Restricting myself to a top 40 albums, for a year as prolific and exciting as 2013, has been tough.
My taste in music probably rides an indie / pop groove in the main, but that’s not to say I’m not partial to something heavier, something punk, the crackle and pop of electronica, a filthy beat. There’s a bit of all of that across the albums which have stood out for me this year.
And in a year where the mainstream was excited by albums by Daft Punk, Kanye West, Gary Barlow and Beyonce my heart lifts to know being spoilt for choice on what to include on my list shows just what a massive amount of music there is beyond that worthy, but narrow, slice of hype.
Compiling this list has led to some tough decisions – some of the albums which I championed for the middle of the year list (over on Louder Than War) fell just outside but were nevertheless brilliant. A fact that both dismays me (I still love those albums) and delights me (so much exceptional music to choose from).
There are others still which I know are coming but I haven’t had time to spend with yet. I remain hopeful that in due course these would also contend for a place on this list.
However, the albums and artists I did choose for this list are the ones I’ve come back to again and again since their release; the ones which have given me a visceral thrill from the first listen and have just got better with each repeat.
This, then, is my personal pick of a bountiful crop.
1. Haiku Salut – Tricolore (How Does It Feel) – Read my review on Louder Than War
I said: “The band describe their sound as “Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or- Other” and that’s pretty much as near to pinning this down as you can get. It’s a bit of this, a bit of that and then a pinch of something unexpected. But it’s a mix in the right ratio. A walk through pixelated trees, into a deep musical imaginations.”
Listen to: Los Elephantes (watch the video on YouTube)
2. Factory Floor – Factory Floor (DFA) – Read my review on Louder Than War
I said: “Is this music for the masses? Unlikely. But then the masses seem to like to be spoon-fed songs that are as much marketing as they are music, rather than immerse their senses in something more cerebral but ultimately rewarding. However, for those tempted by the hypnotic rhythms this album is an accomplished offering delivering experimental electronica far exceeding the hype, beyond individual expectation.”
Listen to: Turn It Up (watch the video on YouTube)
3. Scott and Charlene’s Wedding – Any Port in a Storm (Fire Records) – Read my review on Louder Than War
I said: “This is not an album of unrelenting introspection, it’s got plenty of light cast across it both melodically, with guitars chiming and spinning around tripping beats, and in the lyrics. For every heartbreaking yearn of loss there is also the straight-talking tale of an injured leg, told with a wry-smile and impatience at being merely human.”
Listen to: Fakin’ NYC (watch the video on YouTube)
4. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister (Fortuna Pop!) – Read my review on Louder Than War
I said: “This is a fairytale of an album – shimmering surface sounds but a smart and sinister undertone. An intelligent, emotional and assured debut from a band that without arrogance or disdain don’t care for your approval but are methodically, creatively getting on with their work.”
Listen to: Sugarcrush (watch the video on YouTube)
5. Kiran Leonard – Bowler Hat Soup (Hand of Glory) – Read David Brown’s live review on Louder Than War
He said: “Bowler Hat Soup is the singularly most exciting, off-the-wall release of the year and for many years previous, but it actually makes perfect sense if you have the concentration span to dive into it and explore it. Kiran is a phenomenon, a complete one-off.”
Listen to: Port Aine (on Soundcloud)
He said: “With that great wall of sound cranked fuzzbox avalanche of guitar and a really cool, sweet vocal Throwing Up pull off the trick of sounding classic and future all at the same time. This is punk rock for the ATP crowd, classic pop when pop meant life affirming rushes of pop noise.”
Listen to: Big Love (watch the video on YouTube)
7. Phildel – The Disappearance of the Girl (Decca) – read Paul Scott-Bates’ review on Louder Than War
He said: “The twelve songs here are nothing short of immaculate and should see the artist propelled into the spotlight within a very short space of time, or, there is no justice.”
Listen to: Beside You (watch the video on YouTube)
8. Edwyn Collins – Understated (AED) – read Paul Scott-Bates’ review on Louder Than War
He said: “I’d like to say Edwyn is back but he’s never really been away and if he keeps releasing albums like this he’ll soon be recognised for the great British institution that he is.”
Listen to: Understated (watch the video on YouTube) and as a bonus watch this video of Edwyn, Roddy Frame and Tim Burgess at Kendal Calling in 2012 – never stops being utterly, amazingly, magical.
9. Public Service Broadcasting – Inform. Educate. Entertain (Test Card Recordings) – Read Paul Scott Bates’ review on Louder Than War
He said: “After succeeding so well with their first album, it’s maybe difficult to see where Public Service Broadcasting will go next for their ‘difficult second album’. More of the same or a change of direction? For the time being, let us wallow in a glorious album of stark originality and potential mass appeal. One of the finest debut’s for quite some time and one to which you really must take the time to enjoy.”
Listen to: Spitfire (watch the video on YouTube)
10. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time (Domino) – read Phillip Allen’s review of Steve Mason’s Bristol gig on Louder Than War
Phillip said: “sometimes strong words are needed to wake the masses up to their own demise. Mason is the rebel underdog and if it takes such tactics then who better. This audience are listening and loving Mason’s music right now. A distinctive voice and talent needed in today’s inane pop culture.”
Listen to: Fire! (watch the video on YouTube)
11. Lorna – Heart of Wire (Words On Music) – Lorna album review on Louder Than War
12. Beat Mark – Howls of Joy (Ample Play) – Beat Mark album review on Louder Than War
13. Alright the Captain – Conversation Skills for the Socially Nervous (Field Records) – Alright the Captain album review on Louder Than War
14. Secret Colours – Peach (Secret Colours) – Secret Colours album review on Louder Than War
15. Stornoway – Tales from Terra Firma (4AD)
16. Erica Nockalls – Imminent Room (Independent Records Ltd) – Erica Nockalls album review on Louder Than War
17. Sudden Death of Stars – Getting Up, Going Down (Ample Play)
18. R.Stevie Moore – Personal Appeal (compilation) (Care in the Community Records)
19. Orchestra of Spheres – Vibration Animal Sex Brain Music
20. Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum
21. Toy – Join the Dots (Heavenly Recordings)
22. Kurt Vile – Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze (Matador Records)
23. Canola Tenderfoot – Hy-Brasil
24. Dutch Barn – Lighter Later
25. Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
26. Woodkid – The Golden Age
27. Widowspeak – Almanac
28. Crash of Rhinos – Knots (Big Scary Monsters)
29. Woodmanstone – Someone Else’s Dreams Will Fill Our Home
30. Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise
31. M.I.A – Matangi (N.E.E.T Recordings)
32. Victoria and Jacob – Victoria and Jacob (Fika Recordings)
33. Sulk – Graceless
34. Body/Head – Coming Apart (Matador)
35. Calling All Astronauts – Post Modern Conspiracy
36. Bentcousin – Everybody’s Got One (Team Love)
37. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
38. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines (4AD)
39. Tim Burgess – Oh No I Love You More (remix album) (O Genesis Records)
40. Mark Owen – The Art of Doing Nothing (Polydor)
There was also a writer’s list over at Louder Than War – interesting to see similarities and differences between the two. You can find the top 10 from that selection here.
Always interested to hear what other people have been listening to – do leave me a comment or tweet me to let me know.