Not uncharacteristically, I’ve spent the past few days repressing a bunch of unnecessary rage about the publicity afforded the BBC’s Sound Of 2013 poll. Not so much because of the artists selected, but because of the way it effectively presents an ultimatum to new talent: have something resembling success in the next 12 months, or else people will weary of your miserable underachievement and move on to the next batch of hopefuls.
It’d be disingenuous, of course, to pretend that the music industry – and, indeed, music fans – have only just become pathologically hungry for the next big thing, and correspondingly ruthless with regards to those who don’t have the requisite instant impact. But I think this calendar-anchored turnaround, this churning of new artists on a 12-month cycle, effectively compresses what was once a more flexible, if not exactly laidback, business model.
It also, of course, ignores how a lot of what I’d perceive as more interesting artists develop in a quite different way, quietly assembling a deepish catalogue of music before many people actually notice them. Such, it transpires, is the case with Ryley Walker, a Chicago-based guitarist who I would’ve voted for in the Sound Of 2013 poll if I didn’t think my participation in these things was kind of hypocritical (I wasn’t actually invited this year, after declining to be involved last year in what I recall was pretty pompous fashion).
I’ve been hyping Walker’s “West Wind” single for Tompkins Square pretty hard for the past few weeks; a brackish and magical seven-inch that sits somewhere between Tim Buckley’s soaring reveries and Bert Jansch circa “LA Turnaround” (Bernard Butler, a key player in last night’s Jansch tribute show, has been on Twitter repping for Walker, too).
I’d thought “The West Wind” was a debut single, but – much as industry manoeuvres like the Sound Of 2013 would have us believe otherwise – the dissemination of good music in 2013 is a lot more complicated than that. A few minutes on the internet (or, now, on this blog) and you can find another great single by Walker, “Clear The Sky”…
… plus a very fine live set, and a whole album of Takoma-ish guitar duets with Daniel Bachman from a couple of years back (both are linked below). I’m sure there’s more worth discovering by him out there (I have the b-side of “The West Wind”, “A Home For Me”, which I haven’t spotted online and which might be my favourite Walker song yet): let me know if you hunt down anything else.
In the meantime, a lot more to dig into here: the first exquisite track to surface from Linda Perhacs’ comeback album (going to see her at Cecil Sharp House tomorrow); the new record by my favourite Sumatran devotional folk scholars, Suarasama; the Angel Olsen album, especially the bits where she sounds like a cross between Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith; Ben Chasny and Donovan Quinn’s New Bums album; Neil Young doing “Needle Of Death” in Jack White’s record booth; and Mark McGuire, who appears to have become Steve Hillage, more or less…
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1 Suarasama – Timeline (Space)
2 Mark McGuire – Along The Way (Dead Oceans)
4 Ryley Walker – The West Wind/A Home For Me (Tompkins Square)
5 Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
6 FC Judd – Electronics Without Tears (Public Information)
7 Ryley Walker – The Bootleg: Live at Galerie Rademann, Schwarzenberg/GER, 15-Oct-2013 (Dying For Bad Music)
8 Ryley Walker & Daniel Bachman – Of Deathly Premonitions (Plustapes)
9 Marissa Nadler – July (Bella Union)
10 Aziza Brahim – Soutak (Glitterbeat)
11 Fat White Family – Taman Shud EP (Trashmouth)
12 Quilt – Held In Splendor (Mexican Summer)
13 Black Dirt Oak – Wawayanda Patent (MIE Music)
14 Francisco Lopez – Untitled#295 (God)
15 Joan As Policewoman – The Classic (PIAS)
16 Holden – The Inheritors (Border Community)
17 Thurston Moore – Detonation (Blank Editions)
18 New Bums – Voices In A Rented Room (Drag City)
19 Linda Perhacs – Freely (Asthmatic Kitty)
20 Neville Skelly – Carousel (PIAS)
21 Lou Reed – Street Hassle (Arista)
22 Hiss Golden Messenger – Bad Debt (Paradise Of Bachelors)
23 Rob St.John And Tommy Perman – Water Of Life (Edinburgh Water Of Life)
24 Neil Young – Needle Of Death (Live At Third Man)