So, the decorations have been taped to the wall and various inflatable Santas have been propped up in the most convenient corner, which can only mean one thing… it’s time for us to throw our web-based hat into the big ring of the internet and provide you all with our opinionated view of the best albums of 2013. We hope you like the run down, and maybe make a few discoveries along the way. So without further ado, here are the Killer Ponytail albums of the year…
Twosomeness (Morr Music)
Icelandic twins Ásthildur and Jófríður Ákadóttir have been making music together since the tender age of 14 under the name Pascal Pinon, and their sophomore album Twosomeness sees them skip a few grades by infusing their sound with a maturity way beyond their years. Graciously swinging between folk infused electronica to clarinet ballads, Towsomeness is an album full of charming lullabies and tenderness.
Pure Heroine (Universal NZ)
It’s impossible to have escaped the juggernaut of hype that swirled around 17-year-old New Zealander, Lorde, over the course of 2013, but her debut Pure Heroine genuinely lived up to the hype and delivered on all counts… and possibly a few more. The tracks on Pure Heroine pack a sucker-punch of sinister pop heightened by the minimal delivery and sparseness of the production. Pure Heroine is a dark pop gem shining, laser-like, through the rest of the chart fodder of the year.
Boards Of Canada
Tomorrow’s Harvest (Warp)
The return of seminal Scottish beat stretchers Boards Of Canada has to win first prize for the best marketing campaign of the year. Starting with an unannounced Record Store Day 12″ followed by a cryptic trail of ‘codes’, it was a little touch and go as to whether the album itself was going to live up to the anticipation. Of course, it did. Tomorrow’s Harvest turned out to be a spectacular return to the dark, innovative depths Boards Of Canada fed from in their classic Geogaddi. The essential ‘return to form’ album of 2013.
Doris (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
Being the most reclusive member of the Odd Future collective, it was surprising to hear just how painfully honest Earl Sweatshirt is on this album. Unless you count the mixtape ‘Earl’ released in 2010, Doris is Mr Sweatshirt’s first full length, and it was by far the most credible release from any of the Odd Future members during 2013. Doris is a young artist placing his soul on a plate and laying it down over the course of 15 starkly visceral tracks. ‘Burgundy’ and ‘Chum’ give a real insight into the tribulations that have plagued Earl Sweatshirt over the past two years, from his enforced exile to a youth camp in Samoa to his troubled relationship with his father, Doris is as brave as it is insightful.
Les Revenants – Official Soundtrack (Rock Action)
Mogwai returned with another soundtrack this year, this time for the French zombie drama Les Revenants. But the collection of songs the band created for the TV show function as a complete and stand alone suite of songs that embodies the black heart of the supernatural series. The emotive, etherial aesthetic that serves as the hallmark of Mogwai’s back catalogue works overtime on this album. This album is a close-up of cinematic intensity.
Hymnalaya (Record Records)
Hailing from Reykjavik, Hymnalaya’s self titled debut proved to be one of the highlights of 2013 by a long way. The influences present in this album have been gathered from sonic places that stretch far beyond the shores of the band’s native Iceland. Crunches of electronica, traditional folk and classical all reside in enchanting pockets on this record and the playful, poetic lyrics on this album are delivered with such delicacy and intimacy, it’s as though the band are performing right in front of you.
Flowers (Morr Music)
Icelandic renaissance man Sindri Már Sigfússon returned this year with his most accomplished and accessible album to date. With Alex Somers (Sigur Rós) on production duties, Flowers is an album packed with quirky pop surrounding bubbling punk core. This album is cool, collected and confidently puts Sin Fang at the forefront of today’s quality Icelandic exports. Songs like album opener ‘Young Boys’ and ‘Sunbeam’ are at once melancholic and uplifting. Flowers delivers a pensive look at life and explodes with lyricism like a volcano.
Country Sleep (Dead Oceans)
23 year old Winston Yellen, performing under the moniker Night Beds, has got one hell of a voice. He first came to our attention around this time last year with his stunning track ‘Even If We Try’ and luckily, this was followed up with his debut full length Country Sleep this year. In the current age of ‘pick ‘n’ mix’ music consumption, Country Sleep is one of those rare albums that has clearly been put together to function as a whole. The collection of tracks takes you on a journey and drops you off the other side feeling like you’ve just been on the greatest road trip of your life.
Major Arcana (Carpark)
Northampton Masachusettes based four piece Speedy Ortiz were born from the death of the singer Sadie Dupuis’ previous band. By death, we mean a supernova, because the energy that permeates Major Arcana couldn’t have originated anywhere other than an interstellar nuclear reactor. The album draws heavily from the pool of late 90s indie rock (think Pavement meets Bikini Kill) but Major Arcana is anything but derivative. Tracks like ‘Tiger Tank’ and ‘MKVI’ are delivered at break neck speed but also wield an entrancing melodic edge, razor sharp in your ear.
Cerulean Salt (Wichita)
It’s hard to say exactly what makes Cerulean Salt such a great album, but its mystique is part of what makes it so special. From the moment Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) plucks the opening notes of this album it’s clear you’re in for an intense ride. The starkness and honesty of Crutchfield’s lyrics stream right off this record like a flood of teenage emotion, but it’s all delivered with maturity and a level of sophistication that’s rare in today’s musical landscape. Each song tells a story of love and loss and packages each one in a neat bundle wrpapped in the fine linen of your lost youth. There are uplifting moments on this album too, take the sunshine that effortlessly emanates from ‘Coast To Coast’, but it’s the darker recesses of Crutchfield’s mind that bring forward the real meat of the album. ‘Misery Over Dispute’ and ‘Hollow Bedroom’ are filled with reflective longing that’s both uplifting and heartbreaking. In Cerulean Salt, Waxahatchee delivers a delicate, honest and emotionally succinct collection of tracks that truly blew away anything else in 2013.