Some of my favourite albums of 2013 have also been some of the most talked about (Yeezus, Drake's Nothing Was The Same, Haim's Days Are Gone, Lorde's Pure Heroine), so rather than re-tread already covered ground, I thought I'd highlight my five favourite lesser-known releases of the year.
The Neighbourhood - I Love You.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a sucker for a well-executed band image, so it'll be no surprise to see that I've fallen for The Neighbourhood's black and white, minimalist aesthetic that even sees their television appearances shot without colour. Broody, R&B-tinged indie rock that somehow simultaneously sounds like the best and worst elements of a night out that stretches into the early hours, I Love You. manages to effuse both sexy and melancholy vibes - the same concoction that saw me so high on The Weeknd's mixtapes. "Sweater Weather" is the album's stand out track.
Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Having produced Sky Ferreira's "Everything is Embarrassing" and Solange's "Losing You", two of my favourite tracks of the last 12 months, I eagerly awaited Blood Orange's album, and Cupid Deluxe certainly lived up to my self-imposed hype. Seamlessly integrating the sound of 80s funk and soul with a lo-fi milieu, Dev Hynes' second album under the Blood Orange pseudonym still feels fresh and modern while effortlessly evoking a specific era of music. The gradual merging of funk and house in "Uncle Ace" is indicative of the album's myriad influences, as well as its own individual aesthetic.
Inc. - No World
If my bias towards lo-fi production wasn't clear already, then this selection should further entrench that idea. Inc. are a pair of Los Angeles brothers whose album No World uses the repetition of funky soul breaks, breathy vocals and catchy hooks to weave song after song of dark, sensual R&B. Often an album's brilliance will lie in its ability to accurately recreate a particular mood, and Inc. have made the perfect album to accompany rain on the window, a Sunday morning hangover, or both - No World found itself on near-constant repeat for me through the first months of 2013.
Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety
Anxiety builds and swells with lush electronic soundscapes, its dense arpeggios and 808s underpinning the theatricality of Arthur Ashin's vocal delivery, wracked with emotion and lending an intense humanity to the music that acts as an effective riposte to any that would still dismiss electronic music as inherently cold. In its best moments, such as the opening salvo of "Play By Play" and "Counting", Anxiety makes me want to both dance and scream my deepest feelings from a rooftop. Autre Ne Veut is not background music.
Toro Y Moi - Anything In Return
Chaz Bundick's music as Toro Y Moi is often given the reductive label "chill wave", when in reality it's not so easy to pin down. Anything In Return has its roots in psychedelic rock, house music, funk, electronica, but it flourishes as a great pop record. Perhaps the best testament I can give to its effortless layering of influences is the fact it has never been far from my rotation since its release in January 2013, its glorious grooviness constantly leading me down new avenues to explore. Topping it all off, the video for "Say That" is one of the funniest things I saw in the last 12 months.
Honourable Mentions: Deafheaven - Sunbather, Best Coast - Fade Away EP, Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time, CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe