Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Flynndie Reviews: #41 - Top 10 Albums of 2013

Written 4th December 2013:

So as another year draws to a close, I’ve decided to compile my personal favourite Indie and Alternative albums from the past 12 months and list my selections here, highlighting the albums I found myself listening to the most over the course of the year.  For me 2013 has generally been a steady year for fans of Indie music, which in particular has seen many ‘big hitters’ return with either their 3rd, 4th or 5th album furthering their sounds but also in a few cases there have been some great new bands arrive on the scene with some debut albums to look out for in case you may have missed them earlier this year.

So put on your dancing shoes and pack your air guitars as we head out on tour and check out 10 of the top albums from 2013!

#10. Parlour Flames – Parlour Flames (Released 20th May - Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #38 – 7/10)

May saw the release of Parlour Flames debut album of the same name, featuring former-Oasis guitarist Bonehead teaming up with singer, song-writer, poet, Vinny Peculiar.  As I previously said when I reviewed this record, those expecting guitar-rock in the style of Oasis because of the Bonehead-connection would be way off the mark.  What we had here, was a jolly, charming record with light-hearted, chilled melodies laced with witty, tongue-in-cheek lyrics from Vinny (‘Sunday Afternoon’, ‘Pop Music, Football and Girls’) to more guitar-scuzzy tracks (‘Get in the Van’) brilliantly swaggering Indie-pop (‘Manchester Rain’) and a couple of psychedelic numbers (‘Jump the Brook Ruth’, ‘Broken Hearted Existentialist’) in all making this a nice, chilled and witty debut record from the Manchester duo.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Manchester Rain’, ‘Get in the Van’, ‘Jump the Brook Ruth’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Pop Music, Football and Girls’ -  

#9. Editors – The Weight of Your Love (Released 1st July – Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #39 – 7/10)

2013 saw Editors return with their much-anticipated 4th studio album ‘The Weight of Your Love’.  Returning with excellent comeback single ‘A Ton of Love’, this track was pure guitar-pop and hinted at the band’s return to a large guitar-based sound as opposed to the more electronic sound of their 3rd record ‘In This Light and On This Evening’.  And while the new album did feature some more traditional Editors guitar-based tracks (‘The Weight’, ‘Formaldehyde’) the album featured much more thoughtful, deeper ballads by the band backed with string sections (‘Honesty’, ‘What is this thing called love?’) to piano-driven tracks (‘Two Hearted Spider’) with passionate and high-pitched vocals from lead-singer Tom Smith being a feature throughout the record.  This is probably the most soft, caring and tender album by Editors to-date.

Recommended Tracks: ‘The Weight’, ‘Honesty’, ‘Formaldehyde’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘A Ton of Love’ -  

#8. Nick Mulvey – Fever to the Form EP (Released 17th June)

Over the summer I managed to catch an X-FM Xposure night at the Camden Barfly.  3rd act on the bill that night was a guy called Nick Mulvey and what followed over the next 20-25 minutes was one of the most amazing acoustics sets I've seen!  With well-written and beautifully structured acoustic melodies influenced by Latin finger-picking and African rhythms, Nick has quite a unique, chilled, flowing sound that I’ve not heard too often and this EP really captures his style and sound well.  In particular if you like Ben Howard, I would certainly recommend to check out some of Nick’s material and really think this guy could become quite a success over the next 12 months; I can’t recommend the opportunity to try and catch him live enough though!

Recommended Tracks: ‘Juramidam’ 
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Fever to the Form’ -

#7. Miles Kane – Don’t Forget Who You Are (Released 31st May)

The end of May saw Miles Kane release his 2nd-solo album ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’.  Featuring a great collection of tight Indie-rock tracks, with big sing-along choruses (‘Taking Over’, Better Than That’, ‘Give Up’), to some retro Indie-pop (‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’) to dreamy, acoustic tracks (‘Fire in my Heart’)  this is another fine effort from the young Scouse Mod.  A more full-on and rocky album than Miles debut effort ‘Colour of the Trap’, for me this record builds a lot on his song-writing style and in my opinion tops his fine debut album as well, with a catchy, up-beat Indie record.  If you can I’d recommend picking up the special edition version of the album as it features 3 excellent bonus tracks ‘Start of Something Big’, ‘Caught in the Act’ and ‘First of my Kind’ which help build on an already fine record.

Recommended Songs: ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’, ‘Better Than That’, ‘Give Up’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Taking Over’ -

#6. Red Kite – Songs for Crow (Released 5th November)

A great new band I came across in 2013 was London-based 6-piece Red Kite, fronted by former-Cooper Temple Clause guitarist Dan Fisher and also being notable for featuring two-drummers in the band.  ‘Songs for Crow’ was originally released back in May for those that pre-ordered the album via Pledge Music while November saw a general release for the album, which was a fine blend of Alt-Rock.  Featuring some great alternative guitar-pop with fantastic guitar-hooks (‘The Gathering Storm’, ‘Montreal’) to dark, brooding, Indie-rock (‘Red Blooded Males’) to the more stripped-down, poignant acoustic numbers (‘Songs for Crow’, ‘No Painter of Note’) this a dark, thoughtful record with a lot of heart and care poured into it, particularly in the lyrics, creating a unique Alt-Rock sound for the band Red Kite and a band I’m looking forward to hearing more from in the future.

Recommended Tracks: ‘The Gathering Storm’, ‘Poltergeist’, ‘Red Blooded Males’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Montreal’ -  

#5. Johnny Marr – The Messenger (Released 22nd February)

2013 was also the year that former-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr surprised many by releasing his debut solo-album ‘The Messenger’ after previously playing guitar full-time with many other bands including The Cribs and Modest Mouse.  And in my opinion the long wait for a solo album from Mr Marr was well worth it as ‘The Messenger’ was a fine guitar record.  With a fine blend of cool, swaggering Indie (‘The Right Thing Right’, ‘Upstarts’) catchy, upbeat and urgent tracks (‘I Want the Heartbeat, ‘Generate! Generate!)’, to the baggy album title-track (‘The Messenger’) and the excellent, jangly and very Smiths-esque (‘New Town Velocity’) overall made this a very cool, understated and enjoyable record from the Manchester guitar legend.

Recommended Songs: ‘Upstarts’, ‘The Messenger’, ‘Generate! Generate!’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘New Town Velocity’ - 

#4. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (Released 26th August)

Late summer saw the return of Scottish art-popsters Franz Ferdinand with their 4th album ‘Right Thoughts’.  Returning with the jazzy, upbeat and incredibly catchy comeback single ‘Love Illumination’, it was an early indication that Franz were set to release an upbeat, pop record and in my opinion this album was a fine return to form for them.  Packed with some funky and danceable tracks (‘Love Illumination’, ‘Stand on the Horizon’), to some pure Indie-pop (‘Right Action’, ’Fresh Strawberries’), some more familiar, fast and urgent Franz Ferdinand (‘Bullet’), while recent “spooky” single ‘Evil Eye’ was the perfect sound-track for Halloween parties everywhere, ‘Right Thoughts’ was one of 2013’s most pleasant surprises for me.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Right Action’, ‘Love Illumination’, ‘Evil Eye’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Stand on the Horizon’ -

#3. The Strokes – Comedown Machine (Released 25th March - Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #36 – 7/10)

March saw the return of one of New York’s finest, The Strokes, with their 5th studio album ‘Comedown Machine’.  The last couple of Strokes albums had been a bit more experimental with their sound and so was the case with ‘Comedown Machine’.  Packing in a range of different styles from opening track ‘Tap Out’ flirting with retro guitar-sounds, to dabbling with 70’s disco (‘Welcome to Japan’), to guitars sounding like synths backed with falsetto vocals (‘One Way Trigger’), garage-rock (‘50/50’) to more familiar sounding Indie-pop Strokes tracks (‘All the Time’, ‘Partners in Crime’), and finally closing with ‘Call It Fate, Call It Karma’, probably the most bizarre Strokes track to-date yet strangely compelling at the same time; overall this lead to a great sounding and interesting record in my opinion which has certainly been a grower for me more with each listen over the past 12 months.

Recommended Tracks: ‘All the Time’, ‘One Way Trigger’, ‘Welcome to Japan’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Partners in Crime’ -  

#2. Arctic Monkeys – AM (Released 9th September – Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews #40 – 8/10)

Possibly the most anticipated album of 2013 was Arctic Monkey’s 5th album ‘AM’ and in fairness the Arctic’s delivered another solid record to build on their ever-expanding hits-list.  We had already had an early preview of ‘AM’ with the excellent riff-heavy single ‘R U Mine’ and this was followed by ‘Do I Wanna Know’ driven by another ballsy guitar-riff at the heart of it.  ‘AM’ also featured some 70’s glam-rock (‘I Want It All’), stripped-down, dreamy ballads (‘No 1 Party Anthem’, ‘Mad Sounds’) to the semi-acoustic (‘Fireside’) and even a couple of hip-hop and prog-rock influenced tracks (‘Arabella’, ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’).  Finishing the year with an Arena tour, 2013 was yet another successful year for the boys from the Steel City.

Recommended Tracks: ‘Do I Wanna Know?’, ‘Arabella’, ‘Fireside, ‘Snap Out of It’

Personal Favourite Track: ‘R U Mine’ -

Arctic Monkeys played a triumphant set at Earls Court back in October
#1. Primal Scream – More Light (Released 13th May)

So maybe a little bit of a surprise at the #1 spot but for me ‘More Light’ by Primal Scream has to be my most listened to record of the year.  I was lucky enough to catch the band at this year’s iTunes Festival and before the gig I decided to check out their latest record and I’m sure glad I did.  Featuring a great collection, of 13 distinct and differing tracks, there is a real variety of sounds on this album in particular but crucially what we have here are some brilliantly-written tracks throughout.  From psychedelic and trippy (‘River of Pain’, ‘Hello Johnny’), to some deliciously dirty and vicious guitar-rock (‘Hit Void’, ‘Sideman’) to the understated and beautifully-calm (‘Tenement Kid’) and also thrown in are some big sounding, distinctly Primal Scream-style singles (‘2013’, ‘Invisible City’, It’s Alright, It’s Ok’) and overall this all adds up to a great, alternative-rock album and for me this is Primal Scream’s best record since 2000’s classic ‘XTRMNTR’ and well worth checking out.

Recommended Songs: ‘Hit Void’, ‘Tenement Kid’, ‘Sideman’, ‘It’s Alright, It’s OK’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Invisible City’ -  

Bobbie Gillespie 'rocks' a pink-suit as Primal Scream played the iTunes Festival at The Roundhouse in September 

So that covers my favourite albums of 2013, many thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any recommendations of records for me to check out as well, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section below or send them across on Twitter.

Here’s to more Alternative, Indie and Rock music in 2014!