Top 25 Records of 2013

Benin City

Top 25 Records of 2013

So already its that time of year again. We attempt to fit as much of the years good music into the most digestible format possible, in the hope that youll either agree, become intrigued, or find a whole bunch of records you want to explore before we get to 2014.

Rather than trying to summarise a whole year of music in an opening paragraph, it seems much more sensible to briefly explain what this list is, what it means and what we hope to achieve with it. At SR we like to think great music is multi-faceted, its critique is and will always be highly subjective but theres a number of factors that we believe make a record great. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to, originality, shelf life and boldness. Thats why some of the records in this list will be out of the ordinary, others will be less daring toe-tappers and the best will be a combination of both. Below is our interactive, audible dialogue of the best of 2013.

Weve left you soundcloud links where we can, but for the selection of all our best picks you can indulge in this Spotify playlist

25 Jenny Hval Innocence Is Kinky

We all like strange and there???s no getting around the fact that this follow up to 2011???s Viscera, at times, is as odd and out there as art pop is going to get. What separates Innocence Is Kinky is its desire to take the listener on a journey through overt stories of sexuality and human nature. The concoction of softly spoken word, juxtaposing harsh, screeching vocals results in a record that in many ways epitomises the year in music. Daring and experimental. ~??James Murray

24 Letlive The Blackest Beautiful

Despite polarising opinions on the production which is very bass-heavy, almost poppy,??Letlive. have released one of the best post-hardcore records of the year with The??Blackest Beautiful. The band defy the rules of the genre, with Butler???s vocals??changing from calm to insane within seconds and music which rarely lets up, the band are??all over the place in the best way imaginable. ~??Max Qayyum

23 Lauren Bousfield Avalon Vales

So this one, somehow, seems to have slipped by unnoticed in most corners of music critique. It might not sit under easy listening, but Lauren Bousfield has created one of the most forward-thinking electronic records of recent years. Whether it???s the swirling, upbeat nature of Riverrun Humbling Allegory or the theatrical classical-meets-electro experiment of Ascending Hands, Bousfield hasn???t just evoked new electronic ideas, he???s managed to create glitch with prestige. No mean feat, to say the least. ~??James Murray

22 Chelsea Wolfe Pain Is Beauty

Several years after first emerging, Chelsea Wolfe continues to be something of an enigma. As with??previous albums, her latest effort draws on influences as wide-ranging as the hip-hop production of??Notorious B.I.G. and the black metal of Gorgoroth. Pain is Beauty is often bleak, occasionally chilling??and always intriguingly beautiful. ~??Craig Muff

21 Blondes Swisher

While last year???s Lover/Hater illustrated Blonde???s unmistakable style of progressive tech-house, Swisher has gone and reinforced that identity. The pulsating nature of numbers such as Bora Bora could only belong to Zach Steinman and Sam Haar. To many, the thought of progressive electronic might sound as monotonous as it gets but when Blondes take you on an 8 minute ride it???s never stretched thin. The elements and musicianship within every bar are captivating, it???s that attention to detail the key changes, the layering, the range of samples that makes Swisher deservedly commendable. ~??James Murray

20 Streetlight Manifesto The Hands That Thieve

After much anticipation, many label issues and the announcement that they will cease touring, it???s a good job that The Hands That Thieve is the best ska punk record of the year. In classic Streetlight Manifesto fashion, the songs are ridiculously fast, hectic and fun. Songs such as the title track with its big singalong outro show the band at the top of their game. The band aren???t reinventing the genre with this release, they???re perfecting it. The only disappointment is that we won???t be able to see the songs live for quite some time. ~??Max Qayyum

19 Nils Frahm Spaces

The experimental pianist, a title I???m sure Frahm would wince at, and albeit being perhaps its crudest descriptor it is one that encapsulates his sound. The true spectacle here is For, the 17-minute piece that begins with ambient keys and peaks with reverberating synths and chords. Music of a theatrical nature, it???s tailored for venues akin to Copenhagen???s Koncerthuset which recently hosted a live rendition of Spaces. These traditional European stages offer the open, ethereal settings that Frahm can use as a base to project his unfathomable talent. ~??James Murray

18 Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend???s third album, Modern Vampires of the City showcases a more mature and??more inventive collection from the native New Yorkers. Some bands blur the lines between timing??and luck to stumble upon a fine album, and some bands perhaps make two. Great bands are able??to produce great work time and time again, blending an ever evolving maturity with the sound we??came to know and love from that very first listen. Tracks like Step, Diane Young, Hannah Hunt and??Obvious Bicycle stand out amongst a fine set list. The best album Vampire Weekend have made??? so??far. ~??John Howell

17 Queens of the Stone Age Like Clockwork

Following a six-year hiatus after the release of 2007???s??Era Vulgaris,??Queens of the Stone Age??returned this year with a record to leave us feeling like they???d never been away; ???Like Clockwork??inevitably??features thundering riffs, wonderfully delicate hooks and Homme???s drawling vocals. Lead single??My God is the Sun??is a sandstorm blast of exactly what you???d expect fromQOTSA, whilst??The??Vampyre of Time and Memory??and??Kalopsia??(featuring Nine Inch Nails??? Trent Reznor) are tender reflections of the band???s versatility. We are treated to several other collaborations, some fully expected -such as Alex Turner???s appearance on??If I Had a Tail -??and some less so, like Sir Elton John???s contribution to??Fairweather Friends??and Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters fame on??Smooth Sailing. ~??Craig Muff

16 Savages Silence Yourself

With a bold and admirable philosophy toward their own music and seemingly life in general, it was??pretty crucial that Savages produced the goods to it all up. Decisions such as the almost-complete-banning of mobile phone use at shows is what made them stand out but with Silence Yourself, it is??the power of tracks like the repetition-heavy Husbands and the moody and atmospheric Waiting??for a Sign??which continues to set them apart. ~??Craig Muff

15 Foals Holy Fire

Foals have come along way since their early math-rocker beginnings. But in many ways that???s irrelevant, as the brilliance behind Foals isn???t their ability to make a certain type of music, it???s their ability to confidently push off in their own direction. Philippakis has never shied away from expressing his band???s pop sensibilities, using its formula as a base to add all of their musical eccentricities creating record after record that always seem to surprise in equal measure. Holy Fire is certainly no exception, exerting confidence through its vast range of instrumentation and simple, relatable themes. ~ James Murray

14 The Haxan Cloak Excavation

Tri Angle???s most prolific recent output: Booby Krlic has created the most successfully weird record of the year and somehow in the process managed to capture an audience. It has an enthralling effect. Excavation could quite easily be the soundtrack to the most disturbing of sci-fi-horrors, but Krlic???s power to engross makes Excavation more impressive and even darker than first comprehendible. Culminating in 13-minute The Drop a thought-provoking, anthemic finale to an LP where the concept of climax seems implausible, a realisation of The Haxan Cloak???s applaudable mystique begins to ooze a dark but distinct charm. ~??James Murray

13 James Blake Overgrown

Blake???s ambiguous, expressive lyrics drift in a musical context that distorts time, incorporating a wider variety of textures since his 2011 self-titled debut.??From the??chopped???n???screwed R&B of Life Round Here to funky, bass-first Voyeur to the fragile gospel stylings of Retrograde,??Blake has clearly found a new confidence in catering for his own eccentric tastes. It???s a mood shifter, but it may just be one of the most comforting and adventurous of 2013, an evolution that has won him 2013???sBarclaycard Mercury Prize. ~??Sophie Boyden

12 The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die Whenever, If Ever

Emo revivalists The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am no Longer Afraid to??Die touch on math-rock, screamo, pop and indie on Whenever, If Ever. Packed full??of emotional songs, some long with post-rock influence, the band show what emo is all??about. When the music alone can conjure emotions, the band must be doing something??right. One of the best releases from the genre to come out in recent years. ~??Max Qayyum

11 Arctic Monkeys ??- AM

Arctic Monkeys are a prime example of why musical evolution is fundamental. Most of their indie peers from back in the mid 00s have stagnated, while Alex Turner and co have pushed their sound forward. AM features sharp lyricism and a newfound groove assumedly helped on by the ideal catalyst for a band seeking sexy Josh Homme. Theres hints of hip-hop in basslines and drumbeats while tales of late nights and drinking are enhanced by the bold but contagious high harmonies. Who needs Haim when they can pull off those??shoo wops so well themselves. ~??James Murray

10 The Knife Shaking The Habitual

In a bold move from modern synth-pop classic Silent Shout, the venetian mask-wearing duo have tipped the scales moving away from the seemingly foolproof past formula, trading heavy instrumentation for prominent vocals. Karin Deijer Andersson???s vocals are the centrepiece of most tracks, overlaying obscure progressive layers which at times change places to drown-out the vocals in prolonged chapters of obscurity (see Fracking Fluid Injection and Full of Fire). Even after 8 months of admiration, Shaking The Habitual still amazes the sheer magnitude and eccentricity of each track at times blurs the lines between reality and the almost tangible dystopia that has been evoked. ??~??James Murray

9 Autre Ne Veut Anxiety

If I were to open this short review by listing Anxiety???s closest musical descriptions the majority of you reading would most likely have already scrolled down to number 8, so I???ll tactically omit that information for the next sentence or two in the hopes that I can entice you into listening. This is delicate, light and meaningful music. It???s packed with raw and relatable emotion, euphoric production and possesses genuine shelf life. This type of music isn???t something we???ve never come across before, but it???s executed empathetically in a way that separates it from its counterparts. Oh and by the way, those would be Frank Ocean, Deptfort Goth or even the likes of Usher and Jamie Woon. ~ James Murray

8 Daniel Avery Drone Logic

Avery???s debut LP released on Phantasy, ties a neat little bow on Avery???s rise to fame in 2013. An album of thumping club tunes and disembodied vocal samples could easily be monotonous, but Averys creations are flexible enough that it rushes by in a burst of twangy synths and sharp drones. With rigid, robotic techno characteristics, it is a record that is solid from start to finish and too dynamic to decay any time soon. ~??Sophie Boyden

7 Touche Amore Is Survived By

This album shows Touche Amore at their best. After gravitating towards melodic and??post-rock influence more with each record, the band seems to have finally found their??stride. Is Survived By is heavy and beautiful. Swaying guitars and brutal drums are??punctuated by honest lyrics and emotional vocals. The band has massive range, too,??illustrated by tracks like Non Fiction with its long instrumental build up, Social Caterpillar??with its massive chorus or DNA which is the heaviest song on the record. Touche Amore??are at the forefront of their genre and are only getting better with time. ~??Max Qayyum

6 The National Trouble Will Find Me

In a patient three-year wait since breakthrough album High Violet, one thing hasn???t changed Matt Berninger is still categorically melancholy. Is that an issue? Of course it???s not. It???s the winning formula that The National are able to use so spectacularly to project emotion and perspective. This is a record of hard truths, overtly and honestly presented, with musical arrangements that surpass those of the previous record by far. These tracks may not all have personal meaning to Berninger, but where they don???t we like to think such emotion could only result from an extreme closeness to each song???s protagonist. ~??James Murray

5 Rhye Woman

From the slick production through to the emotive music videos and delicate vocals Mike Milosh and Robin Hannibal have created the most ethereal record of the year. Smooth R&B coupled with elements of jazz and subtle layering, Woman is both heartbreaking and sexual. Milosh???s vocals are at their most spellbinding throughout lead single The Fall, his voice provocative and always enticing. At times its sexual nature is pulled-back slightly to favour the funkier grooves of tracks such as Last Dance or the jazzy nature of Shed Some Love. In all backdrops, it???s impossible not to embrace the sublime production and immaculate vocals of Woman. ~??James Murray

4 Arcade Fire Reflektor

Some artists go on forever releasing rehashes of old material and will always make money. Only??the brave decide to go for greatness. Some will achieve, and most won???t. Arcade Fire have proven??their status as one of the world???s premier acts with Reflektor. A stark contrast from the bitter but??beautiful The Suburbs, Reflektor is fresh and full of energy, showcasing upbeat dance beats??broken and moulded together with Win Butler???s trademark blend of blunt, personable lyrics. ???Do??you like rock???n???roll music? Because I don???t know if I do???. Arcade Fire have left their home in search of??pastures new, and have found it in the form of Reflektor. ~??John Howell

3 Moderat II

II keeps you guessing. It???s the meeting of pop and festival-electronic. From the bass-pounding Bad Kingdom to the ten-minute progressive masterpiece, Milk. Moderat share with Blondes and Daniel Avery that deep, profound, experimentation but leave them behind with their cross-over pop that delivers effectively and memorably a priceless asset in the vast world of electronica. It???s entry-level for those new to electronic music and refreshing to those already familiar to it. At times it seems King???s voice could have been deployed more often, after hearing its devastatingly powerful effect on Bad Kingdom, but then again, sometimes there???s simply no need to build on something that close to perfection. ~??James Murray

2 Baths Obsidian

Dark and maximal, Obsidian is a log of musings that resonate. The highlights don???t take their time to arrive, Worsening showcasing Wiesenfield???s 20 years of piano familiarity (he???s only 24 now), heartwarming strings and layered vocals. the soft raindrops and isolated keys that open Miasma Sky present an abrupt twist that results in the bouncing nature of the record???s lead single, later followed by the emotive and erotic productions of Ironworks and No Eyes. The record title seems apt, to say the least ???hard, dark, glass-like volcanic rock formed by the rapid solidification of lava without crystallization???. Likewise, Baths??? productions are dark, oscillating and exert beauty, just not in its most conventional form. ~??James Murray

1 Jon Hopkins Immunity

London born??Jon??Hopkins??is best known for his collaborative work during a career spanning over a decade.?? In 2013 we got to hear his 4th??solo album Immunity released on Domino Records, which is arguably some of his finest work to date, eight intricate, pulsating tracks lasting approximately 60 minutes. Immunity takes you on an ambient journey from the very start with each track constructed with delicate beauty displaying a holistic pace and flow throughout. ??Based on a journey of the mind and body during a night out, the album of the year brings you up to your highest point with tracks Collider and Open Eye Signal and winding you down to your lowest with the imposing lyrical ambience displayed on Abandon Window.????Hopkins??has produced a masterful electronic album that just gets better and better with every listen and an album of the year that won???t be growing old for years to come. ~??Anthony Williams