It's not often a 35-year old band can conjure enough magic to sustain an entire album... especially one that rivals its best work. Usually, if you're lucky, you get an uneven album like 'History of Modern.' I was more than happy to get that reunion gift in 2010, but it turned out to be merely a warm up to OMD's real comeback.
I have already written about Prefab Sprout's latest until I was red in the face. So, for now, this will have to suffice: It's Paddy McAloon's best-ever effort not linked to Thomas Dolby and one of the biggest surprises of 2013.
'The Next Day'
A David Bowie sighting was the real miracle of 2013. Released without fanfare and to a public that no longer expected anything from him, 'The Next Day' instantly became his best release in 30 years. I wasn't too pleased with a money-grab reissue coming out the same year as the initial release, especially when I thought the album was already a bit too long, but the first six songs are still giving me goosebumps nine months after buying it.
Eleanor Friedberger's hook-filled "My Mistakes," my No. 2 song from 2011, helped erase my angst toward her previous band, the Fiery Furnaces, and I imagined I might even love one of her albums someday. By her sophomore effort, with the addition of co-writer John Wesley Harding, it happened.
'Waiting for Something to Happen'
Is this really Slumberland's only appearance? Veronica Falls' debut album is one of the best I have heard this decade, and I'm not quite sure why this followup didn't quite capture the crowd of enthusiasts like the first one did. The moody jangle and pop still had me staring at the tops of my shoes like it was 2011.
'Our Hearts Beat Out Loud'
What do you get when you take sophisticated indie pop and add the whimsical atmosphere of Olympia's fabled Dub Narcotic Studio to the equation? I'm no mathematician, but the sum seems to be one of the most rewarding listens of the year. Feels right to join the Math and Physics Club.
I had all but given up on this idol from my youth, but Lloyd Cole surrounded himself with some old friends, Fred Maher, Matthew Sweet and Blair Cowan, to name a few, and it sounded like old times.
'Love From London'
At age 60 and with nearly 20 studio albums under his belt, how can Robyn Hitchcock seemingly be getting stronger as a singer/songwriter? I have really loved what he's done this past decade, and this is the best of that lot.
I'm a huge dB's fan, but I can honestly say I liked Chris Stamey's solo record much more than the band's reunion album. Whether he goes big, like the lush orchestration of the title track, or small like the croon of "Occasional Shivers," the legendary (at least in my mind) singer/songwriter pulls it off.
'Beyond The Dreams There's Infinite Doubt'
I have been known to like a little synth with my pop, and there's no doubt Swede Tobias Isaksson feels the same way. In another time Azure Blue would have fit right in with Factory's stable of stars.
And the Next 10...
11. The Ocean Blue - 'Ultramarine'
12. Edwyn Collins - 'Understated'
13. Neko Case - 'The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You'
14. The Pastels - 'Slow Summits'
15. Camera Obscura - 'Desire Lines'
16. Phoenix - 'Bankrupt!'
17. Vampire Weekend - 'Modern Vampires of the City'
18. Paul McCartney - 'New'
19. Kid Canaveral - 'Now That You Are a Dancer
20. The Bicycles - 'Stop Thinking So Much'
The Chain #7
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