• Category Archives Top 50 Albums of 2013
  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 50-41

    50. SUPERCHUNK- I HATE MUSIC
    Superchunk_I Hate Music

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This great indie-rock institution continues its nice comeback run.  “I Hate Music” equals the quality of its predecessor, “Majesty Shredding”.  These songs often focus on aging and death and even if music can’t solve all of life’s problems it can be the best thing to get you through them.  “I Hate Music” is no bummer- it’s a tightly delivered set of righteous power-pop with a stable of tracks to add to Superchunk’s best work including lead single  “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”, album opener “Overflows” and “Low F”.

    Buy I Hate Music Amazon

     

    Buy Me & You & Jackie MittooAmazon

    Buy Low F Amazon

     

     

     

    49. YO LA TENGO- FADE
    Yo La Tengo_Fade

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Fade” is another great set from one of the most consistent groups in indie-rock over the past couple decades. Though it may not rank among the Hoboken, NJ trio’s very best work, it’s a well above average effort.  The band has trimmed and edited well here, delivering a 45 minute set rather than the often bloated 70+ minute albums that have become their norm.  You’ll still find what Yo La Tengo does best- mixing twee-pop, fuzz-rock, droney krautrock & long guitar workouts heavily indebted to Neil Young & Crazyhorse, but the lengthy jams are pared down a bit with less filler on the album than usual.  Hoboken’s legendary rock club “Maxwell’s” may have closed last year but its house band is still going strong.

    Buy Fade – Yo La Tengo

    Buy FadeAmazon

     

    Buy Paddle Forward Amazon

    Buy Ohm Amazon

     

     

     

    48. NEKO CASE- THE WORSE THINGS GET THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE MORE I LOVE YOU

    The Neko Case_The Worse Things Get The Harder I Fight

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The forty-something Neko Case has certainly carved a formidable career out for herself.  Seven solo albums in, she is an alt-country hero, beloved by the hip adult contemporary NPR crowd and adored for her role in the indie-power pop super group the New Pornographers.  At this point I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t like her.  “The Worse Things Get…” is not my favorite of her solo albums but it does have some of her choicest tracks, including bad-ass blistering feminist anthem “Man”, the beautiful “Night Still Comes” and closer “Ragtime”.  After a very dark period in Case’s life, following the death’s of her beloved grandmother and both of her parents, she delivers her most autobiographical album to date.  Her song’s protagonists are bold fighters who take no mess much like Case herself.  She seems to be rockin’ out rather than mellowing out as she ages.  Though “The Worse Things Get…” probably isn’t the best entry into her excellent body of work if you’re already a fan it’s another must-have.

    Buy The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You [+digital booklet]Amazon

     

    Buy Man Amazon

    Buy Night Still Comes Amazon

     

     

     

     

    47. THE MEN- NEW MOON
    The Men_New Moon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    One of the hardest working bands in indie-rock deliver their third album in as many years (their fourth will reportedly be out in the winter of ’14).  The Men started out as straight noise-punk but have quickly branched out to include shoe-gaze, psych-rock, country-rock and 70’s style boogie-rock.  The group’s biggest influence on “New Moon” seems to be Neil Young & Crazyhorse.  Three different singers share the mic and the group’s stylistic diversity not only shows tremendous musical growth in the band but points the way forward for them to avoid the punk-rock cul-de-sac of repeating yourself over and over again.  Though the best tracks may not reach the heights of last year’s “Open Your Heart”, “New Moon” is another solid and enjoyable record by one of my favorite newish loud bands around.

    Buy New Moon – The Men
    Buy New MoonAmazon

     

    Buy Half Angel Half Light Amazon

    Buy Electric Amazon

     

     

     

     

    46. FOXYGEN- WE ARE THE 21ST CENTURY AMBASSADORS OF PEACE & MAGIC
    Foxygen_We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Debut album by Los Angeles duo who have been together since high school and shared a common love of all things retro- particularly British Invasion, blue-eyed soul and psych-rock from the last sixties and early seventies, which also happens to be my favorite musical era.  Don’t let the goofy album title and trippy album art fool you- the group knows their way around a hook and put a fresh spin on old sounds.  After a rough year in the press including rumored break-ups and cancelled tour dates we’re left with their music and despite the backlash against the band, it’s a damn good album.

    Buy We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic – Foxygen

    Buy We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic [+digital booklet]Amazon

     

    Buy No Destruction Amazon

    Buy San Francisco Amazon

     

     

    45. ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER- PERSONAL RECORD
    Eleanor Friedberger_Personal Record

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Personal Record” is Friedberger’s second album as a solo act and it’s even better than her very good debut.  She is/was one half of the brother/sister indie-prog duo Fiery Furnaces and though that act was great, her solo material is far more accessible and song oriented.    The Furnaces’ songs are lengthy epics with myriad twists and turns within each song; fantastical tales filled with metaphors and allegories.  With “Personal Record” Friedberger ditches all of the former while keeping the melody inherent in the Furnaces and writing straight-forward autobiographical lyrics which prove just as interesting as anything she wrote before.  That so many of her songs are set in Brooklyn, a place where I spent many of my formative years, doesn’t hurt my interest level either.  In a more sub-par year I would have rated this album much higher and I feel like it has been rather underrated and a bit lost in all of the other great music of 2013.

    Buy Personal Record – Eleanor Friedberger
    Buy Personal Record Amazon

     

    Buy When I Knew Amazon

    Buy She’s a Mirror Amazon

     

     

     

     

    44. TORO Y MOI- ANYTHING IN RETURN
    Toro Y Moi_Anything In Return

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Anything In Return” is Chaz Bundick’s 3rd album as Toro Y Moi and he’s calling it his ‘Pop’ album.  I hear post-disco, modern R&B and IDM more than I hear Pop, and the biggest difference between this and his older stuff to me is higher production values.  Now that the unfairly maligned “chillwave” microgenre has flown the coop the consistently good “Anything” shows this music easily transcends it.  “Anything” may not contain a monster track like “Blessa” from “Causers Of This” or “Still Sound” or “New Beat” from “Underneath The Pine”, but I still count six great ones here and zero throwaways.  This is another album that has gotten a bit lost in the shuffle in such a great year, but this is a more than solid release.  And this guy knows how to do a great album cover.

    Buy Anything In Return – Toro y Moi
    Buy Anything In ReturnAmazon

     

    Buy Never Matter Amazon

    Buy Say That Amazon

     

     

     

    43. KVELERTAK- MEIR

    Kvelertak_Meir

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though I liked Kvelerertak on first listen it took me most of the year before I gave it a best album pick- maybe it’s due to the lyrics being sung (well- screamed!) in Norwegian.  But that shouldn’t have stopped me because this record is a blast.  Kvelertak combine the best of many varities of METAL- punk, thrash, death, hair and just plain old fashioned rock n’ roll.  Though a few lengthy tracks in the middle of the album threaten to halt its momentum, standout tracks like single “Bruane Brenn”, “Spring Fra Livet” and brilliant closer “Kvelertak” (chokehold in English) more than make up for any lulls.   I saw these guys play in a small club last year and it was life affirming- one of the funnest shows I’ve seen in ages.  Don’t let the foreign-language scare you away.  If you like your music fun & loud these guys are for you.

    Buy Meir Amazon

     

    Buy Bruane Brenn Amazon

    Buy Kvelertak Amazon

     

     

     

     

    42. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA- II
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra_II

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Here is another band that too many people missed out on this year. “II” is unsurprisingly Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s second album. I’ve yet to hear their first except for the great “Ffunny Ffrends” single which made one of my past year end mixes and initially turned me on to this New Zealand band. The group has a throwback sound and play loose and mellow, but are very unlike the folk-rock sound de rigueur right now. They have more in common with retro psych-rock’s like Foxygen or their Australian neighbors in Tame Impala, but are less metallic and more Grateful-Dead-ish. Lead singer/guitarist Ruben Neilson shines as a guitar player. His plucky, noodly jamming invokes both Kurt Vile and Jerry Garcia.

    Buy II – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
    Buy unknown mortal iiAmazon

     

    Buy Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark) Amazon

    Buy So Good at Being in Trouble Amazon

     

     

     

     

    41. THE NATIONAL- TROUBLE WILL FIND ME
    The National

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The National have become indie-rock elder statesmen in the span of a half decade.  They are consistently big sellers carving out their own musical niche and signature sound. Maybe because of their own consistency they are experiencing a fair amount of backlash now with the word ‘bland’ being thrown at them the most.  Their music rarely hits me at full impact right away.  They seem to be the text book definition of a “grower”, their hooks sinking in after repeat listens. Their lyrics give insight into being an aging, educated, urban adult family man- both too angry and humane to be boring dad-rock.  Singer Matt Beringer’s distinctive rich baritone and the National’s awesome drummer, Bryan Devendorf, are the group’s not-so secret weapons.  Most of the National’s songs stay mid-tempo so when they do rock out a bit (see: Graceless) they stick with you.  The last four National records are must-haves and “Trouble Will Find Me” is probably even a step up from its predecessor “High Violet”.

    Buy Trouble Will Find Me – The National
    Buy Trouble Will Find Me [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Demons [Explicit] Amazon
    Buy Graceless Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 40-31

    40. FUCK BUTTONS- SLOW FOCUS
    Fuck Buttons_Slow Focus

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Slow Focus” is the 3rd full length offering from this memorably named techno duo. It sounds like it would be perfect to soundtrack a futuristic big budget blockbuster about space travel or the apocalypse. The music is slow building, paranoid and spooky but absolutely monstrous. The album is 50 minutes + with only seven tracks, all instrumental, impeccably produced with no duds. Despite the small number of tracks it’s very easy to get lost in the album and forget which track you’re on. This is one of a number of great instrumental or near instrumental albums produced last year.  Fans of Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Boards Of Canada should dig this very much.

    Buy Slow Focus – Fuck Buttons
    Buy Slow Focus Amazon

    Buy The Red Wing Amazon
    Buy Brainfreeze Amazon
     

     

     

     

    39. ALUNAGEORGE- BODY MUSIC
    AlunaGeorge_Body Music

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    AlunaGeorge are a British R&B/Club Music duo consisting of vocalist Aluna Francis and producer George Reid.  The duo is part of a wave a great post-millennial hipster R&B/Pop along with like-minded artists Robyn, Annie, Solange, Sky Ferreira & Charli XCX- artists more likely to take their musical cues from Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliott or the Neptunes, than Tricky, Portishead or Massive Attack, but nevertheless don’t really fit on contemporary radio despite their pop leanings. “Body Music” is their full length debut, but they already have an EP and a slew of singles under their belt dating back to 2011. Their sound is rooted in the club but the play as like a more energetic Soul II Soul and have nearly nothing in common with the EDM scene. Aluna resembles Lily Allen a bit vocally and the production on the album is quite inventive. Though the singles are the best tracks (“Your Drums, My Love”, Attracting Flies” and “You Know You Like It” are the standouts) and the album is a bit top heavy, there are no stinkers are the album not counting and ill-advised cover of Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It”, which is tagged onto the end as a bonus cut.

    Buy Body Music – AlunaGeorge
    Buy Body Music Amazon

    Buy You Know You Like It Amazon
    Buy Attracting Flies Amazon

     

     

     

     

    38. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE- …LIKE CLOCKWORK
    Queens of the Stone Age_Like Clockwork

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Looking at 2013’s year-end lists, Queens seems to have either been at the top end of various lists or not mentioned at all.  Several prominent sites went as far as to slag “..Like Clockwork” as a mediocre effort.  Though the album doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Rated R” or “Songs For The Deaf”, I think it’s their best album since then and quite a different sound than anything the band has offered before, with a much greater number of ballads and slow burners.  Former bassist Nick Oliveri is back in the band after being kicked out years ago.  “My God Is the Sun” is a worthy first single and other tracks like “If It Had a Tail” and “I Appear Missing” rank among Queens’ best work.  My favorite of the bunch is “Smooth Sailing” one of the best tracks in their repertoire.

    Buy …Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age
    Buy …Like Clockwork Amazon 

    Buy Smooth Sailing Amazon
    Buy If I Had A Tail Amazon

     

     

     

     

    37. ICEAGE- YOU’RE NOTHING
    Iceage_You're Nothing

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This Danish punk band’s sophomore release is nearly good as their first, which was a top ten album for me in 2010.  I guess “You’re Nothing” was docked points for no good reason- because this year was so competitive with great music and because Iceage mostly repeat the song from their debut they’ve somewhat lost the element of surprise.  Iceage’s are still bleak, terse and aggressive, like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis fronting Wire.  Though nearly every song is around the 2 minute mark each teems with myriad guitar hooks.  The legendary Iggy Pop recently called Iceage the first dangerous band he’s heard in a long time- a heavy compliment.  In an age where Punk music can bring to mind Warp tour sameyness, Iceage still sound like the future.

    Buy You’re Nothing – Iceage
    Buy You’re NothingAmazon 

    Buy CoalitionAmazon
    Buy Ecstasy Amazon

     

     

     

     

    36. PHOENIX- BANKRUPT
    Phoenix_Bankrupt

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Perhaps the most unfairly maligned album of the year.  I think “Bankrupt!” suffers mostly compared to Phoenix’s previous effort, the runaway breakout hit “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart”.  “Bankrupt!” takes the same format as its predecessor but for some reason none of the slew of great potential singles seemed to stick.  Lead single “Entertainment” still sounds to me like it should be all over the radio and tracks like “Don’t”, “Real People” and “Trying To Be Cool” are nearly as good.  “Bourgeois” and “S.O.S In Bel-Air” are great mid-tempo tracks and “Oblique City” is an excellent album closer.  The longest track on the album is the proggy title track, which is placed right in the middle of the track listing and does kill the momentum a bit, but take that one misstep away and you have a pretty great album.  Though “Bankrupt!” has barely sniffed the year end countdowns, has had mediocre sales and is being passed off as a stiff, my bet is that future history is more kind to it.

    Buy Bankrupt! (Deluxe) – Phoenix
    Buy Bankrupt!Amazon

    Buy Entertainment Amazon
    Buy Don’t Amazon

     

     

     

     

    35. RUN THE JEWELS (KILLER MIKE & EL-P)- RUN THE JEWELS
    Run The Jewels_Killer Mike & El-P

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ‘Run The Jewels’ is the group name (also the name of the album and album’s best track) for the fantastic collaboration between underground rappers El-P and Killer Mike. Killer Mike is a long-time Atlantan rapper who cut his teeth working with Outkast and Organized Noize over a decade ago and has made minor splashes with tracks like “A.D.I.D.A.S.” but has never really made it above the underground.  El-P is one of the foremost underground rappers in New York City and former head of the prominent indie-rap label Def Jux. El-P produced and appeared on Mike’s 2012 breakout album “R.A.P. Music” (one of the best albums of last year), as well as releasing his own excellent solo album “Cancer For Cure” the same month. Their collaborations worked so well that they had to continue it and “Run The Jewels” is their victory lap. Even though they are from different regions Mike & El-P fit together like chocolate and peanut butter.  “Run The Jewels”, first put out as a free mix-tape, is an album for true hip hop heads.  Barely 30 minutes, no skits, with banger after banger.  El-P’s normally anxious, claustrophobic production is streamlined into a more accessible package.  El-P’s delivery is hyper and intense, juxtaposed with with Mike’s slow, but equally intense southern drawl. In a lesser year for hip hop this could be at the top of the rap list.  Even with all of the other great ones it still sticks out.

    *There is a link to follow to download the album on my actual blog if you follow the below link.

    Download for Free at http://www.foolsgoldrecs.com/

     

    Buy Run the Jewels [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi) [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    34. PHOSPHORESCENT- MUCHACHO
    PHOSPHORESCENT_MUCHACHO

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Phosphorescent have been around for almost a decade but this is the first time they have been on my radar and their album “Muchacho” is a true pleasure.  Phosphorescent fit right in with current mellow indie singer-songwriters like Kurt Vile and Father John Misty, mixing modern folk-rock, tradition Nashville country, 70’s Laurel Canyon scene and southern roots rock.  “Muchacho” gives me a nostalgic vibe, sounding like the heavily but lovingly produced mid 70’s album by L.A. groups like Fleetwood Mac, Crosby Stills & Nash or Gene Clark. Horns, piano & steel guitars and gorgeous searing harmonies are abundant on “Muchacho” warming up a batch of songs that sound like they originate from a solitary, drunken, introspective place. “Song For Zula” is one of my favorite songs of the year and other tracks like “Ride On/Right On” are not far behind.

    Buy Muchacho – Phosphorescent
    Buy Muchacho [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Buy Song For Zula Amazon
    Buy Ride On / Right On Amazon

     

     

     

     

    33. LOCAL NATIVES- HUMMINGBIRD
    Local Natives_Hummingbird

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sophomore release “Hummingbird” proves that Local Natives debut was no fluke. The National’s Aaron Dressner is tapped as their producer this time around and acts as a de-facto band member. In time I can imagine the Local Natives carving out their own indie rock niche and signature sound like their big brothers in the National. If you like Grizzly Bear or Fleet Foxes give these guys a listen. They’ve kept a similar template to their last album- beautiful, soaring harmonies and expansive drumming with a consistently great set of songs split between ballads and uptempo numbers. Though less experimental than the Grizzlies or the Foxes, they are also way more interesting than groups like Mumford & Sons, Passenger or the Lumineers. Lead single “Breakers” and the beautiful ballad “Colombia” are the choice picks on “Hummingbird” but there are no duds.

    Buy Hummingbird (Deluxe Version) – Local Natives
    Buy Hummingbird (Deluxe Version)Amazon

    Buy Breakers Amazon
    Buy Colombia Amazon

     

     

     

     

    32. YOUTH LAGOON- WONDROUS BUGHOUSE
    Youth Lagoon_Wondrous Bughouse

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Our current decade of the twenty-teens has offered a treasure trove of neo-psych rock (see my top album pick of 2012 Tame Impala’s “Lonerism” among many others) and “Wondrous Bughouse” by Youth Lagoon may just5 be the best of the lot in 2013. 2011’s “Year Of Hibernation”, Youth Lagoon’s debut, was celebrated in the press and I found it good if a bit underwhelming, but “Bughouse” is a big leap forward. Youth Lagoon is really a one man project helmed by early twenty-something Boise, Idaho native Trevor Powers. Powers is loaded with talent and after the nice reception to the debut is now armed with more tools at his disposal. “Bughouse” sounds more layered, better produced, bigger and louder than its predecessor, delivering its greatest pleasures on headphones and repeat listens. The standout tracks are “Dropla”, “Mute” and “Raspberry Cane”, but the record is best listened to as a whole.

    Buy Wondrous Bughouse – Youth Lagoon
    Buy Wondrous BughouseAmazon

    Buy Dropla Amazon
    Buy Mute Amazon

     

     

     

     

    31. BOARDS OF CANADA- TOMORROW’S HARVEST
    Boards of Canada_Tomorrow's Harvest

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Boards of Canada has been a monster group for bedroom electronica aficionados since their landmark debut “Music Has The Right To Children” in 1998. Since then the group (actually a Scottish duo) have only released a few proper albums along with a handful of EP’s and nearly all of their material has been very well received, if leaving their fans wanting for more. Their last proper album “The Campfire Headphase” was issued back in 2005. Early last summer the duo released “Tomorrow’s Harvest” with no advanced warning. “Harvest” has a colder, spookier sound than anything I’ve heard prior with apocalyptic track titles like “Cold Earth”, “Reach For The Dead”, “Sick Times” and “Collapse”. It’s an album that can be either obsessed over, requiring intense concentration with headphones on, or played as background music. The album sneaked up on me more when I wasn’t trying so hard, its various hooks sinking in when I played the album on a loop while doing other things.

    Buy Tomorrow’s Harvest – Boards of Canada
    Buy Tomorrow’s Harvest Amazon

    Buy Nothing Is Real Amazon
    Buy Reach For The Dead Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 30-21

    30. DARKSIDE- PSYCHIC
    Darkside_Psychic

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Darkside is a two man partnership between 23 year old wunderkind laptop electronic music producer & Brown graduate Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. Darkside sounds like a modern to “Darkside Of The Moon” without the singles. The duo mixes disco, yacht-rock, techno & prog into a psychedelic haze, like a trippier and far less accessible version of Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”. “Paper Trails”, “Freaks, Go Home”, The Only Shrine I’ve Seen” and the 11 minute “Golden Arrow” are all standout tracks and “Psychic” is yet another perfect headphones record, a throwback to a time with less distractions and more time to sit with music like this and let it envelope you.

    Buy Psychic Amazon

    Buy Freak, Go Home Amazon

    Buy Paper Trails Amazon

     

     

     

     

    29. JAMES BLAKE- OVERGROWN
    James Blake_Overgrown

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    As was true on his first album and various EP’s, British singer/songwriter/producer James Blake is always good for at least one mind-blower of a song per release. In this case it’s lead single “Retrograde” off of his excellent sophomore album “Overgrown” and it’s one of my favorite songs of 2013. Though the remainder of the album didn’t hit as hard at first, on repeat few listens I actually found it more consistently good than his stellar self-titled debut. Tracks like “Life Round Here”, the title track, “Voyeur” and “Digital Lion” are all among Blake’s best work. Blake still comes off as the polar opposite of EDM bro-steppers like DeadmauS & Skrillex, but he seems to be moving in a more song oriented and less experimental direction. He continues to strip down modern R&B & Pop to its basic essence, while adding subtle flourishes of trip-hop and dub step with haunting modern blue-eyed soul vocals. The result is often lonely and heartbreaking but painfully beautiful.

    Buy Overgrown (Deluxe Edition) – James Blake
    Buy OvergrownAmazon

    Buy Retrograde Amazon
    Buy Life Round Here Amazon

     

     

     

     

    28. MAJICAL CLOUDZ IMPERSONATOR
    Majical Cloudz_Impersonator

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The dorky name Majical Cloudz brings to mind hippy dippy dream pop but these guys actually are a duo consisting of Canadian smoky baritoned-singer Devon Welsh and synth programmer Matthew Otto. The music is stripped down to the bone like the very early 80’s synth casio-pop of Depeche Mode, Yaz & Human League but without any dance beats. The glacially paced music draws almost sole focus on Welsh’s incredible vocals. He’s like an indie-rock Frank Sinatra crooning songs about death and despair. Tracks “Bugs Don’t Buzz” and “Childhood’s End” are two of the year’s best and there are a handful of other great ones. The more you play this album the more you fall for it. It actually ended up falling into Pitchfork’s top ten this year. I may not have ranked it quite as high but I get the appeal.

    Buy Impersonator – Majical Cloudz
    Buy Impersonator Amazon

    Buy Bugs Don’t Buzz
    Buy Childhood’s End Amazon

     

     

     

     

    27. DEERHUNTER- MONOMANIA
    Deerhunter_Monomania

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Bradford Cox has got to be the hardest person working in indie-rock. “Monomania” is Deerhunter’s 5th album since 2007 to go along with a few el’s and his other various releases in his other band Atlas Sound. And that doesn’t even include bandmate Lockett Pundt’s well regarded band Lotus Plaza. With “Monomania” Cox & co. take a bit of a left turn away from the expansive, atmospheric synth-rock and feedback-drenched experimental noise-rock of their past records and head straight for the garage. This album seems more indebted to The Stooges, the MC5 and a variety of 60’s Nuggets bands than anything they’ve done previously. While it may not reach the level of their last masterpiece, “Halcyon Digest”, Cox has plenty of swagger pull off this in-your-face rock n’ roll. Tracks like “Pensacola”, “Neon Junkyard”, “Back To The Middle” & especially the great “Dream Captain” can be included among Deerhunter’s and Cox’s best tracks. “Monomania” is another great notch in the belt of this great band’s catalog.

    Buy Monomania – Deerhunter
    Buy Monomania Amazon

    Buy Dream Captain Amazon
    Buy Back to the Middle Amazon

     

     

     

     

    26. CHVRCHES- THE BONES OF WHAT YOU BELIEVE
    Chvrches_The Bones Of What You Believe

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Bones Of What You Believe” is the debut full length from highly hyped Scottish trio which threads the needle between mainstream the modern synth-pop of Imagine Dragons and Capital Cities and their much artier indie counterparts like Purity Ring & Grimes. Chvrches is like an even poppier version of Passion Pit. Singer Lauren Mayberry has star power and knows her way around a hook but she’s no pop tart, already speaking up in the media for political and feminist causes. The rest of her band is made up of music vets who have been around the block finally finding a band that sticks in Chvrches. Not dissimilar to a modern version of Shirley Mason and Garbage.”The Mother We Share” and “Recover” are two of the catchiest singles you’ll hear and other album tracks like “Gun” and “Lungs” are winners as well. There are no bad cuts on the album though the singles do shine high above the rest.

    Buy The Bones of What You Believe (Special Edition) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy The Mother We Share [Explicit]Amazon
    Buy Recover Amazon

     

     

     

     

    25.  PUSHA T- MY NAME IS MY NAME
    Pusha T_My Name Is My Name

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “My Name Is My Name” (a quote taken from HBO great “The Wire”) is the first official solo album of Pusha T, who is 1/2 of the now defunct beloved underground Va. Beach rap duo Clipse. Upon the group’s breakup in 2009 Pusha was signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. music and has been all over mixed tapes and heavily featured on Kanye’s great “Runaway” track from 2010. Pusha is known for his intense, menacing raps backed up by hard, skeletal beats. He is a former drug dealer and slinging’ coke remains one of his main subjects. He describes the drug life’s trials and its tribulations with an amazing eye for detail and his best songs play out like a great gangster movie- the wealth and material excess are viewed through a cautionary lens rather than flat out glorified. Though the album drags in a few places opener “King Push”, “Suicide” and two of 2013’s best rap songs “Numbers On The Board” and “Nosetalgia” are all instant classics. Prominent guest stars pop up everywhere- Rick Ross, Kanye, The-Dream, Jeezy, Kelly Rowland, 2 Chainz, Big Sean, Pharrell, Kendrick Lamar &amp & even the execrable Chris Brown doesn’t ruin the proceedings. Apparently another solo album as well as a possible new Clipse album are already in the works- good to hear as Pusha & his brother are two of the best around.

    Buy My Name Is My Name [Explicit] [+digital booklet] Amazon

    Buy Numbers On The Boards [Explicit]Amazon
    Buy Nosetalgia [feat. Kendrick Lamar] [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    24. AUTRE NE VEUT- ANXIETY
    Autre Ne Veut_Anxiety

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Like James Blake and How To Dress Well, Autre Ne Veut is another act repurposing traditional modern R&B music and making it much, much weirder. Autre Ne Veut is a one man group like Nine Inch Nails made up of Arthur Ashin. “Anxiety” is Autre Ne Veut’s 2nd album and is apparently much more accessible than his first work. There is a surprise around every corner “Anxiety”- honking horns, pitch-shifting vocals and heavy guitar licks come seemingly out of nowhere. Some of the tracks like “Counting” and “Play By Play” are completely brilliant and repeat plays reveals the catchiness of nearly all songs on the album. The lyrics focus on breakups and heartache but the often sunnier music acts as a counterpoint to the gloomy lyrics much like the best power pop. Ashin has a high pitched falsetto that adds to both the beauty and the tension of the songs. This music is not subtle- it’s totally over the top but I think it’s also pretty genius. I had never heard of Autre Ne Veut until late 2012. Now I can’t wait to see what he does next.

    Buy Anxiety – Autre Ne Veut
    Buy AnxietyAmazon

    Buy Counting Amazon
    Buy Play by Play Amazon

     

     

     

     

    23.  RHYE- WOMAN
    Rhye_Woman

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rhye sounds like the indie-rock Sade. It’s the best pillow talk album of 2013. They are a duo based in Los Angeles who are originally from Canada and Denmark. It’s hard to believe that producer/vocalist Mike Milosh is male as her truly sounds like a deep-voiced female. I first heard Rhye late last year when their lead single “The Fall” completely blew me away. I included it on my best of 2012 Volume 1 and it’s still my favorite track by them. But “Woman” offers plenty of other gems including 2nd single “Open”, “Shed Some Blood” & “Last Dance”. Their music is also comparable to the smooth, sultry indie of the XX and Jessie Ware, but is even more indebted to smooth soul and yacht-rock and less to today’s R&B.

    Buy Woman – Rhye
    Buy Woman [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Buy The Fall Amazon
    Buy Last Dance Amazon

     

     

     

     

    22.  SKY FERREIRA, NIGHT TIME, MY TIME
    Sky Ferreira

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After delays, a drug possession and a several year stint where she was cast as the next major label pop diva, Sky Ferreira has traveled a rather long, hard road before finally releasing “Night Time, My Time”, her full-length debut album. She showed much promise with her great 2012 single “Everything Is Embarrassing”, but after all of the bad press you can be forgiven for thinking that her debut might bomb. Instead it’s a rousing success, artistically if not (yet) commercially. “Night Time” is a polished, yet ballsy pop album which can appeal to both the radio and indie-land. She hasn’t done herself many favors commercially with the drug arrest along with appearing nude on the album cover (the above is the clean version), but the more I read about her and listen to this album, the more real and authentic she seems. It doesn’t hurt to have one of the hottest producers of the last few years at the boards, Ariel Rechtshaid, who also producer Vampire Weekend, Haim, Charli XCX, Solange among others and does another masterful job on “Night Time”. He threads the needle between 80’s New Wave and electro and 90’s pop grunge which frame her autobiographical lyrics perfectly. Her best songs, “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)”, “I Blame Myself”, “Boys” read like a litany of what she has gone through the last few years. She’s smart, rebellious and nobody’s puppet. And easy to root for.

    Buy Night Time, My Time Amazon

    Buy Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)
    Buy I Blame Myself Amazon

     

     

     

     

    21. MIKAL CRONIN- MCII
    Mikal Cronin

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Until this year Mikal Cronin was best known as the guitarist in one of Ty Segall’s bands. He wasn’t on my radar at all until releasing this excellent mix of garage rock and power pop. While Segall’s group is shredding and noisy, Cronin comes off melodic and focused. Nearly every track rocks forcefully but is also contained and tuneful. The first six tracks are nearly note perfect, especially “Shout It Out” and “Weight” and though the album lets up a bit at the end, it’s almost a relief. 2013 was light on heavy guitar rock in general, and the best guitar rock was mostly downbeat and subdued or angry and abrasive. The punchy and upbeat “MCII” serves as a great counterpoint.

    Buy MCII – Mikal Cronin
    Buy MCIIAmazon

    Buy Shout It Out Amazon
    Buy Weight Amazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 20-11

    20. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE- THE 20/20 EXPERIENCE
    Justin Timberlake_The 20:20 Experience

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The second half of 2013 was not kind to Justin Timberlake. The previously teflon star, seemingly beloved by all, finally received some negative press- for a role in a movie that bombed as well as for “The 20/20 Experience Part 2” which really should have been marketed as a b-sides collection rather than a proper sequel to part 1. Though his shine has worn off “Part 1” is still that top selling album of 2013 and I enjoyed it just as much when revisiting it as I did the first several times I heard it. The lead single “Suit & Tie” is an effortless piece of blue-eyed soul hip-hop & second single “Mirrors” became one of the biggest tracks of the year. Instead of “Take Back The Night” (off of Part 2), JT should have released the phenomenal “That Girl”, my favorite track on either volume. Though both volumes are criticized for being bloated and indulgent- most tracks run over 7 minutes long and sound like extended club versions of singles- Timbaland’s production and JT’s song craft make this a great experimental pop record with no filler- a modern update of Stevie Wonder’s incredible mid 70’s run or Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” records, if not quite as brilliant.

    Buy The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake
    Buy The 20/20 Experience [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Buy That Girl [Clean] Amazon
    Buy Suit & Tie (Explicit) Amazon

     

     

     

     

    19. ARCTIC MONKEYS- AM
    Arctic Monkeys_AM

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    After a bit of a lull with their 3rd & 4th albums, England’s favorite rock band, Arctic Monkeys are back with a vengeance with “AM”. The group have recently moved to Los Angeles and come off as a no bs straight up rock n’ roll band than ever before. They take elements of sound from their previous albums, like the power pop punk meets the Strokes of the first two and the heavier stoner rock and jangle pop of the latter two and add a skeletal funk groove. While the band always stays within the rock framework these various elements give them color and variety making the this excellent set of songs each standout on their own all the more. New favorites will emerge on each listen but several standouts are “R U Mine”, then single “Do I Wanna Know?” (receiving major radio airplay in the U.S.), “Why Do You Always Call Me When You’re High?” and “Arabella”. Singer Alex Turner has always been a fantastic bar and club cultural poet and on “AM” he seems mostly concerned about the aftermath, of both parties and relationships. “AM” is a very strong release from a great band who has transcended the British hype machine and has carved out one of the better rock band legacies in recent memory.

    Buy AM Amazon

    Buy R U Mine? Amazon
    Buy Do I Wanna Know? Amazon

     

     

     

     

    18. THE RAPPER- ACID RAP
    CHANCE THE RAPPER_ACID RAP

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Chance The Rapper is the biggest newcomer story in rap this past year. Just turning 20, Chance is a rapper from the projects of the south side of Chicago. Vocally he shares the similarly gritty cadence of Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar, while nodding back to the peace & love vibe of the native tongues rappers of the early 90’s. Though growing up in the middle of a war zone, rather than selling drugs he takes them- weed and LSD rather than narcotics. He addresses his communities struggles through a stilted, hallucinogenic lens, often playing class clown with a healthy dose of self-deprecation. Because of his wit and charm it hits even harder when he drops some reality. He often speak sings in his delivery and can turn a phrase nearly as deftly as Eminem. As of January of 2014 he still remains the hottest unsigned rapper in the game, but it’s not for lack of being courted. “Acid Rap” is a unique album which will likely have staying power and Chance is a singular talent.

    Not available via iTunes

    Buy Acid Rap Amazon

    Top Songs:
    Cocoa Butter Kisses
    Chain Smoker

     

     

     

     

    17.  HAIM- DAYS ARE GONE
    Haim_Days Are Gone

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Haim are another one of the most heavily hyped new acts of 2013, already stars in the press while still mostly unknown to the general public. They are three twenty-something sisters from Los Angeles who have been plying their trade in the music biz since their teens under various guises, but Haim is their first group that has stuck. “Days Are Gone” is exuberant power pop with an R&B tint that take its production cues from mid 80’s Fleetwood Mac. Though they are being marketed as pop for indie-lovers they have little in common with similarly marketed acts like Robyn, Jessie Ware, Charli XCX or Sky Ferreira who are much more beat focused. Haim are organic rock n’ roll with traditional guitar, bass & drums. I liked this record on first listen but I love it now. The first seven tracks are all nearly perfect and “Fallen”, “Forever” and “The Wire” should all be huge radio singles. Haim was made for the masses and here’s hoping that will soon be the case.

    Buy Days Are Gone Amazon

    Buy The Wire Amazon
    Buy Falling Amazon

     

     

     

     

    16. DEAFHEAVEN- SUNBATHER
    Deafheaven_Sunbather

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Though it’s the group’s second album, for me Deafheaven’s “Sunbather” came out of nowhere. Deafheaven is tagged as a black metal band but the truth is a bit more complicated. Four gorgeous metal epics, each at least 9 minutes long are surrounded by much quieter, beautiful instrumental passages that bring to mind 70’s era Pink Floyd. The four vocal tracks are doom metal mixed with shoe-gaze and while extremely heavy they are more beautiful, cinematic and sweeping than pummeling and relentless. The vocals are screamed and unintelligible- I couldn’t even follow along with a lyrics sheet. They act as another instrument blending in with the whole sound scape. Improbably “Sunbather” is the break out “Metal” album of the year- despite absolutely no chance of any radio airplay and a somewhat limiting appeal. But any fan of Mogwai, Sigur Ros or Godspeed! You Black Emperor should definitely check this out as Deafheaven are close cousins to what those bands do.

    Buy Sunbather – Deafheaven
    Buy SunbatherAmazon

    Buy Dream House Amazon
    Buy The Pecan Tree Amazon

     

     

     

     

    15. A$AP ROCKY- LONG LIVE A$AP

    ASAP ROCKY

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The long delayed, heavily hyped “Long Live A$AP”, the Harlem rapper’s major label album debut is finally released and it doesn’t disappoint. Though it did quite well commercially it seemed to get rather lost in such a big rap year between heavy hitters like Drake, Kanye & Jay-Z along with upstarts like Danny Brown and Chance The Rapper all releasing mega albums. After the smoke has cleared I think this album is being unfairly overlooked. It’s really a stellar album with 7 or 8 standout tracks and no stink bombs. Rocky brings a much needed swagger back to New York City and acts as an east coast counterpart to the white hot L.A. Black Hippy collective (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul etc..). It’s nice to see the east and west coasts collaborating rather than feuding and even more than the black hippies, Rocky soaks up virtually every rap style. His versatility is his greatest strength as he delivers smooth radio ready singles, underground-nodding tracks with tripped out Clams Casino beats, pulsing swag anthems & collaborations with Skrillex and Santigold totally out of the major label rap box.

    Buy LONG.LIVE.A$AP (Deluxe Version) – A$AP Rocky
    Buy Long.Live.A$Ap (Deluxe Version) [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy F**kin’ Problems [Explicit]Amazon
    Buy LVL [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    14.  EARL SWEATSHIRT- DORIS
    Earl Sweatshirt_Doris

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Doris” is another long awaited debut album. Earl Sweatshirt is the youngest and most talented rapper in L.A.’s Odd Future collective, which has been dominating west coast underground rap over the last 3 or 4 years. Sweatshirt’s first mixtape was one of Odd Future’s first releases but by the time people actually heard it, the precocious rapper had mysteriously disappeared. It turns out that he was sent to a school in Africa by his political activist mother in order to avoid trouble in L.A. Sweatshirt’s father is renowned Poet Laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile and Earl clearly has both the sharp intellect and gift with words handed down by his parents. His mix of keen wit, philosophical observations, teenage rebellion and smut is intriguing and keeps you guessing. While past Odd Future releases have been frustrating for me- great moments mixed into overly long, sometimes monotonous albums with certain tracks too nihilistic and downright offensive to be enjoyable, “Doris” is their first album that really hits the mark. It’s 44 minutes long with more than a handful of instant classics, from the great singles “Chum”, “Whoa”, “Hive” & “Sunday” and a few album cuts like “Knight” and “Burgundy” that are just as good. And no filler tracks so prevalent on other OF releases. Production on the album sounds equally influenced by Wu-Tang and Madvillain and Sweatshirt’s flow is downcast and mellow.

    Buy Doris [Explicit]Doris [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Whoa (Explicit Version) [Explicit]Amazon
    Buy Sunday (Explicit Version) [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    13. PARQUET COURTS- LIGHT UP GOLD
    Parquet Courts_Light Up Gold

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Like Cloud Nothings in early 2012, Parquet Courts started off a great music year with a bang in January of 2013. They are a total throwback to the lo-fi 90’s indie rock of Pavement, New York City transplants spinning witty aphorisms that can only come from the mouths of educated twenty-somethings trying to make sense of living in a strange, new city. Their angular punk is tense, terse, often hilarious and ridiculously catchy. I hear other influences in their sound from 70’s & early 80’s punk & protopunk like the Modern Lovers, Wire & the Feelies. “Light Up Gold” is a messy hodgepodge with a handful of minute long tracks scattered throughout. It’s loose, under produced & real.

    Buy Light Up Gold – Parquet Courts
    Buy Light Up GoldAmazon

    Buy Stoned and Starving Amazon
    Buy Borrowed TimeAmazon

     

     

     

     

    12. BEYONCE- BEYONCE
    Beyonce_Beyonce

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Beyonce, the greatest and best of our modern female pop stars, dropped quite a bomb on the music industry and critics’ top ten lists in the middle of December. Completely unannounced, she released a self-titled 14 track/17 video album, exclusively at iTunes for a week but still in physical stores days before Christmas. No advanced singles, no press, no nothing. And it sold over 600K just at iTunes in its first three days, making it one of the most commercially successful albums of the year. It’s also very likely her best album release to date, raising the already high bar set by pst releases like “4” and “B’day”. It was tough to slot. I had to re-do my top 50 for it and at #12 I think I still may be underrating it. Over half of the tracks sound like instant classics with singles “XO” & “Drunk In Love”, “Partition”, first track “Pretty Hurts”, “Blow” and “Flawless” my faves at the moment. Each of these songs along with even the less immediate tracks boast surprising production, showing that Beyonce may be taking cues from her younger sister Solange, using some lesser known producers with more of an indie-bent. Lyrically “Beyonce” is a love letter to marital sex & bliss. It reminds me of old school Janet Jackson when it’s at its sexiest and Prince at its funkiest. Beyonce is a rare mix these days of fame, beauty, wealth, charm & talent and we are lucky to have her. This album is highly recommended and definitely a keeper.

    Buy Beyoncé [Explicit] [+video] Amazon

    Buy Pretty Hurts Amazon
    Buy XO Amazon

     

     

     

     

    11.  MY BLOODY VALENTINE- MBV
    My Bloody Valentine_MBV

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The legendary My Bloody Valentine has finally followed up their 1991 masterpiece “Loveless” with a direct to consumer, surprise album release last winter. While it may not equal the majesty of its predecessor, “MBV” is a triumph. Head genius perfectionist Kevin Shields creates otherworldly dream pop sounds with painstakingly applied layers of electric guitar with loads of pedal effects and vocals mixed down to nearly a whisper. The album is split into thirds. Kevin Shields handles vocals on the first third with Bilinda Butcher taking over for the second third. The first two thirds of the album is mellow and hazy, rarely venturing into heavy rock territory with the first three songs more experimental and the second three more melodic. The final third is split between pummeling drum & bass workouts and feedback drenched noise-rock. “MBV” is an album to get lost in by a singular artist not content to rest on his laurels. It’s worth the nearly endless wait.

    *Not available via iTunes or Amazon

    Buy directly at http://www.mybloodyvalentine.org/

    Top songs:
    New You
    Only Shallow



  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 10-1

    10.  KURT VILE- WAKIN ON A PRETTY DAZE
    Kurt Vile_Wakin On a Pretty Daze

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sometimes looks can be deceiving. Philly native Kurt Vile not only looks like a slacker but has a voice that sounds like he can’t be bothered. “Wakin'” is Vile’s fifth album is six years along with a slew of EP’s with one improving leaps and bounds over the next. Vile is in his early 30’s and is a self-described homebody and family man and lyrically he sounds like a stoned Zen philosopher giving out odes to domestic bliss, only bumming out when on the road missing his wife and young son. The electric guitar is central to all of Vile’s work but he’s not a shredder. His riffs roll by slowly, folding in on themselves. The tempo of the album rarely changes- it’s a mellow, dreamy vibe as pleasant and hazy as a slight day-drink buzz on the first beautiful Saturday afternoon in Spring. Both the first and last tracks on the album are over 9 minutes but neither sound a second too long and are both two of the album’s standouts.

    Buy Wakin On a Pretty Daze – Kurt Vile
    Buy Wakin On A Pretty DazeAmazon

    Buy KV Crimes
    Buy Shame ChamberAmazon

     

     

     

     

    9. DRAKE- NOTHING WAS THE SAME
    Drake_Nothing Was the Same

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    If you would have told me in 2009 that several years later Drake would be the biggest rapper in the game, it would have been hard to swallow. But here we are. Drake is so omnipresent, releasing web only singles and appearing on seemingly everyone’s tracks as a featured artist, that it’s credit to him that his official albums are such a big event. “Nothing Was The Same” is his 3rd full-length, not counting his first EP, and like his previous albums several tracks stand out immediately while the rest of the album takes longer to digest. Drake has access to and endless amount of money, women and fame. Despite all of his success he has plenty of angst- about his own fame, past relationships and current family issues. He can come off as an arrogant and insufferable over sharer, but his insights, contradictions & hypocrisies can be fascinating. Drake grew up upper middle class and was a tv star (he was just fairly hilarious as first time musical guest and host on SNL) in Canada as a teenager but then writes a track called “Started From the Bottom”, which is both far from the truth and one of the best bangers of the year He continues to improve as a rapper, has some of the best beats around and for now rules the world. Other standout tracks include “Furthest Thing”, “Worst Behavior” and 2nd single, radio hit & #1 song on Pitchfork’s year end list “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. Also check out the great non-album track “5am Toronto”.

    Buy Nothing Was The Same (Deluxe) [Explicit] Amazon

    Buy Started From The Bottom [Explicit] Amazon
    Buy Hold On, We’re Going Home [feat. Majid Jordan]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    8. JANELLE MONAE- THE ELECTRIC LADY
    Janelle Monae_The Electric Lady

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Janelle Monae is a concept as much as she is an artist. “The Electric Lady” is made up of the 4th & 5th suites of her planned seven part “Metropolis” series about a futuristic, dystopian android. Like all great sci-fi, Monae’s cyborg protagonist’s stories are allegories for the racism, sexism, homophobia & gender politics of modern day Earth. Monae is a pint-sized woman with a larger than life voice and talent. Her music takes equally from modern R&B, hip hop and techno, along with throwback funk of Sly Stone & Stevie Wonder and “Sign O’ The Times” era Prince. She lives through her art, is involved in all artistic decisions both musically and visually and collaborates with a group of artists known as the Wondaland Collective. Despite relatively modest sales she is beloved in the music industry. “Electric Lady” features heavy hitters like Erykah Badu, Miguel, Solange Knowles, Esperanza Spaulding and even the purple one himself. Anyone who laments the lack of great organic soul music should listen to this- it’s full of great singing, songwriting and musicianship with Wondaland guitarist Kellindo Parker standing out particularly for his Prince-worthy shredding. Highlights are abundant, including the thrilling “Dance Apocalyptic”, the funky ballad with Miguel “PrimeTime” and the heartfelt Stevie Wonder-esque ode to Monae’s mother “Ghetto Woman”. This is Monae’s best album yet. Here’s hoping that more people hear her stuff.

    Buy The Electric Lady Amazon

    Buy Dance Apocalyptic Amazon
    Buy Primetime (feat. Miguel) Amazon

     

     

     

     

    7. ARCADE FIRE- REFLEKTOR
    Arcade Fire_Reflektor

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The release of Arcade Fire’s 4th album “Reflektor” was the indie-rock event album of the year. The lead up to the album was highlighted by an elaborate guerilla marketing campaign inspired by veve drawings, the release of a limited edition “Reflektor” single credited to a fictional band called “The Reflektors”, the pre-release of parts of several songs as well as full videos and various other publicity stunts. The great ex-LCD Soundsystem leader and DFA label head James Murphy was tapped to produce their first double album and expectation and anticipation was sky high to hear the follow-up to the band’s Grammy winning album of the year “The Suburbs”. Arcade Fire have yet to deliver anything short of a great full length album and while “Reflektor” is probably not their very best effort, it’s certainly great enough to continue the group’s winning streak. Unsurprisingly, Murphy helps to direct the band toward their most dance-friendly sound. The first album in the set is nearly perfect containing the great title cut, along with the awesome “Here Comes The Night” and “We Exist”. Every cut save “Joan Of Arc” is a standout and potential single. The 2nd album is weirder and a bit weaker. As on previous albums, the penultimate track “Afterlife” is one of the best on the album, but it’s the clear winner on disc 2. Several of the lengthy cuts like “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” and “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” start sinking in with repeat listens but “Here Comes The Night Time II” is a waste of time, “Porno” is a bit boring and album closer “Supersymmetry” is fairly innocuous until the annoying, never-ending feedback loop added to the end of the song. Like many double albums, it’s hard not to think that “Reflektor” would be even mightier as a single album with the fat trimmed off.

    Buy Reflektor Amazon

    Buy Here Comes The Night Time Amazon
    Buy ReflektorAmazon

     

     

     

     

    6.  DANNY BROWN- OLD
    Danny Brown_Old

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, A$AP Rocky, Odd Future & Chance The Rapper represent a corps of talented newcomers injecting lifeblood into the rap industry which, outside of its few best talents (Kanye, Drake) had gotten quite stale in recent years. Danny Brown is from the streets of Detroit and though not a member of any crew, collaborates and is respected by nearly everyone. “Old” is Brown’s third album and most high profile release so far. As opposed to all of the above rapper except the still unsigned Chance, Brown is still on an indie label and his sales are modest compared to A$AP & Kendrick. He is an eccentric and a singular talent with a voice and personality that has the potential to become as recognizable as Busta, Slick Rick or Snoop. Brown dons a huge afro and hipster skinny jeans, has two missing front teeth and raps about taking drugs rather than selling them. He has a working knowledge of rap’s entire history but is just as likely to name check modern indie rock. T. Rex or an obscure 60’s psych-rock group. “Old” is divided into two parts- the “dark side” and the “high side”. On the “dark side” which takes up with first half of the album, Brown raps in a lower register and focuses on his current troubles and escaping his impoverished past. The songs are self-aware and bent on self improvement. The “high side” is made up of mostly party anthems rapped in Brown’s familiar high-pitched nasally register. The production on the record is fresh and exciting, nodding to both old skool rap and EDM, sometimes trippy, other times harsh and abrasive with skittering techno beats. “Old” is 19 tracks but over in less than an hour and it feels even shorter than that. There are no skits and no real missteps with numerous highlights- “Dip”, “Kush Coma”, “The Return” (with the great fellow Freddie Gibbs) & “Clean Up” are some of my favorites but every listen reveals a new pleasure.

    Buy Old [Explicit] [+digital booklet] Amazon

    Buy Dip [Explicit] Amazon
    Buy Kush Coma (feat. A$AP Rocky & Zelooperz) [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    5. DAFT PUNK- RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
    Daft Punk

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2013 was the year that Daft Punk, a French techno duo dressed as robots, became household names in popular culture. They’ve been heroes to both dance music aficionados and many indie music fans (see LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk’s Playing At My House”) since the late 90’s and have even previously had a big hit single (see 2001’s “One More Time”) but with the release of “Random Access Memories” and especially the album’s lead single “Get Lucky”, arguably the song of the year, now everyone knows their name. With ppopularity comes backlash and “Random Access” has received its fair share- it’s probably the most polarizing album of the year. Rather than digging in and giving the world a set of club anthems, the Robots collaborate with a number of artists thought to be well past their prime, producing an album more beholden to prog-rock, yacht-rock and disco than the techno they helped to define. Disco pioneer Giorgio Moroder shows up on a nearly 10 minute track (called “Giorgio Moroder”) half of which is Moroder’s spoken words regarding recording techniques. The author of Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection”, Paul Williams, sings an epic length called “Touch”, which sounds downright creepy at first, revealing its genius only with repeat listens. Legendary producer and Chic guitarist Nile Rogers shows up on various cuts (including “Get Lucky”). “Random Access Memories” is a painstakingly produced, 75 minute throwback analog album, reverting back to a time when the music industry was thriving, immense recording budgets with only the best musicians and producers, a time of sequins & cocaine. Daft Punk are unafraid of experimentation and are ripe with ideas. Younger, rock & R&B musicians like Panda Bear from Animal Collective (on the great track “Doin’ It Right”), Julian Casablancas of the Strokes and Pharrell Williams are featured prominently. It’s an album that can be funky, trippoy, danceable and just plain weird- sometimes all of that on the same track. Over six months after the release of the album “Random Access Memories” still seems like a pretty major statement and to me it’s the crown jewel of Daft Punk’s brilliant and groundbreaking career so far.

    Buy Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
    Buy Random Access Memories [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Buy Get LuckyAmazon
    Buy Lose Yourself to Dance Amazon

     

     

     

     

    4. SAVAGES- SILENCE YOURSELF
    Savages_Silence Yourself

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Late last year, Savages, a four woman post-punk revival band out of London released “Husbands”, their debut single and it quickly became one of my favorite songs of the year. Their excellent debut album “Silence Yourself” more than lives up to the promise of “Husbands” and they are the most exciting new guitar band in a long while and the best all female band since Sleater-Kinney. Singer Jehnny Beth is a dead ringer for Siouxsie Sioux and the band’s sound is straight out of the 1979-82 post-punk era. Savages are artsy, feminist and political. Each song sounds like a manifesto where everything is at stake. The break absolutely no new sonic ground, but the quality of music on this debut is equal to nearly anything released in post-punk’s first wave. Outside of “Husbands”, “Strife”, “Shut Up”, “City’s Full”, “No Face” and especially “She Will” are all instant punk classics. “Silence Yourself” is a plea to turn off technology and fully engage in the world. The group actually has a no smart phones policy at their live shows and not to sound like a curmudgeonly luddite but they may be on to something.

    Buy Silence Yourself – Savages
    Buy Silence YourselfAmazon

    Buy HusbandsAmazon
    Buy She WillAmazon

     

     

     

     

     

    3.  KANYE WEST- YEEZUS
    Kanye West_Yeezus

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Kanye West is a very complicated man. He’s a world famous rapper and producer, but he’s generally loathed by the general public and known more for his public tantrums and outbursts than his genius level talent and incredible work ethic. He can be thought provoking and relentlessly challenges current social standards and mores, but is married to equally loathed relaity show airhead Kim Kardashian. The dude is tough to figure out. “Yeezus” is Kanye’s 6th album, which he dropped last spring on the public with little advanced warning and made changes to the track listing up until a week before the physical street date. The front cover art is the disc itself and all copy is printed on the disc itself or on a clear sticker directly on the jewel case. “Yeezus” is intentionally confrontational and abrasive with no radio singles. West is calling it his “Nebraska”, alluding to the 1982 anti-commercial Bruce Springsteen album. Even with music this challenging, at least half of “Yeezus” is made up of instant classics- “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”, “Blood On The Leaves” and “Bound 2”, the one throwback to Kanye’s more soulful music, are all among 2013’s best songs. The full album is only 10 songs and 40 minutes and feels even shorter. He veers between two opposite poles- high brown and low brow- confronting materialism, racism & societal hypocrisy, while on the other hand taking civil rights slogans and applying them as euphemisms for sexual conquests. The production bis skeletal and menacing, often sounding like some future hybrid of techno & punk rock more than hip hop. In a great music year, “Yeezus” has dominated year end lists as the far and away #1 critical consensus pick. Though I clearly love it I put it slightly below his previous album and masterpiece “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. Six albums in West has amassed the most consistently great catalog in rap history and probably the best body of work in popular music outside of maybe Radiohead. Haters be damned.

    Buy Yeezus – Kanye West
    Buy Yeezus [Explicit]Amazon

    Buy Black Skinhead [Explicit] Amazon
    Buy Blood On The Leaves [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    2. DISCLOSURE- SETTLE
    Disclosure_Settle

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “Settle” is the best pure dance music album I’ve heard in over a decade. I know many fear dance music just like many fear rap so if you’re one of the afraid then Disclosure probably isn’t for you. But please try to keep an open mind- I’m old enough to remember people dismissing New Order for similar reasons and now they are pretty much universally loved, at least for the under 50 set. Disclosure are a two man band made up of brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence (incredibly of only 21 and 18 years of age) from London who play take use basic House Music as their starting point, but add their favorite elements of various post-millennium U.K. dance styles including 2-Step, Garage, Grime, Bass Music & dubstep. Though “Settle” is their debut album, it already plays like a Greatest Hits. It remains high energy and upbeat throughout, both club-ready and pop conscious, like early Basement Jaxx. There are no duds and no filler and 3/4 of the album are total standouts. A slew of guest vocalists, many of them up and coming talent with Sam Smith (on lead single and best track “Latch), AlunaGeorge (on the brilliant “White Noise)”, London Grammar on “Help Me Lose My Mind” and Jessie Ware on “Confess To Me”. That there is an album I actually liked better last year is a tribute to the music of 2013.

    Buy Settle – Disclosure
    Buy Settle [+digital booklet]Amazon

    Buy Latch [feat. Sam Smith] Amazon
    Buy White Noise [feat. AlunaGeorge] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    1.  VAMPIRE WEEKEND- MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY
    Vampire Weekend

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Since their 2008 self-titled debut, Vampire Weekend’s clean cut preppie image, use of three dollar words and appropriation of afro-pop have been a turn off for many. I absolutely loved their debut and their second record as well, but was still unprepared for the brilliance of “Modern Vampires Of The City”. With “Modern Vampires”, VW have shown major musical growth while maintaining their signature sound. They are both brainy and fun, taking on love, politics, history, politics and religion- sometimes within each song. Millennial Ezra Koenig, who handles lyrics and lead vocals can now safely be called a major voice of his generation. “Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth”, Koenig sings on the gorgeous track “Step”, possible Vampire Weekend’s best track yet. “Finger Back” examines our brutal historical past, while “Hudson” imagines a post apocalyptic future. The amazing “Ya Hey” and “Unbelievers” (which is most reminiscent of the group’s past work) take on spirituality and organized religion, while lead single “Diane Young” examines death. The beautiful centerpiece ballad “Hannah Hunt” didn’t resonate much at first, but on further listens is one of the most nuanced and best tracks on the album. A couple on a road trip, possible trying to re-imagine the American Dream in our modern world. “Modern Vampires” is both a grower and a shower. I loved it immediately and four of five songs grabbed me instantly. I’ve yet to get sick of a single song, but the remainder of the album has gotten better with age. Vampire Weekend was an already great band who have now upped the ante and become one of the defining rock bands of their generation.

    Buy Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
    Buy Modern Vampires of the CityAmazon

    Buy StepAmazon
    Buy UnbelieversAmazon



  • Top 50 Albums of 2013 Honorable Mention

    FOALS- HOLY FIRE
    fOALS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Holy FireAmazon

     

     

     

     

    PISSED JEANS- HONEYS
    pISSED JEAANS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy HoneysAmazon

     

     

     

     

    FRIGHTENED RABBIT- PEDESTRIAN VERSE
    f RABBIT

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Pedestrian Verse [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    DAVID BOWIE- THE NEXT DAY
    david bowie

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy The Next DayAmazon

     

     

     

     

    LAURA MVULA- SING TO THE MOON
    L MVULA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Sing to the Moon Amazon

     

     

     

     

    THE KNIFE- SHAKING THE HABITUAL
    KNIFE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Shaking the Habitual [+digital booklet]
    Amazon
     

     

     

    WAVVES- AFRAID OF HEIGHTS
    Wavves_Afraid Of Heights

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy  Afraid of Heights – Wavves
    Buy Afraid Of Heights [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    CHARLI XCX- TRUE ROMANCE
    Charli XCX_True Romance

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy True Romance – Charli XCX
    Buy True Romance [Explicit]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    LAURA MARLING- ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE
    Laura Marling_Once I Was An Eagle

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Once I Was An Eagle Amazon

     

     

     

     

    ALPINE- A IS FOR ALPINE    *2012 AUSTRALIAN RELEASE
    ALPINE

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy A Is For AlpineAmazon

     

     

     

     

    JON HOPKINS- IMMUNITY
    JON HOPKINS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy ImmunityAmazon

     

     

     

     

    CIARA- CIARA
    CIARA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Ciara [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    ROSE WINDOWS- THE SUN DOGS
    Rose Windows_The Sun Dogs

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy The Sun Dogs Amazon

     

     

     

     

    MIGOS- YOUNG RICH NI$$AS (MIXTAPE)
    mIGOS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Young Rich N*ggas [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    KING KRULE- 6 FEET BENEATH THE MOON
    King Krule_6 Feet Beneath The Moon

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy 6 Feet Beneath The Moon Amazon

     

     

     

     

    NO AGE- AN OBJECT
    No Age_An Object

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy An Object Amazon

     

     

     

     

    FOREST SWORDS- ENGRAVINGS
    FOREST SWORDS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy EngravingsAmazon

     

     

     

     

    JULIA HOLTER- LOUD CITY SONG
    JULIA HOLTER

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Loud City SongAmazon

     

     

     

     

    VOLCANO CHOIR- REPAVE
    VOLCANO CHOIR

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Repave [+digital booklet] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    ICONA POP- THIS IS…ICONA POP
    ICONA POP

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy This Is… Icona Pop [Explicit] Amazon

     

     

     

     

    KELELA- CUT 4 ME (MIXTAPE)
    KELELA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy CUT 4 ME Amazon

     

     

     

     

    BLOOD ORANGE- CUPID DELUXE
    Blood Orange

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Cupid Deluxe Amazon

     

     

     

     

    M.I.A.- MATANGI
    M.I.A._Matangi

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Matangi (Amazon Exclusive Version) [Explicit] [+digital booklet]Amazon

     

     

     

     

    DEATH GRIPS- GOVERNMENT PLATES
    DEATH GRIPS

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Download for free at: http://pitchfork.com/news/52999-death-grips-release-free-album-government-plates/

     

     

     

     

    BURIAL- RIVAL DEALER EP
    BURIAL

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Buy Rival Dealer [Explicit] Amazon