One of my favourite podcasts, NPR All Songs Considered, just released its The Year in Music show for 2013. I haven’t listened as widely as the All Songs crew to new releases in 2013, but music has always been a big part of my life and I keep track of what’s new. So here are my entirely subjective picks for the year’s best albums, to add to all the other lists.
Firstly, a quick note about my trend of the year: awesome albums from solo woman artists! I have four in my top 10, including the number 1. Four others made my shortlist and just missed the top 10.
OK, here we go…
1. Chelsea Wolfe: Pain Is Beauty
My find of the year, Chelsea is a very intelligent artist and (mark my words) one to watch. ‘Pain Is Beauty’ is a thoughtful, cohesive, mysterious album. Despite the dark title and shadowed songs, her philosophy is refreshingly positive. I loved this quote from her, explaining the album while referencing George Orwell’s ’1984′: “I reread 1984 and I was unhappy with it. I wrote a more idealistic ending to the book because I have a more idealistic outlook on life.”
2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
Loved the organic sounds and respectfully retro feel. This album just made me happy, in a ‘dance while I do the dishes’ kind of way.
3. Foxygen: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
New, young pyschedelica band. Delightful lyrics and adventurous sounds. I listened to this album non-stop on my February trip to Europe.
4. Nirvana: In Utero, 20th Anniversary
There were some fantastic re-issues in 2013. REM’s 25th anniversary of ‘Green’ was another, along with the much-anticipated upcoming 45th anniversary release of The Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light/White Heat’. I have to pick Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ as my favourite re-issue, in particular because of the minty-fresh Steve Albini “2013 mix.” I also really liked the instrumental versions.
5. Lorde: Pure Heroine
Lorde is from my home country, New Zealand, and I was just so impressed by her this year. Orders of magnitude better than Miley Cyrus, and all the other increasingly disturbing line of Madonna/Britney knock-offs. I sincerely hope Lorde has set a new trend in young pop singers.
6. Kurt Vile: Wakin On A Pretty Daze
If Neil Young has a successor in the laid back, almost-hippie-but-cooler-than-that archetype, then it’s this guy. Loved the title track especially.
7. Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park
Smart, ironic lyrics and a beautiful country-inspired voice to match. Can’t wait to hear what she does next.
8. David Bowie: The Next Day
Surprise of the year was a new album from The Master. I wasn’t entirely convinced by it, but a lot of Bowie’s albums take time to settle into your consciousness. Just great to see him back. Plus, of course, the singles had excellent videos.
9. Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady
I was a huge Prince fan in the 80s and 90s. This talented lady keeps the Prince vibe alive. There’s even a guest vocal from His Royal Purpleness on the wonderful track ‘Givin Em What They Love’.
10. The Duckworth Lewis Method: Sticky Wickets
An unusual mix of comedy and very sophisticated music, with cricket as its muse. This album made me chuckle every time I listened to it. I especially enjoyed the ELO influence, with harmonies and orchestral sounds galore.
Just missed the cut, but still supurb albums:
Cate Le Bon: Mug Museum
Laura Marling: Once I Was An Eagle
Anna Calvi: One Breath
Juana Molina: Wed 21
James Blake: Overgrown
p.s. if you like, you can also listen to a Spotify playlist of my favourite songs of 2013.