Sunday Suggestion – Paul McCartney – Appreciate

If you look upon McCartney’s 2013 album; full of nostalgic forays into the past decades of his career, then you’ll see that the man of innovation and risk taking is still there. Appreciate is a hidden gem within the New album. It’s stylish and refined neo-psychedelia curled around a hip hop beat and it has more freshness about it than many of the young artists releasing music over the last few years. That is either a sign of McCartney’s prowess or a sign of the lack of it amongst the new musicians of today. It shifts forward and refrains back in terms of focus and volume and is a fluctuating song in that sense. He’s also moulded a song with an expansive feel that goes far beyond the instrumentals with a rough washed out method. A credit to the legendary man.

This Weeks Music Video – With Damon Albarn, Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire and The Rifles

Paul McCartney dancing with a computer generated robot, Andrew Garfield dressed as a woman and Elephants! What more do you want?

Damon Albarn – Mr Tembo

Paul McCartney – Appreciate

Arcade Fire – We Exist

The Rifles – All I Need

Tracks of 2013 – Top 10

It is now time to wrap up the year of music 2013 has given us and what better way to start than with my top 10 tracks of the year. Out of the top 10 there have been tracks that have struck me for their imagination, innovation, risk-taking, melodic mastery and so on. They come from worldwide heavyweights to the more obscure crafters of music and they’ve all been picked from those I have looked at, so please don’t despair if there are any missing artists as they might just have passed me by this year.

10. Paul McCartney – Appreciate


Yes. He is 71. Yes. It is from his album New. No. It isn’t what you are thinking. If you look upon McCartney’s 2013 album; full of nostalgic forays into the past decades of his career, then you’ll see that the man of innovation and risk taking is still there. Appreciate is a hidden gem within the New album. It’s neo-psychedlica curled around a hip hop beat and it has more freshness about it than many of the young artists releasing music this year. That is either a sign of McCartney’s prowess or a sign of the lack of it amongst the new musicians of today.

9. Gaz Coombes – Buffalo

Despite plying his Britpop trade around 20 years ago, Gaz is probably making the most profound and elaborate music of his career. Buffalo is to be a single off his upcoming album which is he is currently working on. If this track is anything to go by then he looks set to expand upon the firm foundations of his debut album from 2012. A dramatic and atmospheric glow as the song progresses through it’s stages of varied tone.

8. Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?

They perhaps needed to do something bold and different after many saw their fourth album as their comparative worst effort. What I like about this track is that it’s not obviously crammed with reverbing guitars or with Alex Turner rapidly delivering his vocal around it. There’s no hint of desert rock here either. It’s driven by a different source which gives the song an indelible groove while giving it bags of space for a more developed and tuneful vocal from Alex. Perfect example of less being more in terms of production.

7. Daft Punk featuring Julian Casablancas – Instant Crush

This one of the best tracks off Random Access Memories and it best combines the 70’s and 80’s influences with the typical Daft Punk sound and style. Throw in Julian Casalancas and you have one of the most tuneful and melodic tracks they’ve ever produced. You’re left vulnerable to the plucked, churning of the rhythm much like Andy Summers of The Police produced with Every Breath You Take in 1983. The vocoded vocal is poised in perfect balance to the synths and you can still detect the character of Julian’s voice beneath it. A fantastic piece of electro pop and a change of direction that worked for Daft Punk.

6. Bombay Bicycle Club – Carry Me

Bombay Bicycle Club

A great progression of their music was suggested with Carry Me. Retaining the elements that make them successful is key and they did that. But the re-evaluation was not only needed but works to great results. A mix of subtlety and sheer boldness. All the fine raw elements clashing with the bold industrial sounds while still forging a great spacious and floating harmony and atmosphere. The result of a complex song being instantly accessible through recording skill.

5. Savages – Husbands

Dark, angry , gritty and everything else. This song features the deep rooted bass line which remains about the only constant throughout. Above it is the grinding and screeching guitars with the clashing percussion. Smashing through it are the snarling and bold vocals that evoke a real raw and emotive feel that is shoved right up into your face

4. TOY – Endlessly

TOY followed their debut with a solid second effort in Join The Dots. It gave them a chance to refine and let their sound grow with Endlessly being the prime example of that. That theme of organised chaos holds true again here, yet it is directed into a more distinguished melody which makes it all the more enjoyable. Wonderfully spaced out and atmospheric despite the various elements in action.

3. Jagwar Ma – Man I Need

Man I Need’ is one of the standout tracks from Howlin which instantly sets the tone with the psychedelic whirring along with the wide scope and relaxed urgency of the percussion which is pretty typical of a psychedelic style. The rhythm makes an indelible groove, the percussion plies at it too. Also a magnificent clash of influences to create something new. A standout track from a standout album.

2. The Knife – Full of Fire

This brother and sister duo from Sweden took the traditional notions of song structure, style and context and shredded them into a million pieces. They didn’t just progress their sound to the next level, but to the next light-year. It’s deep, dark and gritty. The industrial grinding of the lower pitched synths and set against the flashing synths sounds above them. The vocals combine with the instrumentals in such a eerie and unfamiliar way that it is at times a wonderfully terrifying experience. The fact it is a ten minute affair only enhances it as you lay on edge at each development of sound. It is almost too advanced to contemplate for some. But at least we now have a possible avenue for musical progression instead of recycling the last 50 years to no end.

1. Rose Elinor Dougall – Future Vanishes

I have to admit that I initially had this track placed further down the top ten. But only after I listened to all the tracks again did I realise that this song was still ingrained in my mind. It then hit me that this track actually fulfils all the criteria I asked for. It has melodies and hook at every turn, it has a magnificent atmospheric quality to it, imaginative in it’s forms and lyrics and innovative in terms of combining pop and electronic features to a psychedelic track. On top of all this is it’s beautiful contradiction of its self. It can send you into an atmospheric and psychedelic trip into the depths of your thoughts or can leave you at the mercy of it’s rhythm and deep rooted groove. It does everything you ask for. Why shouldn’t this track top my list? Is it because she doesn’t sell out arenas or headline Reading and Leeds, or grace the top of the charts? I don’t think so. That’s not what I’m about, but this song is.

Paul McCartney – New Review

The man above is and probably always will be statistically the most successful musician of all time. He doesn’t need to do another album. He has nothing left to prove. He’s almost always been there in the public eye, making music since 1963. Whether its been with The Beatles, Wings, On his own, with his late wife Linda, with Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Elvis Costello or as part of a charity record. If there’s anything to do in music then he’s done it. Apart from masquerading as a talented musician as many artists do today. Compare this to Bowie who had vanished off the face of the earth for going on nearly a decade then comparisons seem a little fragile in context. McCartney has already done the shock and awe approach. We could see this album from a mile off. New is in effect a follow up from 2007’s Memory Almost Full despite all the work done in-between. With it he’s taken on producers: Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth and Ethan Johns of which all have their own merits and credible moments. McCartney has already shown that he is still open to pushing the boundaries as he did with his collaboration with Bloody Beetroots earlier this year and you’d think with the producers on board (mainly Ronson) that he’d be willing to do the same again.

‘New’ as the title track  is very evocative of songs such as Penny Lane or Good Day Sunshine from his 66/67 Beatles years and some Wings songs too. The song is very happy and jolly with simple riffs and bass lines with trumpets, saxophones etc. just to add to the upbeat feel of the song. In that way it’s by no means profound or innovative in any way at all and is clearly just a tune to have people humming along or tapping they’re feet really. But I think everyone can forgive him for that considering everything he has done previously. Having said that, it is still a success in showing he can do what he did nearly fifty years ago, just as well today. ‘Queenie Eye’ begins with subtle organ chords then rapidly shifts as Paul sets off quickly off-loading each set of lines. The organs keep up a sort of obscured melody behind the drawn out guitars, percussion and piano. There’s another, more atmospheric and spaced out shift with McCartney’s vocals echoed which leads back into an instrumental and another run through the chorus. The songs chord progression is by no means lazy either and for a 71 year old it isn’t bad at all. But you do feel that the song never reaches a peak or conclusion and just sort of flat lines at a decent but not amazing level.

‘Alligator’ feels like two versions of McCartney smashed into each other at the speed of sound. The ‘spikey’ melody plugged by the synths and padded out by the acoustic guitar is sometimes pulled into more sombre and washed out moments but is quite frustratingly always pulled back to where it started. Nevertheless McCartney’s isolated yet smooth vocal interlinks with the instrumentals well. ‘Appreciate’ is quite a refreshing angle to put McCartney at. The hip-hop drum beat is mixed with other distorted samples, reverbed and stuttered riffs and a repeating set of piano chords. The mix of lyrics and vocals also generates a real sense of textural space to the song. His vocal is soft in tone in how its recorded which works in conjunction with the music; even when it steps up a gear and ups the anti. The shifts in tone, texture and space are masterful and fluctuating focus on each element too, sets up the best song on the album for me. A clear sign if any, that he’s still got it. ‘Save Us’ is almost a ‘Back To The Egg’ churning rock ballad but accelerated a little more. The distorted guitars are set against the Wings-like backing vocals. A riff is produced that creates a better hook than many, much younger groups struggle to achieve. There are certain corners of New that are far from what the title suggests. Many are rethought and reworked versions of classic McCartney which are a safe bet for sure. If not a bit of indulgence. However, you get to some songs that really sound fresh and exciting and take on the album title more literally as certain songs sound far superior than a lot of material from much ‘fresher’ artists this year. Based on that, this album is well worth a look if you want nostalgia and/or new ideas. I certainly didn’t think it would be of this standard. Makes you think that some of the current generation need a kick up the arse.

Paul McCartney – New = 8/10

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