Favourite Albums of 2013 – #1

Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

Released – February 4th

Frightened Rabbit

There is more honesty contained in any one song included in “Pedestrian Verse” than in any other album released this year. It is a dark lyrical journey that bears it’s completely flawed soul before the world. I struggled with ranking it my favourite album, but there is just no other place for it. The tales of humanity at it’s most vulnerable made me literally cry on more than one occasion and nothing else released this year came close to eliciting that kind of response from me. This is not an easy listening pop album. It needs to be chewed on and processed. Songs like “Backyard Skulls” initially sound harmless enough but even the title suggests something hidden beneath. I don’t profess to agree with the views expressed in this album, but there are questions raised that I am glad to think through and answer. On top of the lyrical masterpieces contained, the musical arrangements are fantastic pieces that should leave derivative Mumfordites ashamed.

When should you listen to this? – When you have more answers than questions.

Favourite track – Nitrous Gas

Sample lyric – “And if happiness won’t live with me
Think I can live with that
You can keep all of your oxygen
Hand me the nitrous gas”

Metacritic score – 79

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #2

Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Released – January 21st

Foxygen

Foxygen are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic. No false advertising here. Their sophomore album is a completely pretentious trip through rock history that not only hits many highlights but also improves on the original inspirations. Where other bands get lost somewhere in the process of imitating their idols, Foxygen spend their time proving you can use the past as a springboard to something even better. Some say that the best albums end leaving you wanting more. If that’s true, then this is about as good as it gets.

When should you listen to this? – In the darkness.

Favourite track – Shuggie

Sample lyric – “I met your daughter the other day, that was weird
She had rhinoceros shaped earrings in her ears”

Metacritic score – 80

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #3

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Released – October 8th

Arcade Fire

After shocking nearly everyone by winning the Grammy Award for album of the year for the underwhelming “The Suburbs”  in 2011 it would have been easy for Arcade Fire to cave in and start releasing even more watered down servings to the masses. Instead they went on a mission to not only reclaim some of the artistry that made their debut, “Funeral,” one of the best albums of the last decade but also attempt to push modern pop music in a direction it doesn’t think it wants to go. They mostly succeed. It’s inventive without being difficult. It’s recognizable without being derivative. It’s one minute too long but otherwise the perfect album to change the bleak mainstream musical landscape.

When should you listen to this? – While wearing a giant paper mache head and swinging a tree around.

Favourite track – Normal Person

Sample lyric – “I’m so confused. Am I a normal person?
You know, I can’t tell if I’m a normal person
It’s true, I think I’m cool enough, but am I cruel enough?
Am I cruel enough for you?

Metacritic score – 79

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #4

CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

Released – September 24th

Chvrches

Rare is the song that comes along that is both immediately memorable and deeply layered. With “The Bones of What You Believe,” Chvrches have created an entire album full of them. Even after 10-15 times through there are delicate morsels left to be discovered hidden beneath glossy dance-pop. The album suffers a small amount by not flowing as well as it could but it’s a minor complaint. This should be massive.

When should you listen to this? – At some kind of discotheque they haven’t thought of yet.

Favourite track – By The Throat

Sample lyric – “All that’s golden is never real
And I won’t play fair with you this time
All that’s golden is never so
And I’ll be thankful when you let go ”

Metacritic score – 81

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #5

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Released – May 14th

Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend’s third album is tediously crafted pop music that sounds remarkably effortless. On previous efforts the band often tried to overwhelm with intricate rhythms and sophisticated stylized melodies that they could only barely pull off (and not really pull off live). This time they’ve approached things with a more mature attitude and end up producing their best over-all collection of songs even if they aren’t as immediately ear catching as some of their first releases.

When should you listen to this? – Riding a bicycle built for two through a park

Favourite track – Hannah Hunt

Sample lyric – “If I can’t trust you then damn it Hannah
There’s no future, there’s no answer

Though we live on the US dollar
You and me, we got our own sense of time ”

Metacritic score – 84

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #6

Phosphorescent – Muchacho

Released – March 18th

Phosphorescent


Somehow I had not discovered Phosphorescent until this, his 6th album. “Muchacho” is an album unafraid to venture any direction it chooses, and thankfully every direction is a good one. Generally staying anchored in alt-country waters, there are light electronic flourishes and even U2 inspired grandiosity. It’s a deeply personal journey but also very universal in scope.

When should you listen to this? – While pulling cacti from your sandals in the moonlight

Favourite track – Song For Zula

Sample lyric – “So some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
Oh but I know love as a caging thing
Just a killer come to call from some awful dream ”

Metacritic score – 85

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #7

Everything Everything – Arc

Released – January 14th

Everything Everything


On Everything Everything’s sophomore album they tune down the eccentricities just enough for us to see that they are more than the silly antics that “Man Alive” made them appear to be. There are still many songs where jittery falsetto based choruses propel the songs forward but they don’t detract from the superb craftsmanship below. Even the geekiest moments are tempered with uplifting or borderline muscular bits around the next corner.

When should you listen to this? – While throwing buckets of neon paint at a wall.

Favourite track – The Peaks

Sample lyric – “And I’ve seen biomass swarm, back and forth across the globe
They try all manner of things just to keep it all afloat,
And I’ve seen more criminals hung than innocents walk,
I’ve seen more horrors made real than dreamers wake up”

Metacritic score – 79

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #8

Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Released – January 28th

Biffy Clyro


Biffy Clyro might be the best mainstream modern rock band around right now. “Opposites” proves that they aren’t content to just be a pretty good band, but rather that they won’t be satisfied until they achieve perfection. As a double album it stretches on a little too long to be perfect but it’s hard to pick out any track that stands out as the weak link. Nearly every song sounds as though it could be a radio staple and yet it doesn’t sound like a mere compilation of standalone pop songs.

When should you listen to this? – While fist pumping around a bon fire.

Favourite track – Sounds Like Balloons

Sample lyric – “The land at the end of our toes
Goes on, and on, and on, and on
The sand at the core of our bones
It blows on, and on, and on, and on”

Metacritic score – 68

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #9

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – The Speed of Things

Released – October 8th

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr


Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are one car commercial away from having a massive hit with what is possibly the best single of the year. I suppose I might be a bit biased after sharing an actual dance floor with the authors of “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor)” but I’m hoping by the time you read this someone has turned these guys into mega stars. The Speed of Things is the most unashamedly pleasant album of the year. It also pulls off sounding both densely layered and immediately catchy. It meanders into borderline filler material for a couple songs half way through the album but ends with the stunning War Zone, completely redeeming itself. If they can somehow capture their live sound and energy in a digital format they will be unstoppable.

When should you listen to this? – On the dance floor.

Favourite track – If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On The Dance Floor)

Sample lyric – “You’re suppose, to roll your hips in time, you’re suppose
To see your age rewind
You’re suppose, to pull me like the sun
Pulls the earth, but you’re not there for the noise”

Metacritic score – 62

Favourite Albums of 2013 – #10

Darwin Deez – Songs For Imaginative People

Released – February 11th

Darwin Deez


“Songs for Imaginative People” is an intentionally quirky, calculated mess. At times it sounds like Darwin Deez is trying to convince you that he’s not nearly as good a songwriter as he actually is by covering up pop hooks with big, abrasive guitar leads and semi-improvised vocal maneuvers. It’s jerky and too smart for it’s own good but also incredibly fun if you can forgive it.

When should you listen to this? – While trying not to smile.

Favourite track – Red Shift

Sample lyric – “Was there a big bang that I just missed?
Did some explosion cause a redshift?
‘Cause you’re moving away from me but what did I do?
The universe is mostly empty space without you”

Metacritic score – 67