December is a list-writing month. We read lists and we write lists all month long. List after list after list. Christmas lists, shopping lists, to-do lists and still-left-to-do lists and Oh-My-God-I-have-too-much-to-do lists. It’s a wonder we ever get anything done at Christmas in our refusal to be parted with our precious collection of post-it notes.
This week, NME followed suit and wrote a list of their own – a list of 50 Best Albums of 2013, beginning on a high with James Blake’s Mercury Prize winning masterpiece Overgrown and awarding the spectacular Arctic Monkeys album AM the number one spot.
The great thing about a list like this is that it can highlight the songs and albums which have formed the soundtrack to your year, neatly categorising from top to bottom, from worst to best. It allows us to fondly recall what was going on in our lives when that record came out, where we were and how we were feeling when we heard that song for the first time. It works as a sort musical epitome of the past twelve months, counting down from 50 to 1.
The even better thing about a list like this is that it is subjective. Particular tracks mean particular things to particular people; music has the power to trigger memories, old and new, individual or collective. By all means, it’s advocated that we acknowledge what music critics have to say; they claim to be experts, after all. But their opinions should never categorically define what is good and what is not – it’s crucial that you are able to develop and form your own perspective without letting others do the work on your behalf.
Read the NME list, but I encourage you to consider what would be in your own. A bit like I have.
* * *
These are my own choices, not in chronological order…
1. Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’. I’m admittedly still not tired of this song. April 2013 saw the long-awaited return of the famous French house music duo Daft Punk, and they did not disappoint by any means. This track works a fantastic reminder of a long car journey I had with my best friend in July – we had this song on repeat and we both felt pretty cool singing along as we drove down the M2. Probably didn’t look it though.
2. Foals – Holy Fire. I have always been a huge fan of Foals and this is without a doubt their greatest work yet, ‘My Number’ being the best song on this album and my favourite song of this year. In March I found myself under a great deal of stress with assignments piling up high around me, but this was the album that kept me sane. Pure gold.
3. Arctic Monkeys – AM. Unquestionably the best album of the year. Every single track is outstanding and kept me entertained as I walked back and forth from work over the summer. My walk to work is approximately seven minutes long, so starting with ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ at 7:45am on a Monday I’d finish off beautifully with ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ by 4:10pm on a Wednesday afternoon, then begin the cycle again till the end of the week. (My summer was manifestly more thrilling than most, try not to be too impressed).
4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. Released at the end of October, this double album is truly fantastic and has been played repeatedly on my iPod for the past few weeks. Get it in your life, but bear in mind it’s massive. If you want to hear it in one sitting, which I would personally suggest, it’s a good one to save for long car/train journeys, or a standard “I’m doing absolutely nothing today” Sunday.
5. Kings of Leon – ‘Supersoaker’. This is the lead single from the band’s sixth studio album Mechanical Bull, released in July and I adore it. XFM’s Jon Holmes went through a phase of playing this track nearly every morning which made me very very happy. They also sounded fantastic on Later with Jools Holland a few months ago.
6. Tom Odell – ‘Can’t Pretend’. The first single of the singer-songwriter which I have been banging on about since the start of the year. His album ‘Long Way Down’ was released during a 4 week period in which I was at home over the summer and will always remind me of being there with my brothers soaking in the sunshine in our back garden.
Tom has had an interesting twelve months with mixed reviews – he began on a high, winning the BRIT’s Critics Choice Award in February, but found himself subject to heavy criticism in June after receiving an unbelievable 0/10 rating for his debut album from NME journalist Mark Beaumont. He quickly turned things around, however, scoring the number 1 spot on the Official UK Album Chart in July. He’s even been on a date with Taylor Swift, although that hardly makes him one of a kind.
7. Vampire Weekend – ‘Diane Young’. I listened to this song again and again and again during my four day trip to Rome in June. Quirky, fun and simply brilliant, as is the rest of the album Modern Vampires of the City. Highly recommended.
8. The Vaccines – ‘Bad Mood’. An ideal song to stomp around the house to if your current temperament matches that of the song title. This track came out in March earlier this year and, much like Holy Fire, kept me going during those horrible few weeks of assignment writing. My friend Daisy and I also saw The Vaccines live in May and they were outstanding. And I can confirm Freddie Cowan is even more beautiful in person.
9. The 1975 – ‘Chocolate’. Released at the start of 2013, this song was also the soundtrack to assignment writing/stressing and wanting to quit. Admittedly I was a little disappointed with their album, but this track and ‘Sex’, the band’s third single, are very very good.
10. Swiss Lips – ‘U Got The Power’. Something a bit different – this band were tipped in March by BBC Introducing, following a week of daily airplay on Radio 1 after being chosen as Scott Mills’ Record of the Week. The video is amazing and the track itself is even better. Big things expected.
11. Robin Thicke – ‘Blurred Lines’.