This may well get confusing. Because after counting these installments up from one to three, I’m now counting down from five to one.
I have nothing against the number 4 in particular (which will hopefully become apparent during the course of my next update), unlike – interestingly enough – people who plan Hospitals in Japan, where the Floor 4 is usually nowhere to be found. This is completely true, but has nothing to do with anything else here other than to kill a bit of time in a hopefully educational and whimsical manner.
On with the show then – putting the top five (which, as will be made clear eventually, is now six) in any sort of order is fairly arbitrary, as these are all records that thrilled, moved and wowed me to an extent where putting them in numbered boxes seems a bit silly. Still, I’ve had a go and this the closest to a sensible, definitive and vaguely accurate indication of what’s kept my ears occupied this year.
So here we go then.
Number 5: Richard Warren’s Laments
I bought this solely on the basis of his stellar work on the last two records and superlative tours with the Soulsavers. Given that, and his strange experimentations as Echoboy, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly wasn’t expected to be bowled over in the manner that I was with this.
The overall impression I get from Laments is that of a songwriter letting his ideas soar along with his influences, mixing that which has gone before with several strides forward. The Neil Young bombast of The Devil’s My Shepherd followed by the feelgood bluesy strut of How Could You Be So Blind as an opening duo are breathtaking, and the breadth of ideas through each subsequent track that takes in Memphis gospel, Motown balladeering and even Monkee-inspired jangly pop amongst the gems available here. These all sound like songs that have been rattling around in Richard’s head and heart for years, being carefully nurtured and arranged in secret over the years before now when they’re perfectly ready to be heard.
Naturally, with a title such as Laments, it’s not completely cheery fayre where the lyrics are concerned. Rejection is a largely recurring theme, but happily this runs alongside a much more positive and redemptive outlook whenever he gets to tell us about his love of music – both Make My Life Right and Black Stone Empires are moving testament to the respect he has for the songs that have shaped him, and his joy in sharing this.
And this is all capped off with No Angel – a song that manages to be both downbeat and uplifting at the same time, and a song that I’m not sure has been bettered all year by anyone.
Laments is a truly astonishing realisation of one person’s vision of what great songs should sound like. It’s timeless and moving, and it’s hard to think that there’s not at least one thing here that everyone will love.