So despite the fact that you are probably heartily tired of lists by now, we begin our run down of our combined albums poll of our writers for 2013. Democracy always throws up compromise and the accentuate popular, so just as you reach for that angry diatribe knife to wield against one of this year’s entrants consider this. This poll is such a subjective snapshot of our varied and eclectic taste that wasn’t put together by one writer or editor but a collection of them thus it will always be a subjective compromise rather than a definitive list, indeed I’m sure everyone has their own take on the best albums of 2013, we’d love to hear yours too!
But we hope in these run downs you’ll find a release or an artist that you haven’t heard before from this year and delight in some of the enthusiasm for the records below, some you will have heard of some you won’t have, some you will like some you won’t, that is afterall the beauty of music we all enjoy different things! Standby for a run down of our top 50 in the coming days in the meantime enjoy!
51 Deerhunter- Monomania
Channeling the lost spirit of a crooning 50s ‘rock and roll’ star on his last outing, Parallax, Bradford Cox transduced the ghostly reverb and tremolo of Joe Meek and Phil Spector into a therapeutic release. Attuned to the lingering sentiment and resonance of that 2011 LP, Cox once again merges the familiar with gently disjointed psych and experimental R&B in a way that sounds strangely unique; similar in fashion to the musical collages created by Ariel Pink – nothing inherently new in the source material but the approach and relationship is fresh.
Congruous yet split into two camps; Monomania displays both signs of the more awkward, off-kilter and vapourous with the melodic, and daresay even pop sensibility which serves Cox so well. Lighter, melodic treats include ‘Back To The Middle’ – a glorious slice of slinky soul and no-wave aloof – and ‘Dream Captain’ – merges 80s collage radio with the Velvet Underground in a magical meeting of minds. Erring towards shoegazing serendipity, ‘Neon Junkyard’ and ‘Pensacola’ crash and klang with cuddled languid brilliance; at all times tethered to a tuneful shimmering backbeat.”(Dominic Valvona)
52 Caitlin Rose- The Stand-In
“What makes The Stand-In such a perfect album is Caitlin Rose’s vocals throughout. Capable of a spine-tingling power as her vocals soar over the endless choruses that come in waves and honing in, but not losing, the sassiness that saw her labelled such a precocious talent when she first appeared with the Dead Flowers EP. Maybe a combination of working with different musicians and songwriters has brought Rose’s own talent for the impressive, honest songwriting that made 2010’s Own Side Now such a critically acclaimed record to the forefront of The Stand-In’s twelve songs.
With what will undoubtedly end up on many end of year lists, Caitlin Rose has made an album that brims with beauty and charm and containing some of the sweetest songwriting that will be heard this year. The Stand-In is the warmest 39 minutes you will hear in 2013.”
53 Bill Callahan- Dream River
54 Drenge – Drenge
55 Torres- Torres
56 Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels
“At a time when the so-called-kings of the rap game are releasing albums to pistol-whipped media fanfare and selling them to phone companies, it says a lot that this album was given away as a free download. You don’t need a particular app on a particular phone, just any old email address. Yet it manages to achieve something rare for a free album — it still feels important. It still feels necessary. The record is here for a reason: El-P and Killer Mike are stealing rap back.”(Michael Mcdonald)
57 The Knife- Shaking the Habitual
58 Metamono- ‘With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics’
“Much of it is like how we imagined the future would sound years ago, and ironically it’s made by instruments from the past, most of them salvaged from the scrap heap. Contemporary ideas show that far from being Luddites or mere retroists, they’re not looking to return to the past. Instead they’re building something new out of old bits in order to make creative progress for the benefit of electronic music’s future. This is why, despite never leaning on many of the less-skilled techniques used in electronic music these days, it never sounds dated and certainly never comes across like some sort of novelty. Part of their manifesto reads “Metamono will restrict and limit the sound sources and techniques available to us in order to liberate the imagination.” Mission accomplished.” (Ben P Scott)
59 Lawrence Made Me Cry- The Diary Of Me
“Laurence Made Me Cry is the umbrella under which artist and multi-instrumentalist Jo Whitby works. Originally from Bristol she’s been a Cardiff resident and active part of the local music and artistic scenes for some time now. I saw Jo play with just a guitar around the time of the release of her debut EP back in 2011, her affecting vocals and bittersweet songs really struck a chord , since the she’s been working on a fan funded debut album ‘The Diary of Me’ which came out recently. It is a real step up, a joyfully intricate yet personal and philisophical piece of work that jigsaw pieces together collaborations from diverse artists from around the world; yet is firmly rooted in the songs she wrote in her bedroom at home. Some have tagged Laurence Made Me Cry’s sound as ‘folktronica’ but I find this term a little ill-fitting because it doesn’t quite describe her sound: the bubbling synths, bleeps and beats that undulate under certain tracks accentuate her rootsy sound, but are anchored by Jo’s expressive playing and her achingly rich vocal tone, that resonates with the wisdom of experience at one one moment and the next with hopeful imagination and urge to escape.
‘The Cunning Folk’ is a pirouetting tumbling showcase of Jo’s burgeoning artistry it’s wonderfully considered with brittle lyrical narratives this is startlingly intimate, generous in spirit and empathetic, her vocal tone offering a kind arm on the shoulder ‘go on towards the light make sure your shining bright/Because I worry that they’ll take it all away from you’ her tone curling to a faintly higher plain as if to add a full stop, simply wondrous! Laurence Made Me Cry’s ‘The Diary of Me’ is endlessly imaginative, self exploratory, and full of heart: but don’t let the title fool you it’s not just a straightforward document to her life and work but a relisation of her musicianship and song writing skills. It’s the blending of different contributions onto one long playing canvass. Because when you stand back and see the bigger picture you’ll be touched by it, this album is outstandingly wonderful and rightly takes its place one of the best albums of this year so far from any Cardiff artist!”
60 Lanterns on the Lake- Until The Colours Run
“Adorable vapour trailed dream pop from Lanterns on the Lake. Imagine both St Etienne and Dubstar marooned on a distant star sending forth into the cosmic voids bitter sweet love notes whilst snuggled together in a long abandoned alien igloo tuned into distant frequencies and picking up crackly transmissions of Cocteau Twins replays, well your half way there for ‘Until the Colours Run’ is a sugar rushed slice of shimmering galactic bubble groove dimpled in star twinkling sequins and hushed in delirious showers of pop euphoria all powered by fireball xl-5 styled retro burners being navigated by beat glider and etched with tearful glassy eyed melancholia, not a dry kerchief in the house.
61 Janelle Monáe – Electric Lady
62 M.I.A- Matangi
“Few of the fifteen tracks feel like filler, including the Boom(Skit) which addresses the Superbowl furore, race, fame and Madonna comparisons, and each track retains a focus and purpose of its own. In some ways, ‘Matangi’ could stand as a Greatest Hits compilation, made entirely of new material. As an album you may be left wanting for more, but as a collection of songs that are affecting in personal politics whilst joyful in sheer unbridled optimism, ‘Matangi’ see’s M.I.A on top form.”(Michael Mcdonald)
63 Chelsea Wolfe- Pain is Beauty
64 Pantha du Prince- Elements of Light
65 Yo La Tengo – Fade
66 Rhye- Woman
67 Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
“Joanna Gruesome’s ‘Weird Sister’ is an unabashed long player. Sure it doesn’t push boundaries but it’s nascent heady boy/girl fuzz pop tunes crashes into your room, and then into your head and into your heart. It puts paid to the idea that modern music influenced by the records you love are just a indication of it’s all been done before and an example of how it can be reproduced scientifically to order and to satisfy ‘a perceived gap in the market’. JoGru’s incendiary début manages to sound so fresh and vital yet is clearly entangled with classic records of yore, an obsession with comic book and college rock culture. Where others sound copycat, Weird Sister manages to be a triumph. Weird Sister is gloriously fucked up with love, heartbreak and we really wouldn’t have it any other way.” (Bill Cummings)
68 Son Lux – Lanterns
“It seems only right that Lanterns is released the day after British Summer Time ends for this is a record whose aesthetic spirit is steeped in the past. With the use of lavish neo-classical instrumentation, sub-gospel choirs and its innate orchestral sense, Ryan Lott’s third full album speaks to us of a golden age of sound. Yet this proves to be merely a historical sleight of hand, for when proper account is taken of the music’s beating synthetic heart and fibrous electronic soul this is surely music of the future.”
69 James Blake- Overgrown
70 Stagecoach – ‘Say Hi To The Band’
71 Quiet Marauder- MEN
“This lot hail from Cardiff, a by all accounts revolving door anti folk co-op headed up by the inscrutably wayward song writing duo Messrs Read and Day and found ploughing the sometimes surreal barbed humouring what if universes of Lehrer, Half Man Half Biscuit, The Popticians and Dalmation Rex – to name just a few.Utter lunacy and totally barking the blighters promise released a 111 song a four volume début album entitled Men via Bubble Wrap records. Well worth mentioning that the curious among you might do well to scroll through the play list and call up the haunting holiday adventures going awry ‘The Day the Animals went Fucking Crazy’. Consider yourselves well and truly warned.”(Mark Barton)
72 Poltergeist – Your Mind is a Box
“This music provides the theme for an imaginary movie. That the film could be from any number of genres says much about the music’s versatility and timeless quality. ‘Cathedral’ provides the soundtrack to a fast-paced, powerful gangster motion picture set in some brutal urban landscape in the early ‘70s, the tension and drama of the action captured in the chilling authority of the sound. The title track is realised as the score to an existential road movie; a transcendental odyssey along some endless highway. The more gentle ‘First Signs Of The Plague’ is a reflective accompaniment to any mythological fantasy, while ‘Psychic Warfare’ breathes the cold air of suspicion and fear onto the moving images of a psychological thriller. And the taut, shape-shifting claustrophobia of ‘Lune Deep’ mutates into the expansive death star of practically every science fiction film that has ever been made.” (Simon Godley)
73 Superchunk- I Hate Music
“Serving as a follow-up to 2011’s miraculous ‘Majesty Shredding’ Superchunk made a record this year that ties experience to the present, instinct to wisdom, youthful vigor to aged knowledge, everything in the world to a passion for music.
I Hate Music will be a companion album for those who find themselves wondering recently if they might have fallen out of love with rock n roll. The answer is delivered loudly – you haven’t, you never will, with Superchunk around it’s not fucking possible.
(Michael James Hall)
74 The Strokes – Comedown Machine
“Some good reasons why Comedown Machine is my fave album of 2013.No, it doesn’t hark back to ‘Is This It’, but it doesn’t need to.I’m sure we would all agree here that progression is essential for musicians to grow and develop and keep things interesting, well here’s the thing, ‘Last Nite’ aside, i always used to think that the Strokes were hopelessly overrated one trick ponies….
And THEN I heard Angles, the fourth album, released to general disinterest a few years back, almost all the reviews stated that it sounded nothing like their earlier output which interested me, and when i heard it, it was a revelation! Inventive arrangements, subtlety, electronic flourishes and a healthy dose of 80s pop.. i quickly became obsessed with it, and told anyone within earshot just how good it was.And then they dropped THIS….
Expanding on Angles’ varied pallete and then some, Comedown Machine starts strongly with an ascending guitar riff which then bursts into a funky ‘Bad-esque’ bassline and a rhythm similar to the brilliant Domino Dancing by PSB, and builds into an epic track, joyous and funky as hell!
Second track ‘All The Time’ is more recognisably Strokeslike but from there on in its a wild ride of unfamiliar terrain and all the more invigorating for it! Other Highlights for me?! Well as previously mentioned, it flows gorgeously from track to track, but the (almost) title track is slow, mellow and gorgeous, building from a womb-like bassline into ‘Strawberry Fields’ mellotron and gorgeous guitar, and ‘Chances’ is simply jawdropping in its understated subtlety and masterful use of electronics, building into an exquisite ambient coda…. So many styles and moods, Balearic, Downtempo electro, punk, new wave, full on hip hop grooves, all life is here and it is quite honestly still the most enjoyable and refreshing album from start to finish i have heard all year, with not a single skippable track and their famous interlocking grooves tastier and more addictive than ever!
But the critics still harped on about THAT debut…
The critics want another ‘Is This It’?! They are not going to get it and may as well get used to it, the leap from that album to this one is akin to Radiohead going from ‘Pablo Honey’ to ‘Kid A’ in one step! And if Radiohead are allowed to progress, then why aren’t the Strokes, no one asks them to make another ‘Creep’ and nor should they ask the increasingly brilliant Strokes to make another ‘Last Nite’…
So, to recap in short, ‘Comedown Machine’ is brave and beautifully diverse and inventive album, Give it a try, it really is quite brilliant !”(Nikolai Rainbow)
75 Bring me the Horizon- Sempiternal
76 Dead flowers- Midnight at the Wheel Club
“There are fiddles and pump organs, songs that sound like hymns and a piece of work that were it any longer than 34 minutes might be too much to bear. If there’s any justice, this record will come to rank alongside the likes of Things We Lost In The Fire, The Boatman’s Call and Third/Sister Lovers.
Truly, truly exceptional.”(Ed Jupp)
77 The Handsome Family- Wilderness
‘Wilderness’ is an aural delight and oddly educational in a strange, off-beam way…(Jason Powdrill)
78 Haiku Salut- Tricolore
“It’s hard to pick single tracks out as highlights as the album sits so well as a full body of work, taking you on a near forty minute journey to somewhere else and providing some escapism from the hubbub of the daily grind. Fans of Amelie will immediately feel at ease. Los Elefantes was released as a download and has had airplay on BBC6 from several of the DJs and its easy to why, its absolutely glorious from start to finish. Beautiful piano joined by accordian which then drops to bass notes before some electro glitches slowly bring the whole thing back to an elated climaxe complete with tribal-esque drumming.
This is the most interesting thing I’ve heard so far this year and urge you to check it out.”(Paul Marshall)
79 Freelove Fenner- Do Not Affect My Breezy Manner
80 Laura Stevenson- Wheel
81 The Wonder Years- The Greatest Generation
82 Crash of Rhinos- Knots
83 Magik Markers – Surrender To The Fantasy
“‘Surrender To the Fantasy’ is ripe and ready for record counter fist fight action with ‘Bonfires’ finding itself sent out as an advance early warning jab in the eye.skull fucking wired to the teeth primitive no wave goofball earth beat ju-ju – detuned, out of tune with no tune – we’re reading your minds markers dudes – deranged, demented and damn essential.”(Mark Barton)
84 Lescop- Lescop
85 letlive- The Blackest Beautiful
86 Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards- Blindspot
87 Everything Everything- Arc
“When album closer Don’t Try brings things full circle, regimented snare hits recalling Arc’s opening moments, by now it’s understood that we’re a world away from the Everything Everything of three years ago. Their debut might have been a masterclass in eye-catching songcraft, yet here there is the very real sense that, having kept a firmer hand on the reigns, the four songwriters have been afforded the space they need to realise their music as art, and it’s exactly as they intended it to sound. Arc succeeds in marrying the band’s relentless flair for musical ideas with a new maturity that has given them the confidence to believe in the power of their bigger ideas, and not feel a need to cram genre-defying twists and turns into three minute montages. As a result, this is likely to be one of the albums of 2013. Contrary to its title though, Arc shows no sign that Everything Everything will be coming down to Earth any time soon.” (Tim Miller)
88 Hey! Hello!- Hey! Hello!
89 Airborne Toxic Event
“The Airborne Toxic Event have become one of those bands it’s cool to dislike, which is not cool at all, as they’ve released some decent stuff. Their latest album is called ‘Such Hot Blood’ and is proving to be something of a commercial flop, on these shores at least. Still leaning heavily on the sounds of Bruce Springsteen, it’s a neat collection of tunes that are worthy of more”(TC)
90 Boho Dancer- Gemini
“Boho Dancer have shifted the emphasis away from loud dominating instrumentals leaving the vocals a little exposed, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. Using past experiences as a driving force and songwriting influences from the likes of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, the lyrics explore darker issues and overcoming difficulties which are completed by the intensifying mood of the instrumentals.
This eleven-track album of original sounds are addictive, haunting and emotional, leaving you utterly impressed that just three talented individuals can produce something so big and explosive.” (Emma Molloy)
91 Alex chilton -Electricity By Candlelight
92 Daylight – Jar
93 Listener- Time Is A Machine
94 Rodion Ga – The Lost Tapes
95 The Bordellos – Ronco Revival Sound
96 Traams – Grin
97 Zomby – With Love
98 Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
99 Tyler the creator – Wolf
100 Black Sabbath – 13
“Without putting it lightly, 13 is nothing short of a triumph for Black Sabbath despite the criticism that will regrettably keep it from ever earning the iconic status shared by the bands first six albums. Its unruly ability to embody and yet rejuvenate the essence of the groups signature sound firmly asserts one final exclamation mark on one of music’s most extraordinary careers.” (Jack Hill)