27 Nov 2013

The Active Listener's Favorite 50 Albums of 2013

50. Foxygen "We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" 
Review here.
"one of the most melodically gifted and cleverly crafted albums I've heard this year so far"

49. The Soulless Party "Tales From The Black Meadow"
Review here.
"a nagging sense of  trepidation lurking just below the surface."

48. Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson "Hirta Songs"
Review here.
"intricate fingerstyle guitarwork and memorable vocal performances'


47. Mazzy Star "Seasons of Your Day"
Review here.
"many lessons to learn, many miracles to witness."
 
46. Schnauser "Where Business Meets Fashion"
Review here.
"imagine Caravan fronted by Jarvis Cocker"

45. The Higher State "The Higher State"
Review here.
"if you're a fan of the Byrds first two albums (particularly "Turn, Turn, Turn") or to a lesser extent Love's debut, then you're going to love this."

44. Espectrostatic "Espectrostatic"
Review here.
"consistently creepy and evocative"

43. The Black Angels "Indigo Meadow"
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
The Black Angels most focused and accessible album yet?

42. The Movements "Like Elephants 1"
Review here.
"they stretch themselves musically in a similar manner to a number of first generation psychedelicists who turned themselves onto the sounds of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman to expand their horizons exponentially."

41. The Blank Tapes "Vacation" 
Review here.
"a diverse gem with immediate appeal that reveals unexpected layers with repeated immersion."



40. David Bowie "The Next Day"
Review here.
"a totally unexpected bonus, and a continuation of a renaissance that we'd all assumed was over.'

39. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Push The Sky Away"
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
Noticably lacking in the noisy hullabaloo that seems to have been funnelled into his Grinderman albums lately, this is Cave's most literary, impressive outting for quite some time. Extremely impressive.

38. The Manic Street Preachers "Rewind the Film"
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
Probably one of the last things you'd expect to find on this list, this is an impressively mature outting with an emphasis on acoustic guitars and quality songcraft, with the occasional moment that recalls "Paris 1919". Richard Hawley's duet on the title track is the highlight, but the whole album is exceptionally solid.

37. Maston "Shadows"
Review here.
"breezy psychedelic pop with every note carefully considered and placed exactly where it should be."

36. Buried Feather "Buried Feather"
Review here.
"a rather exciting prospect, mixing the strict Motorik tempos of Neu with droning Spiritualized style space rock, huge, sludgy guitar breaks and plenty of moody proggish keyboard work."

35. Wolf People "Fain" 
Review here.
"louder, and fuzzier than ever and the drums are alternately funkier and heavier"

34. Daniela Casa "Societa Malata" (Reissue)
Review here.
"one of the finest library records you will ever hear, no matter how deep you dig into the genre."

33. The Magic Theatre "The Long Way Home"
Review forthcoming.

32. Broadcast "Berberian Sound Studio"
Review here.
"throbbing synths, tinkling Goblinesque tubular bells and rambling treated demonic voices represent the creep-factor, but there's plenty of beauty to be found too"

31. Gemma Ray "Down Baby Down"
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
A fabulous mostly instrumental, mock soundtrack score that sounds like Calexico scoring Rosemary's Baby. Only better.


30. The Resonars "Crummy Desert Sound"
Review here.
"another candy coated punch in the face from a band that can do no wrong and that somehow gets better with every release."

29. Dark Ocean Colors "Close Enough To See" 
Review here.
"complicated songs, crammed with so many instantly memorable hooks that you're fooled into thinking that they're the most simple things you've ever heard.'

28. Boards of Canada "Tomorrow's Harvest"  
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
A long wait, that was worth the wait - this is their most accessible album to date, and proves that they can still keep up with the Hauntological pack that they've inspired since their last album.

27. James McKeown "Sublime Knight Elect"
Review here.
"these moody instrumental numbers cast a subtle, but gripping spell with a cumulative appeal that makes repeated plays almost a compulsion."

26. Tara King TH. "Hirondelle et Beretta"
Review here.
"In many ways, this sounds more like a Broadcast album than the "Berberian Sound Studio" soundtrack (which I also loved) did."

25. The Holydrug Couple "Noctuary"
Review here.
"Opener "Counting Sailboats" doesn't so much drag 'Tomorrow Never Knows" into the 21st century kicking and screaming, as it does invite it in and give it a cup of herbal tea."

24. Kosmischer Läufer "Volume 1 – The Secret Cosmic Music Of The East German Olympic Program 1972-83"
Review here.
"reminds me of the first Neu album without the discordant, challenging,  noisy bits, and with a heap more synths. How can that be a bad thing?"

23. Elephant Stone "Elephant Stone"
Review here.
"Sitar-heavy riffing and chiming Rickenbackers, all filtered through a glorious paisley drone."

22. Jacco Gardner "Cabinet of Curiosities"
Review here.
"a bright future with an appeal that extends far beyond that of the majority of his peers - niche music with a mainstream appeal."

21. Perhapst "Revise Your Maps"
Review here.
"Moen's songs all have a heart, and reach out to the listener unescapably, with the delicate wistfulness of the title track nudging only marginally ahead of a selection of songs that need to be experienced as a whole to fully appreciate."


20. The Dandelion - The Strange Case of the Dandelion
Review here.
"an impressive opening outing from an increasingly eclectic artist that can seemingly do no wrong."

19. Ty Segall - Sleeper
Review here.
""Sleeper" is the sort of album that one can imagine earning mainstream accolades - the fact that no concessions have had to be made on Segall's part to do so, is even more impressive."

18. The Freezing Hands - The Freezing Hands
Review here.
"at least as great as the newest Resonars LP "Crummy Desert Sound", which is sure saying something."

17. Sproatly Smith  -Remixed
Review here.
"the Sproatly's natural Albion instincts are present in full splendour, (but) they're cast through a filter of often quite extreme psychedelia"

16. Trappist Afterland - Like a Beehive, The Hill Was Alive 
Review here.
"more often than not decidedly sinister, with a creepy undercurrent that makes it difficult to discern exactly whom or what they're so righteously devoted to."

15. Jonathan Wilson - Fanfare
Review here.
"Wilson has a gift for distilling the very best elements from his record collection (often with the help of the original protagonists) and turning them into something fresh with just the right amount of comfortable familiarity that makes it feel like revisiting old friends who always have new things to say."

14. Cafe Kaput - Applied Music Vol. 1
Review here.
"closer in execution to the Advisory Circle's "As The Crow Flies" than anything else in Brook's catalogue so far, with angular themes that never fall into the incidental music trap of setting mood without melody."

13. Bill Callahan - Dream River
Not reviewed on the Active Listener.
Another great Bill Callahan album, with continued growth. No surprises there then. The man gets better with every album.

12. 8x8 - Azalea's Room
Review here.
"serious growth in a number of areas without abandoning the distinctive baroque pop sensibilities that sugarcoated our earlugs first time around."

11. Midlake- Antiphon
Review here.
"A dense psychedelic fog of a record with huge, elaborate drums, and a thick production sound that reminds me favorably of an Americanized take on the first few Doves LPs."









10. Hollow Mirrors - II
Review here.
"a staggeringly diverse album with an awareness of many genres, but a distinct sound of it's own at the same time."

09. Hidden Masters - Of This & Other Worlds
Review here.
"Diverse doesn't even begin to describe the sounds these three conjure and master effortlessly."

08. The Go - Fiesta
Review here.
"vintage psychedelia and powerpop with surprises around every corner, choruses that will floor you, and a production sound to die for"

07. Ian Skelly - Cut From a Star
Review here.
"An amazing record, particularly for those looking to step into a time machine and take it back to the heyday of breezy psych pop"

06. Neils Children - Dimly Lit
Review here.
"a record full of solid songs with hooks everywhere - a worthy successor to Broadcast's earlier work perhaps?"

05. The Sufis - Inventions
Review here.
""Inventions" is the Sufis doing what they do best, twisting the overly familiar into unfamiliar and exciting new shapes and the fact that they've assembled one of the most enjoyable albums of the year in the process is testament to their expertise"

04. Jon Brooks - Shapwick
Review here.
"Brooks is a master at writing simple, haunting melodies that seem like they've been plucked from the greater collective consciousness of our youth - pieces imbued with a nostalgic yearning for a romanticized past."

03. Magic Arm - Images Rolling
Review here.
"A quiet triumph, and a given for best of the year lists."

02. The Greek Theatre - Lost Out at Sea
Review here.
" an understated masterpiece, a record with forebears in albums like Gene Clark's solo debut and David Crosby and Graham Nash's early solo albums - overshadowed albums that will never be as famous as they deserve to be but are nonetheless cherished by those with a more adventurous disposition."

01. Soft Hearted Scientists - False Lights
Review here.
"The Scientist's ability to switch from whimsical good humor to the beautifully dark melancholy of the flawless "Golgotha" at the drop of a hat is their biggest drawcard though, which makes approaching any of their albums a thrilling prospect, and "False Lights" has more twists and turns than most bands cram into an entire career."

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