Here it is! Reviewcaster’s Top 10 albums of 2013. Awful lot of deliberation has resulted in this exclusive list. As always, we want to hear your views, and your Best of 2013 verdicts!
10. Savages – Silence Yourself
Silence Yourself was undoubtedly 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 did anything but 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. The meticulous nature of its arrangement on its foundation of Joy Division-esque basslines provides an insight into an array of gothic overtures, and throughout, Jehnny Beth’s schizophrenic voice stays as sharp as a cat with a flick-knife. Intense stuff.
Key Tracks – She Will, Shut Up, Husbands
9. Popstrangers – 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 of Australasian exports. This isn’t a bread and butter guitar band, though; concoctions of distorted guitars that avoid sounding overbearing share a melting pot with smearing, noxious licks, catchy compromises and a smorgasbord of influences, and it’s nothing less than a calculated, spiky assault from the moment the toxic sprawl of Jane infects your headphones. With Antipodes, Popstrangers have shown themselves perfectly happy to experiment with the fine science of balancing quiet and loud, bringing together an abundance of genres and sounding like none of them. The result? A band that is delightfully impossible to pigeonhole, an immense sense of intrigue and a superb debut album.
Key Tracks – Full Fat, Cat’s Eyes, Heaven
8. Milk Music – Cruise Your Illusion
Punk music at its absolute finest. Cruise Your Illusion is the debut full-length from a Washington four-piece who epitomise 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 magnitudes of frenzy, drowning out 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 sharpening their chops. Frontman Alex Coxen has openly admitted to not owning a computer, and everything about his band’s resonant aesthetic screams nostalgia and the yearn to have been born a decade or two earlier. Milk Music also come with a distinct lack of online presence – typical of the image that the band is so proud to uphold. Watertight.
Key Tracks – Cruising With God, Lacey’s Secret, I’ve Got A Wild Feeling
7. Drenge – Drenge
The superbly named Loveless brothers arrived in 2013 with a sensationally raw debut record. Drenge races from track to track before you have a chance to catch your breath, building a wall of noise from crashing cymbals and bestial riffs. From the blues of People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck, the grunge of Face Like A Skull and the irony of Fuckabout, Drenge maintains its strength throughout, incorporating a horde of influences into an intense listen. It’s an LP littered with exquisite wit in the form of sardonically charged bursts on what’s wrong with the world, but it’s not a case of the duo taking themselves too seriously, or punctuating their streams with the overbearing self-loathing of your token grunge imitators. Rory and Eoin Loveless have smashed the nail’s head into smithereens on this front, taking the proverbial piss out of some of the more trivial issues in this world. The noteworthy tracks that continue to arrive at a furious rate of knots give a crude insight further and further into their repertoire. The second best debut record of the year.
Key Tracks – People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck, Bloodsports, Face Like A Skull
6. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Speedy Ortiz rock up in 6th place with the highest ranked debut album of 2013, but the female fronted indie rockers could have released this record 20 years ago and it would have been at home. There’s an ominous, grungey overture to the whole arrangement, but it’s the quirky, evasive and often tenebrous melodies that immediately prick your ear. From the outset, the splayed guitar harmonics of Pioneer Spine heighten an intrigue, and associations with the likes of Polvo, and even Slint, can be readily recognised. Where Major Arcana really does excel however, is lyrically. Front-woman Sadie Dupuis also fronts an all-female tribute band called ‘Babement’, and if that wasn’t enough evidence to deduce where Speedy Ortiz’s main influence comes from, it’s easy to see that the lyrics throughout the record could have feasibly been scribed by Stephen Malkmus himself. Dupuis is of the stock that an intelligent metaphor is the best way to sum up a particular feeling or issue, and the flippant references that initially seem nonsensical fall into context precisely. Major Arcana is a superb debut record that celebrates a seldom-heard pastime without ever plagiarising it.
Key Tracks – Tiger Tank, No Below, Plough
5. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
Laura Marling has truly found her A-game here, with 2013 being the year that she has firmly established herself as an elite member of the British singer/songwriters club. Since her arrival in 2008 the volume of Marling’s output has been nothing short of prolific, but her work is evolving and strengthening with each release. Once I Was An Eagle is an intelligent collection that helps you to uncover new treasures as each track makes way for the next. The record has a sardonic, predatory intricacy that is indispensable to the identity Marling has created, complete with expertly architected bridges that allow for in-record transitions, enabling the record to meander in a meticulously arranged segue. Once I Was An Eagle can be looked at as the most valuable jewel in Marling’s crown – and this is a crown that is only going to increase in value.
Key Tracks – Master Hunter, Undine, Where Can I Go?
4. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
The record that topped our Halfway House list has slipped 3 places over the latter half of 2013, but rest assured it’s still as good as we thought it was then – the fact that 3 albums have weighed in ahead of it is simply testament to the strength of 2013 on the whole. 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 trademark unmistakable texture and substance. There isn’t a weak track, but the magnificent I Appear Missing deserves a mention. It’s a haunting lullaby that evolves into a tormenting vortex, which will have you looking over your shoulder, checking your wardrobes at night, and fighting a tidal wave of apprehension. It’s typical of …Like Clockwork; sensationally dark, malignant and foreboding, The punctuations of the strut, radio-friendliness and swagger of old are there in abundance, and the record is a conscious effort to retrieve what it was that Homme left on that operating table.
Key Tracks – I Appear Missing, My God Is The Sun, Keep Your Eyes Peeled
3. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae is without doubt one of the most innovative and intriguing talents that has surfaced over the past decade. 3 years previously Monae announced herself with The ArchAndroid; a concept album that basked under an umbrella of afrofuturism, centring on a rebel android from the distant future. She crammed a great deal into its runtime, bringing together myriads of guest appearances from a huge range of artistic styles, amalgamating a concept that was compellingly cerebral and infectiously fun. Naturally, expectations were dangerously high for its follow up, but it’s safe to say they were exceeded conclusively with The Electric Lady, a record that has firmly announced Monae’s position as a mercurial talent in the process. She chooses to operate from well outside the confines of the modern r ‘n’ b paradigm, and conveys her genre-flitting, sci-fi tendencies into an enthralling, stimulating concept. The Electric Lady sounds expressly familiar, incorporating mainstream sounds from at least 4 or 5 decades and arranging them into one bespoke take on contemporary r ‘n’ b. Jaunty rhythms and outrageously catchy tracks, meticulously arranged, explicitly announce Monae as a master curator, and a talent all too rare.
Key Tracks – Q.U.E.E.N., Dance Apocalyptic, Ghetto Woman
2. Arctic Monkeys – AM
British music’s most valuable contemporary commodity outdid themselves once again this year, this time with yet another LP that maintains the unerring strength of their increasingly illustrious catalogue. AM is intricately brilliant, with Turner and Co. managing to intertwine a brooding bravado with composed r ‘n’ b to create a self-assured swoon of seduction. Arctic Monkeys have come a very long way since they burst out of Sheffield, clad in Adidas Originals and surrounded by an amount of hype that seemed impossible to live up to. Almost 8 years later, they can now really stake a claim to be mentioned in the same bracket as the very best British bands, who have proven Radiohead-like in their ability to produce LPs that evolve from their predecessors, maintain burgeoning acclaim, and appeal to the cynics that wrote them off as nothing more than youthful hype. As we’ve grown to expect, Turner’s lyricism is imported from a giddy stratosphere, giving us a timely reminder of just how well he knows his way around a pen and paper. AM is an unflappable outpouring from a band at the very top of their game.
Key Tracks – Do I Wanna Know?, R U Mine, Arabella
1. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze
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 with a niche take on paradise. 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, uplifting guitars that intertwine with a captivating vocal and a convivial soundscape. Vile’s sprawling tracks that sometimes touch upon the 8-10 minute mark are anything but self-indulgent; it’s just that urgency isn’t something that sits at the forefront of Kurt’s mind. With the risk of throwing a cliché into the midst, this is one of those records you can literally listen to intently and wonder where the last hour has gone. Wakin On A Pretty Daze has ousted …Like Clockwork to the top spot, despite being second to it in our Halfway House list, and make no mistake about it – this isn’t due to us thinking less of QOTSA’s effort than we did in the summer. Kurt Vile has composed a sublime record that strengthens with every listen, and will have you launching yourself at rewind buttons to hold onto every last ounce of that mellow gold.
Key Tracks – Wakin on a Pretty Day, Girl Called Alex, Goldtone
Well there you have it! A year for music ridden with spectacular comebacks, the female vocal, and the best bands confirming they’re just better than the rest. There’s naturally a number of records that came extremely close to making the list, so here’s a few we should definitely mention… David Bowie’s comeback was out of the blue, and fantastic to boot. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds simply never fail to deliver an excellent record. My Bloody Valentine followed up a 2 decade old iconic record with mbv, which was outstanding. The records from Hookworms and Iceage were in and out of our Top 25, and Swearin’ produced an excellent punk record worthy of mention. London Grammar and Laura Mvula enhanced the ‘Year of the Female Vocal’ credentials of 2013, whilst Disclosure produced the best dance record we’ve heard in a long time.
Check out Reviewcaster’s Spotify playlist, which houses all the ‘Key Tracks’ mentioned in this list! spoti.fi/1gdy8iN
And of course, Part 1 of our Best Albums of 2013 list, covering numbers 25-11! (https://reviewcasteruk.com/2014/01/06/top-25-albums-of-2013-part-one/).