20. Phoenix - Entertainment
Phoenix may have dabbled in oriental key changes and faster-paced deliverances, but on lead-single and album-opener "Entertainment", the band's repertoire for confidently sleek pop rock had reached yet another high. Thanks to the band's impressive layering of guitar plucks and Thomas Mars' youthfully striking vocals, Phoenix had succeeded in their experimental ventures and provided us with an eye-popping festivity of pop enthusiasm atop rock proficiency.
19. Blood Orange - You're Not Good Enough
Dev Hynes wasn’t fully aware of the universal money making phase of modern electronica and R&B when he started Blood Orange, but his second album Cupid Deluxe plays in to the whole spectrum of genre specifications. “You’re Not Good Enough” has one of the best bass licks of 2013, and as a duet – the best duet of 2013. He shares vocals with Samantha Urbani, who I consider to be one of the weakest ‘musicians’ and front women, not just in recent years – but in popular music’s existence. Friends are a truly awful band, and seeing Urbani strut around the stage like an STD on LSD really put me off from anything associated with her name for quite some time. But her vocal on “You’re Not Good Enough” is just too much to dodge.
18. British Sea Power - Machineries of Joy
British Sea Power have always been the intellects their music suggests. “Machineries of Joy” is the first track on the album of the same title. Vocalist / song-writer Jan Scott Wilkinson knows the power of a good song, and “Machineries of Joy” is the single / the song from Machineries of Joy that binds the album together. The lyrics above open “Machineries of Joy” up, and from an outside perspective, who wouldn’t want to listen to a song with that level of imagination in the opening lyrics – I know I would. It’s post-punk / modern alternative rock to its core, and beautifully arranged.
17. Foals - Bad Habit
Every year has its uplifting alternate rock accompaniments, and no track provided as much uplift as Foals' "Bad Habit". What gave the track its striving boldness (and reason for use in many association in broadcast with live ventures and festival gatherings) was its unashamedly high-flying liberty of instrumental interplay, and in others - more striking - a sense of bare, human honesty. With vocalist Yannis Philippakis' passionate exertion and the band's texturally clear assortment of guitars, Bad Habit provided a master class in balancing musical and emotional expression.
16. Marnie Stern - Year of the Glad
Losing drummer Zach Hill doesn’t seem to have affected Marnie Stern’s musical output at all. “Year of the Glad” opens The Chronicles of Marnia with a bang. The literary reference in the album title is matched by the David Foster Wallace novel Infinite Jest reference with “Year of the Glad”. Stern uses L.A as the topic of discussion, a sort of East v West math rock rivalry as such. The distortion is ever present, and Stern’s chopped up vocal is a long lasting effect on “Year of the Glad”.
15. Vök - Before
Icelandic artists seep through the list pipelines and make it on our lists year after year, and for good reason. Vök are unlike the conventional Icelandic electronic export – Vök are far in tune with minimalism and production to be alike the standard. “Before” is sung in English, and delivered in such a way that recognises the Bjork vocal-esque sounds / alongside a The XX electric guitar riff. Emotion honestly portaged, with jazz sounds coming out of a saxophone – something which is becoming more popular by the year. Read our track review of “Before”.
14. Everything Everything - Duet
Violins are usually the go-to choice when one requires instilling some kind of higher-reaching assumption of emotion. "Duet" may have enlisted such instruments more predominantly than fellow Everything tracks, but if anything, the delivery provided the band with quite possibly their most striking and heart-wrenching of sounds. Once more, Jonathan Higgs' wonderful contrast of high and low vocal tone carried across the music's dramatic underlay, and with accompanying glows of electric guitar and vocal layering, "Duet" was the bittersweet pinnacle of Arc's emotionally rich assortment.
13. These New Puritans - Fragment Two
With a deep piano riff, trumpet, strings and unusual percussion, die-hard fans of These New Puritans can be forgiven for thinking Field of Reeds is the best album of the year. “Fragment Two” is the single with perplex features. It’s enticingly minimal, but with orchestral sounds likening “Fragment Two” to a 90s post-rock outfit such as Slint, or even Talk Talk. These New Puritans are never too far from perfection, and with “Fragment Two”, they take their art rock / new age sound to a whole new era – where post-rock and art rock collide.
12. Doldrums - Anomaly
It takes only a few seconds for Anomaly's grainy drumbeats, rippling caverns of bass and the Canadian’s androgynous harmonies to take hold. And that’s after we greeted with a welcoming assortment of hammering white-noise-esque percussion. Leading us through an almost dystopian litter of waning vocal backings and flinching synth notation - tension rising and falling as beats later resurface and harmonics gently glide across - Doldrums’ first proper look-in to his hypnotically darker alternative to synth pop’s usually neutral-come-positive allegiance, instinctively takes hold - latches tighter and tighter as the less-than-subtle presence of the track passes through.
11. Iceage - Coalition
Iceage are one of the few punk bands willing to tear down a wall in order for their music to be heard. They signed to Matador Records to release their sophomore You’re Nothing, and that’s sure put them on the punk rock map in 2013. The single “Coalition” is a great example of how a two minute punk track can stimulate the mind, be a love song, a sad song, and a song to vent rage, anger, and love. The Danish quartet are furious on “Coalition”, the Danes rock out like Danes have never rocked before. Read our track review of “Coalition”.