As Austin noted in our introduction to our favorite songs of 2013 list yesterday, it is much more difficult to list a years worth of favorites than one might think. 2013 was quite an interesting year in music. Many big names (or at least big expectations) left a disappointing taste in fans’ mouths (Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, The Strokes, Jay-Z, etc.). This left the door wide open for smaller, and sometimes even unheard artists to really pave the way to a brighter future, and in some cases, all-out overnight stardom (Lorde, Savages, CHVRCHES, etc). This also left a lot of room for controversy. Who is worth the listen, and who is just going through the motions while filling our ear buds with noise? Well the controversy was not absent in making this list. With all three of us at LxL listing out our top 20 albums separately and then combining them into a normalized list, there was bound to be some peoples favorites left off. Mean things were said, blood was spilled, and opinions hotly thwarted. Nonetheless, the list must go on. Here is what we considered to be our favorite albums of 2013:
20. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
Last year, Alunageorge’s “Your Drums, Your Love” ranked in at #20 on our favorite songs of 2012. This year, the soulful pop R&B duo returned with a full LP to support the single, as well as a grip of other ripe-for-the-shaggin’ type of tunes. The duo now garnered another #20 slot, but this time on our albums list with Body Music.
19. The Men – New Moon
New Moon is the Brooklyn garage rockers third album in three years, and the five-some sure know how to produce blue collar, gut-punching, and heartfelt rock music. New Moon combines big Crazy Horse-style garage anthems and drunken country ballads to make their best album to date.
18. Run The Jewels (Killer Mike & El-P) – Run The Jewels
Killer Mike & El-P joined forces in ill effect this year, creating a rapper/producer supergroup for the ages. Both spit venom at the top of their games, while El-P manages to mix and spin up some incredible backing tracks as per usual. The lack of intricate Cancer 4 Cure type backing tracks that helped win him our #1 album spot in 2012 is probably the only reason El-P isn’t finding his way at the top of our list this year as well. Nonetheless, the beats are still very damn noteworthy, and the combo of Killer Mike and El-P cannot be beat.
17. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
Remember those classic Sigur Ros tracks like “Staralfur”, “Gobbledigok”, and “Hoppipolla”? You know, the type of sound that makes you feel warm and fuzzy, as if you are walking through the gates of heaven to the sound of a million angels. Well you can forget it. Instead, welcome to the gates of hell as Sigur Ros flips their script and turns NIN-esque, industrial, and dark on all of our asses. Overdramatic? No. But I do mean all these things in the best way possible. Congrats to Sigur Ros for taking a leap into this bold, dark territory.
16. Baths – Obsidian
Much like Sigur Ros, Will Wiesenfeld’s stepped into a much darker space with his second album under the moniker Baths. And again, like Sigur Ros, the end result was something spectacular. Obsidian was based much more around vocals than his debut effort. It also moved into a much a darker, more industrial sound, while still maintaining the electronic pop element that make him so catchy.
15. Kanye West – Yeezus
Kanye’s return to the studio was yet again a revolutionary experience. With his darkest, most minimally produced album to date, he left fans torn on opinions. Much like his actions tend to do on his own image. Even us at LxL were torn on what to think with this hard-hitting effort from the self-proclaimed messiah of rap, and although it was a two-to-one battle (NOT in Ye’s favor), he still found his way onto our list. Thank Yeezus!
14. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk took everyone by surprise with their unforgettably funky-fresh electronic disco album in 2013. What was more surprising than the fact that they tried to pull off a throwback of this nature infused with their usual brand of Robot Rock, was the guest lineup they pulled for the album; Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Julian Casablancas, and Panda Bear. But the surprises paid off! Due to the foresight and production of the Robots, these artists mixed incredibly well. It may not have turned out to be the year’s greatest album (as some of us expected it to be), but it did provide one of the year’s most memorable songs with “Get Lucky”, and one helluva a great overall album.
13. Disclosure – Settle
UK DJ brothers Disclosure knocked it out of the park with one of the best electronic dance albums of the year. They combined driving disco, big melodic hooks, and an assortment of R&B guests (AlunaGeorge, Jessie Ware, Jamie Woon) for one great dance spectacular.
12. Rhye – Woman
Rhye came through with one of the year’s most emotionally raw albums. There is nothing extremely flashy about this duo, just an incredible voice with a lot of character in it, and some timeless music. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t appreciate what this pair has to offer, and if we did, we surely wouldn’t want to be friends with that person.
11. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Yesterday I described Parquet Courts as what post-punk revival fans needed in 2013. Hyper-active guitar, and over-aggressive screamo punk? … forgeeeet about it. These guys are the bright and poppy punks with bratty, lackadaisical lyrics and sounds that pay homage to everyone from Pavement and Sonic Youth to The Feelies and Television. With their debut album, as well their live performance, they left all of us noisy punk fans salivating at the pleasant return of the often imitated, but rarely well-executed sound.
10. Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lorde wins most bold for 2013 in our book. This 17 year old New Zealand songstress writes her own lyrics, that have not only caused a media stir, but also managed to catch the ears and hearts of everyone from tweenies to music snobs. Her message of distaste for the glorification of money is simple, but brilliant, and something that a lot of people never get. Especially at the age of 17 as your staring worldwide stardom in the face. Bonus points for her going toe-to-toe with the with popular music artists for the falsely portrayed lavish lifestyle they all tend to boast and lust after. Message aside, her voice as well as her minimalist (that word seems to be popping up more and more lately) music style are seemingly simple enough, but stand out as wonderfully fresh and powerful.
9. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
In 1997, Kevin Shields began recording his follow up to the scene-shattering 1991 Loveless. 16 years after the fact, and after a full 22-year hiatus from any studio recorded work, My Bloody Valentine finally fulfill every 90’s shoe gazer’s dream by releasing Loveless‘ follow-up mbv. The album is more thick with sound than every other album on this list combined, but never for a moment feels cluttered or overbearing. Instead all of that noise filters through your headphones into a blissful, detailed bit of noise rock that is just as good now as it was in ’91, if not better.
8. Jason Isbell – Southeastern
Former Drive-By-Trucker Jason Isbell has the distinct pleasure of producing the best singer-songwriter album of the year, an earnest, intimate folk album covering love, cancer, sexual abuse, and even his own addiction recovery.
7. Deerhunter – Monomania
One reason we love Deerhunter, is that they never question just doing whatever they hell it is they want to do. After stemming from more noisy rock/pop roots, the band tightened up production for more of a pristinely-produced sound with Halcyon Digest in 2010. For Monomania however, they reverted back to the raw/garage rock style of writing/recording and pulled it off with flying colors. Pick your poison and these guys will surely kill it in any area of music they try. Monomania is full of 90’s garage rock anthems that will have you head banging and shoe gazing within the span of the album. They have yet to ever retread their own ground, but even with a new feel every album, they always sound like they know exactly what they are doing.
6. Kurt Vile – Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze
I feel as if Austin summed up Kurt Vile and his wonderful 2013 effort very well with this statement yesterday: “There may not be anything groundbreaking here, but Vile is doing his brand of music better than anyone else around.” Simple, straight forward rock and roll done very well.
5. Savages – Silence Yourself
Pure. Amperage. Savages bring air-tight production, poignant lyrics, and fierce howling females back to the punk scene. Silence Yourself was an extremely hyped-up album that lived up to all its expectations. Its cold and distant presence brings back the feel of Siouxsie and the Banshees that, as Austin put yesterday, garners a big stamp of approval from us at LxL.
4. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
As late 60’s psychedelic rock has been making a massive comeback in the popular music scene of recent years, nobody has sounded like they came directly from that era more than Foxygen. At least the form Foxygen has taken on We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic that is. Songs that reek of early Dylan, early Stones, and early Lou Reed, with subject matters of peace, and love, and San Francisco; these guys could not possibly sound any more like the era they are so fantastically mimicking in their sound. And with the exception of Tame Impala, there is no one on the scene that does it better. What separates them from Tame is their overcommitment to the era, and the ridiculous rock’n’roll attitude that exudes from their live show, and even their day-to-day lifestyle. It makes for a weirdly entertaining band, and one helluva fun album.
3. CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
Perhaps over the more abrasive Lorde, the most endearing act of 2013 goes to the 25 year old Lauren Mayberry, and her band of Scottish synth poppers, CHVRCHES. Of all the acts that have put out synth pop albums in recent years, CHVRCHES have made the most concise, and most fun one to date. It’s extremely infectious, and holds recognizable influence from Madonna to M83 all over the album. With a debut like The Bones Of What You Believe, the band seems to have an extremely promising future.
2. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
This album took us by storm here at LxL. Normally it is nearly impossible for an album of this nature to be so mutually agreed on, but Autre’s voice and music is just too sexy to deny, even if his face just isn’t …
But luckily we don’t care about looks, we are only interested in the sonically blissful sounds the are packed behind Autre’s buttery voice on Anxiety. With songs so driving and sexually charged, it is quite hard to sit still during this album, to say the least. “Play By Play” and “Counting” kick off one of the best one-two combos of the year right out of the gate on Anxiety, and the rest of the album is a fun and sextrious journey of synth packed R&B.
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
For all intents and purposes, Vampire Weekend may be the best working band in music right now. They began as a very fun, very catchy pop-punk group, that were always a bit too smart for their own good. Over the years, and two albums later, they have only mastered this craft. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but they stumble upon ways of doing so while greatly building off of the influences that are deeply rooted in every faintly familiar, yet still obscure drum beat, guitar lick, and lyric in their music. Modern Vampires of the City spans a lot of ground covering topics such as dealing with getting old, struggles with religion/spirituality, and coming face to face with the hardships of love. From Johann Pachelbel, to Dick Dale, to Paul Simon, to Souls of Mischief, to Modest Mouse; almost every musical genre shows substantial influence on this album as well, showing their depth of knowledge for music and song. When considering our favorite songs of the year four songs from this album were in contention for the top 30 of the year (“Step”, “Diane Young”, “Ya Hey”, “Hannah Hunt”), and for the first time ever, it was also unanimously voted as all three of our #1 album of 2013. An album of this caliber just simply cannot go unnoticed, so for giving us what is almost unarguably considered to be the greatest album of the year across the board Vampire Weekend, we thank you!
The “just missed our list” list:
Wes: The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I generally give The National a hard time for their overly melancholic sound and often boring vibe, but I have to say that it is mostly just at the expense of getting under Wes’ skin. Wes is right to recognize this album as yet another strong effort by a band that is on par with releasing at least four consistently great albums in a row. Even if they do tend to get a bit snoozy from time to time.
Todd: Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
Call me a softy for Alexis Krauss, but I couldn’t help plug this thrashing power pop duo one more time. With the band’s third effort, they are still coming up with new ways to keep their songs fun and fresh. Bonus points for also being one of the more fun live acts around these days.
Austin: Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience
This is a miss that could almost be shared between all three of us, given our mutual love for the album, but due to the fact that Austin is just ears-to-ankles gay for Justin Timberlake (***), we let him have it.
If you liked this, be sure to check out our top 30 songs of 2013 here!
Or to listen to our top 50 tracks of 2013, check out our Spotify playlist!