Top 50 of 2013 40 - 31
40. Haim - Days Are Gone
It's an interesting story, Haim's. They've been around for quite some time, yet it is their naivety that immediately seduces. Because of the insanely long run of the brilliant track 'The Wire', it almost felt as though Days Are Gone would never come out. And if it ever did, how could it live up to arguably one of the top 5 tracks of the year? Well, it did. See, Haim sound naive, they sound young and fresh and raw, but really they're incredibly good performers. The record feels like it's been spit-shined. Each melody is perfectly timed, each drum pattern is complimentary. Furthermore, there is a plethora of different sounds to explore. Honey & I almost feels like a Dixie Chicks record, whilst My Song 5 is a glitched gem that sounds like a better version of a Yeezus track. Haim have made a pop record and strayed slightly off the beaten path, and it's so refreshing.
Best Tracks: The Wire, Falling
39. Depeche Mode - Delta Machine
Delta Machine inhabits that metallic, industrial world that gently evolved and entered in to the bones and structure of DM records around Violator, and remained a mainstay throughout the rest of their career. Gahan and Gore are obsessed with their universe, it's a common theme, possibly a technique utilised to establish a grounded setting for records and their explorations of the human psyche, namely their own, and how it relates to those around them. Welcome To My World introduces us, asks us to wipe our feet and enjoy the surroundings. I like to call Gahan and Gore the merchants of misery. With an effortless abandon they spread a sense of pessimism, even when not directly expressing the details of their dystopian universe. It's hard to artists to do this consistently. DM have been doing it since the 80s, and they're still as relevant today.
Best Tracks: Heaven, The Child Inside, Soft Touch/Raw Nerve
38. Civil Protection - Stolen Fire
This came across my desk one day for a review and I didn't give it the time of day. I don't want to big note myself but I do occasionally get an influx of stuff to listen to. Anyway I was driving back from a trip with my good friend and post-rock expert, and he was impressed. So was I. The more I listened, the better this became. It grew. Stolen Fire reaches that important climax that this genre has made its own. Elsewhere they toe the line between post, prog and ambient very well. My Memories is an aggressive stomp that wouldn't be out of place as a Metallica b-side, whereas something like Monedula adds intricacy and texture to satisfy purists. This kind of music is inhabiting a shrinking niche, which is sad, because it's such a lovely way to spend an hour.
Best Tracks: My Memories Will Be Part Of The Sky, Stolen Fire, Monedula
37. Bilal - A Love Surreal
Something odd happened in 2013. 14 year old girls knew who Nile Rodgers was. Analogue became the new digital. Big artists started to try and push the boundaries of their chosen genres. Kanye gave us his toilet of a record, which was preceded by the most cynical release in recent memory by Justin Timberlake attempting to mine the brilliant funk and soft R&B sounds from the late 70s. What the mainstream seem incapable of realising is that artists like Bilal have been making this music for over a decade. A Love Surreal was incredible for me. He blended this fuzzy funk soul with a blend of jazz and disco guitar that was as soft and serene as it was stomping and rhythmic. It's all tempered by a weight of feeling as he delineates the trickiness of love its complicated journey. Slipping Away will be one of the tracks of the year, doubtless.
Best Tracks: West Side Girl, Back To Love, Slipping Away
36. Pet Shop Boys - Electric
Why do some artists endure and others languish? Elysium wasn't a bad album, but it wasn't what the fans wanted. So they just went back in to the studio, turned the synths up to 1000 and pumped out an absolutely stomping disco record worthy of sitting next to the Aviici's and Guetta's of this world. Electric is just that, it's an immersive experience and you feel the tension and atmosphere it creates all around you as you listen. The fact that 2 almost 60 year olds have created it means nothing, as does the fact that they probably sat in front of a computer for the majority of the process fiddling with knobs and dials. When the result is this good it doesn't matter one iota. 2013 may be the year when new artists looked to the past for inspiration, but the duo who brought us bravery and game changing music continued to chase relevancy and succeeded.
Best Tracks: Bolshy, Flueorsecent
35. Cloud Control - Dream Cave
I went and saw Cloud Control a few years ago at a free concert in Bondi. They were awful. I went with a girl, and the hipster to normal ratio was 10:1. The music was depressingly similar to everything else in the Australian music scene and I left feeling jaded. When I first heard Scar I was certain I was hearing the new MGMT record. Nope! What a brilliant piece this record is! It's the perfect bridge between total Ariel Pink freak out and Phoenix levels of indie pop. The slower moments explore a more prog direction. Something like Tombstone has that organic jam feeling that underpins brilliant bands like My Morning Jacket. The fact that it was recorded in an actual cave gives the entire project this incredible dreamy demeanour, the vocals are hazed like the room at a Bob Marley get together and the pervading feeling is just one of happiness and general good vibe.
Best Tracks: Scar, Dojo Rising, Dream Cave
34. Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe
What works brilliantly well is pop music sung with a sweet sounding female voice. Up-beat dancey fun just feels better when a cute girl is behind it. What Chvrches have done is inject you with ecstasy and then delivered a bit of a sermon. Tracks like Lies and Gun may get your feet moving, but they're pleas for help and descriptions of dystopian relationships. You can almost imagine Mayberry as a 15 year old with glasses, copping bad relationships left right and centre. The weight of wisdom, though, betrays her. In a similar mould to Camera Obscura, Mayberry has experienced and analysed it all, so we're treated to confidence. Confidence and pain, packaged smartly in beautiful synth-pop. Winner.
Best Tracks: The Mother We Share, Gun, Lies
33. The Drum - Contact
It's 4am. You're experiencing your first moment of lucidity since 9am the previous day, with all time in between filled with an aggressive, assaulting blur that dims your minds eye. You find yourself in a back alley in a city you've never heard of, in a country you're possibly visiting illegally. There's nothing, no light, no glimpse of freedom from the synthetic hell you unleashed upon yourself all those hours ago. A black door opens and a man comes forth and pulls you in to a room glistening with an imagined haze. Each step is pulsing through your body, nerve endings are screaming out. You're fumbling in your jeans for something, anything, to dull the nightmare and buy another few hours of sweet medicated bliss. As you crash on to the nearest soft surface Contact begins to play. A gentle lull descends over your addled mind as you drift in to the beauty and landscape of the music. The calmest of natural highs..
Best Tracks: Don't skip any, listen from top to toe
32. Teeth Of The Sea - Master
If you were to view a well written comic strip there'd be no need for words, the pictures would sufficiently tell you a story. Teeth Of The Sea are the (sorry) Master's of the musical equivalent of this. They bend guitars around each other, promote density and texture to create anarchic noises and at times terrifying sounds. You can imagine this music soundtracking a Steven King novel, there is doom and gloom written all over tracks like Pleiades Underground/Inexorable Master and The Servant. It's not straight post rock, with the lads willing to experiment with brass and a miriad of angry synth sounds that transport your ears to another sinister existence. It's a science fiction album, one with such energy and pent up rage you fear for your life if they ever manage to truly reach an Explosions In The Sky-like climax. The world couldn't handle it
Best Tracks: The Servant, Reaper, Responder
Childish Gambino - Because The Internet
Some say it's biting but I say it's enlightening. Besides, Dr Kanye West, Chance The Rapper, Nipsey Hussle, Andre 3000, Drake, Lupe Fiasco and Ghostpoet are some of the brightest. Originality be damned. No-one is making new shit. At least not anyone you've heard of. Gambino figures fuck it, why not borrow everyone elses style. It worked for them.. And surprisingly, it works absolute wonders for him. Because The Internet is a horribly cynical release, a sprawling mess of ideas that don't flow on to one another. One moment he is trading jibes with Chance The Rapper and throwing bars over EDM-style beats, the next he is crooning soulfully in an almost lawsuit-ready rip off of Andre 3000. Then there's Drake.. Back to back you wouldn't pick Gambino from the various sounds he can create on individual tracks. The result? An absolutely stunning LP, that either eclipses his inspirations or comes very close to equalling them. Essential listening, he ruined my top 50. Sorry Hugh Laurie.
Best Tracks: 3005, The Worst Guys, Earth: The Oldest Computer (The Last Night)