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A review of...
2013 by Meilyr Jones
Ex-Racehorses man harnesses his inner Walker/Brel/Wilson
Rightly or wrongly, the term Britpop is still predominately used as a bashing implement, but the opening track of 2013 (the brassy single "How To Recognise A Work Of Art") is positively powered by Britpop. It's a breezy pop single, and one that we don't see the like of much these days. And here, if you are in any doubt, I'm using the term Britpop as a positive reference point (The Divine Comedy would probably be a good comparison). Anyway, it seems like the notion of providing a lucrative theme tune to BBC's Glastonbury coverage or over a goals compilation on Match of the Day isn't far from the grasp of Meilyr Jones, if that's the path he chooses to follow. But to write 2013 off as a breezy, retro collection would be doing it a huge disservice, because although the album is full of callbacks to various eras of pop, the mid 1990s is not a period that Jones has any interest in dwelling on. Once the opening track is out of the way we're treated to a trip through the imaginative and complicated recesses of his mind. This is, as Jones puts it - "a compilation of myself, over the period of a year", a year when, after the dissolving of his previous band Racehorses, Jones started writing songs which sounded very different to anything he'd done before (partly inspired by the culture of Rome, a city he visited around that time).
2013 is hugely ambitious, with arrangements that suggest great experience and knowledge, rather than just a fluke magic touch. A thirty strong orchestra, a ragtag bunch of friends and friends of friends were recorded live in the studio and the results make for an album which harks back to Scott Walker or Jacques Brel. Operatic, and eclectic, but still retaining the earthiness of a closet pop star. The instruments are varied and too numerous to mention (mainly because I haven't got a clue what some of them are), and on "Rome" they sound positively medieval. There is still time for respite though, on nuggets like "Strange Emotional" which harnesses the fuzzy garage that Welsh musicians seem to do so well (see H. Hawkline for a recent example).
For those who remember the indie drenched Meilyr Jones of old, from his time with Racehorses and indeed Radio Luxembourg, you'll be in for a big surprise. This is an album which pushes his musical boundaries and still somehow manages to present itself as an accessible pop record.
"Don Juan" - on this track we get the first glimpse of Jones' masterful string arrangements. It's also steeped in 1970's instrumentation and nods to Carly Simon, and is perhaps the album's stand-out moment.
"Featured Artist" - Sgt Pepper horns and Brel inspired fantasist lyrics (it's essentially a more grounded version of "Jacky") make this one of the oddest pop singles I've heard for many a moon.