2013 album(s) of the year - 7 to 5

Some very good records from this year.

7. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

There was no way that it could live up to the hype. It didn’t; sugared up on ‘Get Lucky’, everyone expected another Discovery dance party but got a meandering album that varied in tone every few songs. Gut reaction - including my own - was that it was a failed experiment, too much of a conscious shift away from what they’d done before.

Random Access Memories has rewarded repeat listens more than any other this year. Where Discovery felt like walking into a club and having that euphoria and heady comedown in the wee hours, Random Access Memories feels like an album written to soundtrack the time away from the club - the arrival in the bar, the chatter about a favourite album, a bit of time on the dancefloor, and a nightbus home with headphones on.

Random Access Memories is more contemplative than Daft Punk’s earlier albums. What it lacked in an immediate guttural hit, it’s more than made up for in thoughtful, reflective pop. It’s never going to soundtrack a party, but it’ll soundtrack more than a few nights of chatter.

6. Kishi Bashi - 151a

At the other end of the scale from Random Access Memories is an album which has had barely a hint of marketing hyperbole on this side of the Atlantic.

Officially released in Europe this year (hence being part of this years’ top ten), sometime of Montreal collaborator Kaoru Ishibashi’s debut is an eclectic and deceptive listen. It’s difficult to cite comparable artists - his classical violin playing and occasional looping is much like Andrew Bird, his euphoric tracks are like The Go! Team at their best, his ambient moments head into Balam Acab territory. Kishi Bashi feels like an artist who is rabidly absorbing any influence that he’s shown the slightest interest in and creating something that is far more than the sum of its parts.

It’s such an enchanting album. It’s blissfully, danceably happy at times, meditative and calm at others. Kishi Bashi is much like The Flaming Lips with the punk removed and replaced by folksy violins. With new material starting to appear, the follow up to 151a is almost certainly my most anticipated album of 2014.

If you ignore everything else on this list, I implore you to give Kishi Bashi a whirl.

5. Public Service Broadcasting - Inform - Educate - Entertain

The enchanting War Room EP eighteen years ago promised much of Public Service Broadcasting. What could be a novelty act - the dialogue from old government edutainment films put over a beat and a guitar line - is a reverential and (let’s be frank) fun mix. ‘Spitfire’ on that EP is a case in point - the received pronunciation of a fighter pilot’s experiences should not work on a pop song but the fact that the text is not abridged, the fact that the guitar riffs and the beat keep driving and growing, and the fact that it’s a respectful remembrance while still being a pop song at heart is astonishing.

The album itself, in the main, carries on that same mix of poprock and history. What is astonishing is that, over the course of eleven tracks, it’s a trick that never feels tired. These are not rehashes of the Propellerheads’ ‘Bang On!’, a single phrase over a pulse. These are narratives, all but forgotten in dusty archives.

As enjoyable as Inform - Educate - Entertain is, one cannot help but wonder if it’s a trick that can ever be repeated. A follow up would cheapen the experience. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most creative things to come out this year and deserves all the acclaim it has received.