The Best Music of 2013


2013
It was a rocking year for tunes, let me tell you Earth. Like all music nerds, I’m all about the year end lists. I don’t do a top songs list, because I’m an album man. Old school, what can I say. I’m not just doing the top 13 albums of 2013 though, we’ve got lots more going on than that. It’s time for some wild retrospective time, right…about…now.

Biggest Disappointments

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Not everything rocks, so we’re going to start with the bad then move on up to the good. Well, none of these albums were bad per se, they just didn’t live up to their potential. Wow, I just sounded like a football coach. Go get em tiger!

6. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

This was actually a good album, but I didn’t think it lived up to the hype. It doesn’t compare to M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, it isn’t the best synth pop of the year, and doesn’t make any of my top lists. Sorry fellow music nerds.

5. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt

Pearl Jam is kind of like going to Chili’s. It’s not bad food, definitely not good, just mediocre. You can always count on Chili’s in a strange place to be assured of getting mediocre food. Pearl Jam is just like Chili’s. All of their recent albums aren’t good, but aren’t bad either since they’re Pearl Jam. They’re just mediocre, and after so many albums, I think you can always count on it. Now go get baby back ribs or something.

4. MGMT – MGMT

Sometimes bands just don’t do it right. Example: this album. I mean, they couldn’t give it a cool name. MGMT – MGMT = boring.

3. The Strokes – Comedown Machine

The Strokes can be really awesome, but also really lame. This year they chose lame. Sad days.

2. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return

I was expecting a killer, experimental electronic album, and instead I got a dance off. Then I tried to get a press pass to the Toro Y Moi show so I could dance my ass of for free and tell the planet about it on the radio show, but they denied me right before the concert. No, I’m not bitter or anything. I’ll just have to take my killer dance moves elsewhere, that’s all. By “killer” I mean terrible, FYI.

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

The cover was really stupid and the music was uneventful. I mean really, that cover was stupid. Who puts a cartoon of a flying puking baby on their album cover? You can imagine how well the music sounded with bad decisions like that. Fail.

Most Anticipated

afp

A lot of big name bands dropped some new jams this year. Here are six that didn’t make the best of list, but still made their way on the speakers quite a bit this year.

6. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks 

Trent Reznor is the man. Being that it’s been five years since the last NIN release, this album was long overdue. Though it was rather forgettable overall, come on, it’s NIN. Anything he puts out is good, so this album got tons of listens accordingly.

5. Poliça – Shulamith

The Minneapolis band’s debut last year made my best of list and I expected awesomeness this time around. They definitely brought a solid album with their signature haunting, yet sing-a-long sound.

4. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

It was about time we had a QOTSA album. Josh Homme was certainly busy in the interim, but this one rocked harder than their last release and was a killer welcome back.

3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

See, I love to dance my ass off, whether it be in the car, at a concert, or alone in front of the mirror. Daft Punk brought together a million different genres to help their listeners dance their asses off. You’ve got to remember that these robot clad dudes are Electronic pioneers who’ve been around for quite awhile. They know what they’re doing, here’s the proof.

2. The Flaming Lips – The Terror

Let’s get one thing straight: this album was epic. Taking their spacey and experimental sound on a dark and jarring journey was one for the ages. Now I just need to see Wayne Coyne cruise around in a hamster ball to make the experience complete.

1. Atoms For Peace – Amok

For awhile, it seemed like this album didn’t exist. Maybe Atoms For Peace was a myth. Then it came roaring into everyone’s speakers, and it was epic. Thom Yorke brought his great solo sound combined with some amazing talent, making this one a must listen.

Most Jammed

foals

Not necessarily the best, but here are the albums I couldn’t stop listening to this year. Well, on second thought, they were kind of the best, hence why I couldn’t put these albums down.

6. Black Joe Lewis – Electric Slave

The Austin Blues rockers came roaring back this year with a ruckus album. Their last release was groovy, but this one was loud and proud. If you’ve ever wondered how Proto Punk and fuzzed out Garage Rock sound with the Blues, here’s your answer.

5. Volto! – Incitare

I guess I’m a little biased, because this band features one of my favorite drummers, Danny Carey of Tool. Yet how often do you hear an Instrumental Metal Jam band? Pretty much never, so this unique listen was one for the ages.

4. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow

The Black Angels never disappoint with their great brand of dark Psychedelic Rock. Like their last release, they chose a more polished sound than the droning trippines of their first two albums, and again, it worked.

3. Mikal Cronin – MCII

I heard this dude kicked it with Ty Segall, so I had to jam to his new LP. Turns out he’s no slouch himself, and he brought a great album that was a really fun listen. Sometimes it was rocking, other times it was quiet, then it was a fun singalong. Either way, MCII was a winner this year.

2. Fuzz – Fuzz

Speaking of Ty Segall, dude kills it on the drums. His new band with Charlie Moothart taking over guitar duties shredded out like last years Ty Segall Band. I caught them live a few months back and I think my ears are still ringing. You just can’t go wrong with Garage Rock turned up to 10. Or 11.

1. Foals – Holy Fire

Foals released the perfect rock album this year. It was loud enough to fill arenas, catchy enough to sing along to (I can’t sing FYI), but artfully complex enough to be interesting after so many listens. And boy were there a lot of listens, more than anything else this year. Actually, I think it’s time to jam to it again…

Honorable Mention

haxan_cloak

Honorable mention isn’t the top spot, but it’s pretty close. It’s not like winning the lottery, but more like finding five bucks in your pocket. By the way, that’s never happened to me in my whole life. I found a dime last week, but that’s about it.

6. Deerhunter – Monomania

So they decided to make a Garage Rock album this time. Yep. Don’t worry though, it was awesome. Like always, Deerhunter kills it, no matter what genre they choose.

5. Midlake – Antiphon

Whereas their last phenomenal release had a folksy sound, this one check out the Psychedelic realm. The Texas Indie Rockers moved beyond their signature lo-fi sound and decided to experiment a bit. Scientific findings? Rocking.

4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

Pitchfork compared Matthew Houck to Gram Parsons. Well played hipster music nerds. Well played indeed. Dude kicked out a Country Rocker of sorts, and took us on a songwriting journey down to Mexico. I don’t think he did a cover of “Margaritaville” though.

3. Dead Meadow – Warble Womb

Usually I get really mad when loud bands tone it down. The DC Psych masterminds decided to cool down their doomy, Sabbath sound and focus on a mellower Psychedelic vibe. The result? Their best album yet.

2. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

I love the Psychedelic Rock revival, but only this album completely transported me to 1967. This album sounded so authentic 60’s that it was able to breathe a unique life of its own in good ole 2013.

1. The Haxan Cloak – Evacuation

This is one of the few albums that genuinely sounds scary. I’ve jammed to a lot of Metal in my day, and this one takes the cake. A caveat is that there are no vocals on the all Electronic LP. It’s a concept album about slipping into death, and though not quite in the artistic scope of NIN’s The Downward Spiral, I think Trent Reznor has some competition.

The Top 13 of 2013

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And we now move on to the best of the best. The top dogs. The big cheeses. I wrestled with the #1 slot quite a bit, so we’ll just say all the top few are winners in my book. Wow, I just sounded like Mr. Rodgers. And a good day to you neighbor!

13. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

I didn’t expect anything after The Boxer to hail in comparison. Then High Violet came out in 2010 and showed that The National were a force to be reckoned with. Now they’ve done it again, making it seem like everything they put out is utterly perfect.

12. Ty Segall – Sleeper

Usually I hate when a rocking band goes soft. What can I say, I like my tunes loud. I was pretty bummed when I heard Ty Segall had gone acoustic on his release this year. Yet from the very first listen, I was transfixed, and so far have loved every single album he’s released. Psych Rock has gone acoustic, and it’s epic.

11. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

I’ve actually never jammed to Arcade Fire, and somehow missed the buzz with their last grammy award winning release, The Suburbs. It’s hard to describe their sound, but I like Rolling Stone’s comparison to The Talking Heads. Artsy, yet danceable. I’d say that’s a winning combo.

10. The Men – New Moon

I loved Open Your Heart from last year, but this year, The Men really nailed it. Few bands dare cover so many genres in one album. Even fewer bands do it well. From their signature Punk and Garage Rock sound, to Rockabily, Country, and fuzzed-out freak outs, The Men were all over the place, yet somehow perfectly centered and cohesive.

9. Sigur Rós – Kveikur

There are few things in this world I enjoy more than a cold beer, a snow day, or a spicy burrito. Well, I also enjoy the cool atmospheric sound of these Icelandic rockers. Yet instead of their signature sound, they opted for a darker, grittier, almost industrial sound. Icelandic Industrial Space Rock? Yes please.

8. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

His last album, Smoke Ring For My Halo, was the best of 2011 in this music nerd’s opinion. Kurt Vile brought another great album this year, but instead of bringing polished songs, he brought a droning, almost meditative jam. With longer songs reminiscent of a jam album, you could hardly believe this was the work of a singer/songwriter. Then again, everything about Kurt Vile is unique, and that’s what makes his albums so compelling.

7. Darkside – Psychic

Yep, this one was amazing. Some Electronic records are so great in scope with so many ideas they’re almost exhausting. Somehow Psychic alludes to everything from Psychedelic Rock to Krautrock and everything in between, tying it all together into a masterpiece that you can’t put down.

6. My Bloody Valentine – mbv

Thanks for making me wait 22 years. Yeah, thanks a lot. Well, I guess it was worth the wait. The original Shoegaze Noise Rock monoliths have kept their craft perfectly polished, and again delivered an album that sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

5. Savages – Silence Yourself

This album really is savage, I mean, this thing is LOUD. The debut album from the UK all-female band shows you that artistic vision can prevail even with a blistering Rock album.

4. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Initially I didn’t want to like Vampire Weekend. They seemed like a bunch of pretentious dudes that were trying to be too smart for their own good. Yet their debut was such a fun listen, I had to like it. After the boring Contra, this was a nice welcome back, and then some. From the smart production to the tastefully songwriting, this album is utterly perfect.

3. Deafheaven – Sunbather

If MBV decided to go Black Metal, this would be the result. Deafheaven is a mix of some of the wildest noises you’ve ever heard with a brutal Black Metal delivery. On it’s first listen, it’s tough to get through. After that, you get it. You feel like a badass. You can’t stop listening to it. Seriously, you can’t.

2. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds

How come this album didn’t make it on any best of lists? I mean come on, this thing is unreal. I swear every time you listen to the album, it gets better, because it’s that complex. The quiet dissonance pulses in and out throughout the album. Instruments don’t play on songs, they color melodies and ideas. This is art at its absolute finest, best enjoyed while wearing a black turtleneck and drinking a class of Merlot.

1. Forest Swords – Engravings

Like my best of list for 2012, the best album of the year was almost entirely instrumental. An artist that’s able to create pure art while barely uttering a word is bold unto itself. This album isn’t Post-Rock like so many instrumental albums these days, but is the work of producer Matthew Barnes. Like Flying Lotus, he uses Electronic sounds to create his music. Yet where Flying Lotus is experimental, Forest Swords is all about mood and atmosphere. This album is unique in the sense that he doesn’t just write songs, but uses sounds to paint a picture. On top of that, it’s highly listenable with a wide variety of instrumentation and a strong rhythm. Yes, you can dance your ass off to this one too.

What did I miss? Or did this list just dominate the entire planet? Let me know HERE

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2 Comments

  1. Great list. Haven’t heard either of your top 2 albums, but will have to check them out. Love the inclusion of the Men’s new album (underrated), Ty Segall and the National (consistently great), and Darkside (which I am just starting to get into).

    Reply

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