Wednesday, October 16, 2013

WMP Nominees - Georgia Ruth

Last one, you guys! Since early September, I've been listening to the albums that make up this year's Welsh Music Prize shortlist. The winner is announced tomorrow, but before I can start thinking about that, I've one more album to tackle...

Cover Final small

So why have I left Georgia Ruth 'til last? I'd like to say that it wasn't planned, that it was just the way the chips fell; one of those twelve records would have to wait around until the very end, and Week of Pines just so happened to be the one album on the shortlist that I hadn't bought, listened to and blogged about yet.

But that would be a bit of a porkie. In truth, I've kind of been putting off Week of Pines because, well, I thought it would be a bit boring. I'm aware that it probably wouldn't have been nominated for a national prize if it was Dullsville, Tennessee, and I'm equally aware that the softer side of this shortlist has often been the better side, having already thrown up splendid surprises like February and The Diary of Me. Heck, in retrospect, I was even aware that this album's title track was a rousing, kraut-flavoured epic, worlds away from the blandness I was braced for.

In spite of all that, I had convinced myself that Week of Pines would be one of the less gripping listens on the list, and that, rather pathetically, is why I did all the other albums first: I basically just wanted to avoid this one for as long as possible. Solo singer-songwriter, trees in the album title, boring artwork (which, now that I look at it properly, actually has a mild Dawn of the Dead vibe to it) my mind, the signs weren't great, and this review is not one that I've been looking forward to writing.

But Week of Pines has actually given my Welsh Music Prize story a pretty good ending. Expectations have been a recurring theme throughout this little marathon, insofar as whatever I've expected from an album has consistently failed to transpire. It's almost like a running gag; Summer Special was hardly summery at all, Fist of the First Man sounded nothing like the Fist of the First Man I thought I remembered, the aforementioned February turned out to be far less rubbish than the month for which it was named...pretty much everything I presumed was wrong.

And so what better way to round things off than by closing my eyes and listening to the familiar, crunchy sound of my expectations getting curb-stomped yet again?

Week of Pines is a surprisingly varied album, bearing no relation at all to the hour of gruelling, Celtic-flavoured tedium I've been hiding from for the last few weeks. You've got the toasty, laid-back goodbye song (Seeing You Around); you've got the solemn Welsh-language squeezebox hymn (Codi Angor); and you've got the lolloping slice of electric Americana that sound like it might pop up towards the end of a free Uncut CD (A Slow Parade).

You still get the occasional quiet'un, but when songs like Dovecote are side-by-side with songs like Seeing You Around, it doesn't create a problem. Instead, it creates a wonderful mix of stuff that stays fresh throughout. it as good as Furniture?
No, which I suppose means that Furniture is my favourite album on the shortlist and that Race Horses are the artist that I'm backing to win tomorrow night. Week of Pines is great, for sure, and when the lilting bass guitar brings Winter to a close you do feel like you've come to the end of a great journey.

But unlike Furniture (and Praxis Makes Perfect, for that matter), it's not a journey that I'm immediately itching to retrace. Where Race Horses and Neon Neon leave me hungry for more and perfectly happy to go back to track one and listen again, Week of Pines leaves me full up, and that's why I don't feel quite so enthusiastic about Georgia Ruth as I do about those other two acts.

Also, as good as the various tracks are, nothing quite equals the motorik magnificence of the eponymous opener. Putting your best track first is no way to win me over, I'm afraid.

So that's it - that's the whole list, done! Keep your eyes peeled for the big reveal, and come back here on Friday to find out what I thought of the result. Furniture may be my favourite - if you spread those twelve CDs out on a table right now and asked me which one I wanted to hear, I'd plump for the Race Horses - but to be honest, there are at least five other potential winners I'd be pretty happy with.

I guess we'll see, eh?

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