So, the time has come yet again to reflect back on another year that has sped past faster than a speeding bullet. We are going to be looking back over, what we feel are the best 10 album releases of 2013, you may disagree, if you do, go set your own blog up and tell the world what you think....
We will also be looking back at what we feel were the 3 worst releases of the year, believe me, there were many contenders in this category and to whittle it down to just 3 was very tough indeed but we got there, eventually.
So, eyes down, let's crack on with the Top Ten albums of 2013....
10. LONDON GRAMMAR - IF YOU WAIT (Top chart placing: #2, Sept 2013)
Crashing onto the music scene this year with their debut EP 'Metal & Dust', London Grammar were regulars on the summer festival circuit and the UK Top 20, before the release of their hotly anticipated debut album. With vocal comparisons to Florence Welch, many of the songs were written about singer Hannah Reid's troubled childhood and teenage years, which gave the LP a very thoughtful, reflective feel. With their minimalist approach to constructing songs, some have passed London Grammar off as whimsical and lightweight, but the often heavy-hitting lyrics have the power to punch through on a regular basis.
Recommended Tracks: Wasting My Young Years/Strong
9. BASTILLE - BAD BLOOD (Top chart placing: #1, Mar 2013)
Another band who slowly clawed their way to stardom over 2013, when their third single ‘Pompeii’ smashed into the UK Singles Charts at #2, and their debut album took the top spot. Despite recently falling foul of the ‘cynical re-release with extra tracks’ not once, but twice (‘The Extended Cut’ and the recent ‘All This Bad Blood’ re-issue) it doesn’t dull the power of a band who have made a really tight piece of work. It had it’s detractors – the people who felt Bastille were trying to appeal to too many target audiences, but forget what they’re trying or trying not to do, and take the album for what it is. Your ears will thank you.
Recommended Tracks: Laura Palmer/Things We Lost in the Fire
8. ARCADE FIRE - REFLEKTOR (Top chart placing: #1, Oct 2013)
After a string of successful albums here in the UK, Arcade Fire have built their mainstream popularity on the basis of quite a cult following. After the quality of the 'Neon Bible' and 'The Suburbs' albums came this ambitious double-LP, released after the group began playing secret shows under the name The Reflektors, and unveiled bizarre graffiti in place of actual promotion for the album. First single 'Reflektor' showed the group certainly have a love of the dancefloor, with LCD Soundsystem style rhythms while still managing to shoehorn in French-language vocals and even a cameo from David Bowie. Elsewhere, Arcade Fire retained their air of lyrical mysticism while delivering a decent arsenal of tracks that should sound ace from their headline slot at Glastonbury 2014.
Recommended Tracks: Reflektor/Flashbulb Eyes
7. CHVRCHES - THE BONES OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE (Top chart placing: #9, Sept 2013)
Churches came fifth in this year’s BBC Sound of 2013 poll, and while they’ve not had a smash hit No.1 album like many of the other acts on our list of the best of 2013, Churches have shown that, if anything, slow and steady wins the race. With upbeat electro-pop at their core, Churches really had the tunes to brighten a day or turn a frown upside down. Alternating their breezy synth-pop with spectral yet pulsing numbers like ‘Night Sky’ kept a variety in their repertoire, while keeping fans of the early 80s happy.
Recommended Tracks: By The Throat/The Mother We Share
6. HAIM - DAYS ARE GONE (Top chart placing: #1, Sept 2013)
Inspired by 1970s American rock and R ‘n’ B, Haim’s three sisters Alana, Danielle and Este crafted an album that spoon-fed the best parts of Fleetwood Mac, Destiny’s Child and any one of the female rock role-models we’ve had over the decades into the blender and came out with a fantastic ride through music. While in structure they may be the female equivalent of 90s saccharine-popster Hanson, Haim are a welcome injection into the arm of 2013’s musical roster. It may not be the most groundbreaking debut ever recorded, but there wasn’t one song on the LP that lacked care or attention to detail, meaning it was one of the most laid-back, yet curiously ambitious albums of the year. With a solid foundation set in place, we can expect good things from this trinity of sisters in 2014.
Recommended Tracks: Falling/The Wire
5. MATT BERRY - KILL THE WOLF (Top chart placing: n/a, July 2013)
A comedian and actor not content with starring in the hit Channel 4 sit-com 'The I.T. Crowd' and his own series 'Toast of London', Matt Berry also flexed his musical muscles in 2013 with a low-key release for his fourth studio album. Following the hard to find 'Jackpot' from 1995, 'Opium' from 2005 and 'Witchazel' back in 2009, Berry crafted a superb mix of folky, pastoral works that - with tracks like 'Gather Up' and 'Farewell Summer Sun' - evoked the songs from Paul Giovanni's score for 1970s horror classic 'The Wicker Man', and in the nine-minute 'Solstice', the drifting instrumental passages of Mike Oldfield. With the humour from his day-job pretty much left out, it was a cohesive and mature sounding set of songs from someone who really does deserve more of the limelight when it comes to his music. But then perhaps that's how he likes it.
Recommended Tracks: Solstice/Knock Knock
4. TOM ODELL - LONG WAY DOWN (Top chart placing: #1, June 2013)
Winning awards early in your career can sometimes be the kiss of death. Reality stars more so. So being the recipient of the BRIT Awards' Critics Choice 2013 could have been a millstone around the neck of talented 23-year-old pianist Tom. Fortunately, he's not allowed it to be, and made a massive impression after a passionate debut on 'Later With Jools Holland' in late 2012. Despite not winning the BBC Sound of 2013 poll (that honour went to all-girl rockers Haim), Odell's first long-player was rapturously recieved, and he was quite rightly given a huge support slot to legendary rockers The Rolling Stones in July 2013, which he unfortunately missed through illness. With a strong emphasis on piano-driven, emotive ballads, Odell certainly has a bright future and a world outlook that belies his age. Just ignore that rather unhelpful and unprofessional '0/10' review that NME gave him - they were struck by temporary insanity.
Recommended Tracks: Another Love/Can't Pretend
3. ARCTIC MONKEYS - AM (Top chart placing: #1, Sept 2013)
Coming a long way from their Sheffield-boys-next-door persona of 2006, Arctic Monkeys are now more likely to be seen sound-tracking high-art films and hanging out with Queens of the Stone Age, more the band they lambasted so viciously in 'Fake Tales of San Francisco' from their debut album than the casual observers. But while the band have grown up - and lead vocalist Alex Turner's use of Brylcreem has increased ten fold - so have the songs. While the cheeky wit of early songs like 'Mardy Bum' and 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor' have largely been kept at bay, the group have for the past couple of albums sounded like they're in full control of their destiny, writing the kind of songs they want to write, which brought them a bit of a backlash with their darker sounding 'Humbug' album, but which people have been more eager to accept in recent years. Full of funky, bass driven slabs of scuzzy rock as well as the Yorkshire twang we've come to know and love, 'AM' is more evidence of just what makes the Monkeys special.
Recommended Tracks: Do I Wanna Know?/No. 1 Party Anthem
2. DISCLOSURE - SETTLE (Top chart placing: #1, May 2013)
After the death of rave music, and the increasingly chart-bound nature of many 'dance' acts, it's refreshing that 2013 brought back to life some 'real' electronic music which satisfied both camps: the chart-loving set who appreciate the songs pumped out down their local fun-pub/club, and the more serious connoisseurs of quality techno and electronic music. On 'Settle', Surrey-based brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence resurrected the movement in fine form, recalling the early efforts of pioneers like Chemical Brothers and Orbital. Swathed in big beats, more relaxed efforts and a generous smattering of guest vocalists to ensure things don't get stale, this was a cracking debut and their popularity as a 'go to' act for a remix or two guarantees they won't be short of collaborators on album number two.
Recommended Tracks: F For You/When A Fire Starts To Burn
1. DAFT PUNK - RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES (Top chart placing: #1, May 2013)
What is there to be said about the helmet-clad French duo who, back in the mid-90s, practically re-wrote the rule book on funky-house/pop crossovers? Bar one slight creative wobble in the mid 2000s with the patchy 'Human After All' album, Messieurs Bangalter and De Homem-Christo have smashed up all expectation of them once more with the funky, disco-slathered L.A. grooves on 'Random Access Memories'. Filled with guest stars from ex-Chic legend Nile Rodgers, the Midas-touched Pharrell Williams and legendary singer-songwriter Paul Williams (no relation), there was very much a reliance on 'natural' drums, guitars and pianos over the more electronic instruments, samplers and decks Daft Punk are perhaps known for. The album benefitted from this greatly, as was evident in it's performance 'around the world' (excuse the pun) and the installation of 'Get Lucky' as perhaps of THE track of 2013.
Recommended Tracks: Lose Yourself to Dance/Instant Crush
AND THE TOP THREE WORST OFFERINGS OF THE YEAR...
3. LILY ALLEN – ‘SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW’
A double-header for The Allen, as she’s also partly to blame for the award given for John Lewis' Worst Advert of the Year Award as well. Quite why we needed a twee cover version of a nine-year-old song by perhaps one of the least essential groups of the 2000's is anyone’s guess. I wonder which came first, Allen’s sterile recording of the song, or the John Lewis advertising pitch that decided the song was perfect for the mawkish animated scenes it portrayed? I have a sneaking suspicion it was the latter, although why they couldn’t have plumped for something more current is light years beyond me. A horrid, anodyne, saccharine cash-in of a song that nobody wanted, asked for, but yet apparently bought by the fuck-load, judging by its chart performance. The only saving grace, and it isn't much, is that as a race of people, we didn't allow this turd to occupy the No.1 spot this December 25th. Ideally, come January 1st, Lily and all the people who performed on the song, and everyone who downloaded it, will be first against the wall in the opening executions of the New Year.
2. YLVIS - THE FOX (WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY?)
While it didn’t incur as much of my wrath as Lily Allen’s tragic waste of voice, Ylvis came – excuse the pun – within a whisker of taking our ‘Unnecessary and Totally Hideous Song of the Year’ award with their charmless, eardrum threatening ditty ‘The Fox’. Made up of Norwegian brothers Bard and Vegard Ylvisaker, Ylvis they thought it would be a great idea to unleash a “comedy” song they wrote for their chat show ‘I kveld med Ylvis’ (‘Tonight with Ylvis’) on an unsuspecting world. Much like the virus that wipes out billions in the film ‘Twelve Monkeys’. With over 300 million views on YouTube to their name, they officially went viral, and Ylvis had unwittingly created this year’s ‘Gangnam Style’, although it had the good grace and fortune to not come with a granny-baiting dance routine that pissed-up relatives could perform at weddings and other family gatherings. While the animal-induced madness of a couple of Nordic blokes yelping at us about foxes only reached No. 17 in the charts of our green and pleasant land, Ylvis have been at in for fucking yonks in their homeland, releasing twelve singles even before ‘The Fox’ made its way into everyone’s heads. Thankfully, none of them have bothered the charts, and we live in hope that they’ll not “do a PSY” and release a shitty follow up that nobody really gives two hoots about (what was PSY's second song called - 'Gentleman'? I've forgotten already...)
1. ALISON GOLD - ‘CHINESE FOOD’
Everyone, either voluntarily or against their will, has heard the Rebecca Black travesty that is ‘Friday’, right? You perhaps heard about it on Facebook or on a radio show or something. Well, the evil producer behind it has now done it again. Except this time with a girl called Alison Gold, and with a not-at-all-racist song about Chinese food called...erm...’Chinese Food’. Points for originality, there. Just to ram home the fact this song is about Chinese food, the video starts with a man cooking noodles. Alison proceeds to tell us that because she’s hungry, she’s grumpy. Fair enough, Alison. I get like that too. The chorus, which you won’t be able to stop singing once you’ve heard it, goes: “I love Chinese food/You know that it’s true/I love fried rice, I love noodles/I love chow-mein, chow-may-may-may-may-mein’. Seriously, that’s it. Given enough time, a deaf chimpanzee could come up with better. And look at Alison herself; there’s something not quite human about her. It’s the eyes, I think. They’re just black – nothing behind them except dollar signs and the sperm of Satan himself. (NB: For more on pop stars who create music just to make a quick buck, I thoroughly recommend hunting down the sadly missed US comedian Bill Hicks’ tirade against MC Hammer). The second verse sees wee Alison (seriously, she’s like, eight) inside a Chinese restaurant (on her own – where are her parents or guardians? How does she intend to pay for all the nosh she’s got hold of?) telling us what types of Chinese food is on the menu. Broccoli...chicken wings...wait. CHICKEN WINGS? When was the last time a Chinese place served those? Perhaps it’s in U.S. Chinese restaurants that this happens. In perhaps the most surreal and ‘bad acid trip’ part of the video, Alison cracks open a fortune cookie that tells her ‘YOU WILL FIND A NEW FRIEND’. Nice! Except her ‘new friend’ is a sinister-looking man in a full-body panda outfit. Remember that scene in ‘The Shining’ where the dude is getting a blowie in the room off a man dressed in a bear costume? That shit has nothing on this. It’s a brand new level of creepy. Cue the panda man and Alison skipping along in a field – what’s he doing in a field with her? In fact, don’t answer that. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW. After being grappled to the floor, Alison and Mr. Pandaphile look at the sky and start hallucinating various Chinese dishes. The panda dude is then seen playing Monopoly with Alison and her friends (in what appears to be her bedroom – this bloke needs to be VERY careful) and when he takes off his panda head, is revealed to be the evil bastard behind this track. He then does a sort of fill-in rap verse while pulling a slanty-eyed face, which is possibly the most racist thing I’ve ever seen, apart from Bernard Manning. The man (Patrice Wilson I think his name is) has tried defending this by saying he has ‘small eyes’, but I’m not buying that crap for one second. Even Alison starts to look pissed off with the guy when he starts hogging the limelight (I mean, to be fair, he’s not even named as a ‘featuring’ artist, so he’s really taking the piss here). In the hideous denouemont of the whole shebang, Alison and her cronies dress as GEISHA GIRLS (a Japanese custom, unless I’m mistaken) and do an indefensible dance routine in the Chinese restaurant. To end the video, Mr. Pandaphile tosses Alison another fortune cookie and flies off (as pandas do), before Alison reads the cookie, which says ‘THE PANDA WILL FLY AWAY ON A RAINBOW’. OK...and that’s it, loves. Or is it? I’ve just seen that Alison Gold has apparently recorded a ‘prequel’ to ‘Chinese Food’ called ‘ABCDEFG’, which is perhaps just as intelligent as it sounds. I can’t comment for certain, as I refuse to listen to it. Oh who am I kidding, I did click to watch the video. It was inevitable. But I did stop after the first line was ‘A stands for anything you wanna have’, which, when accompanied by a visual of Patrice Wilson staring with a terrifying grin through a doll’s house window at Alison Gold sitting in a swinging chair, is just fucking wrong. Get Yewtree on this predator right away!
As a special treat, here's the video to ABCDEFG.....you love it really!
That wraps it up for the best and the worst of 2013, let's take a look at the BEST LIVE ALBUM of 2013
MUSE - LIVE AT ROME OLYMPIC STADIUM
Live at Rome Olympic Stadium was filmed on 6th July 2013 in front of a capacity audience of over 60,000, the film captures the momentous evening in the Italian capital and showcases the most extravagant set build and spectacular stage show of any Muse tour to date. The three school friends from Teignmouth, Devon take the audience on a mesmerizing journey using pyrotechnics, expansive digital screens and a troop of actors to accompany their epic playlist of 20 tracks for the DVD and 13 accompanying audio tracks including hits from their most recent studio album The 2nd Law, as well as classics such as Uprising, Supermassive Black Hole, Time Is Running Out, Starlight and Plug-In Baby.
So, we have looked back over 2013, covered the best and the worst that was released and also covered the best live album, let's spend a few moments looking at some EMERGING ACTS that we feel will do very well in 2014....
Remember to stay in touch with the real world by listening to 'The Listening Post' via musicmuso.com or iTunes, loads more top bands and artists are lined up ready for the first podcast which will be going live in the next week. I also want to start doing a YouTube video podcast which should prove fun so please bear with me whilst I get that off the ground.
From musicmuso.com, we would like to say a HUGE thank you to all that have made the site possible, special mentions go to Pete Muscutt (the author of this and many other amusing and interesting features), Julian Baird for his wonderful photography skills, Hugh Ogilvie for his enthusiastic and passionate approach to live reviews and Adrian Grainger who has only recently joined the team but has proved himself more than useful in reviewing new releases.
Happy New Year, we'll catch you in 2014.....
STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS - STOP PRESS
A petition is calling for the horse that recently kicked N-Dubz rapper Dappy to be given the 'Outstanding Contribution to Music' gong at next year's Brit Awards.
The 'rapper' was riding the animal in the grounds of his Hertfordshire home on November 27th, when the horse reared up. It then knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the face. A spokesperson for the 'rapper' told The Mirror: "I can confirm that my client was involved in a horse riding accident at home where he fell from his horse and was subsequently kicked in the face." He added: "Dappy was rushed to hospital where he received medical treatment and is now recovering."
You can help the proceedings along nicely by signing the online petition HERE