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Neil Meehan’s Albums Of 2013

This year saw some surprise comebacks ( David Bowie , The Strokes ), a Psych revival ( Hookworms , The Lucid Dream ) and the rise of female-fronted rock ( Savages , HAIM , Pins ), and picking highlights is extremely difficult.

Nevertheless, here are the ten albums which stick out for me at this moment in time, for an array of different reasons, but with the one common factor being that I think they are all great records.

Album of 2013:

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

After initially restricting their releases to limited pressings, the first full album of the Brooklyn-based garage-punk band was released this year. With shades of The Strokes , The Fall , The Libertines and even a hint of At The Drive-In , and containing pop gems like ‘Borrowed Time’ and ‘Careers In Combat’ from start to finish, we can all be thankful this album was finally made available to a wider, grateful audience, which will doubtless now swell.

And, in alphabetical order…

Arctic Monkeys – AM

It can be easy to forget just how big the Arctic Monkeys are, but their cameo at last year’s Olympics and headlining Glastonbury was a timely reminder before this, their fifth straight UK number 1 album. AM sees Alex Turner and co progress the sound of Suck It And See , adding a West Coast Hip-Hop feel, whilst retaining the all the clever lyrical style and delivery Turner is known for.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Spector at the Feast

Six albums into their career, it is probably fair to say that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are unlikely to ever pull any major surprises with their sound, which could have made the prospect of following 2010’s career-best Beat The Devil’s Tattoo a difficult one. After opener ‘Firewalker”s hypnotic, slow-burning groove, the trademark BRMC Blues-Psych-Folk-Country sound is evident throughout, punctuated with moments of touching reflection (‘Lullaby’, ‘Sometimes The Light’), no doubt influenced by the sad loss of bass player Robert Been ‘s late father (and band tour engineer), and making ‘Spector’ a fitting tribute.

Cian Ciaran – They Are Nothing Without Us

One positive taken from Super Furry Animals taking a hiatus is that we get even more records from the various members. They Are Nothing Without Us is the second release in as many years by Cian Ciaran, keyboard player with SFA, and contains all the melodic charm and blissful harmonies you would expect from a Super Furry Animal. Rather than merely filling time whilst the Furries are away, Ciaran has a clear focus throughout, singing lines like “I wont help you fatten your wallet / and I hope that you choke on the profits,” on an album of great guitar pop songs.

Daughter – If You Leave

The single ‘Smother’, taken from Daughter’s debut album, has already started down the ‘Teardrop’ route towards mass use for those emotional TV Drama trailers. And, like Mezzanine before it, the parent album, If You Leave is a delicate, well-crafted record, where any track could feasibly be soundtrack material. However, rather than the Trip-Hop of Massive Attack , Daughter complement delicate, sometimes tribal drums with atmospheric guitars and the gentle vocals of singer Elana Tonra creating an evocative, haunting sound all of their own.

Dutch Uncles – Out of Touch in the Wild

The upward trajectory of Manchester’s Dutch Uncles continued apace with this, their third album. As with 2011’s Cadenza , the five-piece build layers of small guitar bursts onto keyboard (and now xylophone) phrases, with unconventional time-signatures, before singer Duncan Wallis adds his distinctive, 80s-influenced vocals. But it is when performed live that Out of Touch really comes, well, alive, with the funky bass grooves of ‘Bellio’ and ‘Flexxin’ impossible not to dance to.

Ed Harcourt – Back into the Woods

Recorded in one, 6-hour Abbey Road session, Harcourt’s minimalist approach to his 7th studio album means the record relies on the strength of the songs. With Harcourt in reflective mood, the songs take on extra poignancy due to this recording process, and the album is all the better for it. Largely just a piano or guitar and Harcourt’s voice, along with a small string section, ‘Last Will and Testament’ and ‘Hey Little Bruiser’ cement Harcourt’s reputation as a great songwriter.

I Am Kloot – Let It All In

Singer John Bramwell recently hinted that I Am Kloot may work on other musical projects (such as film scores) next, meaning Let It All In could be the last conventional record by the Manchester three-piece as we know them for some time. An orchestral sound and brass sections give a theatrical feel in parts, with acoustic, walking basslines and Bramwell’s ever-gripping storytelling fit for any stage.

Queens Of The Stoneage – …Like Clockwork

For the 6th QOTSA album, and first for 6 years, Josh Homme , featuring a whole host of Rock A-list guests, delivers a record of the energy and raw rock power we have come to expect of him. There are delightful stomps through ‘If I Had A Tail’, and ‘Smooth Sailing’, the latter adding a Disco flavour, but, it is the piano-led and falsetto-sprinkled gentler songs (such as ‘The Vampyre of Time and Memory’ and the title track) which really provoke and hint at a vulnerable side to Queens. Well worth the wait.

Suede – Bloodsports

Suede have pulled off one of the most difficult of maneuvers, the comeback album that is actually better than before they went away. Bloodsports has an energy, freshness and vitality that echoes Dog Man Star -era Suede, despite being released 20 years later, and yet does so without ever sounding like it is trying to recreate past glories. A triumph.