Best of 2013

In alphabetical order, these are the records that made our year:

Longplayers

Arcade Fire
Reflektor

Recommended by Pete Pelican:
What does a band do that has achived everything, from world fame to an Album of the Year win at the Grammys to epic tracks like “Rebellion (Lies)” and “Ready to Start”? Right, take LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy as producer, add new instruments to the repertoire and create a new more electronic dance sound. But in spite of all these innovations they’ve not forgotten how to write huge choruses. The LP is split into 2 CD’s because of its long tracks, starting with “Reflektor”, which has so many uplifting moments and twists, you do not even notice it’s 7 minutes long. There are also some experiments with Haitian music on “Flashbulb Eyes” and the use of bongo drums “Here Comes the Night Time”. The second half is a bit quiter, comprising mostly minimalistic dance tracks like “Porno” or “Supersymmetry”, which is also part of the soundtrack for the Spike Jonze movie “Her”. The penultimate spot on the album, they typically fill with an earwig-spawn song like “Afterlife”.

Arctic Monkeys
AM

Recommended by Pete Pelican:
Taking the top spot on most major european festivals this year including an astonishing performance at Glastonbury, the Monkeys finally achieved their purpose. Growing as a band over the last 5 years, this is the album they’ve maybe been trying to make since “Humbug”. This time they combine R’n’b and Hip Hop elements with a Rock’n’Roll attitude embracing smashers like “R U Mine?”, smoothly grooving tidbits like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and “One for the Road”, as well as calm and warm-hearted daydreamers “No1. Party Anthem” and “Mad Sounds”. The lyrics are more personal than before and at the same time valuable and poetic. But Josh Homme said it a long time ago: “Alex Turner is one of the most talented songwriters of our time.”

Recommended by Redheadess:
No “Best Of 2013” list without the inevitable mention of everyone’s favourite Sheffield boys. Having gained new energy and ambition from their not-so-critically acclaimed fourth album ‘Suck It And See’, Arctic Monkeys’ fifth record has crashed the indie music scene like a tidal wave. While at several festivals in June people were unable to sing along to set opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, just some months later social networks were flooded with quotes, discussions about the clever album cover, Alex Turner’s haircut and cheetah print coats. It’s impossible not to see that the band has grown up from playing fast dancefloor hits. ‘AM’ is a slow, sexy post-midnight album to empty your bottle of wine to before slowly drifting off to sleep in someone else’s bedroom. We are excited for the sixth Arctic Monkeys era.

Bass Drum of Death
Bass Drum of Death

Recommended by Pete Pelican:
I discovered this lo-fi/noise rock duo later this year, long after they released their second, eponymous album in summer, while playing “Grand Theft Auto 5” and listening to the fictitious radio station “Vinewood Boulevard Radio” hosted by Wavves’ Nathan Williams. The energetic “Crawling After You” stuck right in my ear. Fuzzy guitars, dashing drums and echoing vocals make this album a pleasurable 35 minutes garage power enjoyment.

Filthy Boy
Smile That Won’t Go Down

Recommended by Belle Brummell:
While most other young UK bands this year seemed to sing about nothing but surfing, ‘hot babes’ and drug-dreams, this London quartet were more interested in the ennui of married life. Their dry, shockingly life-weary tales (given that the members are all around twenty) come in a cinematic sound costume reminiscent of film noir. Perhaps not surprisingly, as singer Paraic Morrissey and his twin brother and bassist Michael are hobby film-makers and have directed music videos for the likes of King Krule.

Foxygen
We Are the 21th Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

Recommended by mmeblanchard:
This band has found their personality. On Blue Mountain and Shuggie are distinctive Foxygens and among my faves this year. It’s an album to listen to while getting going in the morning, while driving around the city, the country and the world. It takes you everywhere you want to be. In the hand baggage you find peace and magic. What else do you need? Walking along Paris, Jonathan Rado and Sam France have fun and feel free to play their repertoire for everyone. Thank you guys.

Franz Ferdinand
Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action

Recommended by mmeblanchard:
Right thoughts, right words, right action – nothing more to add.

.

.

Holograms
Forever

Recommended by dumdumgrrrl:
The post-punk sweethearts from Sweden have definitely put on a worthy successor to their previous release ‘Holograms’. Their latest record is filled with melodic and atmospheric songs, up front with the mega-tune ‘Meditations’.  Convinced by their recordings their live presence is even more magnificent as I can guarantee after seeing them in the unfortunately now shut down club ‘Molotow’ in November this year. Thank you for the nice dance off, guys.

Jagwar Ma
Howlin

Recommended by Belle Brummell:
It wasn’t a good year for me in terms of discovering exciting new music. All the more grateful am I for Jagwar Ma, an Australian threepiece whose debut album brought an unexpected blend of dance, psychedelia and indie. Their unique sound captures the listener with repetitive patterns, catchy choruses and simple sing-along lyrics all while never being cheesy. Brilliant record, even better when heard live and danced to among an enthusiastic crowd.

Jake Bugg
Shangri La

Recommended by Annie May:
Just a few months after the last single of his debut record came out, now 19-year-old Jake Bugg surprised the music world with his follow-up album Shangri La which got its title from the studio where it was recorded. The short time it took Bugg to release the album, which is co-written by Iain Archer and produced by Rick Rubin, is no indicator that it’s rushed or lacking in depth. The only thing it might be lacking is progress as it contains the same mix of catchy rock songs, heartfelt acoustic ballads and the typical “I hate this place” Jake Bugg lyrics as his eponymous debut record. This formula worked on the first one and it definitely also works on Shangri La as the album offers a rounded off experience of music written by a talented and dedicated young man.

King Krule
6 Feet Beneath The Moon

Recommended by Annie May:
King Krule was definitely one of the newcomers of 2013 – if you can call someone that who’s been releasing music under different pseudonyms for three years like Archy Marshall has. But with this unique record that is impossible to squeeze into one genre the 19-year-old Londoner suddenly gained worldwide attention. 6 Feet Beneath The Moon is an album that you have to listen to by yourself to find out what it’s about, to passionately sing along to hit single Easy Easy or lose yourself in the hypnotic sounds of Neptune Estate. It’s a musical journey where exquisite chords meet hip-hop drum beats and where angry shouts are followed by haunting whispers and which you should definitely give a go.

La Femme
Psycho Tropical Berlin

Recommended by dumdumgrrrl:
La Femme have definitely delivered one of the greatest records of 2013. The musical style of ‘Psycho Tropical Berlin’ is influenced by new wave, chanson & post-punk music, which makes a perfect mixture of sweet voices combined with dark sounds. All in all the album is an amazing dance floor filler because of such tunes as ‘Antitaxi’ or ‘Sur La Planche’.

Miles Kane
Don’t Forget Who You Are

Recommended by Redheadess:
Mr Miles Kane has been busy for what seems like three or four years now, seemingly never having disappeared to write songs, and yet here’s his second album, packed with 11 exciting, danceable tracks, not all of which have cheesy and lyrically ridiculous lines as the title track (‘I like your style, you make me smile’). Seeing Miles Kane live, you ask yourself if he might become one of the biggest rockstars of our generation with his big poses, expensive suits and the undeniable love for his live band, but in the next second you realize his favorite part of making music is probably seeing that he makes girls dance. And that’s a nice bonus. With barely 30 minutes, this album is over surprisingly quickly, with closing track ‘Darkness In Our Hearts’ slowing the whole thing down nicely in the end.

Molly Nilsson
The Travels

Recommended by dumdumgrrrl:
She is the female counterpart to John Maus or you can just simply call her Molly, Molly Nilsson. Starting in 2008 she released a new record in 2013, ‘The Travels’. Well-known for her profound lyrics and melancholic melodies in the style of synthie pop music she proved her constancy in making nostalgic tunes that reach your body and soul once again. Her latest release is an easy listen, full of highlights such as ‘Dear Life’ or ‘Going Places’. Though not all the songs from ‘The Travels’ stand out but some tend to be more chilled, all in all the record is definitely one of the must-hears of 2013.

Palma Violets
180

Recommended by Redheadess:
If you’ve had even one eye on new music this year, you’ll notice that a whole bunch of guys and girls in their early twenties seemed to have sprouted like mushrooms after a rainy 2012, and Palma Violets are definitely one of them. While other bands postpone their debut album release for months and months, the Lambeth boys just throw out a garage album that sounds like The Clash have recorded it in your basement 30 years ago. While songs like ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ or ‘Three Stars’ float around for four minutes, you also have tracks like ‘Johnny Bagga Donuts’ that grab you by the collar and shove you all over the dancefloor, and hit single ‘Best Of Friends’, which needed two music videos to be accepted by American fans as well. And however big these guys will be one day, you can be sure, given how little they care about their album release or about how long their sets are going to become at next year’s summer festivals, they will still agree to play a set in your living-room. But only if they’re allowed to crowd surf.

Peace
In Love

Recommended by Redheadess:
While Birmingham didn’t really have anything to show off music-wise in the past few years, in 2013 the city has brought us at least three young bands ready to take over the rest of the country. The most promising of them are Peace, who bring you airy-fairy psychedelic pop with this kind of darkness you can’t quite grasp because singer Harrison Koisser will try to make you forget about it with his sugar-sweet voice. While ‘California Daze’ is the perfect soundtrack to your lazy, sticky summer day, tracks like ‘Scumbag’ and ‘Wraith’ drag you into warm nights you planned not to spend going out, promising you ‘We’ll be dark forever’. And you kind of really want to be dark forever if that’s what it feels like.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
II

Recommended by mmeblanchard:
Unknown Mortal Orchestra prove their ability to create complex sound arrangements of up to seven minutes and it doesn’t ever appear boring or too experimental. The album II shows fiery guitar work at its best. The live version at the Prinzenbar in Hamburg this May was an atmospheric explosion. Like Wampire (see further below) also living in Portland, these three men from down under deliver finest psychedelic, experimental rock tunes. Roban Nielson with his girlishly high voice provides the icing on the cake.

Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires Of The City

Recommended by Belle Brummell:
One of the records that virtually everyone seemed to like this year, “Moders Vampires of the City” has seen New York’s Vampire Weekend leave their preppy boy pop niche and propel to new heights. While their first two albums were overall liked, the third one has the right amount of innovation as well as lyrical depth to convince their audience they can do more than sing about drinking horchatas. There is the near unbearable catchiness of “Diane Young” next to minimalistic ballads like “Hannah Hunt” and the beautifully dark “Hudson”, and yet they sound like only Vampire Weekend sound. This is growing up in style.

Recommended by mmeblanchard:
I can’t say it enough – this song called Step lets the wedding bells ring. The expectations for this LP were limited – all the more positive was the surprise about this rounded masterpiece of music. It perfectly fits in the annals of Vampire Weekend. Lovely idea announcing it in a little report hidden in the New York Times. Even if there could be a bit more genre-experiments, well done. I’m curious how it’s going on. (By the way: I’m not a follower of the current vampire movement.)

Wampire
Curiosity

Recommended by mmeblanchard:
Portland Renaissance. Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps puzzled their ideas together and brewed a mix of curiosities. Producer Jacob Portrait from Unknown Mortal Orchestra worked out a glorious platter consisting of soul, electro, dance, pop and garage-rock. Already in the first seconds of the single The Hearse you know something bombastic is waiting. The electronic organ sound offers a world of undiscovered treasures. Orchards and Trains could be associated with some kind of sleazy Strokes stuff. The pleasant quintet has it definitely bouncing on it, like this November at the world-famous music club of Hamburg, the Molotow. Their live-cover of the Kraftwerk song Das Model is a delicacy – very 2013!

Extended Plays

Cosmo
Cosmo

Recommended by Belle Brummell:
If members of The Maccabees, I Am Kloot and Florence & The Machine form a supergroup, you can already guess it’s not going to be shit. From the scraps of 2012’s acclaimed album “Given to the Wild”, Maccabees guitarist Felix White has crafted the six songs that make up the Cosmo EP, with a little help from famous friends that lent vocals and lyrics to the spheric, drifting soundscapes. The result is a standalone work that’s certainly reminiscent of the latest Maccabees album, but has enough fresh ideas to let hopes rise high for the band’s next work, due early 2014.

Der Ringer
Das Königreich liegt unter uns

Recommended by Belle Brummell:
It’s a good time for German music, and not only in terms of hip-hop; indie is also coming to new life these days. Der Ringer from Hamburg are a group that might have a bright future ahead, judging from their debut EP. Experimental, yet refreshingly raw-sounding instead of overproduced, their layered guitars and synths combined with slogan-like lyrics achieve an authenticity that makes their music immediate and captivating.

Roosevelt
Elliot

Recommended by Pete Pelican:
Another proof that exciting electronic music can come from Germany. Beat! Beat! Beat!’s Marius Lauber uses his drumming and producer skills to create a uniqe dreamy dance sound, melancholic and danceable at once. This EP contains early singles “Sea” and “Around You” as well as new songs “Elliot” and “Montreal”. Having supported renowned dance acts like Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kakkmaddafakka and Crystal Fighters, he has a bright future coming.

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