My Top 10 Albums of 2013

OK, so let’s just spell them out, then explain.

1. The Bones Of What You Believe- Chvrches

2. Settle – Disclosure

3. Amok – Atoms For Peace

4. Dear River – Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo

5. Tin Star – Lindi Ortega

6. If You Wait – London Grammar

7. Stay True – Danny and the Champions of the World

8. Overgrown – James Blake

9. Machineries of Joy – British Sea Power

10. Ride Out The Dark – Houndstooth

So Chvrches won by a mile. I grew to love them over the year. Saw them at Latititude, bought the singles. Heard the album. Related to the perfection of their eighties sound. Saw them at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Got to love every song on the album. As close to pop perfection as you can get. Brilliant beats and that voice… Lauren Mayberry. Floating over the dance beats with an edge and a beauty. Amongst all the tracks, “Lies” is my favourite. A punching beat, like Tubeway Army’s “Are Friends Electric”, but with that beautiful voice almost contradicting the rhythm.   I’m still listening to this album – it never ceases to delight.

Disclosure have a retro element too. Their dance beats stray through all the sounds of the last twenty years. It’s so uplifting. Another album I just couldn’t stop listening to for a while. Pure fun. At Latitude, they were good, but not quite as good as I’d hoped for, maybe because none of the guest singers were there. But this was a seriously good album.

 Atoms For Peace are Tom Yorke’s latest side project. “Amok” took up where “The King Of Limbs” left off, with even more electronic loops and blurps. It brought me back to Radiohead’s astonishing concert at the O2 in late 2012. The melodies mashed up with some amazing electronics. “Amok” took the concept even further.

Emily Barker’s “Dear River” is a wonderful, warm folk album that tells stories of the pull of home, which is Western Australia. Readers of this blog will know how much I love Emily’s music. This album simply took it to new levels. The rousing “Letters” is my favourite.

A month ago I had never heard of Lindi Ortega. The Guardian gave her album, “Tin Star” four stars. Suggested she was a country singer with a bit of edge. I gave it a listen on Spotify. The Guardian was right. I really loved the title track. It was the kind of song that Bruce Springsteen might write. That gave me an entry to the whole album. I’ve been lapping it up ever since. Country heartbreak and rock’n’roll. Can’t wait to see her at the Borderline in Soho, late January.

London Grammar was another late entry into the ten. I’d heard a few tracks and liked them. Then I focused. And realised that this is an extraordinarily beautiful album. “Strong” is the best of many wonderful tunes. There’s an element of trip hop, and a sense of melancholy which is truly gripping. This is a true soul album.

Danny and the Champs play a wonderful mix of Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Danny’s original band, Grand Drive. Check my my recent blog about the band to see how good they are live. James Blake was the best thing at Latitude this year. “Overgrown” won the Mercury Music prize. It’s more of the combination of that aching soul and unusual electro beats that characterised his eponymous first album. Not quite as striking, but still wonderful. I went to see British Sea Power early in 2013. They were superb. And the new album featured heavily. Favourite track, the wild “K Hole”. And in tenth spot Houndstooth, a band from Oregon, USA, that I heard on BBC 6 Music. I liked the combination of psych-folk and guitar solos that reminded me of Television – Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. They only just edged out my favourite ambient band, Boards of Canada, with their new album, “Tomorrow’s Harvest”. So check them out too!

Now I have to acknowledge that my good friend dc  (he eschews upper case) won’t be happy with the complete lack of metal and almost no rock (British Sea Power is closest). Well, I have heard some good rock albums this year – Hookworms, Drenge – and haven’t got around to listening to others yet, like Queens Of The Stone Age. But nothing has made me want to pick up that air guitar and rock. Essentially my ten either made me want to sing along, dance, or wallow in the beautiful melancholy.

And talking of which, I should just mention a track I loved this year. “Let Her Go” by Passenger.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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6 Responses to My Top 10 Albums of 2013

  1. DyingNote says:

    I’m hopelessly out of it. Haven’t heard any of these albums. Will hear them out now that they come recommended by you.

  2. John S says:

    Appreciate that. Don’t suppose you’ll like them all, as we are all different. But hopefully there’ll be something that takes your fancy!

  3. Dood says:

    I’m with DyingNote. Gotta hand it to you, John – when most people of our age are thinking that Gary Barlow is dangerously modern and subversive, and dusting down their Doobie Brothers cassettes for the annual Christmas groove, you still manage to stay pretty close to the front line.

    I can claim an interest in Disclosure and Boards of Canada, and at least I’ve heard of Thom Yorke, so perhaps I’m not past redemption.

    But a definite feature of your blogs this year has been a further drift towards Country, Folk and other dubious waily material. I’m sure you’ll say I’m missing out, but these are paths I can’t see myself taking. Tread carefully!

    • John S says:

      Thanks Dood. You’re as close to the edge as I am, of course. Maybe more so if we compare our top 100s. And y’know, y’all, I’ve always been partial to a bit of melancholy folk/country/Irish music. I attribute it to my Celtic roots….

      And maybe age mellows us all…. a bit.

  4. Jon Grantham says:

    John

    Always difficult and no doubt it would be different if I did it again tomorrow, but here goes:

    Agree on BSP, Atoms for Peace and James Blake, and would add in no particular order of preference

    More Light, Primal Scream
    Hummingbird, Local Natives
    Trouble Will Find Me, The National
    Days Are Gone, Haim
    Long Way Down, Tom Odell
    1975, The 1975
    A Perfect World, Kodaline

    But then again…………

    Jon

    • John S says:

      All good stuff Jon. I’d rather forgotten about “More Light”, but of course the brilliant concert at Brixton brings that back into the frame. Blog to come! I checked Local Natives – who were of course superb at Latitude – and I thought they might be 2012. Just getting into the National. Been a blind spot which I need to rectify. 1975 and Haim both v.enjoyable. And I’ve still to listen to Kodaline and Tom O’Dell. Plenty of recommendations from the spate of top 50s in the press to follow up too, though I didn’t get too excited about Arctic Monkeys, which was right up there in a lot of lists. I’m not sure I’d want to drop anything from my ten, but I’m sure there will be some serious challengers in a month or so, when more last minute listening has been done.

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