My Favourite 25 Albums of 2013: Part Five - 9-6
Direct Links to Albums (updated as they become live) : 25 - 22
// 21 - 18
// 17 - 14
// 13 - 10
// 9 - 6
// 5 - 2
9. Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty
/ Order CD/LP
has been one of the most prolific artists of the last few years; two studio albums, a live release and an acoustic album (as well as a split 7" and tribute EP) all in a relatively short period of time and with never a sign of dropping quality either (and worldwide tours on top). Not one to rest on her laurels Chelsea released her third album Pain Is Beauty
in September this year and it might have come as a little shock at first for fans, sure you can instantly recognise Chelsea Wolfe, it's eerie, haunting and made it the dark but it sounds altogether different to anything heard previously. Instead of dirty, sludgy riffs swathed in distortion and the doom-laden drums there's predominantly a stark, minimalist electronic sound to the album and it works perfectly.
"The Warden" sees a thin, ethereal vocal whisper float over stark, industrial beats and glittering synths, its ominously beautiful yet powerfully hypnotic, similarly both "Reins" and "Sick" are full of eerie, droning soundscapes with a cinematic atmosphere that could soundtrack a nightmarish film while "House of Metal" is staggeringly brilliant built around looping electronics and twinkling glockenspiel-esque sounds, pulling you deeper and deeper into Chelsea's immersive world.
There are moments where the scope and ambition far surpasses anything that has come before it, both "Feral Love" and "Kings" are full of electronic energy with a brooding repetition and insurmountable amounts of tension building, the night is long and full of terror indeed while "The Waves Have Come" surpasses both in terms size and scope, an absolute behemoth of a track.
Guitars do make an appearance of course, "We Hit A Wall" is full of echoey guitar patters and doom-laden drums whilst closing track "Lone" is a soft acoustic lament that recalls lasts years Unknown Rooms
album, all in all Pain Is Beauty soon becomes the most fully realised Chelsea Wolfe album from a prolific artist at the top of her game.
8. Lanterns on the Lake - Until The Colours Run
/ Order CD/LP
Lanterns on the Lake's
2011 debut Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
was a stunning introduction to a beautiful, expansive group. The Newcastle quintet returned (with a slightly different line-up) in early September with Until The Colours Run
, an album that takes their cinematic and emotive song-craft to an even higher level with sweeping, progressive atmosphere and pure, majestic beauty.
Opener "Eloide" sets the tone with a slow-burn build the ideal combination of beautiful quiet and aural storm, its bedazzling instrumentation shimmers and the heart-melting vocals of singer-songwriter Hazel Wilde remain in perfect unison as it aims straights for your guts. "The Buffalo Days" similarly beguiles with its vocals firmly at the fore around restrained acoustic guitar and a creeping mist of haunting instrumentation which only adds to the delicate, natural sounding melody.
The title track sounds as dynamic and fresh as anything the quintet have released so far, sweeping you off your feet with kaleidoscopic instrumentation bustling with life, bright and dramatic it's in direct contrast with the albums next track "Green and Gold", the most heart-stirring of moments where Hazel takes solitary control with here soft, twinkling piano keys, emotive vocals and the most intimate of lyrics ("well this was the part where you picked up and started again, you learn fear is just a fleeting thing"...). It's quite devastating.
The albums centre-piece though is "Another Tale From Another English Town", a track which manages to encompass together everything you think of when you think of Lanterns on the Lake, a luscious, tinged-in-melancholy track where strings swoon over gentle but gripping landscapes. In summary Until The Colours Run
is a complete delight and the perfect accompaniment to a nice long drink of whisky - I don't think there is a highest compliment to be paid than that!
7. Daughter - If You Leave
- Order CD/LP
I've written a lot about Daughter
since my initial introducing post in November 2010, two and a half years later an expanded trio released their debut If You Leave
and with it fulfilled all those superlatives and some more with the most potent combination of intimate song-writing, widescreen instrumentals and one of the most emotional and haunting voices in music.
"Youth" is the track which has most come to signal both the bands progression and that of their fan-base, the track has grown since its original place on The Wild Youth EP
with textured drums, shimmering guitars and a pulsating heartbeat more prevalent than ever, characteristics of the progressive Daughter sound, yet still Elena's lyrics remains as bare-souled and enchanting as ever, striking hard with a pure-affecting vulnerability and heartbreaking power. When I heard the track met with a huge roar of excited squeals at recent live shows, the sort of squeals you'd normally associate with X Factor type acts, the trio's journey was made real, Elena's little giggle and smile summed up their feelings perfectly too.
The rest of the album is a masterclass in wounded, confessional lyrics which provide goosebumps moments at almost every turn, "Smother" tugs at your heart strings with its vulnerable guitar lines, the fragile "Shallows" is as tender and restrained as it gets and "Tomorrow's" slow-burn ambient electronic washes provide an emotional overload, slowly swelling around incremental progression as glacial guitars and rumbling percussion gradually become the focus of the track.
"Human" provides a fiery rest-bite to the intimacy but it is the stark, wounded lyrics and Elena's gorgeous voice, capable of healing any number of wounds that stays with you longest when this exceptional debut is over.
6. Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle
/ Order CD/LP
, it is incredible to think that she is still only 23, already possesses a timeless collection of material and is armed with the ability to bring together people from all warps of life in awe of her talent and masterful song-writing skills. Her fourth album Once I Was An Eagle
came out in the Spring and is, for me at least, the sign of an artist taking a mighty step up from already impressive highs and producing her most consistent piece of work to date.
Instrumentally stark the focus is on Laura's guitar and words with the odd bit of carefully-placed drums or orchestral swelling, it's darker and heavier than anything Laura's released before and there's also an excellent use of space and prose throughout. Once I Was An Eagle
is an album in every sense of the word, it can be a demanding experience and it commands to be listened to as one, in fact the first five tracks play into one another like an epic story, the triple hit of "I Am An Eagle", "You Know" and "Breathe" mark the highlights for me, rising and falling with rich flourishes of depth, beauty and adventure. Laura's voice is distinctive and powerful enough to hold your attention and the lyrics combine to be a cohesive one. It's near pefection.
Elsewhere there are moments of true beauty like "Once", a simple and beguiling beauty. The solo acoustic tracks are arguably where Laura strikes hardest and here her plucks and devastating tone are pure, heartfelt and beautiful while "Master Hunter" shows the other side of Laura's arrangements, dazzling around bold, organic percussion.
There are more breath-taking moments too such as "Little Love Caster" and the closing track "Saved These Words". In total it's sixteen tracks and over an hour long with a deep, powerful narrative that keeps on giving and still leaves me breathless (even after hearing the tracks a good twenty times or so). In summation, what we have is an extraordinary piece of work from one of this generation's true stars - simply a magnificent achievement.