So, in the last Tap Don't Talk we discussed the general mania about end of year lists, but what we didn't really mention is that they're a small part of what we're going to do today: reflecting on the year, trying to understand it and pick out the important things. 2013 has been dubbed by many as "The Year of the Comeback", so where better to start?


Comeback Albums

Rob: So, out of all the comeback albums that came out in 2013, which one has come out as your favourite by the end?

Mike: Well, how are we defining comeback albums? ...Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age was their first album for six years, would that count as a comeback album even though they had never split up?

Rob: Yeah, I'd say anything over 5 years tends to be considered a "comeback album".

Mike: Right, then I guess my favourite of those would be ...Like Clockwork. It's quite surprising because some of my favourite artists like My Bloody Valentine and Boards of Canada released 'comeback' albums this year, but I suppose that I had expectations for their albums that I didn't have for a new Queens of the Stone Age record. As well as that, I think I need more time to properly appreciate both MBV and Tomorrow's Harvest whereas ...Like Clockwork was more immediate. My Bloody Valentine and Boards of Canada are bands I came to during their inactive periods, so I've had years to slowly digest their stuff. That's time I obviously haven't with Tomorrow's Harvest or MBV. I really liked both albums, don't get me wrong, but I need more time to figure them out. I'd just feel like a bit like a dilettante if I said that they were among my favourite releases of the year. Whereas ...Like Clockwork the most joyous, showy and gleefully indulgent rock music I've heard in a while. You can tell that it's an incredibly important album for Josh Homme; I've read that he was in a depressed state after he broke his foot and was confined to a hospital bed for months, a bed in which he apparently began thinking about most of the songs on ...Like Clockwork. So the album feels like Homme is triumphantly shaking that depression off and it gives the album a vitality, a heft and significance that the previous two Queens of the Stone Age albums lacked. It's a theatrical and bombastic, and it actually has something to be theatrical and bombastic about, a reason to exist that makes it stand out in my eyes. And on a more personal level for me, they're a band I was really into during my early teenage years when I worshipped at the alter of Kerrang, and I've always associated them with that. It's been hard to shake that mental weight off as I've drifted away from that scene. I've always liked them since, but I don't think I gave them enough credit. I suppose I wrote them off a bit before ...Like Clockwork came out. But hearing that album made me go back and re-evaluate my perception of the band, so as well as being a fucking great album in its own right it has made me reconnect with a band I used to really love. So that's kind of important.

Rob: I understand what you mean about the Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine albums. Both are fantastic albums for me but the time it takes to understand and dissect their albums perhaps works against them when there's far more instantly enjoyable stuff out there to take up your time. Having said that, over the course of the year Tomorrow's Harvest has stayed with me without my excitement dropping at all, whereas the immediacy of things such as Sigur Ros' surprisingly heavy Kveikur, or The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches has somewhat decreased. The advantage for bands like Boards of Canada and My Bloody Valentine is that by the time you've figured their music out, it's been there for a long period of your life and has won you over anyway.

Mike: That's definitely true. Admittedly I probably haven't given those albums the time they perhaps deserve because there has been so much to listen to this year, the Boards of Canada one especially. I'll come around to them eventually, but it'll take a while. And that's totally okay, not everything has to be instantly amazing. Anyway, apart from the comeback albums we've mentioned, is there anything else that sicks out? I may or may not be prodding you towards the new Bowie album here.

Rob: I barely listened to it...

Mike: Heathen! (See what I did there?) Well, I quite liked The Next Day. I'm not sure it's anything overwhelmingly incredible, but it's better than what I imagined a new album from 66 year old David Bowie would be. Class is permanent and all that. I think the same could be said for the new Paul McCartney album, actually. Again, it's not amazing but a nice surprise. The title track from that album especially sticks out as one of the best pop tracks I've heard this year. Which was, uh, unexpected.

Rob: Yeah, considering that Paul McCartney's credibility suffered hugely thanks to his dreadful performance at the Olympics in 2012, 'New' sounded like a confident, fun pop song - something he's not created since 'Dance Tonight' in 2007.

Mike: He needs someone to reign him in, that's why. I didn't expect Mark Ronson to do that, though.

Rob: Actually, speaking of fun, confident pop songs, how's about COMEBACK SINGLE OF THE YEAR 'Get Lucky', hey? For those that spend their days and nights listening to mainstream radio stations, it sure got annoying, but dipping into it every now and again made it seem even groovier every time I went back. Hell, I even like the extended version now.

Mike: I flat-out adored Get Lucky on release, and I still think it's a great track to be fair. But I think the way Random Access Memories turned out cooled me on that song quite a bit and I've not really gone back to it since. I was not a fan of that album at all, it was a decadent mess, some real Gatsby shit. Overlong, po-faced and unforgivably lifeless for something that's supposed to make me want to dance. And they made the guy who wrote 'Rainbow Connection' sound like a joke, which is unforgivable in my books. Although I guess it made the world interested in Nile Rogers again, so at least it did something good. Oh, and that song with Panda Bear was fantastic too.

Rob: I think you've pretty much said everything I could. Although, one thing I did notice with Random Access Memories was that critics seems to be really hot on it during the initial feedback stage, while listeners were a little more restrained and perhaps disappointed with it on the whole. The same thing happened with Yeezus too. Do you find that strange?

Mike: Not really. I think a critic has to look at the artistic merit of an album more compared to a casual listener who wants to be entertained. As artistic statements Yeezus and Random Access Memories were bold, we can't escape that. They weren't any fun to listen to, but they are examples of two of the most popular artists in the world right now doing whatever the hell they want regardless of PR or audience reaction or anything like that. Did anybody want Daft Punk to bring back disco? I don't think so, but they did it anyway and I think there's something of value in that.

Rob: The thing is, from that angle there's a lot of artistic merit in Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music. He did whatever the hell he wanted, against his record label's wishes, and it was liquid balls. I mean, am I alone in thinking Daft Punk's earlier stuff was a better tribute to disco than their tame recreation of it? They were still doing what they wanted on Discovery, they were just better at creating things that were fun and packed full of artistic merit.

Mike: I'd say that Lou Reed and Kayne West/Daft Punk are operating in very different spheres though. The latter are two of the biggest artists in the world right now. But yeah, I would agree with your other point about what they were doing beforehand being a better tribute.

Rob: Yeah, that makes sense. Plus, different times and all. Anyway, I'm sick of this negativity. What was your best moment of 2013?


Best Moment of 2013

Rob: When you look back over the year, something must stick out and scream at you like Kanye West did on Saturday Night Live back in the summer, surely?

Mike: I'm not really sure if it's my 'moment of the year' as such because 1) my memory is awful and 2) I'm not sure I necessarily like that idea of having one specific moment of the year, but there were was this week way back in late January/early February that was pretty special for me I saw My Bloody Valentine at the Electric in Brixton on the Sunday and then they released the new album on the Saturday. And, yeah, that was kind of a big deal, the former especially. It was my first My Bloody Valentine concert and it was in this small venue that holds roughly 1,000 people at a guess, a good friend came down from Glasgow to see them with me and we were right at the front. I saw a lot of negative comments about the that gig: the band came on late, the vocals were inaudible for the most part, they had to restart some songs because Kevin Shields wasn't happy with them etc. In many respects it was kind of a disaster, but I loved it. I guess I was just overwhelmed by everything. I was a bit ill and dehydrated, it put me in this weird mindset where noise was bouncing everywhere and suffocating me and I'm pretty sure I had a transcendent experience during 'To Here Knows When', even though I'm not sure I believe in that stuff. That sounds a bit wanky, but it was a weird experience. Maybe the Day Nurse was just wearing off. Who knows? Anyway, it's probably one of the best gigs I've been to, and that might be because of how ramshackle it was. It also lent some credence to my theory that the perfection that Kevin Shields is after isn't something that sounds meticulous or deep or clean, but something that sounds different and compelling regardless of the way to listen to it. Then the new album came out and broke the internet and, yeah, that was pretty great too.

Rob: I'm pretty sure that's how I'll feel if Boards of Canada ever appear in public again. (HOLY BALLS, IMAGINE IF THEY TOURED?)

For me, on a personal level, my stand out moment has to be OneRepublic achieving a UK #1 for the first time ever with 'Counting Stars'. I understand that they're not the most exciting band on the planet, but they mean a hell of a lot to me because of how long I've been into them and how much I've been through with them by my side - everyone has that band who they'll never fall out with regardless of whether or not their output is any good. I know they're a bit crappy, but I can't help it. I fell in love with them when I was in a much different place. This is why I've been a huge fan of theirs since before 'Apologize' was released as a single over 6 years ago, so imagine my delight when a band I adored, who were out in the wilderness for three years, and branded a "two-hit wonder", rose again without much radio play into the top 40. Then imagine my happiness when the radios started playing them because of how successful 'Counting Stars' had been without their help. THEN imagine my happiness when I listened to the top 40 rundown for the first time in about 5 years, only to hear them come out at the very top. I felt proud. As big as they are, I've always considered OneRepublic to be a band that I only share with a friend or two of mine because he got me into them (hi, Luke!) all those years ago, I felt like I was watching my child score a goal or win a dance contest at primary school. My beautiful babies were growing up.

Mike: He's not kidding, folks, he really loves OneRepiblic. Which, you know, fair play. It takes balls to say that on an alternative music blog. Now, despite that being your moment of the year, it would be incorrect to assume that their album Native is your favourite of the year, right?


Album of The Year

Rob: Well, I enjoyed that album a lot - sentimental attachments aside, I think they finally accepted that they're a pop band instead of trying to maintain the rock aesthetic that got them quite a bit of criticism in the past - but it didn't make my top 10 as you saw in the last edition of Tap Don't Talk because of a relatively flat section in the middle. There was also this track on there called 'Light It Up' which I really didn't like. Although I will say that the closing track on that album is some M83-kinda stuff, which is definitely worth checking out:

Mike: So what was your favourite album of the year?

Rob: Another sentimental attachment of mine - Boards of Canada, as we have discussed. I was one of the people that came across Boards of Canada during their hiatus/downtime (around 2009 for me) so I had listened to their entire discography several times in preparation for Tomorrow's Harvest, and they really didn't disappoint me with their first new release in eight years. Not to mention that it was the only album this year that I've gone back to time and time again since I first listened to it and felt the same way about it. Boards of Canada albums are puzzles that take forever to complete, and by the time I complete them they're successfully flooding through my system.

Mike: As I said before, I liked that album but I haven't found myself going back to it much. I agree that their albums are puzzles but I just didn't feel compelled to work out Tomorrow's Harvest as quickly as their previous albums. I would say that's because their style of music is for a very particular mood that I just haven't been feeling, but my favourite album of the year is The Terror by The Flaming Lips which is basically a fifty-five minute torrent of depression - so it's kind of hard to level that against Tomorrow's Harvest. I really can't think of a reason why I haven't revisited it often. It's certainly not for lack of tunes or anything like that.

Rob: The Terror was certainly a challenging record for me at first. It was relatively formless, it didn't have an obvious single that - let's be honest - really helps sometimes, and that 13-minute monster 'You Lust' seemed to really drone on. But repeated listens had me discovering new things each time, like how quite a lot of the hooks on the album were hidden deep beneath the throbbing accompaniments, or how 'Try to Explain' is the of the most painful songs I've ever listened to. It had a lot going for it.

Mike: I guess it's more of a sentimental thing for me in a way. The Flaming Lips been a favourite band of mine for years now. I'm 19 and I first heard them on a car journey to Wales when Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots came out so I must have been about seven or eight, so they've been a big part of my life since and have in some way shaped my taste in music. So in that respect I suppose I've been conditioned to effusively love most of what they do. But The Terror was really something else, something I'd never heard the band do before, something that really challenged me and forced me to work it out. They've made melancholy songs before, they've been depressing too and tackled weird existential questions, but they've never been so unrelentingly bleak. They're a band I go to for goofy, triumphant optimism so this was something of a fascinating ideological U-turn. At first I was sort of repulsed, but I had to try to understand it, and in doing so found myself repeatedly getting lost and hypnotised and shaken to the core by it. Then I saw them play most of those songs live when they played the Roundhouse in May and, yeah, it was kind of perfect. It was actually so intense that somebody in the crowd fainted, which was kind of scary. That gig really cemented it for me. Their new live set up is really rad too, although I'm glad I got to see them during the super-happy-hamster-ball-Wizard-of-Oz-fun-times too.

Rob: I have to give a lot of credit to The Flaming Lips this year actually. As well as The Terror - which, by the way, was my 14th favourite album of the year - they released the euphoric single Sun Blows up Today as well as a really great EP as well. Music inspired by that Ender's Game film didn't have MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN stamped across it, but it definitely did afterwards.

Mike: Why Rob, what a convenient transition to my favourite single of the year...


Single Of The Year

Mike: I mean, yeah, I'm a total slut for The Flaming Lips, what more can I say? I absolutely adored the lead single from that Ender's Game EP, 'Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)'. It was more of a throwback to the vibrant space operatics of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, a strange, glorious pop song that's endlessly listenable. To be honest, it's difficult to articulate why this song - a song based on an average film based on a book by a raging homophobe -appeals to me so much, but it just makes me melt. That's really the only way I can describe it.

Rob: See, my favourite song of the year goes off on a totally different route - it's a delightfully joyous interlude-of-sorts from a concept album that tells the story of Cyndi Mayweather, a cyborg female that plays night clubs every now and again (in between being on the run from the law). 'Dance Apocalyptic' by Janelle Monáe was not only my pop song of the year, but song of the year altogether. It really was a last-minute decision too, but its infectious doo-wop inspired beat and dangerously catchy backing vocal melodies ("Smash smash, bang bang, don't stop, cha-langa-langa-lang!") had me dancing more often than I care to admit.

Mike: I adore that song and it was very close to getting the top spot for me too for the same reasons. You can dress it up in analytical language and adjectives all you want, but the song is just pure fucking joy from start to finish. It forces you to sing and along whether you want to or not. It's for this reason I don't listen to it on public transport.

Rob: I do have to admit that, while listening to 'Dance Apocalyptic' one time, I was stood tapping every part of my body against the hand railings of a Manchester Metrolink tram on the way home from somewhere. Got a few stares, but they understood.

Mike: Of course they did.


New Artist Of The Year

Rob: Before we finish, I have to talk about one new artist that caught my eye for the first time in 2013: King Krule. As I've just sort of alluded to, I live in Manchester so I can get to quite a few gigs and whatnot because I live next to so many high-profile venues. Now you know personally that I wasn't so hot on King Krule in 2012 when you were showing me how wonderful his single 'Rock Bottom' was. But then, a few weeks before his album - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon - dropped, I listened to one of the singles, 'Neptune Estate', and it displayed a dark maturity that I didn't know he was capable of. From there, I was onto 'Easy Easy' and I eventually took the opportunity to go and see him live. After that night, and after talking to him and dancing through a foggy hallway with him after the gig, I went out and bought his debut album and it managed to sneak into my top 20 albums of the year (19th place). He was a lovely surprise, if only I'd listened to you sooner.

Mike: What's most terrifying about King Krule is that he's our age. He's 19. And he's arguably one of the most progressive artists to come out of Britain for years. His album, although I wasn't crazy about it as a whole because of its length, displayed someone trying to condense a huge array of disparate influences to create something totally fresh. It didn't always work but when it did it was absolutely beautiful. I think he has the potential to create something absolutely generation defining to be honest.

Rob: When I was speaking to him before our foggy corridor dancing took place, he told me that what he says is relevant for the space of about a week because he's always developing as a person. (Guess this means that the conversation I had with him is no longer relevant). It's refreshing to hear someone talking that way about themselves and the future of the music, especially when you have toerags like Jake Bugg happy to continue churning out rip-offs of every male to pick up a guitar and sing about his personal experiences in order to dominate an industry.

Mike Clark: I guess if we're now talking about new artists that have impressed us this year, there are plenty of other candidates - it has been a good year for newbies. I mean, off the top of my head: Hookworms, Melt Yourself Down, Fuzz (because I unconditionally love everything Ty Segall does), Pusha T, Public Service Broadcasting, Chance the Rapper, Matthew E. White, Savages, Chvrches and King Krule have all released very good debut albums this year. Most of those albums are among my favourite albums of the year, actually, the first three in particular. However, the one that sticks out most in my mind, especially after his sad and unfortunate passing last week, is The Child of Lov. His album has been among my favourites since I heard it because I've never really heard anything like it before. It's a weird, experimental mess of an album, but what a glorious mess! It absolutely pummels with funk and soul with no reprieve. It's so in your face and bizarre and I appreciate the hell out of that. It basically tells you "You're going to fucking dance whether you like it or not." And then, when you eventually work out a way to dance so such disjointed sounds, you do dance because it's so damn good.

Rob: "GOT TO, GOT TO, HEEAAALL YOUR SOOOUL" - damn that guy knew how to write a hook.


Wrap-Up

Mike: We've been rambling on far too long now, so let's bring things to a close: would you say that 2013 has been a good year for you?

Rob: I think so. On the positive side, I got a OneRepublic album, a Boards of Canada album, a My Bloody Valentine album, James Blake won the Mercury Prize, I got some fantastic heavy metal again with Deafheaven, and most of all I got a wonderful job where I can write about this sort of thing right here at The 405. On the negative side, I thought Yeezus was sort of disappointing in the end, I think my love for Arctic Monkeys died somewhere through my first few listens to AM, Death Grips released their first album that I actually got bored of, and there were so many albums I just couldn't squeeze in (I'm so sorry, Tim Hecker!) But yeah, overall I really enjoyed 2013. The best thing about it is that 2014 really will have to be excellent to beat it - if that's a positive sign I don't know what is.

Mike: It was alright, yeah. Most of my favourite releases of the year are predominantly guitar based, which is surprising considering that I've been drawn to mostly electronic and hip-hop over the past couple of years. One thing I have found interesting is that I don't think there's one big cultural landmark album. I think we could tell that, regardless of what we thought of them, albums like The Suburbs, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Good Kid Maad City would go down in history as Important Albums to some extent, but I can't really pick one out from this year. All the indications seem to be pointing to Modern Vampires of the City but, I don't know, it just doesn't feel like a significant album, if that makes sense.

Rob: I get what you mean. It feels like a significant album for Vampire Weekend, but not necessarily for the future of music.

Mike Clark: I just thought, like all three Vampire Weekend albums, it was half good and half kinda boring and/or cheesy. I wasn't a massive fan of Frank Ocean's album last year, but if somebody came back from the year 2050 and told me that it was regarded as a classic I wouldn't be surprised. Well, I'd be surprised that someone came back from the future, but not that Channel Orange held that status. If they also mentioned that Modern Vampires was too, I'd question future society's judgement a bit.

Rob: I guess we'll just have to see where music goes. Remember that The White Album was released to mixed reception at first. But yeah, overall I think 2013 was a solid year. Like most years it had a few fantastic releases, some not so fantastic releases (no release from Rihanna, though - weird), but I think it will be remembered most fondly for being the year that saw some bands we never thought we'd see again return in style and dominate in ways only they could. If 2013 goes down as the year of the comeback, that's absolutely fine by me.

Rob Wilson is a columnist for The 405, taking care of our Staring Down The Pit series. Mike Clark is also a columnist for the 405, chatting about films for our Rental Floss series.

See Also: Tap Don't Talk: 001 - Listaggedon: Why do We Have It?