It’s almost the end of another calendar year and in my mind that means three things: resolutions I’m not going to keep, making people listen to me recite sections of Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and top 50 best album of the year lists.
I don’t have room here to outline the albums I would put in the top 50 (and frankly, I probably couldn’t even think of 50 albums that came out in the past year), so I’m going to keep it short and stick to the top 10. They’re also not going to be in any particular order. They’re the top 10, but they’re not ranked 10 to one or anything. They’re just 10 good albums from the year 2013.
I am aware that many of you are going to disagree with me, and that’s fine. You’re allowed to have different musical tastes than I do, but this is my column so it’s going to be about music I like (that you should probably listen to because it’s all pretty darn good).
I’ll start with Laura Marling, because that’s who I’m currently listening to. Her fourth studio album “Once I was an Eagle” was released in mid-May and the fact that it wasn’t completely overshadowed by the release of Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” speaks volumes.
Laura is an indie-folker from England who has forged a path of her own, one that is dark, twined with vines, brooding and slightly unsettling. Her album is a dark look at a life post-relationship, and though part of you wishes she’d just get over it, another part of you doesn’t want her to ever stop being angry about it if it keeps producing such amazing music.
Vampire Weekend’s 2013 release ranks among the top 10 for various reasons, which I’m not even sure I have to explain. If you’ve listened to it, you know. If you haven’t, you need to. One thing’s for sure, Ezra and the boys have certainly hit their stride (though I’m pretty sure they hit it in 2007 when they released their self-titled album).
May was a month for music, with Brooklyn-based The National releasing their sixth studio album titled “Trouble Will Find Me.” It’s haunting and is easy to listen to pretty much all the time.
The Arctic Monkey’s fifth album, released in early September, definitely has a place somewhere in the top 10. The Sheffield boys lost a little momentum with their fourth album “Suck it and See” but they’ve certainly gained it back with “AM.” Even if it isn’t the best of their albums, there’s something nostalgic about it. It’s always nice when a band that you used to jam to in high school releases something new. And if you’re angry and lovelorn, it’ll speak to your soul.
Archie Marshall, aka King Krule (aka Edgar the Beatmaker aka Zoo Kid aka DJ JD Sports), released his first album this year on his 19th birthday. Indie-rock with blues and electro influences, “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” doesn’t seem like the work of someone not even two decades old.
Since we’re talking about Brits, let’s talk about one more, James Blake. His second album “Overgrown” released earlier this year is as beautiful as it is haunting, with Blake’s falsetto sung over his piano and electro instrumentals paired with very subtle soul influences. It could not be more lovely.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. may have a ridiculous name, but their second album, “The Speed of Things,” was anything but ridiculous. Also natives of D-town, Daniel Zott and Joshua Epstein basically just know how to bump a nice beat. It’s fun and it’s chill.
Arcade Fire released their much anticipated fourth studio album “Reflektor” in late October and, to be quite honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan at first. But I grew to love it. It’s just a little more dance-y than what we’ve come to expect from Arcade Fire, but since it was produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, that makes complete sense.
Even though Daft Punk released an album this year, in my mind electro has become a young person’s game. The brothers of Disclosure are barely into their 20s (well, one of them is, the other is 19) and their debut album “Settle” proves my point. The album has some great features, too, including Sam Smith, Jessie Ware and AlunaGeorge.
The 10th and final album could be a tie between at least three different bands, but I’m going to have to say it’s Los Campesinos! “No Blues.” Los Camp has been on my radar for a long time, but this album is certainly among their finest, in this humble reporter’s opinion.
I could go on, but I can’t (word count issues, am I right?). Overall, 2013 was a pretty great year for music. A nice mixture of old friends releasing new albums and new friends releasing some of their first stuff. It’s made me really excited for future artists and for what’s coming in 2014.