Top Albums of 2013: # 6, 5, 4


6. Goldfrapp, TALES OF US

Since Alison and Will never make the same album twice, I had no idea what to expect from their sixth; the track listing, consisting entirely of one-word titles, all but one of them proper names, only heightened my curiosity. Slow, moody and darkly cinematic, Tales of Us is a challenging listen, ebbing and flowing along an endless shoreline, occasionally rustling like a windswept meadow but mostly still and glass-eyed. Emphasizing orchestral/acoustic settings with the subtlest of electronics, it’s another departure for sure, but one that comfortably suits Alison’s textural, affected vocals. There’s no “Ooh La La” or even an “A&E” here, but I find myself returning to it again and again, and extracting more from it each time.

Best tracks: “Clay”, “Drew”, “Simone”, “Ulla”

Video for “Drew”:

laura marl eagle

5. Laura Marling, ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE

This is the 23-year-old folk wunderkind’s third straight album in a row to make my year-end top ten, but its position here wasn’t always secure; compared to her previous efforts, this is a rather challenging (yes, that word again) listen, not only because of breadth (16 songs, 63 minutes) but also an inkling of Marling fearlessly leaping into the unknown. The first four tracks, all built around a singular droning chord progression, make up a suite, melodic traces of which recur throughout the album’s remainder. A few songs, like the lusty, rhythmic “Master Hunter” notably stand out from the overall din, but, as with Tales of Us, it’s a sustained sense of exploration and wonder that resonates over time. Her generation’s Joni Mitchell? Keep watching this space.

Best tracks: “I Was An Eagle”, “Master Hunter”, “When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)”, “Where Can I Go?”

Video for “Master Hunter”:

vamp week


They’ve grown up a lot since Contra—their third album is the first without any annoying songs I have to skip over, but its merits go far beyond that. Having perfected an extraordinarily individual aesthetic up until now, they’re free to develop and deepen the content. In this case, that means not just observing and commenting on the world, but playing an active part by experiencing and confronting universal foibles such as aging, heartbreak, disappointment, and doubt. Up-tempo numbers like “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” mix deceptively sunny verve with sobering content, while the choruses of “Step” and “Hannah Hunt” (wistful and yearning, respectively) bespeak levels of maturity and feeling I previously thought were beyond this band.

Best tracks: “Diane Young”, “Hannah Hunt”, “Step”, “Unbelievers”

Video for “Hannah Hunt”:


2 Responses to Top Albums of 2013: # 6, 5, 4

  1. Howard says:

    Two this time that made my list. 🙂

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