Tag Archives: best of

Rob’s Obligatory Top Ten Albums of 2013

20 Dec

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!

Rob’s Top Five Albums of 2012

14 Dec

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: the time for lists, lists, lists and more lists! Here are my favourite albums of the year. I was planning to do a Top Ten, but I think there were five albums that stood head and shoulders above the rest. So let’s get on with it, in no particular order!

 

Hopefully us Titans & Kings gentlemen will make next year's list!

Hopefully us Titans & Kings gentlemen will make next year’s list!

 

Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

If you don’t know Future of the Left, then The Plot Against Common Sense is a good play to start. It’s a noisy, punky, aggressive, yet intensely clever album. The songs are accompanied by brilliant, smart, incisive lyrics. A particular favourite is Sorry Dad, I Was Late for The Riots.

Best of all, you will smile when you listen to it. Future of the Left have a point to their songs, but there they are a fiercely charming band. The Plot Against Common Sense is filled with the kind of vitriolic passion that you won’t have felt since you were a you-versus-the-world teenager.

 

The Unwinding Hours – Afterlives

I love The Unwinding Hours. Their first album is still one of the best unknown albums ever recorded, and the band’s previous work as Aereogramme stands out as one of the most unique styles I have ever heard. That said, I was a little nervous about hearing their sophomore effort: how, exactly, do you follow up on perfection?

Thankfully, they created another fantastic album. Afterlives is wonderful, beautiful, mesmerising indie-rock. The vocals are, are delicate, with minimalist yet emotive lyrics, and the instrumentation is as expressive as always. Look out for a specific blog post on these guys soon, as I start introducing you lovely readers to the lesser-known bands in my music collection.

 

Purity Ring – Shrines

I first heard Purity Ring last year and immediately fell in love. In the world of electronic music, currently dominated by the likes of Deadmau5 and Skrillex, they were a subtle, enjoyable and fresh sound. Of all the albums released this year, Shines, their debut, was the one I was most looking forward to.

It doesn’t disappoint. Shrines is a wonderfully produced, insanely catchy and intelligent album. There is a tantalising use of vocal effects, shifting, shimmering synth, and great quiet/loud dynamics. Give it a listen and hear for yourself.

 

Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral

You certainly know what you’re going to get with Mark Lanegan: brooding, smoky overtones, smart and emotive lyrics, and boldly-written songs. What you don’t know, though, is exactly how it’s going to sound. With this album, Lanegan incorporated several fresh elements, including the intricate use of sequencers.

It’s not all unexpected, though: Blues Funeral is just as dark as the name suggests. There are a few standout tracks, such as the wonderful Phantasmagoria Blues and The Gravedigger’s Song, but there is quality throughout. Lanegan is, amazingly, still developing as a songwriter, and Blues Funeral proves that he is one of the most consistently interesting musicians around.

 

Deftones – Koi No Yokan

Deftones are the best anomaly of the nineties. A band that originally found a home amongst the world of alt- and nu-metal, they are one of the few survivors of that era and are the only one that have kept making top-level albums. Koi No Yokan is no exception. In fact, there is a case to be made that Koi No Yokan is the best album they’ve ever released.

It’s rare in modern music, but this is an album that actually feels like a single entity rather than just a collection of songs. It flows tremendously well, from the hard riffs of Poltergeist and Leathers to the more layered Tempest. In spite of all the fantastic rage, it is a delicately-written piece of art and it deserves to be heard.

 

And that’s the end of that chapter. More posts soon, I promise!