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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
William Mata

From AM to Yeezus: Classic albums celebrating their tenth birthday this year

“In the year 2013, no one can hear you scream,” was a line from a song by Sunflower Bean, one of several bands to form that year.

And it was harrowing at times. Miley Cyrus was burying her child star status in some questionable on-stage routines. Robin Thicke had a breakout hit with Blurred Lines and was later cancelled over its alleged misogyny. Cyrus and Thicke performed a sexualised rendition of Blurred Lines at the VMAs, attracting further criticism which brought it all full circle.

Thankfully, the year has been better remembered for some of the music which went on to set the trend for the decade that followed.

There were returns from David Bowie and Daft Punk, who had the song of the summer with Get Lucky, as well as huge breakthroughs for Haim and Lorde, while The 1975 and Bastille were beginning to pick up radio play.

There was also an arguably career best album from Arctic Monkeys, while Kanye West released Yeezus, perhaps his final act before his personal life began to spiral.

As ever with music, what we thought at the time is not what we would later consider, and James Blake’s album Overgrown won that year’s Mercury Prize but is not one widely on repeat in 2023. The Weeknd, meanwhile, now one of the biggest singers on the planet, was ranked way down the BBC Sound of 2013 list - behind Angel Haze and AlunaGeorge.

Here is how some of the most influential albums from 2013 have come to be seen 10 years on.

Days are Back: Alana Haim, Danielle Haim and Este Haim (AFP via Getty Images)

Haim - Days are Gone

Este Haim recalls having “zero expectations” for her band’s debut album which went on to change the lives of the three sisters.

The LA trio sounded like nobody else upon the release of their EP forever in 2012 and the hype was quick to build. At the start of the year, they posed on the cover of NME alongside fellow indie band Palma Violets, but unlike their British contemporaries who later split, Haim were here to stay.

Days are Gone was worth the long wait for fans who had discovered the band through the internet, and led to two further acclaimed albums as well as acting roles.

The album is set for a reissue in September.

Este told NME this year: “I listen to it now, and some of the songs take on a different meaning. A lot of the songs we’ve written when we were in our twenties mean something different to us now that we are in our thirties. I don’t know if we are any wiser, though.”

Release date: September 27, 2013

Lead single: Forever

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 79/100

What the press said:

“Days Are Gone makes them seem an increasingly rare thing: a guitar band heralded as a sure thing, who still feel like a sure thing once you’ve heard their debut album,” Alexis Petritis in The Guardian.

That rock and roll, eh? Arctic Monkeys (Getty Images)

Arctic Monkeys - AM

After the opinion-dividing release of Suck it and See, Sheffield’s finest indie band were back with a new sound inspired by G funk and nineties hip hop.

It was an unusual choice but won rave reviews (indeed many were four out of five, or beyond) and also saw them draw long-overdue attention in the US.

AM begins with the longing, hungry tones of Do I Wanna Know?, a song so big that the band opened their Glastonbury headline set with it that year - even though it was yet to be released. And the quality continues from there, finishing with the John Cooper Clarke-inspire I Wanna Be Yours.

The album was such a hit that it has rarely left the chart, even as the band’s two more experimental successive LPs have come and gone. But the Monkeys have refused to make AM volume two (PM?), at least for now.

Release date: September 9, 2013

Lead single: R U Mine?

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 81/100

What the press said then:

"Welding inspiration from hip-hop greats with rock’s titans, AM is built upon portentous beats that are dark and intimidating, yet wickedly thrilling,” Simon Harper in Clash.

Comeback to the future: Daft Punk (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

In 2013, it has been eight years since the French electronic pioneers had released a studio album. But after 2005’s Human After All, hopes were low that Thomas and Guy-Manuel could recreate the magic of the iconic Homework or Discovery.

But the release of the Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers aided Get Lucky was enough to significantly revise expectations as the song became the group’s first UK number one single.

Random Access Memories weighed in at a lengthy 74 minutes but with it now confirmed as Daft Punk’s final offering, fans are grateful for all they could get from the helmet wearing geniuses who went their separate ways in 2021.

A tenth anniversary edition was released in May with extra tracks, which increased the length time to 110 minutes.

Release date: May 17, 2013

Lead single: Get Lucky

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 87/100

What the press said then:

“It’s a journey worth the wait. Surely to be the most thrilling album of the year.” Elisa Bray, The Independent

Royalty: Lorde in 2013 (Mark Davis/Getty Images)

Lorde - Pure Heroine

Ella Yelich-O’Connor was in her mid teens when she released the social satire Royals and found herself with an overnight worldwide fanbase - which she cemented with an appearance on Jools Holland.

Pure Heroine’s minimalist cover was representative of the understated electronic grooves on the album. It is yearning, reflective, confrontive, but always packaged in tightly produced pop numbers.

Critics might feel that the New Zealander’s second album Melodrama was stronger - but it was her debut that created a sound that she would use as a launchpad. And it has an enduring legacy, featuring in the Evening Standard’s albums of the decade list, no less.

Release date: September 27, 2013

Lead single: Royals

UK album chart position, 2013: 4

Metacritic score: 79/100

What the press said then:

“Before Billie Eilish, there was another absurdly talented teenager sounding jaded by the world,” David Smyth wrote in 2019 for the Evening Standard.

“Sixteen-year-old kiwi Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s minimal electropop was more than sophisticated enough to win over the grown-ups.”

Yez please: Kanye West in 2013 (PA Archive)

Kanye West - Yeezus

The last of the original Kanye albums, or the first of his perceived decline? The release of West’s sixth album coincided with the rapper’s extraordinary interview with Zane Lowe, where he said: “I’ve reached a moment in life where my Truman show boat has hit the wall.”

And so it has proved to be, with West’s personal life going through a rollercoaster decade involving marriage, divorce, allegations of racism, health scares, two runs to be president and, amidst all, a falling reception for his music.

Yeezus brought with it bravado but also a focus on religion and race, two areas which would help define West’s public image in the years to come.

Upon release, Yeezus did not generate the acclaim of his previous LP, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. But singles such as Black Skinhead and Bound Two demonstrated his intact songcraft, even when other album tracks such as I Am God contained lyrics ordering a barista to “hurry up with my damn croissants”.

Caleb Hardy writes in Hot New Hip Hop of the legacy: “He was as mentally unwell as he’d ever been. That caused strife in Ye’s persona. On Yeezus, West harshly realises that his endless pursuits weren’t aiding his baseline happiness. If anything, Hollywood was making him as hopeless as ever.”

Release date: June 18, 2013

Lead single: Black Skinhead

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 84/100

What the press said:

“Though it’s far from his worst album, it’s his least commercial,” wrote Simon Price in the Independent.

Arcade Fire in 2020 (Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

Arcade Fire - Reflektor

The Montreal group were arguably the biggest band in the world in 2013 and their fourth album Reflektor was highly anticipated after their acclaimed outing The Suburbs.

In keeping with their oddball style, the album was announced in a surprise way when a fan tweeted “you’re my favourites,” to which, amazingly, the reply came “Thanks. Our new album will be out October 29th.”

And it was epic. Spanning one hour and 50 minutes, it needed two CDs to fit it all in and only three of the songs were under four minutes. Two of the songs topped ten minutes.

They went on to their biggest ever tour and headline Glastonbury the following year. Things were never as big again for Arcade Fire.

Lead single: Reflektor

Release date: October 28, 2013

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 80/100

What the press said:

“Arcade Fire’s lush, imaginative 85-minute fourth album is a triumph, but not a victory lap; the band never sounds content enough for that,” wrote Lindsay Zoladz for Pitchfork.

David Bowie performing in 2004 (Getty Images)

David Bowie - The New Day

The Dame had not been heard from since 2003’s Reality but was back with a bang for what proved to be his penultimate album.

The New Day had a cover that was reworked from his 1977 LP Heroes and the 2013 album had the energy of a much younger Bowie.

Produced by Bowie himself and long-time collaborator Tony Visconti, the album was acclaimed as a latter day masterpiece from the legend.

Bowie released his final album Blackstar in 2016 and died later that year.

Release date: March 8, 2013

Lead single: Where Are We Now?

UK album chart position, 2013: 1

Metacritic score: 81/100

What the press said:

“The 14 songs are short and spiky, often contrasting that kind of patent Bowie one-note declarative drawl with sweet bursts of melodic escape that hit you like a sugar rush,” wrote Neil McCormick in the Telegraph.

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