Friday, April 29, 2016

Fresh from 2013

What were you doing back in 2013? I mostly remember it as the year that I, flush with unspoken thoughts about my favourite music, started this blog; who'd have guessed that I would still be updating The Album Wall three times a week almost three years later? Had you asked me back in June '13, I probably would have bet against it.

Of the many albums I listened to in those early days, one of the most enjoyable was Furniture by Aberystwyth's Race Horses, which came to my attention after it was nominated for the 2013 Welsh Music Prize (in spite of the fact that it was actually released in 2012). You can read my thoughts on that album here.

Of course, by the time I first wrapped my ears around Furntiure, its creators had already called it a day. As I was belatedly discovering fantastic tracks like Mates and My Year Abroad, Race Horses singer Meilyr Jones was living in Rome, discovering Italian culture and percolating ideas for his solo album.

That album, titled simply 2013, came out last month, and you can really hear the notes Jones took during his stay in Italy. The album's overall sound is like the sonic lovechild of Gruff Rhys and Ennio Morricone, conceived while Neil Hannon watched through a peephole and quietly jerked off. No expense has been spared on the orchestration here: string and brass instruments mingle with harpsichords and recorders*, and Jones's bright-eyed pop sensibilites are smushed up against more classical influences to create something very fresh indeed.

'Fresh' is very much the keyword here. The CD version of 2013 comes with a short, handwritten note from (I presume) Jones himself; some parts of it are a little hard to decipher, but it's basically a document of the renewed verve for life that the artist felt having spent some time in a different country. He writes of how different the oranges taste in Italy, how beautiful the sky looks at dawn, how he's tempted to learn Italian because it's such a lovely-sounding language. In short, he's got that Fresh Feeling that Mark Oliver Everett once sang about.

Oddly for an album whose title is three years in the past - but entirely appropriately for Jones's first solo endeavour - 2013 feels like it's all about fresh feelings and new beginnings. It came out at just the right time of year, too; as you'd expect from everything I've just said, 2013 is a superb springtime album, so get it in your headphones, go out for a walk, and imagine you're rediscovering your creative urge in the sun-kissed, culture-rich Italian capital.

This song - the album's opening track - could blow even the dustiest cobwebs clean away.

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