It might sound dramatic, but it was extremely difficult to limit the list below with only 10 albums. This is simply because 2013 was another great year for indie music, and particularly for up and coming bands who have attained international acclaim in these past 12 months. So, before we start off with our top 10 personal picks, here are some other albums from the year which we also loved but couldn’t fit in to the shortlist: Home by Rudimental, The Golden Age by Woodkid, If You Wait by London Grammar, Tribute by John Newman and Mechanical Bull by Kings Of Leon.
For all those who say modern music has nothing to give, these 10 albums will probably prove you wrong:
10. Native by One Republic
After the underrated success of 2009′s ‘Waking Up’, many One Republic fans were anxious as to whether the band would make a comeback. However, they did so stronger than ever with their third record Native. With lead singer Ryan Tedder’s indescribably amazing songwriting skills, released hits such as ‘If I Lose Myself’ and ‘Counting Stars’ have paved the way for a brighter future for One Republic. Although I personally believe they have even more to give, this band has finally opened itself to versatility rather than sticking solely to its soft rock trademark sound.
Most popular single: Counting Stars
Favourite track: Feel Again
9. AM by Arctic Monkeys
Although slightly repetitive for my personal taste, consensus among critics is that AM was by far one of the best albums of the year, and still rightly so. Upon releasing ‘Do I Wanna Know’ in June as a teaser for their 5th record, Arctic Monkeys regained outright respect from the music industry for polishing their hard rock stamp and making it larger-scale.
From head-banging moments in ‘Arabella’ to a touch of John Lennon inspiration in ‘No.1. Party Anthem’, as well Alex Turner’s glorious lead vocals, this album needs to be on your playlist pronto if you love to feast on fresh rock music.
Most popular single: Do I Wanna Know
Favourite track: One For The Road
8. Days Are Gone by Haim
Constantly nicknamed the modern Fleetwood Mac, the 3 sisters from LA provided a critically-acclaimed debut that cannot go unnoticed. Combining 70′s Americana and classic rock with modern synth pop, Haim were the most intriguing breath of fresh air for 2013 after releasing ‘Forever’ and ‘Falling’. Apart from their strong girl-power messages and catchy tunes, Days Are Gone contributed to an increase in appreciation for raw rock music within the teenage crowd, also since Haim have been one of the few recent bands to sound even better live than on the record.
Most popular single: The Wire
Favourite track: Don’t Save Me
7. Fire Within by Birdy
At the age of 15, Birdy became the angelic voice stuck in everyone’s head due to her magical debut of covers, including ‘Skinny Love’ which attained more popularity than Bon Iver’s original version. Two years later, the 17 year old has shown off her songwriting skills to the fullest with 11 astounding new singles, which inevitably give us goosebumps. While holding on to her piano in ‘All You Never Say’ or ‘No Angel’, we cannot help but also love her voice in the more upbeat folk tracks ‘Light Me Up’ and ‘All About You’. Effortless and elegant, yet completely relatable, I put Fire Within on repeat quite a few times this year, and I suggest you do the same.
Most popular single: Wings
Favourite track: Strange Birds
6. The Fire by Ira Losco
With strong competition from The Crowns (Someone Else) and Stalko (Grandiloquence), I had to include Ira Losco’s fourth album in this list, being my favourite from the local scene. The general public is mostly aware of the 3 amazing singles released from The Fire, but you need to hear the track-list from start to finish to truly appreciate Ira’s determination to make Maltese music sound international and professional. Heavily influenced by RnB in ‘Is This The Love?’, reggae in ‘What I’d Give’ and soft rock in ‘Waiting’, the former Eurovision star shows us she is capable of maintaining public interest without kicking aside her versatility and originality. Able to effectively tell a different story through each song, this is an album which affirms the overrated phrase ‘Proud to be Maltese’.
Most popular single: The Person I Am
Favourite track: The Way It’s Meant To Be
5. New by Paul McCartney
The living legend himself shows no hint of halting his career with his 16th studio album, which has literally been music to my ears since the first listen. Containing 12 original songs including the released title track, New provides a perfect mix of songs which, either hint at the former Beatle’s initial writing styles, or entice listeners with Paul’s constant desire to experiment with new genres (excuse the pun).
While ‘Alligator’ could have easily been featured on a Beatles album, or ‘Queenie Eye’ on a record by Wings (Paul’s band after the Beatles), other tracks like ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Save Us’ keep us excitedly guessing as to what the 71 year old still has in store for his loving fans.
Most popular single: New
Favourite track: On My Way To Work
4. Bad Blood by Bastille
Being a fan of Bastille was on every music lover’s mind this year. Thanks to the worldwide success of ‘Pompeii’, this London band’s debut was exposed to the interested ears of countless potential die-hard followers, mostly owing to this album’s unique indie sound. Their ingenious cover of the 90′s club hit Rhythm of the Night (‘Of The Night’), for instance, evokes Bastille’s capability of remaining original yet current. With a consistent quality playlist, Bad Blood should be your first choice for those boring traffic weekdays or never-ending study sessions.
Most popular single: Pompeii
Favourite track: Laura Palmer
3. Long Way Down by Tom Odell
Becoming the first male to be chosen as Critics’ Choice at the Brits in early 2013, undoubtedly helped Tom Odell’s highly-acclaimedLong Way Down to become the ideal soundtrack for broken hearts everywhere. But what this British singer-songwriter does differently is make love develop into epic-sounding records, leaving positivity post break-up. Between unconditional love in ‘Grow Old With Me’ and losing one’s other half in ‘Hold Me’, are a beautiful collection of tracks to ease anyone’s broken heart.
Most popular single: Another Love
Favourite track: Sirens
2. Pure Heroine by Lorde
Firstly, I will never be able to conceive how Kiwi singer-songwriter Lorde is only 17 years old. Secondly, it is astonishing how 11 songs consisting of simple beats and relatable lyrics succeed in leaving listeners in awe of this girl’s undeniable talent. She may have become an overnight household name thanks to the chart-topping ‘Royals’, but this teen sensation has been writing and preparing her debut record since the age of 12. With themes ranging from adolescent crushes in ’400 Lux’ and true friends in ‘Team’, to low self-esteem in ‘A World Alone’, Lorde is evidently driven by her avant-garde self. She herself has admitted to choosing the title Pure Heroine because of its grand but controversial double connotation.
Most popular single: Royals
Favourite track: Glory & Gore
1. Night Visions by Imagine Dragons
Upon discovering them late last year with the track ‘It’s Time’, I was instantly hooked to the uniquely powerful sound of Imagine Dragons, and Night Visions is one of the few albums from this year that I thoroughly loved listening to multiple times from beginning to end. Despite being known mostly for rock hits ‘Radioactive’ and ‘Demons’, this debut introduces the band as extremely experimental.
From the easy-listening ‘On Top Of The World’ to the anthemic ‘Nothing Left To Say’, Imagine Dragons prove they have no fear of crossing boundaries into folk, alternative or electronic music. If you want a versatile album which leaves you pumped with excitement to hear more, you need to bring ‘Night Visions’ into your life as soon as possible.
Most popular single: Radioactive
Favourite track: Tiptoe