Sunday, 29 December 2013

Top 20 of 2013


I've given up on writing a new intro for this post as last year's is fine so I've lazily lifted it and reposted here...

So below is my Top 20 of 2013.  A few words before you continue...

You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.  But before you grumble to yourself or tell me I'm an idiot, try and do this yourself.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.  You can find the Top 20 of 2011 and the Top 20 of 2012 by following the links.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good playlist.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroooOwl and tag your posts #top20of2013

1.  Jubilee Street - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Push The Sky Away)   There are a few albums from this year where picking one song above the others is a really tough ask, and the latest offering from Nick Cave is one of those albums.  This was one of my early favourites and so just edged it, but Mermaids or Higgs Boson Blues could have edged it.  Great tune to start things off.

2.  Picasso Baby - Jay Z (Magna Carter Holy Grail)   Probably one of those tracks/artists that you either love or hate which is a perfectly reasonable point of view.  I think MCHG is a pretty solid album but I particularly love this one.  If you have the time to spare, watching this YouTube video where Jay Z talks about music as art is well worth 11 minutes of your time

3.  Diane Young - Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City)   Vampire Weekend are one of those bands that I love for a multitude of reasons (off the wall lyrics, unique sound, incredible vocals) and whilst there new album didn't quite hit the same heights for me as the previous two, this is incredibly catchy

4.  Best Of Friends - Palma Violets (180)   Guitar music at some of its best, great music and catchy lyrics you can't help but sing at the top of your voice.  A great summer tune to have blaring out in the car with all the windows down.

5. Love SpellsBleached (Ride Your Heart)   I can't remember where I heard about Bleached from but this album is one of the catchiest I've heard all year.  This is another one where there are a bucket-load of summery songs to go through.  It's all very familiar sounding music but that's definitely not a bad thing.  Love Spells is my favourite off the album.

6.  Falling - Haim (Days Are Gone)   I'd venture that it's likely you've only not come across Haim if you've been living under a rock or something similar this year.  A rare album where the Hit Parade and I agree - a belter from start to finish.  I could have probably picked any track to make the final 20, but this is my favourite.

7.  Please Don't Say You Love Me - Gabrielle Aplin (English Rain)   I picked this up fairly late in the year but I struggle to get this tune out of my head once I've listened to it (and not in a bad way).  I also really liked November from the album so if you like this, I'd check that out too.

8.  Strong - London Grammar (If You Wait)   Another album I didn't get round to until about November time for some reason or other.  I watched them perform on Later... on BBC2 and was immediately sucked in.  Strong has an odd blend of a Florence & The Machine mixed with Massive Attack that's a bit too difficult to explain.  Definitely one of my favourite tracks of the year without a doubt.

9.  Color Yr Lights In - The Besnard Lakes (Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO)   A strange one this.  Most of the album can pass you by quite easily unless you're specifically listening to it and doing nothing else.  The first time I listened to it, I was preoccupied with other things until this track came on, when I stopped everything.  It's probably a good album to have on late at night, but this song is really good.

10.  Pink Rabbits - The National (Trouble Will Find Me)   This is definitely in my top 5 albums of the year - it's brilliant from start to finish quite frankly.  Pink Rabbits is basically some of the best lyrics you can imagine, stitched together with some wonderful piano (which I can't seem to learn).  I can't urge you strongly enough to listen to this one.

11.  Waiting On The Doorstep - Filthy Boy (Smile That Won't Go Down)  I'll be up front and say that this is what you'd class as a but of a "comedy" song which normally wouldn't get a look in on a list such as this.  The problem is that this is so funny and catchy that you'd can't help yourself.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for children but give it a listen - I'll say nothing more so I don't spoil it.

12.  Van Der Graff - Courteeners (Anna)  Anna is (in my humble opinion) a much improved effort compared to the Falcon album of 2010 which is a good start.  Sadly it does tail off a little after the first half for me but the opening tracks are Liam Fray at his best.  Van Der Graff's lyric about "splitting up like the A57" is fantastic and I do love this song. 

13.  So Good At Being In Trouble - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (II)   I heard this very early on in the year and I've played it for just about everyone I've talked to about music since.  The album is good too but there's something so funky about this track that I really love - soulful and laid back is how I'd best describe it.

14.  You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover - The Strypes (Snapshot)   If you like raucous guitar music then The Strypes are definitely for you.  The album has a bit of a 1950s feel to it in places which is frankly wonderful.  Again, I struggled to pick a track for the shortlist but this one is pretty simple, and simple is often the best.  Great song.

15.  Cut Copy Me - Petula Clark (Lost In You)   It came as a bit of a surprise to me that Petula Clark was still recording anything to be honest.  The album is a.... bit of an assortment I think.  Hearing an 81 year old covering Gnarls Barkley isn't an everyday occurrence (and not something I'd necessarily recommend) but Cut Copy Me is fantastic.  Next To You is also a great track (and sounds oddly like a Eurovision entry) and also worth a listen.

16.  Breakfast At Sylvia's - Skint & Demoralised (The Bit Between The Teeth)   It greatly saddened me to hear that Skint & Demoralised won't be recording albums after this, the third and final installment.  I think the third album is the best they recorded and whilst Breakfast At Sylvia's may not technically be the best track on the album (the sheer passion and honesty in Amores Perros probably takes that title), I do love it and it's one of my all time favourite Skint & Demoralised songs.

17.  Happy To Stay - the Michael Ainsley Band (Cyclone)   I've seen the Michael Ainsley Band a few times this year, doing support at local venues in Wakefield.  They've got a pretty catchy repertoire which is no bad thing either.  Happy To Stay reminds me a little of some early Green Day (not sure if that's what they were going for but it's nothing but a compliment).  A great song to jump around to.

18.  Further Away (Romance Police) - Lissie (Back To Forever)   Lissie's album is quite frankly brilliant and it's matched by her live performance.  I saw her in Manchester this year and I've rarely seen anyone perform with as much passion as she did.  The title track to this album is exceptional but it's just edged out by this.  The guitar solo reminds me of Fleetwood Mac (though I'm sure someone would tell me I'm mistaken)

19.  Better Than That - Miles Kane (Don't Forget Who You Are)   Another entry for anthemic guitar music which is no bad thing.  This album has some absolute belters on it but this one stands out just above the others for me.  The lyric "Maybe it's the time and place / Or maybe it's your stupid face / That's turning me on" is a particular favourite of mine.

20.  Snap Out Of It - Arctic Monkeys (AM)   Another year and another Arctic Monkeys track on the shortlist.  I think this year it'd be difficult to accuse me of local bias as AM is, by general consensus, the album of 2013.  I'll save my gushing praise and let you read any of the reviews (or better, just listen to it!) before you make your mind up.  As with Nick Cave and a few others, it was almost impossible to pick a favourite off AM.  I was mostly torn between No 1 Party Anthem and this tune, but because I sing this one with my daughter, I've decided to pick this.  Definitely the toughest choice of the whole shortlist.

As with last year, there's some music I've been disappointed in and some other good albums that didn't make the cut.  Kurt Vile's new album fell a little short of my expectations following the debut offering of Smoke Ring For My Halo in 2011.  Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but I just maybe expected too much.  Kanye West's album grew on me the more I listened to it, but still fell a little short for me.    Daughter missed the final 20 by a short length, as did Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Sacrilige.  And for some pop whimsy, check out Cody Simpson's La Da Dee (from Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2).

The "award" for my Album of the Year this year goes to Arctic Monkeys.  AM is a superb LP in my opinion.   This is the link to the Google search for "AM Review" - pick one at random and read it.  And then listen to the album again and again and again.

I've added another new category for 2013 which is Live Performance Of The Year.  If I'd not been criminally ill on the night of the AM gig (something I don't like to talk about), I suspect Arctic Monkeys would have been walking away with this one too.  As it happens, seeing Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at Manchester Apollo completely blew me away so I think they win hands down.  You must try and see them if you get chance,

If you made it this far, then thanks for reading.  Hopefully you'll find something new you've not heard before.



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