(This post was originally published on 06/01/2014 on a previous blog.)
2013 started off as a dark year for music, with one of my favourite musical artists being revealed as a rather unsavoury character, and then one of the best bands of the past decade (My Chemical Romance) bidding us farewell. But quickly the musical forecast brightened up and so here are my favourite releases of 2013
Before we get on to the top 5 list here are some albums that, whilst good, didn’t quite make it to the best of the year:
Paramore – Paramore
Billie Joe and Norah Jones – Foreverly
Placebo – Loud Like Love
Brian Altano – Misanthrope
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
And now on to the list:
5: Enter Shikari, The Bootleg Sessions; Volume 3.
Okay, so whilst this isn’t technically a full album it is one of the best musical releases of the year. The ep consists of a Selection of three tracks that are considered the warm up to Shikaris’ fourth album. The tracks vary in style from a short sharp electro-punk song about a public hanging to a heavy hardcore song questioning the reality of modern life.
Whilst Enter Shikari are known for playing with their sound a fair amount this ep resembles, very much, a coming together of their first album (take to the skies) and their latest full release (a flash flood of colour) and from the sounds of it those two albums work very well together. in fact the ep does a perfect job in making me excited to hear what Shikari release for their fourth record.
The ep was released in stages throughout the year rather than all at once and this meant that at times when the music scene was getting a little boring, along came an injection of Rou Reynolds and co, so whilst the release is far from a full album it is easily one of the most memorable things to come out of 2013 as it was always a surprise and far from filler.
Shikari have not released a bad album yet in their career and I have high hopes for their next effort, so to receive even a short tease of what we might expect is a high point to me.
4: The Fratellis, We Need Medicine
The Fratellis first record, Costello Music, is, in my mind, one of the best albums of the 21st century. Its fast paced, almost punky, take on hedonism in the eyes of the modern day youth is as exciting as it is stimulating, it’s the kind of album to which you can really throw yourself around and it feels incredible doing so. We Need Medicine is the first album where The Fratellis feel like the same men who wrote Costello Music, except now they have grown up. They’re isn’t bucket loads more depth in the songs, but there is a greater musical understanding. So when the album is at its best it isn’t just catchy, its catchier. It isn’t just rock-y it’s rock-ier.
It’s not a perfect album, and it does leaving me hoping their next effort will regain the fast paced, head banging raucousness of their debut. But last year The Fratellis seemed like a memory the music industry had long since overlooked. So not only have they made a comeback but they have done it with bucket loads of style and even more potential, and I can’t wait to see what the boys have up their sleeve this year.
3: Panic! At The Disco, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die.
Panic!’s fourth album is a world away from the previous three releases, as is fitting of the bands’ style (name me two of their releases where the sound is similar?) This time around we are treated to an exploration of the town the band grew up in; Vegas. The album is undoubtedly simpler than previous P!ATD releases, with lyrics that are far more to the point and much less complex and poetic, as well as much more electric instrumentality and much less percussive flair. All of these things would seem to be complaints about the album but they are quite the opposite. Panic! Have not so much as stripped back their sound as morphed it to paint a pretty picture of a city of sin.
Brendon Urie is, as with every release, more confident on this album and it is always a joy to hear the man sing, his incredible vocal tone and ability are something unmatched by many of his peers. However he is not the only stand out sound of the album. The use of synths and bass above all else makes the album sound far more gritty and sleazy. Couple this with Urie’s far from wholesome lyrics and subjectivity and the album is a perfect exploration of the kind of sin the band grew up surrounded by.
More than anything though Too Weird To Live proves that Panic! are getting better with every release at writing catchy, brilliant and yet personal music. And whilst I must admit I do miss the prosaic nature of previous albums lyrics, it’s easy to see that panic are not just making music they are painting a whole scene, and they do it very well, Something that less and less bands are managing to do convincingly, which is all the better for Urie and co moving forward.
2: Radical Face, The Family Tree Presents: The Branches.
Radical face’s latest project is, to say the least, ambitious. A trilogy of albums telling the story of a house which retains memories of the generations of a family who have previously lived in it, whilst the songs are delivered to us from the point of view of those family members. The first album of the trilogy: The Roots, set up who the members of the family are and how their story begins and it does so whilst sounding beautiful, and luckily The Branches does just as good a job of both telling a story and treating the audience to a gorgeous set of songs.
Ben Cooper’s brand of acoustic, melodic, yet dark music is as beautiful on this album as it has ever been. However the album features much more experimentation than previous efforts, with percussion and various other instruments taking a far more important role and more genre’s being explored and mastered. One thing this album really has going for it is that this time round I already know and care about the characters involved, so when the story really rears its head it gains a far more deep and emotive response.
Every time Radical Face release an album Ben Cooper outdoes his previous efforts and whilst it took me years to truly appreciate The Roots as a full album I can already tell that The Branches is on track to become my favourite effort of the trilogy. Or at least it is, for now, until Radical Face releases the third and final album of the set; The Leaves.
1: Fall Out Boy, Save Rock And Roll
I will always remember the first Fall Out Boy album I ever heard in full, it was given to me as a birthday present, and I found the music on it so catchy that I listened to it every day for several months. So when Fall Out Boy announced this year that they were returning to the music industry and releasing an album that didn’t sound like Fall Out Boy used to, I was a mix of excited and worried. But worry not, this album is as Fall Out Boy as they come, and if that isn’t a sign of quality, I don’t know what is.
From the first track to the last one this is album is full to the brim with incredible music all built on Fall Out Boy’s pop punk base. At times this album is far from rock, but throughout all 11 songs this album does what it says on the tin, Save(s) Rock And Roll. It goes to show that a rock band can be more than just typical guitars, drums, bass and vocals. It shows that a good band, rock or otherwise, should be built of strong music, great lyrics and the ability to improve. Speaking of which all of the band members have. The guitars, despite taking an occasional back seat on the album, sound far more effortless and impressive then they used to, the bass provides a perfect, noticeable groundwork for the songs to be built upon, Andy Hurley’s drumming is miles better than it has ever been and is far more appreciable on this album than any previous effort and Patrick Stumps already incredible voice has improved and matured to a point where he hardly needs to reach a chorus to impress you, he’s already in his stride and only getting better.
Fall Out Boy are the masters of Catchy music, and this album goes to prove they don’t need to be tied down to one genre to keep up their track record. This is an album made of nothing but high points, whether it is the collection of guest stars, the constant surprise of sound from track to track or merely Fall Out Boy sounding like a tighter and better polished band than ever. There is not one word to describe how good this album sounds, it is rocky, happy, jazzy, sexy, clever, and just downright brilliant.