2013 – My 50 favourite Albums of the year

2013 has definitely been one of the better years for music. Some great new artists have arrived on the scene and some familiar faces have made a return (in the case of one legend totally unannounced too), so what have been my favourite releases of the year?

I have attempted to place this collection into some sort of order, I will add that the order is more how much I enjoy the album not necessarily which is best. Though my number one, to me, was the best album of 2013. I’ve added a few comments on the top 40 too.

Please comment, please tell me the titles I have missed just in case there is something out there I really should be listening to.

50 – Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action

49 – London Grammar – If You Wait

48 – Smith Westerns – Soft Will

47 – Ms Mr – Secondhand Rapture

46 – Deerhunter – Monomania

45 – Everything Everything – Arc

44 – Lorde – Pure Heroine

43 – Sigor Ros – Kveikur

42 – Drenge – Drenge

41 – Airborne Toxic Event – Such Hot Blood

40
Bastille – Young Blood

A year ago Bastille were  a little known band, now they are huge – headlining festivals and playing to massive crowds with a fun filled set. The album highlights many of the reasons why, from the incredibly catchy opener Pompeii (spelt wrong as clearly it should be Pompey!) they continue the theme of fun filled pop throughout. It will be interesting to see where they go from here but this could be the start of something big. Listen to – Pompeii

39
Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others

At 22 tracks and almost 90 minutes in length, this is one that will take a few listens before you are rewarded. Certainly one for putting on and listening too rather than just as background music it is a great introduction to the multiple layers that McCombs shows in all his previous work. A proper slow burner. Listen to – Everything Has To Be Just So

38
Johnny Marr – The Messenger

Look it’s Johnny Marr, what more do you want? Of course it will be excellent. Do I need to add any more than this? No, didn’t think I did. Listen to – Generate! Generate!

37
Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time

The former Beta Band front man returned this year with an excellent collection of tracks demonstrating that he is still as angry and socially aware as he always was. From the feeling of being human through the Tottenham riots and including the superb fire it’s a wonderful eclectic mix. Listen to – Fire

36
Anna Calvi – One Breath

Follow up to her excellent debut, Ms Calvi gave us more of the same in 2013, her voice really is her big sell here it really is powerful and carries the songs across well. Lead out single Eliza is probably the most memorable in another great collection from the new ‘Kate Bush’. Listen to – Eliza

35
My Bloody Valentine – mbv

Twenty years after Loveless, MBV released almost out of nowhere their next collection. Just as loud and almost as good as Loveless, this was a welcome return. Let’s hope the next time they release stuff it isn’t that far away! Listen to – new you

34
Phoenix – Bankrupt!

French pop-rockers Phoenix follow up the superb Wolfgang Amadaus Phoenix by maintaining the enjoyment levels. Lead single Entertainment was certainly a highlight but the rest of the album certainly makes you smile. Listen to – Entertainment

33
The 1975 – The 1975

For a band that been around for some years before producing anything recorded it should be a shock that these ‘overnight sensations’ – up there with hyped as really the biggest noose around the neck – managed to go straight in at number 1. But when you announce yourself to the world with the incredibly catchy Chocolate, manage to make a song called Sex mainstream and then better them both with The City it probably is no surprise. This and the fact they are on constant Radio 1 rotation and it’s easy really (probably not). Listen to – The City

32
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

4th album from the Scottish rock act and arguably their best, there is much to enjoy from tracks that provide uplifting anthems to more reflective themes. Certainly a band on the rise. Listen to – The Woodpile

31
Villagers – Awayland

The follow up to 2010’s Finding the Jackel, Conor O’Brien turned to his full band to contribute this time giving the folk sound a fuller, richer sound. Some fine tunes including Earthly Pleasures and The Waves certainly demonstrated this to great effect. Listen to – The Waves

30
Palma Violets – 180

Massively hyped by the kings of hype, the NME, it didn’t disappoint. Taking over the mantle for the Vaccines this was an energetic collection of tracks that do have a distinct air of samey about them. Having said that they are not bad songs at all and Best Of Friends really is a great tune. Listen to – Best of Friends

29
Turin Brakes – We Were Here

Recommended by no less an authority than Guy Garvey, the latest collection from Turin Brakes is very melodic folk driven with songs that vary between uplifting and reflective. Whilst it will not be one of the best selling records, it certainly is one of the most enjoyable, especially whilst relaxing with a glass of scotch on a quiet evening. Listen to – Time and Money

28
Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail

Billy Bragg has gone country, or at least thats how many reviewers saw his first collection of work for some time. Certainly there is an Americana about the sound but the themes are still very much vintage Bragg. Billy has been on the scene for 30 years now and never has he been more relevant than now. This collection gives him opportunity to voice his anger at the current state of the world, be it with a thoughtful angle on his music. Listen to – There Will Be a Reckoning

27
Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo – Dear River

A really beautiful and very personal collection and of tracks from the Australian singer, songs about home and family including Letters which are all about her grandfathers experience in the war give a fragile, gentle voice the perfect platform. The vinyl also came with bonus download acoustic tracks which, dare I say, are even richer than the originals. Listen to – In The Winter I Returned

26
Savages – Silence Yourself

Dark, moody, angry sounding and really rather great. All girl band Savages produce a wonderful sound to embrace the post punk era. It is not one to be played quietly as lead out track She Will demonstrates, a formidable live sound backed this release up. Listen to – She Will

25
Splashh – Comfort

For a sound that is so quintessentially English indie rock it is a surprise that 3 of the 4 members of splashh are from the other side of the world. 33 minutes of all killer and no filler later and the feeling I had was one that comforted me, certainly if you love sound influenced from anyone between the beach boys through to the boo radleys. Oh and they killed the Pie and Vinyl stage at Southseafest. Listen to – All I Wanna Do

24
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Lead out by Get Lucky this is easily the French duos finest collection of songs, their collaboration with the likes of Nile Rogers (who, arguably, earned his own renaissance as a result of this) returned an almost traditional disco sound to accompany the more familiar elements of Daft Punk, the live show could prove on of the highlights of next year – especially if they do headline at Glastonbury as anticipated. Listen to – Lose Yourself to Dance

23
Swim Deep – Where The Heaven Are We

It’s been a great year to hail from Birmingham and have floppy hair. Lead by the wonderful Peace, these guys produced a poppier version of the guitar indie sound for which England’s second city is making its own. Already tracks from Jaws indicate there is more to come in 2014. This collection has so many catchy hooks – Fransisco, The Sea and the outstanding King City. They even do a passable,Girls Just Wanna Have Fun live (unsurprisingly they are outstanding live too)  Listen to – King City

22
Depeche Mode – Delta Machine

Basildon’s finest returned with yet another strong showing of songs as they enter their 4th decade of producing quality synth driven pop/rock. Lead out track Heaven gave an almost blues style intro of what to expect and whilst this isn’t their finest hour, it certainly shows the mode still have plenty to give. Listen to – Soothe My Soul

21
Atoms for Peace – Amok

In the absence of any new Radiohead material anything from Thom Yorke is a bonus. This, his own super group, certainly fills the gap whilst new work from his band arrive. In many ways this is another Radiohead album but that is probably being harsh on the others who have collaborated with him to produce another great piece of work. Listen to – Befire Your Very Eyes…

20
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

Glaswegian Chvrches (the V is to enable easier searching on Google!) provided a delicious slice of old school synth pop, harking back to the days of Depeche Mode (the Vince Clarke era), Yazoo and Human League. An album that could so easily have been released in 1982 it still has enough to hold the interest in the modern world. A great debut all said and done. Listen to – The Mother We Share

19
Queens Of The Stone Age – Like Clockwork

When he is not assisting Arctic Monkeys then Josh Homme has produced, with his band, an excellent collection of rock tracks with an A-List of musical guests from Dave Grohl (back on drums again), Alex Turner and even Sir Elton John. Only 10 tracks in length, this is still all killer and no filler, My God Is The Sun has one hell of a guitar hook and the whole things moves at a pace until the gentle melodies of the title track bring things to a quiet, reflective close. Listen to – I Sat By The Ocean 

18
Foals – Holy Fire

For some time, Foals have been on the fringes of something big. When Holy Fire was released they were on the fringes no more. This collection of tracks (all be it the first half is clearly better than the second) of dance inspired Indie Rock moving them away from the art rock sound for which the likes of Alt∆J have taken on to a more pop sense as highlighted in My Number. The darker edge is still there with Inhaler too. Add to this a superb live set that saw them headline Latitude and be declared as a future Reading headliner, the Oxford 5 piece have got a standard to maintain. Listen to – My Number

17
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

I’ll be honest. I’m late to the Nick Cave party. Previously I’ve struggled to get his stuff but a combination of me getting older and more appreciative and this simple melodic collection of works including the excellent Jubilee Street means this is a party I’m staying at. Listen to – Higgs Bosun Blues

16
White Lies – Big TV

If Chvrches invoked the sound of ’80s synth pop then the 3rd album from the London act had it sights clearly set on one band, A-Ha. Gone are the darker sounds of debut To Lose My Life to be replaced by a collection of up beat, high tempo 80s sounding tracks punctured with a series of sing a long choruses, As with both previous efforts there are a number of stand out tracks – There Goes Our Love Again, Getting Even and the sublime Mother Tongue – but overall it is a finer collection than their ‘difficult’ second album. Listen to – Mother Tongue

15
Primal Scream – More Light

Arguably their finest collection of songs since xtrmntr, full of the psychedelic sounds that made their name way back in the early 1990s. From the superb opener 2013 musically and lyrically the pace never drops until the euphoric climax of Its Alright, It’s OK. All backed up with a brilliant live show where they warmed the Rolling Stones crowd up at Glastonbury, the scream are back. Listen to – Invisible City

14
The B of the Bang – Tremors & Nosebleeds: The Melodies of a Malady

Firstly, lets declare a slight interest here. Local band, album came out on Record Strore Day courtesy of the finest shop in the world – Pie & Vinyl. Added to that Christopher George Whitear is a genuinely lovely guy. All that aside this is a great collection of songs showing his ability to create and craft a sound that is unique, has a warmth and familiarity about it. They also play a superb live set. Listen to – Aim High

13
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

Many acts have tried to evoke the New York sound of the Strokes debut Is This It, including the Strokes themselves, but nobody really has given that authentic New York sound until the Parquet Courts produced 30 minutes of pulsating, fun filled music. Even more remarkable considering they are not a New York band. If you have not listened and you love a decent hook on an album then this is the one for you. Listen to – Stoned and Starving

12
Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Already reviewed in full elsewhere on the site, the 4th album from Canada’s finest demonstrated, in places, a change of direction with help from James Murphy. And whilst it isn’t the fire at their very best, they are still a cut above the rest. Listen to – Here Comes The Night Time

11
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform, Educate, Entertain

Not only a clever concept but a superb collection of tracks. Invoking old wartime public information style films and placing them over a beating track give PSB a unique sound. It worked well as can be heard in tracks such as Spitfire and Everest, probably best demonstrated by the sublime Night Mail. Listen to – Spitfire

10
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

For many years, Frank Turner has worked tirelessly and played to a small but highly appreciative audience. That changed one evening in July 2012, when Frank became known to the world as he opened the Olympic Games. This, his first album since, is a very personal collection of tracks inspired by a relationship break up. The very personal The Way I Tend To Be really sums this up, his pain can be seen in Plain Sailing Weather too. But it is not all sadness, Four Simple Words (a song he debuted on his biggest ever gig until the olympics) is a celebration of enjoying a gig with his audience. This album will further add to his rising status, an arena tour next year indicating clearly his days of playing the Wedgewood Rooms are, sadly, at an end. Listen to – Four Simple Words

9
Peace – In Love

Birmingham has produced, for me, the sound of 2013 and it saeems to be a guitar based indie rock sound that require floppy hair to be able to be part of that scene. Peace had come onto the scene last year with the delicious EP featuring the sublime 1998 so much was anticipated of their debut album and it delivered in spades. A real mix of tunes from the light and frothy Lovesick through catchy guitar riffs held within tunes like Follow Baby, even subtle, gentle stuff like California Daze and Float Forever this really had no weak tracks at all. Added to this a blistering live set so full of the energy of youth. Roll on Album number 2. Listen To – Follow Baby

8
I Am Kloot – Let it All In

In the absence of an Elbow release in 2013, this is the next best thing. Produced by Craig Potter and Guy Garvey, Kloot continue on their excellent back catalogue with another collection of Manchester based grumpy sounds which at the same time suggests a warmth and understanding of their audience. Hold Back the Night demonstrated that if a Bond film was written around the song title that it could be that song. This is one album that needs to be heard live in a pub on a winters Sunday evening. Listen to – Some Better Day

7
David Bowie – The Next Day

Everyone had given up on Bowie, rumours abound he was unwell not helping. So when, out of nowhere, he released Where are we now and then followed it up with this superb collection of tracks it was a shock but  a very pleasant one too. The cover indicated that, perhaps, there was to be influence from his past and many of the tunes could easily have found their way onto any one of his older albums when he was at his most prolific. All we need now is him to perform live again and all will be well with the world. Listen to – Valentines Day

6
Jake Bugg – Shangri La

Already reviewed elsewhere on this blog the follow up to last years album proved to be even better than the original. An excellent record all round. Listen to – What Doesn’t Kill You

5
The National – Trouble Will Find Me

How do you follow up one of the greatest records of the last 10 years? Simple, go and do it all again. Trouble doesn’t quite match High Violet for,overall quality (virtually impossible) but it does what the national do best. Filled to the brim with Melancholy and quiet thoughts which signal that the band are about hit the big time. It takes a few listenings before you can fully appreciate but once there this is worthy of anything that recorded before. Listen to – Sea of Love

4
Arctic Monkeys – AM

Upon its first 2 or 3 listens this would not have made my top 50, or even my top 100 as I felt very disappointed by it. But something told me to try again and it has grown massively on me. The opening hook of Do I Wanna Know? has become something I cannot get it out of my head. Certainly a softer continuation of the band but one that will add to the belief that world domination is next on the schedule. Listen to – Do I Wanna Know

3
British Sea Power – Machineries of Joy

Probably the nearest thing Britain has to Arcade Fire, BSP brought out their latest collection and with it additions to an already brilliant live set earlier in the year. The title track got an awful lot of playback and deservedly so. One of the more under rated albums of the year and well worth the time to listen. Listen to – Loving Animals

2
Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

The Manics have gone acoustic! Having taken time out and with the promise of a more traditional MSP album to follow, this superb collection of almost Folky tracks allowed the lyrics to come to the fore and enabled James to collaborate with others to give a totally different sound. Most successfully heard in the title track – which upon first hearing had all the hallmarks of a Richard Hawley song (with James Dean Bradfield on guest vocal), but so many other songs are just as worthy of praise. Its been 20 years but they still are as fresh as ever. Roll on the next one. Listen to – Rewind The Film

1

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City

The third album from one of New York’s finest and certainly their best to date, simply outstanding from start to finish. The whole album is a celebration of all that was great about their first 2 albums. From gentle opener Obvious Bicycle, through the wonderfully uplifting Diane Young and even the gentle ebbing and flowing of Hudson. A triumph of a record and deservedly number 1. Listen to – ALL OF IT

So there you go, my top 50. Have I missed anything that I need to listen to? If so please let me know.

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