The Best Music of 2013 [Albums #30-#21]

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Our countdown continues with albums 30 through 21. Key tracks from each — and the entirety of great jams from earlier in our countdown — can be found on the super official Spotify playlist:

#30. Crystal Fighters, Cave Rave

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This British band is wackily delightful. Taking their name from a fantastical opera sketched out in a notebook found in the Basque country home of one of the members’ late grandfather — well, point made, right? This record was produced by Justin Meldal-Johansen, one of my favorite behind-the-scenes wizards in the music industry — he played bass for Beck on Midnite Vultures and produced M83’s Wake Up We’re Dreaming, so the man knows how to craft a jamme. Cave Rave is filled with uplifting hippie dance tunes like “No Man,” “LA Calling” and my favorite, “You & I,” which steadily builds until I find myself unconsciously doing a jig. Every time.

#29. Pusha T, My Name is My Name

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The most remarkable thing about this record happens on “Let Me Love You”: dope dealing badass Pusha T drops into a dead-on Ma$e impression for the entire track. It’s like an extremely faithful cover of a Ma$e track that nobody’s ever heard before. WHO DOES THIS IN HIP-HOP? I honestly don’t know if he’s just fucking with us or what, but it’s totally awesome. Elsewhere, Pusha is on point, building upon his string of stunning cameos on Kanye West tracks. “Numbers on the Boards” sounds like a monster Yeezus bonus track, and Kendrick Lamar collab “Nosetalgia” is massive. His original champion Pharrell is here helping out, but the tracks Kanye worked on are certainly the fiercest. Liberated from working with his brother in The Clipse, Pusha unleashes everything he has on this record, and it’s hard as Marlo Stanfield.

#28. Typhoon, White Lighter

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A rambunctious Portland crew led by Kyle Morton, Typhoon manages to take the kind of wild-musical-troupe sound that can comes off as cheez-shit in the hands of lesser humans and make it AWESOME. Dial up “Dreams of Cannibalism” and hear what I’m talking bout. Building steadily with acoustic guitar, sprightly vocals, horns, and percush, it crests like a wave at about 2:25. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The rest of the record is outstanding too, obviously.

#27. Beisbol, Lo-Fi Cocaine

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My personal favorite party record of summer 2013. Brothers Ryan and Jeff Burian know how to make music that incorporates all the classic elements of 70s/80s funky jams without sounding dated or derivative.  “Easier Without It” is a track that always sets my corporeal form to bopping. At times they remind me of Steely Dan, at others of Talking Heads, at still others Phil Collins — but at all times, they rock me like those good old Hall of Famers always have.

#26. Caveman, Caveman

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This Brooklyn band often gets comped to The Shins, and the excitement I felt upon first hearing their second, self-titled LP was indeed reminiscent of the thrill Oh, Inverted World gave me upon its initial spin. The first half of this record just keeps coming at you with sharp tracks before giving way to spacier material. “Shut You Down” is on a short list of my favorite indie rock songs of the year. Matthew Iwanusa has a great voice and his band is rad. This is a must-listen.

#25. Bent Shapes, Feels Weird

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One of my favorite new bands anywhere — and they’re from my city! This Boston trio rose from the local DIY scene and, following a lineup change, they find themselves trying on various musical guises on this record — if they have a problem, it’s that a bunch of them fit equally well. “Hex Maneuvers” is the best Real Estate track since Days, “Brat Poison” is scathing punk satire of the Hub musical scene, and “Behead Yrself, Pt. 2” features a whipcracking drum part from Andy Sad0way that makes you say YEAH, more of that please! My favorite, though, is the sharp, sardonic “Panel of Experts.”

#24. Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob

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Whether motivated by record label threats or a burning desire to break through on the charts, Tegan and Sara teamed with pop producer Greg Kurstin and other proven hitmakers to cut tracks for their seventh album. The result was megahit “Closer,” which keystones a set of tracks that thrill with pop perfection. For instance, “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” and “I Was a Fool” are both total gems. While most longtime fans might not have been looking for T&S to go mainstream, the superb results of the venture speak for themselves. And I’ll venture they gained thousands upon thousands of new fans in the process, many of whom are now just discovering the Quin sisters’ superb early work. Win-Win!

#23. A$AP Rocky, LONG.LIVE.A$AP

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“Goldie” was one of my favorite hip-hop tracks of 2012 and “Fuckin’ Problems” was one of my favorites of 2013, so obviously an album that contains them both is A+ in my book. We waited a long time for this first full official A$AP album and excitement has been building since he dropped Live.Love.A$AP in 2011. The guest-appearance packed record tends to vary with the quality of the cameos: the Skrillex track, “Wild for the Night,” is kinda annoying; the Florence Welch appearance on “I Come Apart” is kewl.

#22. HAIM, Days Are Gone

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Not much better in this world than sibling harmonies, and the Haim sisters of the San Fernando Valley have those locked and loaded. This 11-track wonder is produced with LA crispness by a crack crew of professionals, and it’s perfectly tailored to the moment. Fleetwood Mac comparisons fly, but although I hear Stevie Nicks referenced, the Haims’ music is really more a blend of Lindsey Buckingham (as on “The Wire”) and Christine McVie (as on “Don’t Save Me”). And you best believe that hits my sweet spot. Their SNL appearance was utterly winning in its heartfelt imperfection: Danielle smoldering like Patti Smith, Este bass-facing like a champ, and Alana joyously playing six instruments at once. Love me some HAIM.

#21. CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe

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Working out of a basement studio in Glasgow, this electronic trio assembled a highly impressive debut that slayed audiences and critics on both side of the Atlantic. Singer Lauren Mayberry’s voice takes center stage, floating the mournful lyrics of “The Mother We Share” and the dark threats of “Gun” over soaring, sometimes incongruously joyous electroscapes crafted by Iain Cook and Martin Doherty. “Lies” is my personal favorite — like Ace of Base put in a time machine in 1993 and sent to 2030 to make a record, then brought back to our time to debut it. The Bones of What You Believe is sort of the missing link between today’s most popular hits and electronic-indie lords like LCD Soundsystem and M83. These 12 superstrong tracks augur great things to come from this combo.

NEXT: Albums 20 through 11 on our countdown.

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About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

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