Year In Review: Best SYN-reviewed albums of 2013

“And we’ll never be Royals… that kind of luxe just ain’t for us/We crave a different  kind of buzz…”  – Lorde, “Royals”What an appropriate coincidence it is that, perhaps the best song of 2013 sums up the general state of the music scene across the Western world. Many artists reviewed by SYN this year seem to have reconciled themselves with the fact they’ll never reach the level of musical fame enjoyed by the Kanye’s and Beyonce’s of the world (and ironically Lorde herself), and instead have busied themselves with producing music that is as inventive as it is engaging.That’s why I consider it an honour to have been a part of the reviews team this year: It opened my eyes up to a whole new scene of music — beyond what popular radio or the music press told me I should like — and gave me a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a musician and a recording artist present day.Now, with the year drawing to a close, let’s have a look back at the year that was for SYN Reviews and for grassroots music. Here are the 10 albums the reviewers at SYN conferred the most praise on in 2013: The Drones – I See SeaweedThe Drones have this unique attractive pub-rock quality about them and I See Seaweed is what the Australian music industry need right now. It’s dark, different and strong, unlike some others currently on the airwaves. “Its raw grungy tales with Aussie influence and accents are filled with diverse emotions: anger, lust, sadness, love, and depression. Gareth Liddiard’s vocals and the band’s instrumental interjections express this sense of deceit and insanity that just makes this album so utterly relatable to our dark sub-conscious.” – Aimee Malotsis Abbe May – Kiss My ApocalypseSexrocktica. That’s how Abbe May herself describes her sound, and I’d say she’s on the money. Her sophomore album Kiss My Apocalypse is dark, sultry and full of hot beats.“In terms of career progression, May is clearly unafraid to experiment and unwilling to be pigeonholed, and as a result I think she’ll be a massive star soon enough. Power to her.” – Radhika Chopra Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky AwayIn response to achieving their first No.1 album in Australia, Nick Cave of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds said simply that he knew they were producing good music, this is just the first time Australian’s have responded to it.“This review exists only to elaborate on Mr Cave’s totally correct statement…while [Push the Sky Away] is not anything unique in the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds discography, it is certainly an epitome of their powerfully menacing style and their ability.”– Jarryd Bendall Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience“Timberlake has always been a master of writing infectious, seductive pop that could easily win the hearts of teenage girls while also being the guilty pleasure of the self-affirmed connoisseur. But with The 20/20 Experience, JT adds a level of sophistication which will not only make the critic happy to leave the album out in public view, but also be happy to defend it.” – Brendan Wrigley King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Float On/Fill Your Lungs“While the layers of distorted noise return for their third album Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, the band take a sharp left turn in their style by bumping up their musical inventiveness.“[The 16-minute opener “Head On/Pill”] is a dream-like concoction of 60s-influenced psychedelia and an Indian raga, which abruptly turns into “Hava Nagila” complete with surf rock guitar.“King Gizzard have tested the limits of their creative powers to great effect on [the album], and it will be interesting to see where their musical journey as a band takes them next.” – Alexander Darling !!! (chk-chk-chk) – Thr!!!erThr!!!er is a good album that could have been great. The sudden change in the album’s direction after the first song really throws you off… and it’s a struggle to get back on again.“There is no doubt that !!!’s album Thr!!!er is an enjoyable jumble of funk. You might end up nostalgic and putting on some leg warmers, but it’s definitely worth giving it a shot. If !!! follow the road in the way of their first track, their next album would be one to look out for.” – Aimee Malotsis Absolute Boys – Heavy Flow“The only thing that is even slightly disappointing about [Heavy Flow] is the fact that it only lasts a half hour, because once you’re listening, you don’t really want to stop. The band’s passion for unique arrangements shines, and it is refreshing to see musicians unafraid to push boundaries—definitely a stellar piece of work.” – Radhika Chopra Wintercoats – HeartfulHaving been around since 2009, Wintercoats have polished their sound with Heartful continuing the genre of orchestral-pop music. The album is fantastic in that each song is brilliantly layered and calmingly emotive. The main criticism, however, is that the dynamics and tempo remain steady throughout. This aside, Heartful is perfect to listen to first thing in the morning or late at night due to its well-arranged ambient nature.” – Simon Findlay Smith Westerns – Soft WillThe Smith Westerns have reached a peak in their short career with Soft Will, the ultimate blissful and dreamy soundtrack to a summer that we can only dream of.“Soft Will’s first single, and most notable track, “Varsity” closes the album… and exhibits some of the Smith Westerns’ most sunny and romantic sounds. Its dreamlike youthfulness evokes imagery of running down suburban streets as the sun sets on the horizon. The end of summer and perhaps the end of adolescence is represented, which may signal a change in the Smith Westerns’ mindset and possibly a more mature sound for whatever comes next.” – Jade Bate The Love Junkies – MaybeleneThe wraps on The Love Junkies are huge; with NME putting them in their ‘Top 5 Australian bands to watch in 2013’ list. Listening to their album Maybelene will likely make you agree and become an instant fan. With so much over-produced, computer generated sap dominating the charts, it’s refreshing to discover a band with a hard-edged and honest approach to their music about to make an impact on the scene.” – Matthew Naqvi­by Alexander Darling

December 27th 2013
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