Tom writes about his top 5 albums and gigs of the year.
TOP 5 ALBUMS.
I was worried that all my favourite albums from 2013 were going to be from American artists but luckily I’m an incredibly good liar and I’ve managed to crowbar two British artists into my list to balance it up slightly.
5. Arctic Monkeys – AM.
My love for Arctic Monkeys waned during their ‘Humbug’/’Suck it And See’ period, I couldn’t even tell you why but those albums seem to lack the charm that had me hooked in the first place. With AM though, Arctic Monkeys have come back in top form and with an album that feels so assured and confident but at no point arrogant. They managed to sound confident without falling into the trap of being part of Oasis’ “cock-rock” brigade and it has made me fall in love with these lads all over again.
4. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe.
As we have seen over the years, being a hype band isn’t the most conducive atmosphere for writing songs, many a band have crumbled under the blogospheres pressure but not Chvrches. Producing an album that is full of catchy, indie-electro hits. Oscillating synths, glitchy effects and computer-precise beats make up the pallet but it is Lauren Mayberry’s dark lyrics and glistening melodies that makes TBOWYB stand out from a sea of electro pretenders.
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City.
Vampire Weekend have always toed the line between just a bit of fun and down right silliness, no one could sing “Blake’s got a new face” without cracking at least a wry smile. But it is all change down at Vampire Weekend HQ, the band have really matured with this latest record, ditching the lyrics about holidays and new faces. The new album tackles some serious topics, with death, religion and ageing all going under the microscope. Musically they still remain as upbeat and avant-garde as ever, even though I have always enjoyed listening to Vampire Weekend, it was this change in lyrical direction that really made this record stand out for me and become one of my favourite albums of the year.
2. Torres – Torres
My 2013 was a year dominated by the female, lo-fi, acoustic, singer-songwriters. The debut effort from Torres is the perfect example of this, the album listens like a series of diary entries, each lyric so deeply personal and touching. Mackenzie Scott (Torres) pulls the listener in and paints a heart-breaking picture that doesn’t pull any punches. An album that is so full of emotion, Scott delicately layers her diary entry like lyrics over sparse and simple arrangements. Although the songs feel extremely personal, there is something incredibly relatable to the way Mackenzie conveys each lyric. With her honestly being her strongest feature, without each line being grounded in her authentic delivery, these songs may come across cringey or crass but in her hands, they are beautiful.
1. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
It was tough choosing my number one album of 2013, in the end it came down to the album that had stuck with me the longest throughout the year. Cerulean Salt, the second album from Waxahatchee is my favourite album of the year for many reasons. The beautifully raw, heart on sleeve nature of the album makes it feel like it has transcended beyond just a record. The understated, almost anti-production style of the recording makes it feel like you are listening to an insight into Katie Crutchfield’s life. A record that documents her youth and coming-of-age, an album that reveals even more with every listen. At first it may just appear like a short collection of lo-fi acoustic songs but this album has captured a period of time, which is both beautiful and troubled in equal measure.
TOP 5 GIGS
Dalston seems to be the common location that runs through my favourite gigs of 2013, three out of five of my favourite shows were in this district of East London. There is something about effortlessly cool hipsters and the anxious feeling that I’m going to be mugged that makes me really enjoy concerts.
5. Bombay Bicycle Club at Islington Town Hall.
This was my 14th time seeing Bombay Bicycle Club? I think? Which sounds like a lot but I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see them. Plus I’ve never been let down by the guys, they always manage to put on a great show. The concert at Islington Town was a warm up show to the band’s Bestival performance, they played a good mixture of big hits and new songs from the upcoming album. Over the 6 years I’ve seen them play, Bombay have evolved from these young hopefuls into a well-oiled machine. They are probably one of the best live bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing, here’s to 14 more gigs!
4. Blaenavon at Trinity Centre.
It was 2007, and the peak of London’s all age concert scene. Foals were the cool new band, gigs smelt like a peculiar combination of sugar and sweat, and Strongbow was the underage drinkers choice of alcohol. 6-years later and I feel like I’m having déjà vu, Blaenavon are the hip new band and this church hall in the backstreets of Dalston is full of drunk teenagers exercising their freedom and their horniness. Despite looking incredibly drunk themselves, the three-piece put on a great show. Buoyed on by the young crowd, this was the perfect showcase of their raw talent and energy. With the only problem being, at 22 years of age, I felt incredibly old.
3. Waxahatchee at Dalston Rooftop.
This was probably the coolest show I went to in 2013, hosted on a rooftop in the middle of Dalston. There was a BBQ going and even a screening of the film, Badlands. Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) was playing an acoustic solo show and it was generally just a lovely, chilled out experience. The stripped back, intimate renditions really suited the live interpretation of her stunning sophomore album. Even the overwhelmingly loud noise of the generator in the background couldn’t spoil the mood.
2. Franz Ferdinand at The Victoria.
I managed to see most of the indie class of 2004 in their heyday but somehow I missed out on seeing Franz Ferdinand. So when the chance to see their comeback show in the intimate setting of The Victoria came about, how could I say no? Burning through a selection of classics and new material, these Glaswegian art school rockers put on an incredible show. It was worth the 9-year wait.
1. Field Day.
Field Day was my favourite gig of the year, it was as much about the festivals line-up as it was about the timing. My exams were over and the sun was out and it was just a great way to kick off summer. I managed to catch some great bands at the festival: Chvrches brought their danceable synth pop, Savages oozed vogue and charisma, while Palma Violets were just a mass of uncontrollable energy that got everyone excited. Next year Field Day expands to 2-days, yay double the fun.