The Zaw Towers Review of 2013

2013 was a year of some change and transition, but culminated in some special moments, not least The Love In My Heart being able to get herself a new job that will mean that her career will progress. But for me also, a few ambitions achieved this year including getting to watch the proper Wimbledon tennis tournament for real - and Centre Court at that which was great. So with a wistful look back at the year as a whole, here's what made the year just that little bit more enjoyable for me.

Best Single/Track of 2013 - "Where Are We Now?" - David Bowie
When the announcement was made that David Bowie was making a musical comeback, I was intrigued, and then when I heard this single, it was a jaw dropping moment to say the least. Feeling somewhat reflective on his past times including references to his Berlin Trilogy albums within, it was a feeling of looking back yet forward, a song of real hope, of emotion, of feeling. I really liked the somewhat sparse feeling to start and then building up to be more hopeful, more free, and a perfect introduction to "The Next Day" album and a soundtrack for my Winter, Spring and Summer as I saw the Bowie exhibition at the V&A too. Simply superb.

Also recommended:
"Headlights" - The Floe - Only one single release from the band it may be, but what a release to have. There's some gorgeous piano playing, which in turn then brings forward a powerful chorus and lots with Sarah’s vocals in great form throughout. It’s a great pop song first and foremost with plenty of depth as well – and that shows in the way it just builds up in each chorus to really get to that crescendo near the end. Majestic.
"Nag Nag Nag" - 3K Static with Stephen Mallinder - It may be a remixed and reissued single, but the amount of care and respect which the band gave the original was something special, making it seem somehow more contemporary and yet still have that dark feeling which it needed. Of course having Stephen Mallinder himself on vocal was just the tip of the iceberg and made the track even more enjoyable than previously.
"Wretched Body EP" - Beth Rowley - It was so nice to see Beth back and making music after it being years since the lovely "Little Dreamer" album. The title track of the EP was wistful and had some elements of sadness, but "Can't Stop Tomorrow" from the EP had a wonderfully uplifting feel that’s a perfect soundtrack to listen to on a late evening in Cornwall with the sun setting, and some beautifully lilting vocals.
"Miracle" - Hurts - Did anyone say Depeche Mode at their peak? Yes, that's exactly what this track reminds me of, and with good reason too - with that massive chorus and really nice use of electronics throughout, and of course a great feeling of that pop sensibility along the way. A fair chunk of the album "Exile" it's from has influences from the Mode and Nine Inch Nails too, no bad thing in my book of course.

Best Album of 2013 - "Of Stones and Bones" - 3 Daft Monkeys
For their latest album, three became four with Lukas Drinkwater permanently on bass, and Richie Mulryne rejoining on percussion. And that just made things seem more complete, and that new found confidence on the album shows with the tracks based on their home county of Cornwall. "Agnes the Giant Killer" is a song I love with the storytelling spot on, and the classic 3DMs trademark of tracks you can dance to was very much alive with "World on Its Head". The introspective more traditional folky feel of the likes of "The Lovers of Porthgwarra Cove" and "Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow" gave the album a sense of balance, and they've never sounded better. A perfect introduction to the band if you've not discovered them already and well worth many a late night listen to.

Also recommended:
"Hesitation Marks" - Nine Inch Nails - In many ways, NIN went back to their more traditional electronic sound with this album and that for me wasn't a bad thing at all. The opening single "Came Back Haunted" really resembled classic era NIN, and my favourite from the album "Copy of A" has a driving electronic beat and hookline that draws you in as well. "Disappointed" does anything but disappoint, with some subtle electronics and a build up to a more epic and intense feeling as the track flows. And those were just three of a consistent level of great tracks on this album. Worth getting the deluxe edition for the extra tracks too.
"Man and Myth" - Roy Harper - Roy's first album in over a decade, and the likes of Jonathan Wilson and Joanna Newsom praising his inspiration, it was somehow apt that Wilson played a fair bit on this record and gave Harper the chance to wax lyrical and play with a more sparse and yet warming feeling, and the gentle strings on the likes of "The Stranger" just really make you feel that passion of the playing. The epic duo of "Heaven Is Here" and "The Exile" would be up there with any side two epic of a Harvest-era Harper album, and that's testament to how good the album is.
"Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)" - Gary Numan - Although the last few albums of Numan's more Industrial sound have been pretty good, this release raises the bar and shows just the right amount of dark feeling versus some rather cracking songwriting, resembled especially so in "Love Hurt Bleed" which is a single for the goth and Industrial fans everywhere to embrace. "We're The Unforgiven" really does classic era NIN and then some, and the title track also builds up to a more epic feeling towards the end, and the opener "I Am Dust" sounds somewhat anthemic to boot. Simply excellent.
"Tape Deck Heart" - Frank Turner - Building from his increasing following and the Olympic ceremony appearance, Frank's latest release sees him going from strength to strength with songs of passion and self-examination at times. The single "The Way I Tend To Be" was the soundtrack to a lot of people's Summers I suspect, and the storytelling throughout is rather exemplary. A wistful feel to the excellent "Wherefore Art Thou Gene Simmons?" made the Deluxe Edition worth a hunt down, and the almost Queen-esque feel to "Four Simple Words" (especially the intro part) made it a real highlight too.

Best Concert of 2013 - Roy Harper, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
For me, this gig was my favourite for a few years, never mind this year. I think having not seen Harper live in years, and for the fact that this was the first time I'd seen him without someone who would have been there with me, it was already emotional beforehand. And when Harper played, there were plenty of people with teary eyes, the feeling of emotion when playing, the beautiful strings that just added depth and warmth, and then to top it all, a simply majestic version of the classic "Me and My Woman" which had everyone just stop and drop their jaws in the awe of it all, and added to that of course a similarly wonderful "When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease". I really did sense that it might be the final time he might ever play Manchester, but it just has so much depth of feeling when he plays that it made me hope that it isn't.

Other Concerts I Enjoyed:
Sleigh The UK (Jesus Jones, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Wonder Stuff), Shepherds Bush Empire, London
- Did I want to pogo all night long? Yes I did. Three quality bands for the price of one, and excellent value for money. Mike Edwards and the boys kicked things off brilliantly well with an awesome "Info Freako" along with the likes of "Zeroes and Ones", and then the Poppies did their thing with a storming version of "Ich Bin Ein Auslander" and especially bounce central during their version of "Their Law" as well as a great "Def Con One". Then the Wonder Stuff did a great set with songs new and old, and for me everyone singing "Unbearable" and "Give Give Give Me More More More" did feel like a lot of people my age coming together and celebrating the music that they loved and still love.
Duke Special, Lowry Studio, Salford - Back in March Duke Special had a small gathering of around two hundred in the Lowry Studio as he played various tracks from his recent album "Oh Pioneer" where he had the audience singing along as he played the piano. It was a really intimate and warm feeling with just him and the piano and that made everyone feel much more closer to the music because of it, even handing out song sheets so that the audience could participate. Sometimes the smaller gigs are the best and this proved to be the case with some beautiful piano throughout.
3 Daft Monkeys, Band on the Wall, Manchester - Another excellent night's bouncing around and dancing like I didn't care, and I certainly didn't. A great mix of songs from their album of the year plus classic tracks such as "Paranoid Big Brother", "Civilised Debauchery" and the brilliant title track of their album "Social Vertigo" showed just how as a foursome the band have really got even tighter live, and still have that wonderful element of enjoying themselves and having fun with the audience to boot. An honourable mention too has to go to the epic "Days of the Dance" where everyone really did dance like a mad person, and rightly so.
Paul Weller, Apollo, Manchester - Always good when you can get a good seat in the Apollo to enjoy someone like Paul playing a cross section of his solo career and even a couple of Style Council songs in there as well. It was surprising to see him play stuff from his first solo album and bring out some classics as "The Changingman" and really nail it with some impressive playing from himself and Steve Cradock. Of course for many the highlight was at the end as he decided to do a version of The Jam's "Start" and in the encore "A Town Called Malice" which had the whole audience singing along. Brilliant stuff.

Best Film of 2013 - Rush
To say I was looking forward to seeing this was an understatement, and so it proved to be everything I expected - and then more. For me, it was excellent to see that both Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl as James Hunt and Niki Lauda really got into their roles, and you could tell that they both wanted to tell the story spot on. Add to that the myriad of classic Formula 1 cars of that era racing around the circuits and really giving that impression of how F1 was back in the day made it feel more real too. What really did make it feel head and shoulders above the other films of the year was the attention to detail and the respect that it gave to both drivers, and hands up who expected Niki himself to narrate the final section and whose jaw dropped at the end? Simply the standard for any Formula 1 movie to surpass, that simple.

Best TV Programme of 2013 - The Last Leg
After the brilliant series during the Paralympics, it made sense for Channel 4 to comission this as a proper television series and show, and with Adam Hills, Alex Brooker and Josh Widdicombe basically acting like three mates down the pub chatting about the week's news, but having a nice slant with their classic "Is It OK?" slots, it really did make for compelling viewing when back on, especially with their campaign to get the "Save The Badger Badger Badger" song into the charts, and their righting of wrongs with Adam Hills' excellent rants against Joan Rivers for slagging off Adele for example, it really did make for a positive show which proved that people are funny, regardless of if they have a disability or not, so an important, relevant and bloody hilarious show.

Best Sporting Moment of 2013 - Andy Murray Winning Wimbledon
For so many years we've wanted a British winner of the Men's Singles at Wimbledon, and as Andy Murray improved each year, hopes were raised. The Love In My Heart and I saw him in the third round live this year and we both thought "he might just do it!" - but nothing could top the feeling of seeing the drama unfold as we were gathered by a pub in Greenwich in London on the fateful day, with the crowd gathered all cheering Andy on - it was electric stuff. And imagine if you were there on the day? It must have been special. Murray smashed Novak Djokovic off the park and quite rightly he won Sports Personality of the Year on the back of it to be honest, it was impressive stuff.

Best male personality of 2013 - Andy Murray
No brainer really, but I have to say that after his 2012 loss to Roger Federer and the outpouring of emotion, the way he fought back and battled to win the Olympic gold medal, and then throughout the year a journey of ups and downs, including missing the French Open due to injury, to come back and be ready, winning the Queens Club tournament and then heading to Wimbledon was epic. And epic was each match he played in, with the nation getting behind him. I think seeing the emotion pour out during the win was rather good to see, it meant so much to him, and to be the person that broke that long sequence of no British winners was special.

Best female personality of 2013 - Christine Ohuruogu
If you wanted to set an example to athletics, where the never say die attitude meant that you pushed and pushed to the line and never gave up, then you'd look at any of Christine's championship performances and say "that's what you do". None more so than her epic World Championship 400 metres final against Amantle Montsho. Running a more even paced race, Christine surged at the end and her dip was possibly enough, and with the photo finish it showed it was a mere four thousandths of a second that she won by. It was such a show of determination and as the legendary Michael Johnson said "She left everything on the track, and as an athlete, that's what you have to do". I can remember going mental at the telly when she was going for it as well..

Personal moments of 2013 - Going to Wimbledon and back to Cornwall
Of course, one of the things on my "must do before I die" list simply had to be go to Wimbledon and watch the tennis tournament there. I didn't mind what day or court, I just wanted to be there and to sample the atmosphere and feel part of a very special time there. And so when I managed to get tickets for Centre Court, obviously both The Love In My Heart and I were excited. And on the day, despite the rain, it meant that we had matches with and without the roof on: Laura Robson winning under the roof, then Jerzy Janowicz (who would become Andy Murray's semifinal opponent) winning well in his match in the sun, and as the rain came back down, Andy Murray then winning through his third round match with a partisan crowd cheering him on. It felt very special to be there.

And that was jus a few weeks after I finally managed to head back to Cornwall for a week long holiday of rest, relaxation and seeing some new sights along the way. The Love and I had a wonderful time, and the apartment we stayed at had some gorgeous views over the sea towards St Ives itself. Going to the Camel Valley Vineyard and being able to sample their wine on the terrace was a memory I'll cherish, and also seeing the likes of Godolphin as well as St Michael's Mount, and also roaming around the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum was pretty good too. Not to mention just relaxing on the beach as well in Carbis Bay, rather lovely all told.