Top 20 Albums of 2013

Ok…so here it is. My top 20 albums of 2013. It’s been a bit of an odd year for music. There have been some albums that I have absolutely adored and some which I had massive hopes for that totally let me down. Of note is Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks. I know people say it’s a grower, but I’m not sure what Trent Reznor was thinking, I just don’t like it. Anyway, here is my list. I found it almost impossible to decide on the order, although my top 5 are pretty solid. There’s a bit more of a genre mix than I was expecting, but I largely based this on the albums that I had listened to most during the year.

1. The National – Trouble Will Find me

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I can’t say much about this album other than it is perfect from start to finish. I wasn’t sure at first because I kept comparing it to High Violet. I’ve now realised that the albums are completely different. This is pretty much a masterpiece though.

2. Touche Amore – Is Survived By

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This was a big surprise for me. I’ve always been on the fence with Touche Amore, but they went next level with this one. I think the most important part of the album is the narrative. I like the concept of what will be survived by. The cohesive nature of the lyrics combined with some well thought out writing and perfect production put it straight in my top 5. I really haven’t stopped listening to it either.

3. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

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I think when Brennisteinn was released it blew my socks off. I liked the direction they were going in that kind of Smashing Pumpkins ‘Adore’ phase. The album is in fact very close to their traditional sound. This jumped even higher up the list for me after hearing the tracks live. Brilliant.

4. Volcano Choir – Repave

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This was originally close to my number one, but it was pushed down by the others. A great album and even more evidence that anything Just Vernon touches turns to gold. I am particular fan of ‘Comrade’ which is probably my song of the year.

5. Baths – Obsidian

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This is a much more mature album by Ben. I think it’s probably his best work.

6. Cult of Luna – Vertikal

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I didn’t think Cult of Luna could go further with a sound they had already mastered, but this album just proved that they can. The mood throughout the album is indicative of it’s subject area. Probably one of their best albums to date.

7. Deafheaven – Sunbather

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This got a lot of hype and seemed to become a bit hip, but that’s ok. Deafheaven have succeeded in presenting a different image of what some might consider ‘black metal’. Right or wrong, you can’t deny the scope of this album and it’s power.

8. Nails – Abandon All Life

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The heaviest album I heard all year. Boom.

9. Vildhjarta – Thousands of Evils

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Another controversial choice in my top 20. I think it’s a shame that ‘djent’ has become such a loathed genre, or whatever you want to call it. Regardless, this is a highly technical album with some great song writing.

 

10. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

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The only remaining member of OFWGKTA that is writing music worth listening to.

 

11. Apricot Rail – Quarrels

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This is a beautiful post-rock album.

 

12. El-P and Killer Mike – Run the Jewels

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The production on this album is absolutely massive. I much prefer each members solo work but this is still a great hip hop album.

 

13. Paramore – Self Titled

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Is this another controversial one? It’s a shame I consider this a bit of a guilty pleasure, because it is genuinely an unbelievable pop album. I didn’t particularly enjoy the filler tracks but this is still a great album.

 

14. The 1975 – The 1975

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Pop indie at it’s finest. A great debut. I would have liked to have seen more of the moody tracks that they did on their EP’s but I still love this album.

 

15. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork

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Ahhh. Another controversial pick. This isn’t Queens best work, but I still love it. There are some great songs on here but there are too many dips in quality for it to get in the top 10.

 

16. Lorde – Pure Heroine

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She’s going to be massive (more massive than she already is) and at only 16, this album is excellent.

 

17. City and Colour – The Hurry and the Harm

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Just a solid album. Doesn’t particularly push any boundaries but I really enjoyed it throughout the year.

 

18. Keep Shelly in Athens – At Home

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Great Art-pop/dream-pop/whatever pop from Greece.

 

19. Balance and Composure – The Things We think We’re Missing

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Only recently discovered this album but I haven’t stopped listening to it. It might have creeped up higher if I’d had a bit more time with it.

 

20. Atoms for Peace – Amok

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This was a bit of a filler for my top 20.

 

 

The end.

 

Let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree etc.

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They move on tracks of never-ending light

I’ve been fighting the urge to right a ‘weight loss’ blog, but after this weekend I’ve felt inspired to write this. 

In September 2011, I went into a local boots store – cockily said ‘I wonder how much I weigh’, stood on the scales and then was blown over with shock. I knew I was heavy, but my god I didn’t realise I was THAT heavy. I can’t even bring myself to write what was on those scales. It’s weird when you’re a big person, because you really never stop and think about how big you’re getting, mainly because (for me anyway) it seemed like it built up over time…

I had to do something about it. So I signed up for the Bupa Great North Run 2012, a 13.1 mile run in the North East of England. Then I signed up for a local gym and started from there. At first it was really difficult, I decided that although I could do very little, I would do it often. I mainly used the cross-trainer and the treadmill on a hill setting – no running. I couldn’t maintain a good running pace of over 2-3 minutes, it also seemed to have a huge impact on my knees. I did this 5 times a week, before work for 45 minutes. After a month I’d lost about 10 pounds and felt really good about myself.

Then I started running on a treadmill. I could do about 5 minutes before having a break, where I would stick it on a hill setting, then go back to running. I steadily built this up over about 4 weeks, where I was starting to run longer and longer. By this point I was still going to the gym around 4/5 times per week. My energy, particularly at the beginning was almost at 0. I struggled to concentrate at work, felt exhausted on an evening and ached everywhere. This slowly passed. The more I went, the more energy I found I had. 

I started running, doing about 2k-3k on the treadmill and this got easier. I then signed up for Park Runs. IF YOU WANT TO GET INTO RUNNING SIGN UP NOW! It’s completely free, good fun and takes part in most parks throughout the WORLD. It’s a 5k route, where you are timed. It doesn’t matter what ability you are, and there is a great sense of community. I managed to do about 3/4 of these when training for the GNR. I maintained my progress at the gym for around 4 months, up until February 2012 where I decided I needed to start road running. 

Road running is embarrassing. It’s cold. It hurts your knees. It is the best thing I have ever done. Once you get past the embarrassment, it is the most fulfilling form of exercise you will ever do. Get some good music on, don’t let anything get in your way and just GET OUT OF THE DOOR. It’s the hardest part of any run. I also used the Nike+ app to help me track my progress…I think in a way it also helped with my motivation…getting encouragement from friends on Social media sites – particularly twitter!! (Thanks guys). 

I would alternate my runs, some short ones (3k) and some longer ones (6k-7k). I got some amazing advice from @AliSaiqa. Don’t worry about the distance, just saying you’re going out for an hours run…see how far you get. This made the difference with my runs and I started getting into 10k distances. It was becoming clearer now that I was losing weight, I’d dropped about 2 stone in 4 months, and could really feel the difference. 

By April/May time I was running 3/4 times a week, and still going to the gym, although struggled with knee pain quite a bit. I had to rest for about 2 weeks, which took a good chunk out of my training. Getting back into the gym was really difficult, and I’d started to find my routine boring. As a result, I tried to run more outside but again found this a little boring. I started cycling a lot more over the summer months which I absolutely loved. It was just the break from running that I needed. 

In July 2012 I did the Bupa Gateshead 10k with my friend Katie Bollen. This was my first competitive 10k and I found it really tough. The sense of achievement I had at the end was absolutely massive. I think I did it in around 70 minutes. Not the best time in the world, but I am still over the moon that I completed it. You could begin to see how exercise was having an impact on my body shape, particularly around my legs and my face. I was up to around 2 and 1/2 stone of weight loss. I also felt amazing, I was happier, had more energy and enjoyed exercise. 

August 2012 was up and down in terms of training, I found that when I did longer runs (15k being the biggest), I really struggled to recover afterwards, which then impacted on my motivation to do longer runs. Twitter (again) was really helpful. Steve, Melanie, Andy, Kate, Saiqa, Louise, Mikela, Stephanie (to name a few) – all complete strangers, but the most supportive and awesome people ever. We all had one shared goal – Great North Run 2012. At times I struggled to see how well they were all doing, and I felt my training was lagging behind but I enjoyed going on runs with Helen (best girlfriend) and Katie! Helen did the GNR in 2010, and was probably the biggest motivation for me taking part.

By the time September came round, I was signed up for the Middlesbrough 10k. The day was INCREDIBLY hot, but the atmosphere was electric (much better than in Gateshead). I finished this race in around 70 minutes, again not an earth shattering time but I blame the heat. I was starting to feel ready for the Great North Run. 

September 16th 2012. Great North Run. It had been just under a year since I had started my goal of doing the run, and I had lost 3/4 stone in weight. I felt amazing. The race itself was absolutely incredible, I cannot describe how incredible the atmosphere is. It doesn’t matter how capable you are, what your time is or if you’re not a ‘fit’ person, ANYONE can do it if they put their mind to it. I finished it in 2 hours 50 minutes. Looking back I’m a bit disappointed with my time, but I cannot describe just how horrendous those hills are haha. Totally horrendous. By the 11th mile my legs were like lead. Finishing the race was euphoric. Seeing my family and Helen during the last mile was actually pretty overwhelming, knowing that the end was coming. Crossing the finish line is defined by one feeling…relief. Then the happy emotions came, particularly when I saw my family and Helen. I had raised £500 for the Stroke Association, a charity very close to my heart. The mile walk back to the car felt like I was doing a 13 mile run again, and I was completely exhausted but I felt totally incredible. BRING ON GNR 2013!!!

In September 2012 I started a new job and moved to Newcastle. At first I started at the gym and struggled to get back into it following GNR…I’d put everything I had into training and losing weight over the year but just didn’t enjoy it. Running outside had also lost it’s appeal due to aches and pains in my legs. 

About a month later, I joined Crossfit in Newcastle. Simply, this has been the best fitness decision I have ever made. I completed 2 fundamentals classes that involved a lot of squats and basic movements…I could barely sit down for about 3 days after. It was clear that I was using muscles I didn’t know I had. The ethos is pretty simple…eat clean, work hard and reap the rewards. It is not boot camp. It is a fitness programme aimed at developing your own potential through a range of functional movements. My friends and family are sick of me talking about, also my work colleagues. But quite simply, it is changing my life. Every week I am making progress, pushing my own limits, expanding muscles in places I’ve never seen and feeling better and better. It is hard. You will ache and feel uncomfortable the next day. This will last for about 6 weeks when the aches and pains reduce. People will tell you how good you are looking and how much you are achieving, they will also begin to notice the ‘guns’ you are getting haha. *disclaimer – guns are dependent on your own ability and how much you pester people to ‘feel your guns’. 

It is December 2012. I weighed myself today, and since starting this journey about 14 months ago, I have lost 5 STONE 3 POUNDS IN WEIGHT. Thinking about that weight, it is absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe what I have achieved in 14 months but I am so happy. It’s not just about looking better, but I feel better in myself. I am more motivated, happier, I have more energy, my brain feels like it works faster, I feel more comfortable and I enjoy my food a lot more. I’m not sure if it’s fair to say it was easy, but it is. Here are some things that helped me achieve this.

1. Be narcissistic – Talk about your achievements. People who compliment you or comment on your achievement make you feel good…it’s a fact of life. 

2. Get good running trainers – your knees will love you forever. 

3. Make small changes regularly – run a little further, eat a little less, eat more of the good things

4. Shock your body – change your routine regularly.

5. Don’t follow new fads – Drinking milkshakes all day is not good for your body…

6. Pack your stuff early – Get your gym/running stuff ready the night before, so that when you wake up, you roll over, put your stuff on and then you’re ready to go. 

7. Surround yourself with positive people – Positivism breeds positivism

8. Don’t be ashamed of your new obsession – People will tell you to slow down, take a break and stop, but it doesn’t really help. Listen to your body, when it’s not working take a break and get back into it when you feel better.

9. BELIEVE – You will have terrible training sessions, you will feel like shit. But it will get better. 3 terrible runs can be blown out of the water by one amazing run. 

10. Try not to make excuses – 30 minutes of exercise is nothing. 

11. Don’t listen to me – Do whatever you want, when you want, but as long as it’s what you want to do. 

 

I’m sorry if this seems like I’m preaching, or I think I’m mr. fitness. I’m not. I have a long way to go. I’d like to think this has been useful in getting me to reflect on what I’ve achieved over the past year, which is what I will take with me into 2013. If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading this and I hope it seems like it was written with good intentions. If this has in any way inspired you, go for it!! I guarantee you will do something similar when you achieve everything you want to achieve. ❤

“To love at all…

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

 

What follows is the incredibly sad post by Fiona Apple earlier this week. 

It’s 6pm on Friday, and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet. I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.

Here’s the thing.

I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then, an adult officially – and she was my child.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders.

She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact. We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few make shift families, but it’s always really been the two of us.

She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.

She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me all the time we recorded the last album.

The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks every 6 or 7 years.

She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it dangerous for her to travel since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and to excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.

Despite all of this, she’s effortlessly joyful and playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago.

She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.

I can’t come to South America. Not now. When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference. She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.

I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.

But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.

I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.

Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed. But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us.

I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship. I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend. And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important.

Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone.

I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.

I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments. I need to do my damnedest to be there for that.

Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.

When she dies.

So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.

And I am asking for your blessing.

I’ll be seeing you.

Love, Fiona

My top 20 albums of 2012

It’s that time of the year…when I reflect on what I’ve been listening to over the year and decide what I’ve loved and what I’ve hated in music. Here is a list of the things that I loved:

1. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

This was the album that I was most looking forward to this year. I think out of all of the Odd Future group, this is the only artist that will have a long career. I love every element of this album. It’s well written, well produced, upbeat and feel good.

 2. Deftones – Koi No Yokan

They did it again. This album isn’t the best or worst album the Deftones have ever done, it’s just ‘different’. A more grown up, textured and deep album from them that I think will get better and better the more you listen to it.

 3. El-P- Cancer 4 Cure

Simply the best hip-hop album of this year. Buy this album.

 4. Purity Ring – Shrines

REFRESHING ELECTRONIC MUSIC!! Produced by 2 people who sent each other music and vocals via the internet and emailing – absolutely amazing. Get this album in your life.

 5. Aesop Rock – Skelethon

Another great hip-hop album that I think is really deep but also really accessible.

 6. The Secret – Agnus Dei

The heaviest thing on this planet. I don’t know what it is about this band and their influences, but it is just the heaviest, darkest album out this year. Not quite as good as Solve Et Coagula, but still amazing!!

 7. Amenra – Mass V

I was worried about this album and it being released on Neurot, given that I always liked the bands ‘raw’ sound. What has actually happened is one of their best albums to date, so so heavy and so so deep.

 8. Converge – All we Love we Leave Behind

Not my favourite Converge album but it’s definitely up there. Face off.

 9. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend!

The fact that this album was released without anyone knowing is actually amazing. It’s totally mesmerising and totally beautiful.

 10. The XX – Co-exist

Can’t believe how good this album is. Another one on the essential of 2012 list.

 11. Grizzly Bear – Shields

I was looking forward to this album but it didn’t quite reach Veckatimest heights. Still a brilliant listen though.

 12. How to Dress Well – Total Loss

MODERN AND REAL R’N’B. Check this dude out, deserves to be massive. I absolutely LOVE this album.

 13. Mono – For my Parents

Post-rock at it’s finest. Not sure it was as good as some of their earlier releases but this had such a cool vibe.

 14. MMOTHS – MMOTHS

Yes. Nice to relax to.

 15. Old Man Gloom – NO

Again, not the best album they have ever done, but it’s still absolutely brilliant. I feel this works better as an entire album rather than a collection of songs.

 16. Lianne La Havas – Is your love big enough?

Should of won the mercury prize. Simple.

 17. Killer Mike – R.A.P Music

Another brilliant hip hop album. Would have loved to have gone to the El-P/Killer Mike UK tour. Oh well.

18. Squarepusher – Ufabulum

Blip blip blop blop. Yeah, it’s noisy but totally brilliant.

 19. Alt-J – An Awesome Wave

Yeah it’s great, everyone knows it is. Shouldn’t have won the mercury prize though.

 20. Holy Other – With U

 I chose this album purely on the song ‘Feel Something’. One of the best songs of this year, totally relaxing and one of the best videos I’ve ever seen. 

 

 

WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK!? Agree? Disagree? What are your top albums of 2012?