Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Albums of 2013 (Albums 20-11)

What a fantastic year for music. While 2012 lacked any classic albums in my opinion (Frank Ocean being the exception), my top five of 2013 will most likely go down as long-time favorites. With releases promised from stalwarts Local Natives, Iron & Wine, Arcade Fire, the National, and Vampire Weekend, the year looked promising. Many of albums 20-11 are sophomore releases - making it difficult not to play the comparison game. While not all of the old-timers followed through as hoped, there were enough unexpected resurgences from low lying bands and a few stellar releases from new comers to make a top twenty list difficult to hammer out.

Enough said. Here we have my favorite twenty albums from the year 2013. In this blog we have albums 20-11 and tomorrow's blog will finish out the list with albums 10-1.
20. The Head and the Heart - Let's Be Still
With their sophomore album, The Head and the Heart brought more of their great indie-folk. While not a dramatic departure from their first album, Let's Be Still provided enough variety to make the follow-up worth my listen on a regular basis.
 19. Sigur Ros - Kveikur
Sigur Ros's previous album, Valtari, was a total sleeper. Although they are a beloved band of mine, I thought they might be on a trajectory to fade away into my music past. So with the release of Kveikur, I was thrilled with how Sigur Ros brought a new driving, percussive sound that maintained their "Sigur Ros-ness" yet explored some new sounds. I loved the sound and tracks such as Isjaki could even be construed as singles.
18. Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse
Critics loved this guy yet I was left a little wanting. There was some great layering and Trevor Powers' vocals are as distant/intimate as ever yet I was put off by some of the trippy aspects of the album. So I was distanced from connecting with the entire album as a whole. With that said, the good parts are really good and demand attention.
17. Lucious - Wildewoman
Lucious stopped by Messiah in the Spring as a part of the B-Sides series (free shows every Wednesday!) in what was one of my favorite acts of the year. It's impossible to talk about this band without talking about the lead singers - two vocalists, singing as one. These ladies sound incredible and the rest of the band brings a sense of pop that feels nostalgic without merely being a "throwback" band.
16. City and Colour - The Hurry and the Harm
I was unaware of this Canadian artist until this year when I saw them at FreeFest in September. They put on a solid live-set but more than anything, they've been my go-to band for early mornings and basically anytime I've needed a slow down. The lead vocalist's vocals are so warm and inviting, it's hard to pass up.
15. Surfer Blood - Pythons
OK, I absolutely loved Surfer Blood's first album and had pretty high expectations. Upon initial listens, I was fairly underwhelmed, feeling as though the band had lost some of its beach vibe and sounding more Vans Tour. I don't know if it was a desire for the album to work or if I worked through my preset expectations but I kept coming back to this album and let it be it's own. While not my favorite album of all time, I have faith in the young band and hope to see more of them in the future.
14. Lorde - Pure Heroine
I don't think I'm going to add anything to what's already been written. Lorde is young, different, authentic, and from New Zealand. The production is minimalistic and wonderful. So yes, I buy into her music. Kind of like a better Lana del Ray.
13. Jim Guthrie - Takes Time
I first heard some Jim Guthrie's music on NPR's All Songs Considered. I was happy to find that his latest album was full of joyful folk songwriting that garnered a considerable number of listens throughout the year.
12. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
While Phoenix has been around the indie-pop scene for a while, their last album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, broke heavily into the mainstream music arena. I believe Bankrupt! followed a similar path of style as my own. Wolfgang was a party in itself, pausing every now and then for a drink of water. Bankrupt! certainly has it's jams (Entertainment, S.O.S in Bel Air) but it has a more subdued demeanor throughout with great tracks like Chloroform and Trying to be Cool.
11. Local Natives - Hummingbird
I had a lot of expectations coming into this one. Gorilla Manor was a dear friend. Moving onto Hummingbird, it felt like a matured sound compared to their breakout. While I missed some of the exuberance, there was an added depth that rewarded repeated listens and indicated a good direction for the band. Oh, and I was able to see them live again and they haven't lost anything.


Feel free to leave comments. Top ten albums coming soon!

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