Yep, it’s that time of the year! Here are my favourite albums of 2013. Music lovers have had a bumper crop this year, and it was hard to cut it down to just ten. But here they are, in no particular order.
Cloud Cult – Love
This was the first album of 2013 that I actually fell in love with. The Minneapolis collective – currently an eight-piece – released their tenth studio album in March of this year and it was a fantastic, poignant ride. Lush layering, heartfelt lyrics, and wonderful harmonies all helped to create what could be their magnum opus.
Kavinsky – OutRun
Love wasn’t the first album to be really, really darn good though. That falls to Kavinsky. Most well known for the use of Nightcall in the soundtrack to Ryan Gosling flick Drive, the French electronic artist released his debut album in February. It may lack emotional impact, but it more than makes up for it in songs that practically drip with 80s movie nostalgia.
I The Mighty – Satori
2013 was a great year for rock music, though, nearly making up for the damp squib of 2012. One of the best offerings was served up by San Francisco’s I The Mighty. Their debut, Satori, has it all. Great musicianship, varied and truly poetic lyrical content, and choruses that you’ll be singing for weeks – or months, in my case. This is a strong a debut as you’re going to get.
Houses – A Quiet Darkness
Speaking of strong lyrical content, A Quiet Darkness was ahead of the pack. Houses delivered a concept album with a wonderful, heart-wrenching story – two lovers, separated by a nuclear holocaust, trying to reunite with one another. It captures the post-apocalyptic tone perfectly, and the catalyst is not only the dreamy ambience of the music but the sparse, yet graceful, lyrics, which work beautifully with the dual vocals of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina.
Enemies – Embark, Embrace
I’m not sure how, but Enemies have managed to do something very unique with Math Rock. Normally the sole haven of musicians and technical music enthusiasts, Embark, Embrace swaps the often discordant noodling with uplifting, soaring melodies without losing any of the complexity that keeps music snobs (such as me) hooked. It’s great, both for pretentious folk like me and for casual listeners.
Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
2013 also saw the triumphant return of a few of music’s heavyweights. One of the standouts was Hesitation Marks. Trent Reznor had a busy year, also releasing the impressive How To Destroy Angels debut album, and the signs were good that another Nine Inch Nails album would impress. But it surpassed even fan estimations, with not only that unique Nine Inch Nails feel, but with a true progression on show.
Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run
There’s nothing not to love about Until the Colours Run: a huge sound, vibrant guitar work, the beautiful strings, and wonderful vocals from Hazel Wilde. Almost every song sounds absolutely massive, and when it doesn’t – such as one of the standout tracks, the ballad Green and Gold – it only serves to further augment the impact. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional.
The First – Take Courage
Enough of that teary-eyed, twee stuff though. The First’s sophomore effort, Take Courage, is a beast of a rock album. Huge riffs, thumping choruses, and a rhythm section you could set your goddamn watch to all come together to form one of the most exciting albums of the year. Listen to this, and you’ll wake up the next morning covered in tattoos next to an empty bottle of whiskey. It’s that hardcore.
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Immunity has been included in a large number of ‘Albums of the Year’ lists, and with good reason. The Mercury-nominated album, Hopkins’ fourth, shows the progression of an artist truly doing what he wants to do. Building on the unique sound of 2009’s Insides, Hopkins creates breathtaking, diverse soundscapes that just happen to be some of the best electronica to have been released in years. Immunity is great. Go buy it.
Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
You know what? I’m just going to say it. This is Queens of the Stone Age’s best album. Rated R has the bizarre, Songs for the Deaf has the heavy riffs, but neither compares to the variety on show here. From the slacker drawl of I Sat by the Ocean, through the psychedelic Kalopsia and the Prince-esque Smooth Sailing, to the delicate piano of the title track, it’s a journey of an album, with every song expertly balanced. A masterpiece.
So there we go. A little rundown of what’s been keeping me sane this year. Have a Merry Christmas and a ruddy great New Year!