2013 has come and gone, but it left in its wake ten fantastic albums that cannot go unheard by fans of excellence. These do not fit into a single genre or category, simply the best of the best. Enjoy!
10. Savages - Silence Yourself
What a debut. Savages came out of seemingly nowhere, destroying crowds at every single show they performed at and this album finds a way to wrangle their brilliant angst and deliver it to those willing to be challenged. The all-female group from England creates a force of post-punk rock not seen in years.. This band has nothing but potential in their future and this album cemented them as a force.
9. Ryan Ike - Gunpoint Soundtrack
Videogame soundtracks are somewhat divisive, as some see them as nothing more than digital bleeps and bloops built around a child’s toy. With a game like Gunpoint and its stellar jazz-infused soundtrack, that sentiment could not be further from the truth. The few men tasked with making a new sound that combines jazz, film noir, and smokey subways into audio excellence hit the mark. The horns, the piano, and the insane task of remixing all of the music into something futuristic is haunting and daunting, but sublimely executed upon.
8. Jackson and His Computer Band - Glow
It has been eight years since Jackson Fourgeaud decided to grace us with his genius. This French IDM wizard makes some of the best music in the world and his ability to wave his beats in and out of musical holes is a treasure. Nobody brings more class to the genre than Jackson, and Glow sees him branching out to all bpms available. “Dead Living Things” could have been used in every music trailer this summer and “Pump” or “Blood Bust” could have just as easily been played in every club in the country. Stellar work.
7. Islands - Ski Mask
Islands is constantly evolving as a band and each album sounds like it could be their last. Not because of internal conflict or external forces, but because it represents the best of Nick Thorburn’s current musical ability. Ski Mask sees the band combining the major themes of their prior work (avant-garde, doo-wop, old school rock) into one coherent package that also features some of the best straightforward writing of Thorburn’s career. Definitely not the Islands of old and certainly a great representation of an artist that is still capable of writing the best songs of his career.
6. Black Sabbath - 13
This album looked to be a gigantic mess from the onset. All the internal drama that led up to the recording and even the first song, which opens exactly how their first track “Black Sabbath” opens up from over 40 years ago. But once the album gets going and Tony Iommi starts shredding, this turns into a bible of heavy metal. Back is the eight-minute opus, back are Ozzy’s vocals, and together with the power of Rick Rubin and Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk, 13 puts modern metal to shame with every riff. Truly a surprise hit this year and something that belongs in their Hall of Fame catalog.
5. Action Bronson - Blue Chips 2
Producer Party Supplies worked so well with Queens rapper Action Bronson on their 2012 smash Blue Chips that a follow-up had to happen. The samples are deep, sometimes hilarious, but always the perfect blueprint for Bronsolino to build a house of rhyme. The often-crude, always-stoned musical chef cooks up stories unparalleled by fellow rappers. It takes a life of a New York native to blend the narrative with the wordplay in a unique way that modern pop hip-hop could never touch. You won't hear a single one of these songs on the radio and that’s the mark of something truly different.
4. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Arcade Fire seems to always live up to the task. Every year, they play more and more festivals, they put out hit songs after hit songs, and more and more people wait for their eventual implosion. They took some time off, spent recording time with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, and ended up putting out a half-disco, half-rock album that somehow makes up for itself halfway through. If you aren’t dancing through “Reflektor,” then “Normal Person” or “Joan of Arc” should get you going again. And they’ve shown that this isn’t just studio work, as their live performances of the majority of these songs still have the same life as prior outputs. While not the great comeback and gamechanging album everyone seems to be dying for, Reflektor is still stellar and grows on you the same way their last few albums were capable of.
3. Gesaffelstein - Aleph
Aleph is brutal. It is brutal in the way a two-hour horror movie is brutal, going beyond the point of most competitors without flinching. This nearly hour’s worth of music is so dense and relentless, you might find yourself peeling away from your speakers with a gallon less of sweat than you had before you hit “play.” Gesaffelstein sits atop the throne of French electronic producers, a regional subgenre of the world’s most popular new sound that has produced some of the best music this year and this decade. With Aleph, he manages to lay down a bed of minimalistic industrial tracks and pour enough water to help unlikely dance music grow. His beats slam hard, harder than any 808 or “turnt up” dubstep would like you to believe, mostly due to their perfect placement on this Rube Goldeberg machine of music; never stopping, never slowing its progress for anyone or anything. Just when you think he can’t do something different, the next track grows out of something completely new. Aleph is a must-have for someone looking for the opposite of grandiose, boastful producers and those with a love for boundary pushing.
2. Portugal, The Man - Evil Friends
Portugal, The Man have been making amazing music for nearly a decade, with eight studio albums under their belt. I start my review this way because it feels like this was the first year they got any recognition, partly because their singles were everywhere, they continued their festival dominance, and they finally got on TV in various commercials. But before that all happened, this album was released to a starving fan base that knew exactly how much this Alaskan rock band rocks, and how much producer Danger Mouse would help in catapulting their sound to outer space. This album features great tracks from start to finish and its influence can already be heard in dozens of other bands trying to emulate their catchy writing and smart hooks in order to become famous. Sorry guys, but you’re going to have to do it the way Portugal, The Man did, by releasing amazing album after amazing album until you make one that sticks. Evil Friends combines the best moments of all of their previous work into one defining album fit for anyone with a good taste in music.
1. Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
This was no contest. The rest of the music industry did not have a chance when ...Like Clockwork was released. Few albums find a way to breathe new life into a band and this one not only does so, but helps reinvent Josh Homme and crew into the forefront of alternative rock and roll. The lyrics are more personal than they have been in years, the re-addition of Dave Grohl on drums proved genius, and there simply is not a bad track on the entire thing. From start to finish, QOTSA takes you on a journey with a soundtrack ripped from Hunter S Thompson’s psyche and doused in whatever ZZ Top uses to shape their beards. The guitar riffs still drip in Southern rock history and desert madness, the bass is groovier than it has been in years, and Homme finally has the most comfortable and relentless crew in QOTSA history, giving him the freedom to just be awesome. Add in some fantastic special guest stars, including Elton John of all people, and ..Like Clockwork is the best album of 2013.