FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2013

DS 2013 faves

2013 was a pretty strong year for music. From the established artists hitting their late-period straps to newcomers breathing new life into old forms, it felt like a year where a whole range of styles rose to the top.

There were plenty of surprises with new albums appearing out of the blue from Bowie and MBV and also irritating marketing campaigns that felt like they were bleeding their albums dry before they were even released. I’m looking at you Daft Punk and Arcade Fire.

As usual here at DS we kept our ears closely tuned into what was going on in Australia and New Zealand with both countries producing a wealth of great albums. Records from this part of the world make up 40% of our favourite records in 2013. Let us know what seduced and moved you this year and let’s do it all again in 2014.

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1. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

A record that perfectly blends rich narrative and darkly cinematic sonic backdrops. One of Cave’s finest works and the moment where his and Warren Ellis’ musical collaboration becomes fully realised.

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2. Bill Callahan – Dream River

On his exceptional new album, Bill Callahan (formerly Smog) has recorded his most peaceful and meditative set of songs. There is a bucolic, contemplative feel to the eight songs on offer as they weave across percussive landscapes, led by flutes and hypnotic guitars. Sonically the album is rooted in pastoral folk, much of it soaked in dub-heavy reverb and delay. The focus though is firmly on Callahan’s voice, high and focused in the mix as he delivers typically brilliant lines like “All I want to do is make love to you in the fertile dirt with a careless mind”.

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3. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

Vile has gone from strength to strength with each album and this is his finest yet. Finely tuned hazily motorik songs that sit in the pocket and keep drawing you in deeper and deeper with each listen.

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4. Jason Isbell – Southeastern

Isbell’s coming of age as a songwriter, though not that he was in any way a slouch in that department prior to Southeastern. He doesn’t waste a word, he builds phrases with economy and poetic grace while encasing them in that rich southern drawl.

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5. Houndmouth – From The Hills Below The City

This was a real surprise record that came out of nowhere for me. It was recommended by a fellow Americana fan and reminded me of the best of what the Felice Brothers do when they blend irresistible melodies with sharp yet not overly polished harmonies and an instrumental mix of country and folk.

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6. Bryan Estepa – Heart vs Mind

A relatively unsung hero amongst Australian songwriters and possessing an angelic voice, Estepa embraced his inner pop and rock obsessions to craft this record that pulls influences from The Jayhawks to Hall & Oates. This is a superb album that excels in effortless, meticulous and timeless songwriting.

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7. Bad/Dreems – Badlands EP

Mix small town pessimism, youthful optimism, suburban nihilism and a lo-fi aesthetic and you have some of the ingredients that make the essential sound of Bad//Dreems. Badlands is another crucial addition to the canon of classic and quintessentially Australian releases.

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8. Wooden Shjips – Back To Land

This is the Shjips doing mainly what they always do, locking into psych drone grooves and riding them into the sunset and/or sunrise. Repetition is the key. They’ve let more light into this one and it opens up their sound into some new areas, rewardingly so.

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9. Ducktails – The Flower Lane

The solo project of Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile, this is an album built on 80s dream pop with sax solos and warm glowing melodies. Easily the best in show for this kind of music.

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10. Kirin J Callinan – Embracism

The agent provocateur of Australian art rock realises his ambition with this wide-ranging album that blends dissonance and a healthy pop heart. Victoria M is one of Embracism’s high points, tempering the intensity with gorgeous, swelling piano and bittersweet baroque pop in the vein of Suede. Elsewhere we get Callinan channeling David Sylvian on Scraps, Bowie on the schizophrenic Chardonnay Sean and Suicide on Way II War. Debut album of the year.

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11. Popstrangers – Antipodes

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12. Austin Lucas – Stay Reckless

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13. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Ready For Boredom

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14. Ooga Boogas – Ooga Boogas

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15. The Drones – I See Seaweed

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16. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

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17. Vista Chino – Peace

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18. Civil Civic – Rules

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19. Basko Believes- Melancholic Melodies

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20. Sharpie Crows – 12 Omeros

21. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In 

22. Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost

23. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

24. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

25. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

26. Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – Mark Kozelek & Desertshore

27. Daughn Gibson – Me Moan

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango

29. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas

30. Mark Moldre – An Ear To The Earth

31. Anna Calvi – One Breath

32 .Matthew E. White – Big Inner

33. Califone – Stitches

34. The Haxan Cloak – Extinction

35. DJ Koze – Amygdala

36. Zomby – With Love 

37. Jen Cloher – In Blood Memory

38. Savages – Silence Yourself 

39. Forest Swords – Engravings

40. The Necks – Open

DS Favourite Songs of 2013

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It’s always a mighty challenge to narrow down all the songs you’ve heard in one year and slot them into order on a nice tidy list of 20. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful of gems but these are all songs that have either captured my imagination, feet, ears or all of the above and made me think “damn that is a great song”.

1. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

3. Houndmouth – Penitentiary

4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

5. Bad//Dreems – Caroline

6. Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

7. Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

8. Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

9. Ducktails – Under Cover

10. TV Colours – Beverly

11. Popstrangers – Heaven

12. Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

13. Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

14. Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

15. Bill Callahan – Small Plane

16. Neko Case – Night Still Comes

17. Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

18. Arcade Fire – We Exist

19. Suede – Barriers

20. Depeche Mode – Heaven

Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jubilee Street

Houndmouth – Penitentiary

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So Good At Being In Trouble

Bad//Dreems – Caroline

Wooden Shjips – Everybody Knows

Kirin J Callinan – Victoria M

Ooga Boogas – Sex in the Chillzone

Ducktails – Under Cover

TV Colours – Beverly

Popstrangers – Heaven

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys – Any Day Now

Eleanor Friedberger – When I Knew

Suede – Barriers

Sharpie Crows – Thanks You Ladies For The Spread

Bill Callahan – Small Plane

Neko Case – Night Still Comes

Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture of You

Arcade Fire – We Exist

Depeche Mode – Heaven