The weather outside is frightful… so what better time to join the rest of the Scramble team in putting together my thoughts on my favourite albums of 2013?
If I’m being totally honest, whilst the standard of gigs has been outstanding, I don’t think it’s been a vintage year for albums. There have been a fair few big releases that, in my opinion have been a bit of letdown. Yes, I’m looking at you Trent Reznor and Biffy Clyro. But that doesn’t mean that my top 10 will be anything less than great. There are some top albums here.
10. Ghostface Killah – Twelve Reasons to Die
A hip-hop concept album from Wu-Tang member, Ghostface Killah. I love the feel of this, the vibe created by the use of what sound like soul music samples and beats. The feel is that of a ’60s or ’70s B movie. The concept, set in Italy, is that Ghostface’s alter-ego, Tony Starks is a mob enforcer. He falls for the boss’s daughter and, after striking out on his own, is whacked. His remains are pressed into 12 vinyl records which, when played, resurrect him as the Ghostface Killah. From there he wreaks his revenge on those who wronged him.
There’s no doubt that the concept is a bit off the wall, but the music is great. It’s difficult to pin down one or two tracks, such is the fantastic vide and flow of the album it really merits listening to beginning to end.
9. Drenge – Drenge
Derbyshire two-piece, brothers Eoin and Rory, first came to the attention of a lot of people by being recommended in the resignation letter of Labour MP Tom Watson. A slightly bizarre way to get some word of mouth, but there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
A rough and ready debut full of raw tunes that begged to be turned up louder and louder. The likes of ‘Backwaters’ is reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at their heaviest and the frantic ‘Bloodsports’ was used by Channel 4 to advertise the latest series of Misfits. There’s a definite sense of humour about the album as well, showcased on ‘Fuckabout’ which reminded me a little of The Longpigs. A fun album from a band that I reckon would be great live. Hope to catch up with them in 2014.
8. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
A real change of pace here. I first came across this young lady through her contribution to the fantastic Nashville TV series where she wrote the song ‘Undermine’. Kacey’s light country-pop breakthrough album is the sort that just makes you smile. This is, of course, despite the sometimes downbeat lyrics. The Grammy-nominated ‘Merry Go Round’ is a perfect example, a gentle yet cynical tale of a woman dealing with whatever life throws at her. ‘Blowin’ Smoke’ demonstrates a bit more sass and paints a typical scene of waitresses in an American diner dreaming of making a bid for freedom. The album itself manages the great trick of being easy-listening yet thoughtful and gritty yet poppy.
7. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt
Probably the album I was most looking forward to this year. When I first heard ‘Mind Your Manners‘, reminiscent of ‘Spin The Black Circle’, I got ridiculously excited. But once I got my grubby little paws on the album, I was actually a bit disappointed. Definitely a slow burner I feel however it does improve with every listen and the more I listened the more I’ve grown to love it. Songs like ‘Sirens’ and ‘Swallowed Whole’ easily stand up alongside the best of Pearl Jam and the title track has that epic Pearl Jam feel that’ll make it a live favourite. Eddie Vedder’s voice continues, of course, to be one of the wonders of the modern world and stands out beautifully on the magnificent, brooding ‘Pendulum’.
6. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
I was a bit wary on approaching this. The hype had been pretty epic so the album really had a lot to live up to. But I loved it straight from first listen. Lauren’s pure, sweet vocals are what this album is all about. Straight from the off with ‘The Mother We Share’ this is an album that intrigues me. It’s not generally what I would like but it’s done so well that I couldn’t help but fall in love.
Packed full of anthemic, uplifting choruses, the only time the album lets it’s quality drop is when Lauren takes a back seat on ‘Under the Tide’ letting Martin Doherty take lead vocals.
5. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In
Whereas Kacey Musgraves’ album was the lighter side of country, Caitlin Roses’s magnificent album definitely has a more melancholic feel. That said, it also manages to convey a beautiful lushness making for a wonderful listen. Songs like ‘Golden Boy’ and ‘Old Numbers’ have a very vintage sound to them, but manage to pull this off without sounding dated. Rose has a beautiful subtlety to her voice and combined with a fantastic backing band, superb arrangements and spotless production this adds up to one of the albums I’ve had on most throughout this year.
4. Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)
There isn’t much left for me to say about Gary Numan’s 20th studio album. Rightly giving him his greatest chart success in 30 years, Splinter is the perfect coming together of industrial metal and the electro-synth sound that Numan was so renowned for 3 decades ago. In addition, it contains one of the best songs I’ve heard all year in ‘Lost’.
Part of the reason this ranks so high isn’t just how much I’ve enjoyed it but also because I feel he’s been working towards this for a long time and finally got his recipe spot on.
3. Kvelertak – Meir
From the opening rumblings of ‘Apenbaring’ I knew this was going to be a worthy follow-up to their eponymous 2010 debut album. Relentless and pretty brutal, it definitely shows progression with a bit more subtlety about the music at times. Lyrically I have no idea what’s going on and that really isn’t the issue it might sometimes be. ‘Bruanne Brenn’ was a worthy lead single from the album and for such a seemingly punk-inspired band to have 3 tracks in a row clocking in at well over 6 minutes is impressive.
2. Arctic Monkeys – AM
I’m sure Arctic Monkeys will be devastated not to make my number 1 spot. Given what I thought when I first heard the album, I’m a bit surprised myself. Not that its lost any of its impact since its September release. It’s still got it’s gloriously sleazy sound, the clever lyrics and the swagger in Alex Turner’s delivery. ‘R U Mine’ remains one of the best things I’ve heard all year, but most of the songs on here could fit in on that list. They’re definitely a band that has improved as they’ve matured. I think moving from the UK to the States was probably the best thing they cold have done, the expanding of songwriting horizons has allowed a real talent to develop and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. A band at the height of their powers.
1. Disclosure – Settle
I have no idea what this is doing here. I haven’t had much of an interest in dance music for ages, I’ve felt for a while it’s been really quite dull. This, however, is magnificent. In a way it’s a bit of a throwback, taking me back to my days of going out to clubs. Almost every song has that uncanny knack of making you think you’ve heard it before and the album is obviously influenced heavily by the likes of the Chemical Brothers. Nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and boasting some impressive vocal collaborators, Settle is packed full of hooks and beats that have kept me coming back since my first listen.
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