2013 has been a huge year for great new music. Maybe it’s just that I feel like I’ve listened to more new music than last year, and the number of new albums that I enjoyed made forming this top 10 a very difficult task. As always, I don’t claim this as a definitive “best of 2013” list, but rather a “Stereotype favourites” list. It’s impossible to call something the best when you’ve only experienced a small percentage of what was released in a given year. So while the supply us high, the great thing is that the demand has never been higher. The resurgence of vinyl keeps bubbling away and on that note we’ve seen great demand for the new range of Music Hall turntables which in our opinion offer the best performance in their class. Digital downloads and streaming are now the normal – even if I feel like I am the odd one out who still likes to buy CDs, let’s hope the likes of iTunes/Spotify/MySpace/Xbox Music etc. keep pushing for better quality files. At the moment the quality is pretty low, and unfortunately brilliant services like HDtracks don’t have the range, but this is improving. While I still buy CDs I do find myself streaming music via my Micromega MyDAC more often that spinning discs. I guess the most important thing is to not really get that hung up about the format, it has never been more affordable to get a high quality source regardless of whether that’s analogue or digital, and for me they all have a place.
10. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
The debut album from Brooklyn based based Folk group The Lone Bellow came up in my recommendations list shopping on Amazon. I gave it a quick listen and thought, now there’s a brilliant vocalist. The album has country and gospel influences in places, tracks Tree to Grow and Teach Me to Know are the stand outs, while the opener Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold doesn’t do it for me and You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To is too country for me. Some gems in here, recommended.
9. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Without a doubt the most hyped album of 2013, featuring the most played song of 2013. But does it live up to the hype? Does the rest of the album have anything worth listening too? Thankfully yes. It’s a fantastic recording and The Game of Love became a go to demo track. However, my favourite song is Instant Crush featuring The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas.
8. Volcano Choir – Repave
Indie darling Justin Vernon’s side project Volcano Choir released their follow up album to 2009’s Unmap. Repave is less experimental, which makes it more listenable, and no doubt more appealing to the Bon Iver fans. There are three stand out tracks for me and they are back to back on the album; Byegone, Alaskansand Dancepack. All different, all genius. However, Byegone is an epic song that I would have put either as the opener or closer to this great album.
7. Atoms for Peace – AMOK
Every time I listen to this album I hear something new, there are so many layers, and so many background sounds that sneak up on you that you weren’t expecting. I unashamedly pretty much love everything Thom Yorke touches. If you’re intrigued, checkout Default and Judge Jury Executioner which are two of my favourites. One of my most listened to albums of 2013 as its great to work to with your headphones cranking.
6. The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
The Phoenix Foundation made our 2010 list with Buffalo, and Fandango carries on nicely with playful adult pop at its best. Clever lyrics, catchy riffs and NZ made, what’s not to love here? Thames Soup should’ve got NZ Song of the Year, but of course someone ruined that for the boys. Support your local, buy it!
5. Arctic Monkeys – AM
I never got into earlier Arctic Monkeys songs but when the single Do I Wanna Know was released I couldn’t get enough of it. I bought the CD on the basis of this track expecting to be a little disappointed with the rest and to my pleasant surprise this a bloody good rock album. And just when you thought you’d figured out the album, they drop rock ballad No.1 Party Anthem that will be turning the Gallagher boys green.
4. Mazzy Star – Seasons of your Day
A new Mazzy Star album was exciting news for me. In my book lead singer Hope Sandoval can do no wrong. She could sing the dictionary and it would be amazing. Fade Into You is one of my all time favourite songs and Massive Attack’s Paradise Circus which features Sandoval, was one of my favourites from 2010. Pour a glass of Pinot, turn the lights down, listen and enjoy.
3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
It took me a few listens before Trouble Will Find Me stood out as a truly great album. The opening track I Should Live in Salt and the track Heavenfaced show off lead singer Matt Berninger’s voice beautifully. In my 2010 list, The National’s High Violet made it to the #1 spot, so it was a tough act to follow, but they’ve proved there’s plenty more in The National boys, I can wait three years for the next album if the quality remains this high. Highly Recommended.
2. Boy and Bear – Harlequin Dream
Aussie band Boy and Bear produced a crackingly good album this year, you’ll probably be familiar with the opening track Southern Sun if you listen to Hauraki or presumably other Rock radio stations. Bridges and Back Down the Black are the stand out tracks for me, and if they left off the country influenced End of the Line this album would be perfect!
1. Local Natives – Hummingbird
The more I listen to this album the more l enjoy it! Hummingbird was an early favourite for the top spot and it held on. It’s hard to pick stand out tracks but Three Months, Heavy Feet (which has a brilliant video featuring visually impaired model aeroplane pilots) and Mt Washington would be my favourites. Really the whole album is outstanding apart from perhaps Black Spot that I finding myself skipping over. Album of the year for me, so yes I think you should rush out and buy it.
Well there you have it, what was your favourite?
Merry Christmas from both Tiens and I, thanks for the continued support and we look forward spending many more hours listening to great music on great sounding Hifi in 2014.
Everybody loves a good bass track to show of their system. Whether you are impressing someone with the bass from a system with or without a sub these tracks are our top picks.
With all the tracks below its not just about heaps of bass, its about the combination of slam and attack of a kick drum, the subtleties of the different notes in an upright bass, or the sheer depth from a sampler. It’s these details rather than car-audio-like boom that we look for. Anyone can make bass go boom, just get an entry level ported sub, crank it to 11 and it’ll do that just fine. But here’s the thing, we don’t like boom and we don’t like one note bass. Only the best subwoofers and large speakers can play real bass, down low, with clarity that you can distinguish all the notes and with force that you can feel in your chest.
Now, below are links to low quality audio versions, ironically half the bass information is filtered out in compression! But, if you dig the tracks, then go source a high quality copy.
Massive Attack – Flat of the blade (Album: Heligoland)
Why we like it: Deep layered bass, from 1:10 there’s a lot going on that tests the best subs, oh and Guy Garvey!
Four Play – Bali Run (Album: Fourplay)
Why we like it: This bass is fast and tight with a few different layers of bass.
Radiohead – Kid A (Album: Kid A)
Why we like it: Well for one it’s one of favourite bands. On our reference R909’s this is insane, the note at 1:27 gets us everytime.
Stanley Clarke – Fantasy Love (Album: East River Drive)
Why we like it: The Bass has amazing slam and attack, one of those classic “audiophile” tracks.
Kele – Tendoroni (Album: Boxer)
Why we like it: Sometimes you just need a good dance floor stomper to show off your system, massive sound, turn it up! And if your speakers can handle 1:24 onwards without you reaching for the volume, well done.
Bee Gees – Loose Talk Cost Lives (Album: This is Where I Came in)
Why we like it: This album is such a great recording, the combination of the kick and bass sound so good together on this track.
Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa – Afrika Shox (Album: Rhythm and Stealth)
Why we like it: Each listen you’ll here new sounds on this track, there’s something about how the bass decays, you have this hard hit, then a deep bass decay, great track.
Daft Punk – End of Line (Album: Tron Legacy Soundtrack)
Why we like it: The slowish beat, with the deep rumble behind it, is one that will impress your friends for sure.
Jacques Loussier’s ” Vivace Concerto No 3 in C minor” (Album: The Very Best of Play Bach)
Why we like it: The most accurate kick drum bass we’ve listened too, added with a combo of deep cello low freq picking and upper bass piano notes. Sorry, we couldn’t find an online sample of this one.
Jeff Buckley – Everybody Here Wants You (Album: Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk)
Why we like it: For us, when this track is done right, its a personal concert from the legendary Jeff Buckley. Great vocal, solid kick, and a textured bass holding it all together, a masterpiece.
What are your favourite tracks for showing off your system?