16:25 Thursday 26 December 2013

It's that time again - the review of the year

Written byROB SMYTH

As the year draws to a close, it is customary to look back on the past 12 months and reflect upon the musical gems which have been exciting out ears in 2013.

This week, members of the Mail team pick our their top three albums and singles and one top turkey all in a bid to draw up their musical highlights of the year.


IT has been an interesting year for the music industry.

Sam Bailey won the X Factor, Eminem returned with a bang and a bloke asking ‘what does the fox say?’ managed to top the single charts.

Here are my highlights and lowlights of the music scene during the past 12 months


1) FALL OUT BOY - Save Rock and Roll

For many fans, they never thought they would hear another Fall Out Boy record again after the band announced that they were to call it a day.

However, the group reformed and offered up a great reminder of how good the band were.

The foursome do not try anything different but it was a welcome return for a great band.

2) LINKIN PARK - Recharged

The rap/rock group said they would never do another remix album - but now they have in.

With all manner of rap stars and producers turning out, the album showcases an array of talent and several different interpretations of the band’s work.

Like always with these albums, it is quite hit and miss but still worthy of a listen if you are a die hard fan like me.

3) JAY Z - Magna Carta

The rap god came back with a bang following a hiatus that saw him father a child with Beyonce and also create a odd/intriguing/great mash up CD with Kanye West.

Here, ay Z again hits the heights of his own high standards with some help from the likes of Justin Timberlake.

Some said it was not a classic, I would beg to differ.


1) MONSTER - Eminem feat. Rihanna

When I first heard this track, I was taken aback.

Eminem had returned with a stunning effort that was raw, visceral and a great piece of work.

Rihanna adds her dulcet tones to enhance aan already superb record to my single of the year.

2) LOVE ME AGAIN - John Newman

This youngster screams Northern Soul and his great voice and delightful dance moves helped sculpt one of the hits of the year.

The song was fresh, new and made you want to hear it again.

Mr Newman is one to keep an eye on in the future.

3) Can’t Hold Us - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

After hearing the pair’s debut,Thrift Shop, I did not think much to them.

However, their follow up Can’t Hold Us was much better and was a great effort that I am still listening to today.



I can see why this song caught on and got to number on but that does not mean that I have to like it.

It was a good laugh while it lasted but number one, really?


BY far the worst single of this year has to be Miley Cyris with We Can’t Stop. The video is annoying.

The song is annoying. She is annoying. If 2014 is going to do the music scene any favours, it will kindly ask Cyrus to leave.

On the other end of the scale, but still in America, is what I think has been one of the best songs of the year – Lady Ga Ga’s Do What You Want. I love this song, but I still thing Ga Ga is a bit of a weirdo, and it hasn’t convinced me to buy her album.

Another song that has stuck out for me this year is Roar by Katy Perry.

She does tend to bring out a corker every now and then, though her live vocal performances leave a lot to be desired. Being a hardened Take That fan I can’t leave Gary Barlow out of my favourite songs of the year. His latest solo effort is most pleasing to ones ears - see you on tour in April Gazza.

As I tend to download songs I like, rather than albums, it’s hard to name a stand-out album of the year.

Infact I think the only album I have bought this year is Olly Murs but I am getting Gary Barlow and Katy Perry’s album for Christmas.

Should I really be admitting to all this? It could be worse I could have said Little Mix. Oh, hang on.



1) KODALINE – In a Perfect World

Being nominated for the BBC Sound of 2013 could have been the kiss of death for a promising band, but Irish indie-rock quartet Kodaline delivered a polished and beautifully crafted set of songs on their debut album.

The band were likened to Coldplay by some critics - that tells some of the truth but doesn’t acknowledge the diversity of the songwriting, nor the fact that the band are still finding their own voice. A hugely promising beginning.

2) THE NATIONAL – Trouble Will Find Me

The slow burning but continually rising career of The National moved on with another dark, brooding and lyrically fascinating offering.

After the universal praise for High Violet it seemed a dip in form was inevitable with this, their sixth studio album. But if not quite as mesmerising, it was blessed with equally sublime moments.

Hard to say what makes The National tick but there’s surely a touch of genius in there somewhere.

3) ACADE FIRE – Reflektor

Yes, it’s not a patch on The Suburbs.

Yes, it’s a shock after the first three albums from the Canadian sextet.

And no, it wasn’t worth a double album and the Jonathan Ross bit was a mistake. But the more you listen, the more you appreciate the intent and ambition.

And how many mainstream bands are as daring and bold as Arcade Fire?


1) KODALINE- Brand New Day

The third single from the band’s In A Perfect World album was a glorious slice of sunshine, just right for an August release.

The impossibly catchy melody was backed up by lovely lyrics that made you want to skip away to a better place with your childhood sweetheart. A sweet dream of a song.

2) KATY PERRY – Roar

OK, this year’s guilty pop pleasure was the first single from Perry’s 2013 album Prism.

A girl power anthem to mark her nasty marriage break up, this saw Katy getting her claws out and having fun. The video, with our Katy adapting to life in the jungle, was also a hoot

3) Max Raptor – England Breathes

Not just because they are from Burton but also because this was an in-your-face, powerful rant against racism that made you want to punch the air in triumph.

The best song yet from Wil Ray and co and signs of growing confidence from a band who can marry socio-political comment with blazing tunes.


LEONA LEWIS – Christmas With Love

Just four albums into her career and the X Factor’s only true international star has already resorted to a ‘Christmas album’.

Sure the girl can sing but was the world really pining for Leona’s uninspired takes on seasonal favourites like Winter Wonderland, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and White Christmas? Surely only Roy Wood, reaping in the royalties, and fans of Westlife truly liked this.


If I could bottle The Overtones I would.

I decided to have ‘my favourite boys’ in my choice for favourite single, not only because the Smile EP is raising money for international charity Operation Smile, but because the principal voice on all three tracks is the velvet-toned baritone and all round gorgeous Aussie beefcake Lachie Chapman.

With a smattering of lead singer Timmy Matley the hottest quintet in town have ended 2013 on a high. I predict (as I do every year) they will be hotter than ever next year.

Olly Murs is a bundle of fun and energy and one of the better acts to emerge from reality TV show X Factor.

He didn’t win but he has won the hearts of the British record-buying (or rather downloading) public.

Troublemaker, featuring Flo Rida, is probably going to be the British single of the year and rightly so. It’s uplifting and catchy, although it is a little Maroon 5-esque, not that that’s a bad thing in my book.

There is no avoiding the fact that Robin Thicke’s controversial Blurred Lines is the biggest selling single for 2013. The song features Pharrell Williams who co-wrote and produced the track, and also collaborated with Daft Punk on Get Lucky which is the second best-selling single for the year.

Love it, hate it or want it banned it’s made the Canadian a bucket full of money and there is no such thing as bad publicity – not in the entertainment industry. Well, so they say …

Top of my list of this year’s albums has to be Caro Emerald’s third studio album

The Shocking Miss Emerald. The Dutch songstress’s voice has matured since the release of Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor in 2010 and she is far more at ease with her easy approach to her Art Deco style. Emerald is a sassy, classy miss and this album is packed with some of her finest work.

An album list wouldn’t be complete without the smooth and sexy tones of Michael Buble. He’s been a busy boy this year, becoming a dad for the first time, and his only studio album in 2013 – To Be Loved – is a glorious combination of cover versions, originals and duets. The Canadian Crooner rarely fails to deliver and I can safely say he is no longer the poor man’s Frank Sinatra.

I have never been one to shy away from a production of musical theatre or two and so The Ultimate Musicals Experience is my compilation album of the year. A huge fan of this genre of music, it is refreshing for an album of this type to include such up-to-date productions such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and From Here to Eternity. Worth a listen if only to hear Melanie C’s rendition of I Don’t Know How To Love Him from Jesus Christ Superstar and Barbara Dickson’s Tell Me It’s Not True from Blood Brothers.

With a heavy heart Alfie Boe’s album Trust is my 2013 turkey. The terrific tenor has one of the best voices in the business but this album left me cold. Instead of sticking to what he know best (musical theatre and opera) he seems to want to go down Pop Road. No! No! No! Opera Boulevard or stay at home Mr Boe.




You would be hard pushed to find an artist who has had a better year than Disclosure.

I have already mentioned my love of their collaboration with Eliza Doolittle and that is a theme of the album, which includes both Latch, featuring Sam Smith and White Noise, which saw them team up with Aluna George. Both tracks proved a massive hit and led to Disclosure making a name for themselves in their own right. You also get your money’s worth with Settle which contains 18 tracks.


Another of 2013’s rising stars, duo AlunaGeorge are fast becoming one of my favourite artists.

Aluna Francis is fabulous on vocals – she also starred on the Disclosure track White Noise – and their hit Attracting Flies was among my favourites of the year. Now matter how many times I heard it I never grew tired of it. Expect big things over the next couple of years.


It wasn’t an easy decision to admit to being fan of Taylor Swift’s shift towards cheesy pop music and while I wasn’t rushing out to the shops to buy it personally, its hard to deny it does what its says on the tin.

If you’re looking for catchy pop music, it’s here, including hit singles I Knew You Were Trouble, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and 22 which all performed well in the charts.


CALVIN HARRIS – Thinking About You

Not only my favoutite track of the year but one of my favourties of all time.

Having bought Harris’ brilliant album 18 months, the track was already a firm favourite prior to its release. Hearing it on the radio made me worry I would grow tired of it in the same way as I did with dance efforts from the likes of Avicii which were seemingly on repeat throughout the summer, but I didn’t. And it is not only Harris’ unique sound which makes it great. Whereas Harris has worked with global superstars such as Rihanna, the relatively unknown Ayah Marhar is excellent.


Everything that brothers Guy and Harold Lawrence, who make up Disclosure, touched turned to gold in 2013, capped off for me with the track which saw the sensational return of Eliza Doolittle.

While the collaboration appeared unlikely, it certainly delivered. I have always been a fan of Eliza Doolittle and she shows just what a good singer she is on this track which may have a great sound to it, but would be nothing without the input of Doolittle. Other hits from Discosure may have been more celebrated and got more air time this year, but this for me was their best.

PARAMORE – Still into You

Yes the lyrics are incredibly soppy, but it made for a nice change from a band more familiar with tracks about heartbreak and being unlucky in love.

But more than that, the whole feel and tempo of the song was a reminder of Paramore’s earlier days.


BRUNO MARS – Unorthodox Jukebox

It nothing personal Bruno.

I’m afraid he has massively gone down in my estimations with Unorthodox Jukebox. Every time he comes on the radio, I immediately turn off.

The album seems to mostly consist of dreary rubbish, perhaps with the exception of Locked Out of Heaven, but even that quickly becomes boring.

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