2013 in Music

Hi all,
Thought I’d take the time to write a blog of my 2013, using the important songs for me this year. 2013 has had it’s ups and downs and these 50 songs and respective albums are a window into that. I recommend listening to all of them, excellent albums though maybe not the best, technically, they have an added personal resonance.
Enjoy, and have a great 2014

I have compiled a Google Play Playlist here if you want to listen to the songs on a loop.

The Top 10

To avoid boring you, I think it best to start with my top 10, that way you actually get round to hearing the best songs before you move on to other links on your news feed!
 

NUMBER ONE

Forever By Haim

Forever

An excellent album by three very talented girls. Indie-pop has been crying out for a decent all female band (which Haim essentially is, minus two backing artists, a drummer and keyboardist). Since Prince started touring with all the talent female musicians bands like Haim have all but disappeared. I love the fact that they play well, sound good, and are not so pop you could call them a ‘girl band’. A refreshing band in a sea of carbon copies. If you like this also try The Wire

NUMBER TWO

Heavy Feet by Local Natives

Heavy Feet

A second album is always difficult, but Local Natives blew me away with this release in the spring. Slowly becoming one of my favourite ever songs, and the video too! An excellent album indeed. Check out both Hummingbird and their previous album Gorilla Manor.

NUMBER THREE

Trying to be Cool by Phoenix

Trying to be Cool

So again, a second album, this time from French Indie-pop band Phoenix. This orientally inspired album seems to draw from themes similar to the Lost in Translation Soundtrack, Trying to be Cool would fit right into the playing order,(alongside My Bloody Valentine who also have a great new album out). The soundtrack being the first time I heard Phoenix this album was a great return to their roots for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every second. Linked is an excellent remix by my friend Elliott

NUMBER FOUR

Loose Yourself to Dance by Daft Punk (ft. Pharrell Williams)

Loose Yourself to Dance

So everyone knows Get Lucky, EVERYONE! But the whole album is treasure trove of hip-hop/ funk/ disco pop! It’s awesome and seriously the best album of 2013. Need I say more?

NUMBER FIVE

Roar by Katy Perry

From the album Prism

Another blinding pop song from the brilliant singer, much like ‘Firework’ before it, it has catchy hooks, an uplifting message and embodies Perry’s powerful ‘niche’. A heady mix of feminist empowerment and her feisty sexy sass.

NUMBER SIX

Atlas by Coldplay (From the Hunger Games Soundtrack)

So I have broken with my format here to bring you the video for this song directly. I love this video, it is a brilliant soaring song, expansive and yet sparse in it’s composition. Atlas is the title song to the new hunger games release ‘Catching Fire’. It’s in my top ten because it’s a beautiful example of the much maligned movie song. Like Adele’s Skyfall, they can become instant hits, but often get overlooked in people’s reviews of musical years. There is a real power in the words to this Chris Martin epic. And the film is awesome too.

 NUMBER SEVEN

Retrograde by James Blake

Overgrown by James Blake

The Mercury Prize winning album by this year’s most exciting artist. This is his seminal album, and he is surely now a big force in music. His hauntingly mechanical beats mix with a falsetto voice in prefect juxtaposed melancholy. Gorgeous and gory at the same time. Sounds like a giant monolithic project at the same time as a tender lament.

NUMBER EIGHT

Earthly Pleasure by Villagers

Nothing Arrived

A departure of sorts from their first album, Awayland certainly attempts to add electronic overtones to the mix of acoustic folk that the first album so expertly delivered. I think it works, not everyone does though. I like the distortion of acoustic guitars, vocals and everyday sounds in Earthly Pleasure, the repeating crashes of electronic keys of ‘Waves’ and the more classic villagers sound in ‘Nothing Arrived’. But I’ll let you make your own mind up. Maybe a case of second album syndrome, but at least it is something to build on.

NUMBER NINE

Human by Daughter

Human

In this song, ‘Human’, the music and lyrics combine to create something resonant with the regret in all of us maybe, or just me. It is a cry of pain at the brutal nature of monotony and the 9-5 culture. Something I have my fair share of the last few months. “Woken up like an Animal”, sometimes it seems like we are less than human? But this song reminds me “despite everything, I’m still Human”. Acoustic guitars begin the song but it is only until the electric kicks in that a rush hits you, the sounds filling up my soul with hope. The haunting vocals cry and rise and fall in a emotive mix of sorrow, pain and hope.
It’s a cry from all to be removed from the pits we dig ourselves, and become the Human we long to be. Not the animal we feel.
One to listen to the lyrics
… for me anyway…

NUMBER TEN

Plastic Hearts by Newton Faulkner

So Studio Zoo is Faulkner’s latest project. Recorded live, via web-streaming, with fan input via twitter. Which is a brilliant idea. It’s his usual happy go lucky sounds, but underneath lies the heartbreak of the collapse of his long term relationship. Kinda ruins the vibe for most but his brutal honesty I feel is quite refreshing. He seems to suggest optimism within the music and lyrics, and he is an amazing player – hence the video. Despite having been kinda forgotten recently, nor getting much acclaim, he is still churning out brilliant songs. Studio Zoo makes my top ten by virtue of the live tweeting and input, Newton is a stand up guy and I wish him all the best.

Oddballs and Unknowns

With the conclusion of my top ten I thought I’d move to some of my favourite curve balls from this year, those albums, songs and artists who you wouldn’t expect to hear on radio one, or who have really brought something new and exciting to the table.

Comrade

For those who like Bon Iver, Justin Vernon features heavily in all of Volcano Choir‘s work, to call it a side project doesn’t do it justice. They are more electronically driven than his solo projects, but they sound awesome. Comrade is an especially good track.

Open

Rhye is another solo singer with a slight falsetto voice, it seems to be trendy, don’t ask me why. But his accompaniments and string sections are truly sumptuous. Woman is a brilliant album, and Open the stand out track.

BerlinIncluding RY X is kinda cheating, look out for an album in 2014, in the mean time enjoy ‘Berlin’

Kate Victoria (KT) Tunstall released one of my most favourite ‘surprise’ albums this year with ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’. Going back to basics, with just a guitar and her awesome voice, the album is a blues/country ballad, tinged with the pangs of a falling star, KT knows her brilliance is fading, but with the power remaining she sings the words of a woman twice her age, but with a voice still in full swing. A reinvention not too far from her original pop origins. Strip ‘Feel it all‘ down to the basics and you get a beautiful song, the pangs of the distorted guitar match the grain in her voice, it’s a great plodding bluesy melody.

Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon

I had never really heard of Youth Lagoon this year, up until researching this blog. But I stumbled upon this peach called ‘Mute‘ it has to be heard to be believed! Bare with the start to the video, it’s a little weird, but then so is the song. Think a bizarre MGMT trip. Wait for the chorus, sounds sweet.

Back to country again, and needless to say The Civil Wars didn’t disappoint with their self entitled follow up album, edgy and angry, they hit the nail on the head each song. Try ‘The one that got away’ on for size.

Oddisee was by far and above my favourite rapper of 2012, but in 2013 he had stiff competition, however – contentiously, I don’t really rate the Jay Z or Kanye stuff, so Oddisee is still on the list, with an instrumental album and mixtape double header at the close of the year. ‘Be there’ or be square.

Drake is another surprise album of the year, ‘Just Hold We’re Going Home’ is a beautiful love song, with MJ overtones, the album itself straddles several genres. ‘Started from the Bottom’ is hilariously bad, but what can you do? No one is perfect

Enjoy the gangsta epic video which accompanies it, skip to 2:30 for the actual song. Or not, if you’re like, you know, under 15.Sweatpants

Another rapper who (feat.) in 2013 for me was Childish Gambino, his awesome album ‘Because the Internet’ finally transitioned me from the leaving community grieving phase into the accepting his rapper credentials process. He’s not there yet, but he’s getting there. ‘3005‘ & ‘Sweatpants’ are good examples of his ‘not a real rapper’ complex, but he is still pretty good. Listen to the whole album though for the true gems. Also listen out for random household sounds sampled all over the album, genius!
The John Wayne
Little Green Cars are a diamond in the ruff, they sound like a mix between Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes, and the Magic Numbers, so good right…? But they have great artwork too, so I choose to feature them specifically. They have a sound of the early naughties, maybe a little off the pulse, but I like it, a lot. A great album to sit back and relax to. The sounds wind and weave in between love and lust, with a focus on being young, but with clever cultural references mixed in. Listen to ‘The John Wayne‘ specifically for a brief sample. Try ‘Harper Lee’ for my favourite.

Mutual Benefit were introduced to me by a friend and their album is superb, like a more classical version of Arcade Fire’s first Neighbourhood. Lots of screeching violins and chimes, with sweet, soft sounds and relaxing melodies. A dream and a delight. Try out ‘Advanced Falconry’ . Gorgeous! Buy the album!

Another great introduction, from my sister, was The Tallest Man on Earth having heard his name before, during time at uni, I finally sat down to listen. A really nice sound. And totally worth a mention. …… Even if he does just sound exactly like Bob Dylan

I love to turn The Joy Formidable up loud, ‘The Ever Changing Spectrum of a Lie’ is just perfect sonic expanse. The new album from the welsh trio ‘Wolf’s Law’ is more of the same. Think Subways, think Foo Fighters, think awesome! The Leopard and The Lung is a good place to start.

Just listen to this one, I can’t quite stop! –

Look, I know it’s 12 minutes, but please just listen! It’s insanely good, though I’m not a fan of screaming myself, Deafheaven’s album is cathartic.

ClassixxAnyway.., Classixx were another great introduction, their electronic sampling is much like Disclosure or Chase and Status, kinda a mix of real instruments and DJ enthused mixing. Nice!

Boards of Canada are surreal and soothing all at the same time, their new album Tomorrow’s Harvest continues the dance theme. Check out ‘Nothing is Real’ if you like that stuff. I certainly do. Even if you don’t you might, you know? YOLO

Sail‘ is an awesome song from Awolnation which you’ve probably heard without hearing, if you know what I mean. It’s all over T.V adds and radio. Check it.

MIA

Matangi is a seriously good album, M.I.A can be relied on to say some controversial things, and make some good beats to boot. Love the brutal ‘Bring the Noise’ and the album doesn’t disappoint, what’s surprising then you ask? Well this album is 5 years late and I doubted it would get released in all honesty. So surprise!Washed out

Another great album is Washed Out‘s ‘Paracosm’, with a mellow vibe, but with a shed load of beats and snares. ‘Great Escape’ with it’s waving guitars and soaring vocals, it sounds like a holiday to Hawaii. Beach music in January!

Another excellent, electronic driven album is Baths‘ ‘Obsidian’, driven and pacey, his beats roll out like thunder and rain in the melancholy ‘Phaedra‘. If you liked the latest Radiohead, or the Atoms for Peace album AMOK which isn’t included here, then listen to this.

Finally – The Best of the Rest

Press play on the best of the rest of 2013, excellent albums which will feature left right and centre in NME, Radio One and Rolling Stone’s lists, when mine is pretty much done and dusted already. Amateurs! The nearly men and women of my list deserve praise for reaching high, but not high enough to gain my top spots. Here contains a list of my favourite songs from said popular albums, and reasoning behind why they don’t feature more highly.
Thanks for the read, hope you found some new music to enjoy.
  • Arctic Monkeys R U Mine? : This is an intense rock song, Josh Holmes makes all the difference here and Monkeys are the better for it. Get out the air guitars!
  • Tom OdellI Think It’s Going to Rain Today : A cover, from a brilliant Pop man, but bland in long doses I think maybe. Radio has taken the shine off his music for me
  • Arcade FireReflektor : I love Arcade Fire, and hate LCD Sound System, hmmm, not sure about the mix.
  • FoalsInhaler : This is a brilliant album, with some great songs, but for me, it didn’t have the depth of Total Life Forever
  • John HopkinsOpen Eye Signal : So John first features on the Coldplay album Viva La Vida, but Open Eye Signal is the only good song on his new album, which lacks depth and needs vocals somewhere.
  • Sigur RosBrennisteinn : The evil version of Sigur Ros somehow reduces their appeal, I need more dancing and xylophones
  • Kings of LeonBeautiful War : Some good songs, but I haven’t forgiven them for deserting Reading yet
  • Biffy ClyroGirl and His Cat : Again some good songs, but nothing stands out as landmark songs, essentially a repeat of Only Revolutions
  • StornowayYou Take Me As I Am : So I stopped loving this band once I found out they weren’t from Stornoway itself, fickle I know, but meh
  • ParamoreHate to See Your Heart Break : I feel like a teenage girl when I listen to them now, all the cool has been sucked out of them. Sadly
  • Vampire WeekendDiane Young : So I liked this album, I did, I just don’t get it, what is the point, where is the plan, who was in charge? The label most likely, it feels like Art for Money’s sake
  • Justin TimberlakeLet the Groove Get In : This would have featured way way higher, but for the fact it’s a double album, cut the crud and focus on making 11 amazing songs Justin, don’t make me pay £20 for £10’s worth of songs. Let the Groove Get In is a prime example of something which just should have been cut. Even if it is my waking up alarm song at the moment. Guilty face.
  • Kanye West I am a God : Let’s be honest Kanye, you’re not a God, you’ve gone soft, I mean you were always ‘Bound 2’ weren’t you. FOCUS next time! D+ isn’t enough to beat Graduation this time, maybe better than 808, maybe.
  • The National Don’t Swallow the Cap : They are a great, brilliant, awesome band, but the melancholy was what made the band, they’ve toned it down, and now they’ve lost their edge. ‘I have only two emotions careful fear and dead devotion’ I prefer the grumpy stuff guys. They’ve gone soft in my opinion
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs Sacrilege : It’s a nice turn of rock-pop, and I listened a couple of times. The chorus of this song is awesome
  • London Grammar Strong : This song is Insanely good, but the album drifts in and out, I think they are one to watch, but not quite the finished article just yet. Powerful powerful stuff though, well worth a listen. Eye popping video too
  • Darwin Deez No Love : So he is amazing, talented and sincere, which I like, but his albums have come within the space of a year or so, maybe take break before then next.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Let the Day Begin : Stick on the over-over drive and drive. Brilliant
  • Laura Marling Where Can I Go : So this album was nice, more country than her first, but I just don’t feel it honestly, nothing strikes me as genius. There is only so much she can do, and It’s been done before I guess. I like the keys in this song though.
  • Laura Mvula She : It’s the same soul pop which comes along, like Michael Kiwanuka and Lianne La Havas before her, I think she’ll just last a year, I like, but I don’t love.

Thanks for reading/ listening, see you next year.

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