Well here it is, the main event; the stand-out moment on this our count-down of the year's musical achievements and prowess of audible creativity. We still have a fair few categories to divulge over, but we'dbe lying if we said it's the albums that both our and your attention has been keenly fixed on over the past few weeks. So it's here in mid-December, nine days until Christmas, that we at last begin our countdown of the year's best albums according to us the database of musical writings and rantings. In a year that has seen a fair few 'returns', a vast major of surprises, and a controversy thrown into the spotlight here and there, it's safe to say that 2013 will be rememebered uniquely in its own aspects in as much the same way 2009 and 2010 most-notably were some of music's most recently strongest years for creative contribution. So without further ado, though it's not my interest to express this as the final act, let us begin the main event and unravel to you MRD's Top 50 Albums of 2013.
50. Vondelpark - Seabed
I was aware of Vondelpark circa late 2010 / early 2011. They had supported James Blake live in London, and this ambient / electronica trio seemed to own the vocal glitches and textures better than Blake, but without his call for minimalism. So I was very excited to hear Vondelpark were releasing their debut album Seabed in 2013. Their second EP nyc stuff and nyc bags was reviewed by moi in early 2012, and it signalled the start to a more open and distinctive sounds – instead of forever being put in the sub category of post-dubstep like their then R&S Records counterpart Mr. Blake. Now Seabed isn’t overly individualistic, Vondelpark still take plenty of their sound two sources electronica from the likes of Boards of Canada, and post-punk from the likes of Young Marble Giants. Vondelpark very much are the mix of these two aforementioned artists, and their debut album Seabed is like walking through an estate listening to Aphex Twin.
49. Shout Out Louds - Optica
Despite the variety of instrumentation, the multitude of production choices and even the dizzying euphoria of Swedish quintet Shout Out Loud’s forth studio LP, Optica provided a careless flurry of indie rock, art pop and pop art-like colour across the record’s eleven healthy recordings. With the duo of Adam Olenius & Bebban Stenborg on vocal duty, there was a neat marriage of Adam’s murmuring low-key to Bebban’s soothing equivalence, and guided on with a series of head-bobbing, soaked-in instrumentation, Shout Out Louds at last certainly had something to shout about.
With Kiss Land, The Weeknd (pseudonym for Abel Tesfaye) took his music closer to the popular domain, but in so keeping his paid samples fresh and readily available for the ear to purchase once they’ve worked out what it is. Kiss Land carries on from the analogue neo-soul of The Weeknd’s three mixtapes released in 2011. There’s a deeper sense of refuge on Kiss Land, now everyone knows who The Weeknd is, he can’t use his anonymity to the power he maybe would like. So Kiss Land is far more personal and reflective than the three EP’s. It’s a move which is taking Tesfaye out of the gimmicky / faze bracket, and in to a more suited cult bracket. Tracks like “Professional” offer more than the textured layers of the extended tracks on Trilogy, with “Town” delivering that anti-unrequited love theme, with a bit of chauvinism and domination involved with the lyrics. Kiss Land’s main single “Belong to the World” has the chart value, with a sample of Portishead’s “Machine Gun” ripping through. Then there’s the titular track which highlights The Weeknd’s developed career and fame. Overall, Kiss Land has the production value and content of all three EP’s, but with less importance.
47. L. Pierre - The Island Come True
One of 2013’s earliest records was also one of its most experimental, not in conventional structure or delivery, but in its aesthetic. The year’s release by American composer and producer L (Lucky) Pierre under the name The Island Come True was, as its name suggests, a lively extravagance of experimental electronica mixed with the warmth and glow of any heat-stricken tropic. But the conflicting sound and time of year of its release created an interesting dynamic for the listener - Pierre’s challenging but sought tests a welcome break from breezy, blurred downtempo.
46. Daniel Avery - Drone Logic
A bold move was made by DJ-turn-producer Daniel Avery on Drone Logic’s assemble of scurrying analog synth hooks and knob-turning carriages of melody and pacing. But rather than dusting off the cobwebs for the sake of nostalgia, Avery’s efforts felt far more adjust and reasoned-with than many Roland enthusiasts would dare to implore. Drone Logic’s mash-up of 303, 606 & 808 leads then created an impressive and intriguing return to roots for one of electronic’s founding cornerstones. At a time when simple = effective made rampant returns this year, the debut LP for Daniel Avery encapsulates both the light and darker sides to House’s club-stomping influence.
45. Anna Calvi - One Breath
When Anna Calvi debuted her first single “Jezebel” in 2010, the PJ Harvey expressway was sounding the horn. Calvi was set to take off in to the distance, and she did with her self-titled debut album. But it’s her sophomore effort that’s pulling her apart from the contemporary art rockers in the United Kingdom. Calvi looks as if she belongs in an art gallery in Paris, but her sound seems more akin to a suit and tie affair at the Royal Albert Hall. One Breath is sometimes explosive, then suddenly minimalistic. It’s a drastic change from her self-titled, though Calvi’s electric guitar progressions do tend to follow on from her debut. “Eliza” has the same essence and “Desire”, both singles, both great in their individual right, and both fitting of their albums but could cross over. See Calvi is taking her art rock sound and using her knowledge of classical, and noise music to create a distinctive blend of what is essentially soft post-rock. It’s different, but it’s also very good throughout.
44. of Montreal - Lousy With Sylvianbriar
Indie pop is becoming fare loose, as is what’s considered twee in the 10s. With of Montral, Kevin Barnes and his every changing and following posse of multi-instrumentalists are the neo-psychadelia to Sufjan Stevens baroque. Lousy With Sylvianbriar takes the old sounding and somewhat flat sounds of 00s of Montreal and matches it with a blend of 90s acoustic folk and modern neo-psychedelia. It’s a blend which takes Barnes’ sound and puts it in a realistic perspective with his literal lyricism such as with “Colossus”. It’s never the same with of Montreal, Barnes always has something extra to say / produce, and Lousy With Sylvianbriar is his outlet to continue down a path to further his cult status.
43. Deerhunter - Monomania
Deerhunter always surprise with their albums – Monomania is no different. It always takes five, 10, sometimes even 20 listens through a Deerhunter album to fully grasp their point of view, their layers and the order. Whenever listening to Deerhunter, specifically with Monomania, all you hear is chaos – but just on the first few listens, because hidden deep underneath is a powerful post-punk noise rock album using studio equipment and electronics to not just boost their sound, but to make their sound what it is – a spectacular array of layers. The progressions are as good their previous album Halcyon Digest, with some singles which completely alter my perception as Deerhunter. This once light shoegaze artist has developed in to a machine of glorious rhythm guitar and fuzz that you would expect to be hand-picked from The Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat.
42. Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse
Pedestrian Verse, Rabbit’s forth studio album, was much like the archetypical night-in at your local pub. The more you get absolved in the bands gracious acoustics and Scott Hutchison’s welcoming comfort of a voice, the more the roast fire, the wooden floorboards and home-made Sunday roast, begin to materialize. But beyond metaphors, Frightened Rabbit’s sound opened out to invite its listener in - Hutchison’s vocals inclusive as much as they were exclusive to fans’ previous delicacy of indie, folk and alternative music coming together. In one almighty greeting, Pedestrian Verse made its listener welcome but never forgot about that which lay beyond the exit.
41. Pharmakon - Abandon
When you can say evenn the grotesque nature to the cover sleeve of Abandon is subtle, you can be confident ‘song-writer’ Margaret Chardiet a.k.a. Pharmakon, is something else. The need for quotation marks is rightly just. Of all the albums on our list, Abandon is sonically the most impounding and offensive onto our innocent little ear canals. But even with the violent screams, grated layering and pulse of noise and industrial instrumentation, the dire frustration and need for such volumes gave Pharmakon’s demonic, Worldly presence a detail with which was hard not to empathize with. Even against the cold bleakness of the album’s backdrop, Abandon’s listeners throughout were kept utterly absorbed.