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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Albums of the Year - #10: My Bloody Valentine - "m b v"

Rating: 8.2/10

Perhaps the most exhilirating album release this year was My Bloody Valentine's stellar comeback record, m b v. Unsigned to any major record label, the Dublin-based band and unchallanged kings of shoegaze felt it best to simply make the album available for digital download or physical purchase on their website. Evidently, they either underestimated how much traffic they would receive or overestimated the strength of their servers, as the site crashed within minutes. Considering it was the group's first release since 1991's legendary Loveless, and had been rumored to be in production since 1992, m b v was easily one of the most highly-anticipated indie releases of all time. So, naturally, when the group came out of the blue with a whole new record, thousands instantly tried to purchase it. Think of it like shoegaze's Detox, except it actually saw the light of day and isn't destined to be a disappointment. The site's crashing produced some pretty entertaining reactions online as excited fans were teased by the knowledge that there was new My Bloody Valentine music out there which they were unable to hear.

Of course, the fact that all of this fuss occurred speaks volumes to how great My Bloody Valentine's music is. Few fans were disappointed by the group's long-awaited third full album, which was lauded by critics and landed near the summit of many year-end lists. m b v is, in all honesty, about as perfect a follow-up to Loveless as one could reasonably expect. It's hard to believe that an album like this one, which could've just as easily been released in 1993, came out in 2013. From the thunderous pulsating opener "She Found Now" to the schorching finisher "Wonder 2," m b v feels like the band recorded it right after finishing Loveless and simply forgot about it for two decades. Containing those gorgeous melodies and fantastically-produced guitar crunch typical of MBV's music, this record ranks high on the list of best comebacks of all time.

In true My Bloody Valentine fashion, m b v is a record best experienced when listened to from front to back. The songs compliment each other so well, transitions and all, that in order to fully understand Kevin Shields's vision, you need to hear it all in one sitting. The individual tracks are still great on their own, but are only enhanced when joined together. "Only Tomorrow" is a six-minute trek through the expansive mind of Kevin Shields. The surprisingly guitar-free twinkle of "Is This and Yes" might be the most unexpected moment on the record, but certainly not the weakest. "New You" is a fan favorite thanks to its light-hearted bounce and Bilinda Butcher's breathy vocal track.

So, in 2013, twenty-two long years since Loveless, My Bloody Valentine pulled off what seemed impossible; a new album that not only encapsulates the artist's identity, but provides fans with truly remarkable music. The most outstanding part of it all is that MBV managed to avoid sounding dated despite performing a genre of music than peaked years and years ago. Sure, you have a new wave of semi-shoegaze groups like Whirr, No Joy, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but none come close to reaching the seismic tremors of Loveless. Some doubted that even My Bloody Valentine could do it; and boy, were they wrong.

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