Lists

musicOMH’s Top 100 Albums Of 2013: 100-51



This being December, our writers (well, most of them) have been voting on their favourite albums of 2013. Writers were asked to select their 10 best albums released this year, and from these votes a Top 100 has been compiled. Where voting points totals are tied, places are given at the editor’s discretion.

This resulting list, as ever, represents a cross section of tastes, a few frankly curious choices and some obvious contenders. Certain albums are placed higher than might have been expected, others lower, and still others not at all. Such is the way with such lists, flawed exercises in democracy that they are.

Compilations, ‘best-ofs’, re-releases, live albums, deluxe editions and EPs are not eligible, and voting commenced before the release of Nils Frahm‘s Spaces – that’s one album that surely should be in the list but is not.

You can check out lists from previous years here, should you fancy to.

100-51 / 50-6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 2 / 1 / full list and playlist

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But without further ado, it’s time to reveal numbers 100-51…

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Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky100. Jenny Hval – Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon)

What we said: “Innocence Is Kinky is the classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’; as threatening and weirdly creepy as the title and first lines of the album are, Hval invites you to a conversation about her body, but not in the postmodern oversharing kind of way. Instead, you are legitimately interested in what she has to say, and you begin thinking about yourself in the same way.” – Jordan Mainzer

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King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon99. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath The Moon (XL)

What we said: “Hugely impressive… Songs such as The Krockadile and Out Getting Ribs are further proof of his beguiling talent, showing exactly why Marshall can count Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator and even Beyoncé among his fans. Delivering on all his potential with the sort of nonchalance and assurance we’ve come to expect from the young man, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon is a special album, from a special artist.” – Andy Baber

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Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back98. Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back (Hyperdub)

What we said: “Whilst it obviously won’t be eligible for the Mercury Music Prize on the basis of nationality, this compelling, rigorous and often beautiful work ought to receive the same level of attention as Jessie Ware’s debut (with which it shares some superficial similarities). Yet beneath the pop sheen, melodic influences and club grooves lies something much stranger and curiously disconnected. These characteristics might see Pull My Hair Back elevated to cult status given the right audience and the power of word-of-mouth.” – Daniel Paton

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Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty97. Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty (Sargent House)

What we said: “Chelsea Wolfe has finally reached her incredible potential with Pain Is Beauty, a stunning collection of darkly inspiring songs that are more fully realised than any of Wolfe’s previous three albums. With just enough of a gothic, deadly touch to give the album a sense of urgency but not enough absurdly dark matter to derail from its focused and nuanced sense of woe, Pain Is Beauty hits all the right notes.” – Jordan Mainzer

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James Holden - The Inheritors96. James Holden – The Inheritors (Bedroom Community)

What we said: “His seven-year absence from recording makes his second album The Inheritors all the more special… The Inheritors again sees Holden embarking on a quest to the outer reaches of electronica. It’s a sound quite unlike any other producer’s. Placeless, formless and timeless, his sound patters are indicative of a dazzling musical mind. Experimentation isn’t an indulgence for James Holden; it’s at the core of his musical being.” – Martyn Young

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Katy Perry - Prism95. Katy Perry – Prism (Virgin EMI)

What we said: “Precision-tooled to continue the blockbuster success of Teenage Dream, the all-star line-up of producers is largely carried over from that album, with Dr Luke and Max Martin dominating… Given Katy Perry’s status, it’s to be expected that everyone involved, including writers such as Emeli Sandé and Klas Åhlund, would be at the top of their game: Prism was never going to be a terrible record. It’s unquestionably superior to the pop created when someone like Jessie J works with the same people.” – Philip Matusavage

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Grumbling Fur - Glynnaestra94. Grumbling Fur – Glynnaestra (Thrill Jockey)

What we said: “Galacticon redeems things with an early Boards Of Canada workout that swells and pulses with melodies peeking out of the drum machine in an enticing manner. Dancing Light similarly uses the pair’s vocals on a rather sweet indie-pop slanted effort that shows the humanity lurking beneath the vapid soundscapes with great relief. Clear Path goes one step further, becoming almost nu-folk Simon and Garfunkel in its acoustic airs and cello magic.” – Andy Jex

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The Knife - Shaking The Habitual93. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual (Rabid/Brille)

What we said: “Shaking The Habitual will polarize, especially for fans of the pop-leaning earlier Knife material; there is no Heartbeats here. But if you admire The Knife’s music for its incredible unpredictability and off-the-scale inventiveness, you are likely to consider this to be at least amongst their best work yet.” – Jack Dutton

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Deafheaven - Sunriser92. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish Inc)

What we said: “Sunbather is an emotionally overwhelming but truly absorbing listen. But best of all, it’s cleansing. By the end, you feel drained but also at ease, a calmness bestowed upon you. There’s something deeply relevant about Sunbather, as if it touches a sort of inner anxiety and insecurity that currently lingers in many of us. Perhaps that’s why you feel so calm by the end of it. It’s been fed and, for the time being, it relents. As if Deafheaven put themselves on the line for us. Sunbather deserves every accolade it’s likely to get.” – David Meller

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Money - Shadow Of Heaven91. Money – The Shadow Of Heaven (Bella Union)

What we said: “In The Shadow Of Heaven, Money have unveiled themselves as an ambitious band, who owe a fair bit to the influences of the city they live in as well as the generations of artist who have been inspired to write thoughtful rock music there. They may spend more time out of the limelight than in it, but they have undoubtedly made a statement here, and one which should shine more light on them, no matter how difficult they try and make themselves to be found.” – Chris Saunders

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Mikal Cronin - MCII90. Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)

What we said: “MCII is an album all about emotions and feelings. It’s perhaps a risk for Cronin to take a partial step away from hazy psychedelic rock in favour of plaintive emoting, but it’s a risk he navigates extremely successfully. His melodic skill shines out on a batch of songs redolent of Bob Mould’s Sugar or Dinosaur Jr’s poppier moments. It’s a record that sees Mikal Cronin finding his way as a songwriter in his own right.” – Martyn Young

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Drenge - Drenge89. Drenge – Drenge (Infectious)

What we said: “Drenge were unwittingly given an extra boost of publicity when the Labour MP Tom Watson quit the Shadow Cabinet and retired to the back benches. In the letter of resignation he sent to Ed Miliband, he offered up his top Glastonbury discovery: “If you want to see an awesome band, I recommend Drenge.” Apparently, Drenge were not enthused by this, reacting with the kind of apathy that comes through in their lyrics, and whether Miliband has given them a listen yet remains unknown. But, on the evidence of this album, Watson was on the money.” – Alan Ashton-Smith

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Disclosure - Settle88. Disclosure – Settle (PMR)

What we said: “Settle stars with an absolute banger. Intro segues into proper opener When A Fire Starts To Burn, a ministerial sample laden track with bass and hi-hats to get you dancing immediately. When A Fire Starts To Burn probably has the most club potential… even if Disclosure have scored two Top 10 singles in 2013 already, When A Fire Starts To Burn sounds ready to top the charts – both the dance charts and “songs of the year” lists. You just want to hit repeat and stay in its universe forever.” – Jordan Mainzer

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Bill Callahan - Dream River87. Bill Callahan – Dream River (Drag City)

What we said: “You’ll find a gem at the heart of the album. As a musician who’s clearly demonstrated his qualifications as a student of American folk and blues, he crafts his own dirty blues tune Ride My Arrow, complete with a swaggering wah-wah guitar riff. And just like John Lee Hooker’s legendary My Father Was A Jockey, he sets up all of the double-entendres early on of birds of prey and arching arrows in the sky. Except it’s not about sex; it’s about war… It’s a truly breathtaking piece of songwriting and musicianship over what seems like an epic five minutes from Callahan. He effortlessly carves the entire narrative out of just one incendiary and shimmering guitar line which combines to stunning effect with his own breathy baritone.” – Geoff Cowart

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Postiljonen - Skyer86. Postiljonen – Skyer (Best Fit)

What we said: “Swedish trio Postiljonen’s music is strictly mood music. Their sound is a swirling breeze of lissom smooth electro pop that is as alluring as it is dreamy. Their debut album Skyer is an example of Postiljonen’s desire to conjure up moods and feelings through their soft-focus sounds. There’s very much naïve purity to Postiljonen’s music; there’s no overarching message or concept here. Neither is there any self-aggrandizing aggression or posturing. Instead, what you have is a debut album that is subtly realised and open to any interpretation. The pellucid quality of the music makes it easy to fall for Postiljonen’s charms.” – Martyn Young

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Villagers - {Awayland}85. Villagers – {Awayland} (Domino)

What we said: “Certainly the album’s lyrics are masterly – intelligent, engaging and humane. The stately In A Newfound Land You Are Free seems to be a sweet declaration of love from a father to his new-born baby until the lyrics make dark reference to ‘a lifetime too brief’ and a ‘newfound grief’, turning the song into something far more tragic. The Bell, meanwhile, marries a wonderful look at creativity and meaning to a hook-laden pop song. There are many treasures to be found here, with the songs positively fizzing with a gleeful ingenuity. By the time the album ends with the noise of a braying donkey, it’s a hard listener who will not have a wide grin on their face such is the wonder at what Villagers have achieved. Defying all expectations, they have taken a brave leap forward and delivered one of the first great albums of 2013. Here’s hoping that much well-deserved success follows.” – Philip Matusavage

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Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd - Hold It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project84. Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd – Holding It Down (Pi)

What we said: “To call this one of the albums of the year feels trivialising and banal. More so than either of Iyer and Ladd’s previous collaborations, it represents something of a documentary triumph. It’s music as reportage – as useful to future historians of post 9/11 America as any newspaper report, piece of writing or video footage. Beyond this, the exceptional, imaginative music so brilliantly enhances the narrative, making this a cultural document of tremendous importance. It should not be lost in a sideshow of media and musical politics.” – Daniel Paton

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Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven83. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven (Warp)

What we said: “As electronic music has become ever more fractured throughout the last decade, Brooklyn based musician Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, has emerged at the forefront of a vanguard of experimental electronic alchemists. The OPN formula has been honed over five years of sonic manipulation that mines both themes and feelings of nostalgia with a slightly warped sense of futurism. It makes for an oblique but often affecting combination of styles and sound… Lopatin’s work as Oneohtrix Point Never has always provoked conversation and opinion despite his remaining primarily a niche artist. The jump to Warp may provide him with more exposure. R Plus Seven is as singularly compelling as any of his previous releases, but in his desire to transcend glossy hyper pop and introspective electronica into something new and fascinating, Lopatin has delivered a masterful debut for his new label.” – Martyn Young

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Magic Arm - Images Rolling82. Magic Arm – Images Rolling (Peacefrog)

What we said: “Images Rolling is undeniably focused on experimenting with different sounds, and it doesn’t work all the time. Yet there’s more to it than that. Somewhere in this eclectic mix is a talented songwriter bursting to get out and show the world what he’s really made of. And with Images Rolling he has made an intriguing and, at times, inventive step up from his previous work.” – Max Raymond

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The Haxan Cloak - Excavation81. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Tri-Angle)

What we said: “Not only is Krlic is a master of sound manipulation, but his ability to establish mood is quite extraordinary too. The chiming bell (or perhaps gong) at the beginning of Excavation (Part 1) gives way to disembodied voices and a beat that slides like the dragging leg of body mangled in a printing press, reanimated by a monkey’s paw. When those rhythms turn into a heartbeat pulse and a synth hovers above like a distant bomber, a palpable tension is created. Become too immersed in The Haxan Cloak’s world and a series of panic attacks is all too likely.” – Sam Shepherd

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Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle80. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle (Virgin EMI)

What we said: “Once I Was An Eagle is really a character piece, a celebration of a still maturing, yet formidable woman. A continuation of the move away from her more melodic and accessible early work, it is the product of Marling’s steely determination, self-exploration and emotional candour. Sandblown and enigmatic, these are English folk songs that at times sound as if they’ve been established in the canon for umpteen years, yet the filter of tradition yields strangely enigmatic results; songs that are readily self-aware, but also conjure something unknown.” – Matt Langham

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Iceage - You're Nothing79. Iceage – You’re Nothing (Matador)

What we said: “It’s an intriguing mixture of pure punk, post punk, and first-wave emo – think Fugazi or Rites Of Spring – though the moments of deliberate discordance are as frequent as the buried melodic gems. This is no unit-shifter. So what’s going on here? Perhaps Matador see Iceage as another U2 or REM, uncommercial ugly ducklings who turned into lucrative swans once their full pop potential was unleashed. This is not about what they are, but what they could be.” – Martin Headon

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Melt Yourself Down - Melt Yourself Down78. Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down (The Leaf Label)

What we said: “Moreover, this is at its heart a form of dance music, so some feeling of repetition can be forgiven; crucially, rhythm and soul are both present in droves. Fans of any of the bands Melt Yourself Down’s musicians have played with are likely to find much to enjoy here, but equally, lovers of Balkan brass and groups like the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble will see a crossover appeal in this frenetic noise. It’s compelling stuff; we need more musicians who are prepared to go nuts in this delightfully joyous way.” – Alan Ashton-Smith

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Goldfrapp - Tales Of Us77. Goldfrapp – Tales Of Us (Mute)

What we said: “Whereas Goldfrapp’s classic material featured a certain detached cool, Tales Of Us, as the title might suggest, is more romantic and emotionally plugged in. Underlining this, the lyrics of its tearjerking finale, Clay, were inspired by a letter written by one World War Two soldier about another, his lover; the song deals with real people rather than characters. It makes a powerful case for Goldfrapp operating at the top of their game not only in soundscapes but in lyrics too, finding a stronger voice and knowing how to use it. This is real music, about real people, dealing in real emotion. That it sounds so gorgeously lush too is mere icing on a very rich cake.” – Jordan Mainzer

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Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt76. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (Wichita)

What we said: “Cerulean Salt isn’t an album to mope to – in fact, on tracks like the gloriously upbeat Coast To Coast, the exhilarating rush of EMA or the better moments of Bethany Cosentino’s Best Coast is brought to mind. Instead, Waxahatchee’s second album is one to immerse yourself in, to lose yourself in and generally marvel at the raw emotion that’s so beautifully expressed. A record that you’ll find yourself coming back to time and time again.” – John Murphy

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The Boxer Rebellion - Promises75. The Boxer Rebellion – Promises (Absentee)

What we said: “Indie rock quartet The Boxer Rebellion have metamorphosized into a British version of The National in their tuneful indie rock stylings… The glossy sheen of Diamonds opens proceedings, sliding in on a guitar and drum hook that threatens to morph into Don Henley’s Boys Of Summer or another ’80s widescreen escapist anthem. Fragile almost threatens to burst into a hoe-down with its looping rhythms, before layering on more bricks of density to the wall of sound which threatens to burst into U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name at any point.” – Andy Jex

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Ólöf Arnalds - Sudden Elevation74. Ólöf Arnalds – Sudden Elevation (One Little Indian)

What we said: “Sudden Elevation is yet another solid display of Arnalds’ talents and is arguably the LP that most newcomers to the singer-songwriter should arrive at first. There are no signs that she’ll drastically alter her sound and, to some extent, that is pretty comforting. Describing someone as reliable can sometimes be misconstrued as a bad thing and often suggests that an artist is lacking ideas to the point where they become unlistenable. In this instance, it’s entirely complimentary. The world would be a less happy place without albums like this.” – Max Raymond

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MS MR - Secondhand Rapture73. MS MR – Secondhand Rapture (RCA)

What we said: “In a year where the likes of Tegan & Sara, Haim and AlunaGeorge have already helped shore up pop’s defences, MS MR settle with ease into the wider landscape. For them, you feel, everything else is incidental – by-products of an already winning formula. For at the heart of each of the songs here is a touch of resonance – the kind that all the best pop records have. Whether each track in question happens to be weaker of stronger, a richness that speaks out with a singular voice remains throughout; gently, measured in its tones. It feels like a voice you can trust.” – Laurence Green

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Los Campesinos! - No Blues72. Los Campesinos! – No Blues (Heart Swells/Turnstile/Wichita)

What we said: “Los Campesinos! have grown up while not neglecting what made them so loved in the first place. Their Pavement et al roots aren’t as clear here, but that’s more than fine. There’s the archetypical vulnerability lurking beneath each track, but their sound suggests something everyone from that mid-2000s period has (hopefully) done – matured and become more assured. With it, indie pop mk II has as well. Excellent, this.” – David Meller

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Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse71. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse (Atlantic)

What we said: “Seemingly unremitting gloom is tinged with the hope of redemption… highlight(ing) Frightened Rabbit’s wonderful, humane appeal and Hutchison’s literary instincts, qualities which make this album a warm and wonderful companion. Indeed, Hutchison comes across as akin to a charming and erudite barfly, full of hard-won wisdom and entertaining self-deprecation – the darkly comic closer The Oil Slick finds him once again taking pot shots at himself… This lack of ego lends a refreshing air to an album which is self-assured, charismatic and quite simply brilliant. Pedestrian Verse should easily continue Frightened Rabbit’s upwards trajectory and, as with the characters who populate the album, you can’t help but root for their success.” – Philip Matusavage

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Bill Frisell Big Sur70. Bill Frisell – Big Sur (Sony Classical)

What we said: “Really, this is very clever, very impressive music indeed. To execute this hybrid of near-baroque string quartet stylings, blues lines, American folk and interactive ensemble playing without any of it sounding forced is remarkable. Frisell’s unique personal style is now so established and assured that this music feels thoroughly mesmeric and absorbing. The playing, as might be expected, is consistently articulate and expressive, not least drummer Rudy Royston’s ability to make even the most steady and unwavering backbeat sound richly imaginative. The outstanding violinist Jenny Scheinman has been a key Frisell collaborator for some time now, and she remains a resourceful and thoughtful musician. The group, when all playing together, feels elemental and symbiotic.” – Daniel Paton

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OMD - English Electric69. OMD – English Electric (100%)

What we said: “That English Electric is a finer album than History Of Modern is without question – albeit an album that lacks some of rawness and unabashed feckless attitude of its predecessor. English Electric is a ‘constructed’ effort from start to finish, and wears that veneer with pride. But most importantly, more than any recent effort from Pet Shop Boys, Erasure or Human League, it fits seamlessly in with their original creations. This is no re-tooled re-envisioning for the modern age – as History Of Modern was – this is OMD through and through. Cut English Electric open and it’d bleed the same blue blood as those cherished artefacts of synthetic majesty; Messages, Enola Gay, Souvenir.” – Laurence Green

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The Spook School - Dress Up68. The Spook School – Dress Up (Fortuna POP!)

What we said: “Joanna Gruesome‘s first album was a blustering, raucous affair that announced their arrival at the noisier end of the label’s roster. At the opposite end of the scale, Flowers have been making a quieter name for themselves. But Dress Up, the debut album from The Spook School, is the album that many have been waiting for. (It) is the sound of four young people experimenting with music as an outlet for their questions, thoughts and frustrations about gender, identity and growing up, and proving that examining such big subjects needn’t be a daunting experience. On this evidence, the future is safe in The Spook School’s hands.” – Helen Clarke

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Wooden Shjips - Back To Land67. Wooden Shjips – Back To Land (Thrill Jockey)

What we said: “Wooden Shjips are generally tagged with that space-rock label a little too heavily; nothing here recalls the Hawkwind-like spacey blips and bleeps that label-mates White Hills often favour, for instance. Their strengths lie within rocky, repetitive grooves and guitar wizardry, with Johnson’s own appearance aptly resembling that of a wizard. Tellingly, the band only once surpass a running time of six minutes on Back To Land. In this case, less is more.” – Graeme Marsh

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Future Of The Left - How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident66. Future Of The Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident (Prescriptions)

What we said: “How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident cements Future Of The Left as unique. It seems impossible that a band can so consistently produce such output full of lyrical ingenuity, social commentary, and musical quality while retaining a sense of humour. Keeping in mind that songs like Male Gaze and She Gets Passed Around At Parties are tearing down chauvinism through humor and satire, you realise that Future Of The Left aren’t just for either an academic audience, noise fans, or people who think that music has sucked since Pinkerton. They’re a band for anybody who has recognised the absurdity of the world and only wishes to laugh at it.” – Jordan Mainzer

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Bring Me The Horizon - Sempitermal65. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal (RCA)

What we said: “As two halves of the same equation, both There Is A Hell… and Sempiternal stand as one of the landmark achievements of contemporary British metal. With all the ingredients for success laid bare, Sempiternal comes as the lightbulb moment – the clicking into place of every cog and spring, Bring Me The Horizon more than ready to accept the gauntlet thrown to them. Sold out arenas surely now beckon.” – Laurence Green

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Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP264. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Interscope)

What we said: “MMLP2 was always going to be a risk for Eminem. The original set the benchmark so high that even attempting to replicate it was going to be a challenge, one that, frankly, he didn’t need to take. However, it is a testament to Eminem’s enduring talent that the album never feels laboured or even slightly dated. Instead, it is a perfect reflection of the world of Marshall Mathers in 2013. All hail the king.” – Andy Baber

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Johnny Marr - The Messenger63. Johnny Marr – The Messenger (Warner)

What we said: “‘David Cameron, stop saying that you like The Smiths. No you don’t. I forbid you to like it.’ It was with that tweet back in 2010 that Johnny Marr confirmed the massive impact of The Smiths’ cultural legacy. From being the champions of the dispossessed and alienated to being namechecked by the Prime Minister – it’s been quite a journey. It may also explain why Johnny Marr has taken over 25 years to make his first official solo album. After all, when you’ve been universally acclaimed as the greatest guitarist of your generation, and then gone on to join Electronic, Modest Mouse and The Cribs, as well as guest with seemingly every musician alive, then maybe there’s no real need to go solo…” – John Murphy

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Eluvium - Nightmare Ending62. Eluvium – Nightmare Ending (Temporary Residence)

What we said: “No matter how many times you listen to Nightmare Ending, you will probably never figure out why it was given its title: sad or happy, deaths and endings are not treated on the album as nightmarish, but as natural to humanity as is emotion. It’s this comforting conclusion that Cooper has reached on Nightmare Ending that leads one to think that he might be able to tweak and refine the ideas he explores on the record to create something truly great in the future. For now, however, it’s worth it to bask in what Nightmare Ending has to offer. Title aside, you’ll certainly sleep peacefully.” – Jordan Mainzer

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The Field - Cupid's Head61. The Field – Cupid’s Head (Kompakt)

What we said: “Whilst much of Cupid’s Head is unwaveringly dark, it rarely feels enervated or emotionless, regardless of the precision inherent in Willner’s looping methods. This is why this hypnotic, compelling music has worked so consistently well over time. With every new release, from 2007′s From Here We Go Sublime on at roughly two-year intervals, Willner makes a small but not insignificant change in the way in which he presents his repetitive, circular motifs. If Cupid’s Head’s predecessors aimed at something transcendent or nostalgic, this album is doused in a pervasive realism. The occasional deployment of distortion maybe hints at a lingering anger or resentment, whilst the presence of detached, ghostly human voices shows Willner is a master controller of his music’s constituent elements.” – Daniel Paton

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Factory Floor - Factory Floor60. Factory Floor – Factory Floor (DFA)

What we said: “This is an album that just wants to make you dance… But after a while you don’t really miss the grime. You’re too busy admiring the stark clarity of the sound, the astonishing precision with which the songs on the record bury themselves into your consciousness. Be it Work Out, with a kick-drum desperate to burst into Blue Monday by New Order at any given moment, or Breathe In – weirdly reminiscent of an exsanguinated version of Benny Benassi‘s Satisfaction – or the wonderful sleek Fall Back, Factory Floor is also a lot more fun than you might have imagined, without sacrificing any of what made them so exciting and immersive in the first place. Basically, it’s a fantastic debut. Basically, Factory Floor are one of the most interesting acts around today. Basically, this is the part where cannons fire, corks pop and choirs sing. HALLE. BLOODY. LUJAH.” – Tim Lee

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Pure Bathing Culture - Moon Tides59. Pure Bathing Culture – Moon Tides (Memphis Industries)

What we said: “Moon Tides’ influences and overall sound combine to form something of a flashback to the early days of indie music. But this only heightens its impact, allowing it to become something of an antidote to these fast-paced, unyielding times. It politely demands your attention; it wants to transport you elsewhere, to a place in which to daydream and reflect. Hindman and Versprille were absolutely right to go it alone; they’ve made a beautiful album.” – David Meller

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Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks58. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks (Columbia)

What we said: “Hesitation Marks has staying power until the very end… Even if Reznor’s falsetto ultimately renders Running a wannabe Radiohead song, to hear it done by Nine Inch Nails is impressive. (This is) an album of bona fide radio hits in an ideal world, a fine example of mainstream rock at its most tasteful, music that’s going to be popular and sell a lot but that’s not afraid to subtly defy expectations of what its makers are.” – Jordan Mainzer

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Marius Neset - Birds57. Marius Neset – Birds (Edition)

What we said: “The influence of European folk music, particularly from dances, seems prominent here, and much of the album feels like birds singing in flight. The folk element contrasts effectively with the more directly jazz-informed lines brought to the table by Jim Hart. The whole ensemble blends effortlessly and handles some exceedingly complex material with grace and care. There is plenty of astounding technique on display on Birds, and a fair bit of mathematics too in the music’s intricate structures, but there’s also real musicality, flair and feeling. It’s far too early in Neset’s career for him to be making masterpieces, but Birds already feels like one.” – Daniel Paton

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Laura Veirs - Warp & Weft56. Laura Veirs – Warp And Weft (Bella Union)

What we said: “After the hushed traditional folk of July Flame, her instrumental score to the romantic comedy Hello I Must Be Going and the charming album of children’s songs Tumble Bee, Laura Veirs‘ ninth studio album Warp & Weft sees a return to her Americana roots. Not that she ever really departed from them of course – over the last 14 years, she’s carved something of a well-respected niche for herself, together with the likes of Neko Case and The Decemberists, as a purveyor of high quality rootsy American folk-rock. Veirs is at that stage in her career where she’ll probably never be a massive star, but is guaranteed to turn out album after album of expertly crafted songs. This is possibly her most satisfying album to date; it is, at times, quite spellbinding.” – John Murphy

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Laura Mvula - Sing To The Moon55. Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon (RCA)

What we said: “The album does start off well, with the gospel vocal bursts on Like The Morning Dew demonstrating just how captivating Mvula can be when her voice is backed by an orchestral arrangement. Make Me Lovely is another highlight, using beautifully delicate strings to swarm Mvula’s vocals, until a stuttering horn takes hold on the enchanting chorus. It is followed by Green Garden to round up what is a very strong opening to the album.” – Andy Baber

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Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse54. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse (Fat Possum)

What we said: “The album’s best moment occurs just past the halfway point in the form of Dropla, a beautiful song that rivals The Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize? for emotional heft… These aren’t the most poetic words in the world but, when coupled with the song’s gorgeous melody, they have the ability to reduce the listener to heaving sobs. The density of its production and the slipperiness of its song structures ensures that this album isn’t for everyone. But for those with a high tolerance for psychedelic whimsy and the time to invest in repeated listens, Wondrous Bughouse offers ample pleasures.” – Christopher Monk

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II53. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II (Jagjaguwar)

What we said: “Unknown Mortal Orchestra have unquestionably consolidated their growing reputation with II. It may not sound drastically different, but a gradual progression from their debut is in evidence, taking the psychedelic textures that made up their self-titled record and presenting them with more emotional investment… The majority of II shows just how good Unknown Mortal Orchestra can be when Nielson knows which direction he wants to take.” – Andy Baber

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Thundercat - Apocalypse52. Thundercat – Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)

What we said: “Apocalypse, the second album by bass maestro extraordinaire Stephen Bruner, aka Thundercat, is an album that sounds quite unlike almost anything else. It is a record that equally represents the past and the future, one that plays around with perceptions, moods, feelings and emotions. For Thundercat, Apocalypse is a special transcendent place where he seeks to take his music. In collaboration with producer and label boss Flying Lotus, he has made a masterwork.” – Martyn Young

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Sky Larkin - Motto51. Sky Larkin – Motto (Wichita)

What we said: “There’s not a bad track to be found on Motto. Perhaps, as the album progresses into its second half, songs like Tarn and Frozen Summer seem a bit more meandering than the more immediate first half, but they reveal their more subtle charms over repeated listens. We knew Sky Larkin had potential. It’s been more than followed up on with Motto, surely one of the best albums of the year.” – John Murphy

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We’re counting down our writers’ top 100 albums of 2013.

100-51 / 50-6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 2 / 1 / full list and playlist


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