As usual, bold for what should be higher, underlined for what should be lower and italics for all my notes and updates as I write now… this is archive writing from me copied from the year noted from Buzzjack.com. And we’re into 2013, I get better every year if I say so myself, and I think this is the first year that I’m probably not going to be hugely embarrassed by. Although 2012 turned out quite good for the actual placement of the important spots, just in certain spots especially lower down there was still some songs that didn’t deserve such honours.
Starting off with albums this time, again, there’s a lot of albums I chucked out easily, as I’m leaving in the links, there’s only two, bold and unbold, bold are the albums that don’t deserve to be this low
34. Kodaline – In A Perfect World
33. Mumford & Sons – Babel
32. Biffy Clyro – Opposites (what? this is my favourite Biffy album now, I’m really sad I did that, also Different People is one of my all-time fave Biffy tracks these days)
31. Muse – The 2nd Law (also a great Muse album, I would start to rate them as they deserve from now on)
30. Hurts – Exile
29. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll (and again, I wasn’t into Fall Out Boy as much as I should have been)
28. Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne (not even Hello Kitty as a highlight? your sense of humour is lacking)
27. Caro Emerald – The Shocking Miss Emerald
26. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
25. Rihanna – Unapologetic (well that was completely pointless, it having already appeared in 2012)
24. Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain
23. Tarja – Colours In The Dark
22. Amaranthe – Amaranthe (unusual to see this here, this was the year I discovered Amaranthe so while it’s old it should be higher than this)
21. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
So let’s get rid of all the ‘deadweight’ first as many of these I haven’t had the time to listen to with clarity and so would be saying the same thing about all of them and we don’t want repetitive. This is all the albums I got this year and decided were eligible. However, I wouldn’t say I got any bad albums this year, Kodaline was a little dull, but it was a present I also kept through Amazon Rip so I’ll let it off.
Unapologetic just about makes it for a second year, while it was top 10 last year I didn’t feel it defined my year as much as Rihanna albums normally do in the second year of their life. So it’s down here, despite now containing some of Rihanna’s career highlights as far as album tracks go. (are we sure about that? really?)
Amaranthe is the oldest album in here, 2 years old in fact, but I have allowed it in as they are without a doubt my best band discovery of 2013 and that includes their first album, although it’s not quite as good as their 2013 effort. On a similar note, the other metal album is indeed Tarja’s newest work. It’s a tad inaccessible with so many long tracks but it’s great to see she’s still got it and enough of the tracks are inventive enough to hold my interest. (I do actually like some of it but it’s not as good as Tarja’s Nightwish efforts, not by a long shot)
Below par efforts from Muse, Mumfords and Avril Lavigne also appear (below par as in their previous albums were very very good and from the bits I’ve heard of these it’s not as good) (no no no no, take ALL of that back), along with albums from Fall Out Boy, Hurts and Biffy Clyro that I’ve been barely motivated to listen to besides the singles. hashtaguseless (#listentoalbumsbeforeyouratethem Opposites and Save Rock… are both awesome you pleb)
Caro Emerald and Janelle Monae also have followup albums that haven’t yet grabbed me as much as their previous masterpieces, despite holding on them some good songs (see, told you this would get repetitive if I dragged it on any longer), while Gabrielle Aplin releases an entirely decent first album that is very… pleasant listening. Oh, and Eminem turns up, with only the second album of his I’ve listened to, the other being the first part of the Marshall Mathers EP. This is good and I’m sure it’ll grow on me in time. I am trying my best to keep with the album format, but it is getting harder year on year and yet my iTunes continues to fill up with albums it takes me months to listen to fully.
GOOD. I’ve also linked a non-single highlight in each of these.
20. M.I.A – Matangi
Highlights: Bad Girls, Exodus, Double Bubble Trouble, Come Walk with Me
Having not yet listened to Maya but considering Kala one of my favourite albums ever, I would say this was one of the the most anticipated albums of the year for me, especially considering I was all over Bad Girls 18 months ago. Its late release has probably contributed to it being so comparatively low, I shouldn’t really compare it to Kala as I doubt she can ever match it now, but there are enough highlights for me to like, particularly the sultry sounds of Exodus and the fun of DBT. And as far as her sound goes, there’s no one doing it QUITE like her so it’s been a welcome addition to my 2013.
Highlights: Arabella, Snap Out Of It, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?, Do I Wanna Know?
This is actually the first Arctic Monkeys album I’ve invested in, partly because I, against all odds and the normally very reliable law of diminishing returns, really enjoyed their comeback this time round. More on the main singles in my EOY, but the sooner they realise they need to release Arabella the better. It’s not as energetic on the whole as their highs in singles from back in ancient times but nevertheless I’m very much enjoying the mature sounds and therefore the direction this has gone in.
Highlights: Timescape, rain ~A scene drenched in rain~, Sakura falling, Our Story
The only album by a Melodifestivalen act I’ve so far actually tried, mainly because I was wowed enough by Heartbreak Hotel in the competition. I had expected to like him anyway if slightly ironically because of his unique image, but when I heard that and then this subsequent album, what followed was not ironic at all. It’s really right up my street, by managing to capture his apparent love of Japanese culture matched with some great rock + Scandinavian sensibilities, if not the most polished attempt it certainly has some personality. Sakura, falling is incredible for his genre, lovely and tender, although he’s not afraid to rock out either as he shows on My Murderous Urge amongst others (Innocence is a little too heavy even for me I must say). The non-Heartbreak Hotel highlight though and one I keep coming back to is the piano instrumental Timescape, while the rest of this no one who isn’t a fan of rock will like, this will appeal to many I’m sure, at only 2 minutes it is completely different from everything else and evokes some really powerful feelings. (YOHIO is a beast and this is some pretty good emo-rock with a few hints of pop and a slightly Japanese tinge if you like that sort of thing)
Highlights: Strong, Nightcall, Metal & Dust, Help
London Grammar’s beautiful debut is next up. If at times a little minimalist, it’s actually a pretty good album from a very promising band. It is possibly a little too cohesive in that it’s all very much of a similar sound to each other but that sound is a nice one. I designate this my official chillout album of 2013, from the apt opening hook of Hey Now to the slow beautiful lilts in Nightcall and throughout, there is no word other than lovely.
Highlights: Banner, Heavy Rope, Cactus In The Valley, Where The Fence Is Low, Siberia
Rule #1 of an Izzy countdown: I will find a way to sneak Lights in there somewhere (or at least that used to be rule #1… I haven’t done it in a while but that’s because Lights hasn’t released new material, she’s still great). This time it’s her new acoustic album, which is essentially exactly what it says, most of the tracks you already know and love on Siberia given the acoustic treatment. This improves some of them and doesn’t work so well with others, it’s a mixed bag. Flux And Flow works quite a bit better in its original form, but Cactus In The Valley, Siberia and Where The Fence Is Low are remarkably stunning on acoustic. It is getting to the point where I’d really love new material from her but this is enough to tide me over until such eventuality is reached.
Highlights: I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, I Almost Do, Red, Everything Has Changed
At this point this almost reads like a list of Taylor Swift hits (and if it had stayed that way I’d have preferred it), it’s taken quite a while to grow on me which is why it’s survived the cull from 2012 to 2013 but I’m probably ready to declare this her best album now (it still is). Aside from 22, which got boring really quite fast, all the rest feel really fresh still, even after a whole year. The meld of country and pop is very much appreciated over here. The altrock-esque State Of Grace deserves special mention, as while it’s not quite among my highlights that I’ve listed up there, it’s lovely hearing the album open with a slightly different genre, one I adore very much and not one I’d expect from Taylor.
Highlights: Dark Horse, This Is How We Do, Ghost, International Smile
It may seem like I’m not supporting Katy that much this era, particularly after I was on board for nearly every attempt from Teenage Dream. And it is true that Roar and Unconditionally didn’t make my top 200 songs, Roar was just a bit plain and I couldn’t quite get round to Unconditionally in time, this is pretty strong album them aside. Most of it is very strong pop, and most of it manages to be interesting enough for me to like it. That’s all I want from a pop album, so while it’s one of the newest albums here it can still get pretty high. (2013 was kind of my limit with pop like this, which is why I actually got this, it’s pretty good but like, pop, so I don’t need any more of it)
Highlights: Under Control, Burn, Joy, My Blood, Figure 8, Stay Awake, Atlantis
This year I’ve become far more obsessed with Ellie Goulding than I was in 2013, so Halcyon gets to rechart (clever way to reinclude Ellie’s best album (with a mediocre rerelease)), along with the tracks off the Halcyon Days bit that I’ve gotten round to listening to. It’s almost all perfect. Her voice is so delicate, which just makes it better for carrying emotion and meaning, add that to the slightly darker themes of Halcyon compared to Bright Lights and you have the perfect indie-pop album. Only not higher because there are a few Halcyon Days tracks I haven’t gotten round to listening to yet, as much as I’m sure they are amazing, that’s a music problem that only Schrodinger can explain. EE EE EE EE.
Highlights: Radioactive, Demons, Selene, Underdog
Another alt-rock album to lay by the wayside, this is obviously Imagine Dragon’s very good debut. The good singles will show up later, but the non-single highlight is the very rhythmic and lovely Selene from off the deluxe edition. Their lead singer’s voice is very easy to listen to, there’s an edge to it where you can find that happy middle ground between too dull and plain, and too irritating (or the ‘Fray-alt-J’ spectrum). One of the nicest alt-rock allbums I’ve gotten in a while.
(oh, this an embarassing part, I think this is almost entirely because I had a huge crush on Selena Gomez at the time, which at this point, I think we could all say fair enough for a 20 year old to her 21, we’d have been a perfect couple. Ahem) Highlights: Undercover, Slow Down, Forget Forever, Save The DayI’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it many more times in the future, Undercover is the absolute dancefloor tune that needs to be released if Selena’s label have any sense. It’s incredible AND sounds like a smash. That aside, this is a good effort from Selena sans the Scene, the best Disney album this year, and of course I should follow that up by saying it’s the only one I’ve listened to, but like that actually matters when Ms Gomez is around. This didn’t quite go in my top 10 as it isn’t strong enough on its own to be anything more than a great pop album and in that instance I’d probably be only doing it for Selena rather than the actual music, but it’s a very lovely listen and if she continues to put out albums like this while continuing to be the most grounded of her generation as well as being my dream girl, that’s completely fine by me.
Things We Lost In The Fire: 8/10
Bad Blood: 9/10
These Streets: 9/10
Weight Of Living Pt II: 8/10
Daniel In The Den: 9/10
Laura Palmer: 9/10
Get Home: 7/10
Weight Of Living Pt 1: 8/10
The very consistent debut album from Bastille leaves me very satisfied as far as the future of alt rock goes. Most of the melodies are very interesting, there are some very strong album tracks among them and despite a slightly weaker middle section (given 7/10 on my four point scale) this is a lovely debut from a band that have been uncharacteristically big this year. Even though Pompeii is by far the standout, Flaws isn’t that far behind, Bad Blood and These Streets make for very good listening and former BJSC entries Overjoyed and Laura Palmer add a great degree of familiarity to help me ease into it. I used to think Bastille were the sort of band I’d never really love anything from, this album following on from Pompeii and giving a great structure for all the tracks to fit together has done much to change that.
Fast In My Car: 8/10
Grow Up: 9/10
Interlude: Moving On: 7/10
Ain’t It Fun: 9/10
Part II: 8/10
Last Hope: 8/10 (aww that’s far too low for the most beautiful ballad they’ve ever done)
Still Into You: 11/10
Interlude: Holiday: 7/10
Proof: 9/10 (9/10? this is the best song bar Still Into You on here, I guess it should be 10/10)
Hate To See Your Heart Break: 7/10
(One Of Those Crazy) Girls: 8/10
Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore: 6/10
Be Alone: 9/10
So… the new Paramore album. Ahhh… not as good as previous Paramore attempts, it is incredibly long which makes it harder to get into than Riot or Brand New Eyes and the interludes don’t help that perception (the interludes are a bit weak, but the rest of the album is solid and I’m eagerly awaiting them to put out another one PLEASE – they are probably one of the few acts left who I’ll pay attention to fully if they do that). However, Anklebiters is a whirlwind of an enjoyable track, Proof and Be Alone deliver what I want quite well, the first 4 tracks on the album are very lovely and of course Still Into You towers majestically above the rest. There’s something to like here definitely, but it’s not their best, however that is almost impossible to achieve when the aforementioned two albums exist, so that doesn’t mean it’s not good, just a bit of a comedown. However as per my Paramore stanning going up by quite a factor this year any album of theirs would easily make it to my top 10.
The Mother We Share: 10/10
We Sink: 8/10
Under The Tide: 7/10
Night Sky: 8/10
Science, Visions: 9/10
By The Throat: 10/10
You Caught The Light: 8/10
Strong Hand: 9/10
Again, I came in from last year not really loving CHVRCHES especially much, instead marking them down as a band I should really like but for whatever reason don’t. And then this changed a lot. I came round to The Mother We Share a lot more after it refused to grow on me back in 2012, and that opened the floodgates. Gun and By The Throat are similarly amazing. Recover and Strong Hand are almost there too. Lies is still the weakest thing they’ve put out but thankfully most of the rest of the album isn’t like this and is instead a 40-odd minute tribute to spreading electropop bliss. Very pleasant surprise of an album.
The Wire: 10/10
If I Could Change Your Mind: 8/10
Honey & I: 9/10
Don’t Save Me: 9/10
Days Are Gone: 9/10
My Song 5: 9/10
Go Slow: 7/10
Let Me Go: 7/10
Running If You Call My Name: 9/10
The Sound Of.. queens make it as far as #7. I had some expectations for this, as their singles did keep getting better and better and for the most part it didn’t disappoint. The first listen through was lovely and awesome but I didn’t find myself going back as much as I thought I would. The singles are still the highlights but as those ratings show, there’s a lot of 9/10s and ‘almost perfect’ songs on there to drive it up my rankings. I love their styling, there’s nothing QUITE like it on the market right now and they are very easy to love as a group.
Goodbye, Goodbye: 9/10
I Was A Fool: 11/10
I’m Not Your Hero: 10/10
Drove You Wild: 9/10
How Come You Don’t Want Me: 9/10
I Couldn’t Be Your Friend: 9/10
Love They Say: 8/10
Now I’m All Messed Up: 9/10
Shock To Your System: 9/10
Guilty As Charged: 7.5/10
I Run Empty: 7/10
So this is a product of me paying attention to Tegan & Sara this year and really really loving them a lot. While this is obviously their most pop work so far it works as well as I’d expect any indie-rock band dabbling in synthpop to do, wondrously. The melodies and little quirks in each of the songs are so heart-warming and lovely, Heartthrob is definitely the right title for this. It could perhaps use a few more themes over and above heartbreak but at least we have Closer for that, which is the main service the lead single plays to the album as it’s nowhere near the strongest on there, that going to Izzy-approved gems I Was A Fool and I’m Not Your Hero. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend deserves mention for getting me a little bit obsessed with the unique way their voices meld on it. I will definitely go and visit their earlier stuff sometime.
When A Fire Starts To Burn: 9/10
F For You: 10/10
White Noise: 10/10
Defeated No More: 9/10
Second Chance: 7/10
Grab Her!: 8/10
You & Me: 9/10
Confess To Me: 9/10
Help Me Lose My Mind: 9/10
What’s In Your Head: 7/10
Running (Disclosure Remix): 8/10
I suppose I did expect this one to be rather awesome as Disclosure are one of the freshest and most interesting chart acts in business at the moment. And I also suppose my main criticism of this album is the same as many others… it’s very long (even without my deluxe edition) and a lot of the tracks do feel anonymous, particularly the ones without a featuring artist. However when the highs hit this album shows the genius production skills of the duo off with great flare. The singles of course are high in my rankings through greater familiarity, but all of them are pretty great results of a song. January in particular is a standout from the centre of the album, helped in no small part by Jamie Woon’s lovely vocals (JANUARY, what a tune I’ve nearly forgotten about). And that’s the other theme that buoys this album up, the familiarity coupled with credibility of the featuring stars. Along with Woon, we have London Grammar, Jessie Ware and Ed MacFarlane and they’re not even the on the ones released to radio. This is excellent when I’m in the mood for.. anything.
Shave It: 9/10
Lost At Sea: 10/10
Fall Into The Sky: 8/10
Follow You Down: 9/10
A very very solid effort is up next with the other dance album in the top 5. In contrast to Disclosure who are all about the subtlety, Zedd specialises in making very loud and cool house instrumentals that build very noisily, and then blow up in your face at just the right moment. I often prefer the loud and brazen. And after a whole album of this it’s almost impossible not to have been left in awe at least once. Follow You Down, Lost At Sea and Spectrum do try their best to compete for the best vocals laid against one of Zedd’s instrumentals but naturally the big one here is the title track, while Shave It, Codec, Stache and Epos are engaged in a different kind of competition, as they’re mostly Zedd solo and therefore there is an entirely different feel among them. Shave It just wins out for some cracking drops or whatever dance terms are appropriate. There’s a reason I don’t often put one, let alone two complicated dance albums this high, I am very unused to listening to a full album of the genre and am therefore a little shaky on all the terminology (and still am even though I do count dance as a genre I tend to like) (and Guetta’s albums shouldn’t really count because that’s BASIC stuff), but when the output is this good I’m not going to stay away.
You Know You Like It: 8/10
Attracting Flies: 11/10
Your Drums, Your Love: 10/10
Kaleidoscope Love: 9/10
Bad Idea: 9/10
Lost And Found: 10/10
Best Be Believing: 9/10
Just A Touch: 9.5/10
Body Music: 9/10
Friends To Lovers: 8.5/10
This Is How We Dot It: 8.5/10
We Are Chosen: 8/10
Watching Over You: 8.5/10
Put Up Your Hands: 8/10
B Ur Boo: 8/10
My top 3 albums are so close together; which means this stunning (underrated) album was so nearly at the top. It is however the highest debut album in here as the top 2 are both sophomore efforts, and shows that AlunaGeorge should have a bright future among the electronic scene if they continue making stuff like this. Aside from the ‘just a little too near irritating earworm territory’ You Know You Like It (probably their most famous song as well, it’s alright but it’s far from their best) the entire standard album is nearly flawless. Aluna’s voice is absolutely the main selling point, it manages to convey exactly the right sort of sultry tones while remaining slightly vulnerable too. Not to slight George’s production skills either, it’s almost as good as Disclosure’s. It is very hard to pick tracks that standout from the crowd here but of course we have last year’s brilliant Your Drums Your Love which continues to be one of the best things about them, the energetic Lost And Found, and the very positive duo of Best Be Believing and Superstar in the latter half of the album. A very consistent album that was everything I had expected of it following a killer set of songs available before the album, from YD, YL to Attracting Flies, Diver and Just A Touch.
(Oh yes, this. Let’s just get this over with shall we?)
Little Me: 10/10
Nothing Feels Like You: 9.5/10
These Four Walls: 9/10
About The Boy: 9.5/10
Good Enough: 8.5/10
Mr Loverboy: 9/10
A Different Beat: 9.5/10
See Me Now: 8.5/10
They Just Don’t Know You: 8/10
Stand Down: 10/10
WELL. If you thought I was getting ridiculous with my scores before (I did), brace yourselves (why would you do this). A massive step-up from their debut (I’ll give you that, that’s correct), Little Mix have come into their own so much with this followup I will be proud to say I like them to almost anyone, because with harmonies this tight and songs this polished, there is very little to be embarrassed about (I would say you’re completely wrong). For once we have an absolute gem of a track saved until last to close the deluxe edition (the unplugged edition of Little Me notwithstanding) as Stand Down never stops for 3 minutes and 39 seconds, and every one of those is bliss. Coming inbetween two very popular ballads I often feel as though Competition gets overlooked but it is a very powerful track in its own right and my favourite after the two singles and the aforementioned Stand Down. About The Boy and A Different Beat are similarly fierce, and while Salute only really works in the context of the album, leading into two of the best tracks of the year it is SOLID as an opener. This album should really revolutionize RnB-influenced girlband pop, and in years to come it will. Mark my words (cringe). Before this I was semi-agnostic about their music despite loving them as people. Now I’m fully converted.
Afterlife: 10/10 (always my go to song for a proper exciting wake up call)
The Nexus: 10/10
Theory Of Everything: 9/10
Burn With Me: 9.5/10 (BALLAD)
Mechanical Illusion: 9.5/10
Razorblade: 11/10 (don’t regret this, it definitely deserves the attention)
Future On Hold: 10/10
So yes, my #1 album of 2013 goes to the pop-melded-with-metal band I’ve been raving about ever since… April. This did take its time to grow on me, after discovering Amaranthine I sampled the album on iTunes and it didn’t sound that impressive so I left it for a bit. Then I got it and from there on it has been ever upwards for this soaring and rollercoaster ride of an album like no other. Afterlife opens up the album with a rip-roaring tide of energy, followed by single The Nexus, tender ballad Burn With Me, ultimate highlight Razorblade, the power chorus on Future On Hold, etc etc. It filled with strong pop hooks on great rock songs and I really can’t recommend it more.
Admittedly, yes, like on Amaranthine there is a harsh metal vocalist, and he does appear more frequently here than on that song, but his appearances only serve to heighten the energy of the track before Elize Ryd’s great voice (or her clean vocalled male bandmember) hits on the chorus or wherever, and I know her voice appeals to many people here. As someone who hated all harsh vocals before this, I even look forward to his now, they work in the context of this album. If you aren’t a fan of rock you may not like it anyway but the pop hooks are too good to be ignored. If nothing else at least listen to Burn With Me as that one is harsh-free (and none are dominated by him).