My top album picks from 2013

I’m one of those people who can’t live without music and am always seeking new stuff to listen to. Thankfully, 2013 saw some really great albums released. Although not complete, these are my initial top picks and recommendations for albums to get into your collection….and your ears.

(Big thanks to Steve and Shannon for introducing me to a few of these albums. Also, if you have any recommendations, please include them in the comments below!)

#8. Daughter – If You Leave

Released in March, ‘If You Leave’ is the debut album from Daughter – a trio of musicians hailing from London UK. Elena Tonra’s vocals are haunting throughout the album and bleed raw emotion. There is at least one song on this album that everyone can relate to, unless you’ve never experienced heart break. Bottom line: The girl can sing.

Listen while: Curled up in a ball in a dark corner.
Listen to: Still, Shallows, Youth.

#7. SOHN – Bloodflows (and then some)

Ok. I’m going to cheat a little with this because Bloodflows was released in 2012, but I only discovered it in 2013 so I’m including it. It also consists of only 3 songs, but they are three spectacular songs, which is another reason SOHN has made my list. Melancholic with a heavy bass, this London-born artist is a producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who’s voice sounds like it dropped straight out of the heavens. Sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine and light a cigarette. I don’t care if you don’t smoke. Bottom line: You’ll want one while listening to this.

Listen while: On your back, on the floor, in the dark.  
Listen to: Bloodflows, Red Lines, The Wheel, Lessons.

#6.  James Blake – Overgrown

This is the follow up LP to Blake’s debut album – and tends to lean away from the dubstep sound that resonated in his first album. Young and hailing from London (seems they all come from London), James Blake is as talented as they come. Overgrown seems to be more R&B inspired, but still incorporates a lot of the heavy bass that he’s known for. The album swings from almost pure vocals (in Blake’s unique style) to hard pounding bass, sometimes with the songs themselves weaving through various moods. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing James Blake 3x in concert this past year, and only walked away temporarily deaf once. Bottom line: He has a unique sound and isn’t for everyone all the time, but he is definitely for me.

Listen while: Drunk with blurred vision, and really fucking loud – kick that bass up. 
Listen to: Retrograde, Digital Lion, Overgrown.

#5. High Highs – Open Season

Open Season is the debut album from the Australian-based duo High Highs. Light and airy sounding, this indie-pop album is some good listening for sleep/nap time, or those moments when you really just need to chill the fuck out. Acoustic guitars mixed with harmonizing vocals, this is truly the magic needed for the end of a stressful day. Bottom line: The album is great….yes it’s mellow, but this kind of stuff is necessary at some point in everyone’s life, even if it is on your death bed.

Listen while: Sleeping/napping, broken hearted, stressed out.
Listen to: Flowers Bloom, White Water, Phone Call, In a Dream, Love is All, Slow it Down, Pines. Actually, just listen to the whole album.

#4. The National -Trouble Will Find Me

The National released their 6th album in 2013 and Matt Berninger’s solid baritone sound continues into their latest. I don’t have enough good stuff to say about this album. It’s just that fucking good. I remember falling in love with every new song as I heard it, with the next becoming my favourite over the last, and so on. And in listening to it, you get the sense that it’s a very personal album – meant more for the band then their listening audience – but that’s the beauty of it….perhaps we’re being let to peek into a part of the band. I don’t know. All I know is this is one of the best albums – front to back – that I’ve ever heard. Bottom line: Be prepared to fall in love with The National if you haven’t already.

Listen while: Naked with a glass of scotch, messy hair, blood red lipstick.
Listen to: Every song on the album.

#3. Local Natives – Hummingbird

Hummingbird is the second LP released by the American indie-rock band Local Natives. The album itself has a slightly darker and sadder undertone, with lyrics inspired by the death of one of the band member’s mother, some relationship break ups and the departure of one of their members. Since I’m all about the sad shit, this album taps into my emotions, along with the unique vocal style of Kelcey Ayer. ‘You & I’ remains my alarm clock. ‘Three Months’ makes your broken heart ache like a mother fucker. ‘Ceilings’ makes you want to skip through a field of bright red poppies. Bottom line – if you ever get the chance to see them live, go.

Listen while: Just waking up, dealing with a broken heart, daydreaming in a traffic jam.
Listen to: You & I, Ceilings, Three Months, Bowery

#2. Rhye – Woman

If you have ever wondered what heaven must sound like, it is this. Rhye arrived on the music scene earlier this year in a mask of anonymity. With soothing, sultry vocals and a sound that immediately brings Sade to mind, singer Mike Milosh had the music world fooled into thinking he was a she for the longest time. Coupled with Danish instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, Milosh (who hails from Toronto) are the duet that comprise Rhye. I was lucky to have seen these guys perform at the Great Hall in Toronto earlier this year and it was audibly the best show I have ever been to, hands down (and I have been to a lot of concerts). From front to back, this album is a MUST HAVE for anyone who needs to connect with the heavens once in a while, or is looking to procreate. Bottom line: This is one of the sexiest, most sensual albums I’ve ever heard, so be prepared.

Listen while: Naked, in a candle-lit room with the one you love. Fireplace not necessary, but definitely recommended. Expect to make babies. 
Listen to: Every god damn song on this heavenly album.

#1. Andrew Belle – Black Bear

First place was a real toss up for me – with the competition being really between Andrew Belle’s Black Bear and Rhye’s Woman. But when it came down to it, Andrew Belle took pole position, but only by a fraction of a hair. Black Bear is one of those albums that I immediately fell in love with the moment I heard it. It’s the second album from American singer/songwriter Belle, and presents a completely different sound from his debut LP. He hasn’t grown into this album, he’s changed his sound completely. Black Bear is the type of album that everyone can relate to – the songs are great to sing to, cry to, laugh to, love to. Bottom line: From the love-soaked Pieces to the synth/bass heavy Santa Fe, this is one album that will never grow old. Ever.

Listen while: Depending on the song – happy in love, heart broken, or riding a colourful ferris wheel at night with your closest friends.
Listen to: Every song on this perfect album is worth listening to. 

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