Ben Walton's Top 10 Albums Of 2013
While compiling this list, I became aware that 2013 has been an incredible year for music.
This top ten leans more on the rock end of the spectrum but there are also a few curve balls in there. Honourable mentions go to some big bands who put out great albums (Pearl Jam, Suede) which were omitted to make room for some smaller bands who I feel are deserving of the exposure. Without further ado and in reverse order:
The Loyalties ''Til the Death of Rock'n'Roll' - Perhaps the most raucous album in this list, The Loyalties filled their second album to the brim with plenty of snot and attitude. This album is an endless canon of riffs and undeniably witty lyrics which lean heavily on the punk end of the spectrum but also brings in country and rockabilly influences. If you like your rock music rude and nasty, yet somehow svelte and charming, The Loyalties are the band for you.
Alkaline Trio 'My Shame Is True' - Returning for album number eight, Chicago's favourite horror punks were on point with all guns blazing, with one of their strongest collections of tunes to date. It may be true that you can't really go wrong with any Alkaline Trio album, but 'My Shame Is True' has managed to edge its way to the upper reaches of their back catalogue with future classics like 'She Lied to the FBI', 'I'm Only Here to Disappoint' and 'The Torture Doctor'.
Jon Gomm 'Secrets Nobody Keeps' - Yorkshire's finest guitar virtuoso returned in 2013 following his rise to YouTube phenomenon status with probably his most accomplished selection of tunes yet. 'Secrets Nobody Keeps' shows Gomm pushing the boundaries of conventional guitar playing yet further into the distance while also crafting beautifully written songs. You do not have to be a music nerd to hear the beauty in 'Telepathy', 'Passionflower' or the jaw-dropping nine minute suite that is album closer 'Everything'.
Mojo Fury 'The Difference Between' - Sometimes, a band makes an album that is so far removed from any of their previous work that you have to sit up and take notice. On 'The Difference Between', Mojo Fury traded in their jagged math rock influences and instead flicked the switch marked 'vampy-synthy-80s-sex-party'. This is an album for turning heads, with such off the wall numbers as 'Origami Bird', 'All in Awe' and the beautifully delicate 'Iris Influential'. Here is a band that knows no boundaries and will grow and mutate into who knows what in time.
Dinosaur Pile-Up 'Nature Nurture' - The second act hailing from Leeds on this list, Dinosaur Pile-Up take the blueprint set down by bands like Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World and Feeder and run with it. Every song on 'Nature Nurture' is a summer time anthem. Perhaps the most startling thing about 'Nature Nurture' is just how much of a huge step forward from their debut album 'Growing Pains' it was. Songs such as 'Arizona Waiting', 'Peninsula' and especially 'Derail' point to a band with a massive future ahead of them.
Flaming Lips 'The Terror' - First impressions of 'The Terror' - The Flaming Lips' thirteenth studio album - were that all was not well with Wayne Coyne and co. The dreamy, feel-good aesthetic had been misplaced for an album so bleak and experimental that it almost feels like it is by a completely different band. It is definitely a mood album: pieces like the heart-breaking 'Try to Explain' or the pulsing tension of 'Look.The Sun Is Rising' and 'Turning Violent' are not easy listening, but there is gold in this album if you are willing to dig.
Icky Blossoms 'Icky Blossoms' - What Icky Blossoms do best is turn the atmosphere sinister and drop the tempos as on 'Stark Weather' and especially the album highlight 'Cycle'. The latter features vintage synths that give it an almost New Order feel and a laid-back vocal performance. It is understated and brooding. The real strength of 'Icky Blossoms' is that this album is so varied. This is a band who are not afraid to think outside of their stylistic box and have therefore created an album full of highlights.
Nine Inch Nails 'Hesitation Marks' - Comebacks are always risky but Trent Reznor has managed it with aplomb. 'Hesitation Marks' has echoes of the past but sees Nine Inch Nails move into new, more electronic and less angsty territory. It is hard to deny that 'Hesitation Marks' features some of his best material yet, in the twisting, sprawling 'All Time Low', the frantic electronics of 'Copy of A' and the minimal 'While I'm Still Here'. Nine Inch Nails are back. Count them out at your peril.
Queens of the Stone Age '...Like Clockwork' - After an extended break which saw frontman Josh Homme close to death, the legendary Queens of the Stone Age returned this year with their strongest, most concise and cohesive set of songs yet. '...Like Clockwork' showcased the band's usual heavy desert riffing in 'Keep Your Eyes Peeled' and the immense career highlight that is 'I Appear Missing', but also demonstrated a new, more emotional and bruised side to the rock juggernaut. The piano comes out for the incredibly tender and vulnerable title track, as well as the twisted recent single 'The Vampyre of Time and Memory'. Queens of the Stone Age proved themselves to be one of the best bands of our generation on '...Like Clockwork' but missed out on the top spot of my list by a whisker.
Eureka Machines 'Remain In Hope' - Yet another fantastic band from the hot bed of musical wonder that is Leeds, the criminally underrated Eureka Machines put forward by far their strongest album with 'Remain In Hope'. I know what you're thinking. How can this be better than Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age? Just listen to the tunes. Every song in the here is a solid gold nugget of excellence. Chris Catalyst and his gang give a master class in pop hooks, noisy guitars and endless satirical wit on the bouncy 'Pop Star', the cheeky Britpop chug of 'Wish You Were Her' and the epic closing strains of 'Eternal Machines'. This was originally billed as the final album by Eureka Machines. I only hope they stick around long enough for everybody else to catch up.