They are in no order apart from my 'album of the year'
ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
IHSAHN - DAS SEELENBRECHEN
Metal acts are all too often praised for bringing any kind of non-metal musical influence into their work (tentative, seriously out of date bits of techno or hip-hop are probably the least daring way to 'innovate'); but with Das Seelenbrechen, Ihsahn made an album that wasn't just 'extreme metal with (whatever) elements'. The electronic, gentle and improvised parts of the album are no less natural than the heavy riffs, raw vocals and Nietzschean philosophy. Clever, extreme (in lots of different ways) but accessible, because at its heart are great songs which don't necessarily belong to any particular genre.
DAVID BOWIE - The Next Day
A great album (if not a 'return to form' since his form has been pretty dubious for a long, long time), with a few lesser moments (the 90's-ish indie-ish attempts at being modern grate a bit) which don't however spoil the whole.
ANCIENT VVISDOM: Deathlike
Okay, I marginally prefer the band's debut, but the sparse-but-atmospheric backwoodsy bluesy occult folk/rock worked just as well the second time around, with the bowed bass adding lovely texture to the band's addictive semi-acoustic sound.
OCTOBER FALLS - The Plague of a Coming Age
2013 was another good year for atmospheric post-black metal (although the genre is surely on the verge of oversaturation) and this was probably the Finns' finest and most mature work to date.
BOARDS OF CANADA - Tomorrow's Harvest
A return to a more ambient-ish sound and fewer of the more conventional song-structures of The Campfire Headphones made this a 'grower' but ultimately one of the duo's strongest works to date.
SANGRE DE MUERDAGO - Deixademe Morrer No Bosque
Moody, windswept and mysterious Galician folk music; beautiful, desolate and organic.
MANIERISME - フローリア
This 6-track demo has the same mix of peculiar sepia-toned nostalgia, atonal noise and ferocious black metal as the two Manierisme albums The Past and Sorrow and Everyone Has Two Sides. One of the greatest BM acts of recent times.
SKÁLMÖLD - Börn Loka
Spirited Icelandic Viking/folk metal concept album where the songs are more than strong enough to stand on their own. A great, intelligent and heroic metal album with tons of atmosphere for those who like such things.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE - m b v
After the dust had settled, m b v was inevitably just a little bit disappointing. The Loveless-like first half was underwhelmingly familiar and the less predictable second half slightly unmemorable; but while it's playing it sounds like a masterpiece; which it is, by the standards of most bands.
ALTAR OF PLAGUES - Teethed Glory and Injury
Somewhat overlooked now that the band have split, this was a divisive swansong. Whereas many would have been happy with an extension of the excellent but water-treading Mammal, Teethed Glory... was a ferociously different take on black metal, replacing the almost standard 'post-BM' atmospherics with something hypnotic and abrasive.
ORANSSI PAZUZU - Valonielu
Space-rock meets black metal; psychedelic, expansive but never meandering. Definitely not just for metal fans.
ELENI & SOUZANA VOUGIOUKLI - To Be Safe
Blues and jazz influences collide with the sisters' unique take on ancient and traditional world music on this beautiful album.
FALKENBACH - Asa
It seemed as though Falkenbach had never faltered, but this is such a strong return to form that it revealed predecessor Tiurida to have been more run of the mill than it seemed at the time.
CLANDESTINE BLAZE - Harmony of Struggle
Not post-anything, not BM/anything, just bleak, obscure, mysterious black metal (albeit really 'grey metal'). Therefore pretty nasty but cloaked in a kind of tattered majesty.
BEASTMILK - Climax
Okay, all a bit retro, but can the world have too many catchy, gripping songs with a Joy Division-meets-The Cure-meets-Bauhaus flavour? Well, yes, obviously. But at the moment it doesn't, so this is great.
VÀLI - Skoglandskap
Lovely instrumental Norwegian folk (or at least acoustic) music; mellow, autumnal and evocative.
NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS - Push The Sky Away
Probably the 5th or 6th best Nick Cave/Bad Seeds album; therefore pretty good.
Blue Öyster Cult - The Complete Columbia Albums Collection
technically the music is not new, and with 16 discs DEFINITELY not all good, but plenty of excellent stuff therein
Blizaro - Strange Doorways
again, not new music, but this vast compendium of creepy 70s-ish horror-movie rock is absorbingly great
Venusian Death Cell - Halloween V: Halloween Horror (couldn't find a pic of the cover)
Fragile outsider-metal. Really not like anything else.
Sistar - Give It To Me
Smooth & soulful Kpop/R&B, not quite as good as their debut, but still pretty classy.