Song, by Toad’s Top Albums of 2013 1-5

trphy 1-5 / 6-1011-20

So here we have it, the definitive, totally objective list of the five best albums released in 2013. I could show you the proof if you wanted, but it’s basically just a chart which says that I am always right, except when I change my mind, and even then I am right the first time and even righter once I’ve decided I wasn’t. Got that?

It’s kind of from the Donald Trump School of Reasoning, so surely can’t be all that difficult to grasp.

Anyhow, unlike some years, this time there are at least another five records or so I would personally have wanted on this list, and actually if you ask me on another day they might well have found themselves on it. You know what it’s like red wine and saucisson and you choose one album, gin and radishes and you choose another.

Song, by Toad, where the deeply, deeply middle class have been going to find out about music since 2004.

 1. Willard Grant ConspiracyGhost Republic

In a sense I sort of feel this album belongs in a category all of its own. In a year where what I would very, very loosely call ‘Americana’ swept back into my listening habits with a vengeance, this album was perhaps the last, but it was very much the one which stood out.

In fact, I don’t think an album has stopped me in my tracks quite like this one did for years. Nothing sounds quite like it. It’s so harsh and present, and the amount of detail the engineers have left in the recording leaves me feeling a bit like a deer in headlights.

And seeing as I can’t find a single tune from this which I am allowed to embed by itself, I am going to have to embed the following YouTube video of the entire record for you instead. Oh what a hardship!

***

 2. Majical CloudzImpersonator

This is one of those albums where people who don’t share your music taste look at you and ask why you’re playing such depressing stuff all the time. It makes me want to punch people. Sad music does NOT MAKE YOU FEEL SAD, you fucking idiots. It’s cathartic and uplifting.

Anyhow, yes, this album is magnificently downbeat and morose, and nevertheless absolutely gorgeous. Of all the records on this list I think this one might be the one where I’ve ended up playing it over and over again, one time after another.

***

 3. Yo La TengoFade

Yo La Tengo, a bit like Nick Cave, are one of those bands whose status within my music collection is best described as legendary. But, also a bit like Nick Cave, a couple of lacklustre precursors had left me less somewhat than on tenterhooks about this new release. And what a fun way to be completely, completely wrong!

Where previous records had felt a bit like Yo La Tengo trying to make a record which sounds like a Yo La Tengo album, this despite not being much more than a subtle departure,  feels like they just happened to make one without really trying. Like Push the Sky Away, it feels like it came easy, in a way, although it probably didn’t. It sounds confident. It sounds unforced. It sounds like the natural successor to Summer Sun, and that I Am Not Afraid of You… and Popular Songs never happened.

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 4. Clem SnideWe Leave Only Ashes

Alright, this really isn’t an album at all. In fact Eef himself describes it thus, on his Bandcamp page: “This record is a rough and tumble collection of songs that giddily disregards any attempt at a sense of cohesion. Recorded in various locations from around 1999 – 2013.” So it’s basically just a mismatched jumble of demos, live recordings and other bits and pieces, and barely qualifies as an album or even a 2013 release, come to think of it.

So fucking what, though. It is a bunch of songs which were first made available in this particular pile in July, and in amongst them are some of Eef Barzelay’s finest moments. In fact, his fantastic lyrics and the bitter-yet-tender sadness of his songs sometimes come across even better on demos than they do on a proper, finished record. The Ballad of St. Paull, Delight, Keep Your Feelings to Yourself, BFF, Enrique Iglesias’ Mole… a proper, coherent album it might not, but it goes together really well and contains a bunch of absolutely fucking brilliant songs. So it counts. Deal with it.

***

 5. Rick RedbeardNo Selfish Heart

This record has been almost as long in the making as eagleowl’s debut album (also out this year, and also on this list) and boy oh boy has it been worth the wait. You can classify the album relatively easily, if you’re talking broad genre sweeps: a bit of folk, a bit of country and a bit of acoustic pop, and shazam, you have No Selfish Heart. Kinda.

There are a lot of fucking terrible albums which would answer to as broad a description as that, however, and it’s always tough to say what makes an album like this stand out as being so clearly superior. Confidence from his years in the Phantom Band might help, I guess. A really beautifully judged sense of arrangement helps too, bringing variety and texture without ever overwhelming the songs.  And there’s always that elusive quality: rightness. This album just feels right, as if it knows exactly what it is and is trying to do and feels no need whatsoever to go beyond that, and there’s not a weak moment on it.

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