What better way to welcome the New Year and our little effort if not by publishing what best was heard in the last year. We took some time off to go to the toilet and think long and hard about all of these mesmerising 15 albums of 2013.
15. Charles Bradley – Victim of Love
After arriving to his long desired musical dream with, ironically, “No Time For Dreaming”, Charles Bradley toured 2013 extensively with his new album “Victim of Love”. You’d think that either him or the people at Daptone would have wanted to relax and put out something less intense than “No Time For Dreaming” but the Menahan Street Band still pumps that instrumental intensity into the album. And his voice? It’s as powerful as ever!
14. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
The internet loves making a frenzy at anything that Thom Yorke does, whether its photobombing or his feud with Spotify. So it would be logical that when he grabs parts of Red Hot Chilli Peppers, R.E.M. and Beck and names the band over a presidential speech, things will go haywire. Their debut album, “AMOK” is interesting also because it includes one track from Yorke’s solo album “The Eraser”. Packed with his typical howling feel, it’s a feat of percussion and instrumentalism to combine so many different sounds into one album.
13. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
It’s impressive how much attention Trevor Powers as Youth Lagoon gathers from crowds as distinct as fans of chillwave, indie, electro and psych. His latest album “Wondrous Bughouse” is a journey of situational comedy into what might only be a very drug-infused experiment with the human psyche. From tracks as weird as “Pelican Man”, you’re thrown into a different hazy world where lo-fi is king but where those background melodies cannot stop warming you into submission.
12. Queens Of The Stone Age – … Like Clockwork
After a hiatus period which involved an unsettling hospitalisation of QOTSA leader Josh Homme, it was with his ‘consistent business plan of not giving a fuck’, according to Anthony Bourdain, that they came back with “… Like Clockwork”. Quite possibly one of the most intense albums of 2013, it just proved to show how tough it can get, but how great minds who work according to their own principles always succeed.
11. Jacco Gardner – Cabinet Of Curiosities
To say that Jacco Gardner is a genius might be an overstatement. To say that he brilliantly reflects what best was made in the late 60s psychedelia is definitely an understatement. With “Cabinet of Curiosities” the dutch artist completely tore the hype that his initial EP had garnered him and implanted firms roots in the niche baroque sound that he has. The whole album is riddled with cryptic lyrics that fuse with the melodies like an Arthur Brown wet dream.
10. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
PTM is that kind of band that has been consistently putting out albums every year since 2007. And you know what? They’re all great! Maybe its their Alaskan-cabin retreats that makes them gain inspiration every year. Maybe it’s Danger Mouse’s help on this. Maybe its the fact that they don’t give a fuck about anything and are about as cool as anyone can get if you meet them in person. How can music not sound great like that? Evil Friends is the proof.
9. Beaches – She Beats
Australia had a giant year and not just because of the Allbrook/Avery-Pond-Tame Impala crew. This all-female group with a common love for, imagine… Beaches (!), left a mark with their debut album “She Beats” channeling all the sun-laden happiness we thought post-punk didn’t have. More shoegazy than their national contemporary counterparts, its tracks like “Out Of Mind” and “Send Them Away” that make Beaches not just a corporate copycat.
8. Woodkid – The Golden Age
Woodkid first came to my attention while selling limited edition vinyls of his “Run Boy Run” at the London Jazz Festival. So as soon as “The Golden Age” came out it I was curious to hear it in its entirety. And I was completely overwhelmed by the way the aesthetic of Woodkid aids in creating the unique sound he has, making it sound like the soundtrack of an epic Mad Max prequel!
7. Pond – Hobo Rocket
Its tough to rise up to the ideal of what Australia’s neo-psychedelia should be, when you are perpetually being compared to Tame Impala. And don’t let Pond be the ones to deny that they are not, because their previous album “Beard, Wives, Denim” was delightfully a masterpiece in its own right. Thats why when “Hobo Rocket” came out, it was automatically dismissed because it didn’t sound like its predecessor. But after consistent listens it just shows how creatively insane Pond can be with their sun-bathed guitars.
6. The Greyboy Allstars – Inland Emperor
You know… it’s impossible not to have personal favourites in this game. I’ve been a big fan of The Greyboy Allstars since I first heard their magical “What Happened To Television?” and although I enjoyed their later two albums, its not like Karl Denson and DJ Greyboy were able to deliver the same instrumental intensity. But along came “Inland Emperor”, which gladly wasn’t picked up by many major pseudo-mags, and BANG! Just blows you away with its “Profondo Grosso” intro. And you know what? They made it a vocal album full of soul!
5. Elvis Costello and The Roots – Wise Up Ghost
You cannot, I repeat, you cannot go wrong by mixing up two of the best musical underrated genius of the contemporary music industry. Sidelined as a talk-show backup band made Questlove uneasy so it seems he grabbed Elvis Costello because he can do it. And they decided to do an album. Definitely the most surprising collaboration of the year (even more so than Atoms for Peace), they sound so different and fresh its almost contagious and you’re left to imagine how it must be to see them live.
4. Widowspeak – Almanac
“Almanac” is probably one of the most curious-sounding albums of 2013. Its aesthetic reminds us of other blues-fuelled southern-rock red-state times, but when one listens to it it’s almost undeniable the big-metropolis feel that more dreamy and shoegaze tracks infuse. It’s almost as if the album was divided onto two sides, one the guitar-oriented rock of Robert Earl Thomas and the other the chamber-pop female vocals of Molly Hamilton.
3. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
The self-described two “high school kids obsessed with the Brian Jonestown Massacre” (and isn’t this an automatic win by itself?) made what many considered one of the best pieces of 2013. Under full Richard Swift influence, and in a more avant-guard orientation than “Take The Kids Off Broadway” Foxygen are now a household name within the industry of cool. It’s impossible to listen to this album without not feeling the need to drop some acid. Simple as that.
2. Jackson and His Computerband – Glow
EDM fans criticise the I in IDM. Well my answer to them is Jackson and His Computer Band. A Warp-favourite, the frenchman Jackson Fourgeaud sounds like behind his closet he has a Dexter’s Laboratory-scale of machinery with which he makes the most simple sounds meld into complexly moving melodic structures. From hardcore-beats to downtempo-emotions, his computer band is one I’d hire for my fucking funeral. “Glow” sounds like nothing I’ve heard before and definitely not like his first album.
1. Darkside – Psychic
A lot of people didn’t rave as much as they should have with “Psychic”, maybe because they expected much more of wonderboy Nicolar Jaar. On the other hand, a lot of people did rave about “Psychic” mostly because it was a piece by Jaar and right in the midst of the “Random Access Memories” brilliantly done Daftside remake. Forget about everything, put this on whatever music-reading device you use nowadays, shut down your internet, go grab an overground or a suburban train somewhere and you’ll be more clued up than anyone talking about “Psychic”.
And now for your listening enjoyment, here’s a playlist with 14 of the mentioned albums (sorry we couldn’t convince Thom Yorke to let us put his AMOK on Spotify).