This is a time of looking forward. To the familiar artists that will return. To the new artists that will be discovered. This year, like any other, comes with a wish list. Some albums will never materialise. Others will slightly disappoint. A few will remain life-long friends. Fingers crossed for the latter. In no particular order, apart from alphabetical, my 2018 wish list includes new releases by Alela Diane, Anäis Mitchell, Bill Callahan, Caitlin Harnett, Cat Power, East River Pipe, Field Report, First Aid Kit, Jacob Golden, Jenny Lewis, Jessica Pratt, Jim White, Jonathan Wilson, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Pearl Charles, Phosphorescent, Pinegrove, Richard Edwards, The Delines, Vetiver, Wooden Shjips, Wye Oak and the artist formerly known as Young Man.

And yet, there is a special place in the 2018 wish list for a new album by Kramies (pronunciation to be determined). With rumours going back at least a couple of decades, there are unconfirmed reports that an album is finally on its way and that Ireland had some part to play in it. We wait with fingers crossed, though we have learned not to hold our breath. The hard way. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful feature by Shon Cobbs and his Behind The Scenes colleagues from Denver. It features Kramies answering questions and sometimes asking them too. Plus a lot of laughing.

Pop and Chamber Pop. The Best albums of 2013 Part 3

Local Natives – Hummingbird

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Wonderfully vivacious, Local Natives were this year’s surprise package. Hummable hooks. Memorable melodies. What more could you ask? Perhaps some more reflective themes. Well, Local Natives had them too.

Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

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Eleanor Friedberger would be well qualified to do guided tours of New York City. But you’d have to move pretty fast to keep up with her. This was an album that veritably scampered along. And this time she got help with the lyrics from Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding).

Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond

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When a band calls a song ‘Advanced Falconry’, you know they’re not trying to appeal to the death metal demographic. Full of liquid sounds, this  was an album bursting with beautiful songs. And so fragile that a puff of wind would blow them away.

San Fermin

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If Mutual Benefit was the sensitive child hiding at the back of the class, San Fermin was the confident one at the front. Not such much math pop, as a PhD in astrophysics pop. Oh the contrapuntal elegance of it all. All of which makes the cuss word in the utterly magnificent ‘Sonsick’ all the more shocking.

Young Man – Beyond Was All Around Me

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So precocious. So full of tunes. Colin Caulfield demonstrated a maturity beyond his years and produced an album that had the best Pink Floyd pastiche of the year. And then the band split up.

Young Man – Beyond Was All Around Me

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If music magazines are still around in 20 years time, then the latest release from Young Man will make an appearance in the ‘Buried Treasure’ or ‘Forgotten Nuggets’ section. Released in the US earlier this year, it’s not hard to see why it’s already dropped off the radar screen. There’s been no European release. The group announced they were breaking up just after the record came out. And, most of all, it’s an album that’s way ahead of its time. It’s the third in a series that charts singer Colin Caulfield’s development from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. If this was the work of a well established, middle-aged performer, it would be at the top of plenty of end-of-year, best-of lists. But it’s not. It’s a set of songs by a young man in a band called Young Man about a young man looking back on the younger part of his life. It’s so precocious, it’s almost inappropriate. It’s also totally wonderful. The songs are true pocket symphonies. The backbeat is usually unremarkable, 70s or 80s standard pop-song fare. But the tempos shift. The keys change. The strings soar. The guitars arpeggio. The keyboards weave in and out. The melodies shine. The result is a really mature work from a very young man. It goes without saying that Brian Wilson is a clear influence. And Grizzly Bear are playing in the next studio. But the most obvious homage is to Pink Floyd at the end of ‘In Time’. And the most shameless piece of melodic lifting is on ‘Being Alone’, which could have come straight from a 1970 Don McLean album. If there’s a flaw, then just perhaps the voice doesn’t quite have the strength to do justice to the music. And only rarely do the lyrics communicate that wistful sense of rose-tinted retrospection, though ‘Looking at Waterford, In those old cabinets, Is there something more?’ evokes a definite grandmotherly, sitting-room feel. Regretfully, Colin Caulfield has retired Young Man. With luck, he’ll have plenty of time on his hands to think about a new, forward-looking project.

Pop Matters review

Consequence of Sound review

All Music review