Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks

By on Monday, 16th December 2013 at 11:00 am
 

It’s amazing how quickly a year can speed by, and 2013 has been not been an exception. While there is no doubt that the biggest, loudest and most annoying press campaign to promote an album this year was the one related to Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’, it won’t appear on my list of top albums. Nope, not a chance. Like all things in life, musical tastes change over time, and judging from the LPs released this year, mine definitely have.

I haven’t decided why the pop and dance worlds not haven’t been able to produce a good amount of excellent albums (notice I said albums, not singles), but I suspect that deep down, it has to do with heart. That said, I wonder if it’s symptomatic of the industry, but I’ve been having a hard time finding albums that I want to listen to in full, over and over again. So here are my top five albums of 2013 that I think everyone should own. Or at least listen to all the way through at least once to make your own judgment about them.

Static Jacks In Blue cover1. The Static Jacks – ‘In Blue’ (Old Friends) – The best albums are those that can span the entire spectrum of emotions for when you need it. The Static Jacks came of age on their second album, writing songs that can act like an old friend who is there to laugh with you or give you a knowing hug when you need a good cry. Not to mention, despite being still pretty young guys (at least they’re legal now, which they weren’t when I first saw them in 2010), they know how to write a memorable pop melody, which, judging from a lot of the rubbish on the charts these days, is a real talent.

It’s all here. You want fun? ‘I’ll Come Back’ and ‘Wallflowers’ are clear standouts, and to be honest, I’ve had such an up and down year, I needed something to cheer me up. ‘People Don’t Forget’ is probably the closest you’re going to get to the best pop song of the year. And lyrically, title track ‘In Blue’ hits in the spot: it’s an emotionally-charged piece of pop, “you try to run from all your problems / it just makes you stumble harder / realise I’m just sorry, and I know you’re still lonely”. Just perfect. Read my review here.

Dutch Uncles Out of Touch in the Wild cover2. Dutch Uncles – ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ (Memphis Industries) – Oddly, they’re the only ones from their town of Marple from the class of 2010 (the others being Delphic and Egyptian Hip Hop) still standing tall these days. Or maybe this is not odd at all. Breaking boundaries is what Dutch Uncles is all about, having recently put on a series of shows with a string ensemble, in addition to their atypical time signatures that have become their signature, and the uniqueness has paid off.

From the frenetic pace of xylophone in ‘Fester’, the feeling that you’re floating in space when you’ve got ‘Bellio’ in your headphones or my personal favourite, the smooth string –tinged jam of ‘Flexxin’ that caught Pitchfork’s ears, this is an album you’ll want to listen to over and over again, because you’ll discover something new and exciting each time. Oh, and while I’ve got your attention, you might as well get their debut ‘Cadenza’ too: different, but also wonderful. Read my review of ‘Out of Touch in the Wild’ here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHXxKitLdrU

Fenech-Soler Rituals cover3. Fenech-Soler – ‘Rituals’ (B-Unique) – I’ve listened to a lot of dance albums this year, trying to find The One (figuring it’d be easier than finding the right man) and mostly, I found disappointment. Fenech-Soler’s follow-up to their 2010 debut as worth the wait, with massive singles ‘All I Want’, ‘Magnetic’ and ‘Last Forever’, as well as the beauteous ‘Maiyu’.

It also contains quite possibly this year’s best floor filler in ‘In Our Blood’, an uplifting song about an ending relationship. It might be winter right now, but this album will keep your blood pumping all through to the next season of summer festivals. Read the album review here.

Fiction The Big Other cover4. Fiction – ‘The Big Other’ – ‘Effortless’ is the best word I can think of to describe London band Fiction’s debut album released in March. This LP feels like classic New Wave, yet does one better by being not at all heavy-handed: it’s got a lightness that will have ‘80s children feel nostalgic, with ‘Parting Gesture’ and ‘See Me Walk’ feeling like they would have been at home in a John Hughes film.

Regardless of how old you are, young and old should be able relate to (and love) this album because as evidenced in ‘Big Things’ and ‘Museum’, it’s just damn good: rhythmic, melodic, interesting. Read my review of ‘The Big Other’ here.

Arctic Monkeys AM cover sm5. Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’ (Domino) – Not sure how much they should owe their placement to producer and friend Josh Homme, who basically helped reinvent them into a darker, harder version from the one that I’ll admit used to annoy the hell out of me on ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’.

For me, it’s less about Alex Turner’s vocals, sounding almost rap-like on some of the harder tracks. No, it’s the attitude throughout this album, from the bluesy guitars on ‘Do You Wanna Know?’ and ‘R U Mine’, to the Richard Hawley-esque ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ and ‘Mad Sounds’. Mark my words, latest single ‘One for the Road’ will be a minimalist rock classic.

After the cut: discussion on albums that disappointed.

Disappointments:

Delphic – ‘Collections’ (Polydor/review here) – The consensus here at TGTF is that ‘Acolyte’ was a superb album. I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to come to terms with what happened here. You wait 3 long years in anticipation and then you’re left with something that was so different, it’s not really recognisable as Delphic. The confusion among punters was also readily apparent when the TGTF crew caught them at Liverpool Sound City this year, where it was clear that the tracks from ‘Acolyte’ were favoured over the new material.

White Lies – ‘Big TV’ (Fiction/review here) – Third time’s a charm, right? Uh, no. Despite being an awesome live band, White Lies just can’t seem to translate the gold they spin for their singles onto the rest of the albums they make. Also, would everyone *please stop* with all the instrumental transition tracks?

The 1975 – ‘The 1975’ (Dirty Hit/review here) – I think anticipation ended up killing this one for me. Again, great live band, but in this particular case, self-editing could have gone a long way to shorten this 16-track album into a lean, mean, 9- to 10-track album. Without transitions…

NO CEREMONY/// – ‘NO CEREMONY///’ (NOC/// /review here) – I think in this particular case, I was envisioning a different kind of record than the sleepier one we were given, when what I really needed was one I could throw my body into and have a good time with.

Outfit – ‘Performance’ (Double Denim/review here) – Sometimes I get the feeling I’m the only person into dance who does not like this album. I wanted to like it, but ‘House on Fire’ started to get on my nerves after its umpteenth playing on 6music, and overall, it didn’t feel to be like a strong showing.

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9 Responses

11:02 am
16th December 2013

New post: Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks: http://t.co/3dV8gjrCUD

11:09 am
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Top Albums of 2013: Editor’s Picks: http://t.co/3dV8gjrCUD

11:15 am
16th December 2013

Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3dV8gjrCUD

11:20 am
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3d…

12:39 pm
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3d…

4:55 pm
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3d…

5:00 pm
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3d…

5:00 pm
16th December 2013

RT @tgtf: Mary’s @tgtf Top Albums of 2013, starring @thestaticjacks @dutchuncles @FENECHSOLER @FictionLondon @ArcticMonkeys: http://t.co/3d…

1:47 pm
17th December 2013

@FENECHSOLER as it should be 🙂 happy holidays boys, hope you saw this! x http://t.co/ia1zon2FDV

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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