The Best Music of 2013 [Albums #50-#31]
January 8, 2014 Leave a comment
Here are twenty phenomenal albums. They might not have made our Top 30, but they might very well make yours. Give them all a listen, we beseech you.
Choice cuts from each can be found on our Spotify playlist:
#50. King Krule, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Archy Marshall is a 19-year old British ginger who looks like a street urchin and spits lyrics like a Cockney Tom Waits. Album opener “Easy Easy” is probably the best entry point, but the compellingly bizarre “A Lizard State” — in which horns duel with dialtones and Krule hollers for BBWs — is one of a kind.
#49. Hockey, WYETH IS
The recording process nearly drove Ben Wyeth and Jeremy Reynolds insane, but the album they finally completed after two years’ hard work in desolate rural New York resulted in this fantastic album. WYETH IS boasts an impassioned, spare sound, anchored by opening cut “Wild Style.”
#48. Various Artists, Saint Heron
I’ve got so much respect for Solange Knowles. When your big sister is the world’s hugest pop diva, it’s the definition of wisdom to carve out your own path as an alt-R&B oracle. Last year’s EP True made our countdown with a bullet, and Solange is back as the guiding force behind this compilation of artists she’s signed to her own label. Her closing track is solid, but I particularly enjoyed songs from her minions Kelela, Starchild, India Shawn, and my top favorite, “Lockup” by BC Kingdom.
#47. Pity Sex, Feast Of Love
This year’s winner of the Fortnight on the Internets listener poll for most beloved musical guest. The Ann Arbor shoegaze/punkers work effectively both up-tempo (“Wind-Up”) and down-tempo (“Drown Me Out”). The two-vocalist attack of Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake is super effective.
#46. Wavves, Afraid of Heights
Nathan Williams’ brat-punk project ranked high on our charts with King of the Beach in 2010, and he returns this year with a satisfyingly solid second disc. Sounding a little older and wiser, but without getting corny or lame, Williams appears to have found a way to advance his sound without changing it overmuch. Afraid of Heights isn’t quite the pure shot of adrenaline that KotB was, but cuts like “Demon to Lean On” are every bit as righteous.
#45. True Widow, Circumnambulation
This Dallas trio specializes in downtuned, ludelike jammez with hypnotizing vocals. On their third album, they’re locked in, unfurling gloriously long tracks like “CREEPER” and “FOUR TEETH.” Find a comfortable chair and get locked in.
#44. The Besnard Lakes, Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO
The Montreal couple-band’s follow up to their magnum opus The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night couldn’t help but suffer by comparison, but Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek both bring their exquisite talents to bear. “People of the Sticks” backs Goreas’ dreamy vocals with a driving beat, while “Colour Your Lights In” is listener-friendly shoegaze at its best, with Lasek stealthily building to boffo choruses.
#43. Run the Jewels, Run The Jewels
Killer Mike’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music, produced by El-P, was one of last year’s best hip-hop albums. The two rejoined forces to release the Run the Jewels mixtape this summer, and it’s another shiny gem from the duo. With appearances from Big Boi and Prince Paul, Run the Jewels is a no-brainer download for any rap aficionado. If you like it, support the homeboys with the purchase of a RtJ weed grinder! Also, this video is outstanding:
#42. Disclosure, Settle
Surrey brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence combine neat beats with Britsoul vocals on winning tracks like “White Noise” that have critics waxing rhapsodic about the 80s/90s glory days of garage house music in the NYC clubs.
#41. Kavinsky, OutRun
Kavinsky’s tracks are perfectly calibrated for a Grand Theft Auto crime spree, and his latest collection is thrilling in its throwback perfection. The track “Odd Look” makes you want to strut down an alley in the shady part of town, preferably wearing a leather jacket with an embroidered scorpion.
#40. Bad Bad Hats, It Hurts
This lovely, spunky EP from the Minneapolis trio fronted by Kerry Alexander is just so damn winning. Lead single “It Hurts” is fantastic, starring a kazoo solo and packaged complete with a hockey-themed video. The sky is the limit for Alexander, her partner in crime Chris Hoge, and this little band that could.
#39. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
The oft-spoken Cat Power and Liz Phair comparisons aren’t far from the mark, but I have to mildly demur that the songwriting isn’t QUITE as massive. With that backhanded insult (is that a thing?) aside, Katie Crutchfield has laid down a mighty impressive album of Alabamian indie. “Dixie Cups and Jars” is the sorta-single, but I like “Lips and Limbs” and “Peace and Quiet” even more.
#38. Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe
I mentioned earlier that Solange’s True was one of my favorite records of 2012. That record’s producer, Dev Hynes, blows minds with his unique take on NYC indie pop on Cupid Deluxe. Lots of luminaries from our 2012 countdown show up on this record, including Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek and Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth — but Hynes is perhaps most impressive when he takes it solo on “Uncle Ace.”
#37. Laura Mvula, Sing to the Moon
Fire up “Green Garden.” Oh shit, that’s the jam. Laura Mvula’s voice is a highly-calibrated instrument, but on this cut, it’s complimented by trippy, appealing production. The album as a whole is packed with too many meh ballads to rocket further up the list, but Mvula is ridiculously talented and needs to stay on everyone’s radar screens as long as we all shall live.
#36. Arctic Monkeys, AM
The high school mates from Sheffield, all growed up now and living in LA, put out one of the biggest rock albums of 2013, as evidenced by its lofty standing on the Spotify Top Albums list, sitting comfortably alone amidst pop and hip-hop records. AM is a masterclass in rockstar swagger, from the thumping bass line of opener “Do I Wanna Know?” to the melodic closer “I Wanna Be Yours.” Plenty of solid tracks are laid down in between. There wasn’t a single track that I was inspired to put on repeat over and over again, but points for consistency throughout.
#35. Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
The subject of a New Yorker investigative reporting story before he even signed a record deal, Earl Sweatshirt has intrigued hip-hop fans for years now. To say that his debut record was highly anticipated would be quite an understatement. He’s always been the best rapper in the Odd Future Wolf Gang, and this record anoints him as one of the better up-and-comers around. Frank Ocean contributes a great verse (spoken, not sung, and aimed straight at Chris Brown) on “Sunday,” and “Chum” is an outstanding lead single.
#34. Laura Marling, Once I Was An Eagle
Armed with an acoustic and the wise voice of a woman 20 years her elder, Laura Marling has a knack for songs that could have been written in the 1970s or five minutes ago. TIMELESS is the word that comes to mind. “Take the Night Off”->”I Was An Eagle” is a doubleheader that’s downright Nick Drakeish, and “Master Hunter” might be her best cut ever.
#33. PAPA, Tender Madness
This LA duo delivered a sneaky-awesome debut, capped by boisterous tracks “Put Me To Work,” “Young Rut” and “Cotton Candy.” Put PAPA on and crank the stereo up. Joy shall be thine reward.
#32. Colleen Green, Sock It To Me
According to the good robots at Last.fm, Colleen Green is the musician I’ve listened to the most since preparation for this 2013 countdown began in earnest. Of course she is — her three-minute, Ramones-like fuzz glories are about the most fun music I’ve heard all year. It’s stoner punk that blends sweet harmonies and zonked-out guitars into a perfect West Coast vibe: “Oh yeah, uh huh, oh god, I really love my boyfriend.”
#31. Arcade Fire, Reflektor
The lead single and title track is everything — a seven-and-a-half-minute James Murphy guided tour into the coolest dance club in Brooklyn alongside the most important North American rock band of our era, and hey look, there’s David Bowie! The rest of the record is very good, no question, but would have benefited from more explorations of Murphy’s hipster-disco and a Regine Chassagne-led song or two, and fewer David Byrne impressions from Win Butler and funny-money withdrawals from the bank of Afro-Cuban “inspiration.”
I’m nitpicking. Reflektor is a worthy sculpture in the pantheon that Win, Regine and the posse have been steadily building for the past decade. “Afterlife” is the kind of Springsteenian uplift that AF has always done superbly, and “Joan of Arc” evokes the amazing power of “Sprawl 2” from The Suburbs. But if you shoot, you’d better hit your mark. This record shoots to wound. I’d hoped they’d shoot to kill.
And yet. Dat title track.