Heartthrob represented quite a shift in tone for Tegan & Sara as the duo – best known for their indie-rock sound with a folk twist – opted for a synth-heavy pop sound on their seventh studio album. Straight from the sexy, seductive opener “Closer”, you know you’ve hopped on a ride full of electronic anthems with big, catchy choruses and easily relatable lyrics. However, there are also some wonderfully intimate musical moments, such as the piano-led “I Was a Fool” and the slowed-down acoustics of “Love They Say”. There’s literally not one subpar song on Heartthrob, making it easily one of the best pop albums of 2013.
Modern Vampires showed us a side of Vampire Weekend we hadn’t really seen before – a calmer, somewhat world-weary band and an album that sounds more thought-out and carefully put together than in the past. Whereas their preceding albums both boasted plenty of up-tempo, standalone songs, every track here feels like one small part of the much bigger whole. Not everything is different however, as the witty/sophisticated lyrics are still here, with references to Angkor Wat (the stunning harpsichord-led “Step”) and the religiously-themed “Ya Hey”, and it all adds up to make the strongest and most cohesive album in Vampire Weekend’s discography.
Time Out’s review of AM put it best: “One of Britain’s greatest bands just got greater in an unexpected but hugely welcome way.” The Monkeys continue to evolve their psychedelic indie-rock sound with every effort, incorporating plenty of hip-hop-like beats and grungy guitars (the latter no doubt being influenced by their good friend Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age fame) for album number five. There’s a huge amount of variety here, from the soul-filled ballad “Mad Sounds” to the biting “R U Mine” to the literally perfect “Do I Wanna Know”. It’s bleak, moody and vibrant all at the same time, and it’s the best indie-rock album of the year.
It’s always a wonderful thing when you realize a band has perfected their sound. It’s downright astounding when that band does it as early as their sophomore album. Tonight Alive largely dropped the pop-punk sound of their debut in favor of a heavier pop-rock sound, and the entire band sounds confident and hits every note. The Other Side is loaded with memorable guitar lines, slinking bass tones and rollicking drums, but despite all that, frontwoman Jenna McDougall is the star of the show. She hits enormous highs, sexy lows, and some perfect falsettos in between. From the romping live favorite “The Fire” to the heaviness (musically and lyrically) of “No Different” to the piano-led beauty “You Don’t Owe Me Anything”, only one thing is clear: Tonight Alive didn’t just release the best pop-rock album of the year, they blew the rest of their peers out of the water.
Laura Marling is one of the most captivating songwriters not just in Britain, but of our generation. Her wordplay is truly unmatched and she sounds so far beyond her 23 years that it’s scary to think what she’ll be writing in ten, even five more years. This album is split into two halves, the first a sneering, brooding and gloomier set of seven songs, then a short interlude gives way to a more upbeat, reflective and at times hopeful second half. These 16 songs of folk-rock (and many other genres in between) expand boundaries, take risks, and they all combine to make one astonishingly epic work of art.
Biggest Surprise: Skytown Riot – Soul Or System EP.
This band is going to take over the alternative rock world very soon. Do yourself a favor and get on board now.
Biggest Disappointment: Panic! At The Disco – Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!.
In a word, boring. Too much of the electronics, not enough of Panic’s standout qualities.
Most Overrated Album: The 1975 – The 1975.
The first half of the album is fantastic but the second is largely dull. This British indie-pop group is loaded with potential, but their debut full-length didn’t quite live up to the hype.
Most Underrated Album: Story Of The Year – Page Avenue: Ten Years And Counting.
For some reason this release seems to have largely flown under the radar. A stunning piano-tinged/theatrical remake of the band’s 2003 emo-rock staple.
1. Damon Albarn
2. The Stone Roses
4. Brand New (Or should this be on my list for 2018?)
6. Cherri Bomb