13. Gesaffelstein – Aleph
Gesaffelstein’s latest album was one of the best EDM albums released in 2013. Aleph is an album of stark contrast with heavy bangers and brooding minimalist tracks. Despite the drastic difference between tracks Aleph is surprisingly cohesive. Gesaffelstein’s music sometimes reminds me of something that would be on the soundtrack to a movie like the Matrix or Mortal Kombat. Thats not a bad thing.
12. Deerhunter – Monomania
Deerhunter make really good avant-garde rock and their 6th studio album Monomania is no exception. Monomania is a scruffy lo-fi sounding record with lots of energy and focus. This album is very reminiscent of 90’s garage rock but is not overly reliant on past records from that era for its musical creativity. Monomania was one of the more under appreciated records from 2013.
11. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
High expectations accompanied Earl Sweatshirt’s return to music in 2013. Doris, Earl’s proper album debut, proved that Earl truly is the rap prodigy he is made out to be. I am constantly blown away at Earl’s pure skill on Doris. The production, handled by Tyler the Creator, is top notch and nicely compliments Earl’s strung out laid back style. The craziest part of Doris is that Earl is only getting started.
10. James Blake – Overgrown
James Blake’s highly anticipated sophomore album came out earlier this year. While Overgrown did not rise to the level of greatness of Blake’s self titled debut it is still a fantastic album. James Blake’s style on this record has evolved a bit but nothing really drastic. He still makes great melodies that you want to listen to again and again.
9. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Chance the Rapper is another young rap prodigy that made big waves this year. The Chicago rapper has yet to release a studio album but his mixtape from 2013 is better than half of the rap albums that came out this year. His voice can be a little abrasive at first but Chance the Rapper makes incredibly witty heartfelt music that grows on your more and more with every listen.
8. Atoms for Peace – AMOK
This is another album I feel did not get enough credit this year. Its not as good as a Radiohead album but nonetheless it is a damn good album. Atoms for Peace have managed to take the often times stale digital sound of electronica and make it organic and palpable. The upbeat, groovy, and multilayered songs on AMOK make for great listening anytime.
7. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Foxygen was a new find for me in 2013 and one of my favorites. Foxygen’s label debut We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors Of Peace & Magic is one of the tightest most focused albums I’ve heard in a long time (even if the title is not). We Are… is a perfect distillation of some of the best records made during the 60s and 70s (think Dylan, Beatles, Stones, Animals, Kinks, Doors, Bowie, and Lou Reed). Of course this isn’t the first time that a band has relied heavily on that glorious era of music in its songwriting, what makes Foxygen special is that the nostalgic psych rock album they’ve recorded rises above boring imitation. I can’t wait for this band’s next album.
6. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Arcade Fire’s fourth album Reflektor was one of the most anticipated albums year released in 2013. Amazingly enough Arcade Fire has largely met the crazy expectations for their new album. Reflektor is a great album and one where Arcade Fire took risks rather than play it safe. The band teamed up with recently retired LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy to produce Reflektor. That alone is indicative of Arcade Fire’s intentions with Reflektor. Arcade Fire’s 4th album is a rhythmic centric dance oriented album. The songs are reminiscent of disco but with a rawer more organic Caribbean sound. Despite the lighthearted tone of the music, Win Butler’s lyrics throughout the album are deeper and more poignant than ever. Reflektor is a fun and engaging album thats worth listening to over and over.
5. Kurt Vile – Waking on a Pretty Daze
Wakin On A Pretty Daze was one of my favorite albums of 2013 (and one of my favorite deluxe record presentations). Kurt Vile, in my opinion, is one of the best guitarist/songwriters in music today so if you haven’t heard him this is a perfect album to start with. The title of the album, Wakin On A Pretty Daze, is a pretty good descriptor of the record. Vile’s majestic guitar playing coupled with his witty lyricism make it easy to drift away in his music. This was my go to record for kicking back and relaxing in 2013.
4. Disclosure – Settle
When I blogged about Disclosure a while back I said that their debut album would probably be the dance album of the year. Based on all the year end lists I’ve read it appears Disclosure lived up to the prediction. In a crowded field of EDM artists and producers, Disclosure have set themselves apart with their unique blend of retro and futuristic garage/house. Despite being a dance album it is able to stand on its own as a cohesive piece of pop music. Settle is as good in your living room or car as it is on the dance floor. I am excited to see what these extremely talented young brothers do next.
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Vampire Weekend has somehow gotten better and better with each album, which is mind-blowing considering how good their first and subsequent albums were! Modern Vampires of the City is the smartest and most interesting album I listened to in 2013. The music on this album is still very much characteristic of Vampire Weekend but with more pronounced elements of pop and hip hop (like the interpolation of a Souls of Mischief song with the track Step). The production is very meticulous and well thought out on this record but where Vampire Weekend has come the farthest is in the lyricism. Ezra Koenig’s lyrics are so rich in meaning they’re literary. Modern Vampires of the City is a deeply affecting and humanist album of music for the moment we live in.
2. Darkside/Daftside – Psychic/ Random Access Memories Memories
Nicholas Jaar, the Chilean born musician-producer, released his debut album as Darkside, his new project with guitarist Dave Harrington, in 2013. Psychic is one of the most hypnotic electronic albums i’ve ever heard. The opening track spans nearly 12 minutes! However, like most of Jaar’s music, Darkside reward patience with deep flowing grooves. The music on Psychic sucks you in and surrounds you with dense layers of detailed instrumentation and sound. With the added element of guitars and vocals its hard to describe Psychic as a techno album yet progressive techno and deep house undergird the entire record. The album also has a lot of 70s rock vibes that at times evoke the likes of Pink Floyd and the Doors. Psychic is an impressive and memorable debut for what will hopefully be a fruitful and prolific collaboration by the group Darkside.
Darkside also released a free remix album on soundcloud under the temporary name Daftside in 2013 that was just as good as their impressive debut album Psychic. Random Access Memories Memories is a total reimagination of Daft Punk’s highly anticipated and equally divisive 2013 album. RAMM is wildly eccentric and weird but yet a very danceable electronic album. These tracks are as good on headphones as they would be on the late night club dance floor. I was not a big fan of Daft Punk’s new album but RAMM is everything I wanted it to be! If you’re a fan of Daft Punk and whether you liked Random Access Memories or not Daftside’s Random Access Memories Memories is a must listen.
1. Kanye West – Yeezus
Kanye’s 6th studio album Yeezus was my number one album of 2013. Composed of 10 tracks with a running time at exactly 40 mins, the album is an exercise of unusual restraint and minimalism from the bombastic rapper. The album is heavy, dark, funny, and completely enthralling. From the opening seconds of the album it becomes immediately apparent that Yeezus is completely different from anything in mainstream pop and hip-hop today. I love the deep electronic influence that permeates every song on Yeezus. The beats and production on this album are simply amazing. I listened to this album more than any other album in 2013 and I have yet to get tired of it.