An excess of good music means that this year I got ambitious and expanded my usual Top Ten Albums list to a cool 50, with random subsection titles where appropriate themes emerged. The top ten are pretty much solid in my mind as the ones I listened to the most and liked the most; the rest of the list are admirable releases that you ought to check out especially if the ‘theme’ applies to you or is something that sounds like you might like it.
–2013 Top Ten Favorites–
1. David Francey, So Say We All
Canadian folk singer David Francey has one of those intimately familiar voices that’s inviting and yet aching with pain experienced in a life that’s lived, for better and worse. I listened to this album more than anything else this year, by a long shot.
2. A Fragile Tomorrow, Be Nice Be Careful
Power pop isn’t restricted to the Shoes/Beat/Tommy Keene heyday of the 80’s, as these twenty-somethings proved on this Don Dixon produced joyride through a thoroughly modern take on the genre.
3. The South Carolina Broadcasters, Short Time To Stay Here
Making old-time music new again through their undeniable energy and enthusiasm, this trio is a joy to see perform, single-microphone style; the songs are nearly as much fun in recorded form.
4. Rhye, Woman
Was there a more gorgeous album of wispy pop music made this year? The male duo Rhye sounds like this generation’s Everything But The Girl, all understated charm and unencumbered hooks.
5. Olafur Arnalds, For Now I Am Winter
I’m not sure that this qualifies as ‘pop music’, but it’s beautiful stuff whatever the genre. Arnalds’ style is closer to a classical one than anything resembling radio fodder; it’s telling that his other album this year was a film score.
6. Rudimental, Home
Released this year in the United States after taking over European clubs, this set includes hip-hop, dance, EDM, funk, and more in a mashed-up mix of beats, rhythms, and inspiring if simplistic songs.
7. Jason Isbell, Southeastern
Mellower than his southern rock leanings might suggest, Isbell’s latest found him on an introspective trip through some arresting character sketches that rank among his best songs.
8. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
European dance-rockers resurrecting Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers for this century’s party crowd? Why not; Moroder and Rogers had it right—hook ’em with the groove, pour on the sugary synth, and you’re cooking.
9. The Avett Brothers, Magpie and the Dandelion
The slowly evolving Avetts are gradually expanding their sound here, without losing the emotional core of their songwriting. Comfort food for the acoustic folk/rock set, with a great live “Souls Like the Wheels” thrown in for dessert.
10. Gogol Bordello, Pura Vida Conspiracy
Weird, wonderful wackiness masquerading as rock ‘n’ roll mayhem and pulling it off admirably.
–Ten Artists Still Making Great Music After All These Years–
Willie Nile, American Ride
Del-Lords, Elvis Club
Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day
Meat Puppets, Rat Farm
Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, Songs from the Psychedelic Time Clock EP
Yo La Tengo, Fade
My Bloody Valentine, m b v
Juliana Hatfield, Wild Animals
Lisa Germano, No Elephants
The Ocean Blue, Ultramarine
–Five Guys Making Great Music Now–
Joseph Arthur, Redemption City
Jake Bugg, Shangri-La
Ed Harcourt, Back into the Woods
Devandra Banhart, Mala
Mayer Hawthorne, Where Does This Door Go
–Five Female Singers I’d Like to Introduce My Daughters To–
Ellie Goulding, Halcyon Days
Whiskey Gentry, Holly Grove
Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight…
The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
Sam Phillips, Push Any Button
–Five Loud Favorites–
Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Descension
Clutch, Earth Rocker
Volbeat, Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies
Dillinger Escape Plan, One of Us is the Killer
–Five I Can Dance To—
Toro Y Moi, Anything In Return
Major Lazer, Free the Universe
Moorcheeba, Head Up High
Ra Ra Riot, Beta Love
The 1975, The 1975
–Five So Weird I Like Them Just Because–
Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse
The Knife, Shaking the Habitual
Kid Cudi, Indicud
Sigur Ros, Kveikur
Bombadil, Metrics of Affection
–Five I Think We’ve Both Heard Of–
Bastille, Bad Blood
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Portugal. The Man, Evil Friends
Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart
Iron & Wine, Ghost on Ghost