Features · List Central

HALFWAY HOUSE PART 1 – BEST ALBUMS OF 2013 SO FAR

Right. We’re approaching the end of July now, so we thought we’d mark the occasion with a little checkpoint. This is the first part of a feature that will share our views on what’s really stood out for us on the album front in 2013. These are records that we can’t stop listening to, and ones that have fixed themselves permanently on our sonars. It will be interesting to see how these lists compare to our end of year counterparts come December, especially with the sheer magnitude of records that are still to drop this year. But, for now, make sure you’ve wrapped your lugs around this lot!

20. True Widow – Circumambulationcircumambulation

 True Widow’s Wikipedia page describes their sound as a hybrid of stoner rock and shoegaze. In short, it’s murky, and it creeps along until you’re immersed in a swath of unhygienic foreboding. Circumambulation is awash with thick, viscous textures that have all the attributes to mesmerize, however inadvertent the intentions are.

19. Black Sabbath – 13Black-Sabbath-13-150x150

 The original metal band. Sabbath is almost a mythical entity, and every metal riff ever comprised will have Tony Iommi’s fretwork as its most prevalent influence. 35 years (yes, thirty-five) after their previous release with everybody’s favourite bat-muncher, Sabbath return with an LP that doesn’t need to show any deviation from the strengths that define them.

18. Bite the Buffalo – Blue Lips

 We stumbled across this drums-guitar duo in the BBC Introducing tent at Glastonbury, and they blew me away. The blues-rock doublet has been mastered in recent years by The Black Keys and The White Stripes, and this pair certainly possess the raw materials to be mentioned in the same bracket some time in the not so distant future.

17. The Blank Tapes – VacationBlank tapes

 Matt Adams has always been a singer/songwriter who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and Vacation is about as easy as easy listening gets. The lo-fi sounds of the 60s are there in all of their glory without being plagiarized in the slightest. One to listen to on the beach, and don’t forget to bring the Ambre Solaire!

 

16. Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs HereAlice in Chains

 Alice in Chains as everyone knows, but what else were you expecting? Cantrell and Co. confirmed with 2009’s Black Gives Way To Blue that Layne Staley will never be forgotten, but with William DuVall, they have a prototypical protégé to allow themselves to continue making filthy, militaristic grunge with the same blueprint. The trademark, malignant beauty is as potent as ever here.

15. Deap Vally – Sistrionixdeap vally

 Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards are two knitting fanatics who like their music louder than a shite shirt. Another drums/guitar duo, this time lacking testosterone, these girls call a spade a shovel. Sistrionix boasts of triumphs with extra bass and next to no treble, with Troy deploying gigantic riffs and Edwards stamping the bass drum as if it’s done her some serious harm. Play this one loud.

 

14. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the Cityvampire-weekend-modern-vampires-of-the-city-nuevo-disco-150x150

 It’s very hard not to like Vampire Weekend, and with their latest LP, they’re as tight as ever. Modern Vampires of the City is very light hearted, as to be forecast, and remains as catchy as what’s come before it. What sets this LP apart though, is how such provocative motifs can be explored via such a jovial, bouncy set of pop songs. Well played.

 

13. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friendsevil-friends

 Evil Friends is Portugal. The Man’s most accessible album to date, but that’s not to say they haven’t tried not to make it so. Producer Danger Mouse brings their strengths into much greater prominence, and the result is that although the overdose of effects are still there, they are much more organized and utilized in all the right areas. Psychedelic-rock executed correctly.

12. Sigur Ros – KveikurSigurRosKveikur

 Kveikur is Sigur Ros’s 7th album, and thus far, each one has progressed startlingly from the last; from ambience and prog, to the sorts of soundscapes that can only be synonymous with the beauty of the band’s homeland. Kveikur arrives with a notably industrial motif, showcasing a heavier side of the band. It’s still however, utterly serene, with the trademark outrageous amalgamation of sonority.

 

11. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvestboards-of-canada-tomorrows-harvest-art

 Has any artist ever managed to transmit the aesthetic of a paradigm into music like Boards of Canada? The Scottish electronic duo again show their ability to create soundscapes that mesmerize even the most impenetrable dispositions. 7 years on from their previous release, it’s confirmed that this remit is timeless. In a year of great comebacks thus far, this is one of the most successful.

 

10. Steven Wilson – The Raven Who Refused to Sing

 Steven Wilson has long been considered one of the elites in the prog-rock bracket. The Raven That Refused to Sing is a different world, where direction changes without any prior warning, and instruments are played with the utmost technical brilliance. Bipolar soundscapes metamorphosize seamlessly into one another in this cunning arrangement.

 

9. James Blake – OvergrownJamesBlakeOvergrown

Blake has evolved a great deal as an artist since his dubstep days. His eponymous 2011 debut brought his voice to the forefront of his blueprint, receiving critical acclaim in the process. Overgrown has bettered even that, further enhancing Blake’s credentials as an artist with limitless creativity and a new kind of soul, dynamic and diverse, and tremendously evoking. A special talent.

 

8. Laura Marling – Once I Was an EagleLauraMarlingOnceIWasAnEagle

 Laura Marling has truly found her A-game here. A hugely gifted singer/songwriter who has been quietly busy since she arrived on the scene, Marling has produced 4 albums to date, each better than the last. Once I Was an Eagle is an intelligent collection that helps you to uncover new treasures as each track makes way for the next.

 

7. Savages – Silence YourselfSavagesSilenceYourself

 One of the more eagerly anticipated debuts in recent years. Savages have been on the radar for a while, and certainly didn’t disappoint when their debut LP arrived in May. The all-girl outfit (that definitely didn’t play with Barbies and My Little Ponies in their youth) unleashes a high energy, serious procession of post-punk that is as dark and sophisticated as it is blunt.

 

6. Suuns – Images du futursuunsimagesdufutur

 Up there with the most darkened, infectious records we’ve come across in 2013 thus far, Images du futur is a home to motorized, whirring basslines, and meticulous electro indie components. In some areas it’s toxic, but in other areas there are antidotes to bring you back from petrifying stupors. Downright tantalizing at times, Suuns just miss out on our mid-year top 5.

 

5. Atoms for Peace – AmokAtoms_AMOK-150x150

 Yorke’s fixation with digitized beats is here again, this time with an all-star supporting cast. There’s no funk-laden, slapped bass from Flea, but subtle snippets that let you know he’s there. Ghostly, haunting croons, and fascinating gradients of guitar, bass and beats make this an incredibly sophisticated and complex composition. It’s essentially a follow up to The Eraser, and carefully controls any of the digital schizophrenia that Yorke transmits as a rule.

4. Popstrangers – AntipodesPopstrangers-Antipodes

 New Zealand has proved to be somewhat of a goldmine for guitar music over the past year or so, and Popstrangers are one of the latest in a very promising line. This isn’t your bread and butter guitar band, though; concoctions of distorted guitars that avoid sounding loud share a melting pot with the odd noxious lick, catchy compromises and a plethora of influences. The result? An immense sense of intrigue and a superb debut album.

3. Milk Music – Cruise Your IllusionMilk Music

This is punk music at its absolute finest. Cruise Your Illusion is the debut full-length from a Washington four-piece who epitomize the roots of their genre. Recorded straight to tape, the finished article is raw, unmastered and has an out-of-control desperation that hooks you like a fish. It meanders with varying levels of frenzy, drowning percussion in a mesh of warm, lo-fi melodics. From the outset, you’re dropped smack bang in the middle of a decrepit practice room where a band who just don’t know how good they are are recording their tracks in one take. Watertight.

 

2. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty DazeKurt Vile

 The closest metaphor we can come up with for Wakin on a Pretty Daze is this. Imagine rising early without a care in the world. You’re at total peace with it. You’re on a plain with no obscuring undulations, and you’re as inland as inland can be. You sit back and watch the sun rise without an obstacle to impair its rays, and it immerses you… This record has an unerring ability to formulate vivid scenarios within you, where nothing notable comes about other than pure content. There’s no urgency in Vile’s work, just warm, virtuous guitars that intertwine with a captivating vocal and a convivial soundscape. One of those records you can literally listen to intently and wonder where the last hour has gone.

 

1. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like ClockworkQueens-Of-The-Stone-Age-Like-Clockwork-cover-150x150

The fact that this has pipped Kurt Vile to our mid-term crown is all you need to know about how good it actually is. Queens of the Stone Age returned following some of the more difficult times for Homme and Co, and brought with them a record that is their most accomplished to date. When awaiting a record like this, there’s always a skepticism that acts as your own insurance policy, just in case you are disappointed. But, even with the guest appearances, this is 100% a QOTSA album, with that unmistakable texture and substance. …Like Clockwork is sensationally dark, malignant and foreboding, with punctuations of the strut, radio-friendliness and swagger of old, and is a conscious effort to retrieve what it was Homme left on the operating table.

What do you think? What didn’t get there that you think should have? Please post your own rankings as a comment below, and let us know what you think of ours. There’s still some serious records to drop before our calendars change to 2014, too, and our mouths are watering at the prospect of how they may intertwine with this list come December! Look out for our ‘Halfway House’ part 2 as well, which will look at the best tracks we’ve come across so far this year, which will follow this post!

And here’s the Spotify playlist to go with it. In our opinion, the strongest track from each of the above albums. A 20 track collection for you to wrap your ears around! spoti.fi/14ZsQ8e 

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