back to old music; that introduced you to new music. This is not a list of the best albums of the year, but your list might include one or two of the really great albums...
Here's my 10 Favourite Music Moments of 2013:
1. The announcement of the new David Bowie album, the first in years. Don't get me wrong, I don't much like the album at all, in fact it was on my list of the worst albums of 2013 but the announcement of the album was all class; a break for a decade and then, out of nowhere a new song (the best thing about the album) and suddenly everyone's talking Bowie again. A cool move. And that first song is the best thing he's done in decades. It should be his swansong.
3. Going to the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show thanks to the generosity of a kind friend - because I'd been banned by the promoter. I'm really not sure why Frontier hates me so much, just a couple of years ago they flew me to Sydney to cover the press conference around the Cold Chisel reunion, before that they took out TV advertising in Australia quoting my "best show ever" Leonard Cohen review. I've gushed about all manner of artists from Frontier and reviewed their gig-poster book when no one else seemed to want to write about it. But because I didn't like Garbage and Reece Mastin (and really, why would you? How could you hold your head high about such things?) and a few other gigs too, sure, it meant no Neil Young show for me. And no Leonard Cohen tomorrow. And, well, nothing else by Frontier ever. Apparently. I would say they're the ones missing out. Not me. But it's the readers that Frontier are shafting, they're trying to control what gets said. And it means instead of honesty we get press release-styled reviews; setlist summaries and - ultimately - no (real) honesty. But hey, anyway, I got to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And it was amazing. And it was quite emotional, given I didn't think I was going to get to the show.
4. Going to Auckland to see Paul Simon perform a terrific show. Been a huge fan, my whole life - and this gig was really something. Returning home to see Robert Plant the next day wasn't a bad thing either. A fine couple of days of live music from the masters.
5. Reading Questlove's memoir. A great book - one filled with wonderful stories and it sent me back to so much music, not just The Roots, which is a constant, but also old funk and soul and hip-hop and it was inspiring to read. Plus a real page-turner, really addictive.
6. Interviewing Sylvie Simmons live on stage. I'd met Sylvie last year for a cup of tea, I'd chatted to her on the phone too but to host her in New Zealand was a real treat; inthe end she needed a place to stay in Wellington for a night and so she was a wonderful house-guest regaling us with so many stories about everyone that's ever made music ever! And even slumming it down to play Old MacDonald on the ukulele for Oscar. They say you should never meet your heroes, well I say so long as you buy them a halfway decent Thai dinner you can demand they sing ("E-I-E-I-O") for their supper.
7. Seeing Kraftwerk perform Autobahn live in Sydney in 3D. Oh I also saw them perform Radio-Activity later that same night and it was great too but Autobahn was the special moment. The opening version of The Robots, to kick off the show, that was something. And then when Autobahn's title track kicked in - wow!
8. Listening to the new album by The Necks over and over. If I had to name just one album that I've spent so much time with this year, that I've loved more than any other it is probably this. And though I'm always listening to The Necks, this album (Open) certainly sent me back to explore other nooks and crannies of their work as a band and some of the solo and side-project work from the band's members. And music that I guess is similar such as Nils Frahm's Spaces and Huntsville to name just two. Also nice to have a band you love, that's dependable, consistent, release an album that just might be their best; their masterpiece.
9. Seeing Rhian Sheehan's Stories From Elsewhere live show. I've been a bit of a flag-waver/cheerleader for Rhian's work since I first met him, since I first heard his music, sure. And though past live shows have been amazing this was really special; heart warming, beautiful. I knew a few of the people on the stage that night. And I felt proud and honoured to be able to say I knew some of these people.
10. Reading a book about The KLF - the best book I read this year, no question. And it sent me back to all that wonderful music by The KLF. And I was hooked, all over again.
I could name another dozen great things - easily. And then another fifty. I got so speak to Elvis Costello for the second time, I thought Kelly Joe Phelps' show was astonishing, (he was great to chat to too) and there have been so many great albums and gigs. It's also been a blast, for me, playing records out in bars (at Motel and San Fran Bath House) this year. I think the David Bowie night was a definite highlight.
So many great music moments - and so much great music, and there'll be more to talk about as the next couple of weeks crawl toward the end of the year but today, as an antidote to that absurd article mentioning Robin Thicke and Pharrell as being among big highlights of the year, let's share the best music moments/experiences of 2013. What were your Top 10 Music Moments of 2013?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.