Top 10 Albums of 2013

Now that I have listed my top ten tracks and now that it is 2014, I’ve decided to roll off my top ten albums from last year. Again, if your favourite artists art present they either didn’t make the cut or weren’t reviewed by me last year; for this is a list compiled from albums that have appeared on the blog in 2013. However, the listing is this time based on the rating I gave each album and not on my current opinion. Anyway…

 

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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The band had certainly tried a few different methods with the pitch shifting which was also used on the drums and the guitar was recorded straight onto the recording programme while various different recording techniques were used to ‘soften’ the album and make it listenable. They have certainly done that and while being very careful with the production. It also has a slight edge to it as well and therefore results in their best album yet. They have grown older and their music has grown with it to create a very unique at times and mature sound.

 

9. Manic Street Preachers – Rewind The Film

Rewind The Film is not too generic and its by no means so experimental and conceptualized that it isn’t relatable or translatable. The lyrics are and music share equal footing and in general it just shows that the Manics are still capable of being truly creative. probably their most complete album since Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours in terms of the lyrical challenges posed and the moods and emotions created via their light and airy production.

 

8. Factory Floor – Factory Floor

It’s not too far away from what The Knife did earlier on in 2013, but perhaps it has a more subtle edge to it. For now, it’s main strengths will be it’s ability to fill dance floors as well as sound dark, scathing and haunting. All in all it’s a great effort and was probably worth the long wait we had to endure for a full studio album.

 

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Even though tracks like ‘Get Lucky’ have been played to death in 2013; it’s a proper song in how it’s been crafted by musicians, written by musicians, produced by musicians and played by musicians and talented ones at that, with bags of experience. The fact this sort of music is topping the charts whether it’s your thing or not should be celebrated. Thomas Bangalter pointed towards the likes of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd and Sgt Pepper from The Beatles as “the ones that take you on a journey for miles and miles.” They all served as some of the several models for creating an album that provides that journey which they have managed to achieve in the sense that you can become engrossed and lost within it. Perhaps it is their best work in how they are more have proved successful with this different approach.

 

6. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual

All in all this album is just beyond me. Even if you don’t quite get some of the songs at first you should listen again and try to deconstruct the wall of different and varying sounds. Some of which fill the song but others leave the songs with lots of space to generate a real atmosphere while at times terrifying me. With this they have challenged the norm’s of modern music to the points where a lot of people won’t appreciate it because they don’t understand it. I think had I reviewed this a month ago, then it would have a much higher rating.

 

5. Connan Mockasin – Caramel

 Though the sound and tone of Caramel isn’t moved and shifted around so much; it would be wrong for that to happen as it would break down the larger flow and feel of the album. It is nearly impossible and it almost feels wrong to plant a mark on it. A surreal and coolly insane and outrageous event from someone being himself, taking risks and being bold.

 

4. Arctic Monkeys – AM

AM falls down on very few occasions and when it does, it’s only to re-envisage some great Desert Rock, Swooning Ballads etc. The rest of it has been new takes on worn out sounds, showing that you can be innovative in what you don’t bring to a song and with at times fluctuating styles within songs. Josh Homme’s presence has for once not been an overbearing one but something that has furthered their vision and aim. It showed everyone what still can be done with guitar music in 2013. I know it can be easy, but don’t let all the crazed fangirls and boys put you off it because it’s an album that maintains a very high standard throughout. I perhaps think that there are some better albums with a lower ranking in this list, but nevertheless it deserves it’s place in the top ten.

 

3. Savages – Silence Yourself

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The musical discipline and obvious talent of all the members is clear to see and they don’t seem to have any hidden agenda or motivation either. They lay everything out in their music alone. Not even in their image. This for me is refreshing and they have left themselves with the difficult task of the second album. But that dreaded phase I doubt will effect them at all. They seem so cool and at ease with their music; behind the urgency and rapid nature of it all and Silence Yourself is the result. Just be sure to take in the depth and meaning of the album too, so don’t judge it on first impressions.

 

2. Pinknoizu – The Drop

All in all this album is highly varied and you should never get bored listening to it. That’s what makes a great album like Sgt Pepper for example. Not only that but the composition and production is also reflective of that variedness that exists across the album. A varied tone that is driven by the mutations and combinations of sounds the Danish group have been able to put together in order to forge new and interesting soundscapes. On top of that; it gets easily manipulated and heightened by the production and recording prowess the group attained. It’s a real treat.

 

1. Jagwar Ma – Howlin

They have justified all the fuss about them for sure to create a very ‘trippy’ album but an album that is almost perfect on a technical level. Jono Ma’s understanding and meticulous attention to detail on getting the right amount of each element in their songs is a great skill to have. The album does go beyond the combination of their past influences to create an album that sounds familiar yet also new and exciting. All this and it’s only their debut album of which many others have very safe and rather dull debuts with perhaps too much focus on the singles. This is not the case with Howlin. Beyond that they have the basic aspects of variation and at times rhythmic affairs intercepted by more sparse musical artistry.

 

 

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City Review

Naturally, a lot is expected from Vampire Weekend with the general success of their first two albums from which they have developed slightly to a more sophisticated and thorough approach and sound between them. One thing is also certain. They will get radio time across most stations too and there might be a greater sense of responsibility on their part, to create a more developed and perhaps even innovative sound to all these ‘chart listeners’. Perhaps with Modern Vampires of the City; they have done that. First up to be unveiled was ‘Diane Young’. The song it’s self is just under three minutes of Vampire Weekend upping the anti with the drums, bass, and guitar and synth sections aswell. The only part of the song where you get a breather is in the bridge sections with basic percussion along with Erza Koenig’s manipulated vocals that change the pitch of his voice from high to low. This was done using pitch shifting equipment which is used on other songs on the album. But then Chris Tomson’s drums come tearing their back into the song along with the other instumentals. Perhaps from my description it’s suggested that it’s a bit of a wild mess but they are all pretty talanted musicians and so they have a sense of control with the song that still makes it enjoyable whether sitting down or spinning on your head. The songs energy is it’s key and that’s why it’s a great single. This song is likely to be played to death at some Thursday night Indie Disco too and it will still probably appeal to those half hearted fans who just liked songs like Holiday, Cousins etc.

‘Step’ could not be more different and really acts as a demonstration of their added maturity and sophistication. The song is much more stripped back musically and at a much steadier tempo. Erza’s vocals are more isolated and the song allows him to display his vocal ability. This is accompanied by simple synth chords, basic drums and a very considered bass line which often intercepted at the close of every verse and on the chorus by a harpsichord like sound which has a angelic choir going on in the background which also closes the song. In addition to this the lyrics of Batmanglij and Koenig really take centre stage as well which could often be blurred between nonsense or genius, or even a little of both. It’s been described as Simon and Garfunkel on acid or something and this actually sums ‘Step’ up pretty well. Similarly ‘Ya Hey’ is of a similar tempo and feel to ‘Step’ with very similar choir like elements and basic drum and bass sections, while the synths take a back seat. ‘Ya Hey’ does include a victorian style piano solo on the bridge but continues throughout the latter half of the song as a rythm indicator. The song includes the more extensive use of the pitch shifting with the high pitched ‘Ya Hey’s’ in the chrous which is quite broken up and then leads to Erza’s vocals taking centre stage again and acting as hook with it’s slight anthemic and ‘sing-a-long’ quality.

Other songs include ‘Unbelievers’ which is driven by an organ sound along with a basic rythm section along with complimentry backing vocals that provide a great little harmony that provides the song with it’s hook. ‘Worship You’ at times on the chrous has the same quality to it that Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ which was recorded in the spire section of a church. But it’s intercepted at intervals by Erza’s rapid paced vocals and generally the song it’s self is pretty up tempo. ‘Hudson’ has shades of an experimental song about it with the angelic choir sound making another appearance but to this time to add a real eerie atmosphere. The candenced march of the drums and the dull tones of the synths add to it and again shows how the band have developed since 2010. The album was produced with Ariel Rechtshaid who has worked with the likes of Bieber to Haim so knows how to polish a record until you can use it as a mirror. The band have certainly tried a few different methods too with the pitch shifting which was also used on the drums and the guitar was recorded straight onto the recording programme while various drifferent recording techniques were used to ‘soften’ the album and make it listenable. They have certainly done that and while being very carefully produced, it also has a slight edge to it as well and therefore results in their best album yet. They have grown older and their music has grown with it to create a very unique at times and mature sound. Batmanglij also suggested that “We thought these three albums should look like they belong together on a bookshelf.” But all three albums work together as stand-alone records too but this may be a signal for a more radical approach for the fourth album either lyrically or musically but you’ll just have to wait on that one. Die hard fans may have to adapt slightly, half hearted fans might not be interested and those who haven’t listened to them might like them for the first time but in general it’s their best album yet and the future looks promising as Vampire Weekend establish themselves as accomplished and dynamic musicians.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City = 8.5/10

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Images from ( http://en.wikipedia.org / blogradar.blogspot.com )