Manuel’s Top Ten of 2013

mbv, white lies, editors, divine fits, phoenix, the veils, polica, johnny marr, school of seven bells, metronomy

I beat myself up pretty good in 2012 for not being as diligent a new music listener as in years past. 2013 was different. Because of a few lifestyle changes over the past 12 months — some deliberately good, some not so deliberate or good — I devoted more time listening to music. The result was, IMHO, a more considered study on what was a very good year in music. 

If I have a criticism of my list, it is the lack of new bands represented. I obviously did not venture far from my comfort zone. I will try to be better about that in 2014. 

10. Metronomy “The English Riviera” (2011)

Do you have your skinny jeans on? A t-shirt with an ironic phrase or image on it? What about thick, black plastic glasses? Yes? Okay, you’re now ready to listen to this album. Although released a couple of years ago, I was introduced to it by a colleague in early 2013. And despite my snarky intro, I really dug this album. I wasn’t alone; it was considered by many one of 2011’s best. If this is new to y’all too, I think we’ve all been caught asleep at the switch.

9. School of Seven Bells “Ghostory” (2012)

I spent the earlier part of the year playing catch up to a number of albums purchased in 2012 that I hadn’t gotten around to hearing. This is one of them. If you’re a fan of SoSB’s signature synth bliss sound, this album will not disappoint. Sadly, as of this past December, this band is no longer — one of its two members died of cancer. He was 35.

8. Johnny Marr “The Messenger” (2013)

One wonders what took Johnny so long to release a solo album. Doesn’t matter. It was worth the wait. And for a codger like Marr, his songs sound quite fresh. I hope he doesn’t wait another couple of decades before his next release.

7. Poliça “Shulamith” (2013)

One of the few newish bands to make my list. I won’t write any more than what I did here. I will add that this probably would’ve been higher on my list had I gone to their concert when I had the chance. D’oh!

6. The Veils “Time Stays, We Go” (2013)

Typical excellence from Finn Andrews & Co. This release was enhanced by my witnessing another cathartic live performance. Best show I attended in 2013, although it can’t possibly top Stu’s concert of the year/decade/ever.

(Stone Roses? Really? Damn. I could probably win a million dollar lottery and a night to remember with <insert your favorite female beauty here>, and it probably still wouldn’t beat this accomplishment. SUPER jealous. Only a time machine to them performing in 1990 could top it.)

5. Phoenix “Bankrupt!” (2013)

This being their sixth album, it can be easy to overlook how difficult it is to consistently create timeless, incredibly catchy music. But that’s just what Phoenix did. Again.

If I have one criticism (and it’s a big one), it is how horribly mixed this record is. It is super-compressed and muddy. If it weren’t for Phoenix’s ability to craft a good pop song, this would be unlistenable to me. However, despite this transgression, I think this album is better than their previous.

4. Divine Fits “A Thing Called Divine Fits” (2012)

As stated in an earlier post, this one snuck past me in 2012. But I made up for lost time by playing the bejeesus out of it in 2013. And like many on this list, its sounds echo my favorite artists growing up. I hope these guys have more great tunes in their future.

3. Editors “The Weight of Your Love” (2013)

I can’t write much more than I have already. Excellent album. And “Formaldehyde” is still a great tune many months after first hearing it.

2. White Lies “Big TV” (2013)

In three years, White Lies came #1 and #2 in my end of year list. So it’s hard to dispute them not being my favorite band at the moment. I hope I’m in town next month when they pay a visit to Portland.

(Biffy Clyro and White Lies in Portland four days apart. It would be a crime to miss either. But working for The Man can be a heavy yolk.)

1. My Bloody Valentine “m b v” (2013)

During one particularly lucid listening session, I convinced myself that Kevin Shields is an alien, and that he periodically makes albums to communicate with his home planet many light years away. Hidden deep in all that white noise and fuzzy feedback, he could either be letting them know that we’re not yet ready for First Contact, or that we’re finally ripe for harvesting. We might find out tomorrow, or not for many thousands of years. But until the arrival of our future overlords, I’m going to enjoy the beautiful soundscapes he and his unwitting human bandmates made for us.

MBV’s masterpiece, “Loveless,” may have the historical distinction of being an original work of art. But I will argue that this is a better album. It is nearly perfect to my ears. And for that, it earns its place at the top of this year’s list.

Resspeck! (and many listens) also given to…

  • Biffy Clyro “Opposites” (2013) — every song is an anthem. Seeing them live must be one big sing-a-long.
  • David Bowie “Then Next Day” (2013)
  • INXS “Shabooh Shoobah” (1983)
  • Bat for Lashes “The Haunted Man” (2012)
  • Arctic Monkeys “AM” (2013)
  • Phantogram “Eyelid Movies” (2013)

I love this annual tradition. It gives us a chance to slag each other ever so gently about each other’s questionable taste. So here’s your chance to set me straight. What do you think?

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2 thoughts on “Manuel’s Top Ten of 2013

  1. Nice list fella, although slightly surprised that there was no place for AM and David Bowie. Still, fair play Sir. I think Metronomy is the only album I haven’t heard so will have to listen to that on Spotify. My Bloody Valentine…..No.1 you say…..about as predictable as spotting a mullet in the Hutt Valley {insert suitable white trash equivalent for USA}.

    It’s very obvious from our lists that it hasn’t been a year for new new acts. Looks like there have only been 3 debut albums from yours, mine and Keith’s list so far.

    Re: your mbv comment; this is the proof I needed to finally, and once and for all, happily label you as a mentalist. You crazy cat………

  2. The only one I hadn’t listened to was Metronomy but haven’t really given Divine Fits a good thrashing yet either.

    MBV didn’t really do it for me I have to admit…I do like Loveless but just couldn’t get into the new album….It has been a while so I’ve got plenty of time for further listens before they release anything new 🙂

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