The Best of 2013 – our musical Christmas gift suggestions

In time for you to go and buy Christmas presents, here are our special recommendations for various music lovers amongst your family and friends.  We’ll be counting down our top 40 albums of the year from next weekend – and here’s a hint – almost all of my top 10 are all amongst the albums listed here!

Perfect for Indie Kids

Vampire Weekend – Vampire of the Modern City

Just very, very original, thoughtful yet joyous songs. Works on many levels, and will go down as an all-time classic I'm sure.

Peace – In Love

The new indie band most likely to be huge if they can tolerate each other for the next few years. In the classic line of Beatles, Stones, Stone Roses, Oasis, British pop-rock with substance, great tunes, variation... an amazingly assured debut.

The 1975 – The 1975

The other stand-out UK indie band debut of 2013. The singles Chocolate and Sex got loads of air-play, deservedly. Pop with a touch of dance influence - another band with huge potential if they stick to it.

Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

The sisters alienated some of their indie fans on this, their seventh album, by going pure pop. But it’s a classic of that genre, bringing to mind the best female and female-fronted artists  (Abba, Cindy Lauper, No Doubt) – brilliant pop songs and production.

Rocking  Uncles (or aunts, brothers, sisters.. etc)

Queens of the Stone Age - Like Clockwork

It's pretty heavy in places, but more melody than usual for QOTSA, and manages to maintain a sense of humour (without being in the slightest ironic) through all the grunge and rock.

The Wonder Years – the Greatest Generation

One of the unexpected treats of 2013, the US pop/punk band come up with an album that is passionate, intelligent, powerful and emotional. There’s a little bit of hardcore type screaming, but also beautiful slower songs and classic rockers.

Arctic Monkeys - AM

The Monkeys grow up with their 5th successful  album in a row, this one both heavier and more R 'n B influenced than before, but with more excellent songs, tunes and lyrics.

For the "don't make 'em like they used to" music lover

Bowie -  The Next Day

This  will have them remembering "the first time Bowie was on Top of the Pops..." His best album for many years if not quite as amazing as many critics made out.

Laura Marling – Once I was an Eagle

Like the Arctic Monkeys, amazingly consistent and her fourth album has her sounding more than ever like Joni Mitchell on some tracks. And she is in that league. Powerful singer-songwriter stuff, angry, tender, strong...

Haim -  Days are gone and  Milo Greene -  Milo Greene

These two are for fans of Fleetwood Mac, Rumours period. The three talented sisters of Haim got most of the press,  and it is good album. But Milo Greene (a band not a person) is  just as good – smooth, tuneful pop-rock and well worth seeking out.

Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park

And for broadminded classic country / folk fans – traditional sounding and tuneful songs with a 21st century sensibility (drugs, casual sex, dead end jobs...)

Dance to the music

Dance fans buy even fewer actual albums than most. I'm not talking the real specialist stuff here, which is outside my understanding. In the mainstream dance world, albums by Disclosure, Rudimental and Naughty Boy were huge this year, and may find their way into many Xmas stockings.

Jagwar Ma with Howlin’ is very enjoyable mash up of dance with Beach Boys type harmonies and pop tunes. And for something really different, Public Service Broadcasting with Inform - Educate – Entertain cut the speaking tracks from old cinema and radio soundtracks into atmospheric contemporary electronic dance music to excellent and fascinating effect.

Or just buy some re-mixed 12-inch vinyl versions of Icona Pop's "I Love It" or Daft Punk's "Get Lucky", perhaps the two best singles of the year and certainly the most ubiquitous.

Hip Musos

Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare

Great production, song writing and musicianship on this Californian soft rock / British early prog influenced 75 minute epic.

Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run

Another one of 2013’s brilliant surprises. From Newcastle, England but sounding timeless and placeless (?), atmospheric, emotionally charged songs of love and regret, Sigur Ros meets the Sundays, and a great album.

Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball

An album of huge complexity, clearly influenced by the later works of Stockhausen, with clever use of dissonance and allegory.... OK, only joking! But you could buy this to really annoy your most pretentious musical friend / relative (and actually, some decent songs on it to be really honest!)

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