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Songwriting in 2013 – Several Shades of Grey


Henning Grabow December 6, 2013
Villagers 300x201 Songwriting in 2013 – Several Shades of Grey

Here it is, the annual ritual of discussing what the essence of this past year of music was. Most obviously, it’s been the year of big players returning: MY BLOODY VALENTINE, DAVID BOWIE, DAFT PUNK, NICK CAVE – you name it. But, underneath this shiny surface of great names, there’s been an continued renewal going on: the diversification of songwriting. Sure, you can claim, that there’s never been a onedimensional definition of this vague “genre”, but maybe you would agree, that it’s been fairly wide connected to sad guys with guitars. And of course, there’s still a lot of them and they’re still makeing haunting music for the lonesome hours of the day. Nonetheless, there’s been a few albums this year, that made me think about how colourful songwriting can be, if you boil it down to a list of five different shades of songwriting in 2013 (it’s the time of lists and it’s been another year of “mommy-porn” – so why not?). Enjoy!

01. KING KRULE

What a masterful debut of ARCHIE MARSHALL under his KING KRULE-moniker. An album bursting of fear, anger, passion and disbelief. Musically, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon ranges from jazz to retro pop and back to cozy garage hiphop-sounds – what makes it one of the most remarkable things you could hear this year, not only in terms of songwriting.

02. JULIA HOLTER

With her third longplayer Loud City Song, the LA-native reappeared on the screen and once more added some abysmal art pop to what songwriting is able to do. Highly captivating but with experimental ambitions, JULIA HOLTER perfectly captures the sentiment of balanced intuition. Describing her art as: “Something with form; something that is created without a specific functional purpose.”, HOLTER herself told about the what conceptual songwriting basically means while we had a little chat at this year’s HALDERN POP FESTIVAL: “It depends on the project but basically it starts out with some essential idea about what I want to do – questions like: what sentiments are expressed? It’s a very intuitive process. I’m not thinking about wether I want to make something entertaining or intellectual.”

03. KURT VILE

The Amercian wunderkind of psychrock reported back with his fabulous Wakin on a Pretty Daze and he once again proved, what laid-back emotions can sound like. The truly mesmerizing mind of KURT VILE makes melting folk, shoegaze, psychrock and 60s pop seem so easy, that you can’t help but wondering where the boundaries for songwriting are anyway. There are few in this dude’s world for sure.

04. VILLAGERS

With his long-awaited second effort {Awayland}, CONOR O’ BRIEN and his VILLAGERS not only put out one of the best songwriter-records this year and proved himself to be an excellent lyricist, but he also exemplified, how meandering electronica and folky instrumentation complement each other perfectly. As O’BRIEN pointed out in a conversation we had with him earlier this year, he doesn’t like to do comforting music, or anything that makes it easy for him: “I find it very stressful to write and testing for yourself, as you have to be very reflective about all those different aspects you think about; you challenge yourself a lot”, he said, adding that the process of songwriting is something “very fulfilling and highly addictive”. Something our last songwriter wrote a lot of songs about recently.

05. MARK KOZELEK

There’s maybe no one as productive out there right now (despite Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez, but that’s a world on its own) like the former RED HOUSE PAINTERS-singer and nowadays mutiple-songwriter MARK KOZELEK. Only this year he released another of his cover-album, Like Rats, under his real name, a collaborative record with THE ALBUM LEAF under his alias SUN KIL MOON named Perils From The Sea, and a record simply called Mark Kozelek & Desertshore with some of his old friends from the 90s. Though he himself is not that flexible with this writing-style, there’s no one as good in writing about writing and making music for a living, as this guy. Have you ever been moved to tears by someone who sang his tourplan? No? Try Caroline!

Dedicated to the legacy of LOU REED – still one of the best of all time and the one who brought the experiment into pop-culture.

MARK KOZELEK / VILLAGERS / KURT VILE / JULIA HOLTER / KING KRULE

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