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Off Key With Eric D. presents the Top 13 Albums of 2013!!!

In Recent reviews on December 31, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Greetings music lover,

After 10 years of compiling a list of the best albums of the year, I’ve elected to move on to other things as, admittedly, said compilation has become very, very time consuming in years with too much or too little good music. This year is, surprisingly enough, one of the latter. Just finding 13 decent albums to make up the Top 13 of 2013 took a staggering weekend, whereas it used to take no more than a few hours. Oh to be young again…. Anyway, take a look below at the (somewhat) finest albums of the year. The second half is pretty darn solid:

13. Manic Street Preachers – “Rewind The Film” [Columbia/Sony]

This is the Manics’ worst album to date, courtesy of its overly-acoustic nature—coming from a band that was, at one point, trying to be Guns N’ Roses, that’s pretty wan—and its overabundance of guest vocalists. Then again, the Manics at their worst is better than most bands at their best.
Key tracks: “4 Lonely Roads (feat. Cate Le Bon),” “Anthem For A Lost Cause,” “30-Year War”

12. CHVRCHES – “The Bones Of What You Believe” [Goodbye/Glassnote]

Easily the debut album of the year, Scottish synthpop trio CHVRCHES (yes, spelled all caps) slammed into modern music like that one piece of the asteroid from Armageddon took out downtown Paris. However, like that same asteroid, the band fails to reach their full potential as the album’s non-single material just isn’t as exciting as its preceding singles.
Key tracks: “The Mother We Share,” “Lies,” “Recover”

11. Suede – “Bloodsports” (iTunes version) [Sony]

In the history of Britpop, few names stand out as the best and brightest—among the titans: Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and Suede. As Oasis imploded and Blur and Pulp are content recycling their back catalogues for occasional reunion shows, Suede is the sole member of the Class of ’94 flying the musical Union Jack full mast. Their latest album is the finest material they’ve put out since 1996’s legendary “Coming Up.” Far from “trash,” indeed.
Key tracks: “Barriers,” “Snowblind,” “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away”

10. Frightened Rabbit – “Pedestrian Verse” (Deluxe Edition) [Atlantic]

It’s a common story: brilliant indie rock band makes good, joins a major label, then loses much of their charm. The same has unfortunately occurred to Frightened Rabbit in the years since 2010’s monumental “The Winter Of Mixed Drinks.” Many of the songs on this year’s “Pedestrian Verse” are just that—pedestrian. There is good material, really, just not a whole album’s worth like three times before.
Key tracks: “Acts of Man,” “Backyard Skulls,” “Holy,” “Nitrous Gas”

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The Horrors – “Still Life” single (XL)

In Recent reviews on May 31, 2011 at 9:26 pm

The Horrors present "Skying," out 7/11 UK, 7/26 US

It’s not a stretch to say the Horrors’ latest single, “Still Life,” is an instant classic. A slow-burning, ’80s-synth-driven piece of pure genius, the track emotes a dreamy, in fact shoegazey, feeling that serves as a brilliant precursor to the band’s latest album, “Skying,” due July 11th. The same way “Sea Within A Sea” foreshadowed a completely revamped Horrors for 2009’s “Primary Colours,” “Still Life” does the same for this year’s model, taking the band’s post-punk-meets-new wave sound and planting it in new territory.

Of course, no one can judge the sound of an entire album based on the attributes of its first single. Nevertheless, “Still Life” indicates a bit about “Skying” that would have otherwise been up for speculation. Gone is the garage punk sound for which The Horrors were initially known; they did so only partially with “Primary Colours.” Additionally, the lyrical content on the new album may be more abstract than on previous efforts. “Still Life” itself is a relatively nondescript song, asserting “the moment that you want is coming if you give it time.”

The most enjoyable part of The Horrors’ newest single, aside from it being a brilliant song, is its representation of a band that is always striving to better itself, to top its previous work through leaps in skill and style. The band could have simply continued on with their initial noisy, goth punk iteration. Instead, they cleaned themselves up, embraced elements of new wave, and perfected their art, now most apparently with their new single. Overall, “Still Life” ensures The Horrors are still amazing, and more so in point of fact.

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Camera Obscura – “The Nights Are Cold” single (4AD)

In Recent reviews on May 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Camera Obscura loves to do covers. In the midst of promoting last year’s stellar “My Maudlin Career,” they tackled such tunes as Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than The Rest,” Jim Reeves’ “The Blizzard,” and Gene Autry’s “You’re The Only Star In My Blue Heaven.” Top that off with the array of covers the band issued whilst promoting 2006’s “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” and their wide-ranging repertoire is solidly apparent.

Continuing in this gilded tradition of golden oldies, the Scottish indie pop darlings offer up “The Nights Are Cold,” the fifth single to be released in their “My Maudlin Career” era. The title track is a song written and originally performed by Richard Hawley on his 2001 album “Late Night Final,” an LP that Camera Obscura keys player and backup vocalist Carey Lander loved upon hearing and introduced to her bandmates, who also loved it. Fast forward eight years and they chose to cover one of their favorite songs from the record, backed with a remix of their own “The Sweetest Thing” by Hawley himself.

Under the purview of Camera Obscura’s other covers, “The Nights Are Cold” is slightly above average. This in no way means it’s a bad or, worse so, an uninteresting interpretation; it’s just that the tender, tearjerking nature of the song is afforded by Hawley’s brilliant songwriting and not so much Camera Obscura’s delivery. Like so many covers by so many other bands, the original artist’s version remains superior, though this new version is quite pleasant as well and provides a fantastic souvenir to hearing the band perform it live.

The single’s b-side, the aforementioned Richard Hawley remix of “The Sweetest Thing,” is where sparks really fly. To the untrained ear, the song sounds the same as that which was released as its own single last fall. However, Hawley’s production adds new drum and piano tracks and greater emphasis on the backing vocal, in addition to a bit of jingle bells for good measure. Though a cover by Hawley would have been far more impressive, this brand new remix is a fantastic addition to Camera Obscura’s fine catalogue and a superb supplement to whatever summer soirees come your way.