This is great whether you like Father John Misty, Arcade Fire, or just good music.
"Afterlife" is one of my favorite songs from Arcade Fire's newest album, Reflektor. Enjoy their performance from The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. What a great way to start the weekend! Crank it up.
The first nine months this year were just ok for me, but some late year discoveries bridged the gap. I bought less albums this year. As always, I found some real gems. Some you know about. I hope a few that you don't. Music discovery through year end lists is a joy for me and I hope for you. For my favorite compilation of year end lists check out Metacritic.
I'll given a lot of thought to my top 20. The honorable mentions are many, and all worth checking out. Also check out Greg Thornbury's year end list. There are albums there I'm just getting to know.
Buying Through Amazon: Some albums are pretty cheap right now, so if it looks interesting click through to Amazon to check prices and listen to samples. Clicking through my links and buying music (or anything) helps me to buy books & music as my family has no budget for either. And it costs you nothing extra to use my links! Thanks for your support.
Previous Years -- My Best Albums
Now, on to the good stuff from 2013...
2013 Honorable Mentions (no particular order): Danny Brown: Old | Deerhunter: Monomania | Derek Webb: I'm Was Wrong, I'm Sorry, and I Love You | Disclosure: Settle | The Lone Bellow: The Lone Bellow | Laura Marling: Once I Was An Eagle | Kanye West: Yeezus | Local Natives: Hummingbird | Low: The Invisible Way | Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You | Phantogram: Eyelid Movies | Pusha T: My Name Is My Name | Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest | The Avett Brothers: Magpie & the Dandelion | Okkervil River: The Silver Gymnasium | Woodkid: The Golden Age | Frightened Rabbit: Pedestrian Verse | Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience | Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap (free) | Kurt Vile: Wakin On A Pretty Daze
20. Burial: Rival Dealer EP | I'm cheating as I don't put EPs on my best albums of the year list, but Burial is always amazing and this is remarkable. Hear the culture speak to us.
19. Foxygen: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic | A lot of fun with throwback sounds and harmonies. Playful music but not childish.
18. The National: Trouble Will Find Me | These guys can do no wrong, but that can do better. A lot of the sound you love from The National, but it just doesn't have that handful of amazing. Still, it's really good. Oh, that all bands would miss like this.
16. Junip: Junip | An early contender for a top list album, but the second half of the album just didn't hook me for long. Still, some great stuff here from Jose Gonzalez. "Line of Fire" is the bee's knees.
15. Chris Thile: Bach: Sonatas & Partitas | It's classical music with a mandolin. Love. I listen while working, reading, or doing nothing but listening.
14. Savages: Silence Yourself | Grinding, growling, rocking, rolling, loud, aggressive without jumping in your face. In lots of ways, I think this is where punk music now resides.
13. Gregory Alan Isakov: The Weatherman | Gorgeous. Gentle & calming. Solid songwriting.
12. Autre Ne Veut: Anxiety | An emotional trip, but not without fun. The whole thing is good. Falsetto R&B, pop, electronic. Head bobbing will happen.
11. Forest Swords: Engravings | A sonic wonderland. Cinematic. Walking in slo-mo in your own movie scene. I can work to it, and I can just sit alone and let myself be swallowed up in the wonder.
10. Buke & Gase: General Dome | Prolly not for everyone. But holy cow, one listen through "Hiccup" (though the video might make you sick) had me hooked. I agree with Exclaim, "The pair are making strummable instruments sound new again, and it sounds like redemption. Proceed frantically and without caution."
9. Water Liars: Wyoming | It's similar to some music you may already love (Fleet Foxes, Pedro the Lion, Band of Horses). It feels lonely, and you will be thankful for it. One of the best lonely albums I've heard. I like what the New York Times says, "This duo’s dark, lonely, roots-minded indie rock is affecting, all the more for its sparseness." (HT: Kevin Cawley)
8. Deafheaven: Sunbather | The best reviewed album on Metacritic. I think it's the first metal album I've listed in my years of doing this. I like what Crash Music said, "A record everyone with half an experimental ear should experience, even if they run from it, screaming."
7. Arcade Fire: Reflektor | For all the Arcade Fire backlash on the one end and thoughtless love on the other, this is a great album. Building on where they came from and adding epic length dance songs, disco ball included. These songs swell and it's fun to get lost in them. But don't check your brain with the bouncer. The ideas here are thick.
6. Mikal Cronin: MCII | Throwback pop music that is ridiculously current and joyful. This has set a lot of my mood this year with playful melodies occasionally over some power chords. It's a sock-hop with growl. The appeal of the music is immediate as well as lasting. I keep coming back to it.
5. Jon Hopkins: Immunity | One album I'd love to make everyone sit and listen to. It's a sonic masterpiece. It's an album trying hard to push toward the top. Remember when I picked Four Tet for album of the year a few years ago? It's in that realm of awesome. Could have been my album of the year.
4. Jason Isbell: Southeastern | Packed with great songwriting. Heartfelt and genuine. This sounds like home, a safe place to admit you are a mess. The Independent: "brilliant: vivid, multi-faceted tales of souls adrift." Could have been my album of the year.
3. Arctic Monkeys: AM | Don't miss "No. 1 Party Anthem." For an album that really rocks out, that song is a great change of pace and just amazing. If you like The Black Keys, you will dig this album. If you like just cranking it up, yeah, that's a reason to get it. Could have been my album of the year.
2. Chvrches: The Bones of What You Believe | Most played album of the year in my house. Hook-filled fun. Head-bobbing, foot tapping, energy-rich. And yet the songwriting is solid. It's not just fun, it's serious music. My discovery of the year. Could easily be my album of the year.
1. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City | Breaking from the sound that made them great, this is their *beyond category* album. Some of the most creative, earworm music of the year with some of the best thought through lyrics of the year. Catchy but not at all cutesy. Massive, complex hooks. The most thought-provoking album of 2013.
The Field: Looping State of Mind came out today. When it started streaming free online recently I got my first listen and loved it. I just picked it up today and I'm listening as I do some work. It breathes wonderful, danceable, non-concentration breaking, atmospheric soundscapes. It fills up the room. I think you will like it a lot. Don't believe me? Ask Pitchfork, Drowned in Sound, CokeMachineGlow, and others.
I surprised many by choosing Four Tet's There Is Love In You as my album of year last year over Arcade Fire: The Suburbs and The National: High Violet. This year The Field is already making a strong argument for my best album of 2011.
Check out two new Arcade Fire songs, "Speaking in Tongues" and "Culture War" (via). These will be on a reissue of The Suburbs coming in August. By the way, The Suburbs & the rest of Arcade Fire's albums are $5 right now.
- Ha Ha Tonka: Death of a Decade ($2.99) | Daily deal, outstanding
- Middle Brother: Middle Brother ($1.99)
- Radiohead: Kid A ($2.99)
- Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool ($2.99)
- Coldplay: A Rush of Blood to the Head ($2.99)
- Cold War Kids: Robbers & Cowards ($3.99)
- Alison Krauss & Union Station: Lonely Runs Both Ways ($3.99)
- Elton John: Rocket Man - Number Ones ($3.99)
- The Beastie Boys: Solid Gold Hits ($2.99)
- Norah Jones: ...Featuring ($2.99)
- Tons of super-cheap classical music ($1.99-$2.49 each)
$5 ALBUMS | APRIL
- My Fav April $5 Albums | pick from these & many more...
- Sigur Ros: Takk...
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
- Lucinda Williams: Little Honey
- Explosions in the Sky: All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
- Yuck: Yuck
- PJ Harvery: Let England Shake
NEW & STREAMING FREE
Good New Music (out now)...
- Ha Ha Tonka: Death of a Decade | $2.99 today, love it!
- True Widow: As High As The Highest Heavens | Dark, heavy, fuzzy.
- Seven Swans Reimagined | a reworking of Sufjan Stevens' album by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Derek Webb, DM Stith, David Crowder and others
- The Mountain Goats: All Eternals Deck ($5)
Coming Soon | Streaming Free
- Panda Bear: Tomboy | anticipated album from Animal Collective frontman
- Low: C'mon | love this one so far
- Sojourn: The Water & The Blood: The Hymns of Isaac Watts, Vol 2 (pre-order)
- Raveonettes: Raven in the Grave
- Maritime: Human Hearts
FREE MUSIC - DAYTROTTER
- Glasser: Ring ($2.99) - I'm LOVING it | Pitchfork 8.0/10
- The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow ($5) - you need this
- Brett Dennen: Hope for the Hopeless ($3.99) - great voice
- Esperanza Spalding: Junjo ($5) - jazz, Grammy winner
- Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street ($5.99) - awesome
- Teddy Thompson: Bella ($5.99) | Metacritic 79/100
- Young the Giant: Young the Giant ($5) | CoS 4.5/5
- Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More ($5.99)
- Destroyer: Kaputt ($5.99)
$5 ALBUMS FEBRUARY - Today is last day!
- My fav $5 albums (Arcade Fire, Avett, Black Keys, Gillian Welch, Sleigh Bells, Justin Townes Earle, Ray LaMontagne, more!)
- My March list is coming soon!
FREE - DAYTROTTER
- Iron & Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days ($3.99)
- Blonde Redhead: Penny Sparkle ($3.99)
- Caribou: Swim Remixes ($3.99)
- Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More ($5.99)
- Green Day: Dookie ($3.99)
- Destroyer: Kaputt ($5.99)
- All my favorite $5 albums for February
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
- Once Soundtrack
- John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up!
- Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs: God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise
- PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (WOW, this is good, streaming FREE)
- Bright Eyes: The People's Key (better than I expected)
- Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots
- Radiohead: The King of Limbs (streaming also)
COMING SOON | STREAMING FREE
STREAMING FREE | COMING SOON
- DeVotchKa: 100 Lovers (enjoying it today, buy 3/1)
- The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh (must listen, buy 2/22)
- Telekinesis: 12 Desperate Straight Lines (buy 2/15)
- Bright Eyes: The People's Key (buy 2/15)
- Radiohead: The King of Limbs
- Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots (buy 2/15)
- February $5 Albums (Includes: True Grit Soundtrack | Sleigh Bells | Gillian Welch)
- Frank Sinatra: Songs for Swingin' Lovers! ($3.99)
- Nat King Cole: Love is the Thing ($3.99)
GRAMMYS | WORTH BUYING
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs ($5) | "Album of the Year"
- Esperanza Spalding : Chamber Music Society ($5.99) | "Best New Artist"
- Avett Brothers: Live, Vol 3 ($5) | performer
- Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More ($7.99) | performer
- Arcade Fire: The Suburbs | My #3 of 2010
- The Black Keys: Thickfreakness | My fav Keys album
- The Avett Brothers: Live, Volume 3 | Dude, it's the Avetts
- True Grit Soundtrack | One of the best I've heard
- Once Soundtrack | Heartbreaking yet hopeful
- Gillian Welch: Revival | Genius
- Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning | Epic songwriting
- Sleigh Bells: Treats | Crank. It. Up.
- Regina Spektor: Begin To Hope | A fav album & beloved by the fam
- Justin Townes Earle: Midnight At The Movies | Love his stuff
- John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up! | I dig The Roots
- Dr. Dog: Fate | Gotta like the dog
- Ray LaMontagne: God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise | I dig Ray
- Frank Sinatra: Songs From the Heart | Dude, it's Frank Sinatra
- Dean Martin: Amore | Dude, come on
- Buddy Guy: Living Proof | Dude, it's Buddy Guy
- Amos Lee: Supply & Demand | Smooth, baby!
- REO Speedwagon: Ballads | You can't fight this feeling
Check out the rest of Amazon's 100 $5 albums for February.
- $5 Albums: My Fav January $5 Albums | Don't Miss: J. Tillman: Cancer & Delirium | Arcade Fire: Funeral | Best Coast: Crazy For You | Buke & Gass: Riposte | Dawes: North Hills
- Streaming FREE: Smith Westerns (Dye It Blonde out tomorrrow!)
- Daytrotter FREE: Dirty Beaches | Iron & Wine
- Bits & Pieces: Highly anticipated albums from Chicago artists | Sarah Jaffe on World Cafe | Sharon Van Etten full live show download & Tiny Desk Concert (her 2010 album, Epic, is wonderful)
The Low Anthem had my #5 album of 2009 called O My God, Charlie Darwin. Their new album, Smart Flesh, comes out on February 22nd. Here they are singing "Ghost Woman Blues" on Letterman. What a great band...
Okkervil River was the indie band that in many ways started my love for indie music. They were the first indie band I saw in concert a few years back because of their The Stage Names album. Their new album, I Am Very Far, is still very far off (May 10th) but it's great to get a listen to what's coming via Fallon (and a little AC Newman)...
- $1.99 Albums (ENDS TODAY): Whole List | Don't Miss: Arcade Fire: The Suburbs | The XX: xx | The National: High Violet
- $5 Albums for November (ENDS TOMORROW): My Favorites | 20 Christmas albums, 8 greatest hits & 20 albums from bands like Arcade Fire, The Weepies, Radiohead & Brandi Carlile.
- Daytrotter: Via Audio | S. Carey
Pay what you want for Dunham Van Durham's Christmas album, Christmas From the Heartland. That's my photo on the cover. And seriously, we really enjoy the album each Christmas in our home. You need to check it out, stream it, download it.
Bradford Cox of Deerhunter/Atlas Sound offers four albums of demos for FREE: Atlas Sound Bedroom Database. I've heard about a dozen songs and I'm loving it. Atlas Sound: Logos is one of my favorite albums to listen to while working ($8.99).
I shouldn't have to say how fantastic The Suburbs by Arcade Fire is. It's outstanding. Did you know you can get it today for $1.99? Yeah. Also Neon Bible is $5.99 & Funeral is $5. Here's the Spike Jonze directed video for "The Suburbs," which visualizes a very near, dark future for the burbs.
- Hot Deals: The 99 Most Essential Christmas Masterpieces ($1.99) | Florence + The Machine: Lungs ($3.99) | Teenage Fanclub: Bandwagonesque ($3.99) | The 99 Darkest Pieces of Classical Music ($1.99) | Band of Horses: Everything All The Time ($3.99)
- $5 Albums: Reformissionary Recommendations for November | Don't Miss 5: Brandi Carlile: The Story | Ra Ra Riot: The Orchard | Fang Island: Fang Island | Dark Night of the Soul | Arcade Fire: Funeral
- Streaming: Pickins is slim this week, but don't miss the excellent Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (The Lost Sessions: Darkness on the Edge of Town)
- Also: You really need to check out Her Name Is Calla. Download The Quiet Lamb. I know I've been mentioning it like every week, but you need it every week. You are welcome. And go download for free Kernal Garner's new song, "Homicide." Love it.
I highly recommend Derek Webb's new album, Feedback. It "an instrumental electronic album based on the Lord's Prayer." I think you'll like it. It's creative & beautiful.
A discovery from the last couple of months has been Dark Dark Dark. I first heard of them via Daytrotter's free download from last month (also grab September 2009 & March 2009 sessions). Their newest album, Wild Go, is great. I'll soon be downloading all their stuff because of songs I've found from previous albums (Bright Bright Bright | The Snow Magic) like "Wild Goose Chase." Enjoy...
- $5 Albums for October: Don't Miss: Arcade Fire: The Suburbs | Sufjan Stevens: The Avalanche | Justin Townes Earle: The Good Life | See All 30+ Of My Favorites
- Daytrotter FREE: Gayngs (album Relayted only $5)
- Great Deals: The Social Network Soundtrack ($5, outstanding -- interview with /Film about the album) | 99 Most Essential Grieg Masterpieces ($1.99 classical) | Belle & Sebastian: The Life Pursuit ($3.99) | Arcade Fire: Funeral ($3.99) | 99 Most Essential Dvorak Masterpieces ($2.49 classical) | The Walkmen: Lisbon ($5.99)
- Streaming FREE: Avett Brothers: Live, Vol 3 | Belle & Sebastian | Antony & The Johnsons (their album, I Am A Bird Now only $5) | Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz
- Must Try: The Books: The Way Out is really interesting. Loving it so far, & only $5.
If you read my music posts even occasionally you probably know of my love of all things Delta Spirit. Both of their first two albums are outstanding: Ode To Sunshine (2008) | History From Below (2010). They recently appeared on Jools Holland playing one of my favorite songs, "Bushwick Blues."
And here's "9/11" from the same show...