Unlike all my other year end lists for 2013, I decided to keep my favourite albums list to the same number as 2012. Not because there wasn't a lot of really great albums put out this year, but more because I feel quite confident about the positioning of these 5, but if I were to try and move things up to 10 albums, the decisions on ordering and who gets in and who gets left out gets far too complicated. And one can only think so much about these end of year lists before it all becomes a bit too much. Plus, I got Christmas presents that still need sorting out.
I feel pretty good about the final order, although my top 3 albums have been changing positions in my head for the past few weeks. They are definitely my favourite 3 albums this year, but consider their ordering amongst each other fairly loose. My number 4 is definitely my number 4, and after a lot of consideration (i.e. re-listening to a lot of albums this month) I feel quite fine about the album that beat out a lot of other challengers for the final number 5 spot.
And here they are…
MCII by Mikal Cronin / If there was one album this year that made me wish I had a car — not for everyday commuting, but for the sole purpose of being able to get on a highway and blast some music with the windows down— it was definitely this one. Songs like ‘Shout It Out’ just feel a bit out of place when you're sitting on a bus in overcast Nottingham. Although, even though I am totally car-less, that hasn't stopped me from enjoying the hell out of this album. I just think that I would enjoy it even more if I could listen to it in it's natural habitat (i.e. car stereo, windows down on a hot summer day). The closest I got do doing that was having it in my headphones while sitting in a shuttle bus in Portugal (the windows were down, but that had more to do with it being a bit stuffy from having to share the ride with a bunch of mouth-breathers from England). Long story short: try and get this record into your nearest car stereo and if that's not possible, than at least make sure you listen to it with sunglasses on. \
Impossible Truth by William Tyler / Every now and again, it seems music blogs like to debate about how either “guitar music is dead” or “guitar music is totally not dead”. Which is fine I guess, but they never seem to cite an album like this in the debate (it's always about the existence or non-existence of 3 twenty-somethings playing indie-rock). Which is odd, as this album is almost exclusively “guitar music”. And it's really amazing “guitar music” as well. I was into this album after the first spin, but it's been repeated spins that has seen it climb the most in my internal list of favourites. It somehow managed to keep getting better and better with each listen (especially after seeing this live take and having a whole new layer of appreciation added on top), and it has become my favourite thing to put on when in need of a soundtrack for that first cup of coffee at work. Long live “guitar music”. \
Love's Crushing Diamond by mutual benefit / This album is simply amazing. Every time I put it on, I am still finding myself surprised by just how heart-achingly beautiful it is. And I've listened to it a hundred times already, so I'm not sure why I keep getting surprised by how good it is. I guess it's just not that often that you come across an album that plays from front-to-back so perfectly as this one does. Each track is a gem, but the true gem-ness of this album is revealed when you listen to them one after another. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is seeing how Jordan has totally cracked the extremely hard to crack Pitchfork nut, and was not only named their Best New Music, but also landed on their 50 best albums of 2013 list. I mean, it's not “surprising” surprising, as the album is amazing and totally deserving of being recognized, it's just “unexpected” surprising to see someone you're friends with on Facebook get properly recognized by our generations biggest tastemaker. Gives a little hope to all those amazing artists floating on the fringes of mainstream recognition. \
Muchacho by Phosphorescent / This album has been a guarantee for my top 5 from the moment I first listened to it back in March. There was just no way that 2013 was going to be able to provide five more records that sounded better than this one. Hands down it's the album that I've played the most this year, and I'm not even close to being tired of it. There is something just really uplifting and hypnotic about Muchacho. Maybe it's how the songs tend to lock into one groove and not really bother with that whole verse-chorus-bridge-as-noticably-separate-things thing. Or maybe it's just that Matthew Houck really hit it out of the park on this record, as it's the best things he's done yet (and considering how good his previous output is, that's saying a lot). I also think that this album had the cover art that most matched the vibe of the record. \
Sundowning at the Station by Doc Feldman & the LD50 / If you've read your way down to here, or if you've spent time on this website before, you've probably realized that I'm not that great at writing about music outside of stating the fact that I like it (I imagine I am also not very good at dancing about architecture). Well, I really like this album. It's hard for me to pin point exactly why it has hit so hard with me, but it has. I've seen a lot of people describe ‘Sundowning at the Staion’ as being “dark” (even I said that it “soaks over you like an after work glass of whiskey, slowly slipped in an empty, dark room”), but I think “dark” is the wrong word to focus on (as it implies that the album is a bit depressing and I think it's the exact opposite of that). I get where the “dark” comes from, but perhaps “honest” is a better word to use. When something is as honest as this album, it hits on thoughts and feelings you keep buried deep inside. And it can be a bit dark on the inside (both metaphorically and literally), but that's also where things are the truest… and this album cuts its way straight there, every time. And no other record this year hit me as deep as this one. \
So there you have it, my 5 favourite albums from 2013. I could easily have extended this list, or added in a bunch of “honourable mentions*”, but not matter how big a list gets, someone always gets left off. Plus, I think it's best to keep a list where you talk a little about each release to a reasonable number, as there are only so many ways to re-word “I liked it a lot”. But if you're curious as to what else caught my ear this year, I suggest you put on one of my Favourite Tracks Of 2013 mixes, as they're chock full of honourable mentions (PART 1 blog post / PART 2 blog post / PART 3 blog post still to come). My Favourite EP's Of 2013 is also worth perusing if you happen to be on the lookout for sweet tunes.
* although, one honourable mention that should be given is to the A Singer Of Songs album that came out on HI54LOFI RECORDS this year… I obviously couldn't have included it on the above list without that seeming a bit cheeky, but as you can imagine, that record meant a lot to me this year (it's not ever day that you get to put something out on vinyl)