Happy New Year’s Eve! Tomorrow will be 2014, and today I bring you my favorite albums of 2013 before The New New Pollution starts daily reporting on news, reviews, rundowns, reflections, features, and what to look forward to.
Here’s my top 100 albums of 2013.
100. Keaton Henson – Birthdays – not as good as Dear… but surprising.
99. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Ascension
98. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath The Moon – “Easy Easy”
97. Black Lizard – s/t
96. Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody – Black Horses
95. Uptown XO – Colour de Grey
94. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Descension
93. Black Sabbath – 13
92. The National – Trouble Will Find Me – One-dimensional – that’s all you need.
91. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
90. Beach Fossils – Clash The Truth
89. Tim Hecker – Virgins
88. Doldrums – Lesser Evil
87. Royal Forest – Spillway
86. Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister
85. Ducktails – The Flower Lane – Different path, but still interesting.
84. Frank Lenz – Water Tiger
83. Zachary Cale – Blue Rider – Hit and miss, but incredible when hits.
82. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
81. Kate Nash – Girl Talk
80. Foals – Holy Fire – “My Number” is flawless.
79. Rose Windows – The Sun Dogs
78. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare, Vol. 3: To See More Light
77. The Drones – I See Seaweed
76. Hugh Laurie – Didn’t It Rain – Manages to seep into your past lives.
75. Ghost (B.C) – Infestissumam
74. Guards – In Guards We Trust
73. Paul McCartney – New – Macca puts together his best tunes in a decade, proving his lasting influence as the greatest songwriter, save Bob Dylan.
72. Atoms for Peace – Amok
71. Shigeto – No Better Time Than Now – Wildly interesting layers of insane melodies.
70. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
69. The Woken Trees – Nnon – Heavy, primal post-punk that will shatter your skull if at a 8 or 9.
68. Holydrug Couple – Noctuary
67. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana – Sadie Dupuis is phenomenal and all the reason to delve into.”Tiger Tank” is the most ugly, beautiful song recorded in 2013.
66. Peace – In Love
65. Ka – The Night’s Gambit – Most minimalist hip-hop album you’ll hear and it will shake your foundation of the definition of the genre.
64. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
63. Yuck – Glow and Behold
62. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
61. David Lynch – The Big Dream – The great director can put together some strangely compelling (much like his films) music.
60. Autechre – Exai – Two hours of the most textured ambient music. You’ll lose yourself in this stuff.
59. No Ceremony/// – s/t
58. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe – Enchanting, mesmerizing vocal effects layered for absolutely stunning effect.
57. Holograms – Forever
56. Dead Confederate – In The Marrow
55. Zilla Rocca – Neo Noir
54. Ill Clinton – Ragnarok
53. 14kt – Nickel and Dimed
52. Washed Out – Paracosm – A grower, it teaches you that melody and texture and meet at the coffeeshop and love one another.
51. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
Okay, half way through. Also, going to spoil one thing with this incredible GIF.
50. Minks – Tides End
Minks’ second album is wildly different from his first album, due to the sheer mindset change. Pop-induced hooks are spread all over this album, especially on highlight “Playboys of the Western World.”
49. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
BoC’s return to this plane of existence comes with a much more distinctively barren sound. Soundscapes are much more minimalistic and intense. You get sucked in to the atmosphere.
48. Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Sludgy, destructive Alice is slowly becoming my favorite Alice. This album showcases the band’s effort to pummel and wash away the debris. “Hollow” and “Stone” are as good as any Staley-era single.
47. The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow
Indigo Meadow is a lighter, more accessible version of one of the most impressive psychedelic bands of the past decade, and it shows the band crafting their best hooks and pushing forward a diverse tone.
46. Cults – Static
A break-up deepened this band’s sound and the ashes furthered their songwriting talents. Throughout the band’s newest, they traverse neo-psychedelia with hooks that’ll never leave you. “High Road” is the band’s best song they’ve ever written, and it’s their most personal.
45. Cage The Elephant – Melophobia
An album full of compelling tunes, Melophobia sees Cage creating much more various tunes with many different sounds. There’s something for everyone on this new album. But those yelps on “Take It Or Leave It”… Wow.
44. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience, Pt. 1
The most ambitious pop album ever? Maybe not, but eight-minute odysseys into all of the melodies that could be contained, along with the usual incredible vocal performance from JT, make Pt. 1 a delightful adventure.
43. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk’s new album is a collection of extremely nostalgic, time-capsuling hits from the 70’s and 80’s, traversing around the world in tone. “Get Lucky” is an immortal pop hit – we’ll be hearing it forever.
42. Deerhunter – Monomania
Monomania is a wild ride. Distorted to all levels, the crunchy tone the album keeps up throughout is astounding. The title track thunders throughout, reaching a spiritual high at the refrain. By the time the song ends, your ears are still cracking with joy.
41. Darkside – Psychic
Darkside’s 45-minute psychedelic vision is sometimes bleak, but other times silky smooth with its beautiful production and well-engineered sounds. Every sound is crisp and hypnotic, leaving a thirst for more.
40. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
The most terrifying album of 2013, The Haxan Cloak utilize every noise in the void for this deeply dark dip into death. Highly ambient and ultimately shocking, Excavation is for the unstable minds.
39. Power Pyramid – The God Drums
Retro-shoegaze never sounds this good. Taking old school noise pop and twisting the formula a bit makes The God Drums unrelentingly whole. It’s a clever album with great songs and it’s worth a dozen listens.
38. Run The Jewels – s/t
Relentless raps over ten tracks, El-P and Killer Mike come out swinging wildly and hit every mark. You’re hard-pressed to find another mixtape of this caliber ever, much less this year.
37. Fuzz – s/t
Proto-metal doesn’t sound better than this in 2013. Ty Segall pounds mercilessly on the drums and sings his ass off. All the tracks are headbanging gems worth giving hours of your day to. Ty Segall can do no wrong.
36. Crystal Stilts – Nature Noir
Dazed-out and bleary, Nature Noir shows the band improving literally every quality of their sound, mostly including clearing up those reverb-drenched vocals. “Future Folklore” stabs your eardrums with fuzzed-out riffs and moody vocals.
35. Medicine – To The Happy Few
Blissful and bright, Medicine’s return to music brought us a joyous swirl of noise pop brilliance. This stuff is too up to be labelled shoegaze. The entire album is a brilliant experience and it’ll leave you smiling.
34. Ashley Eriksson – Colours
Eriksson’s delicate tunes tap you on the shoulder and wave their hands in a slow movement. She hypnotizes you with her small gestures and beautiful, captivating voice. “Humming In The Dark” walks up to you, looks you in the eyes, and hugs you.
33. Castle – Gasface
Blending hilarious raps about comics or laying down real, honest lines illustrate Castle’s talent well. Showing both sides, we get the fiction and the diary, and Gasface is truly a unique hip-hop trip. “Orientation” weaves the story of Office Space into a song, leaving you in stitches.
32. Disclosure – Settle
2013’s album to dance your ass off to – Settle features (pun intended) one dimension of music for an hour and keeps you moving. The same formula exists throughout – beat starts, vocals start, melody kicks in, hook, repeat. And it’s always enjoyable.
31. CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
Synthpop hasn’t been this good since the 80’s. Kicking it up ten notches from their early work, The Bones Of What You Believe feature excellent, nearly-bubblegum vocals on top of pulsing electronic music – there’s never a dull moment, especially not on highlight, “Gun,” which has the catchiest chorus of the year, easily.
30 – FIDLAR – s/t
Chalk full of surfy, raucous punk, FIDLAR’s debut album is the most fun you’ll have listening to a punk album all year. The meeting of ridiculous, crazy, and funny mix throughout on this excellent effort. I won’t go and betray you, FIDLAR. Not ever.
29. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
The Scots revitalize their career with their newest, a solid collection of tunes from start to finish. Smacking together a great collection of ballads and bass-driven jams, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action was really a fitting title.
28. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
Nick Cave’s still putting together incredible music. This time around, Push The Sky Away wanders down light melodies with Cave’s signature vocals and stories thundering throughout the entire album, keeping us in Cave’s grasp until the next time.
27. David Bowie – The Next Day (Extra)
The Next Day is a rare occurrence. Bowie, at his immortal and riding into the sunset, living on as one of the greatest people who’ve ever existed, drops this out of NOWHERE. We get a collection of brilliant rock songs with lyrics out of this world. Leave it to the most surprising figure in rock to continue to surprise.
26. Beyoncé – s/t
Beyoncé’s self-titled surprised everyone, but we did know something – that it was going to kick ass. And it did. Her 2013 effort is brimming with excitement at every turn and look. The Queen takes hold of her kingdom again, outshining her husband by a large margin.
25. The Internet -Feel Good
Odd Future-cohorts The Internet bring more to the table this time around, pushing their jazzy tunes into different territory and mixing up an entire album of genius tones and melodies. Throughout, you’ll get a whole slew of feelings and moods like you’re riding on a crimson wave with a purple sunset. What makes this album frighteningly interesting are the hooks – “Dontcha” gets you belting out along and “Wanders of the Mind” – with Mac Miller – has you crooning along. Feel Good really makes you feel good.
24. Oddisee – The Beauty In All / Tangible Dream
Packaged together, Oddisee brings two completely stylistically different releases that dazzle with every moment – you’ll start thanking the heavens that you get both albums soon. The Beauty In All is an instrumental release that beautifully finds beats that move you, while Tangible Dream has you listening to collected words that affect. Both have their own effects, but together, they are something very special.
23. Primal Scream – More Light
A spectrum of psychedelia, Primal Scream releases a jarringly vital album decades into their career. Throughout, everything is centered around Bobby Gillespie – he brings all of the songs to a whole new high. Belting out and whispering, Gillespie deserves an award for his performance alone. Albums don’t usually have this many good songs.
22. Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
Pearl Mystic starts out like a primordial ooze and unfurls into a screeching noise-fest of a powerful psych rock album. Once it actually kicks in, everything turns into a wild explosion of exacerbating insanity. At no point does this album stop or slow down from its head-first dive into oblivion, but that’s fine – it doesn’t need to. It blinds with sheer fury and chaos.
21. Pond – Hobo Rocket
Because when you go into a studio for three days and come out with an album, you’re going to sound funny. Thank god it’s actually funny. The Aussie psych rock band’s latest has spontaneous transitions into completely different sections of what would feel like different songs, but Hobo Rocket – in the title alone – should have already warned you that it wasn’t going to be serious. The signs are there – and they were executed perfectly.
20. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
NIN’s return after a break has Reznor pouring himself all of the ingredients into a mix and creating Hesitation Marks, by far, the band’s most various release. There’s something from every album here. Although NIN experiments a lot, most of every exploration is right on the money, including ambient “Find My Way.” Trent’s vocals are at front and center and, although sometimes trivial, shine with every syllable.
19. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Reflektor‘s unnecessarily long. There, that’s out of the way – Arcade Fire deepens the band’s sound with body (not head) music and makes James Murphy look like a genius (always a good thing). Tracks along the entire length ignite excitement, especially opener and title track. Opting for longer and dancier tunes, you’d think Murphy was part of the band at the end of the day.
18. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Grand, epic, and horny (I mean the musical way), Julia Holter’s third album booms loudly in the quiet fog of her voice. Mystifying and clearly gripping, Loud City Song is thematically in tune with Gigi, a 1944 novella, which uses its characters as figures in Holter’s life and times. Her synths illustrate the scene while her vocals tell a magnificent story.
17. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Earl opens his debut album like a continuation of his Earl mixtape, but the rest of this album zooms through themes like identity, longing, love, and marijuana (not a theme). “Hive” is 2013’s best rap track, pulsing with a sinister instrumental and coming out of his shell, pushing his best verses he’ll probably ever spit. Doris is a fantastic (official) start to a career I (and many others) will be following.
16. James Blake – Overgrown
Taking his minimalist approach to R&B, James Blake produces Overgrown, much more friendly than his previous, glitchy self-titled effort. “Retrograde” set the world afire with its catchy vocal melody and moody synths, while Blake crooned and did his most intense vocal of his career. Overgrown beautifully orchestrates Blake’s career trajectory from hush-hush to someone everyone has their eye on.
15. Savages – Silence Yourself
From the start, Savages make their intentions clear – they plan to move you with heavy post-punk and anthemic, angry lyrics. When Silence Yourself is over, you’re convinced to do just that. Savages take harrowing tones and beef them up with attacking rhythms that control you. You’d almost be convinced that there was a subliminal message affecting you, but, luckily, Savages win you over with killer anthems you’ll be listening to over and over.
14. Iceage – You’re Nothing
The Danish noise-punks curve and refine their “sound” – if you wanna call it that. With explosive “Ecstacy” and “Coalition” starting the album, the rest showcases a much more reserved Iceage making just normal, somewhat accessible music. But the album’s centerpiece – “Morals” – changes the entire game, showing a slow Iceage is a great Iceage. The reverberating bassline and drummer-boy snare rhythm encases the band in a mysterious, yet wildly interesting place. You’re Nothing should go down as the band’s point of interest for years to come.
13. Tyler, The Creator – Wolf
Oh, Tyler. Wolf is a psuedo-conceptual rap album about lovers and cheating and all that teenage stuff – that’s fine, I’m somewhat sure the “story” is about teenagers – but the music takes on a whole new kind of Tyler we’ve never seen – an actually dazzling producer and rapper. The Odd Future leader puts together a lengthy album with a lot of hits and nearly no misses. “Domo23” bumps as loud as advertised, “Answer” opens Tyler’s father story (again) but maintains a better, non complaining tone, and “Tamale” has Tyler being as ridiculous as he can possibly be. By the end of Wolf, perceptions change. Tyler’s actually making an effort to give a shit.
12. L’Orange & Stik Figa – The City Under The City
A collaboration that unlikely mixes perfectly, producer L’Orange and rapper Stik Figa combine like Voltron to make a noir-drenched odyssey worth immersing in. Every song manages to create an atmosphere that pulls you in and ensnares you, much like a femme fatale or a Greek siren. “Decorated Silence” is a definite highlight, transitioning between different beats and rappers through an excellent instrumental. The City Under The City, at its core, is a conundrum, but the opposites create something unforgettable.
11. Milo – things that happen at day / things that happen at night EP’s
Clarification: These are two EP’s.
Milo opened the year with a bang (these two were released on New Year’s Day 2013) and for the past 364 days, you should have figured out by now who the hell this guy is. He’s spitting nerdy, philosophical verses in front of idiosyncratic, atmospheric beats created by Riley Lake. While listening, you’ll hear Milo make ridiculous references to just about anything (Gonjasufi, Shawn Michael’s Sweet Chin Music, Steve Martin playing banjo, etc.) and twisting all of it with personal musings on life and people. It’s a catch-all for nearly anyone who listens to it and it’s wholly remarkable (to quote Douglas Adams) to hear something so universal in these songs. Milo’s entire 2013 started with this and I’m ending it by saying this is the best hip-hop music of 2013.
10. Chelsea Light Moving – s/t
Thurston Moore is immortal. The Sonic Youth member, solo musician, and now frontman of Chelsea Light Moving is cemented in rock history for utilizing the genre’s most used instrument and turning it into his bitch to create the most unique sounds in rock (with Lee Ranaldo). They made an entire genre because of it. Thurston still pioneers it, creating the most heavy, undulating, noisy, angry, and sludgy album of 2013. Songs like “Burroughs” furiously attack through its entire length, while “Groovy & Linda” death-waltzes around chanting vocals. Chelsea Light Moving is a whole new force of nature that blasts through your mind’s perception of what is music and breaks it in half.
9. Ty Segall – Sleeper
Ty Segall acoustically crafts ten emotional songs. Who would’ve guess that come of Sleeper, his umpteenth release over the past few years? Sleeper jangles and croons throughout, with Segall bringing out his more artistic side of his ever-changing musical output. Bridging the gap between lo-fi and neo-psychedelia, Sleeper quietly screams out and gets you to feel his emotions. Segall has usually kept the reputation for being a fun garage rock dude, but now, he’s added depth into his prolific career – something we can all enjoy.
8. How to destroy angels_ – Welcome oblivion
Industrial music wasn’t 2013’s trend of the year, but How to destroy angels_ create one of the better industrial recordings of the past decade on Welcome oblivion. Maandig’s ethereal vocals seep and sneak into your heart, while Reznor, Ross, and Sheridan emotively build a symphony of layered electronic instrumentals that buzz and glitch with every detail being meticulously placed perfectly. The sheer volume and depth of these compositions are overwhelming, with “Ice age” really standing out. With it’s awkward string melody, every little note and detail throughout the track’s elongated length is chilling. Welcome oblivion may have been pushed aside because of Reznor’s more popular effort, but HTDA’s debut album is strong. Imperative you listen to this.
7. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
The band’s third album pushes them into a more delicate, emotional, and provoking direction, crafting lighter melodies with deeper meanings than previous efforts. Modern Vampires of the City is truly remarkable, especially in the lyrical department, bridging the gap from clever and nonsensical to clever and completely relatable. Koenig’s vocal talent also kicks it up a major notch, belting out on “Hannah Hunt” and joyously squeaking on “Finger Back.” But it’s the music that really shows how much of Vampire Weekend – the world’s favorite indie band – has evolved, not just changed. Harpsichord-led tracks replace World rhythms and quirky guitar leads. The one majorly accessible track, “Diane Young,” has Koenig’s highly appreciated vocals affected by a pitchshifter, as if to divert the attention from the chorus or to simply experiment. Modern Vampires of the City is the band’s best album yet and there’s only time to wait for more.
6. The Flaming Lips – The Terror
The Fearless Freaks’ 13th studio release is dark. Really dark. The Terror functions as one whole song, as the album never stops transitioning from one song to the next, and the album fails to change from its melancholic, void-of-any-emotion-from-one-of-the-most-emotional-bands-of-the-past-three-decades notes. Even if one-dimensional, The Terror manages to create the right feelings and bring melodies to offer throughout to please consistently. “You Lust,” the album’s 13-minute dreary trip, hypnotically hooks with the early melody and chimes throughout, like a monolith in a bleak world. At no point does The Terror show any amount of happiness – this album is as bleak as it gets. The Lips’ latest studio album is a downer. But, regardless of the feeling, it doesn’t detract from just how great it is.
5. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
The catchiest album of 2013, Parquet Courts take indie, punk, garage, and awesome and blend it all together, fiercely slacking and successfully creating something that sounds unique and – most of all – amazing. “Master of My Craft” jangles casually and states one of the most memorable lines throughout Light Up Gold (that’s saying something) – “Socrates died in the fucking gutter!” – while it creeps up and transitions into “Borrowed Time,” Parquet Court’s most famous and probably best composition. With detuned guitars and rattling drums, you’d hear this at first chance and think these guys were the next Pavement, but these guys have more than Slanted & Enchanted had, believe it or not.
4. Chelsea Wolfe – Pain Is Beauty
I’m deathly sorry to do this (and hopefully you’ll forgive me), but I’ve put all my words I possibly could into this already. Please read here.
3. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
m b v is better than Loveless. There, I said it. 22 years and the world finally can listen to a new My Bloody Valentine album and it fills your entire brain up with waves upon waves of rumbling guitar noise in the first few notes of “she found now.” Shields whispers touching lyrics and we’re off. A first listen is all shock and awe, a second listen is to try and familiarize yourself with it. But that’s one of the special things about m b v. It never seems to relate or become normal or even seem like you get it. The entire album is one huge mystery, and it’s the greatest musical mystery of the past decade. It’s a foreign text that can never be deciphered. It’s simply a collection of notes put together that completely shift and change with every listen, metamorphosing into a new kind of beast. “Only Tomorrow” sounds as refreshing as it did the first time you heard it, echoing off your skull with every warble and wave from the bouncing guitar and scratchy surface it puts off. It’s unreal how unreal this album is. Am I still dreaming of a new My Bloody Valentine album?
2. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
If you’re two songs into Shaking The Habitual, you’re changed. Shaking The Habitual does what many albums fail to do and that’s make a lasting impression right from the get-go. “A Tooth For An Eye” and “Full Of Fire” blaze through fifteen minutes of your unyielding curiosity and color in the blank pages in your mind with the most blatantly unsettling melodies and percussion ever composed. It’s all for effect – shock – and it works like it’s supposed to. Throughout the double album, you get all kinds of styles of odd projected at your conscious and subconscious for just over 96 minutes. There is no holding back and there is no filter – this is The Knife shooting liberated projectiles into your head. The power of every single noise is astounding, as one slight detail can change the entire song’s trajectory. Everything’s on nails because there’s no holding back. It’s the most shocking or thrilling experience you’ll have in 2013, if not your entire life. Shaking The Habitual is everything it stands for – CHANGE – in full, bold capital letters.
1. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Queens of the Stone Age’s entire life as a band changed this year. QOTSA is not the exact same QOTSA we all know. The difference is their tenacious darkness that runs rampant on their newest and best album, …Like Clockwork. Throughout the sixth album from the rock band (the last great “popular rock” band), a heavier and darker tone is used on every single track, save lead single “My God Is The Sun.” They all illustrate a doomier feel – Josh Homme’s near fatal surgery is ideal to blame – and each song brings on a much thicker feel. You’ll be listening to “I Sat By The Ocean” and feel the bassline or in “If I Had A Tail” you’ll feel the guitar in the chorus. It’s powerful, unrelenting, and absolutely enthralling. …Like Clockwork wastes no time and makes every second count, even if those seconds are to be silence. Clockwork‘s tracks are the band’s most various, having three led by piano and Homme’s voice alone. Homme’s voice is the most important characteristic of the album – the way he sings on the title track leaves you in shambles while the way he sings on “Smooth Sailing” has you grooving along. The dynamic of his lyrics are balancing life and death on all of the tracks. What makes this album the best album of the year is it’s complete package – everything is perfect. …Like Clockwork has changed the way I listen to music …Like Clockwork has changed QOTSA. I hope they like the change, because I can’t even imagine what I’d be without it.