Album of the year 2013: Contributor selections

2013 has been a year of innovative album releases, compelling marketing campaigns and too much ‘Get Lucky’. But what have been the best full length releases to see the light of day this year? Here MFN1‘s fine selection of writers give the low-down on the album that has best soundtracked their 2013.

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Julia Holter – Loud City Song
julia holterThe more my favourite record labels and stores focus on unearthing delightful nuggets from the depths of the archives, the more difficult it is for me to mentally construct these end of year lists: can a re-press of a 1978 French prog disco obscurity really be counted among my favourite releases of 2013? So as to avoid any ambiguity, I’ll go for the defiantly contemporary Loud City Song. The level of subtlety in Holter’s pop songcraft here is staggering: I haven’t the slightest inkling how she arrived at the arrangements for highlights such as ‘Into the Green Wild’, ‘Horns Surrounding Me’ and ‘This Is a True Heart’, but they get to work on an immediate and lasting level. Her cover of Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’ is more straightforward, but that doesn’t stop it from being a serious contender for the most beautiful recording of her career. Luke Healey (@oystersearrings)

The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The-National-Trouble-Will-Find-1024x1024I would probably rate 2013 as the best year for music since 2010 and as it was then it is now – The National are taking my Album of the Year accolade. Trouble Will Find Me is this year’s stand-out record for me. Its melancholy rock at its finest by one of the most important bands of this generation. The National continue to evolve yet have an instantly recognisable appeal in their sound – it’s deep, it’s dark, at times it’s utterly heartbreaking but you can’t help but be captivated by it. ‘Graceless’ and ‘I Need My Girl’ are absolute gems plus ‘Demons’ gave us possibly the best line in any song this year: “When I walk into a room/I do not light it up/Fuck”. Stunning. Chris Duffy (@MUFC_ChrisDuffy)

Kanye West – Yeezus
yeezus-new-cover-500x438Love him or hate him, Kanye West is a genius when it comes to rap. Forever pushing the boundaries of mainstream hip-hop, he has taken the dirty, raw sound of Death Grips and introduced it to the masses in the shape of Yeezus. Kanye proved he could make perfect pop on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but this year his album offered something extra, provoking and contributing to all sorts of stylistic, political and racial debates.  Tracks such as ‘Blood on the Leaves’ and ‘Hold My Liquor’ are standouts, and really show that Kanye West is only just finding his A-game after five other albums. Adam Terris (@adamterris)

Lorde – Pure Heroine
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I tried to find a record I genuinely connected with more than Pure Heroine, but in the end it was the obvious choice for me. Strip away everything you know about Lorde; the hype, her age, Royals, that clawing hand gesture thing she does when she performs and what you’re left with is possibly one of the greatest songwriters that has come out of 2013. Pure Heroine is a genre-bending, deliciously moody, and painfully relatable piece of work. Laden with a cynicism and a whole lot of angst, Lorde has tapped into something very organic and straight forward. Stylistically minimal and lyrically wise beyond her years, Lorde has managed to capture how it feels to be isolated, confused, enamoured, and bored by the world around you, no matter how old you are. Emily Browne (@emilyrbrowne)

Nick Cave – Push The Sky Away
Push-The-Sky-Away-PACKSHOT3-768x768After 30 years and fifteen albums, it is easy for artists to descend into parodies of their early selves. Not Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, though, who returned this year with a stunning effort that show Cave’s understated majesty remains untouched. Cave has turned to the dark side once more on Push The Sky Away, sharpening his knife and taking perverse delight in the very depths of human debauchery. It feels the natural heir to 1997 classic Murder Ballads. The introduction of synthesizers and a more minimalist guitar approach from the Bad Seeds, however, mean the band have found a sound which is cleaner and more polished than ever before, with strong evocations of The Boatman’s Call. The Bad Seeds have got badder, and what a treat it has given us. Phil Smith (@Phil__Smith)

Phosphorescent – Muchacho
phosphorescent-muchacho-520On his sixth effort Muchacho, Phosphorescent has finally achieved that feat that is central to the progression of any artist: he has arrived at a sound that is distinctly and unmistakably his. Like contemporaries such as Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, Phosphorescent has always been comfortable using classical folk structures and techniques to produce his songs. By experimenting with a variety of arrangements and engaging with electronic sounds, however, he has forged a powerful new direction for his career. The traditional crackling, flawed twang of his voices works in perfect symbiosis, creating an atmosphere that beautifully explores the vulnerability and endearing resilience of a young man’s heart. ‘Song For Zula,’ in particular, creates an exquisite soundscape in which it is easy to lose hour after hour inside. Phil Smith II (@Phil__Smith)

Daughter – If You Leave
daughterThis has been my year of Daughter really. Obsessed by His Young Heart EP in 2011 I’ve been waiting with bated breath for the album. Despite being kind of panned by the critics, I think it’s my favourite album ever. When I’m trudging into work in a job I’m really quite crap at I’ve got the dulcet tones of Daughter to keep me going. If you’ve ever wondered what’s going inside the brain of a 20 something girl who wishes her self esteem was as big as her thighs (I don’t know why you would be wondering) you should listen to this album. Incidentally, my album of the year would have been Red by Taylor Swift, but it came in 2012. Doh. Alexandra Wilks (@AlexandraWilks)

Danny Brown – Old
Danny-Brown_OldDanny Brown’s very boring name is the perfect paradox to the wild music he makes. Old is, perhaps implicitly, his most mature work to date and in a year where rap and hip-hop became obsessed with deification, it is a refreshingly human album in which Brown confronts his demons with softly spluttered rhymes and a quietly complex narrative arc. Not quite Jekyll & Hyde, more like Cackle and Hide, he practices a brilliant dualism that is bleak and cinematic, subtle and strange. A counterculture statement of integrity and invention, Old is a thrilling ride with a dangerous, (probably drunk) driver. Jack Murray (@SILLYCIVILIAN)

Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune
empire-of-the-sun-ice-on-the-dune-high-artworkIn an interview with the NME this year, Empire of the Sun front man, Luke Steele, declared that the electronic duo’s second album, Ice on the Dune, boasted a collection of songs that were better than Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. And, at the end of a year that has seen a resurgence of funk and disco, I couldn’t agree more. Ice on the Dune has it all, from a grand, theatrical opener to infectious, synthpop anthems and wistful, melancholic musings. A huge proportion of my 2013 has been spent boogying to this record. And I’ve loved every minute of it. Devon Bianchi (@devon_bianchi)

Look out for our editor’s choices in the upcoming days. Follow the Music Factory on Twitter @MusicFactoryNo1

4 responses to “Album of the year 2013: Contributor selections

  1. Pingback: The Music Factory’s Top 20 albums of 2013 | Music Factory Number One·

  2. Pingback: Five good things: Emo | Music Factory Number One·

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