NME’s albums and tracks of the year are something of an institution, and you can read all about who the staff here voted for in 2013 here and here. What we didn’t include in that list, however, was the really new music that’s pricked our ears over the past 12 months.
The 50 songs below all fall into that category. These are the undiscovered, lost and hidden gems that ruled the new music pages of NME in 2013. Loads of the acts aren’t anywhere near being signed yet, and a fair few of their songs simply disappeared without trace upon release – while others sent their creators on the road to stardom. What all of them have in common is that they’re worth your time – the perfect taster of what’s really bubbling under at present.
We’ve put everything together for you via a huge SoundCloud playlist below, so you can listen to each track that’s made the cut. Before that though, we’ll kick off with some words about our top ten Radar tracks of the year…
1. Royal Headache – Stand & Stare
At a time when most mainstream radio – British or otherwise – is scared to play anything remotely indie that isn’t polished to the point of no return, Royal Headache’s insistence on rewiring punk into something more garish needs to be applauded. That the Sydney group’s most recent single, out on Matador in the summer, sounds so strong in the face of all competition is galling and laughable in equal measure. As powerful as rock music has gotten all year, the genius of these two minutes 39 seconds lies in Stand & Stare’s simplicity. It’s all about the way singer Shogun delivers his lines – harsh sandpaper wails that rip off the tongue, as the piledriver melody descends.
2. Twin Peaks – Stand In The Sand
The Chicagoans have done everything right so far. Their self-released mini-album ‘Sunken’, which is currently getting plaudits in list after list of US-based end of year polls, was overflowing with potential (much like their new single ‘Flavor’/’Come Bother Me’). This tune, with its weed-obsessions and frenetic, punchbag mentality was right at the centre of it all. How best to try and explain that singer Cadien’s yelp of a chorus – two syllables stretched out over five seconds of anguished, lazed guttersnipe-drawl – has turned them into the most special unsigned US band of 2013?
3.Childhood – Solemn Skies
Of all the new British bands to emerge in the last 12 months, none have written a chorus quite as instant as Childhood’s Ben Romans Hopcraft and Leo Dobson here. Catchy as hell, ‘Solemn Skies’ is a mission statement and a half for the Londoners. The outro, meanwhile, is intense enough to make the likes of Sonic Boom – who had a hand in remixing a version of it, funnily enough – proud.
4.Dean Blunt – The Redeemer
Not technically that new, since he’s spent ages in Hype Williams, but still cult enough to make this list. Blunt’s sporadic solo gigs – like his albums – have been major talking points in certain circles throughout the year, and this track from his album of the same name was always gonna be the climactic centrepiece. Psychedelic, jazz, post-punk, frequently brilliant and confusing as hell… he’s an unsung musical hero.
5. Diane Coffee – Green
With Foxygen pretty much on hiatus while learning how not to kill each other, it’s been left to drummer Shaun Fleming to pull out some magic. On Green he’s pretty much out-shined his mates – pushing an obsession with the Jackson 5 to the max as he lays all his Phil Spector production fantasies bare.
6. Telegram – Follow
Hear that? It’s vocals by a British band not drowned in reverb! Credit must go to producer Dan Carey and drummer Jordan Cook as well as singer Matt Saunders here, as they’re responsible for the breakneck pace that leaves Follow sounding truly special. Saunders’ strong Welsh burr sets him out as the most interesting new Britrock singer of the year, the best bit being when he spits out – in true Ramones-style – a punky “Hey!” at 1:53. There’s an even louder, spikier one at 3:34, just before the band tumble across the finish line.
7. Tobias Jesso Jr – Just A Dream
No one knows a huge amount about Tobias, apart from the fact he’s been holed up on the couch of Chet ‘JR’ White (formerly of Girls) working on his album, and a whole bunch of the right people in the industry are going crazy about him. ‘Just A Dream’ recalls the mid-70s John’s (Lennon and Elton) at their barest – those epic piano lines twinned perfectly with Tobias’ lonely, little boy lost vocals.
8. Pure X – Thousand Year Old Child
The highlight from the Texans much underrated second album ‘Crawling Up The Stairs’, this has Nate Grace and co. in a magical mood. “Like glass knives slicing through your eardrums,” was the way the band said they wanted the guitars to sound on the album. It’s rare that such a declaration can be captured so majestically on record.
9. Spring King – Better Man
LIPA graduate Tarek Musa might have made a name for himself producing Manchester and Liverpool’s most buzzy bands recently, but it’s his work leading fivepiece Spring King that impresses the most. ‘Better Man’ is like the Black Lips as a studio band rather than road kings.
10. Perfect Pussy – I
The key cut from the Syracuse outfit’s demo tape, ‘I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling’, I makes for brilliantly chaotic listening. While the Bowie reference in the lyrics points to something deeper at play, it’s still fair to say that punk – proper punk – hasn’t sounded this essential since Iceage blew us away.
Scroll down to read the rest of the Top 50 and listen to the whole playlist here
11. Minks – Ark Of Life
12. Foxygen – No Destruction
13. Kristian Smith – Losing My Touch
14. Alex Bleeker & The Freaks – Don’t Look Down
15. Day Ravies – Double Act
16. Natural Child – Saturday Night Blues
17. Gems – Sinking Stone
18. Eyedress – Nature Trips
19. Angel Olsen – Forgiven/Forgotten
20. New Gods – Skyman
21. Hookworms – Radio Tokyo
22. Amadels – Honeysuckle
23. Arthur Beatrice – Midland
24. Ghost Wave – Country Rider
25. Fat White Family – Special Ape
26. Naked (On Drugs) – Lee Ann’s Skin
27. Francis Lung – Age Limits
28. Eagulls – Nerve Endings
29. Geronimo – Genius Is Dead
30. Brazil – Hide Away
31. Darkside – Paper Trails
32. East India Youth – Heaven, How Long
33. The Districts – Funeral Beds
34. Girls Names – Pittura Infamante
35. The Wytches – Crying Clown
36. Lxury – JAWS
37. Lucius – Free As A Bird
38. Sleaford Mods – Jobseeker
39. The Death Of Pop – Sun In My Eyes
40. Slaves – Nervous Energy
41. The Preatures – Is This How You Feel?
42. Ghost Outfit – Kids
43. Circa Waves – Good For Me
44. Gang Of Youths – Evangelists
45. Jungle – The Heat
46. Boxed In – All Your Love Is Gone
47. Ballet School – Heartbeat Overdrive
48. San Fermin – Sonsick
49. Moats – Toothache
50. Blaenavon – Prague