The Top Thirty-Five: Album of the Year 2013

20, 25, 30, 40, 50, but rarely thirty-five, and that’s what it’ll be this year, a list of the thirty-five best albums from this year, 2013. I mean, I’m really just being awkward, I could probably do a Top 40, but I’ve made my mind up now. So, I have decided to throw scores out of the window and instead the list is in order of preference, in order of what my personal favourites of the year have been. And there have been casualties, by that I mean, albums that I said I ‘loved’ are not necessarily in the list, because love doesn’t last forever. Let’s start with number thirty-five.

Thirty-Five:

Mumblr – White Jesus/Black God

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Who are Mumblr? Well, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know who they are, but you should, you should be a least aware of them. They are a Philadelphia Punk Band whose album White Jesus/Black God is out on either Cassette or Digital Download, something that Henry Rollins himself loves. Basically they’ve put together 12 solid songs to rock out to in your bedroom, but not violently and recklessly like when listening to White Lung, but in that cool 90’s way that the internet (tumblr) seems to love. It has enough fuzzy guitar riffs to keep you warm on a lonely night in.

Thirty-Four:

Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

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Oh, what a journey we’ve been through with Sky, and it all culminated with ‘Everything is Embarrassing’, or so we thought. Night Time, My Time sees Sky stepping up with her first studio album that is glossed in a chic 80’s sound that mostly works. From ‘Boys’ to ’24 Hours’, ‘Nobody Asked’ and ‘You’re Not The One’ we are given the best of Sky’s angsty John Hughes love affair. Sure, the album may struggle towards the end, but I can forgive Sky. Embrace the album, don’t hate it.

Thirty-Three:

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

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If this album, was one disc, 8 tracks, then it would be one of the best albums of the year. I mean, it is, clearly, it’s on the list, but it would be so much higher. That’s the problem with Reflektor being a double album, it has too much stuffing, and all you really want is the Turkey, but it’s succulent, no dodgy cuts here. I just want to hug it and love it always, but then the stomach pains start, and I’ll have to lie down and recover, recover and wait whilst my love withers away. This is what you get when you try to touch Paradise, you always fall.

Thirty-Two:

Kylesa – Ultraviolet

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Glorious Stoner/Sludge Metal that includes the explosive ‘Unspoken’ one of my favourite tracks of the year. Ultraviolet is an album to really bite and bite and bite and bite and bite, like a good steak it’s just so fulfilling to consume. It’s an album that makes me wish I had long hair, lived in the south of America, in and around Texas, and do nothing but headbang, smoke weed and laze about in a Metal washed haze. Oh, and those guitar tones, it’s like Kyuss but with clarity, so just a little less Sludge, but just a smidge.

Thirty-One:

Polly Scattergood – Arrows

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There are many pop acts included on this list, and Polly Scattergood isn’t as big as any of those, and I think that one day, she could become the alternate crusader to the likes of Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and even Chvrches. She has that soft pop sensibility nailed down, she’s given us real emotion (listen to Miss You) and a grand  sound scape akin to M83, but less French. I think in my original review I criticised Arrows for not being catchy enough, but just wait a little, it’ll get there, and it’s like vanilla, it may be a little ordinary, no exciting twists like chocolate, strawberry or Neapolitan, but you just sometimes crave the simple  pleasures. Polly is one to watch.

Thirty:

Ghostface Killah ft Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die

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It’s just so cinematic, so comic, such fun and enjoyment, and it’s from Ghostface Killah, from Wu-Tang? I really like this album. The narrative is well played out and Ghostface’s flow is clean matching the pacing of the instrumentation moving along with the plot. There are tense moments, there are funny moments, and there are the violent moments, the moments where the tears come out, and those moments when you stand up and cheer and whoop in victory. It’s pretty deep even if it is short for a concept album, but the story gets told. This is an album where listen to the tracks separately, and sure, you can enjoy each track for it’s instrumentation, the superb production by Adrian Younge, but you want it in one dose. Listen to it in full, other wise someone will find twelve reasons why you should die.

Twenty-Nine:

California X

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Heavy, messy and surprisingly melodic in the murky waters that is the debut LP from California X. Sure, the vocals aren’t really too prominent, but when the music is so chunky, you can let them off. It’s an easy listen and it’s got energy, it’s got all the energy; it makes my day.

Twenty-Eight:

Marnie Stern – The Chronicles of Marnia

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Her guitar work, is phenomenal. The lead and the rhythm guitars are layered so well, you have to take to headphones to really appreciate the intricate nature of the music. But then you have the vocals layered with multiple layers and Marnie has presented us with a feast, and I thank her for that.

Twenty-Seven:

Zola Jesus – Versions

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Dress fancy, because Zola Jesus has gone all fancy on us. Versions it basically a mini greatest hits in the form of orchestral arrangements that are beautiful. I’m not really sure if I would give a new comer to Zola Jesus this album, because it’s such a newer fresh experience then listening to her studio albums that buzz with electronics. Take a seat somewhere comfy, and treat yourself to Versions, because it wants you to enjoy it.

Twenty-Six

Iceage – You’re Nothing

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Post-Punk and Hardcore together seem to work in the hands of Iceage, and I am so grateful for that, because You’re Nothing is awesome. It’s tired and dark, depressing but so energetic, but in that ‘let’s jump off a cliff after a couple of pints’. Also, ‘Morals‘ is quite catchy.

Twenty-Five:

Factory Floor

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We may not have Hoverboards, they come along in 2015, along with Muse’s new album and Star Wars Episode VII. Until our delectably fantastic future, listen to Factory Floor, it’ll get you there a lot sooner with it’s absurd and obtuse dance tracks. To the future!

Twenty-Four:

Stone Titan – Scratch ‘N Sniff

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Scuzz. Nothing but it here. Look up the word ‘vile’ and you have Scratch N Sniff, mind you, listening to Stone Titan is actually more hygienic then human and animal waste, but it has the same consistency, although this record is more enjoyable, and won’t, well, it shouldn’t cause any major harm to anyone, or anything. Listen to it how you like, it makes for some really good aggressive folding the laundry music though.

Twenty-Three:

Pissed jeans – Honeys

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Punk music that is fast, pummelling, and satirical without being political. It’s fantastic. More noise than You’re Nothing, and more cohesive than Scratch N Sniff and grittier than White Jesus/Black God, Honeys is the best Punk album of the year.

Twenty-Two:

Holy Ghost! – Dynamics

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Booooo, boooop, bop, booom bop do do do do. Roughly the beginning to ‘Okay’ which brings out the glorious synths from the top and oozes funky Brooklyn Disco dance beats that should be hits everywhere, instead we have Daft Punk, but I’m not complaining, much. If you want cool as ice electronic dance songs, or obscure love songs, then hit up Dynamics and give it a try, or just buy it and love it.

Twenty-One:

Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals

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They’ve got to be a joke by now, surely? Well no, not yet. Sure, the Cheese has begun to show and Bitter Rivals isn’t as fun as Treats or as delicious and dark like the suicidal Reign of Terror, but it’s soft and gooey and whenever disbelievers start to lose interest it slaps us all in the face with some bass. With some noise. With some very loud noise. I am very grateful for this.

Twenty:

The History of Apple Pie – Out of View

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The 90’s is a decade that has so much love, yet everyone who loves it was either born in it, or hardly old enough to really experience  it. Those who were really taking advantage of the 90’s are now as old as Britney and JT, but everyone still loves the decade regardless. The History of Apple Pie with Out of View make Shoegaze poppy, yes, ‘Mallory’ is a Shoegaze Pop song if that was possible. No obvious love letters to My Bloody Valentine, not quite anyway, I think Crocodiles win that round, but instead Out of View is light and fluffy with joyous moments throughout. It’s like your Mum’s home cooking, always takes you back to when you were a wee little thing, which coincidently for me was the 90’s. Check out ‘I Want More’.

Nineteen: 

Drenge

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Drenge manage to crack skulls on their debut. They may only be a duet, but they are so unbelievably heavy, yet they’ve been linked to The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. I can see this link on their debut, and those tracks that are similar to the mentioned bands, are the albums weakest. Coincidence? I think not. ‘Bloodwaters’, ‘Backwaters’, ‘Face Like A Skull’, to name a few songs that make this album so good because they are so in your face, but then you have the calming fuzz chill out of ‘Bye Bye Bao Bao’ that waltzes on into ‘Let’s Pretend’ which is just the cherry on top. Listen to ‘Bloodsports‘.

Eighteen: 

Haim – Days Are Gone

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The energy of their live performance is incredible, but it doesn’t translate that well onto the album, yet I’m starting not to really care, you just look at them as two separate entities. The album has the hits, the singles that made Haim so big, and it even has extras, bountiful in the execellence, a highlight being ‘My Song 5’ because it’s just so awesome. Listen to it here.

Seventeen:

Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

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It still dazzles me. From beginning to end. And with that end being ‘Still Life’ and ‘Chrome County’, you can see why. You can listen to ‘Problem Areas‘.

Sixteen:

Lorde – Pure Heroine

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Aptly at number sixteen is the sixteen year old herself (at the time of the album’s release), Lorde. Everybody loves Lorde, and I’m not really sure why. Sure I get people love Lana Del Rey for her image, but is the love for Lorde actually for her music, for her clever lyrics that say so much for someone so young, the fact that she can be classy with angst? Let me know because I certainly like her album enough for it to be on this list. Listen to ‘Glory and Gore‘, and ignore silly Youtube people talking about The Hunger Games.

Fifteen:

Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan II

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Talking about angst, how about some Swedish angst? Makthaverskan II has 9 tracks, and that is it, and I love it’s length, because the filler is so small, that it becomes easy to love. It’s a collection of songs that bounce along your speakers sparkling bright with energy and reverb with some hidden anger. Listen to ‘Distance‘.

Fourteen:

The Naked and Famous – In Rolling Waves

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In a world post Skins and where Made in Chelsea is wearing grey on the world, the best thing about the show being it’s soundtrack because the humour of awkward silences is gone and the lack of Caggie Dunlop, present us with a bleak world where songs like ‘Young Blood’ are nostalgia inducing. This is why bands move on and evolve. In Rolling Waves is an evolution, and the album is powerful, moving, even sad at points in its beauty, but it’s still fun to dance and to jump to. The band have not lost any of their energy on their second album, this is far from a sophomore slump. Listen to ‘Hearts Like Ours

Thirteen:

Charli XCX – True Romance

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So Charli is already working on her second album. In fact, the first single off the album is out on the 8th of December, and I can see why she’s moving on so quickly. True Romance is an album she has worked on for years, and it was finally released this year; sort of a similar story to Night Time, My Time, and the forthcoming Broke With Expensive Taste from Azealia Banks. True Romance though, flourishes in it pop sound system, with each song being catchy and just so fine. It’s dark with little scrumptious spoonings of light and glitter, it’s Charli XCX alright. Let’s just forget ‘Cloud Aura’. Listen to ‘Stay Away‘.

Twelve:

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe In

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This is the finest Synth-Pop album of the year, and it’s just so cute, but with such hidden anger in the lyrics, but such a cute voice, I mean, come on, it’s like auditory puppy eyes, you just can’t help but love it. But yeah, it’s a good album, there are some weak songs, but when you have aural puppy eyes and the majority being a fan fare of top quality synth-pop, one thing leads to another and you end up listening to ‘The Mother We Share‘.

Eleven:

M.I.A. – Matangi

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How do you make the slaughter of peoples eardrums enjoyable with electronic music? Matangi. If you though Sleigh Bells could be loud, Matangi is pretty consistent with the noise, but it’s something to crave over, it really hits those pores. Now go listen to that drop, you know the one.

Ten:

Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

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Honestly, on first listen, I didn’t get it. I just didn’t like it. I mean, I loved Coastal Grooves from beginning to end, but Cupid Deluxe? Nah. And then something happened. I began to appreciate everything that Dev Hynes had done on this album, and that Cupid Deluxe is shiny. It has been shined with the best polish. It’s so smooth in it’s instrumentation. Of course, for me there is nothing like ‘I’m Sorry We Lied’ or ‘Champagne Coast’ but those song, the album Coastal Grooves, is here, it’s just bigger, with more Funk and Jazz, but is it better? Maybe, maybe it is, with the collaborations and the luscious melodies, but maybe it isn’t. For now though, ‘It Is What It Is‘.

Nine:

Pharmakon – Abandon

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Screaming, pain, destruction of worlds, mass destruction of galaxies. I’m sure Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons listen to this album with full intention of destroying our planet but it’s just too good to contemplate destroying planets, it makes you want to but your anger leaves at the end, Abandon is cathartic then. Yes. Especially when ‘Sour Sap’ is almost half an hour long. Wonderful stuff right here.

Eight:

Julia Holter – Loud City Song

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I feel rather sophisticated listening to this. I feel like I should dress up all smart, more so than Versions, and act very upper class, very English, wear a good tie and say ‘yes, this is a spiffing album isn’t it?’ whilst sipping on some Crabbies. Usual weekend really. Listen here.

Seven:

Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty

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Oh, how I love a good bit of Chelsea Wolfe’s Pain is Beauty, no? You don’t find your self saying/thinking that? Shame on you good sir, because I still feel very classy from listening to Loud City Song and Pain is Beauty is just top. It terrifies in it’s beauty, in it’s deep darkness. You’ll love this album, but it’ll kill you. Like a sexy Vampiress, irresistible. Listen here.

Six:

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

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Top Six, okay. Slow Focus, it’s moody, and not just stroppy teenager moody. I found it was a really good soundtrack to reading Requiem for a Dream, which I think says a lot about this album. It says just how dark it is, but also on what scale that darkness is. This album is olympic, but it’s that album that that really dodgy introvert plays at parties in between Katy Perry and Kanye West that makes everybody stop and forget what they’re doing. It puts you into a trance that you don’t really want to escape from, maybe when starvation/dehydration kicks in, but only when death do us part. Listen to ‘Brainfreeze‘.

Five:

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories 

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This is somehow Daft Punk’s mainstream album. I suppose over the years they’ve built up a large fanbase, but everyone was listening to ‘Get Lucky’. Random Access Memories is an album that is more than the Pharrel featuring singles. It’s sleek and the production is not overbearing like Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die from last year. RAM really manages to be fresh sounding, even though their sound is so 70’s, so used already, I think it’s just a case of audience awareness. It’s not Homework, Discovery or Human After All, it’s Daft Punk. I’m sure they’ll change musical direction for their next album, but for now, be happy with RAM. Beneath all the hype and all the praise, there actually does lie a good album, a really good album, so the critics are right for once.

Listen here.

Four:

Deafheaven – Sunbather

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The critics also loved this one. Black Metal widely appraised to an audience who largely, like me, was unaware of Black Metal. I mean, I knew it existed, but I didn’t really listen it until Sunbather. It’s not exactly the only other Black Metal album I’ve listened to this year, I did also review Return to Annihilation, but Sunbather captivated me more. It’s impressive, almost from start to finish, I say almost because if anything the final track is the albums weakest, but fails to let it down enough in a way to bring down the whole album. Brutality is beautiful, thank you Deafheaven.

Listen here.

Three:

Tim Hecker – Virgins

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Beauty is a cruel mistress that haunts you because you didn’t love her enough. Her voice resonates around your room, trapping you, alone and cold. The atmosphere created by Tim Hecker on Virgins is immense, and so is the sadness, the decay, the beauty.

Listen here.

Two:

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

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Shaking the Habitual. I’m just thinking what to say about it, other than buy it, listen to it, love/hate it. Strong emotions will be provoked here, and I’m sure Alienation is one of them, because this is not an easy listen. The long EDM flavoured ‘Full of Fire’, the sultry ‘A Cherry on Top’ which builds and builds in sonic obscurity. The blindingly long and experimental ‘Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized’ to ‘the bizzare Fracking Fluid Injection’ and ending on the soothing ‘Ready to Lose’. This is a journey through electronic music and it’s so wonderful and intriguing that it can’t be ignored. It’s a fine piece of music.

Listen here.

One:

Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork

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I really wasn’t expecting this. However, after I had finished my first listen, I knew. It came out early on iTunes, I could have chosen to listen to it then and there, but I waited for my CD to arrive, and it came two days early and I listened to it eagerly to see what Queens of the Stone Age had achieved on their latest effort. Era Vulgaris split the fan base, and for me, Lullabies to Paralyse was a little too dreary. …Like Clockwork though is classic QOTSA gold, and that’s what they’ve done. They have achieved gold. From downright rock out tunes, to catchy melodies, emotional journeys and dirty screeching guitar solos. …Like Clockwork is an exhaustive listen because it’s so engaging, it’s so powerful and it’s just so energetic. The fabulous climax of ‘I Appear Missing’ hands the job of closer ‘…Like Clockwork’ to be the come down, and it just eases you back down to reality. It holds you and calms you down as the other nine tracks have just worked your saliva for the biggest and best meal of the year.  Such a good journey through their twisted desert. Album of the Year.

Listen here.

 

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