Keith’s top 10 albums of 2013

Top albums 2013

Most years I seem to struggle with a top 10 albums for the year. 2013 was much easier. A couple of albums just became obvious that they were going to be at the top. I also managed to only select albums that were actually released this year too; another first for me!

My top albums this year mostly come from bands/people I’ve liked in the past. Only 2 new artists made their way in. Having said that, it’s great when someone you like brings out another album you also like.

So here we go….

10. Arctic Monkeys – AM

“Only tenth?” I hear some of you cry. Well yeah, to be honest it’s lucky to have made the top ten. A week or two ago it wouldn’t have. But I’ve been bombarded by Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? on Radio Hauraki for a while now, loving it, and I’m beginning to realise that the rest of the album is pretty damned fine too. Think I’ll be listening to this one for a while yet.

9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

I’m a big Neko Case fan, and although this has been out for a while it’s just starting to grow on me. She’s definitely going away from her country roots and branching out into lusher territory. Reckon I’ll love this album this time next year. Looking forward to seeing her live at the Wellington festival later this year too.

8. Kacey Musgraves – Same trailer, different park

If Neko Case is less country than before, then Kacey Musgraves certainly makes up for it. I was torn between loving this album and hating it, but it obviously ended up on the good side. It’s almost twee country, but she seems to sing from the heart. More than that, the songs are simply incredibly catchy. And for what it’s worth, she’s very cute too!

7. Telekinesis – Dormarion

I’ve been a fan of Telekinesis (just one guy – Michael Benjamin Lerner, from Seattle) for a few years now. Until recently I thought they only had one album – Telekinesis! from 2009. A few months ago I found that there were two albums released since then – 12 Desperate Straight Lines from 2011 and Dormarion from 2013. They both continue the trend laid down by the debut – power pop with great tunes. Definitely worth a listen or two.

6. Camera Obscure – Desire Lines

Their last album, My Maudlin Career, was good but it didn’t really drag me in, the same way that Let’s Get Out of this Country did. But it only took a couple of listens to Desire Lines to get me hooked. If you don’t know, it’s Scottish twee pop. Bit like Belle and Sebastian but will a female singer and a wee bit ballsier (not hard, I know). Sweet voice though and again, great songs.

5. Steve Mason – Monkey Minds in the Devil’s Time

I thought that this album would be high up on the critics’ Best Of 2013 lists but I haven’t seen it at all. 20 songs by ex Beta Band mainman Steve Mason that all segue together as one. Not often you get Brazillian commentary from a Prost / Senna duel, together with formula one sounds thrown in to a track either. Love the whole album.

4. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind the Film

I was a bit nervous when I first listened to this one. When it’s your favourite band, you hope that they haven’t screwed it up. I’d heard that the album was a bit different from the usual Manics fare – it wasn’t their shiny rock pop big anthems, and it wasn’t their semi-punky alternative.

This was a third way – acoustic. But (thankfully) it isn’t singer songwriter style acoustic, nor is it a stripped back acoustic set (a la Nirvana) type sound. It’s a band playing their songs, but just without loud guitars. Growing old gracefully. And for the most part it sounds wonderful. A couple of songs I could do without, but in general I love it. Mind you, my favourite song is the closing 30 Year War – a song closest to the ‘old’ Manics sound.

3. Biffy Clyro – Opposites

A high entry for a band I hadn’t heard until about a month ago. It’s just great pop rock with catchy tunes. I said it all here really.

2. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

Been a fan for a while now since Songs for the Deaf. Since then I’ve sort of delved in a bit to their stuff and kinda liked it. But this one is all cracker. Clever rock n roll with attitude.

1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

I have thrashed this album since it came out. My iTunes stats say that all its songs are now in my ‘top 250 played songs’ playlist – that has been going for the last 8 years or so. 35+ times that is. Liked them before but this is the best album I reckon. Smart (without being too smart), infectious pop. Time to stick it on again….

Top Albums’ nationality breakdown – 5 American, 1 English, 1 Welsh and 3 Scottish!

Bubbling under…. Phosphorescent, Kurt Vile, Franz Ferdinand (like the single so the album will get more of a hit now), Avett Brothers, Arcade Fire (still not sure about this one at all – maybe it’ll grow on me), Okkervil River & Dexys.

Older albums I’ve listened to lots but from other years…. Sarah Blasko’s I Awake (would have been top 5 otherwise) and Abigail Washburn. And a bit of Divine Fits too.

Listen yersel – And to make it easy to listen to some songs from these albums, here’s my Keith’s top albums of 2013 Spotify Playlist.

Biffy Clyro – Opposites (2013)

Biffy Clyro - OppositesBiffy Clyro have a very silly name. Silly enough to make me ignore them for probably 6 or 7 years, despite knowing that the critics were starting to say good things about them. I just dismissed them.

But a couple of months ago, I was swapping music recommendations with my 15 year old nephew Callum (a very cool and fun thing to do). He said I should give them a try – the album Puzzle. I stuck it on Spotify and eventually got round to listening to it when I got back to NZ.

You can guess the rest probably. Their latest 3 albums ended up on constant repeat for about a week or so. What are they like? A Scottish Foo Fighters is what first came to mind, but with better songs (and I kind of like Dave Grohl and co). Some great riffs and always a top tune thrown in that you’ll be humming after one or two listens. My kind of rock music!

This is their most recent album and it’s a double. I could easily have picked Puzzle or Only Revolutions as they’re all pretty much on par with each other. But this is a good place to start. Let me know what you think.

And Dave – if you’re out there somewhere – I think you’d like this one!

Best track – Stingin’ Belle

Sarah Blasko – I awake (2012)

Sarah Blasko - I awakeSarah Blasko isn’t a new name to me. Must’ve heard of her a few years ago. Aussie singer songwriter. Might be good, but never got around to listening to her.

A couple of weeks ago a friend said that she saw her in Melbourne and that she was amazing. Time for Mr Spotify to come into play. Very quickly I realised that this is very much up my street.

Initial comparison I had (still do) is Lykke Li – the Swedish lass I posted about last year. Her voice and the production is very similar. There’s big, booming drums, fairly sparse with the odd strings thrown in. All good, but it’s her voice that really gets me.

Am now in the process of getting her older albums too. I’ve a feeling they’ll be good too.

Tracks to listen to if you only listen to a couple: All of me, I awake

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (2013)

Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like ClockworkI’ve been a fan of the Queens since 2002, when Songs for the Deaf came out. Saw them at the Barrowlands on that tour too. Great show!

Since then there’s been a couple of reasonably good albums that I’ve wanted to like more than I really do. They’ve some good songs but not consistent all the way through.

But this one is. It’s great. Pretty sure I prefer it to Songs for the Deaf. It does take a few listens to get into but then it really hits. Songs like ‘I sat by the ocean’ and ‘My God is the sun’ are the most immediate but then the others kick in too after a while.

Another one of those ‘listen to all the way through every time’ albums. Another one for the end of the year list.

Any other QOTSA fans out there? Surely you must be Dave?

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
I know that some of you aren’t huge Vampire Weekend fans, but I’ve gotta try! This (their 3rd) album is a bit different from the first two. Gone is the African guitar sound that was all over their first one. It’s still obviously them though.

This album is perfectly crafted: thought through; well sequenced and paced. Strangely the first song sounds like it should be ending the album – a slower paced song. But then the last song sounds perfect as an ending song. Maybe that’s why when I finish listening to the album I inevitably go straight back to the first song. I seem to listen to this album all the way through every time. A good sign.

All that might make it sound boring and contrived but it’s really not. It’s a great pop album. Listen to Diane Young, and if you don’t like that, then fair enough!

Definite contender for my album of the year already.

Steve Mason – Monkey minds in the devil’s time (2013)

I’ve said that I’m a Beta Band fan before, so it should come as no surprise that I like this album. I’ve not heard any of Steve Mason’s solo music before – just never got round to  trying it. This is superb though.

There’s about 10 real tracks here and 10 shorter songs which fill in between the songs. It all seems to flow nicely. There’s some stuff which sounds like the Beta Band, some simpler acoustic songs and also a rap (thankfully not performed by him).

It’s a fairly eclectic mix but I liked it from the first listen. Have a go and see what you think. I can’t stop listening to it.

Here’s the video for Oh my Lord.

Abigail Washburn – City of Refuge (2011)

Abigail Washburn - City of Refuge
Banjo picking goodness. No. Don’t run away! This is fabulous stuff.

I’d never heard of her before WOMAD this year up in the ‘Naki. She played twice (as do most bands) and we caught her second set. I love it when you discover a band live, then listen to their cds and realise that you’d been missing out before.

This is right up my alley – alt-country, female singer, great songs and voice. I’m not quite sure why she’s not a lot more popular as there’s a lot of others in this genre who aren’t as good as her.

Key songs – City of Refuge, Divine Bell.