Top 10 Albums of 2013

Posted: December 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

No reason for an introduction. I’ve linked to my favorite song from each album, so check them out and see if you like them. Let’s get to the list.

Honorable Mentions
Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Los Campesinos! – No Blues
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

10. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Queens of the Stone Age have been one of the biggest rock bands around for more than a decade now, and you could make the argument that …Like Clockwork is their best album yet. It’s certainly their most polished, and while that isn’t an adjective you’d usually associate with QotSA, they manage to pull it off without losing the big guitars and loud drums we’re used to. “I Sat by the Ocean,” “My God Is the Sun,” “Fairweather Friends” and “Smooth Sailing” stand out as highlights.

Favorite song: “I Sat by the Ocean”

9. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
Parquet Courts have called their music “Americana punk,” and that seems like a perfect description to me. There’s a punk rock pace to a lot of the songs on Light Up Gold, and the lyrics are either snap shots of the world around them or laments about their uncertain future. Take standout track “Borrowed Time,” where Andrew Savage sings about “waiting for something that I knew I wasn’t coming” and being “captive in this borrowed time.” Other highlights include “Master of My Craft,” “Yonder Is Closer to the Heart” and “Stoned and Starving.”

Favorite song: “Borrowed Time”

8. Lorde – Pure Heroine
How did this happen? A 16-year-old from New Zealand writes, sings and talks about all the crap filling the pop charts, and ends up conquering those charts herself. It gives me hope that there’s still a place in pop culture for good music with something real to say. Everyone knows “Royals,” an anti-celebrity anthem for the ages, but the rest of Pure Heroine is just as good. “Tennis Court” (about her generation), “Ribs” (about growing up), “Team” (about living “in cities you’ll never see on screen”) and “Glory and Gore” (about violence being glorified) are all great.

Favorite song: “Glory and Gore”

7. The So So Glos – Blowout
Of all the artists on this list, The So So Glos sound like they’re having the most fun. Blowout is just one loud, catchy rock song after another. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but they’re really good at making it. The guitar work of Ryan Levine and Matt Elkin and just the overall energy on the album are what stand out the most. “Son of an American” (which opens with an old recording of frontman Alex Levine talking about Kurt Cobain’s suicide), “House of Glass,” the mostly instrumental title track, “Wrecking Ball” and “Everything Revival” are highlights.

Favorite song: “House of Glass”

6. Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
I was never really a fan of brother-sister group The Fiery Furnaces, but what Eleanor Friedberger has done since embarking on a solo career has been excellent. Personal Record is indie pop at its finest. Most of the songs feature simple but beautiful guitar-bass-drum arrangements, but there’s also the occasional piano, horns and brass to liven things up even more. “When I Knew,” “Stare at the Sun,” “My Own World” and “She’s a Mirror” are my favorite songs here, but really they’re all good.

Favorite song: “Stare at the Sun”

5. Hiss Golden Messenger – Haw
Hiss Golden Messenger came in at No. 7 on my 2012 list with the excellent Poor Moon, and they’re back again this year with the equally great Haw. They’re doing American roots music as well as anyone, and it’s a shame that more people don’t know them given the revival of that style of music over the last few years. Haw brings together folk, bluegrass, country, soul, rock and gospel. It incorporates your traditional guitar, bass and drums, but also horns, violins and fiddles. Standout songs include “Red Rose Nantahala,” “I’ve Got a Name for the Newborn Child,” “Sweet as John Hurt,” “Busted Note” and string instrumental “Hark Maker (Glory Rag).”

Favorite song: “Sweet as John Hurt”

4. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Part of what drew me to Speedy Ortiz was their backstory. They’re from Massachusetts (Northampton to be exact), and lead singer Sadie Dupuis once played in an all-female Pavement cover band called Babement. But what got me to stick around was the music itself. It’s great. Pavement is obviously a huge influence, as are a number of other 90s indie rock bands. The guitar work of Dupuis and Matt Robidoux sticks out, as do Dupuis’s lyrics, which are both clever and meaningful (“No Below,” for example, is about being bullied and finding true friends). Other highlights include “Tiger Tank,” “Cash Cab” and “Plough.”

Favorite song: “Tiger Tank”

3. The Men – New Moon
Allmusic says New Moon is “akin to Dinosaur Jr. on a serious Tom Petty kick,” and Pitchfork referred to it as The Men going “a little Crazy Horse, gradually easing their sludgefeasts into a classic-rock comfort zone.” Both work. After making the transition from noise rock to straightforward hard rock on Open Your Heart (No. 8 on my 2012 list), The Men take another step toward accessibility on New Moon. There’s still plenty of hard rock (check out “The Brass” and “Electric”), but there’s also the piano pop of “Open the Door” and country rock of “Bird Song.” In between are standouts like “Half Angel Half Light,” “Without a Face” and “I See No One.”

Favorite song: “Half Angel Half Light”

2. Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple
Great vocals? Check. Great lyrics? Check. An array of instruments including piano, organ, violin and pedal steel? Check. Comparisons to Dolly Parton, Carole King and Dusty Springfield? Sign me up. Mount Moriah’s second album, Miracle Temple, is 44 minutes of country/soul/rock greatness, and Heather McEntire’s beautiful lyrics and voice are at its heart. “Younger Days” makes for a great open, and the quality really doesn’t dip for the entirety of the album. Other personal favorites are “Swannanoa,” “Miracle Temple Holiness” and closer “Telling the Hour,” but again, it would be tough to find a down moment.

Favorite song: “Younger Days”

1. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In
The reasons I love The Stand-In are actually very similar to the reasons I love Miracle Temple — great vocals, great lyrics, great arrangements, and a similar sound. But I love The Stand-In just a little bit more. The songs have a little more oomph, and Rose is a little more willing to really let loose as a singer. I think the first line of Allmusic’s review really sums up Rose perfectly:

“In a perfect world, Caitlin Rose would be a big star, and indeed, she may well get there anyway, given that she has a sweet, pure, coy, sassy, assured, and beautiful voice, and writes wonderfully balanced pop-country songs that suggest Patsy Cline, Linda Ronstadt, and the commercial pop end of Fleetwood Mac all rolled together.”

My favorite songs on The Stand-In are “No One to Call,” “Waitin’,” “Only a Clown,” “Silver Sings” and “Menagerie,” but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Favorite song: “Waitin'”

  1. Adam Wodon says:

    I’ll leave some comments for ya as I listen :) ….. Lorde – an attempt at important lyrics and a nice voice don’t make up for crap “music”

  2. Adam Wodon says:

    So So Glos …. not bad descendants of the Clash/Green Day tradition

    Eleanor Friedberger – boring

  3. Adam Wodon says:

    Now – Speedy Ortiz – that’s good stuff

  4. Adam Wodon says:

    The Men … sounds good – but nothing that new and exciting
    Mount Mariah … I’m not into the twang thing
    Caitlin Rose … not quite as twangy, so I can deal – and like you said, more oomph … so – pretty good. Her voice has some similarity to Zooey Daschenal – but better.

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