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2013 Round-Up

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (10)

John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts

 

Late entry! I always browse all the ‘Albums of the Year’ lists that I can find, interested to see what people thought of albums I also liked, and also whether there are any especially interesting ones that I might have missed. Then I give them a try. This year I spotted this album by John Grant at the top of Rough Trade’s list (for example) and on reading about it thought it worth a try. Turns out they knew what they were talking about (strange, that…). This is lovely, acerbic, quirky pop (if the latter sounds derogatory, it isn’t meant to be). Apparently the more electro-pop angle of this album is a new direction (I’ve already ordered his previous album, Queen of Denmark, to check that out, too) but it works perfectly with his lovely baritone voice and laconic delivery of lines such as “they say that I should go outside more / and drink lots of water all the time / but that does not seem to be working / ’cause you still have not come back to me.” There are genuinely catchy tunes on here with intelligent, interesting and funny (self-deprecating) lyrics, which is a pretty unusual combination, in my experience…

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Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (9)

Mountains – Centralia

Mountains - Centralia

 

Named after the fascinating modern ghost town in Pennsylvania, Centralia is a work by electro-acoustic-drone artists Mountains who I had heard of but never investigated before this. It’s as lovely and fascinating as I’ve heard ‘drone’ music, gently unfolding and exploring just one or two chords, with the gradually morphing texture (or timbre, more correctly) doing the lion’s share of work that would usually be done by melody and harmony. They mix in acoustic elements (mostly guitars) beautifully (plus one magnificently jarring electric guitar burst) amongst the whirring, clicking electronics.

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (8)

Darkside – Psychic

DARKSIDE - PSYCHIC

 

Electronica w√ľnderkind Nicolas Jaar¬†made waves with his debut Space Is Only Noise (2011) and here teamed up with university contemporary and guitarist Dave Harrington, after re-tooling Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories (under the pseudonym Daftside). The result is something deep, smooth and delicious, a fusion of house, slo-mo disco and blues guitar, moving at a languid pace that belies the intricacy of its production.

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (7)

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

Not for the faint-hearted! A pummelling journey through bleak alien landscapes of scorched earth. Bleak, yet somehow inviting at the same time, as majestic waves of sound rub up against almost tribal rhythms. It’s an epic journey but relatively easily digested, coming in at a trim 52 minutes.

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (6)

Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

After a magnificently cryptic pre-release teaser, the legendary Boards of Canada emerged from who-knew-where to bestow their fourth album upon us. In my opinion it very much does not disappoint; in fact it might well be my favourite of their albums (that’s high praise, by the way!). The post-apocalyptic theme is almost cliche for them but they don’t half pull it off well, with a horror-movie-soundtrack-inspired ambience. What makes it so successful, for me, is that the feeling of creeping dread is masterfully maintained throughout, even through some surprisingly immediate tracks, such as New Seeds, part of the album’s strong finish.

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (5)

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Jon Hopkins - Immunity

Loosely conceptually based around the trajectory of a night out, this album is the sound of a talented producer finding his own distinctive voice and forging his own unique style. It ranges from intense to beatific, perfectly paced and immensely satisfying as a whole – anyone doubting that ‘dance music’ is suited to the album format should start here.

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (4)

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Where to begin with this one?! Well, when Daft Punk say Give Life Back To Music, they don’t mess around. This album is their love-letter to music, and to the long-playing format. Every note is lovingly recorded and produced – it really does sound a million dollars (which may very well be less than it cost to make). Even its cheesiest moments are played deadpan-straight – they aren’t messing around with irony here, they mean it. There are misses amongst the hits, sure, but there’s also something for everyone – disco-biographies (Giorgio By Moroder), chart-invading disco smashes (Get Lucky, of course, and Lose Yourself To Dance), showtune/throw-in-the-kitchen-sink epics (Touch), indie-darling crossovers (Doing It Right) and even interstellar techno (Contact).

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (3)

Lusine – The Waiting Room

Lusine - The Waiting Room

Lusine, a veteran of the electronic music scene, here nails a supremely accessible blend of house and electronica. It all kicks off with the barn-storming Panoramic (already highlighted as one of my tracks of the year) and proceeds through a delicious collection of electronica songs (slightly reminiscent of early 00s label Morr Music) and house tracks (including Stratus, already highlighted in Uncommon Time, and the lovely closer, February).

Music Round-Up 2013: The Best Ones (2)

Foals – Holy Fire

Foals - Holy Fire

Foals seemingly went huge this year off the back of this muscular third album. According to their Twitter feed, they played something like 155 live shows. They still struggle to finish an album strongly (see also Total Life Forever) but when this was good, it was very good – adrenalin-charged lead single Inhaler, the funky My Number and build-and-release epic Milk & Black Spiders all highlights.

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