For me, a great record album often demands multiple attentive listens under different circumstances, different hours of the day, different moods and having the benefit of the live experience, before its richness is revealed. I’ve been listening to and enjoying the sounds of these ‘Year 2013 Records’ for months but I’m still discovering references, meaning and musicality that I missed the first dozen, two dozen or more times that I visited them. And I know that years from now I’ll have a different relationship to them than I do now, which will add something I can’t imagine today.
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (Indie, Chamber, World Beat)
Lyrically and musically playful, and rich with layer upon layer of religious, historic, political and music references. The metaphors are beautiful, intricate and have fans arguing about song meanings. From the opening notes of the album there are hints of gospel revival that run through the record. Yet, three songs in and “Steps” lays out samples from ’90s rap group Souls of Mischief played through the prism of Bach styled chamber music. Doo-wop, Rockabilly, Afrobeat and Surfer Rock weave through the record, and lead singer, Ezra Koenig, quotes from the Bible to Milton to Run DMC. I’m sure that I’m still missing half of what’s going on in these tracks, but I’m looking forward to discovering more.
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me (Indie Rock)
There has always been a heavy, sometimes weary sentiment in the vocals of The National lead signer Matt Berninger, and an almost trance-like repetitiveness to the music. But somehow, through the regret and anguish conveyed in their music there is often a point where there is a soaring grace. These are intimate, personal songs that feel like confessions, and the music follows the emotions like a heartbeat that begins to race until it bursts.
3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Dance, House, Soft Rock)
Dance music at its best. Simple, funky and smooth. But Random Access Memories gains depth as you travel through it. It sounds like it could be a classic 70’s concept album. Like a spaceship trip through the cosmos that ends with an intense, fiery crash landing. Excellent collaborations with Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), Pharrell Williams, Paul Williams and Panda Bear.
4. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts (Electro Chamber Pop)
Truly a singer-songwriter’s album. John Grant knocks out grand electro-piano tracks that feel intensely personal and DIY, yet sometimes these songs sound as cinematic as a James Bond score. Closing track “Glacier” is heartbreakingly beautiful and epic. And this may be the best coming-out album of all time.
5. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind (Electro Pop, Acid House)
Reminiscent of the early 90’s UK club scene dance music. This is Cut Copy’s homage to Screamadelica era Primal Scream. Can never stop dancing when I hear these etherial tracks. Euphoric!
6. Arctic Monkeys – AM (Rock)
The sexiest rock album of the year. AM has the swagger of 70’s era rock gods Led Zepplin. Stomping good, big-hair rock!
7. Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Indie Rock)
Understated indie rock that rewards after repeat listenings. Reflektor reminds me of The Clash at their best.
8. Suede – Bloodsports (Glam Rock)
I used to always think “classic Bowie” when I listened to Suede. Now, with Bloodsports I’m just thinking “classic Suede!” Dramatic!
9. The Strokes – Come Down Machine (Indie Rock)
The Strokes sound like they are having fun again; a lot of fun! Come Down Machine is like a blend of every era of rock history rolled together, even the brief disco-rock period (Think Kiss’ “I Was Made for Lovin’ You”), and yet it sounds perfectly contemporary and exciting.
10. Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon (Soul, R&B)
A magical album of orchestral soul/R&B. One of the most unique records of the year that sounds like a fairytale.
11. Phoenix – Bankrupt! (Indie Pop/Rock)
12. Pet Shop Boys – Electric (Electro Pop)
13. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone (Blues)
14. Telekinesis – Dormarion (Alternative)
15. Shout Out Louds – Optica (Indie Pop)
16. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age (20’s era Jazz)
17. Foxygen – We Are the 20th Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Psychedelic Folk Rock)
18. James Blake – Overgrown (Trip Hop)
19. London Grammar – If You Wait
20. Cayucas – Big Foot (Surf Pop)
21. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse (Pysch-pop)
22. MGMT – MGMT
23. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines (Indie Pop)
24. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Indie Rock)
25. Foals – Holy Fire (Indie Rock)
26. Diana – Perpetual Surrender
27. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
28. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (Roots Rock)
29. Various artists – After Dark 2 (Electronic/Slow Disco)
30. My Bloody Valentine – m b v