The last week was spent looking forward to 2014 with my own series of ten 'Tips For 2014'. I'm pretty happy with the list and look forward to seeing how they get on next year (and the same goes for those who I listed as ones to watch in 2013 that never released anything like Alice Jemima or Bird). This week sees the focus switch to my favourite releases of 2013, I wrote a short-list (well I guess a long-list) of albums I've been listening to the most this year and it came to about 34, I whittled down slowly to what you'll find posted over the next seven days. The order changes depending on what time of the day so don't take much of it all that seriously. There are obviously hundreds more albums released this year that I've not even heard, that's one of the reasons I prefer to say 'my favourite' rather than the best, everything here is my subjective opinion.
2013 was a good year for albums of me. The artists responsible for my favourite album of 2009 (Editors), 2010 (Caitlin Rose) and 2011 (The Joy Formidable) all releasing an album alongside some of my all-time favourites, I'll leave the introduction there to avoid further spoilers and get started. They'll be posted here at a rate of four albums a day for the next six days followed my number one on Sunday. That's if I get all the words written on time - It was my Daughter's first birthday last week so I've been a little bit preoccupied with real life.
My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part One - 25-22
Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22
// 21 - 18
// 17 - 14
// 13 - 10
// 9 - 6
// 5 - 2 // 1
25. Big Deal - June Goom
/ Order CD/LP
I'm kicking off this years album run down with a band that I belatedly fell for in 2013, Big Deal. June Gloom
is their second album and leaves behind the whimsical folk of debut Lights Out
for a big, soaring guitar pop album full of addictive hooks, relentless energy and songs that recall the youthful memories of falling in and out of love.
The best starting point is "Dream Machines", it instantly radiates like the carefree summer anthem it should become with glistening guitars and robotic beats complimenting the dual toned vocals of Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood. "In Your Car" and "Swapping Spit" both adopt a similar formula built around familiar power-pop foundations with distorted fuzz and echoey drums whilst "Teradactol" is a completely different monster formed around a cacophony of noise and aggression.
There are softer acoustic moments that reward equally, opening track "Golden Light" starts as a languid beauty full of saccharine-sweet vocals and perfect harmonies before punchy beats breathe new life into it while the dreamy bliss of "Pristine" is perhaps the most intimate and personal track on the album.
sees Big Deal become a fully realised band clearly having fun and making some pretty sweet noise too - long may that continue.
24 Torres - Torres
/ Order LP
The self titled debut by Mackenzie Scott's Torres
was one of my early year highlights, an affecting but beautiful listen throughout (perhaps too difficult a listen for some) introducing a versatile voice that will knock you for six with a stirring group of songs that provide a white knuckle ride of powerful and devastating emotion.
The track which propelled Torres to the attention of many blogs was the six minute tour-de-force "Honey", a fractured, raw anthem to rival the likes of EMA, full of breathtaking intimacy ("Everything hurts but it’s fine, happens all the time") and intensity with progressive shades of darkness contrasting between Mackenzie's velvet-toned vocal and her accompanying fuzzed-up guitar strums.
The brutally honest "Jealousy and I" possesses one the most personal lines I've heard all year, "I'm suffocating you I know, it's just the way I know to love" amongst bare-boned guitar shimmers is someone pouring out their heart and the result is as spine-tingling a moment as music will give you. The stark and un-rushed "Come to Terms" is equally spellbinding, an acoustic ballad with a heartfelt melody that is beautifully simple and complex at the same time - melancholia has rarely sounded so good.
I can't really do a Torres review without mentioning the gorgeous "November Baby" either, a moment to saviour, bruised, personal and oh so damn beautiful.
23. Oh Land - Wish Bone
- Order CD
Something a little different than my list pick now. The only pure pop album on my list (I decided against including Haim because half their debut was released last year and covered by me at length then). Oh Land's
third LP (I keep reading second but that's ignoring Fauna
) Wish Bone
is nothing short of mood-enhancing brilliance which flutters around multiple genres within 13 dance-floor friendly Scandi-pop anthems.
Nanna Oland Fabricius doesn't just have an effortless knack of producing music full of dynamic energy and propulsive rhythms, she's also got a truly stunning voice and writes brilliant pop hits. "Renaissance Girls" could almost be a sister track to earlier songs "Sun of a Gun" and "White Nights", full of clattering beats and ultra-infectious rhythms topped by Nanna's soaring vocals - it's about the best power pop song I've heard all year.
Wish Bone is an album that doesn't stay on any beaten track, there's the pure Robyn-esque pop of the quirky and brilliant "My Boxer" or the funk-laden groove of the infectious "Pyromaniac" and "3 Chances" (possible the first song to mention both kittens and zombies), a beautiful, saccharine sweet ballad amongst softer, heart-felt moments like "Love You Better" but "Bird in an Aeroplane" is perhaps the best indication of Oh Land's glittery charm.
22. Esben and the Witch - Wash the Sins not Only the Face
/ Order CD/LP
Esben and the Witch
return with 'the difficult second album' Wash the Sins not Only the Face
and produce something that's just as impressive as their debut. Of course the prevalent mood here is stark, chilly beats built around swirling, creeping guitars but Rachel Davies ethereal vocals are more prominent this time and the beautiful scary mood reaches more towards the half light realms of haunting dreamscapes.
Of course there are terrifying moments, "Iceland Spar" though opens the album with typically Esben-esque noise, instantly scorching out your heart with uncontainable energy where pummeling drums and heavy guitars collide before parting for Rachel's chilly vocal chorus, the contrast between the two continues throughout and imposes itself with wondrous levels of claustrophobia. "Deathwaltz" similarly deals in dramatic atmospherics, though not quite the grim death-march the name indicates, shimmering guitarscapes offer a kaleidoscopic tapestry not heard from the band before, creeping with a mysterious intensity amongst unsettling swirls and Rachel Davies haunting, creatures of the night air chanting.
"Despair" is a short and sharp blast of a nightmarish whirlpool whilst the pulsating "Yellow Wood" builds and builds to a truly stunning climax yet my highlight is the soft, haunting intimacy of the icy ballad "The Fall of Glorieta Mountain", a delicate thing of true beauty it sends shivers right through me. Of course, being and Esben and the Witch album we're not allowed to end in blissful melancholy and the track is followed by "Smashed to Pieces in the Still of the Night", a foreboding finale of epic drums and searing guitars.