Albums of the Year 2013
Let’s cut through the bullshit - 2013 has been outrageous as far as quality music is concerned. No matter what you’re into, this year has provided an endless stream of game-changers and rising stars. I’m sure I’m not that first to admit that it’s been a struggle to keep up with - my Spotify ‘catch-up’ list currently sits at over 1000 songs, and with 2014 set to bring us even more class acts, 2013 will be the year people will be coming back to for the forseeable future. As for my personal experience? Sure, it’s been great. I’ve seen a lot of new places, I’ve experienced a lot of new things and I’ve fallen in love with a lot of new bands. Those bands (and artists, mind you) are sprawled out below for you to gawk at and hate upon. I just hope sharing these songs with you will allow you to maybe fall a little bit in love with one of ‘em, too.
15. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Whenever, If Ever
Of all the artists to gain attention through the “emo revival” this year (make no mistake, there definitely isn’t such a thing) The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Diemanaged to produce the most gorgeous and heartwarming album of them all. Littered with sparkling synths, the twinkliest of riffs and a lyrical prowess that’s on the verge of poetic greatness, ‘Whatever, If Ever’ is a diverse and captivating romp through all of alternative music’s finest fashions. ‘Heartbeat In The Brain’ perfectly illustrates what this band are all about: they’re not only a nostalgic testament to their influences, but they’re a genuine progression on the tried-and-tested groundwork laid out before them, too.
14. Toro y Moi - Anything in Return
Chaz Bundick is a genius, there’s no denying it. Having inadvertently coined an entire genre back in ‘09/’10 with his debut album Causers of This, his talent is incredibly striking when you compare his early work to what you’ll find on Anything in Return. Comprised of fifty-something minutes of analogue hiss, off-kilter electronics, a burning disco desire as well as a deep melancholy, Bundick’s output as Toro y Moi this year has been out of this world. Without a doubt, he’s produced the year’s finest electronic record, and live he is a masterclass in bringing the medium to life.
13. Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister
"I’ve waited all day for this," sings Lan McArdle on ‘Sugarcrush’, the defining track on Joanna Gruesome’s debut album. Whilst it certainly feels like I’ve personally had to wait forever to hear this LP, ‘Sugarcrush’ is its defining moment for more reasons than one. Firstly, it demonstrates JG’s unfathomably excellent songwriting skills to a tee, and secondly, it’s all in the name: ‘Sugarcrush’ may as well be called ‘Sugarrush’ as far as the rest of the album is concerned - there isn’t a dull moment to be had here. The entire record is comprised of in-your-face, 90s-tinged pop songs with more meat on ‘em than a butcher’s knife. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart get punk? You’ve got it in one.
12. FIDLAR - FIDLAR
When FIDLAR’s debut album started making its rounds on my turntable in February, I found it impossible not to go completely nuts whilst listening to it. How could you not? Snotty-nosed, grubby and utterly nihilistic, the Californian garage punks have made 2013 all the more bearable with their taste for cheap beer and in-depth surfing criticism. No other album this year has tempted me to go full GTA on the motorway, and no other album this year features the line “fucked on beer and stayin’ gold”. Stay gold, FIDLAR - the world needs more bands like you.
11. Mikal Cronin - MCII
Now this is what you call a sleeper hit. I missed Mikal Cronin this year when he played The Great Escape (I was far too busy running up and down Brighton seafront, singing Arctic Monkeys songs with buskers and yelling “are you Scandinavian?!” at groups of people) but I can imagine calling his live show stellar would be an understatement. MCII is an album that wriggles its way into your eardrums more and more with each listen, and the tunes here could well be written by Mac DeMarco whilst played by Ty Segall. It’s chocker-block with feel-good summertime pop hits, and I can see myself revisiting this one for many a summer to come.
10. A Great Big Pile of Leaves - You’re Always On My Mind
This album. It’s almost like listening to Motion City Soundtrack if they’d matured gracefully after their first two records, growing into themselves with pride whilst putting all their talent to the test. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but that’s why I like it. AGBPOL sing songs about living with friends, getting girls to attend your slumber party, doomed relationships and pizza. They’ve got all the cliches under the sun, all rolled rather politely into one - on the surface, anyway - neat pop-rock record. But don’t dismiss it so easily, as You’re Always On My Mind has one hell of a slick and seductive quality to it. Well polished, brilliantly produced and expertly executed, AGBPOL have churned out the best pop punk album of the year, and you better know it.
9. Drug Church - Paul Walker
If somebody asked me to recommend them a truly angry record, I’d send them in the direction of Paul Walker by Drug Church. This is the sound every heartbroken and frustrated young girl experienced in their heads on the morning they found out Paul Walker died. It’s catatonic, nihilistic, abrasive, and at times completely bonkers. Patrick Kindlon of End of A Year and Self Defense Family heads up this bunch, and here he’s the angriest he’s ever been. ‘Reading YouTube Comments’ gets my prestigious Song Title of the Year award, whilst ‘Shopping For a Belt’ is the catchiest, yet most ferocious song namedropping Hatebreed that you’ll hear all year.
8. Nai Harvest - Whatever
Also known as the record that grew on me the most this year. Whatever is textbook self-loathing wimp-punk, and adequately soundtracked my last days of uni as I spent days on end in a house that I’d soon be leaving. It’s unbelievable that these guys are a duo, as the sounds on this record reach stratospheric heights as they yell about staring at the TV or missing friends who’ve moved away. It’s a poignant and accurate record; a true sign of the times, and it’s music that every twenty-something can relate to and get behind. Plus there’s more hooks here than in a tackle shop.
7. Pity Sex - Feast of Love
"Don’t try to know me ‘cause there’s nothing to know / Wind me up and let me go". Ladies and gentlemen, we have the mopiest album of the year. The thing I find most appealing about Pity Sex (besides their beautifully cringey lyrics) is the way that they take the simplest song structures and make them sound so effortlessly cool. How can such a depressing record be so upbeat and engaging? That’s something you’re gonna have to bring up in a discussion with neuroscience, but for now you should just feel safe in knowing that sad music has a positive effect on your health and Pity Sex have a positive effect on mine. Class.
6. Touché Amoré - Is Survived By
No post-hardcore act has come as close to perfection as Touché Amoré. The most technically impressive band on this end-of-year list, Is Survived By is actually their most accessible album to date. There have been a ton of great post-hardcore albums this year - namely the above album by Drug Church and the final offering from Comadre - but this one is the creme of the crop, if you will. 2013 has seen a lot of bands exceed expectations, and Touche Amore are a prime example of a band going above and beyond. The way the title track collapses in on itself towards the end is goddamn mesmerising people. Listen to this record.
5. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
So this was the album I most anticipated this year, and it’s huge. The National found themselves catapulted into the mainstream this year, writing songs for major motion pictures and TV shows whilst becoming the stars of a critically-acclaimed documentary. They even sold out the Ally Pally two nights in a row, for crying out loud. I always find myself becoming obsessively attached to records by The National, and Trouble Will Find Me is no different. It’s quite a lengthy beast, but it’s also thoroughly rewarding, offering vivid emotional insight into one of music’s most emotional men. They also win the Music Video of the Year award hands-down.
4. Radiator Hospital - Something Wild
I miss Paul Baribeau. I miss the way he lays out the biggest emotional complexities in the simplest of terms through his music. That’s also the reason why I’m left grinning from ear to ear every time I listen to Radiator Hospital’s Something Wild. As well as filling the Paul Baribeau-sized hole in my heart, this was one of those records that just came completely out of the blue for me and instantly slapped me around the face with its brilliance. “Pure pop for now people,” says the description on their Facebook page, and I couldn’t agree more. Sometimes listening to this album is the musical equivalent of eating junk food, but sometimes it’s the musical equivalent of having a good chat with a best friend. This is pure, unadulterated lo-fi power pop at its very best, and it doesn’t get much more heartfelt than this.
3. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt
Can the year be summed up in any other way than with the word Waxahatchee? This is probably my most-listened-to record of the year, and it’s hard not to find your heart melting at the sound of Katie Crutchfield’s voice. I’m not trying to sound overly soppy, I guess I’m just trying to say that this is the most authentic album of the year. This is the sound of someone who’s worked hard for what they’ve achieved. This is the sound of a million tours and a billion slept-on floors. This is the sound of all of your thoughts being laid out for the world to see. I feel like I know Katie inside-out from listening to this album back-to-front, I feel like we’re part of a secret friendship group where I’m silent and she communicates with me via the same songs over and over again. This is the music that should be sitting high in the charts every day of the week, goddamnit.
2. TRAAMS -Grin
Remember your teenage years in which bands like DARTZ!, Tellison and Tubelord ruled your first generation iPod Nano? TRAAMS are inadvertently channeling those days through their music. Cementing their position at the top of the new wave of British buzz bands like Mazes and Cheatahs, I didn’t think too much of this Chichester (yes! CHICHESTER) based three-piece when I first saw them live at the beginning of this year. “Self-indulgent!” I cried. “Too pretentious!” I presumed. Then the Ladders EP came along and put me in my place - a record full of absolute foot-stompers. Grin - the band’s debut album - is full of even more of ‘em. This record will have you literally grinning from start to finish, with it’s innovative and genuinely fresh song structures that are breathing life back into British music. ‘Fibbist’ (produced by MJ of Hookworms fame) is without a doubt one of the songs of the year, and I’ve never seen a band come into their live so damn quickly. These guys will be a cult favourite for some time, but I can only hope they’ll be on the grasp of bigger things to come.
1. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding - Any Port in a Storm
"At midnight I head down to my job at the nightclub
Where my title is ‘Security’ but I don’t think I do that much
And the girls ask about my accent, and I say “put your cigarettes out”
But they just keep doing whatever they want, and I don’t know what to say
Well I’m fakin’ in New York City, I tell everyone I’m fine
I’d do anything for a coin and I’ve got the wolves knockin’ on my door
Well I’m fakin’ in New York City, I’ll let you in on a secret of mine
I don’t know what I’m doing any of the time.”