Throughout the year I have introduced Norwegian readers to more than 50 great new releases in my blog: PEWALLA BLOG – MUSIKK FOR MODNE (music for mature). As some of you may have noticed, it is now the end of 2013, and as any magazine or newspaper will tell you: it’s time for Lists, and of course I had to make one, too.
I have listened again to all recommended albums, resulting in my own Top 10 Album list of 2013. It was a much harder job than I anticipated, so hard that when I was done with the list, there were still a further 25 albums I couldn’t leave alone. Consequently, I had to make two lists, or rather, one is a countdown list, the other is listed alphabetically.
Friends, colleagues and acquaintances all over the world who are unfamiliar with the Norwegian language have been left in the dark for too long (yes, there has been complaints); so for the first time, here is my blog in English. Who knows, maybe not for the last time… Music is a universal language, so it shouldn’t matter, but somehow it does.
Below you will find what I consider the best albums reviewed this year, followed by a Spotify link to all ten albums.
10. The Last Ship – Sting
Some of Sting’s new songs are breathtakingly beautiful, classics in their own right. Personally I am not that fond of the shanties on the album, although I do understand why he chosen this genre of songs to create this concept album. The rest of the album is terrific, though.
9. Old Sock – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton has done what a lot of his contempories have already done: released an album of songs from his parents’ generation. I find Old Sock probably the best of the lot, honest and without any fuss, still full of musicality and true craftsmanship.
8. The Diving Board – Elton John
Elton John has released a number of slightly good albums during the last decade – suddenly a truly great album comes along, in the vein of his best albums from the 70s and 80s. Some of the songs on The Diving Board are among his best ever, and the collection grows on me for every time I listen.
7. The Stand-In – Caitlin Rose
Caitlin Rose has probably created more converts to country music than any other artist this year. I heard the first song from this album on BBC’s tough rock station Radio 6…. Most of the tracks are truly irresistable.
6. Life In Easy Steps – Robert Vincent
Robert Vincent is an anti-celebrity artist, proving that quality and sincerity trumph style. This collection is filled to the brim with honest, heartwarming songs of the highest songwriting quality.
5. Back Into the Woods – Ed Harcourt
Nine gorgeous songs from singer/songwriter Ed Harcourt, piano player and romancer. I have enjoyed listening to Harcourt before, but this album I have played over and over again this year. A lot of my blog followers have commented on tracks from Back Into The Woods, so I am not alone in my admiration.
4. Sing To The Moon – Laura Mvula
Jazz, soul, pop all mixed together on this amazing debut album from British singer Laura Mvula. The harmonies are in a league of their own, I have never heard anything like it before, truly orignal, just like the quality of the vocals and the songwriting.
3. Dark Black – Kristina Train
This was one of the few albums I actually bought this year, I just couldn’t get enough of it. Kristina Train is an amazing songwriter and an even better singer, this is so smooth and beautiful that it literally lowers my pulse. This is the title song:
2. Quickbeam – Quickbeam
This album will not raise your pulse either. There will always be some artists that dare go where no-one else dare to thread. This year Scottish trio Quickbeam proves the point. They have created an album of stunning beauty, using primarily classical instruments, writing small concertos rather than songs. The harmonies, the craftsmanship, the pure beaty of it all make me listen to the album again and again. Here is their most famous song to date:
1. I Awake – Sarah Blasko
Sarah Blasko from Australia went to Sweden to record her «I Awake»- album, she also recorded part of the album in Bulgaria, with a 52-piece symphony orchestra. The album is masterly done, Blasko’s voice haunts me every time I hear it, every song is a little symphony, carefully carved out. This is truly a BIG album, one that I would expect will build a reputation for the artist even outside her native Australia. This is «Fool», one of the best songs on the album:
Here are all the tracks for your enjoyment:
… and here are 25 other albums reviewed in 2013, all of them in my view among the best albums of the year. I have presented them in alphabetical order – no preferential treatment! At the bottom you’ll find a playlist with all 25 albums.
1 2 3 4 Radio Star – Bille Van
Bille, or Merete Pascual as known by her parents, is a Norwegian singer who has lived in the shadows of her, for the time being, more famous musical partners Jonas Alaska and Mikhael Paskalev. Her debut album has energy, humour and great music.
Alaska – The Silver Seas
The Nashville band Silver Seas never promises more than they can deliver: true melodic, catchy pop, written and performed with sophistication.
Alone Aboard the Ark – The Leisure Society
The third album from The Leisure Society offers humour, great melodies, irony and naivitë in rich abounds.
Antiphon – Midlake
A dark, rich album, with debth, recorded amidst instability in the band, as they lead singer left during recording the album.
Crimson/Red – Prefab Sprout
One of the true masters of pop returns, with titles, lyrics and melodies like no other. Possibly a sign of more to come.
Desire Lines – Camera Obscura
Musical sweetness from the rough city of Glasgow.
Dyrandé – Hekla Stålstrenga
Norwegian folk at its very best, modern and traditional at the same time, with Anne Nymo Trulsen’s voice embracing us.
How to Fake it In America – Bendik Brænne
Norwegian sax player goes country – a brilliant low key album with some exceptional songs
It’s All True – Sylvie Lewis
The British singer with the mature and elegant voice delivers an album of songs that grows and grows.
Made Up Mind – Tedeschi Trucks Band
One of the best blues bands around, with an accessible album for all ears.
My Favorite Picture of You – Guy Clark
Guy Clark’s painfully honest collection of folk gems, with some of this year’s very best songs, like the title track.
No Way There From Here – Laura Cantrell
Laura Cantrell exemplifies mature music, strong lyrics, great melodies, a great reason for embracing new country.
Personal Record – Eleanor Friedberger
Friedberger’s second solo album is nearly as good as the first, full of humour, double meanings, strong lyrics and slightly burlesque songs.
Push Pull – While You Slept
A bit of nepotism – vocalist Benedikte is my daughter – but the band deserves to be on the top 25 list, although slightly rougher than most of the albums above and below.
Sensitive Dependence – Beranek
Retro pop from one of Norway’s best composers, his first release in 19 years.
Shadows – Lenka
Australian angelic voice Lenka with an album about motherhood, full of beautiful pop tunes with no pretensions.
The Disappearance of the Girl – Phildel
Mysterious and powerful, this album is an astounding debut.
The Magic Line – Magic Brothers
Another retro album, this time from Madness’ drummer, sometimes surpassing his former band.
The Next Day – David Bowie
Another artist that never stops surprising, every album feels like a snap shot of his present state of mind, including this.
The Weight of Your Love – Editors
Power pop from British band Editors, walking a fine line between pretense and honesty, most songs landing securely on the side of the latter
There’s a Last Time for Everything – Lucy Wainwright Roche
Singer with the perfect musical family tree proves shes can stand on her own two feet.
This is What I Do – Boy George
One of the true comeback surprises of 2013, a mature and simply great and varied studio album from an artist with quite a musical baggage.
Timekeeper – Lucy Schwartz
Brilliant songwriter in the tradition of some of the best 70s and 80s pop music.
Tin Star – Lindi Ortega
Canadian singer, now a Nashville resident, has realeased a happy, feisty, countryinspired pop album.
Trouble Will Find Me – The National
Dark, hauntingly beautiful songs, crisply produced and performed.