Here it is ladies and gentlemen, our Top 50 Albums of 2013. You might not agree but we think these were the best of the best from Australia and around the world. Feel free to add your own thoughts below or on our facebook page.
50. Boy & Bear: Harlequin Dream
For their sophomore return, Boy And Bear have maintained the sound that made their debut so endearing and then added a layer of pop sheen. ‘Harlequin Dream’ doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but stellar songs like ‘A Moment’s Grace’ and ‘End Of The Line’ hit the mark and helped keep this album on high rotation.
49. Paul McCartney: New
The stand-out track on McCartney’s newest album, ‘Early Days’ taps into the vein somasterfully exploited by Johnny Cash in his Rick Rubin-led renewal. Self-exploratory and heartfelt, particularly impressive is that unlike Cash, McCartney wrote this song himself. Throughout the entire disc though there are countless glimpses of McCartney’s former glories and possible futures. Feel-good Beatles (‘New’), Wings synth-heavy glory (‘Save Us’) and a dozen other variations all make an appearance and show that with the right hands at the helm the greatest living Beatle (sorry Ringo) still deserves some credit.
48. Big Scary: Not Art
An incredibly diverse and complex album, ‘Not Art’ rewards dedication. Less about lyrics (the one weakness of this record) the duo’s focus is instead on atmosphere and layered production. Not a perfect fit but a great filler for the XX-shaped void in many people’s lives this year, this is well-worth a revisit.
47. The Bronx: IV
Returning for their first album since 2005 and their side-project ‘Mariachi-El-Bronx’ capitalised their time, LA Punks, The Bronx, have returned with a newfound energy and musicality. On ‘Along For The Ride’ it becomes clear that singer Matt Caughtran’s voice is the real hero of the album. More capable than ever, Caughtran raises the bar on their fourth self-titled album and the rest of the band are more than up to the task.
46. The Cat Empire: Steal The Light
It’s been ten years since The Cat Empire released their debut album and they have had Australia and their hometown of Melbourne on their feet ever since. The kings of the party, ‘Steal The Light’ built upon the band’s previous releases but utilised all members of the band more than ever before. This is most obvious with Harry James Angus who raises the bar with this album but still has almost as much fun as we had listening to it.
45. Sleigh Bells: Bitter Rivals
The most ‘pop’ Sleigh Bells have ever sounded, ‘Bitter Rivals’ no longer has the unexpectedness of their previous releases. That being said, their new sound is longer lasting, making it easier to enjoy a complete album without feeling totally overwhelmed. The juxtaposition of poppy vocals and screeching guitars is still maximized on some tracks but is sacrificed on many in favour of synth-heavy backing tracks. Fortunately, the girls know what they are doing and while it’s not what we were expecting (or necessarily wanted) we can’t deny they’ve done a bloody good job.
44. John Mayer: Paradise Valley
Paring his sound back even more than on ‘Born And Raised’, ‘Paradise Valley’ lets Mayer meander his way through a strong set of country ballads. While some decried the album’s smoothness as bland, that’s an unfair assessment of Mayer’s sublime guitar work. It also ignores the side-benefit that Mayer no longer comes across as a try-hard but rather someone doing what they love, which is a lot more enjoyable.
43. Charles Bradley: Victim Of Love
There aren’t enough soul men around these days which helps Charles Bradley stand out even further than he otherwise would. A uniquely powerful voice filled with hurt, Bradley benefits from Daptone Records’ talent for exceptional production that focuses everything on his voice. While that at some points is a negative, with a voice like Bradley’s, there are far worse things they could have done.
42. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold
Short, shiny and incredibly sharp, the tracks on Parquet Courts’ debut album ‘Light Up Gold’ don’t leave any space for breathing. Frenetically moving from track to track (15 in 33 minutes!) the immediacy and rawness of the vocals and guitar reflect the youth of their creators and validate the Stooges and Sonic Youth comparisons. Yet once you delve into the lyrics it becomes clear there is a lot of maturity in this group and when you factor in the whole package you can’t help but feel excited that these guys are just starting out.
41. BRMC: Specter At The Feast
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club dedicated their seventh album to deceased former producer Michael Been. Understandably, this has given its content a darker and more reflective overtone. Grander than their previous efforts and far stronger than their last two misguided albums, ‘Specter…’ still doesn’t live up to the heights of their debut or ‘Howl’ but they’ve still got some rocking to do.