You should know me better than that.
Revelations come to us in the strangest of ways. I was furiously sucking on mints, battling flight fatigue somewhere near the southern hemisphere, when that song came on; and I finally understood exactly why one particular album would remain at the top of my list for 2013. (See lists for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.)
Tunnel vision lights my way.
Trouble Will Find Me #1 #2 #3
A proverbial slip, skeletons in the closet, another knife in the gut. Soaking still in past rejection, rejoicing again in newfound nostalgia. Heartbreaking details of our everyday lives have always been laid bare for all to see, and no one understands this better than The National. Frontman Matt Berninger may employ the same modus operandi as in previous albums – his earnest insights are always ruminative, never unimpressive – but in the brilliant Trouble Will Find Me specifically, it is his signature warm baritone hitting newer ends of both registers that mirror the fragility of some of our greatest hopes and deepest fears. This, when complemented with shimmery strings from the Dessner twins, and the intense drumming and unrelenting guitar licks courtesy of the Devendorf brothers, make the Brooklyn-based band’s latest outing more than an affair to remember, forever etching a place even in the hardest of hearts. If trouble sounded half as good as this, then the world would indeed be a happier place.
The National plays at the Hostess Club Weekender, Fort Canning Park, Singapore, on 22 February 2014.
Favourite tracks: “Humiliation”, “Pink Rabbits”, “This is the Last Time”, “Graceless”, “Sea of Love”
All my silver dreams lead me to you.
Hummingbird #1 #2
Local Natives has successfully steered clear of the possibility of a sophomore slump, making a strong comeback early in the year. The Los Angeles quartet’s toned down approach in the introspective Hummingbird may have been a startling contrast to the louder sounds of their debut album, but the meticulously-crafted melodies and delicately-arranged falsettos still speak volumes, as the band stretched their creative capabilities and built on emotional climaxes never attempted before. It shows just how far they have come, their new brand of music leaving your spirits soaring long after the last note has played out.
Favourite tracks: “Ceilings”, “Breakers”, “You and I”, “Heavy Feet”, “Mt. Washington”
Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze #
If ever there was something made for a slow day by the beach, Kurt Vile’s Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze would be it. The wonderful concoction of dreamy tunes, paired with Vile’s trademark slacker drawl, easily entices your mind to wander to a place that knows only sun, sand and summer whole year round. Despite its length, the almost 70-minute-long album still feels immensely satisfying and reassuring, the gorgeous closing track drowning you in a series of urgently tinkling staccatos but hardly leaving you in a daze by the end of it all.
Catch Kurt Vile at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, on 25 January 2014.
Favourite tracks: “Goldtone”, “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day”
We’ve come so close.
Ambience is everything. Washed Out is, for me, this year’s Wild Nothing. After having acquired an inexplicable penchant for chillwave and dream pop thanks to the latter’s Nocturne (which had topped last year’s list), Paracosm feels like a natural progression, sailing in breezily with its eclectic choice of beach-friendly tunes and feel-good summer melodies. The tracks are effortlessly catchy and tend to blend and weave together as one, making it play like a soundtrack fit for a fun-filled day spent on the road catching rainbows and unicorns of your own imagination.
Favourite tracks: “Don’t Give Up”, “Great Escape”, “It All Feels Right”
No more doubt about it.
Man Alive (2010), Arc (2013)
Everything Everything has the privilege of being the only musical education attempted for the year. The Mancunian band’s latest effort, Arc, is a mixed bag of goodies, made up of plenty of fist-pumping tunes, infectious kicks and sudden sputters, with the occasional slow ballad thrown in (as in the 90s vibe of “Armourland”, which may have been channelling too much Rick Astley for me to take it seriously the first time). Nevertheless, subsequent listens peeled away those layers to reveal the mark of a band that revels in orchestral complexity, triumphs in melodic grandiosity, and makes no apologies for it.
Favourite tracks: “Armourland”, “Kemosabe”, “Choice Mountain” (Arc)
Reflektor, Arcade Fire
AM, Arctic Monkeys
Holy Fire, Foals
Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit
6 Feet Beneath the Moon, King Krule
The Messenger, Johnny Marr
Empty Estate EP, Wild Nothing
Fade, Yo La Tengo
Also listened to:
The Third Eye Centre, Belle & Sebastian
Mala, Devendra Banhart
Desire Lines, Camera Obscura
You Gots 2 Chill, Brendan Canning
The Flower Lane, Ducktails
The Terror, The Flaming Lips
Ski Mask, Islands
Damage, Jimmy Eat World
Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon
Lines, Julian Lynch
Paradise Valley, John Mayer
mbv, My Bloody Valentine
180, Palma Violets
Where You Stand, Travis
Modern Vampires in the City, Vampire Weekend
The only thing constant in life is change. It may have been one turbulent year, but no surprises can be found here.