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Music

Albums Of The Year List – 2013

1. Anna Calvi – One Breath
A second album on which Calvi avoids just remaking the first album (not that I’d have complained about that) and instead carves out a series of affecting songs accompanied by a wonderful soundscape of lush strings, shredded guitar noise and odd noises. A force of nature.

2. Torres – Torres
Sparse, angry, sad collection of stories driven by Mackenzie Scott’s voice and electric guitar with relatively minimal backing. That this is a million miles removed from my usual genres of preference says everything about the quality of it.

3. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
They’ve somehow managed to make a better album than Ágætis byrjun. No, I have no idea how that was possible either, but this mostly sounds like mountains and volcanoes and waves and ice and almighty noise, and it is thoroughly beautiful. Old Sigur Ros but louder and faster.

4. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
I never thought I’d be so into a album which required me to skip so many of its tracks. At least forty minutes of extraneous material from this can be safely ignored in favourite of the industrial beats, raging vocals, and synthetic noise which make up an hour or so of apocalyptic disco.

5. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Another long album which could lose a few tracks here and there, but for the most part sounds like Arcade Fire meets LCD Soundsystem, a combination almost precision tooled for my affections. Big soaring choruses and arms in the air sad disco.

6. Tegan And Sara – Heartthrob
No one wrote a better pop album this year, not even the hordes of popstars with their millions of pounds and backroom staff. Short, sharp little slices of synth pop all dressed up in top notch harmonies.

7. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
More of the big electronic drones and clattering percussion from the Olympics’ least likely opening ceremony soundtrackers. I particularly love Fuck Flip Buttons because I can either lose myself in their stuff, or use it to block everything else out and get some reading done on public transport. Ideal.

8. Savages – Silence Yourself
No nonsense, rattling from A to B (where A is Angry At The Sexist Shits and B is Battering Them Over The Head With Slabs Of Post Punk Noise And Righteous Rhetoric) with urgency and skill. Basslines of joy.

9. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Imagine if the local nightclub wasn’t full of drunks bumping into each other and getting pissed off, but starry eyed folk waving their arms in the air at the sheer beauty of Northern Lights glittering through the glass roof. This is the soundtrack to that nicer place, deep beats and all.

10. Austra – Olympia
More sad songs with synths. I must listen to about a million albums in that genre every year, so for this to crack the top ten is a sure sign that it’s one of the best. Helped by unexpected rave pianos, sinister vocal shifts, and Katie’s operatic-without-being-annoying singing.

11. Diana – Perpetual Surrender
Eighties style drums. Breathy vocals. Saxophone. I should really hate this album with a passion, but for some inexplicable reason I really really like it. Very late eighties, but my main complaint is that at only seven proper tracks, it’s a bit short.

12. M.I.A. – Matangi
Was there a memo sent around insisting that albums should be too long or too short this year? This one is another for the ‘too long’ camp, although as it is a typical M.I.A. album (i.e. a complete and glorious mess of noise, sounds and themes) this is probably appropriate. She continues to be top pop by accident.

13. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Ms Monae’s continued ambition has popped out another of those slightly-overlong albums, but there are some absolute belters on here, including a run of the finest duets of the year, not one including Pharrell. Sassy, classic soul stylings.

14. Charli XCX – True Romance
Posh girl rapping, exceptional pop melodies, sad disco, and she’s only about twelve. It’s a bit scary but also reassuring that some people are still interested in making pop which isn’t just 90s dance music with bad rapping over the top.

15. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Native accent synth pop, the best kind. It’s a very shiny and very sleek record, with some outstanding peaks covering for the occasional pretty sounding but empty number.

16. 65daysofstatic – Wild Light
65dos will never get the recognition they deserve, which is sad as their electro-inflected post rock is getting ever more sophisticated and tuneful with each album. This one shimmers and thumps in all the right (and often unexpected) places.

17. Maya Jane Coles – Comfort
In the year where I didn’t get into Disclosure or AlunaGeorge’s albums, Maya Jane Coles appears to be doing the same thing as them – sultry, dark house pop – but better and with less credit. Occasional crap lyrics don’t deflect from the overall doom-pop wonderfulness.

18. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rival
Sleigh Bells make a Sleigh Bells album. It sounds exactly like both their other albums. THIS IS A GOOD THING. Bratty sing-raps over roaring guitars and an ancient keyboard, it continues to work in the same way chilli chocolate works, inexplicably.

19. Lorde – Pure Heroine
Another impossibly young thing makes a pop album which is smart, witty and wise. I suspect this should probably be higher ranked, but I only got it a couple of weeks ago after resisting listening because of the hype. Error. Very good.

20. MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
Strutting synth pop, served up in a more sultry, less sad style than most of the other genre examples on this list. Maybe being New Yorkers rather than Scandis/Brits/Canadians makes them more inclined to the swagger these songs move with, but the end result is great fun.