Albums of 2013: part two 60-31

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[see previous 90-61] [see the top 30]

60. Mogwai 'Les Revenants' (soundtrack)

Asking Mogwai to soundtrack a contemporary French horror series was a great idea, and 'Les Revenants' stood up as a fine musical document in its own right. The series was one of the best things I saw on tv this year, and the music went some way towards making it such an eerie, unsettling experience.

59. Kanye West 'Yeezus'

I played this a lot over the year and some of the sonic risks it takes are truly brilliant. The main reason this isn't in my top 20 however, is that far too many times he resorts to bragging about his cock, or his sexual prowess, and that just negates a lot of the good stuff for me. It's still worth hearing, and I still think it's a brave for an artist so well known to releas something this edgy.

58. Black Pus 'All My Relations'

This was billed as a solo album by Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, and it didn't sound remarkably different from LB. You got the skittish frantic drumming, the distorted vocals, but you also got the overdriven riffs as well. The main contrast was within the song structure, as a lot of these pieces seemed to have distant roots in pop music or even anthemic glam rock. If you like Lightning Bolt you should enjoy this, if you've never heard LB this has enough abrasive noise to frighten off casual observers.

57. James Blake 'Overgrown'

He got there soon enough. Blake's first EPs showed great promise as a producer as they showcased him doing interesting things with sound, but his debut album drifted to far into an almost MOR singer-songwriter world for my liking. Foloow-up 'Overgrown' was a consolidation of both aspects of James Blake - there are songs of course, but they are better crafted, and there is also enough sonic experimentation to show he is willing to push things forward. Oh yeah, and Wu Tang head honcho RZA guests on one track and Brian Eno contributed to 'Digital Lion'. It won me some cash too, as I predicted his Mercury prize win.

56.Young*husband 'Dromes'

I reckon this was a fairly long awaited debut but is was worth it. YH got bundled together with the psych-rock types, but this is an album built around classic indie-pop influences. By turns reminiscent of the Velvet Underground, the House of Love and maybe Pavement, it does tend to wear its influences proudly. Happily, they've got plenty of songs to transcend them with.

55. The Fall 'Re-mit'

This current line-up have delivered three albums as a unit with mixed results - Your Future Our Clutter was an impressive new lease of life, whilst Ersatz GB failed to deliver much that was memorable, save for a bizarre penchant for metal riffs. However Re-Mit returned to more familiar Fall territory with lots of garbled vocals, motorik rhythms, rockabilly and garage-punk, so of course this was nothing short of a massive return to form.

54. Body/ Head 'Coming Apart'

This was Kim Gordon and Bill Nace's improvised collaboration, and my review of it is here.

Overall this album may be too raw and difficult for a lot of fans to take in, but as an artistic impression of the post-Sonic Youth flux it is pretty great. Bill and Kim's guitar improvisations and drones create a trancelike backdrop and Gordon sounds like she is singing in a bad dream.

This is one of the most uneasy listens of the year but, for fans of this music, it is essential.

53. Colleen 'The Weighing of the Heart'

My review of this album is here, it's also notable as it is the first Colleen release to feature vocals.
"In terms of subverting the singer-songwriter motif and turning it into something new and genuinely strange, this album reminds me of Arthur Russell's The World of Echo. Songs are hinted at and then morphed into something you don't expect. That Colleen has managed to create a work this beautiful whilst developing her inventive music is something that should be applauded. This album is a genuine delight."

52. No Age 'An Object'

This still sounded like No Age, but this time it seemed the main influence was post-punk not post-hardcore; Wire rather than Husker Du if you like. Just 29 minutes in duration, this rewarded your repeated listening. They are doing interesting things with noise that set them apart from run-of-the-mill punk duos and there were even a couple of catchy anthems hiding close to the surface.

51. Colin Stetson 'New History Warfare III'

This was another great addition to Colin Stetson's solo work, and saw him move towards shorter pieces, almost songs in fact, in contrast to the extended tracks of his previous releases. It's still astonishing how he manages to mine such gold from what is essentially a one-man instrumental act.

50. British Sea Power 'Machineries of Joy'

This turned out to be my favourite BSP album since their debut. Sequenced from tracks that were recorded after being road tested on their notorious Brighton residency last year, MoJ moves from the instantly classic title track to manic garage rock ('K Hole') through tender tunes like 'What You Need the Most' and 'Hail Holy Queen'. Overall it sounded like the BSP you know and love, packed with strong tunes, and best of all, some fresh ideas.

49. Waxahatchee 'Cerulean Salt'

Although there was a buzz around previous album 'American Weekend' last year, I had never heard Waxahatchee until this release came along. It appeared as an immediately impressive indie-rock record which recalled the Breeders and early Liz Phair, full of short sharp tunes that revealed hidden depths the more you investigated them.

48. Zomes 'Time Was'

One of the finest psych/drone efforts of this year, and I'm baffled at the lack of attention this has received. It is far more adventurous than a lot of the garage bands peddling psychedelia as their thing. This has a great, soaring female vocal dominating the sound throughout as well.

47. Follakzoid 'II'

my review (the 405)
Föllakzoid are pitched somewhere between krautrock, kosmische trance and the bleak yet mesmerising psych-rock of Spacemen 3 and Loop. As you may have guessed from that title, this is their second album, the follow-up to their self-titled release from 2009, and it is one of the finest records I've heard in this genre for a long time.

46. Neko Case ‘The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You'

Another artist often labelled alt-country, Case's latest saw her deliver a varied range of songs, with the same vigour as her other band The New Pornographers. The quality doesn't dip on this, one of her best yet.

45. Chvrches 'The Bones of What You Believe'

This debut album does suffer by opening with a slice of utter pop genius in 'The Mother We Share', which is impossible to follow, but it tried its best, with other hook laden tunes like 'Recover' and 'Gun'. A vibrant, crystal clear version of synth based indie-pop.

44. Gold Panda 'Half of Where You Live'

This follow-up to the acclaimed 'Lucky Shiner' was very much in the same vein and didn't disappoint, and although it is electronica it comes across as if it is a very personal record; with stories and memories woven throughout it.

43. Public Service Broadcasting 'Inform - Educate- Entertain'

As long standing supporters of this lot, it was thrilling to see this debut album chart at no.21 in the UK. All of the early singles were here, seemingly refreshed in the context of the album, and newer tunes like the Kraftwerk-esque 'Now Generation' and the downbeat closer 'Late Night Final' made it more than worthwhile to check out this complete set.

42. Braids 'Flourish // Perish'

Their debut 'Native Speaker' had some stellar moments and this built upon those. This had a slightly more electronic feel, with more manipulation of Raphaelle Standell-Preston's incredible vocals - at times she sings like a ringing bell - and the ambitious songwriting that first brought them to attention is still there.

41. Thee Oh Sees 'Floating Coffin'

My instinctive reaction to 'Floating Coffin' was that it may have been the best album Thee Oh Sees have made, and now at the ned of the year I'm still thinking along those lines. It has their unmistakable energy, the songs that go up a gear when you think they have nowhere left to go, and those distinctive whoops of John Dwyer. However, it has a consistent depth and variety across all the songs that also serve to make it a great introduction to those who are just discovering the band.

40. Deerhunter 'Monomania'

This was another album that dropped out of the blue, perhaps the surprise was heightened by the fact that they were all set to play their older albums at ATP. Initially I was puzzled by their decision to submerge their sound in a grungey kind of garage-rock mix, but then I realised that I loved quite a lot of the songs. Not the Deerhunter album to play in order to win them new fans, but an intriguing and occasionally great listen.

39. Grouper 'The Man Who Died in his Boat'

My late night album of choice for a lot of this year. Although this was essentially a collection of music made around the time of Grouper's 2008 album 'Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill', it was so much more than leftovers, and may actually be my favourite of her releases. It is a haunted but actually quite beautiful album.

38. Boards of Canada 'Tomorrow's Harvest'

I felt a bit sorry for this album, as it should have been the big surprise of the year, though Bowie and mbv managed to trump it in those stakes. It was another very welcome return though, proving to be a worthy follow-up to the Campfire Headphase.

37. Teeth of the Sea 'Master'

Somehow this lot are up to their third album already. Their by now familiar motif of rich synth work and kraut-rock percussion (with emphasis on the ROCK) was a joy to behold on 'Master'.

36. Scout Niblett 'It's up to Emma'


An album written in the aftermath of a relationship that has ended, 'It's Up To Emma' was as good a record as Scout Niblett has made. All those emotions are turned into songs - you have the revenge fantasy of 'Gun', defiance on 'You Can't Fool Me Now', hope ('Second Chance Dreams') and finally, resolution. Musically, the bare bones of her raw guitar and single drummer are joined by string arrangements this time around, which works very well with this material.
I was lucky enough to interview Scout Niblett about this album, the feature can be found on the 405 here

35. Laurel Halo 'Chance of Rain'

A striking follow-up to 'Quarantine', and an album to get completely lost in. Immersive electronica. There you go, new genre?! Seriously though, this is the kind of thing I wish Flying Lotus would do more of.

34. Mazzy Star 'Seasons of your Day'

You know when people say, "it's like they've never been gone"? Well, that fitted Mazzy Star's 'comeback' album perfectly. This slots right on to the rest of their back catalogue, and it could be just as strong an album as any of their releases. Apparently they never stopped writing and recording over the years, and I can certainly believe it. If you've ever been a fan of their music, you need to hear 'Seasons of Your Day'.

33. Lee Ranaldo and the Dust 'Last Night on Earth'

The definite upside to the demise of Sonic Youth as a unit is the complete sprawl of solo albums and projects. Here, Lee gets even freer to indulge his Paisley Underground style songs and Grateful Dead style wig outs. Superb.

32. John Grant 'Pale Green Ghosts'

Much was made of the former Czars front man's new direction, but it didn't seem that strange or dramatic to me. Overall it sounded more electronic thanks to JG's collaborations with GusGus in Iceland, although the songwriting had a direct link to the wit and detail of 'Queen of Denmark'. This was one of those albums that stayed around all year.

31. Holden 'The Inheritors'

Holden is of course James Holden, a talent that some people tend to pigeonhole as a DJ ever since the late 90s, but on 'The Inheritors' he succeeded in breaking away from that tag by creating a diverse and musically rich album, more in tune with psychedelia than many might expect.


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