My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Four - 13-10
Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22
// 21 - 18
// 17 - 14
// 13 - 10
// 9 - 6
// 5 - 2
13. Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen
/ Order CD/LP
kick-started 2013 with their infectious second album Waiting For Something To Happen
, a glorious release full of beautifully melodic boy-girl harmonies, precise rhythms and blissed-out guitars that built on the signature sound perfected on their debut with the addition of bright, breezy tunes and more lyrics about the wistful remembrance of youth rather than the darkly themed subjects of suicide hot-spots and graveyards!
"My Heart Beats" was the first track we hard from the record and it gives a fine example of their purposefully paced jangle-pop sound which has soon seen the quartet become one of the flag-bearers of this generation's indie pop brand. An abundance of vocal interplay with sweetly sung verses and infectious choruses liable to hang around in your head for days. Part of the bands magic is that they have perfected the knack of making every one of their tracks sound like something you're already familiar with, it puts you straight and ease and brings immediate joy.
Highlights are everywhere, the charming "Teenage" is a cute and unadulterated pop tune, "Buried Alive" is equally playful swooning about the chance of immediate death and "Broken Toy" rattles with urgent, compulsive beauty. Elsewhere though the album is more contemplative, my favourite of which is "Last Conversation", the gloriously melancholic closing track which is perhaps the most complete track the band have produced to date.
Ordering the album from Rough Trade is advised, not only do get the LP but you also get a bonus EP of cover versions - you can't grumble at that.
12. The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law
/ Order CD/LP
Following The Big Roar
, my album of 2011 was always going to be a difficult task. Did The Joy Formidable
achievement the almost impossible with January's Wolf's Law
? The simple answer is Yes and no.
The album is definitely that of a growing band, literally at times. Full of vast, ambitious soundscapes where punishingly drums combine with giant-sized guitar riffs and intense vocals.
At times it works perfectly, the joyous "Tendons" is pretty close to the formula of the debut album, a real cacophony of devastating guitar riffs, Rhydian's deep bass combine with whirlwind drums and Ritzy's beautiful, ethereal vocal, soaring and searing amongst softer tranquil moments. It's a track pretty close to perfection. The album's preceding singles work well too, "Cholla" (the title of which is clearly inspired by the bands touring and recording trips across America) gives us a real sign of The Joy Formidable's lofty ambitions, a no-nonsense beast with heavy, distorted guitars, punishing beats and ripping vocals. Exactly what some people think the band do best and "This Ladder Is Ours" is similarly rip-roaring combining Ritzy's identifiable vocals with sky-scraping guitars and frenetic drums - it exemplifies the stratospheric arena-filling noise that the band's live show has developed.
The consequence though, at times is melody, for me, and that's a die hard TJF fan, the album is just too bombastic. Take the epic "Maw Maw Song" for example or the Americanised rock of "Bats" or "Little Blimp", it's just too excessive for me. Still, those blips are made up for by softer moments such as the devastating "Silent Treatment", a much welcome respite from the adrenaline pumping noise before and a stand-alone moment of really beauty and intimacy with lyrics that send shivers through you (especially when you realise the turmoil the band were going through whilst recording the record with Ritzy and Rhydian splitting up from a long-term relationship).
"The Turnaround" is another favourite, drenched in full string arrangements it brings out the true beauty of this exceptional band with the rest of the albums closing tracks working well too. "Forest Serenade" is Wolf's Law's
attempt at "Whirring" and the title track "Wolf's Law" (on the album as a hidden track) is an incredible slow-burn piano beauty which plays to the bands exquisite loud/quiet dynamics, slowly building around heart-melting vocals with twinkling keys building in momentum to a devastating crescendo of colliding beauty and noise. Here's more like that on album three...
11. London Grammar - If You Wait
- Order CD/LP
were seemingly talked about more because they failed to get into the Mercury Prize nomination list announced on the same day as their debut album If You Wait
, a strange thing for magazines to lead with when the album should be played for all the right reasons, a debut that is the perfect exercise in restraint and highlights the extraordinary voice of Hannah Reid to devastating results.
I'll start with my favourite, the soaring, emotive ballad "Wasting All My Young Years", where glacial keys, atmospheric guitars and one of the years best vocal deliveries combine to dazzling effects. It builds with graceful yet soaring grandeur through piano led twinklings and smooth electro-beats but it is Reid's stunning voice that remains with you longest.
The album has similarly spine-tingling moments throughout, the string laden title-track closes the album on perhaps the most poignant moment, the bewitching "Shyer's" spidery guitar patterns, then there's the beautiful slow-burn balled "Hey Now" or "Strong", whose subtle electronic textures maybe downbeat but they also embrace emotion and strength in immeasurable quantity.
A cover of Kavinsky's "Nightcall" is stripped to the bared of bones, carefully considered and immaculately delivered, the Drive soundtrack modern day classic soon becomes a bitter-sweet and elegant ballad that like much of the album, is a real breath of fresh air and I really have to mention the devastating "Interlude" too, as vulnerable and haunting a moment in this, the most wintry and brilliant of listens. MP judges - you were wrong.
10. Anna Von Hausswolff - Ceremony
/ Order CD/LP
Gothenburg's Anna Von Hausswollf
released her second, but first with a world-wide release Ceremony
in June, a captivating, uncompromising vision of darkness and the morose that combines dramatic, vastly ambitious cinematic soundscapes with intense vocals and lyrical themes that come across as a study of loss and death. Don't turn away though, it's not all quite as bleak as it sounds, quite the opposite in fact, Ceremony
is almost joyous at times and amongst the dark and foreboding moments, light is never far away.
After opening with a long, dense instrumental
and following with "Deathbed" it is some ten minutes before we actually get to hear any vocals, a testament in itself that perhaps this is not an album for everyone. The track soon comes the closest to matching the intensity of Anna's live show (the clear winner of my live show of the year by the way, more on that another time), starting with a slow, marching crawl that could be the soundtrack to a stalking scene from a horror move before soaring instrumentation swells announce the arrival of Anna's dramatic, transfixing vocals. The next track " Mountains Crave" is the most accessible moment, a hypnotic groove of bright, bubbling organ keys and languid guitars float amongst Anna's haunting vocals to carrying you to off some otherworldly place of beauty.
The record ebbs and flows throughout, from "Red Sun's" stark, brooding power to the melancholy of "Goodbye" to the serene elegance of "Liturgy of Light", a devastatingly beautiful track which flutters around soft guitar textures and the wave after wave of cascading piano which introduces "Ocean". Though Ceremony
may peak with "Funeral For My Future Children", the bleakest of titles leads into the albums most celebratory of moments where rattling percussion and looping organ create a the most expressive of gothic soundscapes against Anna's hypnotic vocals, the result is a creative and experimental album that stays with you long into the night.