Listen to the PODCAST of our Top 20 HERE
And so another year draws to a close and it’s time for The Von Pip Musical Express Awards. In part one we run down our top albums of the year from 1-20. What’s that you say? “No David Bowie, no My Bloody Valentine, no Suede, no Depeche Mode? No wilfully obscure artists who have fashioned instruments from their own ear wax? Surely your list lacks credibility?” Hmmm, but doesn’t any degree of credibility involve at least a modicum of honesty and laudable as some of the albums we haven’t listed are, they didn’t really engage us in the same way as the ones you’ll find below, sorry!
These are albums we genuinely loved (hence no Arcade Fire, apologies, we tried,we really did, but every time we listened we kept remembering we simply must get round to creosoting the fence) and so without further ado and without teasing you with a reverse order list – our album of the year is
1. Marnie – Crystal World
Yes, our favourite album of 2013 comes from Ladytron singer Helen Marnie, we described the album as “a hugely emotive record which sees Helen step out from behind her mysterious sultry Ladytron persona and reveal herself to be a songwriter of enormous emotional depth and honesty, able to produce songs which are poetic, fragile, heartfelt, and often downright heart-breakingly beautiful. In doing so she demonstrates just how inspiring, poignant, and engaging pop music can be when it’s produced with such eloquence and sincerity. If this album genuinely doesn’t move you then we can only conclude your sorry excuse for a soul is as withered, empty and indeed as tiny as Jeremy Clarkesons’ emaciated little scrotum.”
Upon accepting her magnificent “Pipster” award Helen said, “I had no idea how the album would be received so was pretty nervous. I’ve never won an award! Also, I never thought my name and Jeremy Clarkson’s scrotum would appear on the same page. Now that is quite something! Thanks again x”
Read our interview with Helen HERE where she talks about the album.
2. The Happy Hollows – Amethyst
The Happy Hollows second album ‘Amethyst’ saw the band take a seismic leap in terms of their sound and the results were A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.! It’s a dizzying mix of synth pop and spiralling guitars featuring the towering almost semi operatic vocals of singer and guitarist Sarah Negahdari, who has recently been moonlighting as a member of The Silver Sun Pickups. If you’re the sort of person who likes musical points of reference, and who doesn’t? Then at certain junctures within the album, you may discern hints of Ladytron, Blondie, New Order, Metric, Selebrities, and even a dash of Poliça and Zola Jesus. Life affirming!
3. Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion
Prolific and often brilliant San Diego’s Crocodiles released their forth album ‘Crimes of Passion’ this year and it is without doubt their finest collection of songs to date. The Crocs have always been a band with a great ear for melody, mixing it up crunching guitars, feedback, distortion and a psych/dreampop sensibility and their previous work, although excellent has perhaps not been as consistently brilliant as Crimes of Passion. Sune Rose Wagner from the Raveonettes produced it and his deft tweaking and gentle finesseing has certainly brought out the best from a band that really should be HUGE.
4 No Ceremony/// – No Ceremony///
The mysterious Manchester trio’s début is a perfect example of sophisticated electronic pop with real heart. This is all about the music and it’s a fantastically accomplished first outing that has the power to really engage the listener. Slick but never soulless, we suggest the best approach to this album is to simply listen and allow your ears to bathe in its beauty. Disregard the hype, the obfuscation and the smoke and mirrors that surrounded the band when they first emerged and focus on the result. Each track is a beautifully polished gem that transcends the desperate pigeon-holing that critics have tried to foist upon the trio.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
‘Trouble Will Find Me’ will doubtless be on many people’s best of 2013 list and perhaps is proof that the price of consensus isn’t always mediocrity. The National seem to effortlessly address complex themes and somehow make them accessible.
6. Sky Larkin – Motto
Sky Larkin’s third album ‘Motto’ is their most vibrant and focused work to date. Apparently, singer/Guitarist Katie Harkin wrote a large proportion of the lyrics for this album whilst the band took a short hiatus and she toured the world as a member of Wild Beasts. It’s full of joyous fist punching rambunctious melody juxtaposed with dark thematics and highlights the sort of lyrical dexterity that has always marked Katie out as one of our finest songwriters. Why Sky Larkin haven’t enjoyed bigger commercial success in the UK is perhaps due to the unassailable fact that sadly unchallenging safe shite sells by the mother-load. See the charts for further reference.
7. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
Over 30 years in the bizz and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 15th studio album ‘Push the Sky Away’ continues to do just that , an album that as is usual with Cave has a number of central themes that are open to interpretation. However, it does eloquently address the issue of getting older and observing life from a distance with a poetic articulacy few artists are able to muster. Mr Cave may not wish to harness his muse to — “this bloody cart of severed heads and glittering prizes” lest it be spooked but ‘Push The Sky Away’ is proof positive that his muse shows no sign of bolting.
8. Emily Jane White – Blood/Lines
‘Blood/Lines‘is a wonderful, timeless collection of songs. Poetic, literate, moving, challenging and hugely evocative, it is in fact everything that music as an art form, and thus as an act of self-expression should be. And of course, everything corporate fellating radio play-listed lowest common denominator music is not.
9. Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan II
Swedish punks Makthaverskan raise the bar on their second album Makthaverskan II, (we can’t wait to hear what album three will be called) … It’s an album that really does hit the spot on every level, uplifting, anthemic packed with attitude and charm. We’ve actually not featured them on the blog this year but have played them regularly on our Strangeways Radio show.
10. Girls Names – The New Life
Girls Names second album is full of bleak beauty and brooding glistening sound scapes, dystopian doom pop at its best. Do the rather sniffy critics who shriek “LAZY!!!!” at anybody who has the audacity to make a Joy Division comparison actually listen to the music in question? Granted they may have difficulty hearing, what with their heads being so firmly shoved up their own arses but guess what? It is OK to make comparisons if they are valid and it’s impossible not to listen to this album without the spectre of Ian Curtis drifting across your consciousness from time to time. It’s also an album of singular beauty
11. Pins – Girls Like Us
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and PINS début album ‘Girls Like Us’ released by Bella Union was without doubt a hugely impressive first outing on any number of artistic levels. It also managed to succeed where so many others have failed in that it captured the power, intensity, and excitement of the bands live performances.
12. Valentiine – Valentiine
Musically Valentiine hark back to a time when the likelihood of a country dancing band headlining Glastonbury seemed about as likely as George Osborne growing up to become a Jean Paul Gaultier poster boy. Valentiine don’t produce polite twee safe music, this album is rammed with visceral angst-ridden sexually charged grunged up rock n roll channelling the spirit of bands like The Breeders, Vercua Salt and L7.
13. Frankie Rose – Herein Wild
Miss Rose has transformed herself from lo fi garage girl gang affiliate to dream pop mega babe. If her previous album ‘Interstellar’ was something of a musical chrysalis, then ‘Herein Wild’ saw her emerge with her musical vision fully realised.
14. Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain
The London based experimental musical duo consisting of J.Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth II take samples from old archive footage, propaganda newsreels and public information films and blend them with soaring electronic post-rock grooves to produce something genuinely inspiring and original!
15. Feathers – If All Now Here
No fillers here, each song has been beautifully crafted and constructed, furnished with just the right amount of polish to create a wonderfully immersive dark electro pop soundscape. Feathers driving force Anastasia Dimou has created an enticing atmosphere of elegiac foreboding, combining sensual celestial vocals with killer pop hooks.
16. Sparrow and The Workshop – Muderopolis
Sparrow and the Workshop are a three-piece based in Glasgow and Murderopolis is their third and best album to date, mixing euphoric rousing melodies with melancholy to produce a compelling and utterly engaging collection of songs that deserves a much wider audience , so go and check it out !
17. Ezra Furman – Day of The Dog
Ezra Furman sounds rather like a mix of Jerry Lewis, and Bruce Springsteen fronting the Stooges. Many artists have tried to revive the incendiary spirit of rock and roll with mixed results, but Ezra Furman does it with an effortless cool.
18. Bleeding Rainbow – Yeah Right
Philly shoegaze from Bleeding Rainbow as founding members Sarah Everton and Rob Garcia, step out of the lo fi shadows and produce an epic shoegaze/psyche album of light and shade that oozes talent, noise and melody.
19. Anna Von Hausswolff – Ceremony
Controversial Swedish siren and pianist Anna Von Hausswolf gifts us an operatic Goth masterpiece, which soon reveals itself not to be an album for a sunny afternoon drive, with its themes being predominantly about death and loss. It’s ambitious poetic and beautiful and was nominated for two Swedish Grammies
20. Savages – Silence Yourself
Provocative, thoughtful and often explosive monochrome post punk from Savages, who prove there is substance behind the hype with this blistering Mercury nominated début.
And big shouts out to
21. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
22. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
23. Daughter – If You Leave
24. Ladylamb The Bee Keeper – Ripley Pine
25. Big Deal – June Gloom
There’ll be a top 20 podcast coming very soon and in Part 2 we’ll have – Single of the year / Gig Of the Year / Video Of The Year /Dickhead of The Year/ Saying Of the Year / etc, etc