Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Top 50 Albums of 2013

(according to me)

The Top 50 Albums of 2013 (according to me)
Why hello there, so glad you could make it, go on and take a seat. My name is Jared, and one day, I am going to kill you. If you could, please refrain from opening your fat mouth and let me do all the talking, as I will be taking questions at the end.

Music! It’s a wonderful thing, for the more you dig, the more you discover, and the more you discover, the more places you learn to dig. 2013 was no exception, and boy, did I dig! In fact, when I compare the 234 albums I listened to last year with the 458 I listened to this year, I cringe at how I ever thought I was in a position to attempt this kind of thing before. I've been doing much better lately, don't you worry. And while 2013 may have consisted of less ground-breaking WOW releases, it did appear to have a much better consistency about it when compared with previous years, which provided me with a much larger quantity of great albums to choose from, rather than just a couple of explosions supported by an occasional pleasure.

But before we delve into which of these fine ladies and gentlemen conquered the system, there are a few quick additional details you should be aware of:

1. I have cut as much fat out of this article as I could, including the usual blabbering at the end, opting to rather present the Top 50 Albums of 2013 Expansion Pack for those proper music addicts who crave more than just a 1 - 50. There you will find my exact process of how I managed to consume so much music, as well as a further 50 entries, the hall of fame, and some other little bits and pieces if you’re lucky. Check it out, you'll never be lucky.
2. However, if you are dismayed by your inability to locate your favourite album on either of these lists, I have also provided the following Google Doc in which you can read my rough first/second/third impressions of each and every single one of the 458 albums I've listened to. There is some tragically decent humour lost all over the show in there, so I recommend you take a look see.
3. The cut off date for listening to new albums was the 11th December 2013, meaning anything released after that date was regrettably not considered. Which truly is such a shame, Beyoncé. I'm sorry :(
4. My favourite songs of the year were all conveniently saved into this Spotify playlist here, and so by ordering it by Date Added, you will most likely discover even more great tunes which go beyond what these articles have provided.
5. Finally, you should above all else listen to my very own ever-growing cartoon musical album Coming Down Happy, of which three new songs were added in 2013. I know this may appear like some shameless plug, because it is. This is my blog, so fuck yooooou.

Enough? Enough! Shhhh, listen:

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 50. Rudimental - Home
50. Rudimental - Home
Drum and Bass, Liquid Funk
April 29

Easy stick and feel-good to the millionth degree, this album conveniently brings the summer to your doorstep without even asking for anything in return, because that’s how friendly it is. The exceptionally detailed production (complete with all the enthusiastic guest star support it could assemble) pumps with commercial appeal without ever sacrificing its principles, which is why it was so over-played throughout the year and worthy of every goddamn second of it. Of course, the singles stand out as the pinnacles of the record, but the smart ordering spreads the bangers out evenly, offering a balanced feel all round; where the simply “good” tracks provide the necessary padding to elevate the more classic 2013 chunes even higher—which are thankfully never far away. And even in saying that, there are no fillers here, each one of these tropical vibrations painting a relaxed club scene onto my smile, skipping me into instant weekend mode, ironically ready to go absolutely anywhere other than back home.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 49. Modern Life Is War - Fever Hunting
49. Modern Life Is War - Fever Hunting
Melodic Hardcore Punk
September 9

Why, hello there, Mr Angers. While great melodic hardcore isn’t hard to find this decade, Fever Hunting is an atypical step sideways from the genre, and for a change, this weight is not carried by the vocals alone. Please don’t misinterpret those words, as frontman Jeffrey Eaton does exactly as he’s supposed to, struggling (in the best way possible) to shout his aggressive message into your cerebral, but by doing so, is definitely the most “ordinary” participant. Instead, it’s the guitars’ uplifting riffs which almost conflict with his approach, catchy and somewhat indie-ish, a technique emphasised by the drummer who knows exactly how to support the rivalling sound at hand, as if saying “I know what you’re doing, I got your back”. And this is exactly how this style should be presented: with nothing pretty in earshot and absolutely no fucking around, every one of these high-paced energetic songs taunting that outward kind of emo, rushing to the finish line and down into my core so fast that it’s painful. Trust me on this one: listen to it loud and you’ll be pulling middle fingers at your computer screen in no time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 48. Pusha T  - My Name Is My Name
48. Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
Gangsta Southern Hip Hop
October 8

While a headless Kanye runs around screaming about his first world problems over heavily scathing backtracks, My Name Is My Name feels like the true sequel to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (probably because Kanye pretty much produced the whole thing anyway). That said, it’s not quite as perfect as that, for even if Pusha’s serious flow and trademark noises are more than satisfactory, it does fall over the gansta-money line a little bit too far for my own comfort, relying on ego a touch more than it needs to, even on occasions slipping into some tragically predictable regions of cliché strategies. However, when he or his endless supply of guest stars can’t carry this album alone, the production saves the day in a big way, revealing some of the most insanest beats of the year, every one of these huge songs as commercially flavourful as they are weighty from all the dirt, cooked medium-rare and ready for mass consumption. Yes, it sounds a little bit “last year”, desperately lapping up the dregs this style’s milk before it entirely evaporates, yet it still doesn’t quite miss the expiry date, and for now, that tastes just fine.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 47. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
47. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
Electronic, Neo-Psychedelia
July 22

With a name like Fuck Buttons, it’s easy to assume that here is an outfit who refuses to play by the rules and doesn’t give a shit about commercial value, which as it turns out, is completely true. For Slow Focus is less of a record, more of a forceful group of robots marching to war, not in the scary type of way, but more in the patriotic and optimistic type of way, which actually is kinda scary in itself. Carefully constructed by combining the friendly playfulness of neo-psychedelia with the droney dangers of electronics, this album produces perfect layers upon layers to render a disturbing landscape, one which doesn’t go out of its way to be overly-complex, yet is still so well crafted that you find yourself lost in it, either surrounded by a dancing crowd or alienated, alone, forever plodding along in some dense rawness of an awkward nightmare. All of this results in an album which just has SOMETHING about it, perhaps not immediately recognisable, but with a presence so potent and intense that it leaves the taste of petals and metal in one’s mouth, complete with tears for fears and gasps of joy.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 46. Nails - Abandon All Life
46. Nails - Abandon All Life
Grindcore, Powerviolence
March 19

I’m convinced this band is called Nails because you won’t have any left once you chew them all down to the bone during this record. Like a machine gun face-raping you until nothing is left except for an unrecognisable mash of liquid, these short bursts of songs work as one aggravating track, pummelling you until you have no idea where one assault ends and the other one begins. Its barrage of extreme abrasiveness is a savage plot devised to destroy you in the most minimal compact amount of time possible, the whole thing only somewhat digestible due to its feverishly short length (this review probably taking longer to read than listening to the album itself) and yet is still surely one of the most stressful tests of endurance you’d ever put yourself through on purpose. Without a doubt, here is the fastest invasion you will hear this year (in more ways than one), as well as being so explosively insane that when it abruptly ends, you won’t even remember what the fuck just happened to you. That’s called a mental-blockage. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s there to help you.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 45. Gris - À l'âme enflammée, l'âme constellée...
45. Gris - À l'âme enflammée, l'âme constellée...
Atmospheric Black Metal
July 9

As if some lonely stranger is murdering my family without really wanting to, this album fills me with miserable depression and despair. My soul perishes with desperate terror, in fear of the next fright yet all too aware of the emotional gorgeousness that comes with such a religious quality. It crawls between a gentle melodic folky/tribal vibe and a brutal gloomy-doomy painful one, the moving acoustic guitar-work and deep layers of technical instrumentation seemingly conflicting with the heavy-hitting more traditional black vocals; yet they unpredictably coagulate in a majestic and organic way like some love story between demons set in a medieval fantasy land. Yes, it’s uber long, but if it wasn’t so lengthy, it wouldn’t be the huge monster that it is, which stands as one of the most solid and epic albums I’ve ever heard in my life. Simply put: it’s a masterpiece, and I don’t use that word lightly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 44. Charli XCX - True Romance
44. Charli XCX - True Romance
April 15

Like a straight-A student fresh out of dance college, Charlotte (at the young age of 21) has learned some things beyond the rest of her classmates, presenting her sophomore project as a glorious guilty-pleasure smartypop album, complete with hip hop driven production, and (even more admirable) completely void of any reliance on cliché dubstep drops to get her point across. And we are all dressed and ready to party. Go ahead and compare her to the British attitude of Lily Allen, or the dark emotions of Lana Del Rey, or the cheek of Kate Nash, or the hooky sample use of Marina and the Diamonds. But this record stands tall with its own domineering personality, perhaps not 100% perfect, but different and brave, filled with enough excitement to prick critics’ ears up all around the interwebs, thirsty for whatever this girl has up her stockings next.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 43. Darkside - Psychic
43. Darkside - Psychic
October 8

Slowly but surely (like this album itself), Nicolas Jaar has really started to build up a name for himself, and this collaboration with Dave Harrington could very well be his most satisfying work to date. It cautiously creeps out from dark spaces, not hiding but casually ticking every indulgent box it sets out to tick, fusing so many sad sounds that it’s almost impossible to categorise, somehow keeping things retro yet so modern that it could only exist now. The smooth funk ideals and unformulated sexiness connect in such a loose way that it sounds saturated without ever complicating matters, remaining minimal and remaining earthly whilst beaming pacifism from the moon. The machine now breathes with life, and our heartbeats slow to a near standstill. How many people try this and fail? Of course, some critics have complained Psychic “isn’t memorable enough”, but they miss the point: without many listens, this album will merely comb the crevices of your brain gently, for you are not yet worthy. However, the more you listen, the more the bristles will dig into your mind, drawing blood and leaking sly data into your skull with an implied smirk on its face.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 42. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
42. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Contemporary R&B, Synth Funk
November 18

Oh, Blood Orange, shall I compare thee to The Weeknd? Michael Jackson? Prince? Nay! Instead, let’s forget preconceptions and praise this essentially solo record laminated by diverse guest stars for what it is. And what it is, is a versatile style-hopping album which never disrupts the romantic and intimate mood, gracefully uplifting the listener with its smooth funk, retro synths, and UK hip hop, keeping love sexy but also keeping love vulnerable, as it was always meant to be. Yet even this portrayal does not do it justice, as there is definitely some sort of a deeper level about Cupid Deluxe, a factor I cannot describe nor analyse nor comprehend, but is so rich and apparent that I feel like he is toying with me without hiding his intention to do so. It’s the perfect length, doesn’t think too much of itself, and gives off the vibe as though it’s gaining confidence rather than ever having confidence. And even when it (very occasionally) misses the mark, it always gives its full effort to get there, and that alone warrants your attention. Did some sort of a cross-dressing black Jesus make this album? Have you looked at the artwork??

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 41. Alter Bridge - Fortress
41. Alter Bridge - Fortress
Alternative Metal, Post-Grunge
September 30

“I loathe mainstream rock, it makes me sick to my stomach,” I announce to the hypothetical room a mere second before this album rips the rug right out from under my feet and I fall face first onto broken glass. But how? I hate this genre! And yet ... the passion! The power! The driving strength! The aggressive riffs! The over-pronounciated vocals! The competent musicianship and catchy songwriting from everyone involved! It’s all so ... convincing!!! My God, could it be? Could this genre in fact not be dead? Shit, I’m pretty sure I just lost a bet somewhere. Because while Fortress may toy with the occasional cheese, it never fucks the eyes, shamelessly nodding towards old-school values whilst wearing its influences on its sleeves, forcefully driving a wooden testical straight through your reservations, not a single one of these songs even so much as misstepping the assault. And that’s very exciting. There was a lot of rare hype around this album, and I am as impressed as I am astonished that it actually lived up to it, because none of it sucks. Not one goddamn second.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 40. My Bloody Valentine - MBV
40. My Bloody Valentine - MBV
Shoegaze, Dream Pop
February 3

Rumours that Kevin Shields started recording this album in 1996, then scrapped over 60 hours of taped material before having a meltdown, made one lose the hope that this album would ever come to blossom. And yet 22 years after their breakthrough Loveless, MBV arrived, sounding less than a day older than where we left off. In fact, any one of these songs could have fit on their previous album, for it’s typical Valentine—Loveless, The Sequel—but we must not forget that they are still the only band who have properly achieved this sound to date. Washed out riffs blur together; concentration on the beats are rewarded; hushed inaudible whispers crawl through subtle distortion which swirls and then drowns your dreams in fuzz, echoing and consuming everything. Perhaps it isn’t as good as Loveless (what is?), or as good as everyone claims it to be, but My Bloody Valentine know their strong points and don’t sway from them, proving their timeless worth and providing us with this densely nostalgic comeback which is not only everything you’d expect, but also everything you could ever hope for. And there is some deep comfort and relief in that. When the untouchable remains untouchable.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 39. Future Of The Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident
39. Future Of The Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident
Post-Hardcore Noise Rock
October 21

As if some staunchly drunk yet fiercely intelligent clown is having a laugh at your expense whilst willing to smash your face to pieces if you have any objections, this creepy comedic offering stands as one of the most absurd pieces of noise I’ve heard this decade. I mean, just read their song titles, dude, and you will quickly find yourself laughing at the mischievous imagination behind the educated social commentary, dead serious about not being dead or serious whatsoever. And not a quirky song in their rugged arsenal puts a foot wrong either, rather using said foot to poetically kick my ass. The perfect almost bite-for-bite ordering of hard/soft compositions work like some technically trained stoner, one who has all the right proficiency to compose catchy and digestible tracks if he so wanted to, but is far too demented and pissed off to do so. Deep breath and summarise: more people need to hear this madness.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 38. Patty Griffin - Silver Bell
38. Patty Griffin - Silver Bell
October 8

Originally recorded then shelved by A&M records in 2000, what I find most surprising about this recently salvaged “lost” album is how relevant and modern it sounds despite being 13 years late to the party. For Griffin (now pushing 50) is the real deal; a rare energy in the music world who can write a tear-jerking emotional acoustic track without sounding cheesy, and then write a dark and gritty hard rocker without sounding like she’s going through a midlife crisis, all within the same step. Sometimes, it’s your straight-forward country vibes. At other times, it drowns in the smart heartbreak mood of, say, Fleetwood Mac. But possibly the most fascinating times are those which sound like they belong on a Nirvana record, these songs craving to be re-imagined by Kurt Cobain himself, so much so that you can almost hear exactly what they would sound like if he did so. All of which leads a disjointed ride that covers a fuckload of ground, each song vastly different to the one that came before, erratically disrupting our emotional stability but proving her versatility beyond her counterparts. And I eat it in gleeful mouthfuls, from the palm of her open hand.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 37. AlunaGeorge - Body Music
37. AlunaGeorge - Body Music
Contemporary R&B, Electropop
July 29

Like a candy-flower blossoming in the surprisingly warm 2013 UK summer sun, then melting into liquid form, leaking onto a plate of pure MDMA; this hugely-hyped album couldn’t have dropped at a better time. It pumped the season’s air with a fresh take on this year's massively-popular garage-y sound, succeeding in seducing every radio station in the country, as well as anyone else who wanted to have a bit of fun. And the duo are the perfect match: Aluna bringing her cute yet oh-so clever vocal melodies to the picnic, building her addictive hooks over George’s deliciously slick beats—often working her voice as a sample to play with, blurring the line as to where Aluna begins and George ends. And such focus on keeping their sound this consistent doesn’t feel like they just got “lucky”. Sure, they set the bar so high that some of the songs fall a tad shorter, and, sure, this music is dangerous in excess, at times even flirting with annoying pop a bit too close for comfort. However, they never quite cross that point (thank God), instead providing an album I’ve listened to more times this year than I dare confess.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 36. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
36. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Nu-Disco Synth Funk
May 20

Do not expect a Daft Punk album. This is not a Daft Punk album. Rather, after an eight year hiatus, the robot duo refused to compete with modern day DJs, instead scouring past decades for inspiration, opting to use real instruments mixed with synthetic-less sounding synths, and then layering their trademark vocoder vocals on top, proving there are still methods to use this tired filter successfully. And with hard work, they somehow constructed something old and futuristic, past and present, stuffed so full of colourful genres and guest stars that I wonder how many distinct musical styles actually feature on this album? Sure, you hear complaints that this is less of a “party” record and surprisingly downtempo for the group, but you cannot deny that it was made for the love of music, executed as sexy and smooth as chrome, methodically ordered and overwhelmingly ambitious, growing bigger than even itself. And that takes skill. Perhaps it’s a bit too long, and perhaps it isn’t as good as everyone says it is—but it’s close enough, and ultimately results in their most personality-filled (and best) record to date IMO. Hell, it’s so pleasant even your parents will vibe to it.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 35. Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra - Messe I.X–VI.X
35. Ulver With Tromsø Chamber Orchestra - Messe I.X–VI.X
Modern Classical, Dark Ambient
August 1

I’ve always loved Ulver. They are one of those unique bands who never quite do what you expect them to, impressively evolving without restraint or guidelines per each album, whilst refusing to sacrifice their trademark darkness and creepiness, teasing us every step of the way. However, their decision to team up with the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra swung a whole new depth on their familiar moods; a classically composed and operatic emotion now sneaking between their misty atmosphere, an almost pretty and dainty poison crumbled on top of their already mischievous evils and electronic playfulness, like some scary film you watched before you were old enough to do so. Which traumatises me to ache. Instruments slice through my heart and I feel things. I get lost as it closes my eyes for me. And when such contrasting masters of their own games collide, I have to wonder if this is perhaps Ulver’s best progression (and best album) to date?

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 34. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
34. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
Contemporary R&B, Progressive Pop
March 19

I’m only partially ashamed to admit that I understand this upbeat album in my dick. It’s like the moment I put it on, I become sexy and I suddenly learn how to dance. And it dances with me. Because The 20/20 Experience is about self-celebration, border-lining on a healthy “wank”, smiling at itself in the mirror whilst doing so yet encouraging the listener to do the same. How it achieves this is a mystery, but probably has something to do with the tried-and-tested mix of Timberlake’s seductive vocals with some of the best Timbaland production I’ve heard in years, taking your standard pop song, then pushing it out of the borders before sandwiching it between indulgent intros and outros without any regard to what the radio might think. I mean, the pure audacity of this lengthy challenge takes some smart sophistication to keep interesting and progressive, but it achieves this without ever losing the groove of the party nor the style of modern commercial gold. And that’s why it’s here, no guilt. Simply put, it feels like this album has single handedly raised the bar on pop music without even standing up.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 33. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
33. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Indie Rock, Alternative Dance
October 29

As the hottest indie act in recent years, Arcade Fire had a lot to prove, except they were the only ones who never seemed to notice. For instead of aiming to top their perfectly polished catalogue, they created Reflektor, which is less of an ALBUM, more of a THING, ambitiously shoved with almost too much content, then bravely dancing across genres with enough cheeky surprises to fascinate and challenge any listener whilst happily disregarding them completely. Throughout history, double albums are dangerous, and while some of these uneven songs sound long just for the sake of being long and don’t always justify their presence, one can’t help but commend their reinvention regardless, as even The White Album or The Wall can suffer from exhaustion whilst Reflektor’s genius is never spread too thinly, standing as one of the best double records I’ve ever heard. Yes, this is the first time the band have surrendered to indulgence, but it’s well-deserved and a damn good masturbation session. And yes, it does fall a bit short in execution in comparison to their older albums. But in terms of progression and intrigue, it outshines them all, adding yet another great album to their already great catalogue, which is a relief, really.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 32. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
32. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
Hip Hop, Pop Rap
April 30

As if the quirk of Outkast was riding the wave paved by last year’s M.A.A.D City like some lighter sequel, the best word I could muster to sum up this album would be: amusing. But even considering the wit and the Laugh Out Loud verses and the funny faces I pull whilst listening to them, this doesn’t feel like a comedy rap record, because the humour never detracts from the skills. Even with an A-list package of guest stars like Twista, Childish Gambino and Action Bronson (to name a few), Chance outshines them all without even sounding like he means to, living up to the hype all by himself. His incredibly distinctive vocal style (complete with trademark barking) spits genius lyrics about drugs and the internet with a positive yet anxious neurotic energy, instantly likeable and pretentious-free and introspective and shit. Layer all of this on top of one poppy R&B jazzy gospel pizza, and you have a mixtape which is as trippy as the name suggests from undeniably a huge new player in the game. Keep your eye on this one.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 31. David Bowie - The Next Day
31. David Bowie - The Next Day
Art Rock
March 11

I hate critics who exclusively focus on Bowie’s 10 year absence when it comes to this record, but the surprise return announcement did kinda feel like daddy was finally coming home. The relief of hearing his voice again aggravated forgotten urges to confess my undying love to the man, but instead found myself voiceless in the presence of such a rocking album. It was as if the legend had playfully picked ideas from his entire career, then stuffed them into a weird box only Bowie knew how to wrap, doing so with anger, decorating it sexy, refusing to fall back on safe territory, letting it grow, and ensuring it was anything but unsubstantial. And there it was: a cryptic offering, further evidence that this man knows more than we do. Admittedly, my super-fandom obsession with Bowie will not come bias-free, but the truth is (as his 24th album), Bowie has long passed the point of needing to prove anything to anyone. For The Next Day is not only relevant, but on par with some of his greatest releases to date, another huge stick of dynamite which fits perfectly in his already stupidly forceful pack of arsenal. And that deserves all the praise, prejudice or not.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 30. Sigur Rós - Kveikur
30. Sigur Rós - Kveikur
June 14

There is no denying Sigur Rós as one of the most talented bands on the planet, but when their last album Valtari dropped, I grew anxious. It just felt ... short somehow, as if their signature heavenly sound had started to become predictable and they were finding themselves in the mid-career crisis so many bands do around this point. But this was not the case. Instead, Kveikur punched its way right the fuck outta the rut, digging gritty claws into my intestines, now demanding attention upfront rather than painting some mysterious pictures in the background. It finally shed the calculated day-dreaming in favour of some good old compact instincts, an animal as dark and as scary as Sigur Rós could be without losing their beautiful drama, rubbing the skin raw and then polishing the wound, knocking their last album out of the way like childsplay. And the thing is, no other band could make this record, and if this is their direction, then I get goosebumps imagining where my life could possibly be headed. Fuck me, please. Fuck me violent. Take all my money, take my everything, just promise you will never stop loving me.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 29. Leprous - Coal
29. Leprous - Coal
Progressive Metal
May 20

I was never a massive prog metal fan, which is why I vomited when this album unleashed all the motherfucking power of powers onto my underestimates, methodically obliterating my preconceptions in the process. Seriously, every single aspect of this record kicked my ass, from the oomph production, to the punchy riffs (of which there are soooo many) and in particular, the clean vocal deliveries which know how to soar into epic regions of beauty or scream bloody death when it’s not feeling so healthy, genuinely believing in every word it cries whilst working like an instrument all on its own. The whole experience is so technically unpredictable that it hardly keeps up with itself, barely clawing on, stretching far out whilst building towards something without ever fully reaching it, playing with you during the ride. Which is all quite odd, to say the least. And as the countless memories of catchy tricks near closing time, it somehow reaches its pinnacle right at the end, literally my favourite concluding moments of any album from this year, by far. I beg you, please, turn this one up all the way, and then proudly point your fully erect cock straight to war.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 28. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
28. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away
Alternative Art Rock
February 18

As always, Cave’s deserved reputation of packing enough poetic poison to sink your whole ship is a good place to start. His lyrics flaunt their awareness by referencing historic music culture icons (Robert Johnson), more modern pop sensations (Hannah Montana), and all of the Wikipedias inbetween. Then he writes a song about writing another song, both of which feature on this album, which is ... I don't even have words for that. But the obvious Cave gushing aside, what is truly remarkable about this record is how close the sincere vocal deliveries work within the music itself, creating a haunted presence, living in the shadows, tortured by its sober honesty, using all of its restraint not to capture you and force you into a romantic dinner whilst yearning to learn how to be human again. Because (make no mistake), this is not a midlife crisis record, rather a rancid wine which keeps its eerie trademark intact, wearing its age with grace, mild but never boring, growing older yet more sneaky with its methods of contamination, gently strangling you without leaving a trace. And that’s what an essential Cave record sounds like, because this is an essential Cave record, hinting that the best could still be coming, somehow???

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 27. Clipping - Midcity
27. Clipping - Midcity
Industrial Noise Hip Hop
February 5

As if taking the Death Grips blueprint and then tearing it into wet pieces, you could never mentally prepare yourself for this. Because while the flows are so quick and smart that they could easily fit in with some radio-friendly beats (and God bless them for not going down this route), it’s the music itself which is so violently harsh and uncomfortably jarring that I’m not even sure you could call it music whatsoever. Annoying frequencies physically hurt your eardrums whilst melody-less distortion erodes your headphones into dirt like a baseball bat to the teeth. It toys with the line between samples and torture, which breaks heavier than any metal I’ve ever heard, the word “stressful” nowhere near a strong enough description. And yet while the abrasive distractions are tough to get through and reduce me to a tearful puddle of hallucinations, it’s not only noise. It’s simply hiding underneath the noise. As a few listens definitely reveal some calculated intelligence below the jagged surface, something so wrong suddenly sounding so right, which takes an insane amount of talent to pull off, no matter your opinion. Oh, and never has a band name been so fitting.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 26. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
26. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
Experimental Electronic, Dark Ambient, Art Pop
April 8

With all of its tribal insanity and little creatures spitting in your speakers, Shaking the Habitual is undoubtedly the Album Of The Year, drowned out by its own doodling and time wasting, resulting in the most tragic thing I’ve ever heard in my life. At times, it’s incomprehensibly good; exciting mental noises and organic values possess you with deranged weirdness, unlike anything, ever. But at other times, it’s frustratingly pointless; building challenging textures which don’t do anything other than indulge themselves and grate their audience, becoming far too intense for its own good. Which is why my heart breaks in pity for this unfocused mess of the highest-highs and lowest-lows, for if they had simply cut this album’s length in half, it would have been untouchable. But I guess we still have to respect The Knife’s high-risk and uncompromising vision here, refusing to even acknowledge the listener in favour of creating a monster surrounded by insect mindfucks, its only purpose to drive you insane and scare the hell out of you whilst dancing wrong. And that alone cannot be disregarded, and stands as arguably the most ambitious “pop” record of the decade.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 25. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
25. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Indie Chamber Rock
May 21

The National are one of the world’s greatest bands, which is why if any other group had made this album, it would be their greatest work. But The National made it. And it’s not their greatest work. They played it safe, void of any surprises, essentially The National’s most "The National" album yet. But can we blame them, really? They’ve stuck to their strengths, all lightly romantic and subtly cold and shit, and as a result, this is the first time the band has sounded so comfortable and relaxed within themselves (for better or for worse). I mean, hey, if nothing else, it’s just “great” to hear them again. And by “great”, I mean in that gentle heartbreaking kinda “great”, where the confessional baritone storytelling ruins my mood and moves me into a state of hopelessness with no desire to even try anymore. I sigh for all the right reasons; for loss and despair, for melancholy and tragedy and the pessimism that comes with wisdom. And when it’s over, I find myself whispering out loud to the music: “My God, The National, it must be difficult to be so fucking miserable all the time”.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 24. Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving
24. Chelsea Light Moving - Chelsea Light Moving
Noise Punk Rock
March 5

When punk rock royalty Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon announced their 27 year marriage split, my faith in love crumbled, and I mourned restlessly for the future of Sonic Youth—one of my favourite bands ever. These concerns were further fuelled when a mere five months after the separation, Thurston (my lesser favourite of the duo) rushed out this album as if a response to the break-up. His last solo album was mediocre at best, and so there was no way I was going to enjoy this, right? Wrong! Instead, I was surprised to find an awkward record which maintained the stylistic rawness and distorted awesomeness of Sonic Youth, but seemed a bit tighter and more digestible on a level, at times even (gasp!) better than a lot of SY albums out there. And this can be owed in majority to Thurston himself, as a 55 year old man, blasting more teenage energy than most teenagers these days, and sounding more genuine when he does so. And weirder still, Moore seems as happy and self-assured as ever, helping me come to terms with the idea that perhaps the Youth are over, but the spirit of noise rock is alive and well.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 23. M.I.A. - Matangi
23. M.I.A. - Matangi
Experimental UK Hip Hop Electropop
November 5

After her last album didn’t get the praise it deserved, M.I.A. hit back with the sound she knew best, crushing those who doubted her force, now armed with something to prove. And prove something, she did. Her scatty (often laughable) lyrics as charming as they are socially conscious without giving a fuck about what you think, enslaving the hardcore beats to work for her like her bitch. The exciting sample use and out-of-this-world production restlessly fucks with her confident voice, exploding noisily, banging out messy and exciting colours, artistically abrasive and exhaustingly eccentric with almost far too much violence going on. And she’s second to none; no one can touch her, and no one could ever sound like her. Granted, her disjointed Eastern flavour can get a little bit too inventive/awkwardly hardcore/chaotically flawed for its own good at times, but when I listen to it, I wonder if this is perhaps the only music I truly like? She is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am in love with her. And while it won’t suit every occasion, when you catch it at the right moment just after a strong cup of coffee ... fuck me.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 22. Disclosure - Settle
22. Disclosure - Settle
UK Garage House
June 3

Barely into their twenties, the Lawrence brothers must be making their money—and for damn good reason. This is because their polished debut can only be called the epitome of the UK garage wave happening right now, leading the scene with glee and vibrance, provoking carefree dance moves whether you’re in the club, alone in your bedroom or just at your desk trying to work. And when it bangs, it bangs so fucking hard that you can smell the dancefloor and all the drug fuelled partying involved with that. What’s more, everyone agrees; from music snobs to oblivious club junkies, from critics to wannabe critics, and all the hipsters in between. Admittedly, the big tracks are so massive that the simply “good” tracks suffer in context, but in reality, it’s all good. Furthermore, perhaps it is almost too modern, so much so that it may date badly in time. But for now, it’s essential 2013 listening, featuring a well-chosen guest list and some of the greatest songs of the year which will remain anthems for many playlists to come. Believe the hype: it’s pretty much the biggest album of the year, and deserves the title.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 21. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
21. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
Indie Pop
May 14

Running out with arguably the four most fun opening tracks of the year, this album is just about the most uplifting and joyous sound of 2013, owed exclusively to intelligent attention to detail with a complete lack of negativity or doubt. It smiles the whole way through whilst lovingly reading childhood bedtime stories under the starry night, or delightfully skipping down the road to home. It’s so rare that a band can hit those emotional heart valves using nothing but peppy bliss without taking the piss, but this group have perfected the art of energetic afro-pop wrapped warmly in adorably cute melodies, presenting a stuffed-to-the-brim vibe which works as one singular, strange and inventive unit. It plays with the line of over-ambition and over-production, but never falls over anything, except perhaps an overload of happiness. And while like vampires in the sun, Vampire Weekend aren’t exactly known to have the greatest shelf-life, they do consistently get better and better per album, and this charming offering appears to be nothing more than an effortless and natural step for these musicians, even the coldest of critics now confessing that, yeah, this is undeniably likeable.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 20. The Ocean - Pelagial
20. The Ocean - Pelagial
Progressive Atmospheric Sludge Metal
April 26

Originally conceived as an instrumental album due to singer Loic Rossetti’s health issues, the idea was to create a complex journey where each song took you deeper down through the seven levels of the sea, starting with soothing and shimmering shallow waters, slowly descending into darker and more claustrophobic regions; the dense sludgy pressure stringing the listener along without ever alienating them, giving them what they want yet soaking them to their lungs. However, when Rossetti’s vocals suddenly improved, they allowed him to add his flavour back into the mix, which he did by finding lyrical inspiration from the 1979 Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker, then dramatically presenting his observations between effortless/emotional singing, and screams of confident/desperate passion. By making use of this well thought-out variation, one song mentality, and all the tight-flows-dense-rhythms-washed-clean-production they could throw at you ... The Ocean grant us an album where no song out-shines another, no member outperforms each other, and there is never a dull moment nor even a weak spot to be found on this submarine in trouble. Which is why this record blows me away in more ways than I could cry about, always, every single time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 19. Julia Holter - Loud City Song
19. Julia Holter - Loud City Song
Ambient Art Pop
August 20

Like hugging someone you love on an acid trip gone wrong, this album draws you in as if a poem on a rainy day, presenting itself like a lonely observer rather than the main character in its own story. It’s beautiful yet uneasy; catchy yet without any commercial value; magical yet scary; uncomfortable yet comforting; perfect yet vulnerable; soothing yet chaotic; a lullaby nightmare; the growth of a dying plant in the snow; an amalgamation of contradictions without ever sounding like anything other than a direct and clear chill. But even with all the orgasmic climaxes and loud ideals which never actually get loud, everything feels like mere back up, second only to Julia’s voice itself, which is as haunting as a ghost stuck in her throat, all rich and provoking, seducing me with obscure hookless deliveries and leaving me speechless; leaving me special. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this album but I never had any idea. How could I? I’ve never heard anything like it ever before.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 18. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels
18. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels
Hardcore Hip Hop
June 26

After both artists individually released two of the greatest hip hop albums of last year (with a little help from each other, granted), El-P and Killer Mike finally stopped fucking around and did what they were always meant to do: create an album together, equally. And they truly gave it everything they’ve got; El-P beating out some of the most banging and powerful production you are likely to hear this year, while his flows keep up with Killer Mike’s usual fast and raw spits, neither of these rap geniuses outshining one another, each coming out the other side with easily their best work to date. It’s hardcore without being a parody of hardcore. It’s fucking serious without losing the essence of humour. And it charges with such savage exhilaration that the whole thing tramples over you in half an hour, effortlessly and perfectly, leaving you confused and gasping for air. Congratulations on making one of the most relevant hip hop albums of the decade so far, guys. Job well done.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 17. Ovid's Withering - Scryers of the Ibis
17. Ovid's Withering - Scryers of the Ibis
Djent, Symphonic Black Metal
November 13

Holy Jesus of all Metal-Fuck, what in God’s Holy Name is this?? I have no idea, but I think it’s trying to tell me something, and it’s not a particularly nice something. It’s an evil something. A suspenseful horror tale something, with so many potent moments that I choke. Because that’s what this album is about. MOMENTS. So many moments. Every song (almost always around the 3:00 mark) insisting on doing something weird; subtle background noises provoking stress; talented ideas and technical details suffocating my attention. I grow overwhelmed as they borderline my heaviness threshold, yet am intrigued as they cover every single style in the genre without even breaking a stitch. It’s an epiphany in Hell. It’s a slice of God whilst burning to death. And above all else, it’s a fucking show-off album; Ovid's Withering coming across like veterans of the Death Army despite the fact that this is only their debut. They have exposed their thirst. They are desperate to prove something. And they’ve worked fucking hard at doing so, accidentally raising a demon from some Satanic abyss which is standing behind me right now, so I should probably stop talking about it. Moving on MOVING ON PLEASE.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 16. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
16. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris
West Coast Hip Hop
August 20

Finally free after his mother sent him to a Samoa boarding school for troubled kids, the much hyped sophomore from 19 year old Thebe Kgositsile was thankfully worth the wait. But while the dark youthfulness and internal struggles of his debut are still apparent (even continuing the flirtation with horrorcore, at times), he comes out with a new found maturity this round, less rapey and homicidal, more punchliney and intelligent, not a single shit lyric to be found anywhere on this album. His quiet voice casually spews out countless syllables in complex rhyming formations without even breaking a sweat, swaying over disturbing yet humble beats, pure deep hip hop, pop-free and unforgettable. Perhaps it sounds slightly amateur, even a touch messy and jumbled within the unbalanced mastering, but this thrown together vibe somehow works in its favour, connecting as one strong unit of friends, as if the abrupt song endings and unrealised ideas reflect Earl’s confusing personality rather than to serve any of us. And above all else, with this release and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange last year, bets are in that Odd Future have a very good future ahead indeed, no longer dependent or even concerned with Tyler the Creator, outgrowing him embarrassingly.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 15. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
15. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
Alternative Country Rock
September 3

When I undertook the daunting task of writing this list, I prayed every day for an album just like The Worse Things. Because shit gets weird. Straight forward compositions take sharp and unsettling turns right in the middle. Happy music hides its sad underbelly in shame. This pop is rotten, all peculiarly arranged around one eccentric central character: Neko Case herself. The strength of her multi-dimensional vocals and honest lyrics work together as a force, demanding authority, refusing to play it safe and standing defiant against the norm. It’s glittered with so many details that it’s impossible to grasp anything, except for the frequent indirect hints at darkness blurred by humour, opting to remain strong-headed without any facade, reaching levels so personal that I decided to get a little personal myself, right here: the first time I heard "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu", I got such insane goosebumps that my nipples erect. This is not a lie, and I’m not sure it has ever happened before. That overshare aside, I'll admit it’s never as good as I remember it when I listen to it, but I fucking remember it, and above all else, Neko didn't make this album for us. She made it for herself.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 14. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
14. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
Contemporary Folk/Americana
June 11

Country music not your preferred drink of choice? Don’t even worry about it, darlin’. Because not since Joni Mitchell’s Blue have I heard an album so passionately driven and reflectively personal that one struggles to get through it. It's uncomfortable when your guts physically shift. Genres become painfully irrelevant when you grieve. And grieve, you shall, as Jason’s powerful deliveries break hearts whilst the clarity of his vulnerable lyrics weigh so heavily on your breath that you can literally feel your breathing draw harder, falling nauseous, destroying your life in beautiful misery. I’m not doing so well to be honest, thanks for asking. Because, man, it’s rare that you FEEL a record as rich as this, music designed to make ladies (or even a weaker man) weep (not me), which is why I stand by my opinion that this is by far the most emotionally intense and cry worthy album of the year.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 13. 凛として時雨 [Ling Tosite Sigure] - i'mperfect
13. 凛として時雨 [Ling Tosite Sigure] - i'mperfect
Alternative Post-Hardcore
April 10

For some reason, I knew this album was going to be a special one before I even listened to it. It came out of nowhere, beckoning to me, welcoming me into its wooden house, and then shoveling noise all over my being, consuming my air in beautiful chaos and coffee, my eyes widening frequently in the full speed energy and poppy intensity. It was as if a sweeter At the Drive-In married the less weirds but all the frantics of Deerhoof, got Frusciante to play guitar and then spent extra attention on the drum sound (which most bands neglect to do, very appreciated), leaving an aura which appears to follow a strict formula without steering into excessively experimental territory, and yet sounds anything but ordinary or sticking to any set procedure. And as impressive as those words may be, it truly is the high-pitched feverish vocals which make this release so super exciting; a male and female duo trading parts, the whole affair somehow coming across loving and playful only to cover up a few seriously demonic undertones. Imperfect? Not a fucking chance. I’m Perfect? Damn fucking straight.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 12. Juana Molina - Wed 21
12. Juana Molina - Wed 21
Folktronica, Indietronica
October 29

Like the naivety of some Spanish child’s twisted nightmare, this album feels as if it is completely oblivious of everything around it, fumbling light sound after light sound without ever repeating itself or losing its kiddie innocence. It’s scary without intending to be, deliriously peculiar without realising it, delicately skipping over its warped path in confusion, enjoying its own death yet offended by any intrigued observer who has the nerve to call it out on its own oddness. Just leave it alone, it’s having fun with its own druggy disorientation. It’s just being itself. And itself is unlike any other self I’ve ever heard, try it.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 11. Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon
11. Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon
Contemporary R&B; Soul Jazz
March 4

Carefully composed poppy-sweet melodies, solely designed and designated to surround and uplift much larger moments of soaring emotions is a tried and tested formula hardly ever executed this properly. Think: the pretty and dainty tip-toe of Joanna Newsom; the soulful vocal power of Amy Winehouse; and the cheeky arty weirdness of Janelle Monáe; all sophisticatedly arranged by the vintage details of Brian Wilson, resulting in a record which can make me :’( or :) at any given delivery. The whole offering leads like a church, full of positivity and sing-a-long marches, yet serene and spiritual, the light and shimmering production polishing each gem until they sparkle from every angle. And while I’ll happily admit I much prefer the upbeat and vibey tracks, the more sparse and mournful ones are still perfect in their own right, especially due to the conscious manner in which these songs have been ordered, ensuring a comfortable ride with logical followings and conclusions until the very conclusion. Which is to say, two thirds of this album is the best I’ve heard in 2013, while the rest does just fine, a complete and filler-free release from one new artist who undoubtedly has a lot more to say.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 10. Jon Hopkins - Immunity
10. Jon Hopkins - Immunity
Microhouse, IDM
June 3

It has to be said that I’m a full-fledged Hopkins fan, half a decade strong now. I’ve always been so impressed by the man’s ability to create electro noises I didn’t know existed, and work them in a harmonious almost organic way, creating visuals with sound, standing as some sort of an intriguing mechanical brother of Sigur Rós. But this album ... is on a different fucking level. After everything he’s already achieved, Hopkins has outdone himself, which continues the pattern of all his records, each one bringing a higher quality to his atmosphere than the one before. And Immunity is epitome of this exploration, creating one HUGE experience by magnifying the tiny details; miniature sounds which creep around some bigger picture; programmed genuine emotions which cry while they dance. It’s an absolute beauty of distorted mess, truly a work of art which journeys at the same complex pace from start to finish, always telling you something new no matter how many times you listen to it. He is the best in the genre. He is a genius. And I can’t even imagine where the fuck he can go from here.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 09. James Blake - Overgrown
09. James Blake - Overgrown
Ambient Art Pop, Contemporary R&B
April 8

Following what was my undefeated favourite record of 2011, James Blake has done it again, evolving confidently and boldly in a direction any fan would be more than satisfied with. And even if the surprise factor may have waned ever so slightly, in many ways, this sophomore is even better than his debut. Complete with guest slots which make sense (Brian Eno) more than others (RZA), it is still Blake alone who carries his sound to such disorientating heights. His voice mumbles poetic lyrics by using subtle falsettos that make me go (o)mmmmm(g). His hands treat his stark songs with compassion, utilising restraint to give you space, revealing small details of a bigger secret to overwhelm and ultimately smother your emotions. And very quickly, my mood turns to lonely, and my tears reach my spine, giving me chills to the base of my soul. This is all to say, Blake is in a league of his own and yet is still better than everyone else, perhaps the most exciting new artist of the decade on par with only Frank Ocean. And I am so inspired. Thank you so very much.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 08. Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
08. Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
Contemporary Country
March 19

As we approach the midway point of the 2010s, contemporary country artists have poked their curious heads from the soil and started to make some serious commotion. However, I feel they all shut the hell up as soon as Musgraves opened her mouth and performed Same Trailer Different Park, the most confident and complete album in the genre this decade so far. For while the warm instrumentation serve her delightful delivery with loyalty, it’s her lyrics which casually lift this 24 year old voice above its unpredictable peak. They suffer in small town observations, distracted by dreams of a better future without granting themselves the luxury of complaint. They speak of truths, conscious and wise, so real they hurt. They are humorous in a melancholic way, the sweetness stirred deep within rather than sugar coating the message. And sometimes, they bite. Every one of these songs thrive on a unique concept enhanced by choruses which refuse to fall, each digging into my love for Kacey, the depth corresponding to how many times I listen to her speak. Basically put, I’ve never before realised how desperately I need a country girl in my life, but now I’m empty without one.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 07. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury
07. Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury
Atmospheric Black Metal
April 30

Until I heard this album, I never genuinely appreciated what black metal was good for. I considered the genre to scream and make noise out of misguided aggression or simply for the sake of it, trying far too hard to be “sad” or “evil”. However, during my very first apprehensive endurance of Teethed Glory and Injury, my heart broke. It bled into my stomach as I wet myself from tears and urine (which may sound dramatic, but still not as dramatic as this record sounds). It changed me. I lost part of myself. Because it didn’t scream for pretend, it screamed for help; lonely and in trouble as if trapped in an ugly damp cellar, bursting from pain and terror and other scary things. And even when comparing this band to their dark comrades, Altar of Plagues are a different breed of heavy all together; so slow, so soft, so black, hinting at countless genres with even a scent of electronics thrown in for bad measure, clawing its way up this list until each of its fingers broke on the stones. Tragic. But still not as tragic as this group splitting up less than two months after the release, making this special memorial gift all that more depressing.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 06. Wardruna - Yggdrasil
06. Wardruna - Yggdrasil
Nordic Dark Folk
March 15

As one EPIC (!!) album based on Nordic spiritualism and the Elder Futhark runes, I always get giddy with excitement when I put this godly record on, as if anticipating some otherworldly ayawaska trip. Because once the unrecognisable tribal instruments chant their ritual into my ears, I am no longer at my desk; I am outside, surrounded by the ceremonial dance of some undiscovered society. The hypnotic connection to Mother Earth is both uplifting and intimidating, as we bond together in strength, preparing ourselves for the unavoidable forest war ahead. Jesus, where am I? And who still makes music like this?? Because even when its fearless length fills you with doubt, persuading you that such a specific vibe will surely grow bored and tired, it never does so, instead steadily feeding you all the fresh fruit you need in order sustain yourself, eventually concluding as one journey you could never forget. I genuinely don’t have a single bad thing to say about it, and that is not like me.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 05. Jai Paul - Jai Paul
05. Jai Paul - Jai Paul
Indietronica, Contemporary R&B
April 13

Never before have I felt such inner turmoil about including any album on one of my lists, because the backstory behind this hybrid release is exhaustingly confusing to say the very least. Most agree that it’s a “fake album”, an unauthorised collection of leaked demos, unofficial, unmastered, and prematurely ejaculated into our ears (which a statement from XL seemed to confirm). But more skeptical conspiracy theorists speculated that it was a publicity stunt, where Jai leaked the album himself (as an email address associated with accused Bandcamp account would suggest), while others went as far as to claim that the elusive Jai Paul didn’t even exist. Regardless, the hype behind such an unusual history was priceless, and the inevitable curiosity lead us to a messy yet exceptionally charming group of songs, like a bedroom recording where flashes of ideas came out of nowhere and then disappeared before anyone could grasp them, complete with clever samples, sexy hushed vocal deliveries, and painfully long gaps of silence between everything. So, yeah, it was inarguably one of the best albums of 2013, but could something so enigmatic qualify for my precious little article? Well, evidently, yes. Because it’s my fucking article.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 04. きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ [Kyary Pamyu Pamyu] - なんだこれくしょん [Nanda Collection]
04. きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ [Kyary Pamyu Pamyu] - なんだこれくしょん [Nanda Collection]
June 26

Wheeee! Marching into the innocence of a hypercute video game, you may notice the fields have been dyed pink as far as the eye can see while the sun shines ice cream, this colourful childlike cartoon only a ploy to distract you from some very peculiar and uncomfortable maintenance. Because while J-Pop itself is defined by adorable catchiness and infectious naivety, this release boldly moves the criteria sideways, smart enough to hold your attention with surprises from the future or perhaps something else from some other planet somewhere else entirely. It’s an easy mix to get wrong, too many in the genre suffering from the popoverdose tummy ache one may feel after eating too much candy, but Kyary skips sparklingly over these beartraps with a smile on her face, speeding up the carnival and into my cavities as the best J-Pop I’ve ever heard in my life. Because once you dust off the novelty factor, you will find a talented and intelligently written dance record which pretty much does whatever it wants to whenever it wants to, and it wants to do a whole load of things the whole time.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 03. The Drones - I See Seaweed
03. The Drones - I See Seaweed
Punk Blues
March 1

Without a doubt, here stands the most explosively dramatic and emotionally passionate album of the year. It’s more terrifying than Liars and as poetic as fellow Australian Nick Cave, due to a concoction of vocalist Gareth Liddiard rough spits over dead-serious no-bullshit no-frills music and there’s noise but just the right amount of noise and there’s wonky guitar-work and it all gets very arty and weird without sacrificing any talent and it feels politically charged and aggressively mature and it has these insane chord changes that are completely unpredictable and yet it’s really catchy somehow and oh my God there is far too much going on here to actually write a proper review, forgive me. But, fuck, this album was a wake up call. The kind of wake up call when someone lifts you out of your bed and then drops you onto concrete within the same sentence, breaking your jaw yet refusing to stop punching you, a hundred punches per song, a complete disregard to your safety or their's, whilst you cry and forget how to breathe until you pretty much die, so please don’t tell me to go back to bed ever again, mommy.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 02. King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
02. King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Post-Punk, Trip Hop
August 24

When Googling images of this kid, I was taken aback to discover pretty much the least likely face I’d associate with the voice. Ginger. Scrawny. 19 years of age. And yet his Tom Waits articulation scraping old man wisdom onto simple guitar-work and downtempo beats is timelessly beyond his aforementioned youth, unchallenged as the most recognisable voice I’ve heard this decade. And he is British. Oh so quintessentially British, for an album of this stark shade of grey could never have been dreamt up anywhere else in the world. It’s bleak and desolate, lonely in the dark downpour, contemplating the dullness of life, miserable about the state of everything, yet too stoned, too lazy, too fucking exhausted to fully realise the viciousness aching inside. And it’s kind of comforting to know we’re not alone on those days. Look, maybe it is a bit too long, the lullaby quality wearing you down (especially if you were already struggling to begin with), but the confidence of Krule alone is enough to despondently drag this album into the upper class, spreading a sound he found all on his own. A sound no one else but him has yet found.

The Top 50 Albums of 2013: 01. Kanye West - Yeezus
01. Kanye West - Yeezus
Experimental/Industrial Hip Hop
June 18

Forget Kanye as you know him, for Yeezus is an incomparable entity to his past or anyone else’s. It does everything except play it safe, a release which is so abrasive, aggressive, uncomfortable, filthy, dangerous and uncompromising that anyone with any expectations were challenged until tears of WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?? Because this is what happens when an eccentric genius crippled by narcissism spends his entire career trying to convince the world that he is God, and now no longer has anything left to prove. Instead, he’s created a minimal assault which leaves no space for inbetweeners; you either love or hate the way he condescendingly shouts at you like a confused child, but regardless, it's not here to be enjoyed. It’s here to be a threat, designed to ruin your vibe as fast as possible. Amateurs criticise the much simpler lyrics this round, but have you ever tried to be articulate when you’re so fucking angry? Impossible, and not the point. Rather, here is a risky move on West’s part, which not only revolutionises his career but also the entire rap game, killing itself as the most inspirational, breathtaking, and greatest album of the year, hands down. I can hardly believe it exists.

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As far as the decade is going (and as far as any decade goes), there will always be enough indie/rock/metal/pop/punk to go around. And so even though there have been a few solid albums from those aforementioned genres in recent years, nothing (too) groundbreaking/genre-altering has really taken place as of yet, and so it isn't really worth our time to delve too deep into that area at this point.

The same usually goes for hip hop, but last year definitely did seem to surge itself into some new cycle of freshness, and while this year wasn't quite as mind-blowing in general, it did somewhat continue the trend, with plenty gangster flows to keep rap fans satisfied (much more than the early 2010 years, at least). However, I do fear it may already be regressing, but I am known for getting paranoid, so let's hope I'm wrong...

Much like last year, contemporary R&B continues to pump out the goods, remaining the most consistently impressive and surprising genre of the decade. This year definitely saw more hybrid versions of the style coming out, which was inevitable after the straight-forward vibes of the last few years dominated the critics and was snatched up and reproduced into anything with a pulse, inspiring almost anyone who was paying attention. I can't see this disappearing anytime soon.

However, 2013 was not without its own revelations, and it has to be mentioned that as far as electronic-commercial-bangers went, this year owned the decade. An endless stream of garage-y radio-friendly beats pumped out of the airwaves and kept the sun smiling and the underage kids on the dancefloor, and I was only too happy to participate. Time will only tell if this was a one-off fluke, but even if it was, what a fluke! I look forward to seeing how long this magic lasts.

But finally, and above all else, the genre which took me by total surprise in 2013, was country music (or some variation thereof). Sure, we've seen a few crop up here and there over the last four years, but 2013 held so much quality and original vibes, immeasurably more than what was there before. I'd never thought I'd have such confidence in this generally ignorable genre, and it makes me wonder than perhaps when all is said in done, could this truly be the decade of country?

Tune in next year for more definitive answers.