Music in 2013
I’ve listened to a lot of music in the past twelve months. More than I usually do, so this year’s selection of music highlights those albums and single tracks that have just stuck with me. The albums are full long-players and not just a collection of individual tracks in general although there are always exceptions.
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Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals : Walk Through Exits Only
The man has been part of so many projects both during and after Pantera, it’s sort of astonishing to think that Phil Anselmo managed to find a framework for his first solo project that hadn’t been previously explored. And what he presents is probably one of the gnarliest, most dense sets of music that’s been around for years. To call it hardcore is to underplay it although it is most akin to Phil’s Superjoint Ritual project in construction. Fans of Tool delight in their songs because each new listen yields some new intricacy in the music previously unheard. Walk Through Exits Only will do the same but will not yield its secrets lightly. It’s mission is to crush your mind with brutality and only the hardened will survive.
Ólafur Arnalds : Broadchurch OST
Back in April, Broadchurch the TV series was a revelation. A gripping, tense drama to rival those clever whodunnits the Scandinavians have been feeding us for several years now that dealt with the subsequent fall outs more than the event of the murder itself. Like all good soundtracks, Ólafur Arnalds’ contribution to the show is directional. The main theme is dark, brooding and oppressive while each character’s theme (sadly not all included in this EP) is reflective and grieving in its own way. In isolation, it’s a splendid snapshot of a remarkable series.
Deafheaven : Sunbather
There has been a fair amount of churlish decrying of Sunbather. Whether or not black metal should be composed used in major keys or have positive themes is irrelevant however. Sunbather is black metal with a high gloss sheen to it, a reflection in the sun to Altar of Plagues’ drenched take on the same genre. It’s beautifully pitched too. If Opeth sized up to Emperor, interspersing lengthy tracks with shorter, light intermissions, you’d get somewhere near Deafheaven.
The Blood Of Heroes : The Waking Nightmare
Once in a blue moon, you get to hear something new. Something new that sounds unlike something else. This year, I heard the Blood of Heroes and it was new. Its component parts are not - dub, bass, rage, beat poetry, guitars - but its amalgam is way greater than the sum of its whole. And thank God for it.
Wardruna : Yggdrasil
It is the second in a trilogy of folk records based on a selection of Runes which form part of the elder Futhark, played only on traditional proto-Norse instruments. It doesn’t inspire you really does it? However, you’d be foolish to dismiss it. There’s an ancient ambience and deep soul in this music whether you play it track by track or as a whole. And, as attested to by the sold-out Queen Elizabeth II hall in November, it’s a powerful music too.
Autopsy : The Headless Ritual
Nothing like a bit of old school gore grind metal. And unless Chuck Schuldiner is going to rise from the dead and lead Death on, there are few bands more venerable than Autopsy. From the Joe Petagno cover to the nine slices of actually quite catchy riffage and macabre lyrical imagery courtesy of Chris Reifert, Ritual is hands down the most fun album from the extreme end of the metal spectrum this year.
M83 : Oblivion OST
Joe Trapanese seems to be the guy the go-to guy if you’re a director looking for a score arranger to work with your popular musical act to produce the soundtrack for your film. He’s done Tron Legacy with Daft Punk, The Raid with Mike Shinoda, and now the score for Oblivion with Anthony Gonzalez or M83 as some people will know him. And they are all top draw. For Oblivion we get a full orchestral score filled with searching and discovery as the main protagonist seeks to discover what he is dreaming peppered with stabs of menace and peril as required. The film itself is unusual in its purely sci-fi ambition and themes and the soundtrack is a joy in its interpretation of the film at a meta level as well as an immediate one. Like Blade Runner, this is made for listening all the way through in a sitting.
The Duckworth Lewis Method : Sticky Wickets
The frivolities of the English summer and the sublime eccentricity of a cricket concept album released for the (successful) Ashes series in England. Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh have batted a wonderful innings here with both comedy and pathos sung in turns. I can think of no higher praise than to say that even my daughter loves this. “Shall we play some Little Mix today?” “No daddy, play the Cricket CD!” ’Nuff said.
Steven Price : Gravity OST
There are a lot of special things about the movie Gravity. The 3D, the CGI, almost everything that has made it the most-winning film of 2013-4. But the soundtrack is something else. The director Alfonso Cuaron knew that it would have to provide all the drama and the impact as there can be no sound in space bar the radio comms between astronauts and Earth. Everything else is silence. So he and composer Steven Price drew up a rule for the score. No percussion. Everything is orchestral but recorded, sampled and layered. Glissandi that feel minutes long, sections that belong remixed in a hard club night, and no let up. Sandra Bullock’s character gets no let up dear reader so neither do we the listeners get a let up. The film is only 91 minutes long and we get 71 minutes of aural callisthenics. It’s punishing and the more wonderful for it. Headphones on and up loud, in the dark and go. The best album of 2013 bar none.
- David Bowie : Where Are We Now?
- Biffy Clyro : Sounds Like Balloons
- Pure Love : Bury My Bones
- Vessels : Capital City
- Mark Kozelek : Like Rats
- Pyyramids : Everyone Says
- Boards of Canada : Tomorrow’s Harvest
- Daft Punk : Get Lucky
- Laura Marling : Master Hunter
- Tricky : Chinese Interlude
- Diana Vickers : Mad At Me
- James Arthur : You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You
Sometimes, the videos just make the music.
Ellie Goulding : Lights (Bassnectar Remix)
This 4K video demo was very cool but the music is so much better.
Pentatonix : Daft Punk