The best albums of 2013: No 10 – m b v by My Bloody Valentine

The hype couldn't overshadow the return of My Bloody Valentine, more than 20 years after their last album

Best albums of 2013 from 20-11
Best albums of 2013 from 30-21
Best albums of 2013 from 40-31

There are some words that are natural to reach for when you're trying to find a shorthand to describe My Bloody Valentine: woozy, fuzzy, hazy, ethereal. All help when you're trying to describe that monstrous bloom of guitars, or how buried those vocal harmonies are. But given his scope, it's beginning to feel like using language limits the impact of what Kevin Shields really creates. Once the shock of it finally arriving was over, the release of m b v proved two things this year: first, that My Bloody Valentine aren't the niche concern their original fans remembered. The two-decade interval between Loveless and its follow-up was long enough to spawn two more generations who discovered them in the interim, and the anticipation was overwhelming. Second, that Kevin Shields is an artist who creates masterpieces. Like Pollock, he makes it look easy and messy, but it takes attention to detail to achieve that dishevelled appeal: m b v is Shields's equivalent of Pollock's Autumn Rhythm (Number 30).

Of all the event albums released in 2013, this is the only one that made me feel sick: both nauseous with nerves it wouldn't be able to compete with Loveless, and certain the hype surrounding it would kill all joy in listening to the music. It took me months to press play. Once I did, I needed a lie-down. That evocative, familiar sound – a wall of distorted guitars, layered like wobbling Jenga towers, vocals bobbing in the deep end – was not only invented by My Bloody Valentine, but sounds convincing only when it comes from them. Despite scores of attempts by multiple bands in the intervening years, nobody else has really achieved it since.

My Bloody Valentine even rigged the way we listened to them: m b v wasn't available on iTunes, it wasn't put on Spotify or nominated for the Mercury music prize. If you wanted to really listen to it as Shields intended, you had to spend time and commitment; first, to get hold of the album on the band's website, and then to experience it, ideally growing on you the old-fashioned way – on repeat, on vinyl through proper speakers, and lying down staring at the ceiling as most teenage obsessions would warrant.

Reading on mobile? Click here to listen to She Found Now from m b v

Lyrically, the album seems to be written as if it were composed as a single, elliptical poem. Fragments of love, promises and lost moons are raggedly split over nine songs: "You come back and I see welcome" (She Found Now); "Into the night we all come back to" (Only Tomorrow); "Rain your bikes to the moon" (Who Sees You). It's all the right side of dreamy and wistful – emotion has always been in the sonic architecture of My Bloody Valentine. She Found You reassures from the off with a womb-like scribble of noise and Bilinda Butcher singing on fine, indecipherable form. Closer to the middle, a Cafe del Mar sunset seems to have partially inspired Is This and Yes, while New You glories in pop harmonies and Wonder 2 closes proceedings with … drum'n'bass? And yet, that apparent incoherence is just clever composition; the album never dips. The touches of melancholic longing, the lost dreaminess build into sentimental nostalgia that was bizarrely there from the off.

Yes, he left it far too many years to let us know, but it turned out Shields could pick up exactly where Loveless left off and deliver a companion piece even more beguiling and just as timeless. m b v might easily have appeared in 1993 or 2033 and still stand alone, neither the sound of this year nor the last one he promised to release it in. Above all, it was worth the wait.


Nosheen Iqbal

The GuardianTramp

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