It's always hard at this time of year to put together an end of year list. Last year we opted just to not do a list at all. This year we thought we'd do share our personal favourites and stand outs from 2013. None are in any particular order and by no means are we snubbing any who aren't listed. These selections simply represent the records we've constantly had on since their release. Albums that we've truly championed. We considered ranking a vat of albums that would include ones we didn't care about, but it doesn't feel very "us" to do that anymore. Each come with a little tid-bit about why we've put them in our top 5. We also have a few honourable mentions, because narrowing down the albums we've listened to most over the year was tough. So without further ado, make the jump and check out our picks for 2013. Or don't, I think between the rising popularity of Buzzfeed and the time of year you all may be suffering from list fatigue.
Shey's Pick: Biffy Clyro - Opposites
Biffy Clyro made 2013 their biggest year to date. The release of their double LP, Opposites, launched them into the stratosphere of rock royalty. Headline sets at numerous festivals. An army of fans, new and old flocked to their first ever arena tour, and night after night they delivered some of the best shows you could hope for as a music lover. Not many albums can hold your attention for the 9-12 tracks they offer up. Biffy created a double album of none-stop bangers (before Miley, too) that has a broad range of emotionally poignant track with building bridges all the way to riff heavy tracks with a hat tip to their roots. 20 tracks of their best work to date. The albums title track "Opposite" tells a tale of a broken man. "Baby I'm leaving here, You need to be with somebody else." The lead single that came mid-2012 "Stingin' Belle" sounds just as huge now with the bagpipes as it did 16 months ago. The recording process nearly tore the band apart but the album shows their solidarity as a band with it ending in a perfect arena sing-along of "Picture A Knife Fight" rattling around as it fades out with the lyrics, "We've got to stick together, we've got to stick together!" ending the 20 track jaunt perfectly. They've come a long way since 2000. I can't really say enough positive things about this album and it pleases me that a band who've slaved for over a decade on the live circuit are now up their with the rock royalty. Dave Grohl's been a fan for years and I think a lot of people realised why he was so fond of them in 2013. Let's see if they can top in years to come. They've already been announced as the headliner of The Isle of Wight festival in 2014. The future of Biffy Clyro is looking brighter than ever and I can't wait to see what it brings. This album is my top album for 2013. Well done boys.
Kibbe's Pick: Washed Out - Paracosm
Prior to the August afternoon when my ears had their first taste of Paracosm, I was really only familiar with Washed Out's popular single, "Feel It All Around" from their 2010 EP, Life of Leisure, but that was because Portlandia uses the song as the show's intro/theme song. I was hesistant to try it out because there is really only so much chillwave one can take in a lifetime before you end up accidentally putting yourself in a coma, but thankfully my curiosity got the best of me. I knew within seconds of the opening track, "Entrance", that this was going to be a different kind of experience than I had initially imagined. I think what I appreciate about this album the most is how seems to elevate every mood imagineable. Insanely stressed out at work? Songs like "It Feels All Right" and " Paracosm" will slowly wash away all the worry in your brain. Having an awesome day? "Don't Give Up", "All I Know", and "Falling Back" will make you feel like your insides are glowing and the smile on your face will be warm and bright. I could go on with other examples, but you get the picture. While I wouldn't consider this to be a terribly complex record, I think this is one of those "less is more" type situations. That said, the amount of programming and live instrumentation was crafted with a steady hand because they consitently work in tandem - one never overpowers the other. My only complaint is that the album was released at the end of the summer and not the beginning of it. I can't wait for warm summer days in the city with "All I Know" pumping through the speakers in our apartment with the windows open and the sun shinning on my face.
Shey's Pick: Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork
As with Arctic Monkeys return, Queens of the Stone Age's had me getting my knickers in a twist for all kinds of reasons. Firstly, the guest spots that were to be taking place on the record; Alex Turner, Trent Reznor, Sir Elton John, Joey Castillo, Nick Oliveri, Mark Lanegan, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears, and James Lavelle of UNKLE. Them debuting "My God Is The Sun" live at Lollapalooza Brazil way back in March got everyone excited and before long their ominous and dark sounding album …Like Clockwork would come packaged and it was a show of song writing at its finest and musicianship from the gods. The opening seconds of "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" sets the tone for the album with a shattering of glass and then the gut rumbling bass drones let you know what is in store. The aforementioned huge names that feature on the album, do just that, they feature in the background and if you were to have never been told they were there you'd be none the wiser for the production and prowess of the artists involves keeps the limelight firmly pressed on QOTSA in the present form. It doesn't use the artists involved to steal away the focus from the story arc inside. …Like Clockwork delivers an older, wiser, and more rounded out album from a band that have delivered some of modern rocks go to staples for quality. They can add this to that list now too. Sheer brilliance.
Kibbe's Pick: Studio Killers - Studio Killers
You guys, being a fan of Studio Killers is so much fun. This is not the kind of band that you ever gloat about discovering first, they're the kind of band that you rush to get others around you to join in on the party the second you come across them. This virtual band's debut self-titled album is an energetic dose of sugary electro-bubblegum pop. Although the group has been stringing their audience along since 2010 with their debut single, "Ode To The Bouncer", I would say the finished product was well worth the wait. The bands bright dancy tunes are a fun ride from start to finish, leaving you wanting more. While I appreciate the peppy synths, the uniqueness of the vocals and the vocal performance is really what keeps me coming back to this record. I can't get enough of it. I think the key to both the band and the albums successful execution is the anonymity of the musicians involved. Although there has been much speculation about the identity of the members of the three-piece from both critics and fans, none of the identities have been revealed, allowing the band to truly have a life of its own without the characters being tied to their true identities, which in turn creates a new kind of experience for fans. As the internet continues to embrace virtual bands like Studio Killers and the others that came before them I'm anxious to see what they have planned for the future. If they can keep their current momentum, I see them really going places.
Shey's Pick: Arctic Monkeys - AM
When Arctic Monkeys first started playing a few new tracks back in June, it was hard for me not to get excited. They've been on elf my favourite bands since I first saw them play in Sheffield on a school night back in 2005. Fast forward to 2013 and they're one of the biggest bands on the planet, filling arenas on a nightly basis. It's always a scary moment when one of your favourite bands release a new album. What if it sucks?! Well, Arctic's ÂM definitely delivers a sexy, hear on its sleeve ride from the opening thumps of " Do I Wanna Know?" to the closing line of "I Wanna Be Yours" that rattles into the distance, much like a statement of intent front he album as a whole. It can definitely be mine if it wants to 'cause AM has shown yet another growth from the band that used to sing about getting pissed on nights out in Shef, to a band weaving together an album, which to me, seems to be a tale of Alex falling in and out of love with a wonderful Lady from start to finish. I'm excited to see what more the newly styled band have up their sleeve for the future, for now, AMwill be getting heavy play for the foreseeable future. Long live to Monkeys.
Kibbe's Pick: Kenna - Land 2 Air Chronicles Vol 2: Imitation Is Suicide: Chapter 2
I was going to group all three EPs together as one write up because when the Land 2 Air Chronicles were first announced Volume 2 wasn't supposed to be a three part series, but for some reason that felt like cheating to me. Either way, of the three, this by far was the one that I kept coming back to again and again. Even though the opening track, "Long Gone" had been released before Kenna's hard drive crashed, causing him to rethink and rework the L2AC series, additions "Heaviness" and "Love Is Still Alive" both sound as though the trio of songs were initially cut from the same cloth. The reason why I always come back to Kenna's music is his ability to deliver such tenderness in his voice, which comes through loud and clear in his delivery on "Heaviness", all the way down to the way choice moments where he audibly exhales during part of the heaviness of the subject matter. He closes out the EP with, "Love Is Still Alive", which rounds out the EP and leaves it on a higher note, reminding you that it's better that it's "better to love than to never". I'll admit, I wasn't the world's biggest fan of Volume 1: Chaos and the Darkness, but it's apparent throughout all three chapters of Volume 2 that Kenna has found his footing again. I can't wait to hear what he does next.
Shey's Pick: Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip - Repent Repenish Repeat
I seem to have a thing for pairings in recent years and the return of Dan Le Sac Vs. Scroobius Pip kept that trend alive in 2013. Following up from their last release together, The Logic of Chance, the extremely talented story telling skills of Pip, and the genial beat making skills of Dan come together like a perfect sunrise. Filling the sky with a brightness and emotions you didn't know possible. From the huge sounding "Stunner" and Flux Pavilion featuring "Gold Teeth", to the slower, ever growing and huge climactic Christmas single, "You Will See Me". These two manage to offer up a throughout provoking album that one minute will have you jumping and dancing around the streets to the next minute wanting to go and hug a loved one for the emotional buttons Scroob pushes in his story telling skills. I will always look forward to releases from these two and Repent Replenish Repeat is one of this years standouts for me.
Kibbe's Pick: Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy
The easiest way to explain how this stands as one of my favorites of the year is that I'm not sick of it after how often Mark binge listened to it. Nothing against the guy, but we enjoy new albums in different ways. I tend to listen to albums more sporadically and do my best to switch to something else for awhile so I don't immediately get burnt out. Mark, on the other hand, will put something on repeat for days (sometimes weeks) and then go without listening to it for months. That's not to say I've never had albums I've loved so much that I ended up listening to them incessantly, I am just not very good at being a camel when it comes to music. All of that aside, Endless Fantasy takes your ears on a crazy fun magical journey that no other album was successfully album to do so in 2013. Unlike standard albums these days, this one clocks in at over an hour in length. By the time you get to the end, however, it's hard to not want to start it over. This is especially the case when you're driving/traveling for any extended period of time. It's one of the few heavily instrumental albums that can keep my attention to the point where I savor every last note/blip of it, especially with songs like "Akira", "Pastel Flags", and "In The Basement". My other obvious favorites from the album were "Prom Night", "Meow", and title track, "Endless Fantasy", which range in levels of goofiness and awesomeness. Side note for you vinyl lovers out there: this was one of the most beautiful vinyl records our household has ever acquired. Clear vinyl with pink, blue, and yellow marble?! Yes please!
Shey's Pick: Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels
Ever since R.A.P Music dropped, anything involving Killer Mike and El-P in a single entity has had to be in my ears within seconds. Run The Jewels was no different and the paring delivered once again. Yet it was a little different. The albums as aggressive and hard hitting, with wonderful production and beats you'd hit repeat on happily until the years end. The two veterans of the scene push each other to their limits and all the while we get to see a wonderful chemistry evolve in front of our very eyes. It even comes packaged with a festive track "A Christmas Fucking Miracle". Seriously, how could I not put this on my end of year list? What's even better is that they're planning another release next year under Run The Jewels. Hallelujah, praise the baby jesus. RTJ are here to stay and they've firmly placed there cards on the table and they are definitely not bluffing about the hand they've been holding.
Kibbe's Pick: Disclosure - Settle
I'll admit, I was totally late to the game on Disclosure, but I took to them almost immediately. The English electronic duo have been releasing songs and EPs since 2010, but I only stumbled across them a few months ago. For those not well acquainted in the garage/house universe, Settle is a great gateway drug into the genre with tracks like, "White Noise", "Voices", "January", "Help Me Lose My Mind", and my personal favorite track from the album, "Latch". With every spin of this record I find a new reason to love it. Each track is dynamically different from the next, but not to the point where it doesn't come across as one cohesive album. In addition to all the wobble and fuzzy bass that one could ask for, the featured vocalists on the album are all exceptional selections that really compliment their respective songs. Highlights of the guest artists include: Jamie Woon, London Grammar, Sasha Keable, AlunaGeorge, and Sam Smith. Fair warning though, like I said on air during BBC Radio 1's Review show, pretty sure this album can get you pregnant. I'd say it's definitely worth the risk, but you have been warned.
Shey's Pick: Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal
This was a complete curve ball for me. I've been aware of Bring Me The Horizon ever since they started playing shows in Sheffield back when they sounded rather different. A lot heavier. And they seem to have gone through that transition that a lot of bands do, and they've changed their sound in the past 10 years. It's natural and on that journey they seem to have annoyed some fans and gained a hell of a lot more. I've just never been into them and wasn't expecting to enjoy their latest offering Sempiternal because they Lead single "Shadow Moses" attracted my attention via a rather cool looking glitchy video, and I needed an album to kick me up the arse in the morning sat the gym. I thought, "heck, let's give this a full listen". Opening track "Can You Feel My Heart" was nothing like I expected with electronic elements filling our the track giving it a far more dance orientated sound than I'd of expected and throughout the album they delivered surprises for me. Maybe it was the going into it with no expectations, and expecting it to underwhelm me which is a sucky attitude I'll admit. Fast forward to December and this album features on my gym playlist every morning and hasn't left it since being added back in March when it leaked. They've converted me into fan, even if their older stuff was never to my liking.
Creating top 5's is hard, and Shey failed and accidentally wrote 6, I could write 50 but who wants to read that? I'll be surprised if you're still reading now so here are a few I loved that would feature should the list be longer.
The 1975's self titled debut was a triumph and for a 16 track release it manages to hold your attention throughout and it rocketed them from bar shows to academy shows in just 12 months. They've got a bright future.
Dead Sons long awaited debut, The Hollers & The Hymns, was the first album and last album I listened to this year and last. Dark, twisted and a ride through a riff filled desert. Perfect driving music. I'm extremely excited to hear more from them in 2014 after their new teaser "The Rain". Chance The Rapper seemed to appear from the outskirts to become a figure head this year and his release gets better and better every listen. He's sure to come back fighting on his next release.
Kanye's Yeezus was a great album but I feel the highs, as perfect as they were, came along with some big lows too. I skipped tracks regularly and for me, "Black Skinhead", "Blood on the Leaves" and "New Slaves" far outshine the rest of the album.
Deafheaven were another surprise for me in 2013. A band I had never heard of arrived, having released material before, but having no preconceptions, they blew me away with Sunbather and they seem to have done the same with everyone else too. Stunning and nothing like I've heard before.
The return of Arcade Fire and Daft Punk had everyone excited but both left me wanting more. That's not to say that both albums weren't brilliant in their own special way, they just didn't strike the same chord they had on previous releases.
The only reason St. Lucia's debut full length, When The Night is an honorable mention and not amongst my 5 favorites is because I feel like it's a cheap move to basically re-release an EP with extra songs on it, especially when you're so well acquainted with the EP that the first few spins of the full-length constantly confuse you because you're already used to a different track listing. All of that aside, I loved how huge this album feels in terms of the depth of sound they were able to create. It almost sounds like they played in a large empty stadium or something. There isn't a single song that I would ever think of skipping over, although admittedly, "Elevate" is probably my favorite of the newer material included on the album.
I also thorougly enjoyed Tegan & Sara's poptastic Heartthrob. It was really different from their previous albums, but I happily enjoyed every synthy note of it.
Like I could go a whole year-end review without mentioning Beck at some point!? Yes, it wasn't a full album, but the three songs he dropped were certainly a good time.
Like Shey said, I tried incredibly hard to lose my mind over the new Daft Punk album, but it just didn't connect to me the way I had hoped. Although I do thoroughly enjoy "Doin' It Right", but who doesn't?
I was pleasantly surprised by Panic! At The Disco's latest effort, although there were a few songs on the record that I don't mind skipping over.
The debut full-length from Lucius was a proud moment for me, considering how long I've been cheering those ladies on. That's certainly a must listen.