The Music Factory’s Top 20 albums of 2013

As 2013 draws to a close, Piers Barber and Buster Stonham give their run down of the finest albums the year had to offer.

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20. Pusha T – My Name is My Name
19. Primal ScreamMore Light
18. Four Tet – Beautiful Rewind (Read our full review here)
17. King Krule6 Feet Below The Moon
16. James BlakeOvergrown
15. Arcade FireReflektor (Read our full review here)
14. Daniel AveryDrone Logic (Read our full review here)
13. James Holden – The Inheritors
12. BurialRival Dealer EP
11. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

10. Los Campesinos! – No Blues 

Los Campesinos No Blues - Music Factory Number One

It has been a tough year for Los Campesinos!, with the departure of key members and a lack of funds endangering the band’s very existence. But adversity has a funny way of bringing the best out of people, and No Blues is the band’s most accomplished album to date.  The album captures a new sense of maturity to add to their brand of jaunty indie tunes juxtaposed with Gareth David’s surprisingly dark subject matter. What makes this album really stand out are Gareth’s quirky yet hilarious lyrics.: gems like “A heart of stone, rind so tough it’s crazy,/that’s why they call me the avocado, baby” punctuate the album like well timed jokes that leave a lasting smile on the face of the listener. I hope No Blues won’t be LC!’s farewell record, but if it turns out that way, they will be ending their career on a massive high. Buster Stonham

Read our full review of No Blues here.

9. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk Random Access Memories - Music Factory Number One

No album has come under more scrutiny this year than Random Access Memories, Daft Punk‘s brave and bizarre shock to the system which was the subject of one of the finest musical marketing campaigns of recent years. As an album that brings together some of the finest musicians and beat-makers of the last thirty years, it should surely hardly come as a surprise that it remains durable and memorable as we enter 2014. Yet R.A.M., this strange combination of glamorous 80s disco and future electro, is a very 2013 album: it will always remind me of a brilliant 45 minutes spent playing the ‘Get Lucky’ leak from a French radio station on a loop back in April, and the time I heard the affectionately straightforward tribute ‘Georgio By Moroder’ played out in its full glory on the Despacio soundsystem last weekend. R.A.M. is also almost solely responsible for the unstoppable resurgence of Nile Rodgers, disco’s impossibly cool king, who is now appreciated and loved by a whole new audience. Bravo, robots, and sorry for all the abuse. Piers Barber

8. My Bloody Valentine – mbv

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Perhaps this year’s most surprising inclusion on our list goes to My Bloody Valentine’s third album, mbv. Not because the album doesn’t deserve to be here, but because most fans had become convinced, after years of speculation and disappointment, that they would never hear another album from the Dublin shoegaze rockers. Almost 22 years after their seminal second LP Loveless, Kevin Shields and co. released mbv in February on their own label and with minimal fanfare. Yet the long wait proved to be worth it, as the undeniable quality and unique sound of mbv transported the listener back to the rich and familiar sound of My Bloody Valentine. Yet the album is not simply a re-hashing of old material for the sake of a bit of nostalgia. Instead it shows that the band is still experimenting and developing their sound. One interesting development is the introduction of more electronic synths, making mbv an atmospheric and enchanting soundscape that, like Loveless, may well keep fans interested for the next 22 years. BS

Watch our video review of mbv here.

7.Arctic Monkeys – A.M.

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It would be fantastic to be able to honestly justify the inclusion of this album based on my ability to fully identify with it’s subject matter. But, when it comes down to it, this is a record which concerns itself predominantly with leather and sex and Los Angeles, concepts I have dabbled with in the past but never really in truth totally got to grips with. Still, it sets a hell of an example to look up to. A.M. is a startling achievement, all G-funk rhythms and 1990s R’n’B blended with the grittiest rock ‘n’ roll, offering riffs which snarl as angrily as the finest metal cuts. Make no mistake: The Arctic Monkeys are no washed up mainstream band already resorted to churning out safe platitudes, their career meandering towards a tame conclusion. No – instead, they are one of the most challengingly exciting and restlessly creative groups of our generation. PB

6. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

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The National are one of those bands that are often taken for granted.  Throughout their career they have repeatedly proven their ability to produce truly excellent albums, and 2013 was certainly there year. After a sellout tour including two huge shows at Alexandra Palace in November and the success of their sixth LP, Trouble Will Find Me, this year may just be the turning point for The National to capture the widespread popularity their songwriting deserves. Frontman Matt Berninger’s familiar baritone voice is at its most versatile, soaring in the choruses on ‘I Should Live in Salt’ and ‘Pink Rabbits’, then grumbling in hypnotic monotone through ‘Don’t Swallow the Cap’ and ‘Demons’. The combination of simple, catchy melodies and deep existential lyrics make Trouble Will Find Me, simultaneously one of the most accessible, yet emotionally charged albums of 2013. BS

5. Blood OrangeCupid Delux

cupid deluxe

Cupid Deluxe is Devonte Hynes’ glittering homage to heartbreak and to New York, but to a time when Times Square was the decadent home of the misfit rather than the shiny monument to capitalism it exists as today. In particular, it’s a touching tribute to the city’s LGBT community, and hence gorgeously channels the disco flavours (clinking rhythm guitar, chunky slap bass, hearty drum beats) which thrived so vibrantly at the time when this community also flourished in the Big Apple. Fire recently destroyed Hynes’ New York apartment, talking with it all his belongings, including hard drives containing a host of unfinished tunes. If there was ever a reason to invest in art, then, it’s on Cupid Deluxe, his exquisite contribution to music in it’s purest and most compelling form. It’s Michael Jackson and it’s Prince, it’s cool, it’s touching and it’s hopelessly romantic. It’s utterly memorable. PB

Read our full review of Cupid Delux here.

4. Disclosure – Settle

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The growth of dance music and dubstep in London’s mega-clubs has increasingly meant that for electronic music to be cool, it needs to be dark, esoteric, minimalist and atmospheric. Disclosure, AKA the Lawrence brothers from Reigate, Surrey, have thrown all these rules out the window and made one of the most catchy, fun, brash and coolest albums in recent years. Settle is the duo’s debut LP, but the slick production and tight sound they achieve is characteristic of a far more accomplished band. Disclosure also seem to know all the right people. Guest spots from the likes of Jamie Woon, Eliza Doolittle and London Grammar add depth and variety to the string of crowd-pleasing hits. The feel good melodies and beats that quickly find their way into your head and feel-good playlists make Settle one of the most exciting and refreshing albums of the year. BS

3. Darkside – Psychic

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Nicolas Jaar, a bit like Mezut Özil or Kevin Bridges, is one of those highly annoying individuals who has already achieved a sickeningly large amount for someone so young. Just 23 years into his life, he’s so far released a critically acclaimed 2011 debut called Space Is Only Noise, won the BBC Essential Mix of the Year award with his effort from 2012, and put together a fantastically dark and twisted rework of the entirety of Random Access Memories. Darkside, his fascinating project with session guitarist Dave Harrington, might well be his best work yet: it’s minimal techno merged with 60s psychedelia, ideal for long car journeys or sweaty dancefloors, and anywhere in between. They may well be The Doors or Pink Floyd for the 21st century, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. PB

2. Atoms For Peace – Amok

atoms cover

The Atoms For Peace project draws together a collection of highly prestigious musicians (Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea and R.E.M.’s Joey Waronka, amongst others) to attempt something smart, unfamiliar, and electronic. It is, in other words, a perfect recipe for an embarrassing and pretentious flop. And yet, Amok, almost inevitably for a Yorke project, well, it works. Initially assembled to perform Yorke’s solo album The Eraser live, the Atoms For Peace idea has consumed the Radiohead frontman. The sound is heavily electronic, but it comes across as entirely organic, achieving a fascinating balance between live drumming with Flea’s funk-fuelled basslines, and Nigel Godrich’s programmed patterns and shadowy synths. It resulted in one of the year’s most compelling live shows, and an LP that is both introverted and celebratory, without ever being too showy. Throughout it pulsates and it bounces, each track crammed to the brim with fascinating ideas and coloured by Yorke’s voice at it’s most outstandingly ethereal. It’s a truly startling bit of work. PB

1. Jon Hopkins – Immunity

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Jon Hopkins is perhaps best known for his collaborations with other, better known artists such as Brian Eno and Coldplay, but his solo work is gaining him more and more fans in its own right. Known for his ambient and richly textured concept albums, Hopkins has proven he can turn his hand to multiple genres and make them his own. His 2011 collaboration, Diamond Mine, with Scottish folk artist King Creosote was one of the most innovative and beautiful LPs of the last decade.

Immunity is an album of two halves. The first is a pulsing, crackling beat-fest, creating an almost trance-like atmosphere, designed to mirror the emotions of a big night out. The album’s peak comes with the nine-minute crescendo of ‘Collider’ imagining the final song before closing time. This is then is followed by the serenity and peace of the morning after, starting with the beautiful ‘Abandoned Window’ and ending with a return for King Creosote on the closing title track.

Immunity has immediate appeal, the clever intricate beats showcase Hopkins’ much lauded talent for production, but it is the deeper levels and hidden details that make this album something truly special. It’s the perfect way to end this year… and to begin the next. BS

Read our full review of Immunity here.

See also: Album of the year 2013: Contributor selections

Follow the Music Factory on Twitter @MusicFactoryNo1

One response to “The Music Factory’s Top 20 albums of 2013

  1. Pingback: Top 5 albums of 2013 – piersbarber·

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