It surely has been a stellar year of musical delight, wouldn’t you reckon? Our library has grown exponentially and we’re certainly better people because of it, so to recap on the year that was the two-oh-one-three, we've compiled a Top 20 Best Albums from the year gone by. Set these goodies to shuffle and bring on the twenty fourteen maadness!
20. Grouplove - Spreading Rumours
It’s been two years since Grouplove released their debut album and they have returned to us in 2013 with the incredibly catchy Spreading Rumours. This album is literally just one catchy hook after another. There isn’t one dull moment to speak of; personal favourites being “Raspberry” and “Shark Attack”. While this one may not make it onto many top lists, I think this is the sleeper album of the year.
19. Charli XCX - True Romance
The other contender for the title of dance pop princess of 2013 is of course Charli XCX, who at the ripe old age of 21 has also released one of the best pop albums of the year. After being prominently featured on Icona Pop’s “I Love It (I Don’t Care)” in 2012, Charli XCX dropped True Romance and the rest was history.
18. James Blake - Overgrown
James Blake's first album came out of nowhere and blew people away with it's unique sound and the fact that an extremely experimental album could be so incredibly catchy. The question was whether James Blake could continue to wow us now that we were familiar with his brand of experimental electro R&B. All of those questions were answered with his sophomore release, Overgrown. The album is just as moody and emotional as his first release but on this one we see Blake expanding his musical horizons even further. Hey there's even a rap track featuring Wu-Tang's RZA.
17. Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
Out of nowhere early in 2013 came Chance The Rapper with his second mixtape album, Acid Rap. Having only released one mixtape the year before in his senior year of high school, in 2013, at only 20 years of age, Chance catapulted himself into the mix of what has been a great year for rap. Comparing this album to the other top rap releases this year, it rings as much more listenable than Kanye’s Yeezus and a lot more fun that Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky’s releases. Does it top Drake’s Nothing Was the Same? That’s a matter of personal opinion. The one thing I know is that there’s a new name in the rap game, and it’s Chance.
16. Stromae - Racine Carrée
One of the most interesting and intriguing artists to emerge in the last few years is Belgian musician Stromae. While Racine Carrée isn’t his first release, this is the album that has announced Stromae’s arrival on the global music stage. The album was number 1 all over Europe and even charted in Canada. Due to the fact that Stromae sings and raps in French I’m not sure how quickly Americans will pick him up, but they are really missing out on a special talent. And what’s most impressive is that he wrote and produced the album himself, which is something we don’t see that often these days. New to Stromae? Watch this.
15. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Arcade Fire, the grand-masters of hype building, suspense, secrecy and probably the one band on this list capable of whipping their fans into a frenzy of excitement beyond all rational sense. Many months before its official release the band began on promotional campaign like I've never seen before. A campaign which included playing secret shows under a different band name at salsa clubs. Noel Gallager can diss them all he wants (jealousy perhaps?) What won't change is that the odd-ball Montreal group have not only released one of the best albums of the year, but one of the best of their illustrious career.
14. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
It was a year of very strong debuts, as 2013 was also the year that brought us Glasgow, Scotland's Chvrches; and boy are we glad to have them in our lives. Lauren Mayberry's almost childlike voice soars over incredibly catchy electro pop all over this extremely strong debut LP. They picked a perfect time to release this one too, as it served as the perfect summer album for a lot of people (but hey it's winter and it still sounds incredible!)
13. The Strokes - Comedown Machine
The Strokes have had their ups and downs as a band. Their first two albums were incredible. Their next two had fans scratching their heads a bit. Then with the amount of Strokes members making music with side projects it appeared that the Strokes day in the sun was over. Then came Comedown Machine, and just like that the boys were back. Can we rank Comedown Machine up there with the band's first two releases? I'm not so sure. But it's definitely close!
12. Disclosure - Settle
Is it just me or are kids getting more talented at younger ages these days. It seems unfathomable that 20 and 23 year old brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence could possess not only but the talent but the maturity to create the masterpiece that is their debut album, Settle. An album that has just been nominated for a Grammy for best dance album at the 2014 Grammy awards, and let's face it, it's probably going to win. Althought Daft Punk could have something to say about that.
11. Tegan & Sara: Heartthrob
It's no secret that we love Tegan & Sara. With the help of Emy Storey we designed a t-shirt with them and together raised loads of money for a great cause. But that aside, these identical twin ladies are a pair of great musicians who sure know how to write a catchy pop song. Heartthrob is a testament to their prolific output. Once you hear I Was A Fool, you'll be married to that song for at least a week.
10. Joseph Arthur - The Ballad of Boogie Christ
Joseph Arthur was one of the first artists to submit a t-shirt design, way back in 2006. And yet, after this many years later he's still making great records. The Ballad of Boogie Christ might be his best one yet. This double album masterpiece is, as he puts it, "...a big production with horns and soul singers; a psychedelic soul record about redemption and what happens after you find it and lose it." Watch him here, performing on Leno.
9. Kavinsky - OutRun
We first discovered Kavinsky after his song "Nightcall" was featured in the 2011 film, Drive. We were pleasantly surprised after hearing the rest of his incredible debut album, with songs that are all reminiscent of the electro-pop film soundtracks of the 1980's.
8. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
2013 saw the release of Vampire Weekend’s long awaited follow up to their 2010 release, Contra. The band teased this one for a long time before the album’s release, offering up videos for arguably the albums best two tracks, "Diane Young" and the ethereal “Step". VW have a knack for keeping things interesting while not messing with the original recipe. Modern Vampires doesn’t sound all that different from their previous releases, but they have changed up just enough to keep us guessing.
7. I Am Kloot - Let It All In
I Am Kloot have been around since 1999 and yet even after years of consistent output, 'Let It All In' might be the very pinnacle of their career. A solid album, produced by Guy Garvey and Craig Potter of Elbow - this is one of the best and easily the most underrated records of the year.
6. Johnny Flynn - Country Mile
After releasing two critically acclaimed albums and a film score, Johnny Flynn returns this year with Country Mile; a fantastically well-crafted third record, with layered instrumentations and hauting back-up vocals from start to finish. It's amazing to hear that young Johnny Flynn is still improving his craft. He's also actor by the way, having featured in multiple stage plays, including Jerusalem, Richard the Third and Twelfth night. He's also starring in an upcoming film called Song One, appearing as Anne Hathaway's love interest. Look out for this guy...
5. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
After 14 years together and having produced six studio albums, these rockstar veterans have finally secured their place in the sun. The band is in a different place from when they first started; with families, small children and career stability. All of this has resulted with a more subdued sound, which is - as Matt Berninger (lead vocalist) puts it - more visceral, immediate, and infantile. It's been a slow and steady build up, but this year the band's effort has finally paid off, earning them a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. Finally, the wide-spread recognition that they deserve. Check out their YBP charity tee here.
4. Lorde - Pure Heroine
The youngest artist on this year’s top list is (you guessed it) New Zealand 16 year old pop princess, Lorde, who burst onto the scene in 2013 and quickly became one of the biggest names in the music world, being heralded by the mainstream and indie scenes alike. Lorde was signed to Universal at 13 years old and for 3 years they honed her sound and image, yielding the poised and talented beyond her years Lorde we see before us today. Don’t let yourself be dissuaded by the played to death “Royals”. Listen to the rest of the album, it is excellent.
3. Keaton Henson - Birthdays
We've kept a close eye on Keaton Henson, since his debut album Dear... came out last year and appeared on our Top Albums list of 2012. Now, just a year later, he's re-appeared with a lush & expansive sophomore LP, Birthdays. In addition to being a young talented singer/songwriter, Keaton is also a poet and visual artist. We had the good fortune of being able to work with him on a t-shirt design and poem for our poetry zine.
2. Moonface - Julia with Blue Jeans On
This is not Spencer Krug's first Moonface album, but it's certainly his best. You might know him better for his part as the lead singer of Wolf Parade or Sunset Rubdown, or as a member of Frog Eyes and Swan Lake. Needless to say, this guy keeps busy. But this particular album represents a change for Krug, who left Canada and moved to Finland leaving everything familiar behind and inventing a new image and sound for himself. On Julia With Blue Jeans we find classically trained Krug, alone at the piano, starring the elephant in the eye. Oobah Arthur Paul Butler of The Montreal Gazette said that "this feels like the album Spencer Krug was always destined to create." We say amen to that. This record is certainly something to be cherished.
1. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Finally, the honours for best album of 2013 go to none other than French duo Daft Punk's latest masterpiece, Random Access Memories. The amount of work put into this album is obvious and every track has a compelling story of its own. Collaborations with the likes of Julian Casablancas, Panda Bear, Chilly Gonzales and Pharrell Williams have gone to further make this album shine brighter than any other release this year. With 5 Grammy noms (more than any other year in the past), including Album of the Year and Record of the Year, it's looking like 2013 will go down as the year of Daft Punk.
Hey out there! What are your favourite albums released within the past year? Let us know by dropping us a comment.P.S. You can listen to this playlist on Spotify: Top 20 Albums of 2013 P.P.S. Check out our top records of the past couple years! Top albums of 2012: http://blog.yellowbirdproject.com/2012/12/29/top-20-albums-of-2012/ Top albums of 2011: http://blog.yellowbirdproject.com/2011/12/20/top-10-albums-of-2011/ Top albums of 2010: http://blog.yellowbirdproject.com/2010/12/25/ybp-top-albums-of-2010/ Top albums of 2009: http://blog.yellowbirdproject.com/2009/12/31/ybps-top-20-albums-of-2009/ Top albums of 2008: http://blog.yellowbirdproject.com/2008/12/26/top-20-albums-of-2008/