2013 was a very good year for 1980’s music. It’s fitting that in a time when “Selfie” was named Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, so much music would sound like it came from the “Me Decade” (and yes, I’m aware that Tom Wolfe coined that phrase to refer to the 70’s, but whatever, accuracy isn’t high on the list of fashionable trends). From the Miami Vice pastels of “Hold on We’re Going Home,” to Daft Punk’s hat tips to “Thriller,” to the retro-dork-tasticness of Haim’s “Days are Gone,” a lot of 2013's best music sounded like a newly discovered time-capsule from the Reagan-era.
Other top albums saw their creators pushing their style into bold and unexpected directions. After a two album delay, Arcade Fire finally hooked up with James Murphy and the LCD Soundsystem mastermind helped push their music in a more danceable, if still angst-stricken, direction. And Kanye West put out a raw and wholly uncompromising album that was more Skinny Puppy than skinny jeans (he traded those in for leather kilts).
However, as Janelle Monáe and El-P proved, if you have an unique, distinguishable sound, you don’t need to stray far from it. And sometimes, as Kurt Vile’s “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze” showed, you don’t even need to do something original, so long as you bring your own voice to a form that’s already proven its enduring worth.
Singularity of vision is what unites the disparate group of artists populating this list. Their experience level ranges from newcomers to seasoned veterans, yet they all created music that stands out as immediately identifiable. Obviously, we can’t know how these records will hold up in five or ten years, but that’s typically a quality that ages like wine.
For a Spotify playlist of these albums, click here.
For a Spotify playlist of the year's best songs not on these albums, click here.