Well now. Once again it’s top 10 time. Let’s do this:
Gig of the year – a hard choice between Everything Everything at the O2 (where it turns out that they genuinely can do all that stuff live) and Harrison Birtwistle’s insane Minotaur opera at the ROH. I’m going to give it to the Birtwistle for sheer spectacle and because it was cheaper. Quite a lot cheaper. Standing upstairs at the ROH is, in fact, cheaper than standing upstairs at the Wheatsheaf for an indie band.
Disappointment of the year – no massive let downs of the scale of “Congratulations” or “ Good Don’t Sleep” so it’s going to have to go to Hurts for “Exile”. The decision to go dark and moody seems safe rather than edgy – there’s a kind of off-the-shelf angst here that doesn’t really do it for me. The tunes are decent enough – “Miracle” is as good as anything on “Happiness” - but the main problem is the full on loudness war production, which is full of nasty crunchy noises that make it physically painful to listen to in parts. Stop it. Just stop it.
Close but no cigar:
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe. This is pretty good and almost got in but is handicapped by the fact that after listening to it I can’t remember any of the tunes. Literally not one. Not even the tune for “We Sink” which is a great track.
Hacker Farm – UHF. Weird industrial noises, disembodied voices, and homemade electronics – I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. Not as original as the Guardian seems to think but still pretty fine.
Future of the Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident. You know FOTL by now. Album financed by music Kickstarter-a-like Pledgemusic. Not in because several of the best tunes (including the excellently named “Future Child Embarrassment Matrix”) were on the previous “Man Versus Melody” E.P. which seems a little cheap, although I guess this record being accompanied by two further E.P’s made up for it.
M.I.A. – Matangi. An album born for iTunes shuffle. The tracks are ace (although again suffer from extreme mastering fail) but as an album it’s a bit relentless.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor. I really didn’t like “The Suburbs” – it sounded like a band playing it safe and making a big pile of money. This sounds like a band trying out new things. Much better than the critical backlash would have you believe.
E.P. of the year:
East India Youth – Hostel. Oh, this was great. There’s an album out next year, which I will be buying. In the meantime check this out:
And so to the top 10.
10) Samson and Delilah – V V Brown
A bit out of the blue, this one. I’d never heard of V V Brown. It sounds like a soul singer has decided to make a synthpop album having only read about synthpop and not heard any. The result is surprisingly great. A bit Alison Moyet, a bit Annie Lennox, a bit something all its own.
9) The Next Day – David Bowie
You all know the score on this one anyway. Is it as good as old Bowie? I would argue that it’s at least as good as “lodger” which is pretty good if not up to “Heroes”. Anyway this is the DFA remix of “Love is Lost” which suggests that next time, he should write an album, get James Murphy to remix it, then throw away the originals and release the remixes as the next Bowie album. Honestly, it’s that good.
8) Inform-Educate-Entertain – Public Service Broadcasting
Samples from old TV and radio programmes played over a background of Krautrock – we’ve heard this kind of thing before but what makes this stand out is the quality of the music. Recently played a gig at the British Library.
7) Govt Plates – Death Grips
Death Grips continue to push the envelope with their mixture of avant garde weirdness, thunderous beats, and shouting. As long as they keep doing this kind of stuff, I’ll keep buying it. Or I would if they didn’t invariably release their albums for free on the internets.
6) English Electric – OMD
An unashamed personal choice here. I love OMD and it’s nice to see them back on form. This album has a couple of odd moments -“Helen of Troy” is a strong song that seems to be trying too hard to be a lyrical cousin to“Joan of Arc”, likewise “Dresden” and “Enola Gay”, but encouragingly the best bits are when they move away from the old template a bit, as on “Our System”, “Final Song” and here on the joyous “Metroland”.
5) Factory Floor – Factory Floor
I liked them better before they sold out etc etc. Actually this is great, stripped down and mimimal. Having said that you can tell the exact instant they signed to DFA because loads of percussion suddenly turns up.
4) Field of Reeds – These New Puritans
Oh Fuck, I love TNP. This album got a bit of stick for being “inaccessible” IT’S A TNP ALBUM WHAT DID YOU FUCKING EXPECT? Anyway. It’s less accessible than Mumford and Sons but more accessible than Harrison Birtwistle. I’d give it maybe 1.2 Nymans. Utterly lovely, if that matters to you at all.
3) Arc – Everything Everything
Another of those albums I should hate – all clever noodly stuff and vocal gymnastics, like the worst of prog. However somehow this sounds completely futuristic. The huge choruses might help.
2) Silence Yourself – Savages
Squally guitar band of the year. This is a brilliant record by someone who’s not afraid to be arty and pretentious and then make an enormous racket. Album contains a track about the suicide of Field Marshall Rommel, which may be something of a first.The enormous racket starts about 1.16 in this clip BTW if you’re feeling impatient.
Which brings us to:
1) After Dark 2 - Various Artists
Yes, a compilation is my favourite album of 2013. More Glass Candy! More Chromatics! More Symmetry! I think it’s become clear that I’m going to like pretty much anything on disco producer Johnny Jewel’s Italians Do It Better label. Anyway, here’s Glass Candy’s gorgeous “Warm in the Winter” which seems right given the shitty weather outside my window. They’d like you to know that they love you.