Looking back on this year’s top 10, I think this may be the most eclectic list I have put together to-date. A sign of my musical tastes shifting as I get older? While that could certainly be the case, I pin it on something else – slight disappointment from a few much-anticipated albums this year from bands for whom I have high expectations. Many of these albums can be found in the “Honorable Mention” section below, meaning they weren’t exactly “bad.” Just didn’t meet my high expectations for them.
However, a few new artists (at least new to me) stepped up with some strong albums in 2013. Six of the albums below are from artists that I had not listened to at any great length prior to this year. I believe that’s a result of both factors mentioned above – shifting tastes and my seeking out new music in the face of disappointment from a few of my favorite bands.
Here it is, your 2013 Top 10 Albums, with a Spotify playlist featuring the standout track from each album.
10. Mikal Cronin – MCII
Every time I listen to this album, I feel like I am right back on the left coast. That is not a bad thing.
9. Radical Face – Family Tree: The Branches
Radical Face – AKA Ben Cooper – has become one of my favorite artists. His last album – The Family Tree: The Roots – was #6 on my 2011 list, and remains a part of my regular rotation. This album continues the “Family Tree” series in similarly strong fashion.
8. Local Natives – Hummingbird
I had heard a lot about Local Natives leading up to the release of their debut, Gorilla Manor, in 2010. And while I enjoyed that album, Hummingbird is far stronger throughout. A great work of indie rock.
7. Volcano Choir – Repave
You can sign me up for anything that involves Justin Vernon. This album gets stronger with every listen.
6. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
Coming from post-hardcore band Million Dead, Frank Turner has carried much of that same angst into his solo career, even though the genre has changed over to more folk/americana. It’s the blending of past and present that makes this album so fun.
5. Gregory Alan Isakov – The Weatherman
There’s nothing complicated about this album, just genuinely good song-writing from an artist I’ve followed for a while. Its simplicity is what keeps me coming back for more.
4. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
An album that feels familiar the first time you listen to it. A great sound from a band that I believe has even bigger things ahead of it.
3. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
An album that is both upbeat and haunting, sexy and serious at the same time. In any given month of 2013, a different track from this album was on my favorites list.
2. PAPA – Tender Madness
PAPA broke onto the scene through a series of singles that came out over the course of 2012 and 2013, so by the time the album dropped in October of this year, it was much anticipated (at least by me). For a couple months, this was going to be my #1. Tender Madness is chock full of potential singles, dance-a-longs, sing-a-longs, ballads, and tracks that are just fun to listen to. I LOVE this album.
1. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
I came across this album almost by accident – which seems to happen a lot with the advent of Spotify. While Matthew Hauck (the man behind Phosphorescent) had several previous albums before Mucacho, I was unfamiliar with him until this year. While Muchacho stuck out to me almost immediately, my true appreciation for the record came through going back and listening to Hauck’s earlier releases. It was through this process that I began to notice his experimentation with different sounds and vibes, and realized that Muchacho was a culmination of everything that had come before.
The album is great from the first track to the last track, utilizing hints of rock and roll, folk, indie, and just good ‘ol Americana. The album has a depth to it that you feel more and more with each listen. With Hauck apparently writing the majority of the album detached from modern society in a small community in Mexico, it seems he had plenty of time for soul-searching. And this album is the result of that search.
The World is a Beautiful Place & I am Not Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still
Jake Bugg – Self-Titled
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium
Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob
Flume – Self Titled