Welcome to a journey into the center of our end of year run down, the top 25 will take the glory but these are the albums that shaped the year for us. An eclectic bunch of excellent long players brimful of promising shiny faced hopefuls and returning heroes, each one proving that the format is still far from dead!
25 Deap Valley- Sistrionix
‘Sistrionix’ – a title which seems to sum up Deap Vally perfectly – is ideal cruising round the city in summer with the windows down rock and roll. Let’s hope that Lindsay Troys fury doesn’t subside before they’ve reclaimed the name of guitar music from Mumford, Two Door Cinema Club, The xx, or Haim – but if it does, I have a keen feeling that some hinted-at, more exploratory Captain Beefheartianisms may arise, and Rick Rubins production qualities might make something truly insane. For now though, down that shot, and bring the noise.”(Sean BW Parker) Read More
26 Suede- Bloodsports
“They sound like they’ve reignited that spark and rediscovered what they once thought was lost forever. Overall it’s not quite up there with the truly perfect ‘Coming Up’, but its best moments provide us with something we thought we’d never hear again: Suede producing some new classics and proving that their glories aren’t all in the past.”(Ben P Scott) Read More
27 M O N E Y- The Shadow of Heaven
“What with the un-Googleable name, in-yer-face bisexuality, gobshite interviews and confrontational/communal gigs, you could be forgiven for forgetting that MONEY released an album this year. And it’s possibly the only subtle thing about them – a collection of fragile, intricate ballads, reminiscent of early Verve or late Talk Talk, which in lesser hands could easily have sunk into stadium bombast. Greatness clearly awaits.”
28 Austra- Olympia
This album was a sleeper for me. I’d really loved Austra’s debut, ‘Feel It Break’. Then I managed to see them (more than once) in that awkward period when there was ‘new material’ but the album was still months away, and I found it initially difficult to engage. When ‘Olympia’ finally emerged, it was strong but it sure didn’t contain anything as anthemic as ‘The Beat And The Pulse’ (just go to a gig and wait for the audience to erupt when that kicks in). And yet the ear-worms got their little velvet hooks into me, enough for me to stick it on the personal play-list, and like some designer drug, the more I got of it, the more I wanted.
As a band, they are overtly pro-feminist and queer-sensible. Check out the video for ‘Forgive Me’ or the simply tragic words and fugue of ‘I Don’t Care (I’m A Man)’. Band members make comments like “it’s weird…but in a really good way”. This sensibility gives a nice warm feeling for sure, but in the end it’s the mixture of operatic high art and bang-tidy electro that has kept me coming back for more and more. It’s one of maybe three albums this year that have utterly flown above any attempt to wear out their welcome as I wear out their grooves.
“One wonders whether MGMT will ever make an album that lays bare their true intentions and motivations. Accused of being deliberately obtuse on Congratulations, their second album, after almost apologetically releasing two of the best loved crossover hits of the mid 00s in ‘Time to Pretend’ and ‘Kids’, the duo claimed it was Congratulations’ folk psychedelia-aping sound, and not the synth-led pop motifs of Oracular Spectacular, that was the ‘real MGMT’. Yet if that is so, it is interesting that album three – self-titled, no less – sees that sound fade underneath an influx of musical quirks and murkier atmospheres. Certainly, MGMT is their most challenging LP yet: there’s very little to grasp hold of on first listen, save perhaps for the swaying tune of ‘Plenty of Girls in the Sea’. But give it a chance, for all of the 10 tracks contain at least something worth going back for. ‘A Good Sadness’ is Floyd-esque, the sadness of the title haunting you through inescapable vocals, while ‘I Love You Too, Death’ is an eerie song that spends five minutes coming into focus from an impenetrable blur. If that sounds a difficult listen, by the end you realise it’s all the more worth it. And that sums up MGMT as an album: it is only afterwards you realise that, having absorbed it, evasive unnameable moments are drawing you towards it again to recapture a feeling you almost hadn’t noticed. Frustratingly clever, surprisingly memorable: that, at least, is something that has always been true of MGMT.”(Tim Miller)
30 Fuck Buttons- Slow Focus
“Andrew Hung and Benjamin Power of Fuck Buttons have had quite the 18 months. As the London Olympics arrived last summer, it was the duo’s Surf Solar that accompanied the very opening television sequence (while the appropriately named Olympians featured prominently during the Games). This summer, Fuck Buttons headlined the Park Stage at Glastonbury, just before releasing their third album to widespread acclaim. It was well deserved: Slow Focus sees the pair relax the abrasive palette that epitomised their debut, but it also does away with the euphoric and melodic dance elements of their follow up, Tarot Sport. The result is something yet again arresting, challenging and rewarding: rhythms, actual beats play a more central role on Slow Focus, and many of the songs seem to unfurl in long, menacing movements, relentlessly growing until they become close to awe-inspiring. It’s not to say the third album is devoid of melody entirely, but the focus is very much on landscapes, the bigger picture. The bigger picture for Fuck Buttons is just how good a year 2013 has been, and now, Slow Focus has put them on the verge of something massive.(Tim Miller)
31 Ms Mr- Secondhand Rapture
“I was lucky enough to catch them at SXSW; in a down and dirty bar, their sheer confidence and poise bowled me over. It was hard to put a finger on ‘why’ this particular synth electro duo came out of the week as one of the best acts I saw. If this doesn’t sound ridiculous, Lizzie in particular couldn’t stop stop grinning while they were performing. That attitude can’t help itself, it just comes over in the music. They are full of BIG tunes. On the album, fully three of the first four tracks feel like they’ve already been massive singles, which they have either on their own or as part of the EP. It’s large and dancey, and that maybe the only downfall, that it’s SO full-on. I’m talking about the sound, the vocals, keys, drums rather than the import of the lyrics, which show plenty of thought, for instance on ‘Salty Sweet’ musing on the human need for approval. But you have to wait for ‘Twenty Seven’, 9 tracks into the album, for something a little more measured in the vox.”(Mike Hughes)
32 British Sea Power- ‘Machineries Of Joy’
“British Sea Power once again embark on a literally ripe peregrinate excursion through the tedious inept and moral vacuum of modern life. Not so much a smug condemnation or snide shot across the great unwashed and uneducated bows, the erudite, fey, Brighton residences stick to the formula that has so far served them well critically (though not yet commercially).”(Dominic Valvona)
33 The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’
“Five albums in, and Dillinger Escape Plan continue to put many acts on the heavier music spectrum to shame. ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ perhaps does not push the envelope as far as previous efforts but is more the sum of all their parts. There’s the intricate guitar wizardry found on Miss Machine as well as the dynamic textures of Ire Works. And this time they dip their toes into the electronic field and treat us to some jungle music!
34 My Bloody Valentine- mbv
“In essence, this album is a triumph. It’s caught people by surprise. Everyone knows the music industry is mostly in a bit of a mess. Sales are down, and what is selling is depressingly staid. Bands won’t try to replicate this album. But it serves as a very good reminder that you don’t have to do the corporate thing – why not be a bit more way out? We have a new My Bloody Valentine album. It’s something to embrace and cherish. I’m not sure if it’s ground-breaking in the way that Loveless was, but, and this is just going on a few listens, I think it is a pretty solid, but multi-lateral at the same time; despite being unique, all kinds of influences can be heard. Pleasingly, once again, it’s almost as loud as a nuclear bomb. It should be listened to a lot, and if you don’t mind, that’s what I’m going to go back to do now.”(Nick Fisk)
35 Laura Marling– Once I Was An Eagle
“The opening salvo of ‘Take The Night Off’ and ‘I Was An Eagle’ that this album, recorded with Ethan Johns it’s really not another singer-songwriter record. There’s a toughness here, and yet a dreaminess at the same time. Proof that intensity does not mean that you have to put the amps up to 11.
And I’ve gone back to listen to this album again, and I’m impressed by how good it is. Like a lot of records, it does dip a little about two-thirds of the way through, and (maybe this is to do with being a child of the vinyl-era, when albums tended to be shorter), but it regains it’s stride on the last two tracks ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Saved These Words’.”(Ed Jupp)
36 Franz Ferdinand- Right Thoughts…
“Four albums in, Right Thoughts would be best summed up as a career snapshot. It’s the sort of record fans may well hold in high record in years to come. And whilst there are still flaws to be traced, it’s a marked improvement on Tonight. Although the mainstream crowd are unlikely to be frantically throwing their money at it like the moment Take Me Out hit the shelves, Franz Ferdinand clearly don’t need them any more. They seem to be comfortable just knowing what the fans want to hear, and that is how it should be.”
37 Steve Mason- Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time
“Steve Mason‘s career has produced an array of interesting styles, not to mention some utterly brilliant songs. The work he created with The Beta Band was thrillingly experimental yet tunefully strong, and his projects since the band’s split in 2004 have been most compelling indeed. 2010′s ‘Boys Outside’ was the first record released under his own given name, and while packed with great songs, it took a slightly more straightforward approach.
Three years on and Mason brings us his second solo set ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’, named after a Buddhist term for an easily distracted brain. And in an age of mass-media induced public ignorance, there’s no better time for this creative intelligent musician to unleash his most confrontational work yet. The press release states that the LP is “shaped by the current global political climate and the lack of dissenting voices in music and popular culture in general”. Inspiringly, he’s opted to stay true to himself, while other artists are too scared to stand up and be counted, in case they don’t get played on radio (which nowadays doesn’t take kindly to artists who have something to say). But although it’s billed as his political album, it doesn’t see him standing on a soapbox and delivering a lecture. It’s FAR more subtle and cleverly done than that. It’s a record that also provides us with his most personal collection of songs yet.”(Ben P Scott)
38 Unknown Mortal Orchestra- II
If, as the album suggests, each track takes you on a journey through Neilson’s emotive nightlife whilst on tour, then lo-fi psych track Monki represents sublimely that moment of emptiness and questioning of oneself often incurred by the imminent ‘come-down’ in the final hours of darkness, whilst the Mother Mallard alarm clock-like synth harmonies of Dawn are the starkness of daylight.
Just as immersive as UMO’s debut album yet more considered, II finds itself exempt from any real criticism. The only one I can find is the clarity of the lyrics in certain tracks but this doesn’t take anything away from what is already a high contender for album of the year for me. Plus it makes me sound like an old fart!”(Andy Davies)
39 Public Service Broadcasting-Inform-Educate-Entertain
“Four years in the making, Public Service Broadcasting‘s debut LP follows the release of a number of brilliant singles and EPs. ‘Inform-Educate-Entertain’ is a superb representation of what the duo do, live drums and voice samples from old films being their trademarks.‘ROYGBIV’ pairs more banjo with laid back disco rhythms and more atmospheric keys, while ‘The Now Generation’ demonstrates their fondness forpublicservicebroadcasting2 retro electronics. ‘Lit Up’ is beautiful, spacious and simple, and the wonderfully arranged ‘Everest’ is an appropriately panoramic moment with epic, soaring chords and a infectious synth hook. ‘Late Night Final’ closes the album in a bleak, almost trip-hop fashion with haunting horns building throughout.
It’s a unique record that takes you on a journey through the past while sounding fresh and innovative enough to place in firmly in the present.”(Ben P Scott)
40 Los Campesinos! – No Blues
“Each time Los Campesinos! release an album, each time it feels like ‘this is the one’ that will see them finally step into a limelight that seems to have been waiting since Hold On Now, Youngster arrived way back in 2008. If ’08 doesn’t seem that long ago, for LC! and their fans it almost feels a different lifetime. Their development, through five albums in five years, has been like one of those word puzzles where you change one letter in a word to make a new word, change one letter in that word to make another one, and so on until you end up at a word that seems impossible it could ever relate to the one you started with – yet it only required a consecutive series of minor changes. That’s how the Campesinos’ back catalogue fits together: each new album a strengthening, a step up from the last; an acknowledgement of its predecessor but an identity of its own. Which is why No Blues seems such a powerful album compared to that twee pop debut just five years ago: the simple joy of music and words combining perfectly on 10 occasions to form 10 unique wholes, a tale, a heartbreak, lovers lost and lusted after, defeat and defiance; it’s the familiar Los Campesinos! themes, but on No Blues it’s the most personal they’ve ever sounded. At the same time, this is the biggest this band have ever sounded, each of the tracks on No Blues is produced masterfully to complement the record’s overall feeling that this is a force to be reckoned with. “There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mine” laments Gareth, and faced with the evidence on this triumphant fifth album, you’d be hard pressed to disagree.”(Tim Miller)
41 Anna Calvi- One Breath
“The French Lieutenants woman meets elegiac toreador blues, the second album from the fragilely poised, but resolute, Anna Calvi takes the tremolo suffused signature on a voyage of discovery. From Spector infused power balled pop to 80s sulky disco, Calvi channels Siouxsie Sioux, ESG and PJ Harvey, over a Andy Goldsworthy-esque production.
A haunted beauty permeates, exemplified on the opening catacomb recorded ‘Suddenly’: building from a methodical attentively cooed intro into a tumescent rallying hymn, a signature that resonates into the next track, ‘Eliza’. That triumphant, stamping call of thunder is this album’s ‘Desire’, though even better with its patterned tom rolls and a rousing whirlwind vocal delivery it is indeed one of the years most startling, broody pop songs.”(Dominic Valvona)
42 Primal Scream- More Light
“The final solution to teenage revolution/The total subjugation of the rock & roll nation!” That’s YOU told, Mr Cameron. The Scream reunited with producer David Holmes for their most vital and diverse offering since 2000’s legendary XTRMNTR. Loosely a state-of-the-nation report, it portrayed a thoroughly broken Britain, alternating between righteous anger (2013, Culturecide), despair (River of Pain, Tenement Kid), and a party-like-it’s-1990 spirit (It’s Alright, It’s OK). It missed a lot, but when it hit, it was brilliant.”
43 Youth Lagoon -Wondrous Bughouse
“Amid comparisons to The Beatles and The Flaming Lips in GIITTV’s review of this second album from Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, I said ‘Wondrous Bughouse is a melodic, enchanting delight, a densely layered yet still lo-fi pop album that stands up against more psychedelic pop hallmarks’. Since then, its immersive atmospheres and hypnotic chord cycles have only grown ever more irresistible, with practically every listen revealing hidden depths within the songs. Be it lyrics charged with emotion hidden underneath a wash of reverb, or a wonky piano melody linking two entirely different sections of songs together, Wondrous Bughouse sees a more ambitious, more earnest and more considered artist at work, two years on from his equally pleasing debut The Year of Hibernation. Though it arrived straight out of leftfield, for me at least, Wondrous Bughouse heralded an unrivalled delight that I was only too happy to enjoy.”(Tim Miller)
44 Pissed Jeans- Honeys
45 Boards Of Canada- Tomorrows Harvest
“Possibly not their best work to date but definitely an evolution for the duo and an excellent return. There’s plenty of other bands creating soundtrack type music these days, The XX or The Chromatics to name a couple, but BoC have come back fighting with Tomorrow’s Harvest and showed they still do soundscaped escape music best. It’s also an album in which you can continue to find new sounds and needs given time to absorb fully and really get to grips with. Lie back, put the headphones on and let Boards of Canada take you somewhere.”(Paul Marshall)
46 Thee Oh Seas- Floating Coffin
“Thee Oh Sees, the San Francisco quintet led by the incredibly prolific John Dwyer have come up trumps in 2013 and released a record that befits their standing as one of the best live acts around. ‘Floating Coffin’ dropped in April and matches pound-for-pound the raw energy that you experience at their shows. Dwyer’s vocals are complemented perfectly with those of keyboardist Brigid Dawson from the fantastic harmonies down to the crazy, fevered yelps that pepper the album. Highlights include the quiet/loud joy that is ‘Toe Cutter / Thumb Buster’ – which comes complete with disturbing video – along with the bass-driven title track and stand out track ‘Maze Fancier’. The understated, squelchy production makes this garage/psychedelic rock band sound like one at the very top of their game.
“The longest track from the album lies at the very end of it, Brio has a plentiful of breaks, allowing a rich development. The ending is neat and quick, finishing the album perfectly. The musical transition of Dutch Uncles sees them from being a guitar-based rock band to a band that experiment with a wide range of instruments – violins, xylophones etc. I am already looking forward to hearing what the Duncles have in their pockets for the next album!”(Coco Wong)
48 Nine Inch Nails- Hesitation Marks
49 Totem Terrors – Repeat Play RAR
“Cardiff’s Terrible twosome Totem Terrors otherwise known as Rosie Smith and Max Hicks, funded this album via a crowdfunding campaign, that they managed to gather the pennies to produce this marvelous debut is testament to their cult status locally and elsewhere. Repeat Play Torrent RAR further subtle tweaked their formula for Wire-ish spiky post punk rhythms and dapply early Talking Heads-esque synth prods: punctuated by angular sparring delivery, highlights included the twitching laps of ‘Disco Tryst’ the piercing minute of ‘Slovak’s Dream’ and menacing psychodrama and bass tangle of ‘Weather Controller’ .Totem Terrors are a crafty duo that deserve an hour of your day, you never know YOU may end up helping them fund album number two!” (Bill Cummings)
50 Múm- Smilewound
“Mum’s first album in four years was a typically memerising, occasionally startling and frequently moving work, veering from experimental glitch to sparkling pop music with effortless grace. Kylie showed up on the ethereal “Whistle”, while the old-skool bleepfest of “When Girls Collide” was one of the best tracks released by anyone in 2013.”(Tim Russell)