Firstly, I can’t stress enough how great 2013 has been for music in general, we’re really lucky to be surrounded by all this great talent, so as it’s approaching the end of 2013, it’s only right to make a list of my favourite/best albums of the year. It’s been hard because there’s been so much great music made this year, but as we all know they can’t all make the cut. So, let’s get straight to it, here’s my top 10 of the best albums of the year.
1. Biffy Clyro – Opposites
A double album is a huge feat for any band, but Biffy Clyro have done it with such ease and precision, it just cements even more why they are arguably, the hardest working rock band in the world. It’s not been a easy ride to get to where they are today, so being able to actually go ahead and produce this monster of a record is really a celebration. For them to have earned their stripes and continually push the boundaries, basically upping their game even more. It’s great to see that even though they are so successful, they are still the same three guys from Ayrshire, humble and loving the fact that they get to make music for a living.
Opposites, in itself, is a stroke of genius. 20 perfectly crafted tracks. Opposites was an opportunity for Biffy to experiment with different sounds, and delve into genres that they have never dabbled in before. They go all electronic on us in Skylight with a very stripped back production to it, which is a very rare thing to hear on this double album and they treat us to a mariachi band in Spanish Radio and who can forget the beautiful ode to their Scottish heritage in Stingin’ Belle with the amazing ending to the song equipped with nothing less than a bagpipe solo.
2. White Lies – Big TV
To say I’m a big fan of White Lies is an understatement. After waiting two years for their latest offering, Big TV, I was not disappointed. Album three is a slight change of direction for this London three-piece, citing that they took a ‘less is more’ approach to recording this album. They made a conscious decision early on to allow for the music to not sound so pristine and perfect, making for a more live sounding record than on their previous albums.
“The emphasis during the month we had in the studio was on restraint, we had to leave the songs room to breathe and give the record an air of clarity. The guitars are a great example of our mentality on this record, there are only ever two guitars playing at one time which is a stark contrast to anything we’ve done before, it gives this album, more than any of our others, a human warm feel.” Harry McVeigh on recording Big TV.
What makes White Lies so special in my eyes is that they not only make music that speaks to you, but it is also melodious and anthemic with killer hooks. The one thing that keeps me going back to White Lies always is their impeccable song writing skills, they can write the simplest song but always they have that spark of genius lyrically which knocks a lot of other bands out of the water. They are on par with Biffy Clyro in my mind when to it comes to song writing.
The record is very much a testament to 80’s music sonically and tonally, White Lies often cite some of their many influences as Tears For Fears and Talking Heads.
Big TV also takes a different approach in that it follows a theme which encompasses the whole album, focussing on a relationship that is taking its toll on each of the people involved and I quote it’s loosely based on “a couple who leave an unidentified provincial European area for a bigger, more glamorous city”. With themes of love, hope, confusion, loss and dependency, Big TV is a real journey through many emotions. By focussing on this relationship between this couple and how one gives much more than the other, it’s not an equal relationship, this album has a lot of scope. The guy gives his all to make it work but the girl is living recklessly and she doesn’t want to be tied down, “I’d give the world. But the world is never enough for a girl with it all. I guess I’m just tricky to love” (Tricky To Love). It’s this aching power struggle throughout the album with the two that makes this record in particular, so effective and different from White Lies previous work.
Big TV is anthemic, it’s got heaps of heart, catchy lyrics and big choruses. An album for the soul and in short, it’s just a really good time, with the big hearty sound you’d expect from White Lies’ electronic indie rock with a helping of melancholy. Big TV can stand strong with their previous two albums.
3. Kodaline – In A Perfect World
Kodaline’s début record is quite simply perfect. It was an album that I was highly anticipating, after hearing and loving their EP’s that they had released previously. Kodaline have this insane quality that just draws you in, with Steve Garrigan at the helm I guess it’s impossible for them not to have that effect on you. His voice is so unique but filled with emotion and pain, no matter what I always get chills when listening to Kodaline. They are just that good.
This album is filled with songs about the beautifully, bitter sweet moments in life, it’s also about finding yourself and the happy moments at the start of a relationship, that blossoming love. It’s about celebrating life’s good moments and moving through the bad moments, overcoming that and becoming a stronger person because of that.
This is an album that features many great songs, that have heaps of meaning and an emotional heart at its core. Music for the soul, music to enjoy and most importantly be celebrated. Kodaline’s album is the soundtrack to life, with a vast soundscape that’s very melodious and big in scope, it is quite an extravagance for a band’s first album but they have done it in style and it’s something to be proud of, it’s a stunning début record.
4. Tribes – Wish To Scream
[Unfortunately the band have now split up and gone their separate ways, a travesty in many ways, but I still have to say their latest album is a really special one.]
Tribes follow up to their début album, Baby. Wish to Scream is in one word. Awesome. I can’t get over how great this band are, they have a certain swagger and aura to them that no one else has, they have this pure rock n roll image and I like it. Wish to Scream didn’t get the response from the critics that Tribes were hoping for, but as a fan of the band, I was certainly pleased when I first heard it and I still am.
With tracks like Dancehall, How the Other Half Live and Blind (which is on the deluxe edition of the album), the latter being a delicate, raw ballad, that was surely overlooked for the record it should of made the standard edition, in my opinion. They’ll have you rejoicing, sobbing and everything else in between.
5. Martin & James – Life’s A Show
Martin & James second album, Life’s A Show is just brilliant. With a slight change in direction, in regards to their sound, but in the best way possible, they have created a very good album. Packed full with exuberant, anthem-like revelries and acoustic stripped down heart warming tunes, the reason why we love this duo. Martin & James are truly remarkable, they are some of the best songwriters out there in my opinion, with songs like My Dog Don’t Like The Rain, You’ll Be Gone, I’ll Be Here, The Rope and title track Life’s A Show, they are clearly unstoppable.
They have gone bigger and bolder on this album focussing more on the production of the album this time, going grander with songs like Matilda and See No Land, than they have before, but still keeping the songwriting at the heart of their songs. Meaning that the songs don’t just sound good but they really do mean something, expect to hear plenty of acoustic guitars, haunting hooks, pop melodies and there’s even a nice bit of harmonica on there also. This is the perfect album for whatever mood you’re in, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s an uplifting and feel good album.
6. Jake Bugg – Shangri La
I was sceptical about Shangri La at first but after a few listens, I came to the conclusion that it is a worthy follow up to Bugg’s début. There are some real gems on this record, including songs like Me and You, Pine Trees, A Song About Love, Simple Pleasures and Kitchen Table.
This record perfectly showcases Bugg’s growth and maturity as an artist. The record features a range of acoustic and full band up tempo tracks, some introspective, some retrospective and some just about life, commenting on social issues like in the song, Messed Up Kids. This is a very different record to his début, but still keeping that balance between his love for his acoustic guitar and giving some more time to his electric guitar. As you come to expect from Bugg, this record is littered plentiful with memorable lyrics, he has a penchant for words. He has to be one of my favourite songwriters in music right now, with lyrics like “songs about memories that hide and then shatter your mind, like a constant reminder, I just want to find where you are” (A Song About Love), you know he’ll stand the test of time in the music industry.
The only let down for me on this record, is the song, Kingpin, but that’s my only qualm, other than that it’s a brilliant piece of work and I totally recommend checking the album out. No matter what you think of Jake Bugg, you can’t dispute that he isn’t talented.
7. Tom Odell – Long Way Down
Tom Odell’s début album is a beauty. Tom Odell has a voice to be envious of, it’s so raw and passionate, it will leave you emotional for days. It’s nice to hear an album with the focus on a piano at its core, because after all, we don’t hear that very often these days in the mainstream. With songs that swell in your heart and fill you with emotion as they build, Tom Odell really knows how to make a lasting impact on you, with his voice, his piano and with his band behind him, he is on to a winning combination.
This album has a real live feel to it too, which is nice as it really fills the songs up with a sense of purpose and passion. One of my favourite tracks has to be, Can’t Pretend. It may disguise itself as a delicate track but it starts to burn through your speakers around the 1:00 mark and reaches its breaking point midway through the song.
The album’s use of poignant moments, ballads and joyous revelries gives it variety, this is an album for every moment of your life. It covers all the emotions, melancholy, happiness, hope, disillusionment and acknowledgement of when to let someone go, but mainly it’s an album that’s full of heart and sentiment.
8. Haim – Days are Gone
Haim’s album is one that I was highly anticipating like most of the world, and it didn’t disappoint. A great début from these California sisters, in particularly one song that I have loved since I first heard it over the summer on the festival circuit, Go Slow, has to be one of the stand outs on the record for me.
Though, there are plenty greats on there, proving that they are don’t just make great singles that are good for radio play, they are the full package. They stormed the UK festival scene this year and have sold out tours here in the UK also in abundance, Haim are the breakouts of 2013 and we all know it.
9. Bedlam Crooks – Stay Curious
Bedlam Crooks début album is one that I was eagerly anticipating after hearing the first track to come off the album, Next Animal, and let me tell you now it didn’t disappoint. Expect a vocal that will grab you by the neck and won’t go, angsty and punchy. Killer synths, sailing guitars, heavy drums and juicy bass, they have a big sound that just envelops you whole.
This album is about making a stand, showing the world what they’ve got and making everyone stand up and listen. A solid album all round that deserves more attention than it has received, in my opinion. Songs like Bonfire of the Vanities and Running on Empty are sure to be the ones that people will attach themselves to, as well as fan favourites Beaches and Next Animal.
10. San Cisco – San Cisco
San Cisco’s début album is one that just makes it feel like summer every day, their sunny, indie pop is so catchy and addictive, it’s unreal. At times it is verging on frilly pop, because after all they were all teenagers when they recorded this, but having said that there are songs like Beach and Nepal that have a more mature sound to them, though I don’t mind either way.
To be honest, I like the fun, surf vibe that they bring to their music; it just makes everything so much better. Their songs will undoubtedly seep into your brain and they won’t leave you alone until your singing them all day long. An album that is just a real good time, and also not forgetting to mention, they are a great live band too.