Monday, 16 December 2013

Top Albums of 2013 #20-#11

Poor old 2012, a middling year at best, it's now been shown up by its successor to be a rather barren 12 months. There's been no such qualms with 2013, however as pretty much every artist that I've an interest in had elected to release music in some form or another. In fact, it's been so brilliant that it's been difficult for me to narrow this down to a mere 20. Early drafts of the list features towards 30 albums, and cutting this down has been a mammoth task.

So what you see below is merely 20 of my favourite album shaped releases of the last 12 months. It's a completely subjective list with the defining factor being my enjoyment. As always I've numbered it as best I'm able, but ask me tomorrow and there's bound to be some positions I've changed my mind on.

I'm fully aware of the apparent lack of diversity on this list, and would never claim that it's a showcase for the full range of sounds and genres that have excelled in 2013. But there's always 2014 for that, and looking at the below I know where to diversify from. Nonetheless criticism is, as always, welcome in the comments.
20. Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
In honestly I was distinctly unimpressed with ...Like Clockwork's lead single when it first aired. Thankfully I warmed to it, and when I finally picked up this record I was really impressed. Enough has been said about ...Like Clockwork's qualities by people far more invested in Queens of the Stone Age than myself, but suffice to say I've found few mainstream ROCK records that are as satisfying as this.

19. Kate Nash – Girl Talk
The deluxe edition of Kate Nash's third LP is a sprawling 18 track entity that stretches out beyond both its creator's songwriter roots and current riot grrrl influences. That it was written primarily in bass shows on tracks such as 'FRI-END' and 'Sister', whilst 'Rap For Rejection' demonstrates how little of a fuck she gives for approval from the beard strokers. Kate's activities surrounding this release (including setting up after school music clubs for girls) show that as a feminist she's not content with just talking the talk.

18. Young Knives – Sick Octave
Previous Young Knives album Ornaments From The Silver Arcade had the songs but sound-wise felt somewhat compromised. This time around no ground has been given. The songs are still there on Sick Octave, but they're not always apparent, insisting that we're drawn to them. From the cover downwards this is a seedier place to be drawn, but it's still the same Young Knives we fell in love with as they hint at something distinctly unpleasant in suburbia.

17. The Spook School – Dress Up
An oddly pure album for 2013. The Spook School are (in their own words) “four noisy people from Edinburgh, Scotland” who “try to play pop music”. Dress Up is the result of this and a thoroughly enjoyable and energetic guitar pop record. It's out on Fortuna Pop and is brilliant. 'History' for one example, rhymes “magic trees”, “flight to Belize” and “signed photo of John Cleese” for an indiepop classic.

16. Little Boots – Nocturnes
Although it has problems with sequencing Nocturnes contains some of Little Boots best material. 'Strangers', 'Satellite' and 'Crescendo' are better than anything from her chart slaying debut, but are all packed into the back end of the record. Still, it's a shame Little Boots has lost so much ground commercially as she's still great distances ahead of any of her peers from 2009.


15. Stagecoach – Say Hi To The Band
It's fair to say that Say Hi To The Band isn't the debut album that everyone was hoping for from the Alcopop! staples. Still, it's the only one we'll get as they've since announced their split. A shame on both counts as this record is full to bursting with alt rock influenced pop barnstormers. The opening trio sets the album up nicely and divergences into their country inflected past slot in nicely.

14. Everything Everything – Arc 
I expected a second album from Everything Everthing to disappoint. That it's so high in the list on one of the strongest years in recent memory is a testament to how wrong I was. Arc maintains all of the idiosyncrasies from Man Alive, evolves them and uses them to push the band into the mainstream. I wouldn't mind shaving 5 minutes from somewhere in the last third of the record, but would struggle to pick something to drop. Brilliant, but I wouldn't recommend trying to sing along. 

13. The Blanche Hudson Weekend – How Many Times Have You Let Me Die
The monochrome artwork for How Many Times... is excellent at letting you know what you're in for here. Fuzzy and noisy, yet with a noir undertone, it feels slightly seedy, without being explicitly so. The sounds are eclectic as it takes the listener on a tour of underground pop, but for a reference point, imagine if The Long Blondes had binged on The Jesus and Mary Chain instead of Pulp.

12. Arctic Monkeys – AM 
Sick of hearing about how AM is one of the best albums of the year yet? Yes? Well tough. A ridiculously good fifth from the Sheffield chaps that's their heaviest and most refined of their career. Listen to any of their old records now that you've heard AM and try and tell me they don't sound like something's missing. It actually seems unlikely that Arctic Monkeys could put a foot wrong now that the world is well and truly theirs.

11. Screaming Maldini – Screaming Maldini 
Following on from a string of EPs and singles, the debut album from Screaming Maldini was a long time in coming, but truly worth the wait. There's been more impressive first albums in 2013, but very few that have bounded out of the gates with such a sense of optimism. Screaming Maldini is a pop utopia full of soaring melodies, uplifting vocals and sky-scraping tunes. The next one can't come soon enough.

Continued Tomorrow

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