It’s been another banner year for music. There’s been some amazing and memorable records and songs, and some absolute kitsch as well. 2013 brought us some new, exciting artists like Lorde, Haim, and Chvrches. We’ve also seen, for the first time in 22 years, new music from My Bloody Valentine. Who could forget all of the over-hyped albums from the likes of Arcade Fire, Jay-Z, and Daft Punk? We’ve seen Miley twerk more times then we wanted to, we’ve heard Kanye complain more times than we’ve wanted to, but outside of those atrocities, not a bad year.
I, personally, had a great year of music discovery. Although my year has centered on rediscovering and discovering for the first time some electronica, dance, vintage Italo-disco, and new wave music of yesteryear, I’ve also heard some fantastic new music too. I’ve put together a list of my very favorite albums of 2013 and I’d like to share that list with you today. These are the albums I spent the most time with this year and the ones I believe are the best of the best.
I can’t believe the year is already over. In the words of the great Rich Homie Quan, “Got me feelin’ some type of way…”
These are my Top 10 Albums of 2013.
1. DISCLOSURE :: SETTLE
This year we’ve seen a reemergence of the EDM genre. Every pop artist out there is using hard, electronic dance music as the backdrop for sugary pop nuggets but Guy and Lawrence Howard of Disclsoure took us back to the UK style two-step and Detroit house music of the 1990s with this outstanding record. The lads used some little known artists to sing on the tracks with vocals and also used some amazing sampling and production techniques to churn out deliciously danceable song after song. I’ve listened to something off of this album almost every day this year since it came out. To me, this was the very best album of the year because there is not one bad song and it is truly a very unique piece of music. I’m going go ahead and say this: “Settle” is a better album then Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”. Sorry, not sorry.
2. DUCKTAILS :: THE FLOWER LANE
Matt Mondanile is the brains behind Ducktails and the guitarist from the amazing band Real Estate. On his second full length album “The Flower Lane”, Matt found his way out of the bedroom and into a studio to polish up his sound and write some of his best music. The title track sounds like a Steely Dan b-side while the hit single “Letter of Intent” is smooth and groovy like a late ‘70s yacht rock song. Matt’s influences shine through on this great record. This is another one I wore the grooves out of this year.
3. TORO Y MOI :: ANYTHING IN RETURN
Another of the great dance records of 2013. Chaz Bundick went back to the dance vibe of his early record “Causers of This” but maybe added a few more beats per minute. This album is filled with familiar sounds of the days of Italo-disco and funk music. Not to mention Toro puts on one of the bangingest live sets around. I’m always excited about a new piece of music from Chaz and Toro y Moi and this year they did not disappoint. Put this one on your turntable at a party and watch people start moving.
4. WHITE FENCE :: CYCLOPS REAP
After only really discovering White Fence in 2012 and wearing down my copy of “Family Perfume, Vol. 1 and 2”, White Fence dropped another amazing collection of psych-rock songs this year. Influences like The Kinks, The Byrds, T. Rex, and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd shine through this freaked out record. Tim Presley, man behind the band, legitimately writes and plays like its still 1969 which is totally amazing.
5. WILD NOTHING :: EMPTY ESTATE (EP)
I wrote a bigger piece on this album when I first started writing for Bhamfm.com and you can go back in the archives and read that. Although this is only an EP and I’m slightly cheating, I don’t care. I loved this record. New wave genius all the way around.
6. JON HOPKINS :: IMMUNITY
If Disclosure put out the best EDM record year, the Mercury-prize winning producer Jon Hopkins put out the best electronica record of the year and he’s up for another Mercury this year too. I saw a tweet from Purity Ring that mentioned Jon’s name and album earlier this year and I looked it up. I was captivated by the heavy base lines and static synth sounds. This album is intense, dark, and eerie at times but beautifully produced. I put the opening song “We Disappear” on one of our Mixtapes this year and that song is easily one of my favorite songs of the year.
7. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA :: II
UMO’s 2011 self-titled debut had everyone on the internet scratching their heads and wondering who this band was. After some major buzz grew around that first album, UMO picked right back up where they left off with “II”. Psychedelic guitar, funky drums and bass lines, and that high falsetto voice are etched into the signature sound of UMO. My favorite song of off
this album, “So Good At Being In Trouble”, is a majorly sexy R&B song that sounds like it was ripped right out of Stevie Wonder’s playbook.
8. MAJICAL CLOUDZ :: IMPERSONATOR
Majical Cloudz is the best opening band I discovered this year. I walked into Bottletree early on the night of the Youth Lagoon show in April and saw a medium statured bald guy with a white t shirt tucked into black jeans and another guy behind a grouping of keyboards standing on stage. The crowd was slightly chatty through the opening minutes of the first song, and then everyone got really quiet. Devon, the tucked in lead singer, belted out the songs from this record in the most beautifully haunting way and in between each song bantered and made jokes. Majical Cloudz’ songs are very serious and not terribly humorous so Devon’s stage banter made everyone even more comfortable with the ideals of the music. People were stunned and watched intently as the duo eased through their album and even played some newer songs. After they finished their set I fully expected people to talk about how weird what they just witnessed was, instead they were talking about how amazing. Just listen to this album.
9. YOUTH LAGOON :: WONDROUS BUGHOUSE
The most whimsical of my favorite albums, “Wondrous Bughouse” came out in the perfect time of year, spring. Trevor Powers’ boyish vocals and the amazing keyboards and pianos throughout this album make it seem youthful and fresh yet the lyrics are deep and thoughtful. Trevor used every possible inch of room on each song for the listener to explore. So many different sounds throughout the songs, each time you listen you find something new. I would probably describe it as what the Beatles would have recorded if they’d expanded an entire album off of the song “Tomorrow Never Knows”.
10. WASHED OUT :: PARACOSM
Washed Out is one of those bands that, for me, haven’t put out a bad piece of music yet. Each record has its own identity but you recognize the sound right away. I also wrote an extensive review of this album on this website that you can read as well. This was also one of my favorite shows I went to this year. Chillwave isn’t dead yet and that is just fine with me.
I could have probably put down more words for 10 more albums I loved this year but instead I’ll just list out my other favorites in no particular order. You could call these “honorable mention” but I won’t do that because they need to be mentioned no matter what.
I just can’t help myself.
Here are 10 more albums I loved this year:
Vampire Weekend :: Modern Vampires of the City
Free Time :: Free Time
Dent May :: Warm Blanket
Jonathan Rado :: Law and Order
Ducktails :: Wish Hotel (EP)
Earl Sweatshirt :: Doris
Jacco Gardner :: Cabinet of Curiosities
James Blake :: Overgrown
Ty Segall :: Sleeper
Beach Fossils :: Clash the Truth
I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what happens next year.