With just a couple of weeks until the new year rolls around, we’ve been looking back at this year in music. There were of course a ton of easy-on-the-ear albums from established artists but also a number of exceptional debuts. So which albums made the Culturefly cut? See which ones our writers selected below.
The Civil Wars (The Civil Wars) – Natalie Xenos
2013 saw the release of The Civil Wars’ self-titled second album and American alt-folk doesn’t get much better than this. Singer-songwriter duo Joy Williams and John Paul White have outdone themselves with an understated album that’s full of beautiful harmonies, soothing lyrics and their distinct country edge. From the whispered notes of Dust to Dust to the bluesy sounds of I Had Me A Girl, who needs manufactured pop when you can have this?
Shaking The Habitual (The Knife) – Nathan Tompkins
Shaking the Habitual is The Knife’s best release yet. However because of its intimidating length (more than 1 and half hours) and occasionally challenging song structures many casual listeners have preferred to turn their heads – which, if you can summon the courage and time to sit through the album you’ll likely agree is ludicrous. Habitual is the electronic duo successfully embracing radical experimentalism whilst simultaneously developing their signature pop aesthetic. And for the next publication that omits it from their end of year list, and the ones after that, I pity you.
Didn’t It Rain (Hugh Laurie) – Jason Noble
Hugh Laurie’s first album Let Them Talk turned out to be more than just a vanity project and his second record Didn’t It Rain proved he has the legs to turn his jazz/blues musings into a career. Triumphant piano workouts and fine gospel duets helped broaden his repertoire. No one is doing more for jazz right now than this man.
Random Access Memories (Daft Punk) – Kane Basterrechea
Get Lucky was the feel-good hit of the Summer but it was just the tip of the iceberg for Daft Punk’s long awaited return. Ambitious, funky and effortlessly cool, Random Access Memories is a shamelessly retro odyssey packed with seriously great songs. It’s an immaculately produced affair with tight instrumentation, brilliant guest spots and a real sense of journey to it, particularly on the track Giorgio By Moroder which feels like a mini epic in its own right. Easily the most joyful listening experience of 2013.
London With The Lights On (Stooshe) – Nick Gomez
Despite having a confusing to pronounce name, Stooshe became one of the highlights of the musical year. A more street, modern Sugarbabes – easily outdoing MKS at Brighton Pride in the Park – this trio of vocally wondrous women came out with a solid album of get up and dance songs. They harmonize, dance and know how to play to a crowd.
Say What You Mean (Allison Weiss) – Sophie Devlin
I’ve been evangelising to everyone I know about this album, and about Allison Weiss, since May, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so well into the future. Say What You Mean is a collection of catchy pop-punk anthems and acoustic ballads, all with Weiss’s characteristically raw, honest lyrics about growing up and falling in love. And now, thanks to yet another successful Kickstarter campaign, Weiss has produced a completely new edition of the album entitled Sideways Sessions, which features stripped-down folk versions of all the original tracks.
Heartthrob (Tegan and Sara) – Amy Salter
Whoever says that to build upon early success you have to become progressively ‘edgier’ with your music should listen to this favourite album of early 2013. Elaborating upon their past works by showcasing a more overt radio-friendly ‘Pop’ sound, Tegan and Sara created a hypeworthy, catchy, fun album about suffering heartbreak and falling in love. The Canadian duo’s cool cred was never in doubt.
Bad Blood (Bastille) – Natalie Xenos
Bastille exploded onto the music scene at the end of 2012 and the speed in which they’ve gained popularity in 2013 is staggering. Their Bad Blood album is one of the best debuts of the year, full of narrative fuelled lyrics and an inimitable, youthful anthemic feel. The vulnerability of Dan Smith’s voice is warm and sincere and there’s genuinely not a bad song to be heard. It’s an album that’s rivalled only by the extended version released last month.
As The Crow Flies (Will Varley) – Jason Noble
A relatively unknown singer/songwriter, Will Varley has the voice, demeanour and songs of a real troubadour. Evoking a Tom Waits style of storytelling with a warm, rich voice, songs like Blood & Bone and the title track come to life on his second album. His recent performances on tour with Beans On Toast were first rate.
Light Up Gold (Parquet Courts) – Nathan Tompkins
Light up Gold is perhaps one of the headiest throwback records of 2013. It somehow managed to perfectly crystallize 90s Alternative Indie and Southern dive-bar style Americana without ever feeling contrived or desperately after its time. And whilst I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of the EP that followed, and yes I may be ambivalent about the contents of future Parquet Courts releases as a result, Light up Gold will undoubtedly remain an album I hold with high regard for decades to come.
What was your favourite album of 2013?