The team at Cultured Vultures review some of their highlights in the music world from 2013
m b v – My Bloody Valentine
Fans joined together to collectively break the internet in February 2013 when My Bloody Valentine announced that they were giving their first album in 22 years away for free on their website. As the brief album title might suggest, this is the band skimping on words, turning up the amps and cranking out some pretty perfect ‘shoegaze’. It’s lush, swoony, and perfect for late-night introspection. It’s also a little easier to get to grips with than the revolutionary but challenging ‘Loveless’ from 1991. ‘She Found Now’ and ‘Only Tomorrow’ are highlights, ‘New You’ is a surprising addition in that it almost sounds like a proper ‘song’, and ‘Wonder 2’ is the only track you will hear that sounds like an indie band being drowned out by a drum and bass gig, which is in turn being drowned out by a helicopter landing as a ship’s foghorn sounds in the distance. Wonderful.
Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age
In 2011, Josh Homme briefly died on the operating table. In 2013, he and his band bounced back and made this dark, vulnerable, addictive album. Things really get moving by track two, with a typically tight, slinky rhythm over which Homme drawls – ”I sat by the ocean/and drank a potion baby to forget you”. It’s catchy, atmospheric and quintessentially QOTSA. So is the hard-hitting single ‘My God Is the Sun’ (finally, a QOTSA song that had enough fire-power to remind us of the ‘Songs For the Deaf’ days). But the band also tread new ground here, with the spacey ballad ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory‘ and raw piano closer ‘… Like Clockwork’. Then there’s ‘Fairweather Friends’, which makes an unlikely Elton John collaboration work to great effect. Overall, there’s variety and depth on this album and it’s worth getting stuck into.
Bangers – Crazy Fucking Dreams
Bangers are a brilliant punk band from Cornwall that have been on the go for a while now, releasing great music in DIY fashion. What sets them apart is the ridiculously tight rhythm section, lead singer Roo Pescod’s nifty, inventive guitar work and his funny, intelligent, reflective lyrics, which invariably deal with everyday life and everyday frustrations (song about the computer breaking down: check). 2011’s ‘Small Pleasures’ was almost perfect for what it does, unceasing in it’s energy and insight, full of sing-along-ready choruses and verses. This second full-length LP is a little different: there are change-ups in style and it lacks the slightly fuller sound of their last release, but it’s still packed with gems. Must-hear tracks are ‘The Woods’ (Maybe I lied when I told you/That I’d thought everything through), ‘The Local News’, and the utterly irrepressible ‘Blind Hindsight’ (Remember: We’re not dead yet/This year could be the best yet).
Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Parquet Courts squeeze into the list with this January release – the band’s first full-length LP and an absolute treat. It sounds like the Ramones, Television, Pavement and many others all at once, it’s overflowing with influences but all the better for it. It could be described as punk, though mostly it’s just tight, catchy, sardonic rock and roll with a slacker aesthetic but plenty of energy at the same time. The songs are all compact and wrapped up in a couple of minutes, with the exception of standout track ‘Stoned and Starving‘, which sounds like an extended jam on a Television song and yet is one of the most enjoyable tracks of the year (I was debating Swedish fish, roasted peanuts or liquorice?/I was so, so stoned and starving).
Arctic Monkeys – AM
Released this summer, the Arctic Monkeys’ AM is my album of the year, and the best the Sheffield-based indie rock outfit have put out since they burst onto the scene with their hook-laden debut in 2006. AM is an experimental new direction for the band, boasting a mixture of styles that is more successful in its execution than 2009’s Humbug. R U Mine and Do I Wanna Know are packed full of lyrical and musical hooks that’ll leave them rattling around in your brain for days, whilst Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High is influenced by the hip hop beats of Dr Dre.
The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
As a big fan of pop-punk in my teens, I found myself growing more and more disillusioned with it as I hit my early twenties. The Wonder Years have single handedly restored my faith in the genre, and their 2013 effort The Greatest Generation is their best yet. The record blends pop punk hooks, big choruses and angst with lyrical subject matter that’s actually relevant to people over the age of 16. Singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s lamentation over his lack of direction in his life is infinitely more relatable than hearing some whiny voiced 30 year old singing about how the girl he likes won’t even look at him.
The Mouse Outfit – Escape Music
It’s hard to single out one hip-hop release of the whole year but it’s quite gratifying to find yourself left with a UK offering when you finally whittle it down. The Mouse Outfit are a UK based production team and this is their first feature length album, it features a wide array of talented MCs such as Dr. Syntax and Sparkz and is a showcase of high quality sampling and (shock, horror) live instrumentation. Lyrical, deep, funky and everything in between, my highlight of what has been a monster year for hip-hop.
Off With Their Heads – Home
Off With Their Heads smashed 2013 with the release of Homea powerful, resolute, snarling bomb of a record. Its anthemic themes focus on the anxieties you face when confronting both your past and your future. Tracks such as “Start Walking”, “Shirts” and “Nightlife” provided short bursts of punk rock anger and energy whilst the band cultivated an increased flair for great melodies with slow burning aches “Don’t Make Me Go” and “Stolen Away”. An album toiling with self-hatred and despair, but doing so with heroic intentions and determination.
Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Being that I fanboy hard over these boys from Scotland, this was never not going to be my top album of 2013. Picking up where The Winter of Mixed Drink left off, the new band members really hit their stride after their admittedly patchy last album with Acts of Man being as good an opening song as any to set the tone. Scott Hutchinson’s lost a bit of the jaded snarl to his voice and it really pays off as the almost apathy lends itself brilliantly to State Hospital and The Oil Slick. A surefire stadium winner, The Woodpile veers toward Snow Patrol territory but Hutchinson’s delivery elevates it above such a label. The bonus tracks are also so strong that it’s a wonder they were even omitted in the first place. Check out the best yet from the boys from Selkirk as soon as you can after their breakthrough year.
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