Best of 2013

The Best Albums

Okay, so, months in the making (and already just kind of hanging around the blog buried in some subsection), and agonisingly curated – here’s my year end music list. I’ve decided against writing an individual thing about each album or song because that would inevitably turn into a mini-review and I’m only a man. I tried a few weeks ago and ended up figuring out that my album list alone would likely spiral into 3,000 word plus territory. That’s roughly 2,000 more than I’d like/have the work ethic to do. So instead I’m just doing a sort of year-end essay where I’ll glaze over everything and leave everyone feeling unsatisfied.

Speaking of feeling unsatisfied – Reflektor and Yeezus: arguably the most unsatisfying, but still pretty okay, albums of the year. Both promised much with their pre-release buildup –Kanye with his explosive performance on SNL, and Arcade Fire with their disco/ep/mini-concert on SNL – but ultimately yielded weirdly flat, lifeless results. Both had their moments, but were also a far cry from the energy and excitement they’d promised. Black Skinhead and Here Comes The Night Time particularly hurt me. Why? Why do you do these things?

The year as a whole was one marked by these kinds of slight anti-climaxes. The best albums of the year weren’t spectacular, but they had a way of worming their way inside your head. Monomania, my album of the year, is an incredibly solid album, but one that’s undoubtedly flawed. My initial reaction to it was like mine to most of the other ‘big’ albums of the year: a shrug of the shoulder and a “yeah, it’s pretty good, I guess”. But unlike the likes of AM, Electric Lady and Modern Vampires of the City, Monomania kind of hung around. It had energy and a feeling of reckless abandon, a total lack of pretense or agenda, and it was kind of unique in that sense this year.

Albums like Parquet Courts Light Up Gold and Thee Oh See’s Floating Coffin achieved a similar quality, but lacked the emotion and fuzzy mania of Deerhunter. All the same, the attitude of Parquet Courts and the eclecticism of Thee Oh See’s were welcome tonics for this particularly enervated year of music. Queens of the Stone Age’s …Like Clockwork was their most consistent work to date, but it was mature in both senses of the word. It was measured, polished and more lyrically refined, but it lacked the youthful zest and energy of Light Up Gold.

In many ways this year was one for the debutantes, the reboots and the comebacks. Whilst the major acts went through their difficult ‘serious’ phase, new acts were there to steal in. Earl Sweatshirt established himself as the supreme talent within the Odd Future gang, and Doris posed a serious threat to Yeezus as the rap album of the year. His SNL performances alone proved that Kanye is still the most exciting act in the field, but songs like Hoarse from Earl were every inch the measure of Kanye’s ego-trips. Elsewhere, Mutual Benefit came out of nowhere to make the prettiest album of the year and MONEY made the best late 80s new wave album since the late 80s.

For much of the year my nailed on album of the year was My Bloody Valentine’s eponymous return – one of the few big albums that failed to disappoint in any way. Somehow managing to satisfy the hype of 22 years of silence, it demonstrated just how far behind every contemporary shoegaze act still is. Kevin Shields other great contribution was on the self-titled opener to 2013, Primal Scream’s usual once-a-decade great album. Ditching the bluesy, Rolling Stones impersonations that have been the downfall of so many of their albums, they returned to a sound closer to that of 2000’s XTRMNTR and it reaped dividends.

More of a personal trend for the year was my sudden love affair with singer-songwriters. No, not the sitting alone on a stool with an acoustic guitar being all sad kind – that still makes want to vomit blood -, the weird, totally unique kind like that on Julia Holter’s Loud City Song or Juana Molina’s Wed 21. The most bizzarely hypnotic album of the year, Molina weaves a dazzling wave of latin-infused art-pop and has created perhaps the most perplexingly gripping album of the year. It’s beaten out of the top 5 by the morose John Grant – a man who gets your attention with his dark, bitter and deeply personal meditations on life as a gay man diagnosed with HIV. It’s a far cry from Molina and her fun, weird world, but Grant’s powerful voice, expansive composition, and dry wit are enough to get away with his heavy subject matter.

Assorted oddities make up the rest of what I liked this year. In Teeth of the Sea’s apocalyptic Master, True Widow’s dark, lumbering Circumambulation, Grant Hart’s sprawling, ambitious The Argument, and Fuck Button’s brooding, synth-frying Slow Focus, the variety of a year that was marked by pleasant surprises and interesting experiments is clear to see. Has 2013 been a standout year for music? No, not really. Has it been interesting? Most certainly.

 20//Reflektor

19//Yeezus

18//Master

17//Floating Coffin

16//Doris

15//More Light

14//The Argument

13//Slow Focus

12//The Electric Lady

11//AM

10//Shadow of Heaven

9//…Like Clockwork

8//Modern Vampires of the City

7//Circumambulation

6//Wed 21

5//Pale Green Ghosts

4//Light Up Gold

3//Love’s Crushing Diamond

2//mbv

1//Monomania

The Best Songs

 

25// Hoarse

24// Do I Wanna Know

23// New You

22// Reflektor

21// Javelin Unlanding

20// Advanced Falconry

19// New Slaves

18// Brainfreeze

17// Responder

16// Get Lucky

15// Dance Apocalyptic

14// Maxim’s I

13// Ride On/Right On

12// Ay No Se Ofendan

11// Only Tommorow

10// 2013

9// Careers in Combat

8// Hold Me Forever

7// Monomania

6// Minotaur

5// Four Teeth

4// Step

3// Strong Swimmer

2// Pale Green Ghosts

1// Givin’ ‘Em What They Love

 

Honourable Mentions

I Am A God, Kveikur, Supersoaker, Diane Young, Kemosabe, Heart, Reaper, The Waves, If I Had a Tail, Master of My Craft, We No Who U R, The Next Day, Lies My Body Told Me, Mad Sounds, 100,000, Is The Sky The Limit Perhap, Glacier, Keep Your Eyes Peeled, Punk/La Vie Anterieure

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One thought on “Best of 2013

  1. Pingback: Albums Of This Year | Almost Always Anything

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