Below are my 30 favorite albums of 2013, arranged in descending order. The list has changed quite a bit from my midyear rankings, with new albums entering the list from the second half of the year and old albums from the first half jumping around.
As always, my favorite track from each album is embedded below together with a short write-up of why I have loved that album. (The write-ups get progressively longer as we get close to the top rankings)
This will be my last blog post for the year. See you next year in mid-January for all the upcoming new releases coming out! Anyways, on to the list!
30. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Boston kids prove there’s still a future in true homegrown indie rock.
29. Disclosure – Settle
28. Superchunk – I Hate Music
27. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat
26. Au Revoir Simone – Move in Spectrums
25. Bill Callahan – Dream River
24. Young Galaxy – Ultramarine
23. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
One of the best early 90s record released twenty years later, Katie Crutchfield brings confessional singer songwriter gems that are undeniably lonely and heartfelt. Makes you yearn for your live journals.
22. Austra – Olympia
21. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
20. Lorde – Pure Heroine
Who knew that the most successful alt-pop record would come from a seventeen year old kiwi prodigy? But with an underdog background and minimal beats, Lorde manages to hold the world’s attention with one of the best songs of the year.
19. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Endless guitar strums. A smoke-filled air. The perfect lazy Sunday record. There’s a laid-back nonchalance to Kurt Vile‘s newest record which makes it hard to understand why it connects so much. But it does. Now Philadelphia’s favorite son is ours as well.
18. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
17. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
After seven long full years of inactivity, we finally hear back from Sweden’s most mysterious experimental pioneers. Rather than building upon their one synth-pop worthy hit, The Knife came back with one of the more un-listenable drone-filled, craziest long-from record I have ever heard. And I think I love them for it.
16. Charli XCX – True Romance
There’s never been a harder worker than Charli XCX in 2013 with her grand ambitions of pop super-stardom. With an album’s worth of ear-wormy, goth-pop, Charli’s been slowly but surely working her way to our hearts. 2013 may not have been the year Charli conquered the charts, but she’s steadily reaching her end-goal.
15. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Foxygen came upon 2013 like a bright shooting star. A fantastic album to start off the year with a self-destructive end amidst the ashes of fame with lead singer Sam France injuring himself at a show and talks of band in-fighting. Still, for that brief moment, they truly shined.
14. Poliça – Shulamith
Shulamith may be a Poliça record in name, but it is foremost and truly a Channy Leaneagh record. It is when Poliça transformed from being fronted by Channy the ingenue to being led by Channy the leader of the band. Because after Shulamith, Poliça is now Channy Leaneagh.
13. Little Green Cars – Absolute Zero
These five unassuming Irish lads and lass have crafted a perfectly indie little record. Filled with folky-pop gems, it would serve you well to get to know Little Green Cars even as their fandom and craft steadily grows.
12. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
You always know what you’re going to get with The National. Ever reliable, their songs have always been growers – the kind that always get better with each subsequent listen. That the band have managed to this through a decade of excellence and rockabilly is even more impressive. They are the coolest dad rockers you will ever meet, guys whom not only you aspire to be but wished you were friends with all your life.
11. Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Ripely Pine
Having followed the career of Maine-based singer songwriter Aly Spaltro for awhile, it was a joy to finally see her release her indie label debut. Filled with wonderful juxtapositions and big ideas that seems beyond what her tiny frame can hold, Spaltro’s songs are brash baroque fully-formed affairs that speaks to her depth. Personally, I believe only bigger things are ahead.
10. HAIM – Days Are Gone
The first of two break-through hit artists in the list, the sisterly trio of HAIM mines the most catch-worthy aspects of the past, from the soft-rock cadence of Fleetwood Mac to the R&B harmonies of Destiny’s Child to the throbbing beats of Micheal Jackson, enabling them to easily capture our imaginations with their songs and their charm.
09. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
And here’s the second artist on that break-through list. While HAIM mines the past, Chrvrches looks to the future with its synth-beats and pulsating sounds. This will be the sound of electro-pop for the future and whatever will be built there will be built among the bones of what you believe and what Chrvches have set up.
08. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
After years of being promised as the next big thing by the major label that signed her and after this year’s worth of notorious headlines (the extremely NSFW album cover, being caught for drug possession with boyfriend DIIV), it’s easy to get caught within the controversial world of Sky Ferreira and forget that she came out with her debut full-length this year. What Sky wanted though was for you to focus on her work and what a work it was. Easily the most pop-hit worthy record on this list, Night Time, My Time is just a full-on blast of easy bangerz, Miley be darned.
07. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
A stark stunning debut of a record. Over the bare minimal beats provided by Matthew Otto, you have this bald-headed thick eyebrowed dude, Devon Welsh, in his white t-shirt and intense criminal-looking stare, singing these spare songs with the sincerest of emotions. It sounds creepy and ghoulish but it is the farthest thing from it. Instead what you will feel are some of the most tenderest emotions that you can get from another man. Needs to be heard to be believed.
06. Laura Marling – If I Was An Eagle
For some reason or another, I have always seemed to underrate Laura Marling‘s records. Or just not give them enough notice? Maybe it was because of her fast start in the industry – being billed as one of the UK’s best when she was just starting out. But I ignored a lot of what she did. That is, until I heard If I Was An Eagle. Turns out, it was everything I wanted in a record. It is sad and melancholy and lonely and soothing in all the right ways. It was a record that grew new dimensions every time I gave it a spin. It was that kind of album that hits me hard whenever I listen to it. You got me, Laura Marling. You got me good.
05. Volcano Choir – Repave
Is a band by any other name just as good? The only thing you really need to know about Repave is that it is essentially a Justin Vernon record. Vernon recorded Repave with his friends, the post-modern, post-rock Collections of Colonies of Bees, but instead of sounding like a Justin Vernon side-project, it sounds exactly like a continuation of Bon Iver the record, only my favorite record of 2011. You can easily guess how much I liked this one.
04. Darkside – Psychic
When you have been as prominent as Nicholas Jaar has been over the last couple of years, it is always a risk to get away from your name recognition and give priority to a side-project, but in 2013, this is exactly what Nicholas Jaar did. And you know what, we are better off for it. Darkside, Jaar’s side project with guitarist Dave Harrington is an exercise in minimalist beats and psychedelic artistry. And it is a thing of pure beauty. Largely wordless and filled with space, the massive Psychic is a composition where you could breath life into and is ripe for exploration. Enjoy it at your own leisure.
03. Local Natives – Hummingbird
As the makers of one of my favorite records in 2010 with their debut Gorilla Manor, great things have been expected from the Los Angeles boys of Local Natives. With their four-part harmonies and heart-felt emotions on their sleeves, it is easy to get lost within the band’s songs. Instead of coming out with a record as rapturous as Gorilla Manor though, Local Natives decided to switch things up and slow things down And in the process of doing so, the boys were able to offer another side of themselves – a quieter, more beauteous side, yet just as heart-felt. It is a growth that only great bands can accomplish, and Local Natives just proved that they are one with Hummingbird.
02. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Truth be told, I had the most difficult time deciding between my favorite record of 2013. I can’t count the number of times I have changed my mind over albums #1 and #2 and to be honest, they should be referred to more as albums #1a and #1b. So just know whilst reading this that I loved this album here at #2 on my list almost as much as I did the #1 record.
Arcade Fire‘s Reflektor is a game-changer. Long viewed as stodgy intellectuals who oversaw the rise of orchestration in concurrence with indie rock, Reflektor proved that Arcade Fire are ever-evolving and ever-changing. And that yes, the band knows how to have fun. This is Arcade Fire with their shirts loose dancing goofily and without care. Despite being a “disco-dance” record though, Reflektor is mature enough in its themes to cause listeners to (pun-intended) reflect on its deeper meanings.
The biggest challenge before Reflektor was for Arcade Fire to not repeat themselves. And they successfully did that with Reflektor. This record is Arcade Fire‘s Kid A. It is a game-changer that will forever frame how we view the band. And to accomplish this with their best sounding album since Funeral. Well, that is just plain astonishing.
01. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Still, my favorite record of 2013 goes to one where I didn’t expect much from. While I have the greatest of expectations for Reflektor, I have always regarded Vampire Weekend to just be these goofy fun-loving lads that I grew up with. They sing songs of ascots and sailboats, of polos and Ralph Laurens, they weren’t supposed to be deep. Modern Vampires of the City went ahead and shattered all that.
Maybe perhaps it is because I did grew up with Vampire Weekend, being the same age as the band members. I was goofy and immature when they were goofy and immature. So when MVotC went ahead and addressed themes of adulthood and settling down and leaving behind all that carefree youth to build a life for yourself because damn it, you’re an adult now, it just resonated with me so much.
To wrap all these songs up in such pop-perfect song-craft is just icing on the cake. Modern Vampires of the City is my favorite record of 2013 because it talks about my 2013. Vampire Weekend is me, growing up. Long after the years have past, these are the songs that I will always go back to and remember my 2013 on by. Diane Young, I have passed you by.