2013 has just finished so we thought it would be a good time to post about some of our favourite albums of the year. We haven’t got a clue about the ‘best’ but we can tell you the ones that mean the most to us. The only rules were they must have been from Canada or Britain, and released in 2013. Here are the first 6:
Traams – Grin
Grin rattles and rolls along in an agitated, restless manner with an an irresistible urgency. The drums and bass are perfectly intertwined as one beating heart as the guitar swirls across them, with frontman Stu Hopkin’s vocals adding a muffled vitality. It’s the sound of a man locked in an airtight room, distant and desperate. And it works because although it might seem discordant it adds resonance to a sound that is anything but: It is a sound that has been studiously and perfectly crafted.
Within Traams master a number of styles, speed and feeling. Opening with the haunting Swimming Pool, an atmospheric nod to TV on The Radio, they lurch from the blistering Flowers to the emotionally fragile and heart-rending Hands while the closing track Klaus is a krautrock epic from the word go, capturing you in a groove and locking you in until long after the record stops spinning.
Valleys – Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night
The opening bars of Micromoving tell us a lot about the shading to Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night? There is a heavy gravitas in the slow, deliberate key changes, like a church organ firing up to pronounce life or death. In Mark St Louis’s baritone vocals there is a intoxicating richness and inebriated confusion. It is a sombre, stately opening that slowly lifts; Matilda Perks shade of light pierces through St Louis’s dark and the synths gracefully transform into blissful rapture. It is a logical culmination. Made to a backdrop of death and loss – two of the more powerful artistic aphrodisiacs, Valleys poignantly chart stages of grief onto a sonic map.
At it’s most euphoric the album encompasses dream pop mixed with fluffy electronica clouds, but a sense of unease always lurks behind the hazy reverie and thick atmospherics. It can be found in the lyrical content and haunting visions of melancholy that colour the melody. Album closer Undream a Year is one of our favourite tracks of the year; in equal parts uplifting, magical, confusing and heart meltingly simple, the chorus soars and makes us skip a beat.
Boats – A Fairway Full Of Miners
Superbly demented lo-fi fun, with trumpets, glockenspiels, harmonies and yelps, hooks so large they could catch a shark, vocals that lurch from high pitched hyperactivity to pagan chanting, and the kind of joyously eccentric exuberance that is probably illegal in 52 countries around the world: Boats are the kind of band who steal your heart and smile whilst doing it. Bands like Boats were the reason that I fell in love with music, albums like A Fairway Full of Miners are what get me through a year: their irresistible intensity brings a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.
Album highlight O Jumbotron crashes along at 100mph, a mash up of the sublime and the absurd, with anthemic yelps and probably the finest, most rousing interlude-cum-chorus-cum-instrumental-cum-thrashy mess I’ve heard all year. It’s life affirming stuff.
We Are The City – Violent
Vancouver’s We Are The City second LP, Violent, is an almost spiritual affair, stirring and emotive, and fraught with meaning. In Violent, We Are The City create a brand of experimental rock that never feels too experimental because they have an ear for melody and an eye for fleeting beauty. Each song feels like it has been tenderly crafted into an expansive, soulful sound with just the right amount of quirk. Cayne McKenzie’s vocals drip with significance and sagacity, pregnant pauses hint at an unspoken truth, and introspection rules throughout.
The album highlight, Friends Hurt, is another song that evokes the happiness of childhood memories and the sadness of age, but it’s strangely uplifting, and musically and lyrically combines to create a blissed out empathy that screams – ‘it’s all ok’.
Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
Weird Sister comes in at just under 30 minutes. 30 minutes of pure teenage summer adrenaline rush; a blur of emotion, feeling and vitality. At times caustic, it brims full of exuberance and melody, a roller-coaster of a ride on the immortality of youth. Musical sub-genres are screwed up and rammed down the throat, acerbic lyrics are coated in saccharine, their nascent talent scrapes in feedback and soothes in twee abandon. It’s an alluring mix. Joanna Gruesome wear their hearts on their musical sleeves, and in doing so they created possibly the most unrestrainedly enjoyable record of the year.
Secret Surprise is my favourite number, a pop-punk classic, with a deliciously sweet and affecting chorus. I love a band who can sing “I’ve been waiting to crush your fucking skull” as if butter wouldn’t melt.
Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain
PSB’s 2012 The War Room EP was something of an epiphany for me. So the eagerly anticipated debut LP Inform – Educate – Entertain was in some ways on a hiding to nothing. But with repeated listens a stunning cross genre masterpiece of style and substance emerges. J. Willgoose, Esq. has the wonderful knack of combining elements of his samples to the most uplifting and euphoric electronica. At it’s very core it’s a celebration of human-kind, a unique history and strangely moving as eras collide in a way Michael J Fox could only have dreamt of.
ROYGBIV encapsulates the art magnificently, the instruments mirror the colours of the rainbow, the samples gaze in wonderment at a technological advancement that we all take for granted, and as the song reaches it’s climax our rooms are indeed filled with an explosion of light, colour and optimism. Spiffing, one might say.