Friday, January 17, 2014

Welsh Music Prize: 3 Months On

The nominees for the 2013 Welsh Music Prize were announced back in September, and since I'd only heard one of the albums on the shortlist, I resolved that I would listen to all of them before the award ceremony in mid-October. And I did - you can see the blogs I wrote for each album by clicking here.

Exactly three months have passed since (SPOILER ALERT!) Georgia Ruth took home the prize for her album, Week of Pines. I thought that today would be a good opportunity to look back on those twelve albums, and to see if my feelings towards them have changed. Let's go:

Fist of the First Man by Fist of the First Man
I'm still not overly keen on this, with one important exception: once I'd listened to all twelve albums on the shortlist, I made a playlist of the best songs from each one, and Volta Regulat made an excellent opener. The rest, well...I can take it or leave it. See them live if you can, but don't shed too many tears if you can't get your hands on their CD.

February by Winter Villains
February is next month, and if I don't go for at least one walk in the woods with this on my headphones, it will have been a missed opportunity. It still feels like a debut, not a masterpiece - their next album will surely be even better - but still, if you're a fan of expansive nature music (with strings!), this one is highly recommended.

Summer Special by Euros Childs
Three months haven't made the grand joke of this album any less funny. An album called Summer Special, with that album cover, and it's one of the rainiest day-iest records you're likely to stumble upon. The simple songs don't really require repeat listens, and so I must confess that it's been a little while since this one hit my ears - perhaps in another few months, I'll feel like revisiting it.

Ships by Sweet Baboo
There are albums here that I haven't really listened to since the big reveal, but Ships is the only one that I actually like less than before. My initial review was ambivalent at worse, but now I actually despise it a little, largely because everyone else thinks it's a work of genius and, eh, I just don't see it. Build You a Butterfly is amazing, though. I'll give him that.

Praxis Makes Perfect by Neon Neon
I feel like I've already blogged about this record several dozen times. It was one of my most listened-to albums last year (its brevity helped), and its constituent tracks still raise a smile when they pop up on shuffle. Any chance they'll bring back their theatre show for another run?

The Diary of Me by Laurence Made Me Cry
This is an album to which I've been meaning to listen again. I'm not sure why I haven't - it was one my favourites back in October, but I suppose the moment just hasn't come up yet. I am getting the train to (and subsequently from) Bristol tomorrow, so perhaps I ought to pop Between Destinations on the old iPod while I'm boarded. 

Lifebringer by Zervas & Pepper
I still feel that Furniture and Praxis Makes Perfect are the two best albums on this list, but I think that Lifebringer is the one I really wanted to win. After all, Race Horses had disbanded before they were even shortlisted, and Gruff Rhys won it once already. More importantly, those two albums are pretty immediate, whereas Zervas and Pepper's release - surely the least Welsh-sounding album of the twelve - keeps its cards close to its chest, revealing its loveliness little by little. Oh, and in Sure Fire Bet, it has the single best song on the shortlist. I realise it's an award for albums, not tracks, but there we are.

Furniture by Race Horses
Still my favourite, still gets the odd spin here and there. Mates will never not be a great tune.

Caviar Crackle by Metabeats
I've listened to Caviar Crackle a lot more than I expected to, but instead of taking the album as a whole, I've generally just stuck to the tracks I like (not something I usually do). Consequently, PassportSpectacular, and Music Pt. 1 have seen a lot more action than their cohorts, some of which still baffle me somewhat.

Trwbador by Trwbador
In stark contrast to Ships, this has gone from being an album I wasn't much bothered about to being the one that I keep returning to. I still think it dies off in the second half a little, but it's so easily digestible and so immediately gratifying that I just can't quit it. One of the few albums I can listen two twice in a row with no breaks.

Wild Wishes by Little Arrow
I'd love to say that I've delved deep, deep into the depths of this album since last I wrote about it, but it still feels unfathomably large to me. I can listen to one song from it - any one song, more or less - and really enjoy it, but I'm still failing to get my head around the whole thing. It's certainly got longevity; try me again in October.

Week of Pines by Georgia Ruth
And so to our champion. I found Week of Pines a bit difficult to get into at first, but given time, it's become something of a comfort listen. Songs like Codi Angor and Seeing You Around are capable of warming me up like chicken soup, and so the album is ideal for cold, rainy winter afternoons. Perhaps it was a worthy winner after all.

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