In a great contrast to their band name, Jar proved to be one of the year’s most notable exercises in rainy-day miserablism. Stomping on their Big Muffs and defying diction like it was 1992, Jar is the kind of album that proves that there was a point to the post-grunge movement. For every Puddle of Mudd and Creed that we had to put up with, albums like this show us how it’s actually done. It’s a delicate balance between inspired and derivative – that much is a given. It is, however, what makes Jar thrive as an album.
THREE TOP TRACKS: In on It, Outside of Me, Sponge.
From its strikingly intimate introduction – just the voice of Katie Crutchfield and her electric guitar – you would know within seconds whether this was going to be an album that one treasures and constantly revisits. It manages to have this kind of power without any of the music itself coming across as forceful, resonating brilliantly within its own immediate space. It’s an honest and occasional heartrending indie rock affair that details leaving youth behind and entering the next stage of life with trepidation and uncertainty. Albums like Cerulean Salt – and, more importantly, artists like Waxahatchee – matter.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Lively, Dixie Cups and Jars, Swan Dive.
We almost lost them there for a second: Their debut, We Don’t Belong Here, was a greatly promising and rousing lo-fi rock record; but its mostly-re-recorded eponymous follow-up was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. With some time away and some serious mileage under their belts, the band approached their third album as a compromise between their blistering debut and their more polished sophomore. The result was their best material to date: A pissed-off rock record that wasn’t afraid of a bit of melody to be mixed in with the grit. Hungry Ghost has elevated the band to the top of the food chain – catch a show and you’ll see why.
THREE TOP TRACKS: In the Aisle, Okay Cathedral, Covered in Chrome.
Of all the Australian acts to top the ARIA album charts in 2013, RÜFÜS were potentially the most left-field. A slowburner within Sydney’s dance scene, the trio have matured and developed substantially in the lead-up to their debut; and Atlas is the kind of record that makes every second count. Moving away from the current dance obsession with a musical “drop,” RÜFÜS instead shift their focus towards the release – favourite subtlety and nuance over the swinging-hammer brutishness of their contemporaries. It pays off in spades: Atlas is one of the more important Australian albums of the last few years, genre regardless.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Desert Night, Unforgiven, Tonight.
Making music for wasted bros to lose their collective shit to isn’t quite rocket science – any douchebag with a laptop can get away with calling themselves a producer. That said, there’s an art form to it – and Major Lazer have it downpat. No-one can touch them, whether they’re providing the soundtrack to a Saturday night rave (“Mashup the Dance”) or a Sunday afternoon blaze (“Get Free”). The album also sports a guestlist that’s nothing short of insane. How crazy are we talking? They enlist one of the best singers in pop music to say the words “bubble butt” over and over.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Scare Me, Bubble Butt, Mashup the Dance.
The concrete jungle of London is as far a cry from the Blue Mountains as you can possibly get. How interesting, then, that Dream Cave – the long-awaited second album from expats Cloud Control – felt at times like a homecoming. Given, they’ve leapt down the proverbial rabbit hole here to push their sound into weird and wonderful territory; drenched in reverb and bold musical shifts. The core essence of the band, however, carries over from 2010’s Bliss Release – they still thrive on indie pop tinged with psychedelia and heavy on all-in vocals, projected loudly so it can be heard outside of the square. One of the year’s most warmly welcome returns.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Moonrabbit, Dojo Rising, Ice Age Heatwave.
There’s simply no other way to put it: In 2013, Arcade Fire became rock stars. What brought them into the limelight was their single most ambitious album to date – and anyone who has heard any of the band’s previous albums will know that this is a statement not made lightly. From its kitchen-sink production to its fearless genre-hopping, Reflektor is a rarity in that it’s a double album that justifies its existence. A new Arcade Fire album is still received with the religious fervour it has in the past – but there’s a lot more people in the church now. Praise be.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Normal Person, Here Comes the Night Time, Reflektor.
The Thin White Duke celebrated his 66th birthday by announicing his first album in a decade and immediately dropping the lead single. Oh, how very fucking Bowie. After years of secret studio sessions and persistent rumours that his health was deteriorating, The Next Day was the year’s biggest comeback by a considerable amount. It didn’t take long to see why – the album has a confidence that is untoward of men even half Bowie’s age, striding through brassy rock and spaced-out pop with finesse and ease. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait until 2023 for more. We need him.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Valentine’s Day, I’d Rather Be High, The Next Day.
One of Hayley Williams’ favourite pieces of clothing back in the day was a homemade tank-top with the phrase “PARAMORE IS A BAND” written on it. It was a message to everyone that derided them or only focused on Williams: the members of the band weren’t guns for hire. Following the departure of the Farro brothers in 2010, these cynics began to reappear. What happened next, however, could never have been anticipated: Paramore released their best LP to date. Refusing to be pigeonholed, this versatile pop affair was equal parts sugar and spice; resulting in a dynamic and defiant listen. Paramore is a band.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Ain’t It Fun, Fast in My Car, Still Into You.
Savages are the kind of band who make songs that will make you wanna walk the streets at night with a switchblade in your hand – it’s dark, it’s sinister and it’s achingly cool. Tracing the post-punk movement to its earliest and most exasperate period, Silence Yourself maintains the rage with substantive force; making it a hell of a mission statement and especially impressive for a debut album. There’s a reason none of the band are looking at you directly in the eye on the album cover: You wouldn’t be able to handle it if any of them did.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Husbands, She Will, City’s Full.