20. Kurt Vile: Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Pretty is probably the most appropriate word from the title of Kurt Vile’s fifth album. Laid back, simple and yes, pretty, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ is an impossibly charming album that calms everyone who hears its songs. Filled with lyrical life lessons from the eloquent Vile, you will come away from this one feeling soothed and enlightened.
19. The Snowdroppers: Moving Out Of Eden
Ballsy, entertaining, funny and incredibly tight, ‘Moving Out Of Eden’ does a pretty good job of capturing The Snowdroppers’ live dynamic. Thankfully it’s not totally reflective of these spectacular shows because while they make for an amazing night, you wouldn’t want to listen to them over and over again. This album however you will find yourself putting on again and again. Much of this year’s best music has been incredibly serious so it’s a relief to hear a band who can write outstanding songs without leaving your head swimming afterwards. Indeed the biggest question on our lips after hearing tracks like ‘Sweat’ or ‘Juliette’ live was who was having more fun with the album: the fans, or the band themselves.
18. Jake Bugg: Shangri La
Released just over 6 months after we were exposed to his self titled debut (which was released back in October 2012 in the UK), Shangri La sees Jake Bugg beginning to find his own voice. The same influences (Bob Dylan and Tom Petty) are still evident but he’s also broadened his palette, unleashing some pulsating rockabilly on ‘Slumville Sunrise’ and punk rock power chords on ‘What Doesn’t Kill You’. His voice is still at its best on folky or country tracks but the added variety makes for a much better record. While producer Rick Rubin has become most famous for stripping artists’ sounds back to discover their roots, with ‘Shangri La’ he seems to have inspired Bugg to be bolder and expand his sound. Just more proof that Rubin is a genius.
17. Kanye West: Yeezus
So much has been written and said about Yeezus it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s lay our cards on the table, the man is an arse. He’s also a genius. There are moments of this on Yeezus but disappointingly the consistency of his previous records is not there. There are amazing samples there, such as on tracks like ‘Blood On The Leaves’ which utilises Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit to emphatic effect. There are also incredible lyrics, like the racism of ‘New Slaves’ where “You see it’s broke nigga racism/that’s that don’t’ touch anything in the store/and this rich nigga racism/that’s that come in please buy more/what you want, a Bentley? Fur coat? A diamond chain?/All you blacks want all the same things.” Yeezus maintained the swagger of ‘Twisted Fantasy’ but failed to live up to that legacy when it came to the concrete stuff. That being said, he still managed to monopolise the media and influence the direction of rap this year. Not a bad effort, but then what do you expect? After all, he is a God.
16. Andrew Stockdale: Keep Moving
Heavily influenced by The Black Keys and The Black Crowes, ‘Keep Moving’ saw Andrew Stockdale move into the 21st Century. Freed from the expectations of the Wolfmother name, Stockdale delivered 17 tracks that showed a previously unheard range of influences and a quality of writing that has been forgotten in the years since Wolfmother’s 2005 debut. He is most certainly back, let’s just hope he can keep it coming!
15. Fidlar: Fidlar
“Live fast, die young” could have easily been the name for this album. Though perhaps it would have been better just to spell out what FIDLAR stands for: “”fuck it, dog, life’s a risk”. 39 minutes of raucous noise and a lot of fun, FIDLAR aren’t out to carve a career, in the ilk of the great punk bands, they are doing what they want to now, fuck the future. Fortunately, they are one tight unit, barrelling along at intense speeds with songs that affirm their band name’s motto. Not an album you’ll be listening to in 20 years and yet one of the greatest to get you through this summer.
14. Buffalo Tales: Roadtrip Confessions
Wes Carr’s return from post-Idol exile was a welcome one and well-deserved. With the new moniker of Buffalo Tales, he crafted excellent narratives and delivered them with a relaxed manner that he could never quite manage under the intense scrutiny he previously received. The touching duet ‘Crazy Heart’ stands out, as does his Jeff Buckley-esque arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take This Waltz’ on an album filled with beautiful tunes perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
13. David Bowie: The Next Day
‘The Next Day’, Bowie’s first album in ten years, was met with widespread acclaim and initial media frenzy. But unlike many overhyped releases (Bob Dylan’s Tempest and Lorde’s Pure Heroine come to mind), The Next Day delivered. From the fantastic single ‘Where Are We Now?’ And ‘Valentine’s Day’, to the bizarre Dirty Boys and Dancing Out In Space, The Next Day sets a high standard for comeback albums, a standard that has been consistently dropping as labels allow veteran artists to phone in new material. The Next Day may be revisiting the eighties, with elements of bombast and high-flown lyrical absurdities, but when it sounds this good, who are we to complain?
12. The National: ‘Trouble Will Find Me’
This year’s most depressing album, ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ succeeds in creating a mood and maintaining it for 56 minutes. Hauntingly beautiful and emotionally affecting, Matt Berninger and co struck a perfect balance between lyrics, melody and rhythm to take listeners on an emotional ride that perhaps most closely resembles Arcade Fire’s 2004 masterpiece ‘Funeral’.
11. British India: Controller
You always know what you’re going to get with British India, Australia’s own little band that could, they have consistently plugged away and worked their way up the pecking order to garner critical acclaim nationwide. ‘Controller’ was predictable and yet surpassed all our expectations. Pumping out one excellent track after another, the lads hit their stride in 2013. Heaven help anyone who stands in their way.