It’s Festive Fifteen time again – my annual homage to John Peel and his annual round-up of the year’s best new music (the Festive Fifty). The self-imposed rules are that the song must have been released in 2013; I can only include one track per artist; and there must be a total of fifteen – plus a bonus heritage track, which reflects something about the year. This time I have allowed myself the luxury of two bonus songs, to enable tributes to both Nelson Mandela and Lou Reed. The Festive Fifteen is available as a Spotify playlist. I hope you enjoy it.
Last year’s Festive Fifteen posting marked the start of this markontour blog, so this is also an anniversary post – Happy New Year!
The Festive Fifteen 2013 Tracklist:
- Matthew E. White – ‘Will You Love Me’
I caught just a few songs of his set at Latitude but was instantly hooked. A cracking gig at the Williamsburg Music Hall (NYC) sealed the bearded-one’s place as my artist of the year. “Darkness can’t drive out darkness – only love can do that”, cue the horn section!
- Cate Le Bon – ‘Are You With Me Now’
The first of the Welsh contingent on this year’s F15. A chorus that you can’t stop humming from the first time you hear it.
- Parquet Courts – ‘Careers in Combat’
Ninety seconds of top notch garage punk and the album is a cracker. Thanks to Manchester’s Picadilly Records for the introduction. “There are no more roles in laying parking cones.. / But there are still careers in combat, my son”
- White Denim – ‘Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)’
The Boy Lard keeps banging on about them on Radio 6 and I need to see them on a stage. A song with swing and precise vocal delivery.
- Manic Street Preachers – ‘Show Me the Wonder’
A lefty rock band from South Wales – it shouldn’t have taken me until 2013 to love them (although they suffered by comparison with a headlining Nirvana the first time I saw them). Thanks to Mr Brown for the persistence in making the conversion. “We might write in English / But our truth remains in Wales”. 5-star mid-career album.
- Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’
One of only two songs on Liz’s i-phone for at least a month this year, it sort of had to go on. But Nile Rodgers’ stellar performance at Festival No.6 nailed it. And it is pretty good..
- London Grammar – ‘Strong’
A recommendation from my wonderful sister, who was also right about the Smiths back in the day. This track reminds me of Chrissie Hynde & VanGelis’ cover of ‘State of Independence’, which was a favourite at Nottingham’s ‘Beetroot’ club in the days when I was in a position to know such things.
- John Grant – ‘I Hate This Town’
A man with a genuinely messed up life, he nevertheless manages to wring a bit of comedy out of negativity: “I hate this fucking town / you cannot even leave your fucking house / without running into somebody who no longer cares about you”. Rough Trade awarded him their Album of the Year accolade.
- Caitlin Rose – ‘Dallas’
This is a Felice Brothers’ cover but Caitlin makes it her own. While her album, ‘The Stand In’, is magnificent, Ms. Rose is best appreciated live, not least for her continuing bemusement at British audiences’ reluctance to dance.
- Jagwar Ma – ‘What Love’
I spent much of 2013 sitting opposite someone who pipes pumping dance tunes through his brain as a work-aid. I could never understand how he produced such good spreadsheets, until I started imbibing Jagwar Ma for the same purpose. Their place on the F15 was confirmed with a bravura end-of-tour performance at the El Rey (Los Angeles), which I enjoyed with a multi-national gang of new C40 colleagues.
- Sweet Baboo – ‘Cate’s Song’
Another great Welsh band, this sugar-coated ode to Cate le Bon is nostalgia-fest of mix tapes, long drives and friendship. First spotted at Festival No.6.
- British Sea Power – ‘Machineries of Joy’
I just love, love, love them. This is a song for cyclists and outdoor types.
- The Leisure Society – ‘Another Sunday Psalm’
The band with Bass pale ale in their veins. Their shout out for “anyone from Burton?” from the main stage at Latitude is my highlight of the year. Here Nick Hemmings ruminates on the challenges of late-won success: “Too many other cats are craving / They’re polishing their claws and saying / in fifteen words / what took me years / to hang my name upon.”
- The National – ‘I Should Live in Salt’
A gorgeous, layered, break-up lament. Guy Garvey was right again and I’m glad I kept listening until I got it. Nb the word you can’t make out at the end of the chorus after “I should live in salt for leaving you” is “behind”. Honest.
- Kurt Vile – ‘Wakin’ On A Pretty Day’
Ah – the summer song. Dreamy and beautiful. “To be frank / I’m fried / but I / don’t mind”Bonus tribute tracks
- The Special AKA – ‘Free Nelson Mandela’
I really wanted to include an African ode to Mandela, but in keeping with the F15 theme, this is the song that gives me goose pimples (plus memories of the Wembley Free Mandela concert my mate Roger & I made it to in 1990).
- Velvet Underground – ‘Pale Blue Eyes’
It’s such a sad/happy song and I love that their inability to stay in tune somehow sounds just right.