With new albums from The National, Anais Mitchell, Iron and Wine, Villagers, James Blake, Volcano Choir and Bill Callahan, it was no surprise to me that 2013 was a bonanza year for great new music. While the albums of the above mentioned acts were all top buys for me this year, the following list, in no particular order, is the music that truly made my listening year special:
Throwing Muses – Purgatory/Paradise
2013 saw the release of the first Muses album in 10 years. Where most bands seem to reform only to produce pale imitations of their early greatness, Kristin Hersh and co delivered hands down their best album yet. Pugatory/Paradise is published in a handsome book of art and essays by The Friday Project, with extra downloadable stuff via Kristin Hersh’s website. You can read all about the project on publisher Scott Pack’s blog, which shows the original title of the album/book to be Crooked.
Slippershell – ‘And you can go to hell.’
These New Puritans – Field of Reeds
While I liked a fair number of the albums nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize, I couldn’t help feeling that this truly innovative album from TNP should have at least been shortlisted. Really, to my mind, this should have won. I won’t even try to describe their sound. If you like esoteric, emotive and imaginative music this is the one album you should have bought this year. Watch the video of Fragment 2. If you like it, imagine a whole album that wonderful and surprising and go pay for a copy.
Fragment 2 – ‘Where the stars are hiding.’
Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God
An album from the My Morning Jacket singer/songwriter inspired by a 1929 wordless novel in woodcuts? Yes, please. I love this record, not just for the uplfiting ‘A New Life,’ or for the fact that the whole album maintains the high bar set by this standout track, but also for switching me onto the work of Lynd Ward. Listen to this, then grab a copy of Gods’ Man to see how the creativity of this record was inspired by picture novel that explores the origins of the creative process. Thought-provoking and inspiring in equal measure.
A New Life – ‘I think I’m really being sincere.’
John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts
If John Grant had never made another album after Queen of Denmark, he would still sit safely in my list of favourite ever recording artists. As it is, his 2013 Pale Green Ghosts was one of my most played albums of the year. John Grant is a marvel of pure talent remarkable for the power of his lyrics and his ability to wield melody like a weapon meant to break your heart. Just check out the video for GMF below to see why, in a record industry obsessed with style over substance, this self-deprecating genius is so very special.
GMF – ‘You could be laughing 65% more of the time.’
Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare
This is my last purchase of 2013 and has only been on my iPod for a bit over a week but it’s already clear that this is one of those albums destined to be returned to again and again. The best rock album of the year? Certainly. Of the decade? Possibly. I’ll let you know in seven years time.
Love To Love – ‘Everything is moving, dear.’
dj BC and the Beastles – Ill Submarine
The Beastie Boys vs The Beatles. Nuff said.
Ill Submarine – ‘I myself am living large.’
Low – The Invisible Way
This album, like all Low records, bears the group’s hallmark mix of emotion and spirituality. No other album of 2013 has resonated with me quite as much as this one. I love this record. Standout track, ‘Just Make It Stop’ is also THE soundtrack to my Novel In Progress and the theme tune of my main character. If I can get half the emotion of this song into my prose, I’ll be a happy writer.
Just Make It Stop – ‘I’m not what I seem.’
Matthew E. White – Big Inner
My first purchase of 2013. Still receiving heavy rotation on my iPod. I have Big Love for this big, brassy record.
Big Love – ‘I think that I can trust you about as far as I can throw you.’
Compiling this list reminded me of just how much great music was released this year. What record(s) made your listening year in 2013?