Top 10 albums of 2013 critics' picks: Vivian Pencz
Yes, my list may be a bit Anglophilic, but as a Canadian, I’m just paying homage to our beloved Commonwealth. Now, where’s my knighthood, or, um, damehood?
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Push the Sky Away
From goth-junkie banshee to poetic rock ’n’ roll guru, Nick Cave has had a decades-long career so eclectic and eternally brilliant, it’ll make you reconsider your sorry existence. Push the Sky Away may not be Cave’s best work, but its elegant, eloquent beauty is a testament to his lasting transcendence.
The Next Day
It’s hard to describe the unbridled excitement Bowie disciples felt when their alien rock god released his 24th studio album after a quiet 10-year absence (on Mars, presumably). And just as exciting is the record itself, full of life, dark surprises, and varied, classic songwriting.
Night Time, My Time
It’d be easy to diss Sky Ferreira as hipsterdom’s latest over-hyped It Girl, but one listen to the achingly addictive “Boys”, with its pop-princess finish and distorted guitar crunch, or to the darkly dizzy title track, a tribute to fellow famous sad/bad girl Laura Palmer, will have you hopelessly infatuated.
With Reflektor, Arcade Fire has entered a unique sonic orbit while honouring its more diverse, sincerely expressive roots. Inspired by Greek mythology, Jamaican music, Haitian rara, and coproducer James Murphy’s alt-dance beats, the double album is as luminous and multidimensional as its title suggests.
England’s Savages have everything a postpunk debut should: midnight-black melodies both catchy and confrontational; clever guitar work that’s white-hot and glacier-cold; a vocalist who can howl like Siouxsie Sioux, yet has a commanding voice of her own. Look no further than “Husbands”, one of the most savage (wink) tracks of the year.
Manic Street Preachers
Rewind the Film
Ever since the disappearance of founding member Richey Edwards, after the release of their masterpiece, The Holy Bible, the Manics have been metamorphosing while staying true to their sociopolitical ideals and infinitely profound sound. Rewind the Film continues that approach, showcasing their special songwriting prowess, while being their most peaceful record.
Few artists can blend disparate sonic landscapes as successfully as English–Sri Lankan rapper Maya Arulpragasam does, from western hip-hop and electroclash to Indian bhangra and beyond. And though it fails to live up to the mind-bending genius of her earlier work, Matangi delivers the politically empowering, subversive sensory overload integral to M.I.A.
When these Londoners played Vancouver on October 15, cofrontman Chilli Jesson spent the Skaters’ opening set in the middle of the dance floor, moshing, cutting a rug, and spilling beer everywhere. This epitomizes the essence of 180, a Libertines-ish indie debut that’s every bit as exhilarating and scrappily charming as Palma Violets’ youthful charisma.
The Julie Ruin
After a nine-year absence from music, in which Kathleen Hanna has been kicking Lyme disease’s ass like she kicked ass in her Bikini Kill days, the 45-year-old feminist punk has returned with the Julie Ruin’s Run Fast, a weirdo pastiche of garage rock and electro-pop that’s acerbic, funny, and endearing all at once.
Oozing in and out of focus, The Terror transmutes the pain of frontman Wayne Coyne’s failed 25-year marriage into experimental doomsday jams. Layer upon layer of Krautrock–inspired bad-transmission synth noise, and ominous lyrics make you want to groove and weep simultaneously. And that’s a mesmerizing thing.