The Top 50 Best Albums of 2013 – MusicZeitgeist.com
The following list was compiled from recommendations by various regular MusicZeitgeist writers and informants that include Ighuaran, Ascender, Tragic Josh, KMS, Truffle Jones, ZombieGrl and director/writer Daniel Waters. Some serious tastemakers from various disciplines and industries. Some wanted to comment on the albums we chose, others did not get such treatment, but are equally deserving of your attention.
What an incredible year for music: Some very interesting adventures crept into even mainstream radio. Though we primarily try to shine the light on indie artists throughout the year, we make no distinction in terms of distribution leverage in considering our year-end list. Music is music after all, and amazing things are happening on either side of the commercial spectrum.
Ultimately we hope this refreshes and expands your record collection, reinforcing your interest and appreciation for contemporary music, which is our mandate.
Enjoy listening and thanks for another amazing year of music!
69. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Pared back indie pop rock, Katie Crutchfield manages to keep the Juliana Hatfield vs. Vaselines torch burning, sounding like she means it, like from the heart, the whole time. ~ Ighuaran
68. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park
There is a talented, attractive young woman in country with something to say and her name is not Taylor Swift. ~ Truffle Jones
67. Gary Numan – Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind)
A legitimately creepy and oftentimes sublime record. It’s hard to break the association with real world events and knowing that Mr. Glitter is not kidding with the title, but we are talking about the music here. He sounds amazingly young, sometimes like a younger Billy Corgan, soft-voiced, but confident. Estranged but so very familiar. ~ DW/Ighuaran
66. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
If the fact that Montreal based Devon Welsh has previously collaborated with chanteuse and musical experimentalist Grimes doesn’t tell you anything, then accept that charismatic bari voice is exploited as catalyst to mess with tech toys to create beautiful musical sunsets.
65. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight…
I used to love Neko Case. Then a few years ago I had a crisis and thought perhaps I didn’t like her music as much as I thought. Turns out I was wrong. ~ Truffle Jones
64. Deerhunter – Monomania
People have been talking about how Deerhunter’s latest is their most accessible. We ain’t mad at that. Vintage garage rock with beaucoup personality. Captain Beefheart and Ween? Oh and chainsaw solo!
63. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP2
62. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
61. Johnny Marr – The Messenger
After electronic, The Healers and a tryst with Modest Mouse, The Smiths’ overlooked songwriter and guitarist put out a proper solo album, which he supported by touring and singing Smiths songs himself, in part reclaiming some of the prize Morrissey has acquired for himself. Let’s hope this offering is not another one-off by Marr and instead a measure of things to come. ~ Truffle Jones
60. Youth Code – Youth Code
>My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult playing a gig at Taffey Lewis’ Bar in Blade Runner while Deckard drinks Mescal in the back). ~ Ighuaran
59. Tricky – False Idols
While the world was still holding a grudge for “Blowback,” we were vibing out hard to the dark undertow of Tricky’s uncompromising grit. ~ KMS
58. David Bowie – The Next Day
With a blue chip artist like Bowie, there may be a tendency to think, “ah it’s just more of Bowie doing Bowie but a little older.” Except if you forget all that and zoom out just a bit, the sheer strangeness and fearlessness of it all, and the fact that nothing rock released this year comes close to sounding like this, and you’re good to go. We particularly like Where the Green Grass Grows ~ KMS
57. Kanye West – Yeezus
Don’t you dare try to leave Kanye out. ~ DW
Also, this is some cray cray hip-hop concret up in here.
56. Yo Gotti – I Am
In a year with slick releases from Em, Ye and J (and an undelivered one from Dre), it was a different mixed-race triumvirate of Yo Gotti, Big K.R.I.T and Mac Miller that made the genre interesting (with Curren$y’s unreleased Pilot Talk III finishing the parallel). White lawyers in their late 30s can have the first four, we’ll take the rest. (Perhaps not having a name that rhymes with “ay” is the key.) ~ Truffle Jones
55. Danny Brown – Old
54. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
53. Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio: (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
52. The Julie Ruin – Run Fast
L.A. produces a new iteration of The Runaways and their name is The Julie Ruin, except they are on a bill with the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. ~ KMS/DW
51. (James) Holden – The Inheritors
50. Juana Molina – Wed 21
Saying that Juana Molina’s album is a Latin record is like saying that My Bloody Valentine‘s Loveless is UK rock. This grooving, smoky electro effort evokes Underworld and Mathew Dear but introduces a cultural source that pulls it into a wholly unique direction – like Copacabana seen through Syd Mead’s sunglasses. Might work as well opening for King Crimson as headlining the chillout room after the Electric Daisy Carnival. ~ KMS
49. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
Yummy. Had we shortened our list this LA combo’s 2013 effort could have unseated Daft Punk’s ubiquitous electro disco analog. But…Giorgio Moroder. Just know it’s that good. “Holdin’ On (Original Mix)” should convince you under any circumstances. ~ Ascender
48. Cayucas – Bigfoot
This is what happens when indie gets catchy on the WEST side of L.A. ~ Truffle Jones
47. Lusine – Waiting Room
46. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze ~ DW
45. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
Atmospheric, lush, haunting – an ideally hopeful prelude to the end of the world. OK, OK, let’s not be melodramatic. This is nice music to dethrone Enya as your go-to for bedtime. ~ KMS/DW
44. Washed Out – Paracosm
Washed Out’s Paracosm is the logical successor to 2011’s Within And Without, once again taking place somewhere on a lazy afternoon where equal parts chill wave and dream pop play together in the sun. ~ Truffle Jones
43. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
A huge step forward, their near-perfect offering has put them within reach of the brass ring. ~ Truffle Jones
42. Kirin J. Callinan – Embracism
41. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
If the new record is “a copy of a copy,” it’s only because Reznor continues to sit unchallenged and at the top of his game. Unlike rap/hip-hop, where the new blood is making the most interesting waves, the doom/goth/prog/electronic/whatever genre remains as static as the noise the oft-imitated, never replicated Reznor has spun into gold. ~ Truffle Jones
40. Anoushka Shankar – Traces of You
Daughter of perhaps the most famous Sitar player in the world, Anoushka played her first public performance on the sitar with her father and mentor at the age of 13. Several decades and Grammy nominations later, she is at the top of her form on her latest release that channels both traditional and contemporary styles in a beautiful and uplifting opus, carrying her father’s legacy forward with a bright torch. ~ KMS
39. Carla Bruni – Little French Songs
A sultry, voice, as heartwarming as a good Bordeaux, to sing little French songs in your ear as you fall asleep on your bearskin rug by the fireplace after a beautiful night of lovemaking.
38. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Because, Giorgio Moroder. For bandwagoneers who wanted to “get lucky” some more – this wasn’t the album for them. For everyone else, it was the perfect summer’s kiss. ~ Truffle Jones
37. DJ Koze – Amygdala
36. Bassekou Kouyate + Ngoni ba – Jama Ko
35. Townes Van Zandt – Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions and Demos 1971-1972
Much has been made of TVZ’s toiling in obscurity and premature (although predictable, given his trajectory) death, but much of the recorded legacy left behind is a mixed bag at best, leaving his true gems scattered impossibly across several albums.
Early studio recordings in particular were tattooed with instantly dated, although then-timely, baroque production, which has created a not-insignificant barrier to entry for the casual listener in the modern age, perhaps leaving one to wonder what all the fuss has been about. Fret no more: this collection finds Townes young, in good voice, stripped down and running through both chestnuts and rarities in a fan friendly format that shines a light on one of folk/country’s greatest assets.
TVZ was foolishly underrated as a guitarist, and not overrated enough as a songwriter (depending on the fare), but for both long-time fans looking for a new taste and quizzical parties looking to dip their toes into the water for the very first time, Sunshine Boy might be the best – and only – place to start. ~ Truffle Jones
34. Bill Callahan – Dream River
Having developed to a far more rootsy style from his highly experimental early beginnings under the name Smog, Callahan – who has dated such indie luminaries as Cynthia Dall, Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) and Joanna Newsom – brings it all together on a confident, tour de force on Dream River, his 15th studio album. His baritone voice carrying a band that could moonlight for David Lynch or Merle Haggard on Qualuudes, he takes his time to ponder, fragmented thoughts into streams of consciousness that form a cohesive, unaffected personal document.
33. No Joy – Wait to Pleasure
God is this ever a good record. Don’t take my word for it, just listen to it and throw it in your shuffle list. I guarantee every time a track from this record comes up, you will look to see who it is, until of course, you know it by heart. Like Lush and Cocteau Twins, with added grit. Just brilliant. ~ KMS via DW
32. Sky Ferreira – Night Time My Time
This, unlike Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream does what I hoped at every turn. Strange digressions and unexpected chord turns that still felt totally obvious. I love you sky Ferreira, as a person I don’t know and as a musician channeling my instincts. ~ Ighuaran
31. Anna von Hausswolff – Ceremony
It almost seems like Hausswolff is trying to channel Mozart or Beethoven. There are full sized pipe organs throwing down in this joint. She sings like Kate Bush in wild-hair mode to a mise-en-scene erected by Dead Can Dance. Like a medieval rave. It’s got gravity and groove at once. Worthy. ~ KMS/DW
30. Petra Haden – Petra Goes To The Movies
Haden’s a cappella cinema masterpiece Petra goes to the Movies does complete and ambitious vocal renditions of movie theme classics, among others things. ~ DW
29. Dungeonesse – Dungeonesse
A collaboration between writer/producer Jon Ehrens (White Life, Art Department) and singer Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes). Dungeonesse blends gorgeous vocals and bubbling beats in a record that should easily cross genres and tastes. Imogen Heap/Frou Frou or Roisin Murphy fans will be especially amenable. ~ Ighuaran
28. Dr. Dog – B-Room
This century’s equivalent of The Band keeps making music that people will punch themselves in the face for not appreciating sooner ten years from now. ~ Truffle Jones
27. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone
A soulful anachronistic bluegrass/Appalachian/funk record featuring the beguiling and often puerile voicings of multi-instrumentalist Valerie June (sounding a lot like Joanna Newsom who was our top album of 2012). An energized and exciting album throughout. ~ KMS/Tragic Josh
26. The Field – Cupid’s Head
More blissful ambient loopology that never seems to fall out of step with perfection.
25. Rokia Traore – Beautiful Africa
24. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Barely out of his second decade on planet Earth, King Krule puts out a sophomore release of melancholic smoky folk punk evocative of Billy Bragg.
23. Darkside – Psychic
Darkside lives up to its name, but to be more specific, it covers the murky, dimly lit aspect of environments that range from electro to Nick Cave style creeps on this eclectic and timeless mood altering effort. ~ KMS
22. Death Grips – Government Plates
Death Grips sonic mayhem is tough to describe, but it will make you sit up and pay attention. At least that’s what happened to Bjork who had them open for her on her tour in 2013.
21. William Basinski – Nocturnes
20. Thundercat – Apocalypse
Psychedelic-electro-disco and some Isaac Hayes with more twists than a good Churro. This is the stuff that makes you put on your shiny silver Rayon and get freaky.
19. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
18. cocorosie – tales of a grass widow
Rockettothesky, Joanna Newsom, Bjork and stuff but with Penguin Cafe Orchestra covering Lusine. Or something. Amazing live too.
17. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day
After a huge pause in releases, Mazzy Star returns with an album that blends Americana with that scene in Lost Highway where Bill Pullman makes love to Patricia Arquette. For all the time away you would think that they might be more ambitious than making something that sounds like it was recorded in an apartment, but frankly, Mazzy Star doesn’t give a fuck and that is why we can’t stop listening. ~ KMS
16. Savages – Silence Yourself
15. Dutch Uncles – Out of Touch In the Wild
This album sounds like Adrian Belew and Jane Siberry got together to make a Chills record with Larry Gowan on the console. There is nothing in that recipe that sounds wrong to me. If you aren’t familiar with any of the above, imagine a carnival with super catchy melodies on a Skittles-covered Slip n’ Slide. But really tight. ~ KMS/DW
14. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
Holter lives in her own fairy-encrusted pocket of the universe and makes no apologies for the strange and magical places they lead. ~ KMS, Tragic Josh, DW
13. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Remember the days when Keith Emmerson and Klaus Shulze had to manually play their ARP 2600 and Moog’s live onstage and got high off the ensuing anomalies that crept up as a result of the analog circuity? They turned dials, modulated arpeggiated melodic patterns in realtime, and reinterpreted Bach for the 20th century? Now push that through Future Sound of London, doing a comeback show in Ibiza and you start to get the vibe on Fuck Buttons’ new joint.
12. Burial – Truant / Rough Sleeper
Two songs, totaling 25 minutes where a concept album should be. The concept being what the rain outside Deckard’s apartment might sound like were it played back on a Victrola with a compromised needle. Another masterpiece from the elusive artist known as Burial. ~ Ascender
11. Disclosure – Settle
Ah c’mon, play fair this is way too fucking sexy to be unleashed on the world. ~ KMS
10. Drake – Nothing Was the Same
Lived up to the hype, was worth the wait. ~ Truffle Jones
9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
If you didn’t hear Foxygen on college radio this year, then the best recourse I have is to maintain the bad habit of giving you analogues – in this case something like Queen meets Wilco. How about Mercury Rev meets XTC while babysitting baby Bowie. There chew on that.
8. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
Anxiety comes right out and wraps you up in its euphoric trancey R&B orgy like a crazy beach party in Ibiza that you arrived at two hours late but welcomes you right into its fray. This is so slutty and brave and raw but still polished and intuitively crafted that any attempt at finding an analog proves fruitless.
Thank you, for this record; an energized and pure effort like this only comes along every so often. “World War” is the kind of track you could start a relationship to, play at your wedding or play at a funeral. Totally channeling the artist formerly known as, singing about doves and tears. ~ KMS
7. James Blake – Overgrown
If Jai decided to take his buttery crooning and warp it fearlessly, he may provide an appropriate tribute to Blake’s rampant ingenuity.
6. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
Stockholm’s agit-prop darlings serve their fourth studio album, and it is as edgy and haunting as previous comings. Do not mix with hard alcohol lest its cumulative effects land you in the joint.
5. Charles Bradley – Victim of Love
Fuck. Yes. [~ Truffle Jones]
The ultimate rags-to-riches story wherein New Yorker who can barely make ends meet and still cooks for his ailing momma spends a lifetime doing James Brown covers and impersonations before being picked up by Dap Records and delivering one of the best new soul records in years. ~ Ighuaran
4. Haim – Days Are Gone
Someone told me that in a couple of years all the buzz about Haim’s tight perfectly produced Blondie meets Kate Bush throwback release will already feel as dated as a TLC video. I forget – what’s wrong with that? It’s just as good as any reference it summons, and moreover makes me understand what a teen girl must have felt when she fell hard for Ricky Nelson for the first time. ~ KMS
3. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
Continues to get better with age, inspiring new fans among those who used to beat up and make fun of his old fans in the 80s and 90s. ~ Truffle Jones
2. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
It is almost impossible to listen to an MBV record without being deeply affected. You may hate it, or you may be immediately converted to the cult of Kevin Shields and company, but in spite of the fact that it sounds like the slushy residue of a freezing rain storm in winter smearing across your frontal lobe, there will seldom be a gray area for reacting to their music.
“Music” seems somehow an inadequate term to describe what they bottle. After a twenty year lapse in releasing anything since the seminal “Loveless,’ MBV are still the Godfathers of shoegaze and are more in league with John Cage, Les Paul and Pierre Henri than they are Slowdive or Joy Formidable. Tech-bending, walls of noise core with effervescent dreams poking through with a dull shiv. ~ KMS
1. Laura Mvula – Sing to the Moon
Birmingham UK singer Laura Mvula’s music has been described as “gospeldelia” by Paul Lester from The Guardian. I’d say that’s a good start. But also it sounds nothing like that – in fact it sounds more like an explosion of something new, “like the morning dew” – a celebration of life, and confidence and tonality and nuance and big band horn sections, winsome chimes, harps, Motown and Broadway. It walks some sort of line between D’Angelo and Stina Nordenstam, if that gives you any indication of how refined, expressive and unique it might be.
There was nothing else like Mvula in 2013. She is a legend in the making.