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.