Short List: The Ten Best Albums Of 2013
Good grief 2013. You provided quite the soundtrack.
It’s incredibly daunting to pick my ten favorite albums of the year. I already feel like I’m cheating on Dawes, Lady Lamb The Beekeeper, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Frank Turner, Surfer Blood, Phosphorescent, and so many more. They all put out amazing works of art this year, however, in the end these are the ten albums that are most important to me.
You’ve been mighty kind to my ears 2013. Here are your best offerings in order:
(NOTE: SOME WRITING HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY ON THIS SITE)
10. K.S. Rhoads – The Wilderness
Released: March 5th
K.S. Rhoads came out of nowhere this year and for the most part remains under the radar, which is a crime. “The Wilderness” is a collection of catchy pop songs that begs to be listened to with an honest open ear. The simple piano and hum of “Invisible Fortress” is still one of my favorite moments in music all year.
9. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone
Released: May 6th
“Pushin’ Against A Stone” is a kickstarter-fueled masterpiece straight outta Memphis. It’s backwater and crunchy without ever feeling forced or nostalgic. June bleeds soul, folk, country, blues, bluegrass, and southern-tinged rock so effortlessly here it’s astounding. Yet, it all feels fresh and crisp. The girl is a star.
8. The 1975 – The 1975
Released: September 2nd
Matthew Healy and company sing about sex, drugs, and an occasional gun in their petticoat. They love girls. Girls with boyfriends, girls who sleep around, girls who hope to understand their tangled English hearts. They do it all though with a bouncy, playful chugging sound that harkens back to Terence Trent D’Arby, or…dare I say…Prince.
7. Arctic Monkeys – AM
Released: September 6th
“AM” is a crunchy, dark ride that’s not a tribute to 70′s glam rock, it is 70′s glam rock. That’s an important distinction. The Arctic Monkeys don’t imitate the pounding bass and sharp riffs of an era, but puree them into a sexy strut that Billy Squier and Ace Frehley would be proud of. Alex Turner croons with blended harmonies that bleed a porno back beat until it crescendos with Black Sabbath like force, all done with the lyrical luring of a guy who drives a carpeted van. But it works.
6. GRMLN – Empire
Released: June 4th
GRMLN is my little band that could this year. It’s pop punk in the truest form of the word. Not a glossy collection of power chords and “aww man girls are tough”, but rather a punk rock record with a smile and a heart on its sleeve. It’s raw and honest, loving and earnest. A little California with some East Coast swagger.
5. Volcano Choir – Repave
Released: September 3rd
“Repave” is a building ambient trek that hits in a beautiful way much different from Bon Iver. The songs swell and burst, leaving the earnest Vernon against sparse arrangements in spots such as “Byegone“, and “Acetate” in ways that previous efforts would never accept. The album is immersive and beautiful, and as wonderful as Vernon’s past works are…this is on a different level. Sink into it with someone.
4. Josh Ritter – The Beast In Its Tracks
Released: March 5th
Out of the ashes of Josh Ritter‘s divorce comes his finest album. The sincerity of “The Beast In Its Tracks” resonates because Ritter looks back on his relationship while simultaneously looking forward with optimism. It’s the words of a man who’s settled and at peace with the events in his life. It’s also a glimpse of rare honest perspective when it comes to the failings of relationships. For that, look no further than this “New Lover” lyric.
“Perhaps the fault was mine. Perhaps I just ignored who you’re always gonna be, instead of who I took you for. I’ve been treated worse it’s true, still I expected more.”
3. The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk
Released: May 21st
“Talon Of The Hawk“, marked the return of The Front Bottoms. Everything here is tighter and more focused than their full length debut two years ago. Gone is some of the violence and sex, making way for more pointed lyrical gems like “I want to be stronger than your dad was for your mom” and “goodbye future once so bright, meet my pregnant girlfriend“. It’s a special album that gives you something different to take with you after every listen.
2. Kanye West – Yeezus
Released: June 18th
I mean, what can you say here that hasn’t been said. The album is a landmark. It’s the moment hip hop went punk rock. It became bigger than an album, it became a movement. “Yeezus” was at first surprising, even tough to listen to in certain places, but the spectacle that accompanied it will forever cement its place in music history. Each track burns in the right way. It’s aggressive and abrasive, but hits harder once the shock diminishes. How many albums can you say that about? At its root it still feels like the best way to approach “Yeezus” is as a piece of art, because it is. Maybe he’s not that crazy after all.
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Released: May 6th
Often in the back half of our twenties we get stuck between ideals. The consequences of life have become clearer and more ever-present. Not in a morbid way, but in a way that comes with a better understanding of the world. An understanding that you will never fully understand, but still feel around in the dark for the things that bring you peace. It’s then that the things that drive you shift, along with your views on life and love, how they commingle and make sense in the most confusing of times. You are rebuilding the castle with spare parts from the things you thought.
It’s a change between brooding self-interest to open minds for some. A more sincere love and a deeper examination of relationships, all born out of the recklessness of youth. But it’s not a life or thought that you graduate to. It’s a shaky upward climb. It’s a swerving ride across questions that you never thought to ask.
With that, we often spend this time with one foot intrenched in more than one mindset. Looking back with fondness but appreciating the lessons learned since. Holding on to love’s past while you view missteps through a clearer lens, and shaking old habits of flawed thinking while discovering new worlds in plain sight.
There are things in our lives that are no longer infinite, so we better get to living while we can. We once thought we had things figured out, but we don’t. The good news is in learning that “figuring it out” is the journey worth taking. The question we never thought to ask is the life we were meant to live, and the loves that come and go are just a part of that question.
In my mind, Vampire Weekend has written a love letter to being in this place. It’s called “Modern Vampires Of The City“.
“Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth. Age is an honor – it’s still not the truth.”
Along the way they explore time, religion, love, and self-understanding….but never come to a resolution. I think that’s the point, and why this album is beautiful. There is no resolution, just these words that leave you…
“you take your time, young lion”
It’s worth your time, no matter where you find your footing.
And with that we put the wraps on 2013. You were a interesting trip, and I thank you for the experience. I will look back on you with a smiling heart and a wink. May history be as kind to you as you were to me.
And you you eyeballs reading this. May the new year bring you joy.