Matthew Bark’s Albums of 2013

I’m gonna keep it short and sweet. Here’s my ‘best of’ end of year list. Well, it’s actually two lists – a Top 3 Irish and a Top 3 International.


 Wounds – Die Young

wounds die

This Irish, all-male 4-piece released their ‘scream-til-your-ears-bleed’ debut album Die Young back in January and it kicked ass then and it kicks ass now. Metal. Rock. Punk. Call it what you will. I call it hook-laden, galvanising, cathartic and screamingly beautiful. It’s not often an Irish group treads this sort of musical territory convincingly but Wounds do it with an authenticity and finesse that is both admirable and ballsy. Think booze, drugs, piss, vomit, nihilism, enthusiasm, loud guitars and screams. F*ck yes!


The Late David Turpin – We Belong Dead


Released in September, Mr. Turpin returned to the (musical) fray with a jaw-droppingly impressive third album We Belong Dead. Delicately sung animal-centred lyrics, stupendous dance-pop-production and killer melodies are all present in bucket loads and it really deserves to be recognised for the little gem – ah feck it…BIG GOLD MINE – that it is. Think Twin Peaks meets a bear in the woods shagging a deer (lovingly) by a little stream as loads of woodland animals look on (whilst a Mariah Carey album plays somewhere in the background that is!) And any album that successfully opens with Ecclesiastes 3:19 – that’s a line from the Bible, just in case you’re wondering – deserves a place in my book!


Villagers – {Awayland}


Ok. Bit of a no-brainer really. Do I need to say anything else…? Hands down the best Irish album released in 2013. Mr. O’Brien and the Village troupe delivered a corker of an album back in January and basically killed it for the rest. A nice leap forward from 2010’s debut Becoming a Jackal – still alt-indie but with extremely well-placed electro-beats n’ vibes cropping up for good and effective measure. In short, mature yet fresh sounding – innovative yet familiar. A genuinely impressive musical treat. (And having seen them play with the Stargaze orchestral ensemble in Vicar St. two weeks back, I wait with great anticipation for album number 3 – world-class performance it was!)


Lady Gaga – ARTPOP


Despite the confused and befuddled promo, the uninspiring comeback single that was ‘Applause,’ and the general negativity surrounding the album in internet-land, ARTPOP is, as an entire musical entity listened to from beginning to end, easily Gaga’s best effort to date – albeit without the stand-out, uber-killer singles to be found on her past albums. As well, next to the uninspiring banality of Beyonce’s recently released new album, ARTPOP seems like a positively avant-garde masterpiece – which it absolutely isn’t – but at least Gaga’s kind-of-still-trying-to push the envelope and boat out! It would be nice if she strayed further from the comfort of the all-too familiar EDM territory she’s known for, or (at the very least) experimented more with it, but that said, ARTPOP is still peculiar and bizarre enough to be worthy of note. I think in years from now it will be held in far higher esteem than it currently is. Well done Gagglebox…well done.


Kanye West – Yeezus

kanyePretty obvious choice perhaps but deserved nonetheless. For me, Yeezus is a great first-half of an album followed by a largely forgettable second half. However, the first 5/6 tracks are just so damn propulsive and impressive (musically and in terms of vocal delivery or ‘flow’) that the dud second half can be forgiven and forgotten. ‘New Slaves’ is beyond impressive and deserves a song of the year gong. It’s true that the general lyrical themes on the album are rap-typical and often disappointingly myopic but the lyrical delivery and the production make this irritating flaw almost irrelevant. Unfortunately he has embarrassed himself with the recent ‘Bound’ video and so has ended the year on a particularly dumb and sour note. Which is annoying because, in my opinion, it has tarnished the album’s legacy quite a bit. But – as always with Kanye – you’ve got to take the good with the bad. And when he’s good he’s great. But when he’s bad…he’s ridiculously cringe-inducing!


Lorde – Heroine


It’s rare that an album is flawless and engaging from start to finish but 17-year-old Lorde has managed it with her minimal-electro-pop début album Heroine. Hurrah! She’s absolutely everywhere right now so I don’t think there’s much more to say except this is a slow-drip feed of (dark-ish) joy and brilliance that stands up to repeated listens. I have no idea what else she may come up with in the future – her voice is so distinct and recognisable that it may not be able to evolve beyond what it currently is, this could be her peak, but it’s a f*cking fantastic début and deserves a round of applause (no, not the Gaga one!). As I said in my review of Heroine when it came out: ‘Think Lana Del Rey meets The XX with several Styrofoam cups of  ‘sizzurp‘ and you won’t be too far off the mark! This is sincere and vibrant arty-indie-electropop at its best.’

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