The soundtrack to Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave turns out to as stunning and emotive as the movie, while Andrew Blick's electronica outfit Gyratory System returns with their third album.
Shereen Low also takes a look at the most buzzed about records to look forward to over the next 12 months.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
VARIOUS - MUSIC FROM AND INSPIRED BY 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Steve McQueen's new film 12 Years A Slave, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, is an unflinching tale of Solomon Northup, a free man abducted and sold into slavery. Much like the big-screen adaptation of Northup's memoirs will leave you reeling, the soundtrack is a brilliant accompaniment.
The album's executive producer, Grammy-winning crooner John Legend, has contributed two tracks here - Roll Jordan Roll (later sung by the cast) and Move, featuring Fink.
The songs here may be stripped down to its bare bones, but are full of spirit and soul such as Alabama Shakes's Driva Man, Gary Clark Jr's Freight Train, Alicia Keys's Queen Of The Field (Patsey's Song) and Laura Mvula's Little Girl Blue. A well compiled and sobering collection of songs that will make you think, but it isn't so depressing that you'd never want to listen to them more than once.
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER - SONGS FROM THE MOVIE
Mary Chapin Carpenter's first album in just under two years is a break from the norm for the American folk-country stalwart. Songs From The Movie is made up of 10 of Carpenter's favourite tracks re-recorded and reinterpreted with the backing of a 63-piece orchestra and 15-voice choir. Arranged and conducted by six-time Grammy Award winner Vince Mendoza in a London studio, highlights include Between Here And Gone from the 2004 release of the same name and Come On Come On, reworked from the classic track first released over two decades ago. I Am A Town and Only A Dream also feature from that 1992 collection.
VARIOUS - DIVIDED AND UNITED: THE SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR
"After the first shots of the civil war were fired, people who weren't necessarily firing the guns responded by making music," says Bryan Sutton, one of the album's producers. From the sad lilting tones of Steve Earle's Just Before The Battle, Mother/Farewell Mother, to the rousingly optimistic Battle Cry Of Freedom by Brian Sutton, this album will bring American history to life using music, the language understood by generation after generation.
"They answered enormous brutality with great beauty," says Sutton, and that beauty can be clearly heard in this mellow and powerful album. There are tracks from the likes of Dolly Parton and Stuart Duncan (Listen To The Mockingbird), Lee Ann Womack's The Legend Of The Rebel Soldier and T Bone Burnett (The Battle Of Antietam).
GYRATORY SYSTEM - UTILITY MUSIC
Gyratory System is a live electronica project started by Andrew Blick, and features a number of musicians, including Robin Blick and James Weaver. The group already has two critically acclaimed albums under their belt - The Sound-Board Breathes and New Harmony. Their third album, Utility Music, is a complex, creative album with a varied selection of tracks. AAA is one of the record's strongest songs, featuring smooth, poignant vocals as well as a mesmerising and sometimes eerie instrumental arrangement. Thorney Island is a unique blend of a seemingly-improvised jazz line contrasted with a steady electronic sound. At times, the tracks sound a bit too sporadic and not fully realised. But overall, this is a strong, imaginative album.
TOP TIPS FOR 2014
After taking time off to enjoy motherhood, Adele revealed she was in "very early stages" of a new record at the Grammy Awards in February 2013. Little has been said about it since, but with 21 giving her a hefty amount of awards, whatever the 25-year-old unveils, it will surely be a triumph.
:: DAMON ALBARN
Damon Albarn, the Blur and Gorillaz frontman, gave a teasing glimpse of his upcoming record with a 21-second video on YouTube, followed by the announcement: "Damon Albarn, First solo album, Coming 2014."
:: ED SHEERAN
Having supported Taylor Swift on her US tour and headlined at New York's Madison Square Garden, Ed Sheeran will release the follow-up to his debut album. Being buddies with Swift could surely lead to another collaboration, and he's been in the recording studio with Rudimental and The Game, with Rick Rubin on producing duties.
:: FOO FIGHTERS
Back in January 2013, the group's frontman Dave Grohl said the band had started writing material for an eighth studio album and that they were starting to work on it in February. He later said: "I think next year is going to be a really big year for the Foo Fighters, without question."
:: GUNS N' ROSES
With former bandmember Slash about to release his new album in 2014, Guns N' Roses fans could be in for a treat in the coming months. According to guitarist Richard Fortus, the group also spent a lot of 2013 in the record studio and are aiming for a 2014 release.
:: LILY ALLEN
Fans were upset when Lily Allen announced she was retiring from performing in 2009 to focus on being a mother, but Lily confirmed she would make her musical comeback with her upcoming third album. Last June, she said: "I'm really enjoying writing it and hope it will be ready for March."
:: MARIAH CAREY
Mariah Carey's 14th album, The Art Of Letting Go, had been expected to drop in 2013 but its release suffered a setback when the singer dislocated her shoulder in July. Following the release of singles #Beautiful (with Miguel) and the title track, the album is now expected to be out in 2014.
:: TAKE THAT
Everyone's favourite boy (man)-band will be starting work on their next - and seventh - album shortly, with a release expected for late 2014. Gary Barlow will reunite with bandmates Howard Donald, Jason Orange and Mark Owen in January, although it's not known if Robbie Williams will join them.
:: TONY BENNETT AND LADY GAGA
Following their duet on The Lady Is A Tramp on Bennett's Duets II, a new album, Cheek To Cheek is due for release in late 2014 and sees the unlikely pair take on jazz standards in their own inimitable style.
It's been four years since the Irish rockers released No Line On The Horizon so fans lapped up the news when frontman Bono recently revealed he'd "like to think that next year there'll be a U2 release". Bono also said the band were "nearly there" with their 13th record.