To my ears at least, 2013 has been the best year in ages album-wise. I can’t count on two hands how many records I’ve bought and thoroughly enjoyed over the past 12 months. Here are ten of them, in alphabetical order no less!
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Ah, how we’d missed those men in motorbike helmets. Their most accomplished and infectious record to date, and the soundtrack of many a summer social gathering. Best tracks: Get Lucky, Doing It Right
Disclosure – Settle
I had the good fortune of seeing the Lawrence-brothers live, supporting Hot Chip, last year and could never have guessed what a massive act they’d become in 2013. Mixing 90’s grooves with garage beats and inspired guest vocalists, I didn’t take much persuasion from my 14-year-old son to buy this. Best tracks: When A Fire Starts To Burn, White Noise.
Dutch Uncles – XO
A band I saw live twice in 2013, this album sinks its angular hooks in deeper every time I listen. It’s arty, it’s melodic and there’s nothing quite else like it. Best tracks: Bellio, Flexxin.
Lord Huron – Lord Huron
Uncut magazine turned me onto LA-based songwriter Ben Schneider aka Lord Huron. A hint of Springsteen, this is epic string-swept folk with widescreen scope. Best tracks: Time To Run, She Lit A Fire.
Mogwai – Les Revenants Soundtrack
Those who watched Channel 4’s return-of-the-dead French drama The Returned (Les Revenants) will have noticed the eery soundtrack provided by Scots noiseniks Mogwai. There’s beauty and menace in these, mostly, instrumental tracks and a beautiful cover of gospel standard What Are They Doing In Heaven Today? Best tracks: Special N, What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I approached this album by Brooklyn’s finest with slight trepidation after disappointment with previous LP High Violet. I shouldn’t have worried, this is The National at their broken, majestic best. Best tracks: Heavenfaced, Graceless.
Rue Royale – Remedies Ahead
On their third album, Rue Royale made definite steps forward, sonically and lyrically, helped by producer Paul Pilot. 2013 felt like a watermark year for the duo, no more so than their triumphant opening slot for Volcano Choir (more of below) in Amsterdam. Who knows what 2014 could bring? Best tracks: Pull Me Like A String, Try As They Might.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Album number three is Vampire Weekend’s coming of age. Mature lyrics about death and religion bolted to bouncing melodies. Consistently excellent. Best tracks: Diane Young, Everlasting Arms.
Volcano Choir – Repave
A record that crept under the radar when released in September, but a grower with every listen. Fronted by Justin Vernon, Volcano Choir expand where Bon Iver left off, both subtle and majestic. And they blew me away live. Best tracks: Tiderays, Alaskans.
Matthew E White – Big Inner
I’ve been living with this debut by Virginia songwriter and producer White for the past 12 months, and it’s still probably my favourite LP of the year. Layers of gospel, jazz and funk gently build as tracks veer off in wonderful directions. Soul-food with a serious shuffle. Best tracks: Big Love, Gone Away.