Best Music of 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013

on December 13, 2013, 12:01am
view all

 __________________________________________________________

humming Top 50 Albums of 201315. Local Natives – Hummingbird

Following the dismissal of founding bassist Andy Hamm and the death of singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother, Local NativesHummingbird was a decidedly more somber affair than their euphoric debut. Yet with the help of The National’s Aaron Dressner, who produced the record, the LA quartet managed to sidestep the dreaded sophomore slump while not straying too far from their comfort zone. They’ve always been sonically prone to comparisons with bands like Arcade Fire and Grizzly Bear, and those parallels still hold true here.

But with Hummingbird, Local Natives added welcomed emotional depth and surprisingly heart-wrenching song craftsmanship. See: “Colombia”, where a bleary-eyed Ayer poses unanswerable questions to the heavens. The stunning torch song succeeds both as a private observance and mile-high tribute to his mother. “Am I giving enough?” “Am I loving enough?” he ruminates, and you can practically see him by the hospital bed as she takes her final breaths. –Bryant Kitching

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

Danny Brown Old14. Danny Brown – Old

Danny Brown calls himself “old,” yet his technique improves with each record, his taste for beats honed to a science. Credit his flourishing relationship with go-to producers SKYWALKR and Paul White. When Brown wants a party banger (like the cheefing anthem “Kush Koma”), he’s given a trap beat that aligns perfectly with his fast, spastic flow. About half the tracks on Old fit this mold, while the rest see Brown in conscious mode, relating poignant anecdotes (“Wonderbread”) and ruminations (“Torture”, “25 Bucks”) about his harsh childhood in Detroit. Softer sounds and tamer rhyme schemes define these moments, with electro acts such as Purity Ring and Charli XCX making effective guest appearances. The striking thing about Old is how in touch it sounds. Its 19 tracks are a tour through contemporary pop and electronic music — from dubstep to smooth R&B. There’s really nowhere Danny Brown won’t go, no topic he won’t rap about, and that explosive uncertainty drives Old. –Jon Hadusek

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

nick cave bad seeds push the sky away13. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

Nick Cave sings a line in Push the Sky Aways penultimate track about “Miley Cyrus swimming in a pool.” A supposed free-form lyric in February became a reality this summer, when the former Disney princess shocked parents everywhere with her pool-party antics in the “We Can’t Stop” music video. The band’s 15th studio album is dark enough without this bizarre and accurate prediction, with the eerie siren calls of “Mermaids”, the destitute prostitutes and johns of “Jubilee Street”, and potentially soul-questioning scientific discoveries (“Higgs Boson Blues”). But while Cave and his Bad Seeds are no stranger to the darkness (Murder Ballads) and even subtle production (The Boatman’s Call), it is the combination of these two that make for a subdued and often uncomfortable record. Cave’s knife hasn’t dulled over the past three decades, and if Push the Sky Away is any indication, it could stay sharp for decades to come. —Justin Gerber

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

JuliaHolter_LoudCitySong12. Julia Holter – Loud City Song

From Tragedy to Ekstasis to this year’s Loud City Song, Julia Holter has not only transitioned from one-woman bedroom show to touring with a large accompanying band, but also into acquiring multiple vocal and musical personalities. With these new facets, Holter intricately concocted a Gigi-inspired third record of intricate dreamscapes and cityscapes, all the while maintaining a horrifically beautiful atmosphere full of contradictory timidity and societally despairing nightmares.

“The feeling you get from the Gigi character is that she is trying to figure out why she doesn’t understand society, and you get the sense it is ‘loud’ to her, that she is bombarded by it and she is running away from it,” Holter told The Quietus. From the haste-laden footsteps of “Horns Surrounding Me” to the jazzy informality of “This Is a True Heart” to the observation-driven “World”, Holter has succeeded in making the depiction of this Gigi character a vicarious one, the record ultimately never ceasing to surprise your imagination. –Zander Porter

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

HAIM Days Are Gone11. HAIM – Days Are Gone

What HAIM managed to accomplish on the sheer potential of Days Are Gone is astounding. When the record finally dropped, all the hype proved so very worth it. But besides undeniable tracks like “The Wire” and “Falling”, the album is remarkable for the way it simultaneously exemplifies and rewrites the typical indie pop-star story.

Infectious, relatable heartbreak songs that hearken as much to 70’s pop (“Honey & I”) as to millennial electro-noise (“My Song 5”) bridge the gap between mainstream megastar potential and blog darlings. Based solely on singles, they locked in a massive festival schedule, performed for the British Prime Minister, and signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Yet throughout all their success, no one talks about the fact that this is a girl group. I challenge you to think of an all-female band that has put out a record this attractive in the last decade.

That few mention gender when discussing HAIM is not an issue, though; it’s a testament to the talent encapsulated on Days Are Gone and the state of music in 2013. Borrowing styles from multiple eras, performed and written by the musicians on the cover: this is the modern pop album. –Ben Kaye

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon
__________________________________________________________

view all
5 comments