Live4ever’s Essential Listening 2013: The Albums

By Live4ever - Posted on 18 Dec 2013 at 4:41am

Another year of essential listening draws to a close today with The Albums.

From the ‘rich arcane pleasures and secret thrills’ of veteran Richard Thompson, to the ‘near flawless, brazen, yet reflective dancefloor filling triumph’ of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM’ and the ‘explorations and celebrations of life and death’ which inform Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s ‘Specter At The Feast’, both high profile and under-the-radar album releases have fallen under the gaze of Live4ever’s talented writing staff as 2013 has progressed, and here a select 20 have been pulled out and revisited for you to take a look through. Maybe there’s some major releases you can share your thoughts on, and some hidden gems which can be given a spin for the first time. Clicking on each individual artwork will take you through to our reviews in full.

Live4ever’s Essential Listening series is here to share, not preach! An interactive celebration of rock and roll where your favourites can contribute. Make sure your stand-out albums of the year get a deserved mention by leaving a comment below.

20: Bastille – ‘Bad Blood’

“It would be difficult to find a band with such a weight of knowledge and ease in cultivating history to span out poignant analogies for the current struggles of youth in the modern age. This record will speak to many, but particularly young adults at that confusing stage of life where thoughts inevitably turn to how best to utilise your time on earth so as to grow old with few regrets.”

19: The Joy Formidable – ‘Wolf’s Law’

“The sheer weight of imaginative ambition harnessed within this consciously cathartic rock record, which empowers our natural environment, sets down a marker for continued evolution as the band continue to climb a few extra rungs of the ladder in pursuit of their own lofty musical ideals.”

18: Manic Street Preachers – ‘Rewind The Film’

“This band know that, essentially, they have the luxury of nothing to prove, and with this release neither do they seem eager to recapture the nostalgia of their youth. After all, that was never going to be their style. And while a few of their efforts over the last decade have lapsed into self parody, here, they have produced their best record for years.”

17: Yo La Tengo – ‘Fade’

“It’s simple really, Yo La Tengo make music that all three of them like. Be it a folk influence, some krautrock or a little bit of country, they’re not restricted by barriers or some kind of default ‘Yo La Tengo Sound’. But that’s the beauty of what they do, because no matter what they turn their hands to it is still unmistakeably Yo La Tengo and therefore it is in fact, that ‘Yo La Tengo Sound’.”

16: Richard Thompson – ‘Electric’

“Maybe this is the first you’ve heard of this veteran stringsman and his unusual talents. Maybe you’re a long-time admirer wondering if the old dog has learnt any new tricks. Worry ye not. ‘Electric’ has plenty of room for the unconverted maybes. It’s rich with arcane pleasures and secret thrills. It’s a showcase for power trio playing, as Prodaniuk and Jerome supply the clap of thunder to Thompson’s streak of lightning performances.”

15: Peace – ‘In Love’

“Like many debuts, ‘In Love’ is as much an amalgamation of Peace’s record collection as it is an original, forward-thinking statement, and in less assured hands it could well have been a disaster. But it’s not. Why? Quite simply, because pound for pound these are ten of the best songs you will hear this year, baggy or otherwise.”

14: Night Beds – ‘Country Sleep’

“23-year-old Winston Yellen, better known as Night Beds, possesses a voice of tremulous, outstanding beauty. It’s something he is highly aware of, that much is evident. For on debut album ‘Country Sleep‘, when Yellen unleashes his vocal gymnastics of heartbreaking vulnerability over lashings of rumbling Americana, he holds nothing back.”

13: I Am Kloot – ‘Let It All In’

“For newcomers to I Am Kloot, ‘Let It All In’ is the perfect starting point; an album that seesaws between a gentle breeze of tranquility, orchestral turbulence and back again. I Am Kloot have consistently produced quality albums throughout their career, but with their latest they have created their first masterpiece.”

12: Midlake – ‘Antiphon’

“When a former mainstay decides to leave a group they had more than a hand in shaping, there’s always the nagging doubt that those left behind will be somehow intimidated into rejecting the qualities which made them great. Midlake have wisely opted not to lose their heads – or principles – and as a result ‘Antiphon’ is them sounding reborn, perky even.”

11: Villagers – ‘{Awayland}’

“Villagers triumph remains in their construction of (often) uplifting façades to bleak underlying texts, but that’s not to say ‘{Awayland}’ is a disheartening album. There are hints, such as in ‘Rhythm Composer’, of salvation. But even this song is a double-edged sword as we learn, ‘In actuality, only the rhythm composes you’. One can only admire O’Brien’s musical and lyrical dexterity – there are more twists and turns than a corkscrew and ‘{Awayland}’ feels like a band that has finally found its feet.”

10: The Men – ‘New Moon’

“Then again, this blatant disregard for natural convention has been the hallmark of The Men’s career so far, and on ‘New Moon’ they have simply learned how to properly play up that strength.  Abrupt endings, odd song sequencing, deliberately left-in studio banter – all of it expertly underscores the whole just-us-five-dudes-jamming-out-in-a-cabin vibe that ultimately makes this record as strong as it is.”

9: Iceage – ‘You’re Nothing’

“To call ‘You’re Nothing’ mature would not only be a reach, but it would also be missing the point. Despite the added layer of nuance, this is still obviously the work of four angst-ridden and emotionally uncertain young men, ones who regardless of the perceived comfort of their native land are still navigating their indeterminate place in the world the only way they know how; by playing loud, fast, passionate music with every ounce of force that they can manage.”

8: Arctic Monkeys – ‘AM’

“‘AM’ is a near flawless, brazen, yet reflective dancefloor filling triumph of an album. A defiantly risk taking chemical blend in the myriad of past and contemporary genres on offer produces thrilling results, continuing the trend with each passing record of subtle changes to maintain the listener’s interest. Turner’s initial modesty in his timid instruction to the nation to not ‘believe the hype’ now seems a lifetime away. This band will be revered long after they decide to call it a day, having lived up to the hype, and exceeded it, in astronomical proportions.”

7: Portugal. The Man – ‘Evil Friends’

“It all results in a wonderful state of bewilderment once the last note has been played; an interesting, complex and undoubtedly entertaining record, with catchy songs that collectively trigger off a multitude of conflicting emotions – often at the same time, ranging from the euphoric to light trepidation, from cynicism to odd feelings of melancholy, and ultimately a lasting sense of hope and wonder.”

6: Laura Marling – ‘Once I Was An Eagle’

“We don’t need to know the myth to understand Laura Marling. ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ is the wind howling at your window in the dead of night; it’s rejecting the lies you can’t make yourself believe. Laura Marling speaks the truth about herself. That’s heart-wrenchingly hard for any human being, never mind a songwriter.”

5: Pete MacLeod – ‘Rolling Stone’

“Not naming any names, but there’s been a fashion during the last decade or so for a whole host of slightly wet, slightly wimpy solo artists attempting, and often succeeding, to inch their half baked wares onto the conservative ears of the coffee shop illuminati, releasing gapingly dull music which seems to be accepted, with kid gloves, as the messianic arch emotional yearnings of the ‘new’ man. Fortunately, Pete MacLeod isn’t one of these drips.”

4: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘II’

“‘II‘ easily lives up to the anticipation, taking the sun-baked psych-pop simplicity that defined the first record and twisting it just enough to add a previously missing layer of musical and emotional depth. If the debut was a hook-filled series of summery singalongs, then this one is its reflective, late night counterpart that replaces a reliance on catchy choruses with a bent towards stretched-out ruminations on loneliness and isolation.”

3: The Civil Wars – ‘The Civil Wars’

“If there’s one thing that sums up ‘The Civil Wars’, it’s a line Bob Dylan sang nearly half a century ago: “It’s a restless, hungry feeling, that don’t mean no one no good.” This record is full of those kind of feelings; the ones you feel in the pit of your stomach, the ones you know won’t go away from thinking about somebody. But you’ve got to think about them. That’s why records like this strike such resonance, and why we can’t stop listening to them.”

2: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – ‘Specter At The Feast’

“They’ve always been a band with a subtle taste for the macabre, indulging their darker side without making a pantomime of it. This is their Macbeth; an exploration and a celebration of life and death, brimming with phantoms and pathos, held together with a sound so easy to fear and to revere in equal measure. This is indeed a classic you see before you.”

1: And So I Watch You From Afar – ‘All Hail Bright Futures’

“What really steers ‘All Hail Bright Futures’ isn’t the expanded vocabulary, as the real shift arrives alongside an infusion of added instrumentation and stylistic variance. This is driven home with the album’s centerpiece, a dynamic three-song suite that features everything from brightened four-on-the-floor techno throbs, to Caribbean cruise steel drums, to cinematic string orchestration and lonely trumpet calls.”

Essential Listening 2013 Series:

…The Music Videos
…The Gigs
…The Tracks
…The Albums

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