Friday, 27 December 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 10 - 1






















10. Julia Holter - Loud City Song


There was no better experience, no better record that invited and further involved its listener in the joy and charm of the musical environment, than Julia Holter's Loud City Song. Away from the conventional focus on ethereal layering, experimental deliveries and song-writing that was more flashback than episodic, the Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist used such a sparking array of generative locale, the charm and charisma of Holter's aesthetical powers far outshone the jazzy night-life the album so carelessly danced and twirled its way theough, the in-tune exploration and breadth of nightly soul was enough to give the album's build a hefty height of imagination. Once more, in a year that has seen female vocallists continuing to push the boundaries of nakedly human purity and simplicity, Julia Holter stood out as the year's biggest representative for female creatives, not just as a conventional counter to the masculine establishment, but as the album graced in its presence - sweeping its listener up into the neon-humming, cobble-clinking enclosures of evening jazz bars and indoor/outdoor cafe's - demonstrated a female intoxication of harmony and soul, infused ultimately into one of 2013's most spacious, rich yet simply-expressed records of the entire calendar.
~Jordan Helm



9. Foals - Holy Fire


Once in a blue moon, an album - more specifically a record shackled in constraints that it's alternative, commercial, Glastonbury-approved, Radio 1 Maybe Tier - comes along and reminds us all why there are so many bands today trying the very same rock mindset in providing anthems fit for stadium relay and radio rejuvenation, in the first place. Foals fortunately know how to excite and uplift without selling either their souls or their creativity. Holy Fire was living, breathing proof that hollow tags of 'rock music' and 'commercialism' don't at all implore the kind of euphoric excitement and unilateral attraction acts like Wire, Joy Division, Radiohead & co have managed for this tiny isle over the decades. Foals' third album sprung up like a fully-charged coil in its desired lead of twirling guitar leads and vocal supremacy. But even with the exhuberance and exersion, the music seemed built from the exact underlining passion and intent to paint a picture, tell a story, drive a message throughout. None of their twelve tracks sounded the same, yet every one seemed to stand on the very same philosophy of captivation through immaculation. Holy Fire was not only Foals' most compelling record writing wise, it quickly became one of rock's - regardless of a individual's perception of that word - greatest reminders that beneath the superficial layers of genre tagging, lies human passion amid musical talent. And by God was that felt herein.
~Jordan Helm



8. Iceage - You're Nothing


You’re Nothing is the target set by Iceage for future punk rockers to surpass. Punk rock in its modern form is either construed by Americanisms like pop punk, and ageism like with the British try-hard wannabees. Punk rock isn’t done right unless it’s innovative, or in the 70s / 80s. Iceage’s iconic loud and grunge-esque You’re Nothing follows on blindly from their debut album New Brigade. The Danes have a knack for sound and structure, giving their recordings something more than just three chords and a shout. It’s a scary sophomore album which binds together my love for loud aggressive music, and sweet symphonic guitar progressions.
~Eddie Gibson



7. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe


Devonte Hynes was in no mood to deceive his listener this year, nor was he a man who wanted to pass off the recurring inequalities in life as merely 'a phase...a one-off...an isolated incident'. This anti-quarantining in Cupid Deluxe gave Hynes' Blood Orange moniker the year's most successful and resounding rejuvination of RnB into the modern Wage - a modern age that, despite the labours of equal rights and umerous campaigns, still revers ugly misfortunes of one being called out solely on such absurdities as colour, creed, ethnicity, sexuality and such. Hynes' emphatic mix of groove-led guitars, padded drums, electronics and vocals - both solo and guest collaboration alike - was a sound the listener could never let go of, and the usage in instilling the listener with a deep, and hard-hitting, realization of reality in its most bleakest, cruelest and head-shaking of moment, was a liberation that came with major collateral sorrow. The collapse of a relationship, the aspirations of a dream never likely to materialize, even the simple act of walking down a city street. In its most contextually personal, Blood Orange struck at something; at its most basic and everyday of subjects, Hynes absolutely shattered it. Cupid Deluxe was blissful in its song-writing without giving off ignorance, yet was overwhelmingly realistic to the point the harshness wasn't at all required. In the end, the smooth production, soulful vocals and arrangements throughout perfectly soundtracked the life of the outsider, the loner, the bullied, the abused. the unheard voices stretched across the developed 'first World' sector of the World.
~Jordan Helm 



6. Doldrums - Lesser Evil


Lesser Evil is a narcoleptic's nightmare – never has bleeps and bloops been more damaging to ones sleeping pattern than Doldrum’s debut album. Toronto based electronic wizard Doldrums (pseudonym for Airick Woodhead) lives in a world of fantasy. His voice reminds me of a damsel in distress, or a young child discovering Narnia. Doldrums goes far-out on Lesser Evil, beyond the regularities of electronic dance music, and far beyond that of glitch. It’s the bassheads come to album for tightly composed experimentations of sound. It’s packed full of little vocal cuts and percussion stabs, with synthesized riffs bringing back the visions of the mid-00s dance-punk fad with electronics – think Late of the Pier with a whole lot more bass, layers, and The Snowman kid.
~Eddie Gibson 



5. My Bloody Valentine - m b v


m b v is as iconic in 2013 as Loveless is in 2013. Listeners of m b v hang on to every single chord because they don’t want the album to be over – because then My Bloody Valentine’s completed their goal of releasing a third album. In my head, Shields is still pondering what to put out, but listening through m b v makes me realise something more tear-droopingly emotional. Whatever Shields touches turns to gaze, and the My Bloody Valentine audience wouldn’t have it any other way. m b v doesn’t mirror it’s recording process of 21 years. It’s as developed as I am, but akin to the 90s rather than the 10s where m b v has seen its audience. Fears about m b v’s quality have been raised for years, but the critics and fans comfortably welcomed m b v in to the My Bloody Valentine discography with open arms. It’s a natural follow-up to Loveless, and one which could seamlessly have been released in 1993.
~Eddie Gibson



4. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City


New York is a city of cultural excess; a once Dutch then British isle that most recently in history has been home to a host of musical revolutions by the American citizens rightly poised about the structural stretches. Vampire Weekend's third album graced our ears with a two-tone eulogy of a waking city bubbling with artistic ingenuity, yet one perillously full of emotive dangers and catalysts an individual standing against the wider hive of the populous, would class as unfavourable. Modern Vampires Of The City is a love-letter, sonnet and tragedy rolled into one bound-and-pressed sumrmize of charisma, charm...and atypical 'coolness'. Whether it be Ezra Koenig's bouncing rocketeer of lyricism, or more note-worthy the romanticism of Vampire's rock versatility and universal variety of theme, Modern Vampires Of The City was as detailed as the very city it stood fond of. This was an album to get lost in; an album that felt like a musical tourist map chock with far too many spots to capture in one given day. In the end, with a 50's csnap and a 21st century slickness, Vampire Weekend blossomed into becoming their most networked yet personally affective in their career. A landmark example in capturing the ear, and further proof that the eye - be it theoretical and metaphoric in the field of music - can lead us down many a curious alley.
~Jordan Helm



3. Jon Hopkins - Immunity


It's a guarantee that after this, Immunity - electronic producer Jon Hopkins' forth studio album as a solo symphony-dabbler - will be regarded in future times as one of electronic music's critical questions in where the line between rhythm and tone stands, and wherein it blurs to a powdery fragrant dust of wonderous suspicion, and absolute amazement. Like the Spanish national football team pre-2008, Jon Hopkins was always the underachiever in terms of respect and admiration from the wider media and music community. With Immunity, Jon Hopkin's spatial drawn-out voyages of house pacing, techno tones and subtle shifts finally (at last) achieved macroscopic suspense and deserved praise throughout. This was neither a tonally colourful album, nor was it one that necessarily involved itself in as many sonic territories as it could get its hands on. Yet the linearity of Hopkins' approach and sequencing of unfolding events left the producer's transluceny of saw-toothed synthesizers and wintry piano touches feeling far more expansive and involving than most multi-layered fabrications of contemporay electronica. Immunity then gladly took its time; tenderly treating its space with both pride and sensitivity. And within each of the album's eight sonic environments - be it the voyage of outback windings on Open Eye Signal, the event horizon of Collider, the dancefloor shimmers of Sun Harmonics - Jon Hopkins' mesh of simple leads with complex topography stood as one more milestone to electronic music's power as both a sound with beauty, but one with impecable connection and understanding.
~Jordan Helm



2. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus


Last year, one of the very first snapshots of British musical pride in the opening cinematic to the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony was a pan of the river Thames...provided in musical accompaniment to a sample of Surf Solar's jitteringly ecstatic blast of noisy electronica and droned layering. It's a perfect comparison to noise power-house Fuck Buttons' impressive array of tcompositions in what, up to last year, had comprised of merely two albums and thirteen tracks. Yet the depth, the drive and the determination to expand horizons in the British duo's scope of components always felt fit for the grand stage whereby birth presides and openings offer the events to at last unveil themselves into present reality. Slow Focus in musical terms continued Buttons' expansion of tribal-like euphoria with textural scrutiny on an album, signalling less the birth of a new beginning, but more the moments preceeding it...the end of what was an incredible journey for the life before it. Thus, Fuck Buttons' hip-hop and techno expansions never outshone what was already a crowning establishment of electronics pushed to their utmost engaging and emmaculate of extremes. Yet despite Slow Focus wcoming across as the end of days, like many peoples' assumptions on the meaning of the word 'apocalypse', this was by no means a prophesized pessimism unfortunately coming into being. The Universe radiating from out of Fuck Buttons' mammoth set-pieces - and straight through closer Hidden XS - signalled something far more promising and uplifting. Ultimately, Slow Focus was a 'final chapter/showcase/showdown' that its listener could be proud of; engaging and embracing, yet more importantly standing proud for simply being a part of. Here was the sound of the Big Bang inverting on itself, and boy was it a final act more show-stopping and united than all Olympic openings combined.
~Jordan Helm



1. Savages - Silence Yourself


This is the first time a British album has topped our album list since 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit – and it may be even longer if Scotland take their independence chance in 2014 (if so, we’ll be going back to Radiohead’s Amnesiac from 2001.) Savages are igniting a flame that went out thirty years ago, and they’re doing it with style. Silence Yourself is a powerful post-punk debut album, taking influence from a range of musical sources, such as Siouxsie & the Banshees, early PJ Harvey, and the first two Public Image Ltd albums. Savages are using post-punk as an image for primitive human development, and our constant fight against one another to what is considered evolution. Post-punk being a genre most associated with the late 70s and early 80s, as a definitive era, something which doesn’t get passed down through the years unless you’re in The Fall. Silence Yourself is the past, undeveloped sound of darkness, emotion, and eeriness which haunts us all when reaching rock bottom. It’s a statement more than anything; that post-punk and gothic rock died out quicker than the latest trend of hip words. Their fierce lyricism borders the realm of conceptual complexity, though it’s still rather literal and to the point in a blunt fashion. They don’t imitate a genre of the past, but play a genre suited to their whole philosophy. This is the sound of Savages, and Silence Yourself is their alma mater.
~Eddie Gibson



3 comments: