Unless you’re a devout indie music junkie, most of the year’s best music is stuff you probably haven’t heard. I scoured harder than usual this year, every nook and cranny on the net, every blog, every mixtape, every whisper of ‘did you hear this new band?’, and a ton of late night sessions with friends to find the next greatest track. Some hidden gold emerged which have now become classics. Stylistically, A lot of Indie/R&B is still quite popular, though I would suggest this phase is nearing it’s saturation point. New Wave/80’s influenced production is now a staple in everything, it’s no longer a throwback – which is something I (obviously) welcome wholeheartedly. We saw some big albums destroy the bar all together, and a few bands drop the most disappointing albums in their careers.
Due to the ease and abundance of bedroom recording it’s basically impossible to latch on to an album that affects everyone at the same time and allows us to bond together as a generation. Think back to when Kid A came out, or back further to Michael Jackson’s Bad or Nirvana’s Nevermind albums. We all lived those times with those soundtracks. Now, having moved to the more ‘single’ oriented approach of the 50’s, our lives are defined less and less by a global movement of music. The only album that did really that this year was Arcade Fire’s Reflektor. (See also Beyoncé, though very late in the year). Arcade Fire are still a massively huge band that people want to talk about, and for me, it felt good to know that we were all listening to that product generally at the same time. Otherwise, besides The National, Vampire Weekend, and Kanye West, the rest just appeared as blips on the radar. You may know some, but will they last?
I always take the time to look backwards and pull out my favourite albums. I got really nostalgic for the 10-year anniversary of Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights and splurged on the beautiful re-mastered vinyl book. It took me to that recent golden era in indie rock. A lot of bands at that time made huge impacts on so many people; Radiohead, Bright Eyes, Doves, Killers, Strokes, Arcade Fire, The Rapture, M.I.A, White Stripes – it seemed like albums were consistently stronger then. You had the one off totally indie material that was cool and buzz worthy like Clinic, Books, Go! Team, The Microphones, etc. on the lower to mid scale – and the larger indie bands we watched grow bigger and tour for wider audiences. There are certainly fewer mid-level acts these days. Now I’m either at a stadium to see NIN or a tiny hole in the wall to see Night Beds. Not much in between. Interestingly enough, it’s perfectly mirroring our current class structure in America. Small point at the top who make the ridiculously vast majority of income, a huge no man’s land scoop in the middle, and a heavy bottom of struggling indie artists who can barely get by even by releasing great music.
I’m a fan of ALL music, and love sharing it with you. My goal in devoting so much time to to finding great bands and albums (besides that it’s the only thing saving me) is to soundtrack life itself. If I can turn ANYONE on to a new song or artist that makes them dance, get emotional or just light up that soft spot deep inside – it feels like I’ve done something right. That I’ve helped uncovered someone’s gift to the world. And that being said, this is my gift to you. The Best Of 2013.
*Note: Every track was hand picked and ranked to be exactly where it is out of thousands of songs. There is nothing I would consider non-listenable or filler. What I consider to be a worthy entry to this list are the songs that stuck to my guts this year because of strong melodies, good songwriting, emotion, and timelessness.
199 WILDCAT! WILDCAT! | GARDEN GRAYS
198 MUTUAL BENEFIT | GOLDEN WAKE
197 WILDLIFE CONTROL | DIFFERENT
196 PAPA | REPLACEMENTS (CURLS IN THE GRASS)
195 IO ECHO | SHANGHAI GIRLS
194 ASTR | OPERATE
193 HIGH HIGHS | A REAL HERO (COLLEGE COVER)
192 JANELLE MONAE | LOOK INTO MY EYES
191 THE 1975 | GIRLS
190 THE BLACK ANGELS | DON’T PLAY WITH GUNS
189 EMPIRE OF THE SUN | KEEP A WATCH
188 DAVID BOWIE | THE STARS (ARE OUT TONIGHT)
187 PAUL BUCHANAN | CARS IN THE GARDEN
186 SUEDE | BARRIERS
185 VAR | THE WORLD FELL
184 MERCHANDISE | ANXIETY’S DOOR
183 BROLIN | ANOTHER YEAR
182 BROODS | BRIDGES
181 CHVRCHES | UNDER THE TIDE
180 BANKS | WAITING GAME
179 FLAAMINGOS | WALK A WIRE
178 DAWN RICHARD | GOLDENHEART
177 THE 1975 | ROBBERS
176 PAUL BUCHANAN | MID AIR
175 THEIF | BROKEN BOY
174 A$AP ROCKY | LONG LIVE A$AP
173 ARCTIC MONKEYS | NO. 1 PARTY ANTHEM
172 BRITISH SEA POWER | MACHINERIES OF JOY
171 AUTRE NE VEUT | PROMISES
170 OURS | BEEN DOWN
169 KODALINE | ALL I WANT
168 VANCOUVER SLEEP CLINIC | VAPOUR
167 MAGNETA LANE | LUCKY
166 MAJICAL CLOUDZ | IMPERSONATOR
165 YOUNG DREAMS | THROUGH THE TURNSTILES
164 SKI LODGE | BOY
163 PATCHLEY | U + ME
162 OURS | SING
161 JULIA HOLTER | MAXIM’S I
160 JANELLE MONAE | DANCE APOCALYPTIC
159 KANYE WEST | ON SIGHT
158 SMALL BLACK | BREATHLESS
157 CAPITOL CITIES | SAFE AND SOUND
156 GOLDFRAPP | STRANGER
155 AUTRE NEW VEUT | EGO FREE SEX FREE
154 THE JOY FORMIDABLE | CHOLLA
153 JAYMES YOUNG | WHAT IS LOVE
152 CHVRCHES | GUN
151 VAULTS | CRY NO MORE
150 DISCLOSURE FEAT SAM SMITH | LATCH
149 JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW | CAVALIER
148 WASHED OUT | WEIGHTLESS
147 ARCADE FIRE | JOAN OF ARC
146 SPEEDY ORTIZ | NO BELOW
145 KINGS OF LEON | COMING BACK AGAIN
144 VONDELPARK | QUEST
143 PYYRAMIDS | PAPER DOLL
142 PARANTHETICAL GIRLS | EVELYNE MCHALE
141 DOG IS DEAD | TWO DEVILS
140 MATTHEW GOOD | ARROWS OF DESIRE
139 SMALL BLACK | FREE AT DAWN
138 KWABS | LAST STAND
137 THE HUNT | FIFTEEN MINUTES
136 ARCADE FIRE | SUPERSYMMETRY
135 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE | BLUE OCEAN FLOOR
134 LE1F | WUT
133 HEARTS OF BLACK SCIENCE | ICON (ICONOCLAST MIX)
132 PHOSPHORESCENT | SONG FOR ZULA
131 THE WEEKND | BELONG TO THE WORLD
130 NEON NEON | DR. ZHIVAGO
129 XENIA RUBINOS | HAIR RECEDING
128 ST. LUCIA | ELEVATE
127 THE BELLE GAME | RIVER
126 CASS LOWE | BIRTHMARK
125 DECADES | TONIGHT AGAIN
124 FRANKIE ROSE | YOU FOR ME
123 THE HOLIDAYS. | VOICES DRIFTING
122 CULTS | ALWAYS FOREVER
121 BIG BLACK DELTA | MONEY RAIN DOWN
120 RACHEL ZEFFIRA | LETTERS FROM TOKYO (SAYONARA)
119 F Y F E | LIES PT. II
118 MAS YSA | WHY
117 THE NATIONAL | I SHOULD LIVE IN SALT
116 BABY ALPACA | SEA OF DREAMS
115 THE STROKES| ALL THE TIME
114 WASHED OUT | IT ALL FEELS RIGHT
113 THE STROKES | CALL IT FATE, CALL IT KARMA
112 ARCADE FIRE | IT’S NEVER OVER (OH ORPHEUS)
111 WHITE LIES | GETTING EVEN
110 LITTLE DAYLIGHT | OVERDOSE
109 OURS | COMING FOR YOU
108 THE NATIONAL | GRACELESS
104 DAVIS FETTER | I WON’T LET THIS WORLD BREAK MY HEART
103 SKY FERREIRA | BOYS
102 KINGS OF LEON | TEMPLE
101 IAMX | SORROW
100 KANYE WEST | HOLD MY LIQUOR
99 ANNA CALVI | SING TO ME
98 FRANCIS AND THE LIGHTS | IF THEY DON’T COME TOMORROW
97 KATE BOY | NORTHERN LIGHTS
96 THE 1975 | HEART OUT
95 CRYSTAL FIGHTERS | WAVE
94 BIG BLACK DELTA | INTO THE NIGHT
93 THE IRREPRESIBLES | TWO MEN IN LOVE
92 CHVRCHES | THE MOTHER WE SHARE
91 IAMX | I COME WITH KNIVES
90 SKI LODGE | ANYTHING TO HURT YOU
89 RY X | BERLIN
88 MATTHEW GOOD | MULTINEERING
87 AUTOHEART | AGORAPHOBIA
86 SHANNON AND THE CLAMS | OZMA
85 EMPIRE OF THE SUN | DNA
84 AUTRE NE VEUT | GONNA DIE
83 A GREAT BIG WORLD | SAY SOMETHING
82 DEPECHE MODE | HEAVEN
81 KANYE WEST | BLACK SKINHEAD
80 INDIANS | BIRD
79 GAUNTLET HAIR | HUMAN NATURE
78 FREDDIE DICKSON | SHUT US DOWN
77 MAGNETA LANE | LEAVE THE LIGHT ON
76 NIGHT BEDS | RAMONA
75 THE BOXER REBELLION | PROMISES
74 ACTIVE CHILD | SILHOUETTE (FEAT. ELLIE GOULDING)
73 CHELSEA WOLFE | THE WARDEN
72 MO | NEVER WANNA KNOW
71 CHARLI XCX | YOU (HA HA HA)
70 CHVRCHES | RECOVER
69 MAJICAL CLOUDZ | BUGS DON’T BUZZ
68 MAGNETA LANE | BURN (SUPERFREAKS REMIX)
67 SMALL BLACK | ONLY A SHADOW
66 MAJICAL CLOUDZ | CHILDHOOD’S END
65 JAMAICAN QUEENS | KIDS GET AWAY
64 PYYRAMIDS | DON’T GO
63 THE NATIONAL | THIS IS THE LAST TIME
62 KANYE WEST | BLOOD ON THE LEAVES
61 THE IRREPRESSIBLES | NEW WORLD
60 ELLIPHANT | DOWN ON LIFE
59 SKY FERREIRA | 24 HOURS
58 GUARDS | COMING TRUE
57 KIDS OF THE APOCALYPSE | EMPIRE
56 EMPIRE OF THE SUN | ALIVE
55 ANDREW PINSANU | RUFUS WAINWRIGHT
54 OURS | FALL INTO MY HANDS
53 THE NATIONAL | DEMONS
52 MYKKI BLANCO | HAZEBOOGIELIFE
51 THE WEEKND | TWENTY EIGHT
50 ALUNAGEORGE | YOUR DRUMS, YOUR LOVE
49 JAMAICAN QUEENS | WATER
48 THE NATIONAL | I NEED MY GIRL
47 THE BOXER REBELLION | ALWAYS
46 HAERTS | WINGS
45 SAY LOU LOU | JULIAN
44 MR. LITTLE JEANS | RUNAWAY
43 BIG BLACK DELTA | SIDE OF THE ROAD
42 LUXURY LINERS | CLEAR OR BROWN
41 KINGS OF LEON | SUPERSOAKER
40 TEGAN AND SARA | CLOSER
39 YOUNG GALAXY | PRETTY BOY
38 HAERTS | HEMIPLEGIA
37 GEM CLUB | POLLY
36 THE IRREPRESSIBLES | PALE SWEET HEALING
35 ANNA CALVI | ELIZA
34 ARCADE FIRE | AFTERLIFE
33 MILEY CYRUS | WRECKING BALL
32 DAFT PUNK FT. JULIAN CASABLANCAS | INSTANT CRUSH
31 DAVID BOWIE | WHERE ARE WE NOW?
30 OURS | DEVIL
Jimmy Gnecco from Ours is one of the greatest songwriters I know. The fact that he has a voice like an angel is just a bonus to his writing. This song could have been in any major movie or musical. It’s real. It’s intense. And it soars! He has an affinity for the ‘tortured soul’ vibe (don’t we all a bit?) and it unconsciously pours into his music in pure aching beauty. That’s why we love him so much.
29 AUTRE NE VEUT | PLAY BY PLAY
I tried to tell you all 90’s was coming back. (See Blood Orange below). Maybe it is, maybe it’s not – but I’ll dance to this style any day. A lot of hand pushing and posing. More please.
28 FOXES | BEAUTY QUEEN
The year of the female indie-dance-pop vocal? Looks like it. Yet another banger from an up and coming starlet. Think Marina & The Diamonds for 2014. One of the best pre-chorus melodies of the year.
27 CHARLI XCX | BLACK ROSES
Charli’s album was a pop throwback to 80’s chick dance. The chorus is undeniably perfect for my patented ‘twist and snap’ dance, so I had to include this. It’s also the best chorus on her entire debut.
26 STUDIO KILLERS | EROS AND APOLLO
A shiny and polished voice wrapped around a dance beat, pulsing synths, and piano line worthy of Coldplay. This is a Pop-Dance-Club song that feels refreshing and fun, yet non-disposable. Plus, one of the best lines of the year: “Soon he will eat your heart like cerealz”.
25 CAVEMAN | IN THE CITY
This song hides a lonely quality amidst its grooves and saturated synths. It encapsulates the feeling of being lost and in need somewhere where buzzing lights flicker around you in the dark. It gives me a weird feeling, and I love that.
24 THE BOXER REBELLION | DIAMONDS
A half time head-nodder in double time, it rolls with swagger though it never really crawls out of its shell. Still, the song’s structure is pretty much perfect by providing a pay-off after the very subtle chorus with “further than I ever was.” It feels like being at the cool party in an overly starched suit, but every time you hit play it makes you light up.
23 VAMPIRE WEEKEND | STEP
The first single from this amazing album may feel like a graduation song, but the instrumentation is completely unorthodox. Harpsichord arpeggios, keyboard choir notes, and even a detuned vocal outro. The high fidelity drum quality gleams like a bell top, his lazy/breezy vocal walk through feels effortless and out of time, just perfectly so. It remains atop the best vocal productions to come around in a long time.
22 THE SHOES | TIME TO DANCE
(Best video of the year).
21 WHITE LIES | BIG TV
I related the feeling of his lyrics by applying my connotative associations with hotel rooms from being on tour and working in music. When 50% of my life has been spent in hotel rooms so much so they become a second home, the parties, the shows, the events, all lead back to that place. ‘I’ve got a room downtown with a bed and a big TV.”
20 SKY FERREIRA | OMANKO
The buzzing city christmas lights provided perfect backdrop for hazy piece. Lifting the constant drum slosh from one of my fav groups from the late 70’s Suicide, there’s something unconventional about this on first listen. It feels messy. But it feels bright. It’s a late night party with strangers in a strange city, and it’s a hangover in itself. She also sings it with the perfect amount of conviction for such a strange topic. “I’m gearing up for a Japanese Christmas”.
19 HOZIER | TAKE ME TO CHURCH
This song benefits greatly from it’s stirring black & white video. It has a great chorus about wanting to confess your bad deeds and the need to be cleansed, though it walks a fine line on almost mocking that need. “I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife.” The best indie-gospel song of the year right here.
18 IAMX | TRIALS
IAMX always makes the last song on his albums memorable. I think that’s important to the flow of a record – leave them in a zone, leave them complete, but hungry to go again next time. Trials is that piece. It’s big and grand and he sells it.
17 VAMPIRE WEEKEND | DIANE YOUNG
Fun and raucous. The “Baby baby baby” breakdowns let the singer trip into Elvis territory by digital manipulation. Crank that part up, it’s pristine and feels like candy in your ears. Amazingly well done.
16 BEYONCE | XO
I’ve always wanted to release a video album. I don’t have the budget, but Mrs. Carter does. This song (and video) is the highlight of that package, and it feels like soaring through a hazy summer night. Her voice captures the feeling perfectly, and it all seems like maybe we can make it through anything. The lyrics remain simple as possible: “Baby love me, lights out.”
15 ARCADE FIRE | PORNO
Pitchforkmedia sited this song as the weakest track on the album. I ‘m so glad I disagree with them. In fact, I think it’s the highlight of this record. It was a perfect late fall soundtrack for me.
14 THE NATIONAL | PINK RABBITS
This is a band who’s lyrics are always quotable, you can chose almost any line and dissect it a million times. So stark and to the point. This particular song is a reflection of a lot of the sentiment on this brilliant album. He’s still an underdog, even with fame and success. “I’m so surprised you wanna dance with me now.” “You didn’t see me I was falling apart, I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park.” Nothing tops his words for 2013.
13 NIGHT BEDS | EVEN IF WE TRY
This band made me cry in Detroit. I saw them in a small café with maybe five people in the room, and during this song his voice moved me to tears. There is something downright spectacular about pure and rich in emotion it is.
12 JAMES BLAKE | RETROGRADE
My father’s favourite singer is Luther Vandross. Often times he would rant about Luther’s incredible range and pitch and force me to watch youtube clips of “House Is Not A Home” as rolled his eyes back in some sort of musical envy/ecstasy. I played this song by James Blake for him and he immediately pointed out the similarity. Blake is a fantastic singer. I encourage you to watch him sing this live. Though his albums don’t match up, and this track might be a bit too short, the chorus is pure power. And from a British white man nonetheless. The saturated buzzing synths are loud in the mix, but they create a sort of feverish disorientation which ultimately gives the track it’s uniqueness and glory.
11 GALLANT | MANHATTAN
Late in 2013, I found this song buried on a playlist within a bunch of mediocrity. After a couple listens I was hooked. And the more I listen to it the closer I feel it should be to the top. The chorus lilts into gorgeous and sultry R&B territory while still remaining mysterious. The words VCR never sounded so beautiful.
10 IAMX | SCREAMS
This man never ceases to amaze me with his songwriting. This is one of the most emotional performances he’s given. When he sings “I hear screams”, his jarring falsetto is laced with fear. It’s very pretty and frightening.
9 BLOOD ORANGE | CHAMAKAY
I knew early 90’s was coming back! I knew it. I’ve been waiting. I hope this sparks that movement (think less Nirvana, and more Colour Me Badd). Hands down best dance moves of the year (see the video; note the shirt). Behind the style though, lies a beautifully heart-felt chorus that pulls you in deep. After a few listens it’s a part of you.
8 WHITE LIES | CHANGE
The first time I heard this track I knew I didn’t ever want to hear it again. I couldn’t. I was going through a difficult time and this embodied what I was dealing with. The lyrics, though simple, reflected my inner thoughts at the time more than any other song did. It’s a washy ballad draped in reverb that hangs from the speakers like a thick fog. If you’ve recently broken up with someone, I suggest you pay attention to the lyrics. Its message isn’t about feeling sadness about loss, but about not being able to adapt to new things that easily. A simple idea, but one heard often enough. When he sings “I’ve never been to good at change” he sounds inexperienced and young at love, someone who knows he’d rather just leave things comfortable then risk being alone, or finding someone new. But the safe way isn’t always the best way. Listening to the chorus I feel bad for him, then I realize I’m the same. Sometimes songs tend to stop your heart for whatever reason or connection you make to them, this was the one that did that for me in 2013.
7 ELLIPHANT | LIVE TILL I DIE
I fell in love with Elli after seeing this video. Who was she? I needed to know. She reminded me of a more refreshed M.I.A, and I was obsessed with how perfectly the low-fi VHS quality of the video suits the song. After a night out bowling with her I understood where the kinetic energy in her music comes from. She is a star brimming with positivity, and she has the vibrance of a diamond.
6 WHITE LIES | THERE GOES OUR LOVE AGAIN
I couldn’t tell you how many kitchen dance parties I had to this mimicking the amazing Chinese dancing-girl in the music video. It’s buoyant and full of life, giving the band a renewed energy after a so-so second album. It walks that very rare fine line between poppy and dark – it’s ridiculously catchy and leaves this listener with a huge sense of elation and excitement.
5 THE STROKES | CHANCES
I love it when Julian Casablancas sings a ballad. This song shows a softer side to the band, and his falsetto is on point because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The use of two different verse melodies is also interesting, because they’re both fantastic. But it’s the chorus that wins me over. It’s romantic and timeless, and the outro caps it off perfectly.
4 SMALL BLACK | SHOOK LOVES
This is the sound of a heart bursting with emotion over a sentiment that is confused with nostalgia & happiness. It draws tears for me because I miss something that is likely imaginary. You need to slow dance alone to this one and let it wash over you.
3 VAMPIRE WEEKEND | YA HEY
It wasn’t until someone emailed me this track specifically to listen to that I realized I may have missed it’s worth on first run of this album, what with all the amazing production elements scattered through it’s body. This song is special, and it’s bubbling choirs, growing vocal patterns, and infections digital “Yeah Hey!” yelps are a marvel of studio creativity. It’s intelligent and fun at the same time. Not easy to do. It’s goofy in a way while making you feel invincible.
2 THE STROKES | ONE WAY TRIGGER
Sure it’s a little cartoony, and a lot of people scoffed when they heard it, but again I state my case for allowing bands to grow and leave the profiling of their original work behind. Julian’s voice gets way up there, I mean waaay up there, and if you can see past the A-Ha influences and enjoy the ride, the chorus is complete bliss.
1 THE NATIONAL | SEA OF LOVE
As the lead single from their new album, I had put off listening to this track it because my expectations were so high. When I finally gave in, crossed my fingers and listened, I was giddy. I loved everything about it, most notably the end build on three amazing layers of melodies. I find the entire album a testament to a band who are just being good at being them, with no premeditations or purposeful intentions. This track was a reminder that upon following up their last masterpiece, they can still light up all the right areas of a song
1 THE NATIONAL | TROUBLE WILL FIND ME
This band just sounds like this band now. They are in their own genre. They are consistently putting out amazing albums, one better than the next. This album reveals itself in short bursts of brilliance the more you listen to it – that’s what makes a # 1 album, # 1. It has to last. And it has to continue to still take you places and reveal new things. Their last album still grows on me in new ways, I’m looking forward to this one doing the same. Matt Berninger’s baritone voice is as clear as it’s ever been. It carries weight. He doesn’t sing in any upper registers (he really has no voice there), but he absolutely glows down below. The album achieves it’s richness (seemingly) without trying or intentional effort, unlike Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend who make great records, but seem more premeditated at times. It’s hard for an album this good to exist without any producers and band members high-fiving around the room thinking they’ve “done it.” But they’re not underselling it either, there is an air of confidence which is important to the music. There are an immeasurable amount of words and lines within the record that you want to hold on to and repeat to yourself because they feel so incredible. The melancholic undertone to the record comes not from being intentionally moody, but by the way the music absorbs Berninger’s insecure complex into each song. He doesn’t light up the room, he’s a 45-percenter, a white girl in a crowd of white girls, a man going through an awkward phase, and he’s surprised you even want to dance with him. But all the low self-esteem never comes across as petty and ‘whoa is me’. Instead it’s almost cocky, especially through his deadpan deep voice. He’s accepted who he is, and his feet are firmly planted there. The National have gradually become one of my favourite bands of all time, and after seeing them live this year performing this album, it sealed the deal.
2 VAMPIRE WEEKEND | MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY
Obviously when an album has multiple songs that make the ‘best of’ list, the album qualifies. This album is more than just what other albums on this list are because it provided two things: The first being that it solidified Vampire Weekend as being one of the top bands of our generation. It’s the third album for these guys, and each one has gradually gotten better. It was make or break, and they didn’t just repeat themselves but they knocked it out of the park. Secondly, this is the most interesting production on an album since Radiohead’s OK Computer. Yes it’s miles apart in tone, and nowhere near as groundbreaking, spacey, and haunting – but it’s the first album that has made me excited about the engineering and technical aspect of an album since the mid 90’s. And that’s saying a lot because I’m a record producer. In interviews, they revealed that the band didn’t want to worry about how to recreate their studio sounds live, they just wanted to make a great record. I agree with that logic. There’s an analogue feel the album, but also a very bright digital one – though never cold. It’s brimming with clarity and it sounds like nothing else. Check out the instrumentation on ‘Step’. Consider that as a textbook study on how to take a song with a simple chord progression and build it entirely with parts outside the box. There are details everywhere. Bass drum compressions that suck air, reverbs that are warmer than real life, and some of my favourite vocal effects of all time on ‘Diane Young’ and Hey Yeah. The vocal production itself is incredibly clean and warm. Every song is a gift of ear candy to the listener. It must have been a fun record to make, and it’s certainly one of the most interesting. If you are not a fan of their sound and style, it’s understandable. But even if you hate their music, you have to give this album’s production and mixing some serious props.
3 THE STROKES | COMEDOWN MACHINE
Everyone wants this band to go back to the first album. But you know what, they’re never going to be able to re-create that magic. It was a one-time one-shot deal. And we need to accept them heading in new directions. This album is a prime example of where you can take garage sound when you keep pushing, for better or worse. Yes they’re playing with cartoony guitar tones, falsetto, and even 40’s production, but at its root – this is a great record start to finish. There’s only one call to the early days (All The Time) – the rest I just consider ‘new’ Strokes. Groovy, bouncy, dancey, and fun. What makes this record one of the best is the inclusion of two undeniably great songs’ One Way Trigger and Partners In Crime. One of their best albums in a while.
4 ARCADE FIRE | REFLEKTOR
I want to hate them too. But you can’t. They made a fantastic record. That’s it. Where else can they go after winning the Grammy for album of the year? Using LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and dotting the production with electronic flourishes is one thing to do. The production and mixing on the later half of this album is a thing of marvel. I listened to it three times in a row the first day it came out because I couldn’t get enough.
5 KANYE WEST | YEEZUS
This album got rave reviews, and a lot of people hate Kanye. He is a giant, and he knows it. That makes it hard for me to want to like anything he releases. But this album is a triumph for the genre of Hip-Hop. At this point in his career he can still change the game up – the production is raw, industrial, and noisy. The lyrics are on point. And though it’s citing as having no ‘chorus’ or hooks, it’s still pretty damn incredible. Where does he go from here?
6 THE 1975 | THE 1975
Everyone I showed this to thought it was a boy-band album, and most of my friends dismissed it, or didn’t “get it.” Are we that easy to dismiss polished production, bouncy rhythms, and uplifting pop as automatically boy-band territory? It’s an album full of sweet punches and saccharine melodies and it feels fantastic. It recalls Michael Jackson at times, and Boyz II Men at others and it seems to veer into 80’s territory more often than not. It’s an entirely smooth listen that makes the listener feel positive. That being said, it tires easily and doesn’t hold the weight that many classic albums do by offering layers. This one is a what-you-hear-is-what-you-get experience – but it’s chock full of delight.
7 WHITE LIES | BIG TV
White Lies’ debut album was a fantastically melodic experience mixing some of the dark elements of rock (Depeche Mode, Editors, Interpol) via thick brooding vocals and a sense of morose passion and storytelling. They wrapped that package up in something easily accessible by sticking to straightforward production and very formulaic songwriting. Their second album, though sporting much wider production at the hands of Alan Molder sparkled, but fell a little short on the songs. Now here, on their third effort we see a band that have dug deeper to find the golden tracks and chosen substance over style. There is nothing overly interesting about the sound of this album, in fact it’s cloudy and even clumsy at times. But it’s stacked with big tunes that will fill your head, notably the addictive first single ‘There Goes Our Love Again’ and the incredible work of emotional perfection, ‘Changes’.
8 AUTRE NE VEUT | ANXIETY
This is a fun driving record. It’s a great dance record. And it’s a great chill-out record. It’s also nostalgic in calling back to the early 90’s renaissance that’s coming into play right now. This album simply feels good.
9 IAMX | THE UNIFIED FIELD
This is one artist who has continuously released consistent material. You know you will always like at least a few songs on an IAMX album. This one is a start-to-finish listen, all killer.
10 BIG BLACK DELTA | BIG BLACK DELTA
After a couple great EP’s, Mr. Bates compiles all his music for this project together along with a few new tracks that make for a very high quality exercise in Electro-Rock. It would be higher on the list if I hadn’t been so familiar with the songs from previous releases. The new material is equally as good, and it’s impossible not to dance to this record.
11 SMALL BLACK | LIMITS OF DESIRE
This album makes me feel weird. It’s really hazy, and really nostalgic, like a lost 80’s tape of music someone left in a box in the attic. The writing and production on it, though upbeat, made me continuously sad. The song Shook Loves is so perfect it garnered repeated listens this year and made my heart beam with emotion. This album feels honest and soft-textured. To me it recalls hazy summer days, palm trees, oceans, and an era of obtainable optimism recognizably short-lived, which is sad in itself. It’s not perfect, or an ideal start-to-finish album, but it’s highlights and overall vibe are like a sunset painting on the wall.
12 ANNA CALVI | ONE BREATH
The female Jeff Buckley? Maybe. He’s definitely an influence. I missed her last album (now discovered and in rotation, heavily) but was lucky to finally discover her music. She’s a great guitarist and her voice carries the same vibrato and intensity that Buckley’s did. Perfect fall listening.
13 CHELSEA WOLFE | PAIN IS BEAUTY
She was the Goth-girl of 2013, taking Zola Jesus’ place. Dark, brooding, moody, and covered in reverb.
14 EMPIRE OF THE SUN | ICE ON THE DUNE
Their debut album hinted at greatness with Walking on a Dream, but fell short. This follow up delivers a nice treasure chest of goodies. It’s sparkly, fun, and uplifting without feeling cheesy, though it’s a fine line they’re almost tripping on. But they manage to stay on the right side of it.
15 MAGNETA LANE | WITCHROCK EP
I can’t really write an unbiased opinion of Lexi Valentine’s voice since every time I hear her sing a sea of emotions wash over me from both good and bad memories. However, I can say that this trio has continually released great albums proving Valentine’s incredible sense of songwriting, especially for her age. She’s always been well beyond her years and I hope the world embraces this band the way it should.
16 THE BOXER REBELLION | PROMISES
Their debut single “Evacuate” was an explosion of Bloc Party-esque dance-rock, but they failed to live up to it’s energy on full albums. Now, finally this release proves there was going to be a worthwhile album somewhere along the way. Also one of the best cover shots of the year.
17 BURIAL | RIVAL DEALER
2007’s Untrue was a special kind of album for me. The desolately beautiful song Archangel played an important in role in my falling hopelessly in love with an eccentric American girl. It was the cold soundscape of winter’s air being kept at bay while energies circled around inside a dim room. It was some sort of distant cry that dissipated into embers outside of our bedroom, and I can no longer listen to it. Burial’s new album is his best work since, and though it offers a much different dynamic than most albums on this list, it’s one of the most intriguing and mysteriously depressing works of the year – if you like that sort of thing.
18 THE IRREPRESSIBLES | NUDE
This came relatively early in the year and filled all the empty spaces of the winter nights. His voice is reminiscent of Active Child, Antony & The Johnsons, (and to a lessor extent City & Colour) – highly emotional with a quivering falsetto, and pretty. There are a lot of homosexual undertones to their music which adds to the isolation, need for acceptance, and inner soul-searching that spills out of the lyrics. One of the saddest albums of the year. Also one of the most articulate for love.
19 PAUL BUCHANAN | MID AIR
The album plays like one thought, one song drawn into sections. It’s extremely delicate and broken. What you hear is an aged man and a lonely piano, nothing else. It’s an album for late night headphones when the world is quietly sleeping outside your window.
20 SIGUR ROS | KVEIKUR
When you’re this good, you can do no wrong. These albums are never about songs or singles but more just being great at what they do – providing landscapes and emotionally driven (albeit non-sensual) music. Their film (Inni) really captured what it feels like to witness them live, but after seeing them again this year, it’s still hard to explain to people. Is it a rock show? An Icelandic opera light show? They draw thousands of fans to each sold out concert, yet they are playing music that no one can really sing, never gets radio play, and isn’t even in English. But what band out there can drive this much emotion out of their instruments? This album explores heavier territory then their previous records, which is much welcome.
RACHEL ZEFFIRA | THE DESERTERS
THE HUNT | THE HUNT BEGINS
YOUNG GALAXY | ULTRAMARINE
VONDELPARK | SEA BED
DAWN RICHARD | GOLDENHEART