Jon Howard’s Top 10 Albums of 2013
After eight long years without a studio album (not counting the arguably perfect live/remix album Alive 2007 or the Tron Legacy soundtrack), Daft Punk made a triumphant return this year with Random Access Memories. The duo eschewed house styling in favor of 1970s-centric genres such as progressive, disco, and funk. While this change of genre alienated a few long-time fans, the overwhelming response was positive, and Daft Punk helped solidify the return of disco in popular music. It is unlikely that any other album released this year will have such a massive influence on music for years to come, and for this I declare Random Access Memories my top album of 2013.
Lamenting the sheer complexity of modern life, Vampire Weekend’s third studio album is a brilliant display of the band’s raw talent as musicians, and offers some of Ezra Koenig’s most thought-provoking lyrics to date.
Pulling off some great experimentation without straying too far from their roots, Arctic Monkeys have created one of the decade’s heaviest, most satisfying records in rock music.
Foxygen has come a long way in their short history, but We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic will likely be remembered as the turning point in their career. The album takes its cues from rock icons like Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground, and manages to stand out amidst the recent onslaught of psychedelic rock bands.
Hailing from the burgeoning Australian psychedelic scene, Jagwar Ma take the genre in a slightly different direction: psychedelic dance. The result is a carefree and intoxicating album that draws in the listener and refuses to let go.
One of the most ambitious albums released in 2013, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is a great success in blending symphonic rock with dance beats, and includes some of the most intriguing sonic experiments of the year.
After crafting the most accessible bedroom-pop of 2011, Youth Lagoon returned this year with one of the most haunting albums I’ve ever heard. Wondrous Bughouse is often dark, unsettling, but is always beautiful.
Chillwave may be in its first stages of fading away, but Washed Out refuses to let it leave without a fight. Paracosm is by far the best album of the genre and creates incredibly lush, colorful soundscapes that wash over the listener.
Phoenix’s latest album is synth-heavy, dreamy, and not quite like anything else they’ve done before. Although it isn’t quite as groundbreaking as their previous album, Bankrupt! shows us Phoenix at their most artistic.
Wolf features some of Tyler’s best production to date, and the album’s brilliant narrative really shows off Tyler’s ability to write a good story. This isn’t your average rap album, it’s more like a film.
Hannah Landsberger’s Top 10 Albums of 2013
Sometimes an album fills a hole you didn’t know you had. Jon’s layered, orchestral dance music takes you on a perfect journey: from the key turning in the door of his London recording studio on the first track, to dance floor-ready vibe of the single Open-Eye Signal, to the blissful calm of the title track. This album has helped me study for finals, slow down during stressful weeks, and get my dance on at U Street Music Hall.
Second albums are tricky to get right, but Laura nailed hers. A just-perfect combo of engaging singer-songwriter and guitar-wheeling rocker, Laura has created an album that builds on the unique sound that made her debut so special and expands her emotional and musical range.
3. Lucius – Wildewoman
Perfectly harmonized danceable tunes with hints of 80s jams and 60 grooves. Every track is as strong as the last without being repetitive. If you’re not singing or dancing along by the end of this one you need to have your ears checked.
In Rolling Waves is the perfect title for this album. Emotional waves of soaring harmonies shimmer amongst carefully crafted dissonance and static. Pop melodies as they should be.
Los Campesinos makes complex, intelligent, heart-on-your-sleeve indie rock. No Blues certainly has its share of the band’s hallmark honest sadness, but the album’s title isn’t totally untrue: the record has a glimmer of hope that unites the tracks and elevates the album above the band’s previous work.
Say what you will about Lorde’s meteoric rise to fame, but don’t deny that her album is fantastic. A rich singing voice, layered hooks and beats, and honest lyrics about being young and ordinary make it leaps and bounds above the other music filling Top 40 charts this semester.
The power of If You Wait consistently takes me by surprise. A casual listen always turns into an emotional experience thanks to the quiet but immaculate instrumentation and Hannah Reid’s deep, clear vocals.
Anxiety keeps you on your toes: Autre Ne Veut’s constantly evolving song structure, unique production, and distinct take on R&B leaves you dancing and wanting more even as you wonder how to classify what you’ve just listened to.
Bad Blood is unapologetic pop music, with simple melodies and earworm hooks (try getting Pompeii out of your head after your first listen). But it’s also darker and more cinematic than most radio fare and will satisfy lovers of intelligent music and dance tunes alike.
While Love isn’t Cloud Cult’s strongest album to date, it’s hard to beat the band’s other-worldly sound, moving lyrics, and lush orchestrations even on a bad day. The second to last track is called Catharsis, and that’s exactly what you’ll feel by the end of this sweeping, intense record.
Anthony Rocco’s Top 10 Albums of 2013
Released as a free mixtape out of the blue, Arca’s &&&&& has to be my favorite release of 2013. This whole album was released as a single track with all of the songs flowing seamlessly as one mix. This forward-thinking bass music is way ahead of its time, sounding unlike anything I’ve heard before.
Anamanaguchi’s Endless Fantasy was my album of the Summer. Being longtime players in the 8-bit music scene, they have created a sound that is all their own. With 22 tracks, it can make most car rides feel like you’re piloting a rocket ship to through the milky-way powered by happiness, rainbows, and nostalgia.
Oneohtrix Point Never has made a masterpiece of an album with R Plus Seven. His experimentation with sound creates both beautiful and unnerving music.
The Field has taken techno music and stretched it to three times the length and stripped it down. What is left is a highly-textural, sample-heavy 40 minute experience of layered electronic music that puts you in a daze.
Boards of Canada make a grand return with their first release since 2006. This highly-anticipated album does not disappoint, delivering more of Boards of Canada’s legendary sounds.
Autre Ne Veut makes unique pop music that finds uses for sounds that usually have no place in the genre. Most of the songs on Anxiety are incredibly catchy and will most likely get stuck in your head.
Cut Copy return with more of their unyieldingly-happy synthpop sounds. The song “Meet Me in a House of Love” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Machinedrum’s infectious bass music takes influence from a wide array of music styles. It’s near impossible to sit still when listening to the high-energy sounds on his newest album, Vapor City.
With the right headphones and listening environment, Excavation can transport to a very dark place. There is almost a cinematic element to the grand sounds that are used in The Haxan Cloak’s dark ambient music. This album is guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
Darkside is the collaborative project between electronic musician Nicolas Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington. The best way to describe this music is that the songs sound exactly like how the album cover looks.
Paul Davis’s Top 10 Albums of 2013
3. Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
4. Ramin Djawadi – Pacific Rim Soundtrack
5. Nine Inch Nails – Hesistation Marks
6. Summer Camp – Summer Camp
7. Dream Theater – Dream Theater
8. Black Taxi – Chiaroscruo EP
9. The Griswolds – Heart of a Lion EP
10. Las Kellies – Total Exposure