2013 was a year for established acts strengthening burgeoning portfolios, bands making spectacular comebacks after lengthy periods of absence, and of course, the rough diamonds bursting onto the scene from relative obscurity. It was undoubtedly a fantastic year on the music front, with hundreds of records worthy of consideration for the hallowed ‘Best of 2013’ lists! After much deliberation, and plenty of chopping and changing, we’ve managed to whittle down the masses of superb LPs released into a comprehensive list of 25. We want to hear your thoughts on what’s where, and feel free to post your ‘Best of 2013’ ideas in the comment box below! Here is Part 1, covering albums from 25-11, with the top 10 to follow tomorrow. Enjoy!
25. Wavves – Afraid of Heights
Wavves return with the official follow up to King of the Beach – Nathan Williams and Co.’s breakout record from 2010. It’s a slack, playful grunge record that recalls the likes of Marcy Playground and Maladroit era Weezer, but this time, with Afraid of Heights, Williams no longer portrays himself as a Peter Pan of the skate/surf/weed-smoking world. The record is agile, and decorates the punk motif with melodic adeptness in order to make a lasting statement.
Key Track – Demon To Lean On
24. The Blank Tapes – Vacation
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 ever being plagiarised in the slightest. One to listen to on the beach, and don’t forget to bring the Ambre Solaire!
Key Track – Tamarind Seeds
23. Vaadat Charigim – The World Is Well Lost
Vaadat Charigim’s brand of silky shoegaze boasts glaring guitars and intimate hooks, and has a National-esque knack of making desolation sound uplifting. The vocals are delivered in the band’s native tongue, and even though non-Hebrew speakers may not be able to interpret a message in its entirety, a desire to remain loyal to an identity is testament to the record’s sincerity. It’s is very relatable, and boasts intermittent nods to the likes of Ian Curtis, and of course MBV.
Key Track – Odisea
22. Portugal. The Man – Evil 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 organised and utilised in all the right areas. Psychedelic rock executed correctly.
Key Track – Hip Hop Kids
21. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
Kveikur is Sigur Ros’s 7th album, and thus far, each one has progressed startlingly from the last, right the way 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 that trademark, downright outrageous amalgamation of sonority and tranquillity.
Key Track – Brennisteinn
20. Deerhunter – Monomania
Deerhunter’s grade of nebulous, psychedelic rock has an inerrant ability to blend a fragmented swath of melodic scopes with an abrasive, often raucous dose of garage punk into something carefully disorganised and impeccably imposing. Monomania is perhaps their most imposing record yet, operating from the outskirts of their hazy blueprint, and delivering itself armed with a rowdy façade. They remain gloriously difficult to pigeonhole, and I can’t imagine that will change anytime soon.
Key Track – Dream Captain
19. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National have, for almost a decade, released LPs that have consistently received critical acclaim. Trouble Will Find Me maintains the strength of this enviable portfolio, with the familiar, beautifully arranged soundscapes and subtly impeccable rhythm section. Matt Berninger’s gloomy baritone resonates with an anguished beauty as gracefully as ever, and is an indispensable factor in the refinement of The National’s finest science; making lugubriousness uplifting.
Key Track – This Is The Last Time
18. True Widow – Circumambulation
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 mesmerise, however inadvertent the intentions are. This is a band that revels in their perplexing, encoded forecast – a recipe for a sound that is heavy, all consuming, and meticulously calculating.
Key Track – HW:R
17. Vista Chino – Peace
Vista Chino is the rejuvenation of what we knew and loved as Kyuss. The pioneers of desert rock were arguably one of the most integral influences on any given music movement in the 90s, announcing their genre from an arid backdrop. They’re back 18 years later, this time without Josh Homme’s youthful, bass-driven fuzz, but the blueprint remains the same. This time, Bruno Fevery channels the familiar tones straight from the desert, and the unmistakably powerful southern snarl of John Garcia is as strong as ever. Peace will have you delving into your collections for the Kyuss records, but this is a great record in itself, and a celebration of the original desert rock landscape.
Key Track – Adara
16. Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
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. Will Cantrell ever run out of riffs?
Key Track – Stone
15. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
Yorke’s fixation with digitised 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.
Key Track – Ingenue
14. Suuns – Images du futur
Up there with the most darkened, infectious records we’ve come across in 2013, Images du futur is a home to motorised, 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 tantalising at times, and a must to see live.
Key Track – Edie’s Dream
13. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
The bedroom-recording project of Katie Crutchfield is a sweet marriage of musical innocence and lyrical purity. Guitar work is simple, and other instruments are used sparingly, but Cerulean Salt remains undeniably candid and compellingly uninhibited. Crutchfield cross-stitches a playful, nineties grunge narrative with a folky concept, and it’s a sound that is complimented perfectly by her angst-ridden, girliest voice. Where Samuel Pepys would use a diary, Crutchfield uses an LP; the result is a hugely infectious, unassuming outpouring of alt. folk.
Key Track – Misery Over Dispute
12. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing
Steven Wilson has long been considered one of the elites in the prog 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, and the prolific Progfather shows no sign of slowing down just yet.
Key Track – Luminol
11. James Blake – Overgrown
James Blake has evolved a great deal as an artist since his dub-step 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, winning the 2013 Mercury Prize in the process. Overgrown is dynamic and diverse, and tremendously evoking. Blake is a special talent who needs nothing more than his unmistakable vocal and his minimalist beats to survive. If this record is missing out on our top 10, that will give you some indication on just how strong it is.
Key Track – Retrograde
Check out Part 2 of this list, and our Top 10, here! (https://reviewcasteruk.com/2014/01/07/top-25-albums-of-2013-part-2-10-1/)