Just as we did with our other lists this month, EPs of the Year and Tracks of the Year, we have decided to put all ten of our favourite albums of 2013 into one easy to read list. And, as with our 2014 Preview series, we have also added some honourable mentions of albums that we loved but didn’t quite make it into our final ten.
Every year when we sit down to work out our albums of the year, we always end up surprising ourselves in some way or other. This year was no different and one thing that caught our attention, though probably means very little, was the geographical make up of the list, with seven of the ten albums coming from the USA and only three from the UK, and how many (eight) were debut albums. Evidently we like new things from overseas very much.
Anyway, here you go, all in one place, our favourite albums of the year. Just click on the album title to be taken to the original post and to read more about each one.
Enjoy and see you next week for some regular blog posts and festive fun as well.
#10: Superhumanoids – Exhibitionists
”All throughout Exhibitionists, melodies swoop and swoon, flying to the sun and melting into considered and analytical lyrics. Light and dark meet, mix and leave hand-in-hand, carried off on the marbled tide of heady and vibrant synth-pop and more downtempo and icy soundscapes. The Los Angeles based band has created sounds that dance, sway and float in equal measure and the result is an absolute delight.”
#9: Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone
”Her vocals, so distinctive and unlike almost anything else you’ve ever heard, slip seamlessly from style to style. Warmth and frost, steel like determination and vulnerable insecurity, world weary wisdom and wide-eyed naivety; all feature and all feel entirely natural. She has paid her dues, taken her licks and learnt her lessons. This education, her talent and the fact that she probably bleeds music and Memphis has all come together in a glorious whole and the result is a fantastically varied and captivating album.”
#8: Caveman – Caveman
”Like a sprawling desert, Caveman is broad and spread out as far as the eye can see. Blissfully dreamy guitars wash away the world on lullabies of shimmering heat haze reverb, while the vocals of Matthew Iwanusa float wistfully through your mind and off to the distant horizon.”
#7: Rhye – Woman
”The songs are rich and smooth like a vintage red wine in the company of good friends. Robin Hannibal’s arrangements are deft, delicate and subtle, awash with a languid sophistication, offering glimpses into the intimacy of love, be it full and joyous or pained, private and profound.”
#6: London Grammar – If You Wait
”It is a groundswell of emotion, rising up to the sky and stirring the soul, sending shivers down spines and ripples of Goosebumps across arms. Particularly during moments of quiet, haunting breaths, like those that give way to a compelling, crashing rhythm on “Stay Awake”, or the simple piano intro to “Sights”.”
#5: Day Joy – Go To Sleep, Mess
” Songs trickle gently along, rippling before they unexpectedly swell and rise; lifting you high and carrying you away on a beautiful tide of delicate emotion. Their spectral melodies create a sense of blurriness, like the world seen through rain speckled glasses. Your mind is distorted and made fuzzy by the echoing, swirling sounds and vocals as they shimmer and float on the breeze.”
#4: Young Hunting – Hazel
”There is no urgency to Hazel, it is staid, serene like a lake with not a ripple on its surface but amongst the gorgeous and woozy instrumentals, there is darkness. It is dream-pop but laced with foreboding, a feeling that something is about to upset this idyllic scenario. This sense of unease is perhaps best represented by “Baby’s First Steps”, a track that sounds like a late drive along a 1950’s mountain road, loved one in the passenger seat after a pleasant evening with friends. The night is clear and the road is empty, but the audience knows all is not right.”
#3: Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain
”It is far too easy to get lost in the perceived gimmick of Public Service Broadcasting and to our mind that misses the point. The samples are critical of course, but the beauty and enjoyment comes from how they are used and woven into complimentary sounds to convey a narrative, emotion, excitement and energy.”
#2: Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
” Chvrches are exciting. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook wield sonic weapons like a pair of skittish electro-ninjas; flipping, kicking and letting loose shurikens of rapid beats and synth lines with deadly precision while Lauren Mayberry’s sweet emotive vocals rise up above them as if summoned by some mystical enchantress.”
#1: John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
”Here Grant plays with genres more than before as well. Stark electronic melodies and rough synths are juxtaposed with soft, mellifluous harmonies with the guesting (and understated wonderfulness of) Sinead O’Connor and his floating, winsome vocals. But this variety of styles embraced within the album could be seen as representation of the tumultuous variety of emotions and mood swings one undergoes when experiencing and coming to terms with heartbreak. For this is undeniably a break-up album. An album of a man who has been knifed in the heart by a shattered relationship and is coming to terms with the anger, depression, desire and love that remains in his soul.”
Vuvuvultures – Push / Pull
There is a sense of foreboding, of death and of something much bigger than us, of something beyond our comprehension that is prevalent throughout. Be it the portentous, doom laden drum beats and bass sounds that awake “The Professional” or the foot-stomping bluesy sleaze of “Your Thoughts Are A Plague”, cataclysmic events are only moments away. Vuvuvultures have brought the end of this world with them and its noise is addictive.
Guitars shudder and grind, basslines throb and groove, drumbeats pound and scatter and above it all, vocals soar and caress. And within, sometimes buried, sometimes bursting forth beyond these instruments are the electronics, the ghosts in the machine that are desperate to break out. Little glitchy moments here, synthy wails there, digital flourishes that embellish and enhance. On “Tell No One” especially, the machines are coming and the electronics give it an extra feeling of danger, of despair and of impending menace.
Peppered within the album too are fleeting moments where they have taken over entirely, the A.I finding a way to circumvent its masters and the machines talk to one another. They appear at the end of the “Whatever You Will” and the slower undulations of the snake like “Empurrar/Puxar” (Push/Pull in Portuguese) which close the album give way to a minute or so of digital whirring and twitching, calling out to its brothers and signalling perhaps the next stage of Vuvuvultures evolution.
“Push/Pull” is on Energy Snake Records / Cadiz and can be ordered here.
Ms Mr – Secondhand Rapture
MS MR resides in a world of the macabre, a world of glitchy electronics, incessant rhythms, swirling strings and deliciously gloomy vocal harmonies. ”We really get off and thrive on a certain level of uneasiness and suspense” Lizzy told us, and that is apparent throughout Secondhand Rapture. Be it the upbeat, clap-happy fun of “Salty Sweet” or the slower melancholy of “Twenty Seven” and “This Isn’t Control”, there is always a sense of disquiet and drama within. It’s just how pop should be, full of big, majestic melodies and hooks big enough to catch a whale. The brilliantly brooding “BTSK” even contains a synth line that is oddly reminiscent of some unnecessarily successful 90s euro-dance, it sounds amazing.
There are so many highlights within; it is almost like a greatest hit compilation. Picking the next single is more taxing than trying a Rubik’s cube while drunk but our money would be on “No Trace”. It’s a beautiful and brutally theatrical piece of noir-pop, full of attitude and sass as well as trademark MS MR rhythms and striking film score-esque strings that urgently harry and batter the listener into sublime submission.
MS MR have been hitting home runs since they came out swinging last year and after the success and acclaim of their previous singles, videos and EP, with Secondhand Rapture they may well have just hit a grand slam.
Secondhand Rapture is available digitally from iTunes.
Little Tybee – For Distant Viewing
After opening with some delightful, occasional tropical sounding, jazzy folk sounds, we are treated to four minutes of swooshing instrumentalism, laced with gentle prog-rock sensibilities on “Fantastic Planet”. “Herman” drips with aquatic, almost sonar style elements that complement the rich string orchestration before, seemingly out of no-where, dropping in a surprising moment of grinding reverb. It is as unexpected as it is perfect, but it remains the only fleeting moment of rough with the otherwise very smooth.
For Distant Viewing inculcates a care free attitude in its listener. Soothing, heavenly strings entwine with Brock Scott’s rich and slightly sweet vocals as they lick flame like around the rat-a-tat of percussion and the light twang of guitar. It feels fresh at every listen, as if it has just been conceived, improvised, jammed. It is an album that will make you smile, make you sway and hell, maybe even kick off your shoes and have a little shuffle.
Named after an island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, the music of Little Tybee has a sun kissed feel, not bleached out and surf swept, but bright and breezy. Part Vampire Weekend, part Simon and Garfunkel, perhaps even part Juan Zelada (for they have his charm in their song writing), it is like a glorious summer’s day, it is to be revelled in.
’For Distant Viewing’ is out on Paper Garden Records and can be ordered here.
Cherokee Red – Cherokee Red
When you start swaying softly as soon as you start listening to an album, you know you are in for a treat, and so it is with the eponymous debut album of Pennsylvania’s Cherokee Red. It begins with the mellifluous gorgeousness of “Veya Con Dios” and closes with the so-soft-and-delicate-it-could-actually-be-a-lullaby “Blissful Blows”. In between are 9 more tracks of wistful and swoonsome beauty.
“Veya Con Dios” for example, is so pretty you could stick a crown on it and it would win pageants. It’s so beautiful you could frame it and hang it in the Louvre; it’s so … you get the idea, it’s gorgeous. The guitar strums softly as the melody floats like the proverbial wave lapping against the shore; there’s not a cloud in the sky as the sun glistens above you on this deserted beach. It is pure calm and relaxation, Christiana Bartolini’s vocals, from the opening ‘do do, do-do-do-do-do-do-do’, massages away your cares and worries. It’s dreamy, but not in a dreampop way, more a teenage girl describing the High School hunk kind of way.
Bartolini’s vocals are a spoonful of sugar that could make the worst news in the world seem utterly delightful and the arrangements are elegant and divine. Even “Heavy Soul”, with its momentary seconds of comparative angularity and wobbliness, is a tender piece of melody that culminates in the sounds of crickets chirping, preparing the quiet night time for the aforementioned lullaby of “Blissful Blows” which follows.
It caresses the brain and brings about a state of tranquillity in the listener. So laid back and luxuriantly relaxing is it that you may find yourself drifting off into a blissful slumber as you listen. It is the musical equivalent of The Little Book of Calm, except it actually works.
Cherokee Red is available to buy here.