Some musics occupy you more than others, and insinuate themselves into the everyday round of your life. The following are CDs that preoccupied me mightily during 2013:
Ergodos Musicians: I Call To You.
I missed this disc when it appeared in 2012, but have made up for my mistake by playing it almost every day of 2013. The seven pieces, created after Bach's “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” are written by Simon O'Connor, Garrett Shouldice, Jonathan Nangle and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly are exquisite, and receive exquisite performances from Michelle O'Rourke, Jonathan Sage, Cliodhna Ryan, William Butt and Michael McHale. The ethereality of the music is such that, as it plays, time seems to stop. www.ergodos.ie
Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
The sound on RAM is so burnished, so tempered, that's it represents a luxury in its own right. But what is also a luxury here is this brilliant, witty homage to musical styles that are frequently sneered at – FM radio; seventies disco; prog rock. The Daft Punk duo are so smart at every point in this record that every time you put it on, your hear some further detail, some further consideration, that just makes you gasp in admiration.
June Tabor, Huw Warren, Iain Ballamy: Quercus
Tabor and Warren are old pals, joined here by jazzer Ballamy on a 2008 live date. Quite simply, the trio play out of their skins, and the standards they pull asunder are shown in a brilliant new light. “As I Roved Out” is just one of the tunes that will melt your heart.
Settle isn't merely a great record: it is one of the great debut records. The Lawrence brothers, Guy and Howard, and their singers serve up demented beats and powerful vocalising, and serve it with a maturity that is all the more astonishing when you consider that they are, respectively, 22 and 19 years old. Kids today!
Van Morrison: Moondance Outtakes
Morrison's early solo records form one of the great canons in popular music, and it is a canon of such distinctiveness and quality that a disc of outtakes from the Moondance session can stand on their own, and have you shake your head in wonder at the man's insouciant brilliance. Timeless.
Arctic Monkeys: AM
A lesson in how to write songs, and a lesson in how to record them. Play it once and you'll play it five times in a row.
Jeremy Denk: Goldberg Variations
Right from the first note, Denk nails the Goldbergs in the most convincing fashion since Murray Perahia's recording back in 2000. He has the measure of every measure, and the nous to interpret every variation with fluency and a feminine lack of bravado. The accompanying disk of Denk illustrating various parts of the Variations is a winner too.