The Boar’s Top 50 Albums of 2013

It’s that time of year again: the cold is starting to bite, ‘The Fairytale of New York’ is beginning to saturate airwaves, and countless music journalists are frantically attempting to stack their Album-of-the-Year lists. Indeed, here at the Boar, things are no different: over the last few weeks our writers have been compiling their own Top 20 lists, and the results have finally been pooled to form our own Albums of the 2013 countdown. And the those results are now before you! Rather than over-egg the suspense further, we’ll let you get reading now. Do enjoy, and bear in mind this requisite warning: this list may prompt controversy…

1 Hummingbird50. AlunaGeorgeBody Music

49. Camera ObscuraDesire Lines

48. SavagesSilence Yourself

47. Local NativesHummingbird

46. Pearl JamLightning Bolt

45. King Krule6 Feet Beneath the Moon

2 Pale Green Ghosts44. John GrantPale Green Ghosts

43. Yo La TengoFade

42. PhosphorescentMuchacho

41. BastilleBad Blood

40. Tyler, the CreatorWolf

39. London GrammarIf You Wait

3 Drake38. CiaraCIARA

37. PeaceIn Love

36. The Flaming LipsThe Terror

35. DrakeNothing Was the Same

34. David BowieThe Next Day

33. Danny BrownOld

4 James Blake32. Selena GomezStars Dance

31. M.I.A.Matangi

30. PhoenixBankrupt!

29. Chance the RapperAcid Rap

28. James BlakeOvergrown

27. FoxygenWe Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

5 mbv26. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience – 1 of 2

25. My Bloody Valentinembv

24. Autre Ne VeutAnxiety

23. ParamoreParamore

22. Villagers{Awayland}

21. HaimDays Are Gone

1 Monae20. Janelle MonáeThe Electric Lady

Here marks the return of Janelle Monáe’s android alter-ego Cindi Mayweather for another high-concept studio album that spins a sci-fi yarn to rival a Margaret Atwood novel. Marrying soulful grooves with rallying rebel songs, Monáe transports us to the heart of her iridescent, dystopian fantasia, complete with sweeping orchestral overtures, queer politics and luscious collaborations, in what is surely 2013‘s most imaginative musical endeavour. Far from falling into the all-sparkle-no-substance trap, Monáe consistently showcases effortlessly silky vocals and rap artistry, proving once again that technical prowess and narrative sorcery need never be mutually exclusive.

Sophie Monk

1 Disclosure19. DisclosureSettle

The debut album the Surrey-based Lawrence siblings brought about a much-needed reintroduction of the forgotten subgenres of dance music. Settle pulls off a miracle by successfully reinventing deep house and electronic music, whilst still appealing to the commercial pop market. Perfectly constructed, the album shifts from a homage to the British electronica of the ’90s (‘When a Fire Starts to Burn’) through chart-toppers ‘Latch’ and ‘White Noise’, before closing with personal favourites such as the pulsating tones of Jamie Woon in ‘January’. ‘Disclosuremania’ hit hard for a reason.

Priya Shanmuganathan

1 Lady Gaga18. Lady GagaARTPOP

A flash of colour and a burst of light: Lady Gaga is officially back in sight… and with an excellent return to boot. Forget the “reverse Warholian” nonsense she’s been coattailing alongside the album itself: ARTPOP is a no-holds-barred, carefree collection of pop jams, and who can complain? Ripe with a barrage of quirky lyrics, pounding synths and (ahem) substance-infused melodies, there’s a piece of Gaga pie fit for everyone and anyone. She’s got us, hooks, lines and no stinkers.

Faizan Sadiq

1 Sigur Ros17. Sigur RósKveikur

Sigur Rós’ seventh album, Kveikur (which translates as “fuse” or “candlewick”), was a risky affair. Sporting a much darker tone than their previous albums, Sigur Rós have transformed from the band that played heavenly post-rock to an apocalyptic power-group. This is encapsulated in the first track, ‘Brennistein’, which is perhaps the most frightening and impressive song that the trio have ever written. Though the songs do become less aggressive further into the album, Kveikur remains threatening in tone. Already regarded as one of rock’s most innovative bands, everybody’s favourite Icelandic troupe just continues to surprise.

Nick Cun-Yu Zhang

1 These New Puritans16. These New PuritansField of Reeds

It may have been snubbed by the Mercury Prize panel, but These New Puritans’ third album remains a magnificent creation. Bathed in mournful brass arrangements and jagged piano motifs, it’s a neo-classical work of dystopian majesty, and the further one ventures into Field of Reeds, the more disturbing (and rewarding) it becomes. The dreamlike serenity of its opening moments is increasingly lost to genuinely haunting atmospheres, none more spine-chilling than the Gothic majesty of ‘V (Island Song)’. Its sounds may be archaic, but this is music at its most forward-thinking; its chilling provocations always underpinned by the clarity of the band’s artistic vision.

Michael Perry

1 Nick Cave15. Nick Cave and the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away

As an ardent Nick Cave appreciator, I cannot pretend that Push the Sky Away will be counted among his best, but it almost gets there. Its sonically experimental landscape defies easy clarification: just one of the reasons why it’s a worthy contender for this year’s Best Album title. Push the Sky Away has also produced two songs which could well go on to be seen as career standouts: ‘Jubilee Street’ and ‘Higgs Boson Blues’. This is certainly one of Cave’s most interesting recent releases, and stands as a testament to his chameleonic abilities and position as the definitive cultural zeitgeist.

Andrew Sztehlo

1 Kurt Vile14. Kurt VileWakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile‘s fifth solo album strolls along at an easy pace, its lush nine-minute opening track setting the tone for much of what follows with its easy, mid-paced rhythms and warm production. Flanged guitar riffs bounce the occasional melody around between verses, but this album otherwise inhabits a breezy expanse which allows Vile’s stoner mumble to provide words of simple, meditative wisdom. “I might be adrift, but I’m still alert,” he drawls over the lush arrangements of ‘Goldtone’, reminding listeners that behind the chilled-out exterior lies a work both emotionally engaging and lyrically on-point. It may be slow in pace, but after listening to Wakin on a Pretty Daze, other music will sound positively rushed.

Sam Carter

1 Everything Everything13. Everything EverythingArc

Slightly less ambitious – but no less witty – than its predecessor, Arc finds Everything Everything refining their jerky indie genius into a more commercial entity. In spite of this, they still aim to challenge with multifarious melodies alongside the lively falsetto of Jonathan Higgs, all wrapped up in such a bright, precise style that it makes one wonder if they’ve worked out a mathematical formula for producing pithy pop music. With the band on top form throughout the likes of ‘Cough Cough’, ‘Duet’ and ‘Don’t Try’, it’s not hard to see why Arc is one of the year’s best albums.

Nicholas Winfield


DARKSIDE‘s Psychic is a meditative, bluesy blend of minimal beats and long psychedelic guitar solos. Having taken part in a string of live shows for the likes of Resident Advisor, Boiler Room and, of course, our very own Arts Centre, Nicolas Jaar has developed a record of meticulous flair, fastening his status as one of the most interesting and intelligent electronic artists around today. Collaborator and guitarist Dave Harrington’s slow guitar jams fuse remarkably well with Jaar’s layered, complex tempos, providing listeners with a soundscape which is gloomy, groovy, and at times, mystical.

Paul McLoughlin

1 Julia Holter11. Julia HolterLoud City Song

On her third album in as many years, avant-pop auteur Julia Holter draws inspiration from Colette’s 1944 novella Gigi (and its musical adaptation), as well as the streets of contemporary Los Angeles, to launch an exploration of the exciting rushes, the frightening paranoia, and the alienating silences of urban modernity.  Underneath the high concept is a sumptuous, curious, humorous pop album of incredible inventiveness, where Holter’s singular genius has never been more evident.

Trahearne Falvey

1 Jon Hopkins10. Jon HopkinsImmunity

When reviewing Immunity earlier this year, I announced that it “triumphantly proves the potential of not just the album format, but also Jon Hopkins’ own artistry”, though perhaps I didn’t go far enough. Hopkins’ mesmerising blend of techno, ambient and post-rock isn’t all that concerned with unearthly abstractions; its sheer intricacy, fluidity and emotional depth arguably mimic the ebb and flow of actual human experience. It’s this seamless capacity to connect on such an elementary level that suggests Immunity’s real resonance lies in that strange, beautiful capacity of music itself.

Ed Graham

1 Foals9. FoalsHoly Fire

Leading the way for the comeback of the guitar band this year, Foals’ confident third album takes the most exhilarating moments from Antidotes, fuses them with the expansive mood of Total Life Forever, and pumps up the resultant sounds to produce stadium fillers which still don’t compromise the group’s integrity. It even boasts one of the catchiest songs of the year in the form of ‘My Number’: a flash of hyperactive brilliance. Through a burst of energy, a growing maturity, and the retention of their trademarks, Foals have finally made a statement which demands to be heard.

Nicholas Winfield

1 QotSA8. Queens of the Stone Age… Like Clockwork

Six years since 2007’s good-but-could-have-been-brilliant Era Vulgaris, Joshua Homme and co returned to prove that to create a genuine masterpiece, you need to take your sweet, sweet time. In the finely crafted comeback that is … Like Clockwork, Homme reassembled the old crew from the golden age of Songs for the Deaf (namely Dave Grohl and Nick Olivieri), while additionally featuring stellar contributions from Alex Turner, Jake Shears and – brilliantly – Elton John. Filtered down to ten tracks of pure, unadulterated gorgeousness, each song is as necessary, brilliant and bombastic as the last.

Miranda Wilkie

1 Kanye7. Kanye WestYeezus

Yeezus works like a cubist painting. So many disparate elements have been forced together into the same space that you have to marvel at how well it hangs together as a single work of art. Sampling everything from dancehall to Hungarian rock to acid house, Yeezus is an idiosyncratic journey through Kanye’s all-consuming vision. The music fuses perfectly with his near paranoiac preoccupations with race, materialism and sex, sometimes bizarrely combining all three in the same song. He may not actually be a God, but on Yeezus, Kanye almost sounds like one.

Redmond Bacon

1 Laura Marling6. Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle

Laura Marling’s fourth studio effort sees her embracing the benefits of sonic and lyrical experimentation. The result is an album charged with character, its influences ranging from the moody to the Eastern to obscure and avant-garde sensibilities. Once I Was An Eagle brags an unshakable sense of cohesion, which allows Marling to take her captivated listeners on a journey which soars, explores and unabashedly dares to challenge. No longer is Marling simply a figurehead for the modern revival of Dylan-esque folk, but one for well-rounded and independent artistic maturity.

Sam Hardy

1 Arcade Fire5. Arcade FireReflektor

It seems that, more than ever before, Win Butler and co. have adhered to the maxim “go big or go home” for their latest release, having produced two feverish discs of sharp guitars set to glammed-up disco beats. From the ragged, piano-flecked march of ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ to the surging hooks of ‘Normal Person’, this album’s infectious energy is handily underpinned by generous lyrical helpings of paranoia and isolation. Grandiose it may be, but this is a compelling listen, which contains some of the Canadian troupe’s boldest work yet.

Sam Carter

1 Arctic Monkeys4. Arctic MonkeysAM

A fifth studio album from the Arctic Monkeys was met much anticipation. Their previous exploits were near-faultless, and the 2012 release of  ‘R U Mine?’ provided yet another addition to the frighteningly long list of Monkeys tracks with longer shelf-lives than honey. But AM did not disappoint. A fantastic opening quarter concludes with the pièce de résistance ‘Arabella’, which leads into an infinitely sexy middle section before the sobering ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ presents an auditory cold shower to cap proceedings.

Robin James Kerrison

Print3. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me

“My head plays it over and over”, Matt Berninger once sang on an early cut from The National, and it’s a sentiment which has since become the band’s MO. The excellent Trouble Will Find Me features baritone ruminations on life, death, and middle-class existence that remain with you long after the record ends. These lyrics, accompanied by the highly skilled musicianship of the Dessner and Devendorf siblings (and an extended assemblage of indie-rock friends), make this album one of the year’s truly essential listens.

Sam Evans

1 Vampire Weekend2. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City

Modern Vampires of the City is the third album from the New York quartet, and it’s arguably their best to date. Unorthodox means of recording (such as the utilisation of vintage analog tape machines), more mature, baffling, yet inspired lyrics, and softer instrumentation and vocal tones have resulted in a legitimately unique record from Vampire Weekend, which is simultaneously a huge break from their previous work. The brilliant singles ‘Diane Young’ and ‘Ya Hey’ alone could qualify this album as one of the year’s standouts, but the recurring themes of grappling with adulthood, God, religion and political dissatisfaction run throughout the record, all working to subtly highlight the true genius at its core.

Flora Havelock

1 Daft Punk1. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories

Random Access Memories is a record which marks a sea change, not only in the career trajectory of Daft Punk, but for the entire dance music genre. For the past 25 years, dance has been moving further and further away from humanity, landing us in a world saturated by dubstep. This album, however, hearkens back to the days of disco and (as Nile Rodgers referred to it), “organic dance music”. Pure groove and funk stylistics are not only back in fashion thanks to Daft Punk, but they are perhaps even cooler now than they were the first time around. History will remember the arrival of Random Access Memories as the moment in which we remembered that music to make us move doesn’t need to be born from laptops. In every sense of the word, it is an utterly phenomenal album.

Patrick Gill

And there you have it: the closing of another year, a wealth of outstanding albums to sift through, and the “lucky” victor for 2013. Just giving the list a cursory glance emphasises the sheer multitude of golden records to be released over the last twelve months, and the bar has been set high for 2014 to top. But for now, it’s over to you readers: what are your favourites? How many have you heard? And – most importantly – what did we miss?

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