Presenters’ Picks – 2013

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite singles and albums of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: Avicii – True

Some strong collaborations make for a refreshing variety of tracks, great for both listening and dancing to.

Track: Naughty Boy feat Sam Smith – La La La

A beautifully structured song in every respect.

Alex Hoggett

Album: Biffy Clyro – Opposites

Despite the fact AM (Arctic Monkeys) was released this year, at the end of January, Biffy Clyro released a new double-album entitled Opposites. The album consisting of 20 tracks has everything. From your mellow songs, to the hard hitting rock songs, and back to more poppy songs to round it off. They have certainly done the double-album concept much better than Green Day did the triple-album concept! The album has songs to fill stadiums, and I can say that from experience as I saw them at the O2 this year, just one of the three times I saw them this year!

Track: Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know

Easily the best single of this year really, AM brought us a dirtier aspect with this song, and the whole album to be honest. The grooves in this song ooze sex appeal, and the band are one of the biggest in the world right now!

Ben Knight

Album: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

A beautifully melodic album that proves just how important production is to creating a unique sound. My first thoughts when listening to this album was the similarity to the Beatles, and they are certain to go from strength to strength. They’re also not too shabby live either.

Track: MS MR – Hurricane

Lizzy Plapinger helps run Neon Gold Records in Brooklyn, and out of nowhere she put together MS MR. Drawing comparisons to Florence + The Machine, it’s a dark eerie song that has great momentum. Worth checking out the CHVRCHES remix too.

Bob Simpson

Album: Caro Emerald – The Shocking Miss Emerald

I truly dislike having to pick a single track or album out as a pick of the year. I enjoy most musical genres. Music is magical and can influence mood, behaviour, and life itself. Different genres of music affect me differently depending on where I am in life, so it seems impossible to choose one track or album as the best.

There’s also a lot of snobbery that can influence people’s musical choices. Many of us have “guilty pleasures” – liking music that is labelled as unfashionable, but won’t admit to it. I sometimes find myself the victim of this too, but does it really matter if you like it? No guilt here.

I don’t seem to find time to listen to albums much as my musical listening usually centres around radio (usually Phoenix FM when I can!) But if I have to make a choice at all then I’m going to choose music that has had the greatest effect on me this year. It may not be technically brilliant (who am I to judge anyway – I can’t play a note on anything!) or fashionable, but I don’t care.

Album choice? Caro Emerald – The Shocking Miss Emerald, mainly because it contains my second choice single – “Completely” another song that makes me happy! Full of upbeat ditties with a catchy, quirky, funny, style.

Track: Pharrell Williams – Happy

For the single, it’s got to be this, because it makes me happy, and we on Phoenix were playing it months ago, even though it has only just hit the top ten singles chart.

Bryan Powis

Album: Eminem – MMLP2

A November release but still has had the most full plays of any album this year from me.

Track: Chase and Status – Lost And Not Found

Certain songs give you goosebumps on the first listen – there is one every year. This year it was this one.

Chris Siviter

Album: F*** Buttons – Slow Focus

This has been my favourite release of 2013 ever since the first time I heard the opening assault of title track Brainfreeze. An album that I can only describe as the soundtrack to the greatest dystopian sci-fi movie that’s never been made. It truly is a near perfect experience, and a strong reason why 2013 was a superb year for music.

Track: Low – Amethyst

I’m not really a singles person, so I decided to choose a song of the year instead. Amethyst comes from the bands tenth release The Invisible Way (which is an album that everyone really should hear). It’s a hauntingly beautiful track which has soundtracked many a late night listening session and a song I can play again and again. Truly one for the soul.

Daniel Bridge

Album: Queens Of The Stone Age – … Like Clockwork

The first play of it, I wasn’t sure; it’s a more subtle, darker album than their others, especially Songs For The Deaf, which is quite a joyous stomp of an album (and if you haven’t listened to that, or any of QOTSA’s offerings, you really should). However, the more I listen, and I have listened a lot now, the better it gets, with layers revealing themselves every time. Standout tracks for me include I Sat By The Ocean, Kalopsia, and my favourite I Appear Missing, which has a beautiful chord progression, signature drumming by Dave Grohl, and a spot-on guitar solo from Josh Homme. If that had been released as a single, it would have been my single of the year. But it wasn’t so…

Track: Queens Of The Stone Age – I Sat By The Ocean

It’s a catchy pop song, with a dark undertone of a broken relationship. Of the three singles from the album so far, this one just pleases my ears the most, not such full-on rock as My God Is The Sun, not as complex as The Vampyre Of Time And Memory. I think Vampyre… may be a better song, but as a single, I prefer …Ocean.

Elle Flynn

Album: Rudimental – Home

The debut album from Rudimental has delivered and infectious tracks, one after the other. Beats are relentless and combined with precisely accentuated vocals from sought-after and emerging talent, it hits close to perfection.

Track: London Grammar – Strong

Hauntingly melancholy track. Hannah Reid’s breathless vocals and Dan and Dot’s production proves another winning formula with this track. My favourite this year by far.

Elliot Smith

Album: Arctic Monkeys – AM

At first I was a bit unsure about AM, it’s quite a contrast from their first album, which I also really enjoyed. However, after listening to the album a bit more, I think it all really works well together. It’s good to hear the band moving in a new direction, which, I think, is paying off. Definitely a grower.

Track: Wombats – Your Body Is A Weapon

I think it’s great to hear The Wombats still making some excellent music and sticking with their signature sound. However I think it sounds slightly more mature than their first hits, such as Let’s Dance To Joy Division. I loved it from the moment I heard it, I haven’t tired from playing it since and I don’t think I will for quite a long while yet.

Gary Casserley

Album: Jake Bugg – Shangri La

Found this quite awkward as I didn’t buy many albums this year that were not compilations so I’m really left with this one. Following on from his debut album last year it’s more twangy guitar tunes from Mr Bugg. I love the track “what doesn’t kill you” and “Slumville Sunrise”. Will be interesting to see what his third album (assuming there will be one) will be like.

Track: Daft Punk ft Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky

Now don’t all groan at once and hear me out on this. Yes it has been played to death, and yes most people are sick of it but think back to the summer and in particular to the first time you heard this song. It was great to hear Nile Rogers’ guitar again (just think back to all those great Chic songs) and Pharrell’s vocals too. It was a massive hit in the clubs and all over Europe and especially on the radio. Lets face it, its a great dance track and in just two months it had sold over a million copies in the UK alone! So someone must have liked it.

Graham Stannard

Album: Reality Grid – Cow House

On the album front, it was fantastic to finally hear the new Reality Grid album, Cow House which came out last month. Reality Grid is the side project of E.V.P and it is another wonderful example of the evolution of his sound and the use of new technologies. He continues to push the cutting edge of psytrance and the title track on its own is a great showcase. Exactly the kind of ‘wall of sound’ psychedelic trance I like 😉

Track: Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight – Echoes Return

I’m choosing Echoes Return by Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight from their new mini album of this year- Underground. Funnily enough I discovered this band exactly a year ago today, when I was catching up with friends and one played their previous debut album of last year, Going Home. It blew me away (not literally), so wonderful to hear what an epic sound three guys from St. Albans can make. Exactly the kind of ‘wall of sound’ grinding rock sound I like and the vocals suit it really well too. The band name is pretty epic too!

Jayne Thorpe

Album: Foals – Inhaler

Picking the album of the year was a hard one. After much mental sieving and sorting I chose Foals – ‘Holy Fire’. Aside from avoiding prosaic album artwork, it was loaded with great tunes that played to a wide range of moods. Always anchored by Yannis Philippakis’s pensive vocals, it was at times poppy, proud and provocative (‘My Number’) and at others demanding and defiant (‘Inhaler’). It then flitted to being almost frisky in places (‘Out Of The Woods’) before lulling us into a dreamy and ambient state (‘Moon’). Interestingly though the cumulative message of the album resonated with me as much as the music. When asked why this album isn’t as self-conscious as previous ones, Yannis said, ‘There was a Woody Allen in our brain that needed to be killed.’ I really loved that. I totally understood how it’s about getting out of the way of yourself and just sharing what makes you really happy. I see evidence of that all the time at Phoenix when new and unsigned artists nervously venture to the mic for the first time. You can almost see their inner dialogue as they question the temerity of their actions – and then you always see the elation when their first set is done. It’s more than relief. They are on their way, getting radio play and officially sharing their passion. I love that at Phoenix we are there at the start, supporting new music and being part of those magic moments. I think that’s why we all do it. I know I do.

Track: London Grammar – Strong

For me the obvious choice for single of the year is ‘Strong’ by London Grammar. As one of Phoenix’s recent recruits, I realised just how much Phoenix was versed in new music (and therefore absolutely the right place for me to be) when Vic first introduced me to this track. He gifted my ears with this beauty seemingly months before it hit the mainstream and I relentlessly raved about it. Unlike other tracks that can tire my easily bored tastes this one had incredible resilience. Hundreds of plays later it still sounds as fresh as when I first heard it. Somehow both hopeful and lugubrious, Strong reminds me of that expectant feeling of trudging home at dawn in the rain. If I’ve lost you just stick Strong on the next time you are coming back from a great gig and then tell me it’s not the right song.

Jed Shepherd

Album: Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

It’s an obvious choice for me. In a year where Haim released a genre defining 80s tinged mega-album, and Arcade Fire became the biggest band in the world while dropping a sonic masterpiece ft. Mr David Bowie … it’s CHVRCHES that rises to the top for me. Every song. Every single damn song sounds like it was crafted just for me. How is this possible that a band has tapped into my brain, accessed every hook I go insane for, and stuck it on a record, waiting for me to idly pick it up? The synths, the layers of beautiful synths on every song, combining eerily with Lauren’s vocals like the bits of coffee stuck to the sugar in the Phoenix FM kitchen, were made to make me, and everyone else sit up and listen. The best thing that has happened since CHVRCHES appeared is the number of bands they have inspired. Usually I’d get sick of clones, but not this time. I want ALL bands to sound like this and maybe there wouldn’t be so much hate in the world as we’d all be dancing to gorgeous synth-pop while how lucky we were for being alive at a time where this band exists. There are two types of people in this world. The people who think “The Bones of What You Believe” by CHVRCHES is the best album of the year, and the people who have not heard it yet.

Track: Chvrches – Recover

Last year, I picked “The Mother We Share” as my single of the year, predicting that 2013 would be THE YEAR OF CHVRCHES and I was not disappointed. I’m pleased to say that Phoenix FM, and all of the DJs within, pretty much championed this band all 2013 and hopefully brought them to a lot more people. I could have picked any of the singles, but “Recover” is possibly the standout track from the band released this year. Just when I thought they couldn’t make me love them more, “Recover” appeared and made me question all previous notion of what I considered the perfect pop song to be.

Joe Box

Album: Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

Chance the Rapper is by far the stand out new and emerging artist to appear from 2013. I have had Acid Rap on repeat since I downloaded it and then I played it to death on the show. Stand out tracks include Interlude (That’s Love), Juice and Cocoa Butter Kisses. He’s already been named on the Sound of 2014 short list, so expect big things from Chance in 2014.

Track: Justin Timberlake – Mirrors

So we’re all round the telly watching the Brit awards eagerly anticipating the JT performance. We had heard Suit and Tie already from the 20/20 experience and that song was okay I guess. Then JT comes on, performs Mirrors and boom, that’s the song we’ve all been waiting for Justin. I heard this song repeatedly everywhere I went, yet never tired of it so congratulations Justin. Shout out to “Inhaler” by Foals and “When a Fire Starts To Burn” by Disclosure who came close.

Jules Bottazzi

Album: Jake Bugg – Shangri La

He’s a cheeky chappy, isn’t he? Jingly-jangly guitars. Corking riffs. Chirpy tunes. Sings like a scouser. What’s not to like?

Track: Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Haunting and melodic and sad, but a top pop tune too. How do they do that?

Mairi Dougan

Album: Gary Barlow – Since I Saw You Last

Soooo many good albums this year, I can’t decide. My ‘shock value’ vote goes to Gary Barlow, though, as ‘Since I Saw You Last’ isn’t half bad – which is at least half way better than I expected it to be … 😉

Track: Pink feat Nate Ruess – Just Give Me A Reason

Track of the year is easy. Two incredible vocalists, really moving song. Could listen to it over and over again without tiring of it – and often did, much to my husband’s chagrin!

Matt Jolley

Album: Daughtry – Baptized

Track: James Blunt – Bonfire Heart

Michelle Ward

Album: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Great album I have had playing in my car for months. Love the fact all the tracks are different.

Track: Pharrell Williams – Happy

Discovered this listening in to Bob Simpson’s show.

Mike Jones

Album: London Grammar – If You Wait

Brilliant in every aspect with a haunting voice that demands careful listening. You could argue this isn’t as titillating as on-stage megalomania or animatronic twerking. But while pop can be an escape, sometimes you also want it to understand what you’re feeling. Judging by sold-out shows and their runaway success, there’s a lot of people who feel like this band gets them. In the year that pop went insane, London Grammar won’t let anything stop them from being normal.

Track: Lorde – Royals

Nothing to say except loved it!

Nick Field

Album: Disclosure – Settle

Considering the two brothers who make up Disclosure were barely alive in the early 90s, they certainly have no problem transporting the rest of us back there with this album, and with their electric live sets – I was lucky enough to catch them at both Latitude and Reading during the summer. The album features a slew of electronic riffs and ideas that are simple yet effective, and the guest vocalists help the album keep a song-orientated feel, rather than turning into a disorganised rave – good to see they left some elements of early 90s dance culture in the past, then!

Track: Mayer Hawthorne – The Stars Are Ours

A great life-affirming track about how you shouldn’t necessarily let yourself get bogged down by everything – sound advice we all need every once in a while. Another success for Pharrell Williams on production duties – this man basically saved R&B from Usher. No mean feat there.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Lady Antebellum – Golden

It’s a mixture of new country. From the beautiful love song of the title track, through songs about changes in life like “Goodbye Town” to songs about reflecting of life like “Generation Away”, this is a brilliant collection of new material from one of the outstanding artists of today.

Track: Jamie Cullum – Edge Of Something

This shows established jazz musician Jamie moving more into a pop style. It is a track with a driving rhythm and an interesting self-penned lyric.

Paul Golder

Album: Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

I couldn’t nominate any other album considering the ridiculous number of times I’ve played it since I got it in August. It was described in the music press as a “return to form” although for me it’s just more of the same high standard.

Track: Bloc Party – Ratchet

Just to confirm that I’ve slipped well and truly into 2004 with my two choices, I’ve chosen what might probably be the last release from a great band that just can’t stop fighting. As well as being a great song in itself, any band that uses the “surreal and disturbing” Cyriak to produce its videos has to be a big plus – have a look to see what I mean.

Rob Harvey

Album: White Lies – Big TV

This album is a mature progression from the last two albums – it lifts up the style of White Lies with an ever increasing anthemic pace, plus the album art cover won an award, which in this digital download day and age is a marvel.

Track: Vivien Glass – Part Machine

There are many great tracks this year, and this track is one of the best, for me it exudes a sexy creative melodic sound with a sci-fi Frankenstein tale – what’s not to like, plus an award winning video.

Rob Jelly

Album: City and Colour – The Hurry and The Harm

Who? I hear you say/think. His name is Dallas Green (Get it? Dallas = City, Green = Colour) and he is known for his work as the former vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for the post-hardcore band Alexisonfire. But more recently his releases have been under this newer alias. At the start of 2013 I didn’t know he existed until a friend of mine told me he was going to see this band called City & Colour because he knew the frontman from his days as guitarist from Alexisonfire. “Cool!” I replied. “Who are they?”

“I’ll bring you in their new album. It’s amazing!!” is the response I get from my mate. Now we’ve all been in that scenario. A friend tells you they’ve got this album that will change your life/send shivers down your spine/you’ll fall in love with.

I did. It is a gorgeous album from start to finish and I cannot recommend you go and listen to it. When you do, you’ll likely buy it!! I especially recommend the song The Golden State, which you should listen to on headphones laying down or sat looking out at sea as the sun goes down. It will touch your very soul.

And as with my Single of the Year, it was a very close contest for this crown with Frank Turner’s Tape Deck Heart coming a VERY close second. Go and buy that one too. He is a wizard of words.

Track: Passenger – Let Her Go

Had these beautiful beautiful people released their album (All The Little Lights) this year my choice for Album of the Year would have been even trickier but fortunately it wasn’t. It was released in January 2012 and there’s a good reason why I’m telling you this. Very few artists nowadays have the ability to write an album that causes such an impression on the music industry that it can be still releasing songs 2 years on let alone releasing songs and selling over 1 million copies of them. Yes, Passenger’s Let Her Go has sold over 1 million copies! Only 4 songs this year have achieved such a feat (Daft Punk – Get Lucky, Avicii – Wake Me Up & Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines were the others for those wondering). We are talking about a song that was written by a bloke from Brighton with nothing more than a guitar and some mates who play some other instruments. No huge record label or massive publicity. They just wrote a damn good song that appealed to everyone. And do you know what?? It’s not even the best song on the album in my opinion.

I picked Gangnam Style last year having achieved over 1 billion views on YouTube and it might seem I’m only interested in numbers. I’m really not. But with such a disposable industry it’s hard to do what these boys have done so I tip my hat to them and crown Let Her Go by Single of the Year for 2013.

In a close 2nd, McBusted’s Love Is On The Radio. But then I do have a soft spot for Pop-Rock which if you listen to Breakfast you’ll know about.

Scott Ross

Album: One Direction – Midnight Memories

Simply because a lot of the tracks just make good daytime radio material!

Track: Zac Brown Band – Jump Right In

Why? Well just a good happy sound.

Scott Sparx

Album: Elvis Costello and the Roots – Wise Up Ghost

I’m a big fan of the Roots and this collaboration was something special. It’s hard to pinpoint what I love so much about this album and the only criticism I can find with it was that Blackthought wasn’t part of it.

Track: KJ Sawka – New Life (Tech Itch remix)

It seems that whatever Tech Itch touches turns to gold! He took an amazing track from KJ Sawka and put his stamp on it. It’s still one I’ll pull from my bag to play in my sets. High energy and really creative use of the original vocals.

Stephen Bealey

Album: Pet Shop Boys – Electric

The thing about the album – it’s not cutting edge, but it does mean business. Axis, the album’s lead track, starts with a squelchy bass that sounds like a tribute to Giorgio Moroder (you know, that old guy Daft Punk like) and another nod, of sorts, to Kraftwerk, before turning into a turbo-charged version of Pet Shop Boys, 20 years ago, cutting loose in a Berlin basement. It is far more crass than much of the Pet Shop Boys’ output of recent years, and a great deal more fun.

Track: Icona Pop feat Charli XCX – I Love It

I don’t quite know why I love this song so much, but is filled with memories and full of energy. Great gym song – please note would help if I did go to the gym!

Steve Robertson

Album: Boy and Bear – Harlequin Dream

The second album from the Australian band didn’t disappoint at all. The variety from track to track still makes for a laid back melodic sound. Southern Sun and the title track are just two of the stand out tracks. I can’t wait to see them when they play London in February.

Track: David Bowie – The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

It was such a surprise when the album The Next Day was released. Great to hear new material from David Bowie and although Where are we now was the biggest hit, the second single to be released from the album was a track I enjoyed playing on the sport show.

Tony Smith

Album: Disclosure – Settle

Just like this album – good beats and many chart released tracks on it! Found myself playing this album the most in my car! Some banging tunes from the Lawrence brothers aka Disclosure and again they also have come a long way since their debut in 2010.

Track: Storm Queen – Look Right Through

This is the third release from American DJ Storm Queen (real name Morgan Geist) since 2011 and is also his first No 1 track in the UK. Great dance track with many remixes available! Storm Queen have come a long way in such a short time.


Album: Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon

It’s been a great year for music and albums. The moment I heard “She” I knew Laura would deliver a creative album and she didn’t disappoint. An earthy contemporary album reflecting on issues of love, family fallouts, the search for identity and escapism.

Track: Chvrches – Lies (Tourist remix)

I instantly fell in love with this after hearing the lush piano and Lauren Mayberry’s haunting vocal intro which is almost half of this track. Tourist turns it into a bass-heavy track with Deep House grooves to make this a perfect remix.

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