PeteHatesMusic’s Top Albums of 2013
I’ve listened to many, many albums this year. Although I trust my ear, it’s always interesting to see what critics are saying about certain albums, and even the pre-judging going on based on past reputation (hello Arcade Fire and Daft Punk!). Some of the critically acclaimed in 2013 simply did not do it for me. You will find Kanye West on this list, but not in the top 5. David Bowie, My Bloody Valentine, The Knife, and Vampire Weekend all miss out on the coveted PeteHatesMusic Top Albums of 2013.
PeteHatesMusic – Honourable Mentions
In no particular order (it might be release date, as I keep a notepad in which I jot down albums I like, but it also might be in order of how I discovered them. Or again, NO ORDER AT ALL):
Majical Cloudz – Impersonator: A musically sparse but lyrically and emotionally deep album, with several haunting beautiful tracks.
Kanye West – Yeezus: Kanye trades his club bangers and dense walls of sound for a Rick Rubin produced minimalist approach. The results are some of the best stuff he has done to date.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor: A change of direction for the band, with James Murphy producing some elegant grooves for the band. Some sprawling tracks are epic, others slightly miss the mark, but the whole thing is an interesting listen.
The Field – Cupid’s Head: Axel Willner’s 4th electronica album under his The Field moniker, and some of the most interesting stuff he has ever put out. Each track grows and morphs into unique sounds.
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse: Hopefully this is the album that the public takes greater notice of the Scots. An album complete with catchy songs and great songwriting.
CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe: A stunning debut from the Scots (who do a pretty good interview). They make writing catchy synth pop look easy.
HAIM – Days are Gone: These California sisters mash up multiple genres across their album, and even in the same song, to surprisingly effective results.
Atoms for Peace – Amok: Radiohead’s Thom Yorke evolved his solo first album to a full band, complete with Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist extraordinaire, Flea. The results? A heavily manipulated, computerized version of snippets of songs that sometimes misses, but more often than not gives you a great groove to get behind, with the bonus of Thom Yorke’s vocals leading the songs.
London Grammar – If You Wait: Booming vocals, restrained music, and yet another 3-piece from London, seem to have found the magic formula.
Daughter – If You Leave: The London trio have one word song titles, often heart breaking lyrics, and layered sounds, all topped off by fantastic vocals.
Top 5 Albums of 2013
5 – The National – Trouble Will Find Me: Topping their last album, which was my #1 album the year before PeteHatesMusic started, would always be a difficult task. With more revealing lyrics, a mix of dark and slow songs, and some up-tempo tracks, the band tried to diversify and grow their sound. Most of the tracks on this album are perfect examples of this sound and change.
I Should Live in Salt
Don’t Swallow the Cap
4 – Basia Bulat – Tall Tall Shadow: Toronto singer-songwriter Basia Bulat had a great debut album. She bucked the ‘sophomore slump’ and wrote an even better second album. She continued her upwards progression with her third and most complete album, Tall Tall Shadow. With lyrics covering a variety of topics, and Basia ever-keen to throw in a new instrument to mix up the sound, we have an album with absolutely no filler or duds. Instead, we get beauty, we get mellow songs, we get well-executed rock songs, and we have her best album to date.
The City with No Rivers
It Can’t Be You
3 – Austra – Olympia: Austra cracked our Top 5 albums back in 2011, with their dark and stunning debut album, Feel It Break. They switched directions and opted for more dancey synth songs, and it worked. Kate Stelmanis’ operatic vocals provide a unique sound, complimented by backing singers Sari and Romy Lightman of Tasseomancy. It might sound like a mess on paper, but on my stereo, it was anything but.
2 – Tim Hecker – Virgins: Much like Basia Bulat, Montreal’s ambient noise artist Tim Hecker manages to get better with each album. I wasn’t sure how he’d top Harmony in Ultraviolet, but he did it with An Imaginary Country. That was then bettered by Ravedeath, 1972, and the critics couldn’t go higher than 10/10 in their reviews. They had to find a new rating system for Virgins, an absolutely amazing listen from start to finish. The cascade of sounds, and the way Hecker chooses to fill space and insert silence, make this your definitive headphone album of the year.
1 – Arctic Monkeys – AM: When I first heard R U Mine, the lone song launched back in 2012, I was immediately excited. It was the rock music that Arctic Monkeys do so well, but with a sense of urgency and sexiness to it. In the lead up to the proper AM album release this year, I heard lead single Do I Wanna Know? and nearly exploded with excitement – this single was massive. I then listened to the album, looking for this ballsy yet sexy in-your-face new rock sound…and was highly disappointed. Instead, I got slower, falsetto-backed, flowery tracks – this isn’t what I signed up for!
This brilliant switch of expectations is what rewards multiple listens. The tracks are a fusion of hip hop beats (see: Arabella, or Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High), and soulsy and bluesy backing tracks, with Alex Turner’s tales of sexual frustration, sexual escapades, and generally clever storytelling and lyrics.
If Arctic Monkeys do one thing right, it’s that they know how to close an album, and are 5 to 5 to date in my books. Although a bit slower than their usual closing numbers, I Wanna Be Yours is a slow climax to one long orgasm of an album. If you want to know how Arctic Monkeys didn’t become “one and done” album success stories like Kaiser Chiefs, and perhaps more harshly Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, then listen to AM and appreciate how far they’ve come since their rather great debut album.
Do I Wanna Know?
Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High
Knee Socks (with Josh Homme)
I Wanna Be Yours
What a solid year 2013 turned out to be. What can we expect from 2014? Long rumoured albums from U2, Tool, Coldplay, and Foo Fighters maybe? A return of the Jingle Cats? Feel free to tweet us @PeteHatesMusic or leave us a comment on your favourite albums from this year.