by Aldo Álvareztostado.
Six years ago, Radiohead released In Rainbows, an album that has aged well and in that time reminded the world of the key role the British band plays nowadays, music and market-wise. Wilco released what I consider their best album so far. Alive 2007 materialized the hallucinating ride the Daft Punk experience is. Kanye’s hello to pop, Graduation, was indeed the closing act of the rapper’s formation. Arcade Fire, Beirut, Feist, LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A. delivered exciting second albums that settled them as A-listers in their respective genres. Neon Bible and Sound of Silver in particular have grown to become defining albums of the first decade of the century. Justice was the biggest debut of the year (they would later disappoint).
If we go back another six years, 2001 was epic as the number is. A top-form Björk released Vespertine, an oneiric masterpiece, while Radiohead gave us Amnesiac right after Kid A. The Strokes defined the sound of the indie generation with Is this it (they should’ve been more Dada and just retire then). In another corner, Steve Reich released Triple Quartet. It was a bright start for the century in music. And most importantly, Daft Punk gave us Discovery: an anthem to the new millennium, to the outer space, to the future.
These years have been, I believe, the richest for music in recent memory. After twelve months of constant arrivals of notable -and important- albums, 2013 deserves to be put at that level. In an ordinary year we see a couple of astonishing debut albums, a handful of bands consolidating themselves with impeccable second or third works, and a selected group of high profile artists returning after a hiatus or a failure… most of them with an irrelevant delivery. This is what makes 2013 unique: it was a year for musicians to come back.
This article will focus on those returning acts. I do want to mention, however, the albums that caught my attention during the year, for some of these works are at the level -to say at least- of the legendary artists to be discussed. Three new artists released particularly exciting operas primas: Rhye for its sensuality, Chance the Rapper for his freshness; Darkside for their haunt. Other remarkable debuts were Disclosure, Julianna Barwick, Kelela and Savages. A bunch of alternative British acts released solid second and third albums: Blood Orange, Burial (EP, not a proper album), Fuck Buttons, James Blake, and These New Puritans; the later always underrated in the American circuit. Indie folk saw Kurt Vile, Julia Holter and Phosphorescent add their most relevant (even breakthroughish) albums to date to their discography. Kanye West, a self-aware one-of-a-kind, keeps growing as an artist (some would say reinventing) and Yeezus is just another brilliant stage of his career.
On with the comebacks. Some of these don’t answer a chronological criteria but to the relevance of the albums through a merely subjective appreciation. The order I list them answers precisely to the significance of their comebacks, yet the last four are also among my top six of the year. David Bowie is obviously not on the list.
Many would disagree with my including Arcade Fire‘s Reflektor. The québecoise band premiered with two of the best rock albums of the past decade: Funeral in 2004 and Neon Bible in 2007. Three years ago, the monotonous and unsurprising The Suburbs was celebrated by many and it even won the Grammy. This was a clear signal of domestication of both the band and the public. Reflektor, however, demonstrates the band is alive. The collaboration with James Murphy paid off. The Caribbean roots of their first album came back. A promising future awaits.
Curiously, M.I.A. has released albums almost the same years and with a similar path than Arcade Fire. Her discography started with two brilliant works: Arular (2005) and Kala (2007). Few artists spoke for the times we were living as this woman did. Then came /\/\ /\ Y /\ (a much deeper failure than The Suburbs, clearly), which despite a good single (“XXXO”) and a great video (“Born Free”) was an unbearable, egocentric chaos. Last year, Bad Girls redeemed M.I.A. A major success in every single aspect, the single was later included in this year’s Matangi, which claims the singer is back in shape. This isn’t in any ways as good as her first two works, but a remarkable album that makes us think /\/\ /\ Y /\ was the exception to the rule.