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Top 50 Albums of 2013

Posted on by sam

Top 50 albums of 2013

50: Iceage

You’re Nothing (2013)

It’s fucking loud this bad boy. When you hit play (do people still ‘hit’ play?) you will be treated to an assault. Not a physical one obviously, Iceage are not sadistic, but you will feel a little abused by the end. A bit like being forced to read American Psycho out loud to your new girlfriends mum and telling her you wrote the sex scenes. Not nice but thrilling none the less.

49: Midlake

Antiphon (2013)

Tim Smith has fucked off. The lead singer of Midlake has taken his bat and ball and gone off to the woods to play the flute. Where can a band go when it’s lead singer fucks off to the woods with a flute? The answer in Midlake’s case is stay at home and carry on regardless. ”Antiphon’ is a incredibly strong album considering what’s gone on with Tim Smith and his flute. The band should be congratulated for making an album this tight and focused. Nothing on here stands out like the best tracks on ‘ The Trials of Van Occupanther’ and it neither does it absorb you in it’s mood the way ‘Courage Of Others’ did but it’s a genuine triumph for a band showing they may still yet have a future.

48: Los Campesinos!

No Blues (2013)

Los Campesinos! piss me off more than most modern bands due to the fact that I always have to Google their name to know how to spell it correctly. It’s a shame because they really are a cracking underrated band. I’d class their 2008 debut ‘Hold On Now Youngster’ as one of the best albums since the turn of the millennium and it’s certainly one that deserves more acclaim than it gets. Since then the Welsh band have been successfully churning out worthy albums full of quirky pop hooks and snappy harmonies. ‘No Blues’ carries on this tradition and is another satisfying addition to the Campesinos! catalog that is surely now one of the most consistent in current Indie. They never make a bad record and whilst they may never reach the heights of their debut again their albums are always worth your money. Now if they’d only change their name…….

47: Islet

Released By The Movement (2013)

Islet do nothing to dispel the idea that everyone in Wales is mental. Admittedly that’s just my theory after meeting one Welshman who was clearly insane. Islet though are doing sweet FA to change my opinion on their fellow countrymen. ‘Released By The Movement’ sounds like a compilation tape of unknown post punk bands that was put together by someone called ‘John’ in 1979. My RX-FT510 Panasonic Cassette Player gives out a similar sonic experience to the one here. Muffled, tinny and bass heavy with just one equalizer dial. That being the ‘Tone’ dial which when turned to maximum just succeeds in displaying what your favorite bands would sound like if they were playing live underwater. Maybe it’s the nostalgia that draws me to Islet. They remind me of buying poor quality copied tapes from the market and playing them through my aforementioned RX-FT510 Panasonic Cassette Player which of course made them sound even worse. Or maybe I have some Welsh in me and am mentally ill. Whichever it is, Islet and me are a decent fit.

46: The Strokes

Comedown Machine (2013)

Look, it’s not as good as ‘Is This It?’. Let’s just get that out of the way before people start whining like little bitches about how “it’s not as good as their debut”. ‘Is This It?’ was a moment in time. It was the Emperor of the Indie explosion at the start of the millennium. It was unlike anything else around at that time. It’s over now though. Forget about it. Stop reliving the past. It was 12 years ago. Move on. The Strokes have. Whilst you’ve been getting old and fucking your own life up they have carried on making laudable albums that are dismissed because “it’s not as good as their debut”. ‘Comedown Machine’ is the latest notch on the Strokes rifle. It’s another album you should hear. Not one that will change your life but one that is better than most of the shit you listen to. So just give in, accept they aren’t going to make an album like “Is This It” again and pipe the fuck down.

45: John Grant

Pale Green Ghosts (2013)

The first thing that hits you about ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ is the directness of it’s lyrics. John Grant hides nothing. It’s possibly the most honest set of songs you will ever come across. His openness will probably knock you back initially. Even when he writes a musically straightforward anthem such as ‘GMF’, the chorus of  ”I am the greatest motherfucker that you’re ever gonna meet” stands it apart from any other tune you’ll hear this year. For the most part the sound is entrenched in 80′s synth pop reminiscent of The Human League and at times, such as on ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’, even Erasure but taken as a whole ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ has a style all of it’s own.

44: Prefab Sprout

Crimson/Red (2013)

it’s still the 1980′s in the world of Paddy McAloon and Prefab Sprout. Nothing on ‘Crimson/Red’ will surprise anyone who knows anything about Prefab Sprout. In fact the only surprise is that this album is a release from 2013 and not 1986. That it doesn’t matter how dated it sounds is down to a few things. The main one is the quality of the songs. “Great music is timeless” the cliche goes and ‘Crimson/Red’ is more proof that cliches are cliches for a reason.  Also everybody is trying to sound 80′s these days and this helps Prefab Sprout sound as contemporary as the bands they have influenced. The likes of  M83 and Cut Copy may be harking back to the 80′s but Prefab Sprout never left them.

43: Gold Panda

Half of Where You Live (2013)

I imagine that in some quarters Gold Panda’s follow up to 2010′s ‘Lucky Shiner’ will be seen as a disappointment. It has nothing on it as immediate as something like “You” and at first it can seem like inconsequential background music. The more you listen though the more ‘Half Of Where You Live’ reveals itself. It’s a far more complex and abstract piece than his debut and whilst none of the tracks on here truly stand out like the best moments on ‘Lucky Shiner’ (with perhaps the exception being ‘Brazil’) given time you will come to realise that ‘Half Of Where You Live’ is an all round better album. One to recline with rather than one to dance to.

42: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

II (2013)

People may say “There’s nothing new here” but these are likely to be the same people who say “I wish I was born in the 60′s” and rave about some obscure dead Psychedelic band called ‘The Optical Rainbow Flowercunts’.  This is not perfect but it’s certainly good Psychedelic Pop that has great hooks which grow on you with every listen. Give it time to sink in and you’ll reap the rewards.  And I’ll tell you one thing, this album is better than anything The Optical Rainbow Flowercunts have done so shove that up your asses.

41: Franz Ferdinand

Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (2013)

Franz Ferdinand were at the forefront of The British Indie rock renaissance that put guitar bands back into the charts in the early noughties. ‘Take Me Out’ was a top 3 hit and they found themselves as cover stars of every major music magazine in Britain. Since then their star has faded and the fact this album came out with such little fanfare is proof of how far they have fallen in the eyes of the press and general public. They still have a lot to offer though and whilst they stick fairly rigidly to the energetic post punk sound that initially provoked such praise, ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ is the most consistent set of songs they put to tape since their lauded debut. If you never liked them in the first place then nothing here will change your mind but if you simply lost interest in them as the years passed this may just reawaken the affection you once held for them.

40: David Bowie

The Next Day (2013)

Of all the many comebacks in 2013 the most surprising was that of David Bowie. Nobody had an inkling that he was recording new material and the level of hysteria when he nonchalantly dropped lead single ‘Where Are We Now’ onto the World Wide Web would have made the unenlightened believe that he had literally rose from the dead. Journalists competed against each other to find greater superlatives to throw at him.  Many reviews of this album read like obituaries. ‘The Next Day’ was treated with kid gloves as it was so unexpected. People felt grateful just have it. In truth it doesn’t stand up to the initial cock sucking. It’s not on par with his best work like some claimed early on. What it is though is an album full of ideas that has the same intensity of a debut release. ‘The Next Day’ doesn’t change anything in the Bowie story but if it is his last work then he’ll be one of the few artists to bow(ie) out in triumph.

39: Youth Lagoon

Wondrous Bughouse (2013)

‘Wondrous Bughouse’ sounds like it’s been made by a band the size of Arcade Fire but NO. It’s not. IT’S THE WORK OF ONE MAN. A man called Trevor. Trevor Powers. Trevor Powers makes you want TO SHOUT YOUR REVIEW OF HIS WORK over his expansive music. Obviously you can’t shout in a written review so YOU HAVE TO USE CAPS LOCK to make your point of how it MAKES YOU WANT TO SHOUT. The album has so much going on yet the atmosphere and the songs themselves have a dreamy laid back feel that makes you want to write in small letters to show how relaxed you are. I don’t know how to make my writing smaller though because everytime I try it the whole of this review changes font and ruins any effect I am trying to make. I really haven’t done this album justice with this review. It’s fucking really good.

38: Tricky

False Idols (2013)

Mention Tricky to any casual music fan and they will either say “No, I’ve never met the man” or “Oh yeah Maxinquaye was good…..what happened to him?”. The good news for the latter set of people is that ‘False Idols’ is the most Tricky has sounded like the Tricky that received such praise for ‘Maxinquaye’. It’s a genuine return to form following years of self indulgence and downright dullness. This may only succeed in making fans of his earlier work stand up and take notice again but who knows? Maybe ‘False Idols’ is the starting point to Tricky clawing back his reputation as an artist who shouldn’t be ignored by anyone.

37: Kanye West

Yeezus (2013)

After watching the ‘Bound 2’ video, I found myself sitting in stunned silence for about 3 minutes. Is Kanye West taking the piss after all? Is he merely a great comic who is seeing how far he can go before people realise he is having them on? Then I remembered just how good ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is. I recalled how blown away I was when I first heard ‘Black Skinhead’ from this album. I thought back to the unsurpassed energy that drips from him in his live performances. He can’t be taking the piss. Too much of his output is simply too good for him to be taking the piss. What about his tweets though? “I make awesome decisions in Bike Stores” or “I hate when i’m on a flight & I wake up with a water bottle next 2 me like oh great now i gotta be responsible for this water bottle”. Is Kanye merely playing out his public life in the role of the unreliable narrator? A man who is totally in control of what he does and says yet portrays himself as the opposite? It’s the questions that make Kanye West the most fascinating public figure in music today. ‘Yeezus’ (Yeezus for fucks sake) is no help in trying to solve the Kanye West mystery. It frequently goes from the preposterous to the magical and back again. Often in the same song. It’s impossible to pin down. Just like the man himself.

36: The National

Trouble Will Find Me (2013)

First up, the bad news. The National seemed to have slightly passed their peak. This album is a step down from “Alligator”, “Boxer” and “High Violet” and their sound is now so ingrained in the band it’s hard to see where they can go next. The good part is that the 3 albums mention previous are all genuine classics. Producing a step down from those three is merely being guilty of your own talent. There’s more than enough here to enjoy and their unique sound alone puts it above most from 2013. ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ is one of the best disappointments you’ll ever encounter.

35: Johnny Marr

The Messenger (2013)

I wonder if there has ever been a review about Johnny Marr that hasn’t mentioned The Smiths? It’s unlikely. The band cast a shadow across both Marr and Morrissey but whereas the quiffed one has sporadically produced work that is almost as good as the work he did with the people he now hates, Marr has struggled to come out of the shade of The Smiths. ‘The Messenger’ isn’t going to change what Marr is best know for but it is quite comfortably his best work since ‘Strangeways Here We Come’. His time with The Cribs has clearly revitalized him  and whilst the sound is fairly standard Indie rock it’s not just the mandatory amazing guitar work that stands Marr out from the crowd he influenced. The songs are what makes ‘The Messenger’ a success. You can fill as many songs as you like with great riffs but without the songs they are wasted. ‘The Messenger’ is simply the finest collection of songs Marr has put to tape since the 80′s. It’s even (whisper it) a class apart from Mozza’s recent output. Stephen, It’s really nothing.

34: Causa Sui

Euporie Tide (2013)

Causa Sui may play music from another time like a bunch of stoned slackers but the main difference between them and most other Psych Rock revivalists who like a good drawn out jam is simple. Causa Sui simply do it better. This is the Danish foursomes 8th album and succeeds in converting their sound into a more concise form. The lengthy jams are still here. Two tracks clock in at over the 10 minutes mark whilst all but two are no shorter than 5 minutes. The difference though is in focus. Whereas previous Causa Sui releases sounded like they were a collection of songs recorded at random, ‘Euopie Tide’ seems like a conscious effort by the band to record a ‘proper’ album that sacrifices long winded grooves in favor of shorter pieces that flow into each other. Maybe they are finally beginning to realise themselves how good they are.

33: Paul McCartney

New (2013)

I don’t think many people expected this to be as good as it is. His recent live performances have been woeful from a vocal point of view and his solo career has always been hit and miss leaning heavily on the miss side. The first single from this album was bright and bouncy enough but didn’t exactly raise my confidence in this album. Macca has really pulled it out of the bag here though. It’s a far better album than people will give it credit for. Unlike Dylan and Young people have dismissed McCartney these days as a glorified nostalgia act. Great in his day but way past his best. Of course he is past his best but then again his best was pretty much THE best and ‘New’ has shown that he still has a lot to give us. Not many songwriters of any era could write something as touching as ‘Early Day’s’ and as catchy as ‘Queenie Eye’. You can count on one hand the amount of living legends who have recently made albums this fresh and full of life. You know what? Deep down, he’s still Paul McCartney.

32: Babyshambles

Sequel to the Prequel (2013)

Hands up who thought Pete Doherty would be dead by 2013. Well he isn’t dead and in fact he’s making his most focused music since the days of The Libertines. ‘Sequel to the Prequel’ sees a more relaxed Babyshambles. The sound of a band who aren’t trying to prove anything and of a man who for the first time ever is letting his songs do all the talking . Oh and for those who think he’s an awful singer, listen to “Farmers Daughter”.

31: Quasimoto

Yessir Whatever (2013)

Basically a compilation of leftovers from that have been laying around in the Madlib locker for the past 10 years or so, ‘Yessir Whatever’ can fairly be accused of being nothing more than a scraping the barrel money making exercise. It’s testament to Madlib’s talent that this leftovers album still manages to draw you into the Quasimoto cartoon world he has created and leave not feeling at all cheated. The beats, production and lyrical originality means you’ll return to ‘Yessir Whatever’ more than even it’s creator may realise. It doesn’t have the flow of his two previous albums under this guise and it may seem like nothing more than an overlong EP masquerading as an album but there is no doubting the quality of what is here.

30: Darkstar

News From Nowhere (2013)

‘News From Nowhere’ has been lumped in with all the other Animal Collective-lite albums that have been puked out since ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion”. These counterfeit efforts have been springing up all over the place since 2009 as artists attempt to replicate the Psychedelic Pop experimentalism that Animal Collective pulled off so perfectly. It’s harsh to shove ‘News From Nowhere’ in with these releases as it’s a far more original and ambient experience. Even when they do climb upon the Neo-Psychedelia bandwagon they have a good enough grasp of a melody to make it worthwhile. The best thing about ‘News From Nowhere’ though is that it makes you believe Darkstar have it them to do even better.

29: Phoenix

Bankrupt! (2013)

‘Bankrupt!’ is a longer album than it seems. As you reach the final slice of 80′s pop in ‘Oblique City’ it seems only 10 minutes earlier you were listening to the ridiculously catch first track ‘Entertainment’. Time simply flies by as you drift through a world of sugarcoated snyth pop. Critics may accuse it of  being nothing more than a dispensable pop album with no substance but the majority of the best pop music ever made is carefree and senseless. That’s what makes it pop music and Phoenix have enough hooks to keep you coming back time after time.

28: Daniel Wohl

Corps Exquis (2013)

Some people believe that music isn’t an art-form. It’s worth noting that some people think astrology is a genuine way to judge someone, cancer can be cured by medium of Facebook likes and the phrase “It is what it is” is ever worth saying.  People also say “there’s no such word as can’t” even though if you write ‘can’t’ with the spell check on, it will NOT be underlined in red. Basically people are fucking idiots. “Corps Exquis” is proof of this. This is art. Just read the promotional release for it. It states that it’s a “multimedia chamber opera in nine consecutive parts” and that it is “based on a surrealist parlor game from the 1920′s”. Even if it was just 45 minutes of a man saying “Where is the cheese, Father?” in a monotone voice it would still be art. The fact it often achieves the same sort of beauty and emotional connection that the best work of Steve Reich and Phillip Glass does makes it even more arty. You fucking DICKS.

27: Arcade Fire

Reflektor (2013)

Like any band who have produced such a an universally acclaimed album, Arcade Fire will forever be dogged by the same question when they present something new to the world.  ”Is it is as good as Funeral?”. Unfortunately the answer in this case is no. It’s way too cluttered, it’s needlessly over-long and at least 3 songs could be wiped off and wouldn’t be missed. That said this is Arcade Fire and the majority of stuff on ‘Reflektor’ is excellent. As a whole it recalls the The Clash and their sprawling 3 disc masterpiece ‘Sandinista’. A million and one things have been thrown into the pot as genres ranging from Reggae to Electro-Disco drift around at one with each other. Arcade Fire could have made another ‘Funeral’ or even another ‘Suburbs’ but unlike fellow Indie giants such as Kings Of Leon and The Killers, Arcade Fire are still not satisfied. They know the only chance they have of  getting a “Yes” to the question of  ”Is it is as good as Funeral?” is by continuing to push their sound into new directions.

26: Classixx

Hanging Gardens (2013)

Chocolate. That’s how I’d sum up “Hanging Gardens”. It’s sweet, filling, at times sickly and often makes you feel guilty but you always go back for more. This hour long effort may be hard to stomach in one sitting but there is no doubting the quality of the music you are gorging on. The album is choc a block with pop hooks, sprinkled with Human League-esque vocals and evokes 80′s nostalgia like a Curlywurly. I’ll stop using the chocolate analogy now because it’s feels like I’m just fudging the review. Ha ha ha what a card I am. WANKER

25: Autechre

Exai (2013)

I’ve always struggled to explain into words what it is I get out of the music Autechre produce. Their mechanical volatile pieces are so far removed human emotion that you could be forgiven for thinking you are listening to ‘Sound Effects From A Building Site: Part One”. I often get the suspicion that they are taking the piss and one day Rob Brown and Sean Booth are going to turn round and say “All that stuff we did was just nonsense and we knocked out each track whilst we take a shit”. If they do make their music whilst on the shitter then they better start checking their diets because ‘Exai’ is one fucking long album. More importantly it’s another fascinating work. There’s not much different here in terms of the sound the Rochdale boys somehow dreamt up somewhere around 1997 but the cold ghostly sound of two grown men kicking the fuck out of a lifeless machine that you end up genuinely feeling sorry for is still somehow enthralling after all these years. Not many will put this one down as the best they’ve ever done but even fewer will be disappointed with their latest bloody racket.

24: Bibio

Silver Wilkinson (2013)

I imagine Stephen Wilkinson is one disorganized fucker. His albums under the Bibio alias have no structure, are a mishmash of ideas and play out like the work of a schizophrenic rambler who enjoys LSD and horticulture in equal measure. This may mean that he’ll never produce a true 10/10 classic but it also safeguards him from ever making a dull album. In fairness ‘Silver Wilkinson’ is a more focused effort than his last collection ‘Mind Bokeh’ and harks back to the earlier Robbie Basho meets Boards Of Canada inspired work that he first realised on his 2005 debut ‘Fi’. The J Dilla-esque beats can still be found but this is very much a more laid back controlled Bibio that often reawakens insignificant childhood memories that you never knew you’d forgotten about.

23: Brazos

Saltwater (2013)

On the surface, ‘Saltwater’ is your standard Indie Pop fare. A broken affectionate singer telling tales of love and woe to the backdrop of acoustic guitars, strings and synths. The thing is that when that sort of thing is done correctly it’s truly magical. Brazos, the brainchild of Martin McNulty Crane, show that this magic can be still be found among the shite. That ‘Saltwater’ works so well is probably down to the band’s influences that range from Fela Kuti to Can. It’s these indulgences that give Crane’s perfectly crafted pop songs an otherworldly feel as these gorgeous melody’s adapt themselves delightfully to the exotic backdrop and help to create something truly unique and special.

22: Dr. Dog

B-Room (2013)

If you have enjoyed previous releases from Philadelphia lo-fier’s  Dr Dog then you are going to be happy as here’s yet another album crammed full of melodic brilliance. The band are now on their 7th album and throughout ‘B-Room’ you are left scratching your head wondering just where they keeping digging up these tunes. Some will say Dr Dog appeal to the lowest common denominator as their music is neither original nor complex. They stick to a well trodden path that has been walked across by so many 60′s revivalists. The facts are though that when you listen to the catchy heartfelt tunes Dr Dog pull off at ease, you really don’t care whether they are pushing boundaries or merely re-living the past. Sometimes you just want to sing along and have music put you in a good mood. There are few in this day and age who perfect the this task as good as Dr Dog

21: Foxygen

We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (2013)

“We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace And Magic” is quite possibly the least original album of the year. It’s also quite possibly the catchiest. Maybe the reason behind it’s immediacy is that almost every song on the album borrows it’s hook from some famous 60′s gem. ‘On Blue Mountain’ imitates the chorus of ‘Suspicious Minds, ‘San Francisco’ holds a passing resemblance to The Beatles’ ‘Only A Northern Song’ whilst ‘No Destruction’ has the same vibe as mid 60’s Dylan. The fact they are so unashamed about embracing the past just makes the songs sound all the more assured. It’s pop Jim, just as we know it.

20: Queens of the Stone Age

…Like Clockwork (2013)

I liked ‘Era Vulgaris’. I liked it a lot. I liked it enough to say “You know what, I like Era Vulgaris” to people much taller than me. That’s why when I read things in reviews like “A return to form after the disappointing Era Vulgaris” in reference to ‘Like Clockwork’ I shake my head like an arrogant autistic child. ‘Like Clockwork’ isn’t a return to form at all. It’s just another exquisite Queens Of The Stone  album full of swaggering sweaty rock tunes that will have you playing air guitar until you look in the mirror and see what a cock you look. 6 albums down the line and Queens Of The Stone Age still posses the power to make you look like a twat and not give a solitary shit.

19: Laurel Halo

Chance of Rain (2013)

The main gripe critics had of ‘Quarantine’, the previous release from Lauren Halo, was the voice of the american electronic experimentalist. Her deliberately off key vocals shoved some quarters straight towards the earplugs. It’s highly doubtful she has taken any notice of the criticism directed towards her strange Bjork-esque vocals but for whatever reason she has abandoned them completely on ‘Chance Of Rain’. Where once it was the eccentric vocals that initially perked your ears now it’s the myriad of styles that draws you in. The overall vibe of the album is entrenched in the explosion of the 90′s IDM scene. Pretty much everything on this album would sit comfortably next to the likes of Autechre and B12 on one of Warp’s ‘Artificial Intelligence’ compilations. It’s not necessarily music to dance to, more music to explore you mind with. ‘Chance Of Rain’ is the post-party comedown of 2013.

18: Jon Hopkins

Immunity (2013)

Jon Hopkins is a man who has shoved his dirty hands into many musical pies. From Co-Producing Coldplays’ Viva La Vida to doing a collaborative album with Scottish folkie King Creosote, Hopkins is a man who is just as at home in a studio full of guitars as he is in a filthy club. His long term association with fellow musical chameleon Brian Eno seems to have only furthered his ambitions. ‘Immunity’ takes pieces from each of Hopkins’ past pies as he blends together ambiance, techno and dark club beats to create an album of wonderful diversity. For all his range though Hopkins remains a very intimate producer. ‘Immunity’ sounds at it’s best with the lights down as the world sleeps outside. At that moment it becomes  an album to call your own.

17: Arctic Monkeys

AM (2013)

The Arctic Monkeys story is a curious one. In Britain at least, they exploded on the scene like no other Indie band before them. The first two singles went straight in at number one, a feat only usually achieved by X Factor winners who enjoy the luxury of having how many ever million thick people watching them churn out shite every week for 3 months. Since then they have almost totally shunned the limelight and moved into a direction that has earn’t them credit but also seen them lose fans along the way. ‘AM’ is the Sheffield lads’ 5th offering and it’s attracted the biggest hype since their debut. It’s easy to see why. It’s a mix of the Indie pop tunes of the past and the harder Bluesier sound they have been performing since recording ‘Humbug’ with Josh Homme. Arctic Monkeys aren’t kids anymore. They are now a fully formed confident rock band who know exactly what they are doing.

16: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

Push the Sky Away (2013)

If you’ve heard “Push The Sky Away” it may surprise you to learn that Nick Cave is now 56 years old. This is not the sound of your average 56 year old. He sounds more mature and relaxed then he ever has but unlike so many others who have released the amount of music Cave has, he doesn’t in any way sound like a diluted version of his former self. In comparison to the rest of the Cave catalog  ’Push The Sky Away’ is closest in terms of sound to the likes of ‘No More Shall We Part” or “The Boatman’s Call”. Never at any point though does it feel like an attempt to recreate those acclaimed works. “Push The Sky Away” is it’s own man. It’s not as immediate as most of his work but it slowly creeps up on you. Don’t be surprised if this one is being mentioned alongside his best work in the next few years or so.

15: Ghostpoet

Some Say I So I Say Light (2013)

‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ is how Autechre may sound if they were fronted by Tricky. It holds the moodiness of Autechre, the beats and drawl of the Trickster whilst keeping all the hallmarks that Obaro Ejimiwe, better known as Ghostpoet, first brought to us on his  2011 debut ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’.  Whilst you may miss the straightforwardness of the lyrics he brought to us with ‘Peanut…., ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’
shows a greater depth in every area. His lyrics are more abstract this time around and they sit well with his new musical horizons that see him move away from the low key Burial style arrangements into a more expansive sound that display the range of the experimentation Ejimiwe is putting into his music. When he first came onto the scene Ghostpoet was touted as hot new thing in UK Hip Hop. With ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’ he’s shown he doesn’t fit into any genre other than the one he seems to be creating for himself.

14: I Am Kloot

Let It All In (2013)

In another life, it would be I Am Kloot selling out stadiums and winning Brit awards not Elbow. The two bands share a similar sound and Guy Garvey himself produced Kloot’s latest effort. I don’t know, maybe that Kloot front-man John Bramwell looks like bird watcher Bill Oddie is the reason they remain criminally overlooked. Whilst they do have many comparisons with Elbow, I Am Kloot have a more refined, less bombastic approach to their music. Whereas with Elbow the arrangements hit you square on in the face, on ‘Let Them All In’ they act to create a more serene atmosphere that lets the songs fully breath.

John Bramwell has been releasing albums for 25 years now. It’s quite incredible that after all this time he is still producing work that can be put alongside his best. With ‘Let It All In’ he has once again shown a seemingly uninterested world what they have been missing out on.

13: The Felt Tips

Symbolic Violence (2013)

It’s like the Jangle Pop scene of the 80′s never went away with The Felt Tips. People will immediately reference The Smiths but in truth their sound is closer to the endearing sarcastic tone of Hull favorites The Housemartins. There’s a story in every song on ‘Symbolic Violence’ and whether they touch on anorexia or confessions of bullying they all somehow manage to contain a cheeky wink that initially deceives the listener into happily singing along to such personal subjects. It soon becomes clear The Felt Tips irresistible pop has a greater depth than first realised and makes ‘Symbolic Violence’ an album you’ll come back to far more than you initially thought you would.

12: Haiku Salut

Tricolore (2013)

The members of Haiku Salut clearly have a large record collection. ‘Tricolore’ is a work that can’t be pigeonholed into a single genre. It’s not that the songs are detached from each other, much the opposite, it’s that every song shoehorns in a whole host of disassociated influences to create one beautiful whole. On the one hand the music recalls the playful organic sound of Penguin Cafe Orchestra. On the other it lends ideas from experimental ambient electronic artists such as Helios and Mum. There’s also an undoubted nod towards traditional folk music and twee pop. Despite the multiple styles ‘Tricolore’ sounds remarkably uncluttered. It’s a homely, dainty album, as fragile as a snowflake falling from a tree on a winters day. That it’s the debut from the all female three-piece is really quite staggering. Haiku Salut have arrived fully formed.

11: Daft Punk

Random Access Memories (2013)

The likelihood is that you’ve already made your mind up on this one. By being the most hyped album of the year, ‘Random Access Memories’ has forced everyone into having an unyielding opinion on it. You’re either with it or you’re not. It’s funny that it’s this one, out of all the Daft Punk albums, that has created the biggest splash as musically It’s quite easily the most innocuous work they have ever done. ‘Random Access Memories’ is essentially a modern easy listening record. Disco lounge if you will. It’s an album that has as much in common with Burt Bacharach and Christopher Cross as Donna Summer and Chic. A dreamlike stroll around the New York clubs of yesteryear that you’ve only really seen on TV. Ignore the hype, ‘Random Access Memories’ is simply a gentle and charming cruise into a world you never knew.

10: Oneohtrix Point Never

R Plus Seven (2013)

I love Plunderphonics. Bloody Plunderphonics, I bloody love it. In my mind splicing bits of tracks from totally unconnected places immediately gives off that feeling of nostalgia that I have an unhealthy obsession with. Probably due to the fact I have achieved nothing in life and my earliest memories are ones of endless possibility. If I could live my life again I would DEFINITELY have completed Monkey Island 2. It’s good going back to a time when you didn’t get stuck on the fucking last level of a bastard game and ‘R Plus Seven’ is a great soundtrack to live out those times again and again. Many people in IDM community have shown their disappointment with Daniel Loptain’s latest release under his main pseudonym Oneohtrix Point Never. Some believe this sort of thing has been done better before but for real people ‘R Plus Seven ‘ will sound like a totally fresh and original work. It hires ideas from the likes of Steve Reich, Laurie Anderson and Phillip Glass but at the same time it sounds like nothing like them. Laptain has created an unbelievably pretty album that dazzles you whilst you stand wearing retro sunglasses thinking about VHS logos from a time when you still believed you would one day complete Monkey Island 2.  .

9: Tyler, the Creator

Wolf (2013)

He’s easy to hate, Tyler. What with being a immature racist homophobe and all. Of course out of all those accusations the only one that holds any real weight is the immature one. Tyler undoubtedly deserves his reputation as being a childish punk. Here’s the thing though. Those who like the high school kid trying to be Eminem side to Tyler’s work are going to be disappointed with ‘Wolf’. I don’t want to use the word ‘maturity’ in regards to this album or anything else that Tyler does as it’s an oxymoron. ‘Wolf’ is however a lot less cartoonish than anything he has produced before. The majority of songs here have a laid back, R&B feel to them as Tyler talks of the familiar hip-hop issues such as family problems, obsessive fans and rape. Yes, Tyler still raps about rape but it’s not simply shocking for shockings sake and is fairly subtly dropped in. As subtle as a couplet about rape can be anyway.

‘Wolf’ is prettier and more focused than both ‘Bastard and ‘Gobin’. It’s the first time Tyler has found a distinct sound and the first time his lyrical content has seemed justifiable. He’s kept the aggression but moved into a more mature place. Oh fuck, there’s that word.

8: Public Service Broadcasting

Inform – Educate – Entertain (2013)

‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ messes with your mind more than you may first realise. It’s carefree approach and perky upbeat Indie Electronica background makes you immediately feel at home. The imagery the music creates puts your mind into a false sense of security because when you dig a bit deeper things start getting a bit more ominous. The spoken word clips scattered all around this album relive the propaganda films that filled the airwaves during WW2 and it’s aftermath. All of a sudden you are taken back to Cold War era Britain. A time when fear, whether real or fake, left a whole nation clasped with paranoia. Just like the public deceleration’s from the people in power from that time, “Inform – Educate – Entertain” tells you there’s nothing fear whilst also subtly letting you know that there could be everything to fear.

I’m not sure where Public Service Broadcasting can go from here. I’m not sure whether their initial catch of using spoken word educational snippets over indie-electro sounds will be seen as anything other than a novelty in 12 months time. I’m not sure whether I will still be listening to them in 12 months time. What I do know though is that as I sit here in 2013, ‘Inform – Educate – Entertain’ makes for one hugely enjoyable and unique listen.

7: Space Dimension Controller

Welcome to Mikrosector-50 (2013)

‘Welcome To Microsector-50′ has been in the pipeline for a while. In 2011 Jack Hamill made a prequel to this album with a full length effort in itself called ‘The Pathway to Tiraquon6′. It’s clear the Space Dimension Controller project is something Hamill has spent an awful lot of time playing with and perfecting. It shows too. This isn’t a random collection of Electro Funk tunes thrown together on a whim. It’s a mini Sci-Fi movie. There are fully fleshed out characters, spoken word dialogues and scenes that long time fans of 80’s Sci Fi B-Movies will be able to associate with. It’s undoubtedly as cheesy as the movies it’s taken it’s influence from but it does everything with a knowing wink. It’s the kid at the party who has seen all the dud films, laughs at them but also manages to see the beauty in them.

Taking in the odd track from this unbelievably ambitious album couldn’t begin to explain what it has to offer as a whole. You’ll immediately appreciate the sheer expansiveness of the sound design and in most places you’ll find yourself playing air bass thinking you are a Jedi Knight at a disco but playing it from beginning to end, straight through, is the only way you’ll fully realise the magnitude of “Welcome To Microsector-50”.

6: The Kniφe

Shaking the Habitual (2013)

I’ll cut to the chase. This is the best album The Knife have done. It’s hard to know how they will better it. Maybe by taking out the 20 minute drone track ‘Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized’ but even that track adds to the overall demented and elusive nature of the album. Maybe that track just being there pushes ‘Shaking the Habitual’ from the odd into the disturbing territory. Make no mistake this is the album that will forever play in your head when you finally get sectioned (none us really die we just all get sectioned in the end and think we’ve died. That’s just a fact).

It’s not for everyone of course. Something this disconcerting will never be one for all the family. Some will say it’s pretentious or overblown. Others may go as far as saying it’s unlistenable whilst other will claim “It’s art, baby”. I say it’s art. (I don’t say baby though. I’m not a chauvinist). ‘Shaking the Habitual’ is a soundtrack to the most disturbing parts of your brain. How many times you want to go there is your choice but once you do there’s no getting out.

Unless you press stop. Then everything goes back to normal.

5: Earl Sweatshirt

Doris (2013)

Of all the Odd Future crew, Earl Sweatshirt gained the biggest initial hype. He was just 16 when in 2010 he released his mix tape ‘Earl’. People fawned over the kid with the vile tongue and he was hailed as the best natural rapper to emerge from the entire Odd Future collective. It’s all gone a bit quiet since then. ‘Doris’ is Sweatshirt’s first release since ‘Earl’ earned him the plaudits. In the time he has been away, Frank Ocean has taken Tyler The Creator’s crown of the most talked about member of Odd Future and has taken the entire group from the underground buzz world well and truly into the mainstream.

It’s safe to say that ‘Doris’ won’t have the same impact as ‘Channel Orange’. What it does do though live up to the initial Earl Sweatshirt hype. It’s undoubtedly all over the place. Guest collaborates from RZA to Pharrell pop up at every turn as the music switches from MF Doom style soulful production to Jazzy interludes more reminiscent of A Tribe Called Quest. Despite the confusion ‘Doris’ showcases everything you knew Sweatshirt had in him and more. His effortless rapping style lends itself perfectly to the themes discussed in tracks such as ‘Burgundy’ and ‘Chum’. He sounds vulnerable. Totally at the odds with the crazed Sweatshirt of 2010 and the one he resurrects at times on this album with tracks like ‘Whoa’. ‘Doris’ is flawed brilliance. An album that indicates it’s creator doesn’t yet understand himself. That’s the reason why ‘Doris’ is so captivating. It’s shows exactly where Sweatshirt is right now, proves he can only get better and confirms that he is still the one to watch out for.

4: Fuck Buttons

Slow Focus (2013)

If Phil Spector wasn’t in jail I’d like to ask him his opinion on Fuck Buttons. The ‘wall of sound’ term may be have been coined by ‘Mad Speccy Specs’ but Fuck Buttons are an ACTUAL wall of sound. I mean literally. They are literally a wall of sound. That’s what I’m saying. If you ran into their music you would be knocked out. Simple as that mate. If I had to pick a wall it most resembles then i’d go for The Berlin Wall. Loud yet lonely. A significant piece that sits uneasy as two conflicting cultures stand either side of it totally ready and resigned to war. A wall of war.

You may want me to comment on ‘Slow Focus’ as an album rather than this half arsed abstract nonsense. You know, like what the music is like or where it sits in comparison to the rest of Fuck Buttons material.  Walls to that idea. All you need to ask yourself is is are you ready to bring on the wall?

3: Karl Hyde

Edgeland (2013)

People only familiar with the thumping techno singles that Underworld are renowned for may be surprised by the first solo album of their lead singer Karl Hyde. Those who have dug a little deeper into the back catalog of the long standing group will be more aware that they have always possessed a softer side that is in opposition to their more celebrated hard hitting elecrtonica. ‘Edgeland’ though is essentially a work totally apart from anything Underworld have produced. Quirky, catchy and offbeat it often resembles ‘Before and After Science’ era Brian Eno whilst the mundane urban landscapes that Hyde’s words paint lend a nod to the likes of Morrissey and Jarvis. It’s a very English record. One that evokes images of looking outside a rain stained bus window onto a wet street where grey skies overlook children jumping into puddles outside an emptying school.

Unlike most solo projects, ‘Edgeland’ is not only a worthwhile effort but one that totally changes ones perspective of the artist in question. Due to the disappointment of recent releases many fans have questioned whether Hyde and band-mate Rick Smith have anywhere left to go. On ‘Edgeland’, Hyde has proved beyond doubt that there’s still much more in the cannon.  It’s hard to believe something as beautiful as ‘Angel Cafe’ or ‘Your Perfume Was The Best Thing’  would be braved on an album featuring the Underworld logo and whilst no-one in their right mind would say ‘Edgeland’ marks the end of the band that made his name it certainly opens up a new exciting chapter for Hyde.

2: Sigur Rós

Kveikur (2013)

Sigur Ros are fucking back. I know they haven’t really been away but this is the real Sigur Ros. This isn’t the safe, yet at times beautiful, “Valtari” or the trying a bit too hard to change ‘Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’. No this is the Sigur Ros you fell in love with all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Kveikur’ is a very different beast to the the golden era of the Icelandic band. It’s a much more aggressive work. Not necessarily aggressive in terms of sound but more in mood. That it’s attracted the attention of dyed in the wool metal heads isn’t that much of a surprise.  It’s not metal at all of course but the atmosphere is allied with that sound. It’s a cold, desolate work that borders on a sense of emptiness and despair. Sigur Ros being what they are though don’t quite take you over edge. They show you the bleakness then bring you back into the warmth before you have time to jump. By the time the more familiar sounding Sigur Ros tracks come on you welcome them like an old lover you never truly got over.

‘Kveikur’ plays out like the film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’. It’s a turbulent album that ends with smiles all round. That Sigur Ros are making music this powerful and emotive whilst still moving forward with their sound demonstrates how good they actually are. Make no mistake, when people hark back to ‘our times’ to judge the musical outputs of the past, Sigur Ros will be lauded as one of the true greats. That may have been obvious even before ‘Kveikur’ but what this album has done is not just cement their place in history but glorified it even further.

1: Boards of Canada

Tomorrow’s Harvest (2013)

The marketing campaign that Boards Of Canada and Warp Records used to promote ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ could only work with a certain fanbase. The first inkling that the Scottish duo were ready to release their first material in 8 years came when someone came across a mysterious Boards of Canada 12″ vinyl at Other Music Record Store in New York titled ‘—— / —— / —— / XXXXXX / —— / ——’. The vinyl contained only a brief musical vignette followed by 6 numbers in an automated voice.  Initial skepticism from long term fans that this was some elaborate trolling by someone who knew the frenzy they would create by faking this Vinyl was put to bed when a blink and you miss it snapshot of the code from the record found in New York was added to the video of ‘Julie and Candy’ on the bands official Youtube page. As the days progressed, a further five codes were released through various media outlets leaving fans of the band with an overall 36 digit code. Once all the codes had been released to the official Boards Of Canada website created a link to another site called cosecha-transmisiones.com. Once on the site a login screen appeared and by typing in all the combined codes that had been collected the site directed you towards a video which revealed the album’s title, Tomorrow’s Harvest, and it’s release date of June 10.

Whatever you think of this campaign, it’s a marketing strategy that just wouldn’t work if someone like Céline Dion tried it. Boards Of Canada have created a sound that has totally immersed it’s fans to the point where the band have inadvertently become almost like cult leaders. Their music has made such an impression on it’s listeners that any sound they put out is dissected and evaluated like a new life form.

When the devotion to a band is this strong it’s natural to worry that their next offering may disappoint you and destroy the God-like status you have given them. The thing with Boards Of Canada though is that you knew they wouldn’t let you down. ‘Tomorrows Harvest’ is every bit as good as you know it would be. In true Boc style the songs feel like they were already in your life before the release. Every sound seems like it’s been in your head since childhood but is now only being accepted by your conscious mind. They paint images that you are familiar with but at the same time can’t recall where you first saw them. They make music so personal that you can’t quite comprehend that other listeners could possibly be feeling what you are. It’s music that seems your own but it’s a communal sound. People are having the same experiences and receiving the same emotional response from the soundscapes as you are.

‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is quite a different creation to the work Boards Of Canada have released previously. It’s easily the most desolate album they have ever done. If  ‘Geogaddi’ is the sound of your childhood nightmares being brought to life then ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ is your adult fears confronting you. It’s a cold, dark world that you have no real control over. ‘Life is Real’ and ‘New Seeds’ demonstrate that there are places where you can find comfort but by the closing track ‘Semena Mertvykh’ you’re left with the lingering feeling that you are only in the hands of the self chosen Gods that rule you. It’s Orwell’s 1984 in music form. It subtly sucks you in. Fascinates and terrorises you in equal measure. By the end the real world itself seems different. It holds such power that once you have let it in, you’ll never get it out.

Some of the albums on this list will serve as reminders to how good 2013 was. Some will become all time favorites. Some will lose their appeal over time. Some will turn out to be nothing but a half forgotten memory of times gone by. ‘Tomorrow’s Harvest’ though has already made unbreakable emotional connections. It’s here to stay. These things are just too personal to forget. Another flawless Boards of Canada release to study and dissect until the next one comes along.

Top 50 Albums of 2013

Written By Andrew Hague

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