So it’s here, that magical time of the year where, based on some old fashioned ideas of years needing a beginning and an end, we compile lists. Ok so most people don’t compile lists, most people just go to christmas parties and drink more vile mulled gunk than they would the rest of the year.
However for me December has for a long time been about the album of the year. About reviewing the pickings and deciding what was good and what was bad. Was it a good year (like 2006) or a bad one (like 2011). Well guess what? I declare 2013 a very good year indeed! In compiling this top 20 I was forced to cast off some albums I really enjoyed, so it’s commiserations to the likes of Villagers, Devendra Banhart, Laura Marling and particularly Steve Mason who’s absence I agonised over for many a day, plus without wanting to ruin the surprise One Direction & Katy Perry also miss out too.
So without further ado (and ideally a fanfare or a fairly small firework) Ladies and Gentlemen I bring you….
FOR THE RABBITS ALBUM OF THE YEAR
THE WAVE PICTURES-CITY FORGIVENESS (Moshi Moshi)
The Wave Pictures went to America and all I got was this awesome double album! David Tattersall and Co have been on a bit of a good run of late. Beer In The Breakers & Long Black Cars were both superb but City Forgiveness is probably the most adventurous and rewarding album they’ve done to date. The likes of jaunty americana number “Golden Syrup” and the heartbreaking closing track “Like Smoke” showed a band full of potential that they’re setting about fulfilling. They might not be the biggest band in Britain right now but they’re certainly one of the best!
(For a full review of City Forgiveness head over HERE)
FRIGHTENED RABBIT – PEDESTRIAN VERSE (Warner)
The Scottish band that could! When I first came across Frightened Rabbit it was around the time of the release of second album Midnight Organ Fight. If you told me then that they’d be conquering America and selling out venues all across the UK I more than likely wouldn’t have believed you. Not that they weren’t brilliant, they were just so, well unlikely. They’ve certainly smoothed out some edges since those days and gone a touch more stadium but what really stands out with this 4th album is still how wonderfully intimate they sound. An arena size band who still sounds like they’re singing to you and you alone! The likes of gentle opener Acts of Man, and the stunningly good single The Woodpile fit beautifully into their already hit packed back catalogue. It might not quite reach the heights of The Modern Leper or Poke but this is still a stunning record and a worthy member of the album of the year club!
HAIKU SALUT – TRICOLORE (How Does It Feel To Be Loved?)
What can you expect from a debut album? Well based on this, an awful lot! Perhaps one of the less well known albums on the list, but one that’s received almost unanimously stunning reviews, and you know what it couldn’t be any more deserved. The all female, instrumental 3-piece from Derby have made one of the most unique and intriguing album of the year. Part Amelie era Yann Tiersen, part traditional English folk band. Blasts of accordion, tinkles of glockenspiel and a whole lot of what sounds like pretty much every other instrument they could find. I’ve never heard anything quite like it, and in doing that they’ve made one of the most magical album of the year! Buy it! Buy it now!
VERONICA FALLS – WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO HAPPEN (Bella Union)
Indie Pop’s a tough field to get into, trying to craft something simple and beautiful, that’s not already been done a thousand times before, should be pretty darn tough shouldn’t it? Well not for Veronica Falls by the sound of things. From opener Tell Me you know exactly what you’re getting from this band. They’re masters of superb, reverb-laden, pop music! The key to making this record really leap out is that it isn’t as jangly on the inside as it might seem on the outside. Yes there’s a lot of shimmering C86 influence, but there’s as much influence from the likes of The Smith and The Jesus & Mary Chain to take us far away from the twee sphere. Released on the ever brilliant Bella Union, this album is such a stunning collection of Indie-Pop songs that it doesn’t even need catergorising at all, it’s just really good indeed!
JOHN GRANT – PALE GREEN GHOSTS (Bella Union)
Two in a row for Bella Union! The former Czars frontmans second solo album was an all together different beast to debut Queen of Denmark, but just further proof of what a unique, talented song-writer Grant is. If Queen of Denmark was a collection of classically put together chamber pop songs courtesy of a little backing band called Midlake, Pale Green Ghosts took his songs and pushed them in an entirely new direction. Lots of electronic bleeps, and buzzes, mixed with his always dramatic vocal performance made for an excellent style that really suits him. The likes of GMF (that’s the polite acronym for Greatest Mother Fucker if you’re wondering), the harrowing but oddly amusing I Hate This Fucking Town, and the utterly gorgeous Glacier are equally as good as anything on Queen of Denmark. The subject matter as ever are deeply personal tales. Heartbreak and hating your ex, the struggles of being a gay man growing up, and latterly of being a gay man suffering with HIV (particularly on the excellent Ernest Borgnine) they’re all as ever delivered with his trademark wit and flamboyance so it never gets as heavy as it could! All in all, it’s another superb collection from a unique talent!