The best pop albums of 2013

Because it is almost the end of the year, I will present you some lists of the best things that happened in pop music in 2013. Today, it is time for the list of the 20 best pop albums released in 2013. Let’s have a look!

20. Bastille – Bad Blood
Bastille Bad Blood
Bastille is one of the most exciting new acts that broke through this year. Bad Blood is a great record with a distinctive sound, mostly because of the singer Dan’s warm vocal style. ‘Pompeii’, ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and ‘Laura Palmer’ are all brilliant songs with a great production and instrumentation. Impressive debut!

19. Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
sara-bareilles the blessed unrest
A deserved Grammy nomination for this one. Sara Bareilles released an impressive album with amazing songs like ‘Brave’, ‘Hercules’, ‘Cassiopeia’ and the gorgeous ballad ‘Islands’. Sara always released good albums, but it feels like this time, everything is even a little better and this style fits her completely.

18. Marco Mengoni – #ProntoACorrere
marco mengoni-pronto a correre-cover
Marco Mengoni represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest with the wonderful ballad ‘L’Essenziale’. On his album, he shows he also sounds great on up tempo pop songs like ‘Non Me Ne Accorgo’ and the title track. His voice is amazing and the hooks on the tracks are extremely catchy. No wonder this was one of the most successful albums of the year in Italy.

17. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
The Danish Emmelie De Forest won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, but ‘Only Teardrops’ was not the only good song she put out this year. Her debut album was full of good pop tracks in the same style as her Eurovision song. She shows she is more than a one hit wonder with this album and I hope we will get to enjoy more of her music in the next few years.

16. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon Days
Ellie Goulding came up with a re-release of her brilliant album Halcyon, now called Halcyon Days. She had huge hits with ‘Burn’ and ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ and the other tracks on this new version are great too. It is not the best collection she released so far (how could she ever top Halcyon?), but still she once again managed to put out wonderful songs like ‘Hearts Without Chains’ and ‘You, My Everything’.

15. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe’s eclectic mix of R&B, soul, pop, funk, hip-hop and more, delivered us some amazing songs on her debut record The ArchAndroid. Her second effort does not disappoint with some of the best songs in her career so far, like the beautiful duet ‘PrimeTime’ with Miguel. The album has great variation but still feels like an extremely cohesive work of art. Janelle Monáe never disappoints.

14. Natalia Kills – Trouble
Natalia Kills came back with a surprisingly strong second album. Where her first record was quite hit and miss, Trouble is a more cohesive body of work with a higher quality of songs throughout the album. From the emotional ‘Saturday Night’ to the bonkers ‘Rabbit Hole’, Natalia Kills impressed with a great collection of strong pop songs.

13. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
AlunaGeorge was one of the most promising new acts this year and they absolutely delivered with their album. Their electronic style with Aluna’s distinctive vocals are immediately recognizable. Their singles ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ and ‘Attracting Flies’ are the best songs on the album, but almost every track has a memorable chorus and a great production.

12. Anouk – Sad Singalong Songs
Anouk Sad Singalong Songs
Dutch singer Anouk left rock music behind for a bit and made an orchestral album full of beautiful ballads. She represented the Netherlands at Eurovision with the gorgeous ‘Birds’ and songs like ‘Kill’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘The Good Life’ all have that same cinematic and captivating quality. The lyrics are heartfelt and personal and Anouk’s voice sounds better than ever.

11. Icona Pop – This Is…
These Swedish girls had an enormous hit with the amazing single ‘I Love It’, but they showed they have more to give with their album. Their music is a bouncing mix of pop, electro and dance and literally every track has a huge chorus with a great hook. Absolutely one of the best and catchiest releases of the year.

10. Diana Vickers – Music To Make Boys Cry
Diana Vickers took some years to record her second album, but it was definitely worth the wait. She changed her style a bit and focuses more on electro pop these days. Music To Make Boys Cry is a cute little record with a handful strong pop songs with great hooks and memorable choruses. The title track, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Boy In Paris’ and ‘Dead Heat’ should have all been hit singles.

09. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
lady gaga artpop cover
Lady Gaga will always have to deal with huge expectations when it comes to the release of her albums and there will always be people who are disappointed with her new output. For me however, ARTPOP is a decent pop record with some great tracks on it. It is not her best work so far (The Fame Monster says hello), but still ‘Applause’, ‘Sexxx Dreams’, ‘Do What U Want’ and ‘Venus’ show she still knows how to write huge choruses.

08. Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ

Beyoncé BEYONCÉ album cover
I waited until the last day of the year to complete this list, as I could not predict if any artist would ‘pull a Beyoncé’ and release a record out of the blue. She surprised the world with this interesting, cohesive and captivating album. Almost every track on there sounds fresh and it seems Beyoncé found the style that fits her best. ‘Haunted’, ‘XO’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Jealous’ are all brilliant tracks and with every listen another song stands out. Great work Bee, we now understand why it took you so long!

07. Lorde – Pure Heroine
The success of the young singer Lorde from New-Zealand might be one of the biggest surprises of the year. It is still hard to imagine how a then sixteen-year-old was capable of creating such a cohesive, well-written album full of huge tunes. Not only singles ‘Royals’ and ‘Tennis Court’ are great songs, but she shows her talents on beautiful and catchy songs like ‘White Teeth Teens’ and ‘Buzzcut Season’ as well. If she is this good at the age of 16, what will happen when she is a grown woman?

06. Birdy – Fire Within
If any artist this year showed how she grew and matured musically, it is Birdy. After releasing an album full of covers as her debut, she did co-write her whole second album with a surprisingly strong record as a result. Beautiful ballads like ‘Words As Weapons’, ‘Strange Birds’ and ‘No Angel’ are still an important part of her music, but she also tries new, more up tempo sounds on ‘Light Me Up’, ‘Wings’ and ‘Standing In The Way Of The Light’, which fits her wonderful vocals perfectly. Definitely one of the most impressive albums of the year.

05. Charli XCX – True Romance
Charli XCX, known for her feature and co-writing on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, released a brilliant debut album herself this year. True Romance is an album full of slick, stylish and pumping electro pop. Her lyrics are sharp, the beats are fat and her vocal style is immediately recognizable. Tracks like ‘You (Ha Ha Ha), ‘You’re The One’ and ‘Nuclear Seasons’ all have huge choruses with killer hooks. This young woman knows how to write some perfect pop tracks, ladies and gentlemen!

04. Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin has been working very hard for quite a few years, but in 2013 she finally dropped her first record ‘English Rain’. Her voice sounds angelic, her lyrics are strong and often relatable and the melodies are beautiful. The album deals with a broad range of emotions and Gabrielle is convincing as the teller of the stories. She is angry on ‘Keep On Walking’, thankful on ‘Salvation’, done with a relationship on ‘Panic Cord’ and cautious on ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’. This album has a great variety of strong songs and that voice is just lovely.

03. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz

The most talked about pop star of the year did not only twerk, she made a pretty great album as well. Singles ‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ are both brilliant, but Miley proved to be capable of even more. There are a few missteps on this record (‘SMS (Bangerz)’ and ‘Love Money Party’), but the heights, such as the singles, ‘Drive’, ‘FU’,‘4×4’ and ‘Someone Else’ are all so good that it makes you forget not every song is perfect. Miley Cyrus proved herself to be an interesting pop star with some great tracks!

02. Haim – Days Are Gone
HAIM-Days Are Gone
Band of sisters Haim started the year with huge expectations after they won the Sound of 2013 poll. They did not disappoint with their debut record ‘Days Are Gone’ with a great recognizable sound and eleven strong tracks. The first single ‘Forever’ is still the standout track, but songs like ‘Falling’, ‘Days Are Gone’ and ‘Let Me Go’ all show their song writing talents. The sisters created an own sound and delivered a cohesive album that never bores.

01. Laura Jansen – Elba
The best album of 2013 came from an unexpected place for me, but Dutch singer-songwriter Laura Jansen delivered a truly impressive album. First single ‘Queen Of Elba’ is one of my favourite songs of the year and basically all tracks on the album are great. The lyrics are all well written, touching and tell very personal stories and the melodies are utterly gorgeous. From the uplifting ‘Golden’ to the emotional ballad ‘A Call To Arms’ and the more electronic ‘Lighthouse’ and from the great mash-up ‘Smalltown (Come Home)’ to the heartbreaking and personal ‘Pretty Me’, literally everything about this album is right. She crowned herself the queen of Elba, I crown her the album queen of the year!

Gig Review: Haim at Melkweg

Haim Melkweg 3

Haim sisters rock, flirt and impress in Melkweg

Yesterday evening, American band Haim performed a gig in the Melkweg in Amsterdam. It was the second time this year the sisters visited the city after their first gig in Bitterzoet last August. The biggest change for the band since then, is that they finally released their debut album Days Are Gone in September. In order to promote this record, the girls are touring again and managed to sell out their show in Amsterdam. The Haim sisters rocked, flirted and impressed the audience.

For this tour, the Haim sisters are supported by Saint Raymond, a young British artist. Together with his band, he plays a nice mix of mostly up tempo pop/rock songs. The singer has a impressive and distinctive sound of voice and he definitely has written some pretty good tracks. ‘Letting Go’, ‘Fall At Your Feet’ and the new single ‘Young Blood’ all have stirring rhythms and memorable, melodic choruses. His set goes down quite well with the audience and then it is time for Haim to take the stage. Three girls with guitars and serious looks upon their faces start with ‘Falling’, one of their biggest hits, joined by a drummer and keyboard player. The audience welcomes them with quite some cheering, which immediately transforms their stoic appearances into smiling faces.

Saint Raymond Melkweg 1

When they play a great and energetic rendition of their single ‘The Wire’ next, the crowd enthusiastically sings along. The girls surprise with a loud, heavy and rocking version of ‘Oh Well’, originally by Fleetwood Mac. They show they know how to handle their guitars perfectly on louder songs and solo’s as well. It becomes apparent that all three sisters play more than one instrument. All three play guitar or bass, they drum and Alana, the youngest of the tree sisters, plays keyboard as well. Danielle takes most of the leads vocally. She has the strongest and most characteristic voice out of the three, which is an important part of the unique sound of the band. Live, she sounds just as flawless as on record. Este and Alana prove themselves to be good vocalists as well, as they take the lead once in a while. Alana sings the chorus of ‘Go Slow’, one of the more stripped down and slow songs. Her softer vocal style fits the emotional track perfectly.

Haim Melkweg 6

Although Danielle sings the most, she lets Este, the oldest sister, do most of the talks in between the songs. Este’s spontaneous and humorous personality is appreciated by the crowd, especially when she tells she wants to go ice-skating at Leidse Plein after the show and she needs someone to hold her hand. Both guys and girls volunteer for the job. Alana jokes to be uncomfortable by the flirting of her sister and starts playing the next track. The band plays perfect renditions of tracks like ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ and ‘Don’t Save Me’ and electronic and rocking song ‘My Song 5’ gets a smashing live performance. Highlight of the show however, is their first single ‘Forever’, the best track they released so far. It manages to get the whole Melkweg dancing and singing.

Haim Melkweg 4

They end their short but powerful gig with a rendition of Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’ and their own ‘Let Me Go’. The great build up of this last track comes across very well in a live setting. The sisters all play the drums for a spectacular end to a great performance. The only thing that could have been better, was if the girls stayed a little longer and would have played a few more songs, like ‘Days Are Gone’ for example. Other than that, Haim is a great live band and proved once again why they are one the most exciting new artists of 2013.


Concert recensie: Haim in de Melkweg

Haim zussen rockten, flirtten en overwonnen in de Melkweg

Haim Melkweg 5

Gisterenavond trad de Amerikaanse band Haim op in de Melkweg te Amsterdam. Het was al de tweede keer dit jaar dat de zussen de hoofdstad aandeden, gezien ze in augustus nog in Bitterzoet optraden. De grootste verandering voor de band sindsdien, is het feit dat hun debuutplaat Days Are Gone eindelijk uit is. Om dit album te promoten zijn de dames weer op tour gegaan en wisten ze hun optreden in de Oude Zaal van de Melkweg met gemak uit te verkopen. De zussen Haim rockten, flirtten en overwonnen in de Melkweg.

Op deze tour wordt Haim vergezeld door Saint Raymond, een jonge Britse artiest die het voorprogramma voor zijn rekening neemt. Samen met zijn band speelt hij een aangename mix van vooral uptempo pop/rock liedjes. De zanger heeft een indrukwekkend en onderscheidend stemgeluid en is ook zeker in staat tot het schrijven van goede tracks. ‘Letting Go’, ‘Fall At Your Feet’ en zijn nieuwe single ‘Young Blood’ zijn allemaal sterke liedjes met een opzwepend ritme en melodische, pakkende refreinen. Zijn set wordt goed ontvangen in de zaal en dan is het tijd voor Haim om het podium te beklimmen. Drie dames met gitaar en strakke gezichten komen op en zetten ‘Falling’, één van hun bekendste hits, in, bijgestaan door een drummer en toetsenist. Het publiek verwelkomt de band onder luid gejuich wat de stoïcijnse verschijningen al snel in grote glimlachen laat veranderen.

Ze vervolgen het optreden met een sterke en energieke vertolking van hun single ‘The Wire’, waarop het publiek enthousiast meezingt. De meiden verrassen met een stevige en rockende versie van ‘Oh Well’, een lied uit de vroege dagen van Fleetwood Mac. Ze laten zien ook op dit soort ruige stukken zeer goed met hun gitaren om te kunnen gaan. De muzikaliteit van de zussen blijkt ook uit het feit dat ze allen meer dan één instrument spelen. Zo spelen ze allen (bas)gitaar, drums en de jongste telg van de familie Alana, neemt ook toetsen voor haar rekening. Grote zus Danielle neemt vooral de leiding qua vocalen. Ze heeft dan ook de sterkste en meest karakteristiek klinkende stem van de drie, wat ook bijdraagt aan de unieke sound van de band. Live klinkt ze net zo foutloos als op plaat. Este en Alana laten horen ook over goede stemmen te beschikken als ze hier en daar wat solo’s zingen. Alana neemt bijvoorbeeld het refrein van ‘Go Slow’, een van de meer stripped down en langzamere songs, voor haar rekening. Haar wat softere stemgeluid past perfect bij de emotionele track.

Haim Melkweg 7

Hoewel Danielle het grote deel van de zang op zich neemt, laat ze Este meestal de praatjes tussendoor doen. Este’s spontane houding en humor worden gewaardeerd door het publiek, vooral wanneer ze vertelt dat ze na de show nog wil gaan schaatsen op het Leidse Plein, maar vrijwilligers nodig heeft om haar handje vast te houden. Zowel een jongeman als een dame meldt zich aan voor de job. Alana grapt vervolgens dat ze zich ongemakkelijk voelt hij het flirterige gedrag van haar zus en zet dan ook maar het volgende lied in. De band speelt perfecte vertolkingen van ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’ en ‘Don’t Save Me’ en het wat meer electronische, maar ook rockende ‘My Song 5’ krijgt een knallende live uitvoering. Het hoogtepunt van de show is toch ‘Forever’, hun eerste single en nog altijd het beste wat ze hebben uitgebracht. Ze weten de hele Melkweg ermee aan het dansen en zingen te krijgen.

Ze beëindigen hun kort maar krachtige optreden met een cover van Sheryl Crow’s ‘Strong Enough’ en hun eigen ‘Let Me Go’. De sterke opbouw in deze laatste song vertaalt zich goed naar een live setting. Voor het slot nemen alle de drie zussen plaats achter hun drums en spelen een wervelende finale. Het enige minpuntje aan het optreden is de korte duur. Het zou leuk zijn geweest als de dames nog wat meer songs hadden gespeeld, zoals het lied ‘Days Are Gone’ van de nieuwe plaat. Buiten deze kleine kanttekening hebben ze bewezen een zeer sterke liveband te zijn en lieten ze nog maar even zien, waarom ze één van de beste nieuwe acts van het jaar mogen worden genoemd.

Album Review: Haim – Days Are Gone

HAIM-Days Are Gone

Band of sisters impresses with debut album
Once a year, specialists in music gather for The BBC Sound Of… to predict who will be the acts to watch in the coming year. Last year, they expected big things for the American band Haim. By then, the three girls had only released their first two singles, but it was enough to convince the experts they are the next big thing, as they won the poll. Now, nine months later, their debut album, called Days Are Gone, is out.

Haim exists of sisters Alana, Este and Danielle Haim from Los Angeles, California. The girls grew up in a musical family and formed a band together. In 2012, they released their first single ‘Forever’, which created some buzz around on the internet. With this single they introduced themselves in the best possible way, as the song summarizes everything that makes them an exciting band. ‘Forever’ is fresh, melodic, has an immense chorus and above all a completely own and unique sound. More than a year later, it is still the best track on their debut album.

This does not mean that the rest of the tracks is not good though. With their next single releases they kept their standards high. ‘Don’t Save Me’, ‘Falling’ and ‘The Wire’ all have the same interesting quality about them. The girls are exceptionally good at writing strong and catchy pop choruses and their songs all have that sound that makes Haim stand out. They mix rock with R&B and pop in a creative and smart way. For a beginning band that just released a first album, it is incredible how fast they have managed to create a sound that is unique and totally fits them.

Days Are Gone follows this style on every track, with as a result a well floating, cohesive album. The album never bores or gets samey as the Haim girls still experiment with their style. On some songs the focus lies more in rock music, while others are more heavily influenced by R&B. On the title track, which is co-written by singer Jessie Ware, they showcase a more pop and electro sound, with their own band sound still present. The song is one of the most catchy things to be found on the album. Both the chorus and middle-eight settle in your mind easily and this is not a bad thing at all. On ‘My Song 5’ they experiment with a heavier sound that relies a lot on deep synthesizer and bass sounds, which works perfectly for them.

On ‘Go Slow’ they literally slow down the tempo of the album a bit and this lets their amazing voices shine through even more. They perfected their well-crafted sound with great vocals and harmonies. The girls are used to sing together ever since they were little and this really shines through when you listen to their songs. Their vocals blend perfectly together. When having listened to this album all the way through, it seems like the BBC was right. They truly are the sound of 2013 and I hope of many more years to come.

Must listen: Forever, Falling, Days Are Gone, My Song 5, Don’t Save Me.


Album Recensie: Haim – Days Are Gone

De gezusters Haim maken indruk met debuutalbum

Eens per jaar verzamelen de muziekkenners in Groot-Brittannië voor de BBC Sound Of…, om te voorspellen welke artiesten het zullen gaan maken in het jaar daarop. Vorig jaar voorspelden ze een grootse toekomst voor de Amerikaanse band Haim. Destijds hadden de drie dames pas twee singles uit, maar dit was al genoeg om de experts te overtuigen, gezien ze de poll wonnen. Nu, negen maanden later, is hun debuutalbum Days Are Gone eindelijk uit.

De band, afkomstig uit Los Angeles, California, bestaat uit de zusters, Alana, Este en Danielle Haim. De meiden groeiden op in een muzikale familie en besloten al jong samen een band te vormen. In 2012 brachten ze hun debuutsingle ‘Forever’ uit, wat meteen al voor aandacht rond de band op het internet zorgde. Met deze single wisten ze zich op een uitstekende manier te presenteren, gezien de song alles bevat wat deze band de moeite waard maakt. Het klinkt fris, melodisch, beschikt over een groots refrein en heeft bovenal een compleet eigen geluid. Meer dan een jaar later is dit nog steeds de beste track op hun debuutplaat.

Dit wil echter totaal niet zeggen dat de rest van het album niet goed is. Met hun volgende single releases wisten de dames het niveau namelijk hoog te houden. ‘Don’t Save Me’, ‘Falling’ en ‘The Wire’ hebben allen diezelfde kwaliteit over zich. De meiden van Haim zijn uitzonderlijk goed in het schrijven van sterke, pakkende poprefreinen en alle liedjes bevatten de stijl die de band opvallend maakt. Ze mixen rock met R&B en pop op een creatieve en slimme wijze. Voor een beginnende band die net een album uit heeft, is het indrukwekkend dat ze al een compleet uniek en passend geluid hebben weten te creëren.

Days Are Gone volgt deze stijl op elke track, wat resulteert in een samenhangend en goedlopend geheel. Het album gaat nergens vervelen, omdat de dames het niet nalaten om te experimenteren met deze sound. Sommige songs zijn meer beïnvloed door rock, terwijl anderen dichterbij R&B liggen. Op de titeltrack, waar zangeres Jessie Ware aan meeschreef, presenteren ze een sound die meer als pop en electro klinkt, maar met hun eigen bandgeluid ook nog in tact. Het is gelijk één van de meest pakkende momenten van het album, omdat het refrein en de bridge niet meer uit je hoofd te krijgen zijn. Op ‘My Song 5’ experimenteren ze met een wat zwaarder geluid, dat vooral bestaat uit lage synthesizers en een donkere bass. Ook dit werkt prima voor de band.

Op ‘Go Slow’ leggen de dames het tempo letterlijk wat lager, waardoor hun stemmen nog beter naar voren komen. Hun sterke vocalen en mooie harmonieën zijn de kers op de taart van een sound die zeer goed in elkaar zit. De meiden zijn het gewend om al vanaf jongs af aan samen te zingen en dit is duidelijk te horen op het album. Hun stemmen passen perfect in elkaar. Na het luisteren zit er niets anders op dan toe te geven dat de BBC het bij het juiste einde had. Haim is echt het geluid van 2013 en hopelijk ook van de komende jaren.

Dit moet je gehoord hebben: Forever, Falling, Days Are Gone, My Song 5, Don’t Save Me.