Best Albums of 2013

The National, looking suitably elated at the result

The National, looking suitably elated at their album’s selection as my favourite of the year

With not much slated for release in the next week, it’s time to look back on my 5 favourite albums of 2013, a year when ‘the album’ showed that it was still alive and well in a sea of iTunes singles downloads.


5. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film
Manic Street Preachers - Rewind The Film
Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

A completely different sound from Wales’ finest resulted in an album that was perhaps a little more difficult to access immediately, but repaid the investment in multiple listens tenfold as the weeks rolled by.

Stripped of James Dean Bradfield‘s trademark electric guitar, Rewind The Film gave us a version of the Manics that had grown through the angst of their early 20s and grown old with a reflective and melancholic style of which some cynics may not have thought possible.

Interestingly, one of the album’s highlights comes in the form of a 7 minute collaboration with singer songwriter and one time Pulp guitarist Richard Hawley. The title track is a burner that wraps around you and takes you to a place a long way away from the band that gave us “Repeat after me – Fuck Queen and country“.

 

4. Cloud Control – Dream Cave
Cloud Control - Dream Cave
Cloud Control – Dream Cave

After the folk-pop debut album Bliss Release, the Blue Mountains quartet transformed their joyous live shows into a album containing the perfect mix of lyrical poignancy and songs to which you can actually dance.

On first listen, it’s an album that seems an ‘indoor’ one, something to listen to whilst doing other things, but with subsequent listens it grows in its impact, beyond the successful single Dojo Rising to completely avoid being labelled ‘the difficult 2nd album’.

Whilst they remain one of Australia’s current crop of quality live bands, Cloud Control showed that this energy can serve them just as well once recorded.

3. Editors – Weight of Your Love
Editors - The Weight of Your Love
Editors – The Weight of Your Love

After hearing the lead off single Ton of Love in the first half of the year, it took me until August to really give this album a solid listen.

From that point it rarely left my ears. Its raw sound and minimal production – most of the album was recorded in full live takes – and the sound of a British band inspired by America provides a different feel from the group’s previous 3 albums.

 

2.  Arctic Monkeys – AM
Arctic Monkeys - AM
Arctic Monkeys – AM

After a painfully gushing pre-release NME review, it may have been easy to mark the Sheffield lads’ 5th offering very harshly. How can a band get a fair hearing with such strong expectations?

Yet again though, Alex Turner and friends nailed it, yet again reinventing themselves and producing a record that takes listeners somewhere they haven’t been with the monkeys.

The opening onslaught of singles Do I Wanna Know and R U Mine – driven by the basslines of Nick O’Malley hit the listener right where it hurts.

It’s the slinky brilliance of Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? though that displays just how far this band have come, indeed, one of the few present day bands that you’d feel confident in still seeing around in 5 years.

Selling out arenas regularly, Arctic Monkeys are at the top of their game, and even the clunky lyrics of album closer I Wanna Be Yours can’t detract from this 2013 standout.

 

1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The National – Trouble Will Find Me

From the second the mixed up time signatures of I Should Live In Salt open this album, the listener is surrounded by lush sounds accentuated by Matt Berninger‘s baritone delivered lyrics.

If their previous albums had been well received but without cut through beyond singles like Mr November and Bloodbuzz OhioTrouble Will Find Me saw The National get the recognition and popularity they had long deserved.

With so many highlights, it’s hard to isolate a handful but let’s have a try. The mumbling melancholy of Demons, the upbeat drive of frequent live show opener Don’t Swallow The Cap, and one of the few obvious love songs - I Need My Girl – all retain the same impact on the 60th listen as they do on the first. Perhaps the albums great highpoint though comes in the middle of it’s 8th track - Graceless. Perhaps it was its live impact back in July during their Splendour in the Grass set, or perhaps the song is capable on its own of surrounding the listener, but it’s this track, and indeed the album that are 2013′s greatest.

In this opinion anyway.

 

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