I thought this was an amazing year for records, my fave in a good long while. Could easily have listed 25 albums, but narrowed it down to 14 before I couldn’t bear to strip any more out. They’re not in any particular order beyond numbers 1-5. Some previous lists here. And there’s a spotify playlist at the end of this post.
1. Rotifer, The Cavalry Never Showed Up. Easily my fave LP of ’13; terrific, articulate writing and spirited, urgent pop. Ace. ‘I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much (As I’d Like To Throw Up’ was for me the best bit of angry, biting songwriting I heard this year.
2. David Bowie, The Next Day. Improved with every listen; and although at first I found it disappointing that the haunted sound of ‘Where Are We Now’ was limited to that song, his melodic sensibility is as good as ever. Contains a few bits of dramatic prettiness. Although Bowie, whose judgement for guitarists between 1970 and 1985 was ridiculously perfect (Ronson, Earl Slick, Alomar, Fripp, Frampton, Rodgers) has never chosen a guitar sound I’ve liked since. (Not that my opinion matters much). Still, this LP is wonderful – and far better than it had the right to be.
3. Traams - Grin. Best live band I saw this year & saw them loads. Lean, heavy, extraordinary pop music. ‘Head Roll’ is a wonder.
4. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold. Have to admit that somehow I disliked this on first listen – I wrongly concluded it was a Strokes-rip off (I never liked that band) and then I listened more and saw them live; and realised I was completely wrong. I adore this now. Abrasive, energetic & lyrically obtuse/wonderful.
5. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris. Some gobsmacking wordplay on this! Dense, slow, inventive hip hop with extraordinary production.
6. Wave Pictures: City Forgiveness. In their relentless consistency it’s easy to take The Wave Pics for granted. Dave’s verbal inventiveness and his glorious, expressive playing remain perfect. And I liked the way that this double LP raised the stakes rhythmically. This is Jonny Helm’s best performance on a Wave Pics record.
7. Prefab Sprout : Crimson/Red. I was never a Prefab fan, so this was a surprise. It’s endearingly lovely – exquisitely lush pop music. A fine return – perhaps more surprising to me even than Bowie, simply because I would never have thought I’d end up loving a Prefab Sprout record.
8. Sonny & The Sunsets: Antenna To The Afterworld; more lovely, loose indie rock. Never heard of this lot before but played it repeatedly this year.
9. Scott & Charlene’s Wedding – Any Port In A Storm: Regular readers will observer that I pretty much automatically adore Aussie indie-pop. This is a fine, nostalgic record, recalling Evan Dando and Pavement, and admitting that “I ain’t done much changing in what I like since 1993”, which resonates. Lovely ramshackle indie rock.
10. Chris T-T and the Hoodrats – The Bear. This, Chris’s rockiest record in a good while, is absolutely crammed with tunes & passion. ‘The Gulls’ might be the loveliest and most moving song of 2013 for me.
11. Giant Drag, Waking Up Is Hard To Do: Wow! An unexpected, hugely welcome return from Annie Hardy. Played possibly the most likeable gig I went to this year, and this self-released, long overdue follow up to Hearts and Unicorns was a truly worthy, winning contribution.
12. Eleanor Friedberger, Personal Record. A beautifully warm, clever LP, full of lovely playing & arrangements.
13. Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You. Terrific, heartbreaking, bittersweet pop recalling Go-Betweens, Velvets etc. A lovely LP.
14. Monoswezi, The Village; A marriage of Scandi jazz & Mozambican folksong; thumb piano, sax, bass & spectacular singing. Really recommend this one.