Being a bunch of music junkies, we’ve spent much of 2013 listening to some of the finest (and not so fine) albums being released. This year, we were graced by comebacks we never expected to hear, as well as music from new artists that seemed to come out of thin air. Check out our 25 favorite albums of 2013 below, and don’t forget to let us know which releases you held closest to your heart this year in the comments section.
Top 25 Albums of 2013
1. Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City”
On Vampire Weekend’s newest release, the NYC indie rockers explore deeper themes, all while maintaining the sunny melodies and urban imagery we’ve come to love and expect. Although this time around they’re more skeptical, a sense of optimism still shines throughout the record. Simply put, Modern Vampires of the City is the ideal soundtrack for the coming east coast summer.
2. Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories”
As far as musical achievements go, this album did it all in 2013; it debuted at #1 on Billboard, it had the hit single that everyone and their mother knew in “Get Lucky,” and it even still retained the mystique that surrounds the enigmatic Daft Punk. From slow-burners like “The Game of Love” to outright head-bangers like “Doin’ It Right,” this record had a little something for everyone. It transcended genre to stand on its own through a mix of pop, electronic, and hell, even disco at times. What’s more, Random Access Memories provided a slew of guests in Pharrell, Panda Bear, and the revived king of the synthesizer, Giorgio Morodor. Daft Punk brought down the walls that separate the ground-in niches of music listeners, and had the record store hipsters, Top 40 listeners, and SUV-driving mothers all enjoying the same thing. In the fractured world of 2013, Daft Punk made something universal, and that deserves to be celebrated.
3. Arcade Fire – “Reflektor”
Reflektor is a 75-minute double album, and the best Arcade Fire record ever made. A brilliant art rock landscape that will stand the test of time, it’s a myriad-genred trip that draws influences from synth pop, rock & roll, Haitian Karnaval, Greek mythology, and modern day existentialism. Dare I say Reflektor is this decade’s Dark Side of the Moon?
4. Foxygen – “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic”
On Foxygen’s sophomore outing, Sam France and Jonathan Rado prove themselves to be the frontrunners of the ‘60s psych pop revival. The group draws references from The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, The Zombies, and The Rolling Stones, but the humor and playful hooks are all Foxygen.
5. Kanye West – “Yeezus”
Although Kanye West might not be the second coming of Steve Jobs or Walt Disney (like he stated in a New York Times interview), he’s still one of the most innovative musicians today. On Yeezus, the follow-up to the equally as wonderful My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West blows kisses at the listener with crashes of electronic noise, harsh synth tones, and fuzzy drum beats. This is Kanye’s most personal record to date and although it may not be quite godlike, it certainly seems like it was created by something greater.
6. Disclosure – “Settle”
The UK dance music scene has been brewing for a while now, but it took this massive album to transport that energy to the American airwaves. With Settle, the two brothers spearheaded a movement, and completely changed the scope of electronic music in the U.S. This album provides a cross-section to the myriad of sounds that make the British scene so alluring, adding a touch of garage and grime from the sweaty underground raves of the UK’s early 90s, and combining it with modern EDM (as some refer to it). Disclosure added the forerunners of the British dance/pop scene in Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, London Grammar, and AlunaGeorge, who all provide incredible vocals; it really adds a dimension of depth that’s missing from the cheesy neon and fist-pumping friendly culture. Not bad for a duo that can’t even legally buy a drink yet.
7. Phosphorescent – “Muchacho”
Muchacho was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2013. After 5 LPs, Matthew Houck was ready to give up on the project, but some unseen inspiration found him. This came in the form of “Muchacho’s Tune,” a song that eventually sparked his breakout 6th album. Of course, new fans will likely come for “Song For Zula,” and rightfully so, as it’s one of the most defiant and moving love songs of the past decade, yet Muchacho offers something quite unique. It’s a throwback album, recalling the epic guitar-rock and subtle beauty of Neil Young’s Zuma. Phosphorescent begins the record with building harmonies in “Sun Arise,” and then turns around and shows some bombast with “Ride On / Right On,” much in the way that Young formatted his records. Houck’s crackly vocals cut through you, and this album actually makes you feel something.
8. The National – “Trouble Will Find Me”
The National are shockingly consistent. With their sixth studio album, they continue to perfect the sound they’ve created. Trouble Will Find Me delves deeper into the brooding territory that they do so well, but beneath the veil of sadness, this is a hopeful record. Tracks like “I Need My Girl” and “Sea of Love” display a band that’s still growing, even when they could very easily rehash the success of Boxer over and over. The National are still making some of their best music, as “Demons,” “I Should Live in Salt,” and “Graceless” all belong in the canon of their most memorable material. Thankfully, these seasoned veterans are finally getting the attention they deserve.
9. Danny Brown – “Old”
In 2013, Danny Brown flipped the rap game on its head. He became the blueprint for the rapper of the future. Brown’s vocal inflections, penchant for the bizarre, and genre-crossing style will be mimicked for years to come, but what can’t be replicated is the fact that the success of Old lies in the idea of Danny just being Danny. In a brilliant move, he adopted the of-the-moment MDMA-infused culture, and applied it to hip-hop. His concerts are nothing short of a rave, and yet, the guy can still rap; beyond “Dip” and “Dope Song,” there’s tracks like “Side A (Old)” that put his rapping talent front-and-center. Add in a love for indie artists (he just did a verse for a Vampire Weekend remix) and a hilarious social media presence, and you’ve got yourself a Top 10 album of the year.
10. Arctic Monkeys – “AM”
The fifth studio album from the English indie rock band could be their best to date. AM was the second fastest selling album of the year in the UK, falling just behind Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. In an interview earlier this year, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner explained that the album title was inspired by the Velvet Underground’s album VU. “I actually stole it from the Velvet Underground, I’ll just confess that now and get it out of the way. The ‘VU’ record obviously,” he said. Well the title may be a copy but the rest is pure Arctic Monkeys originals, you can’t deny the depth of songs like “Do I Wanna Know?” “R U Mine?” “Arabella” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High.” They also had a few guest musicians on the album, including Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age, who added vocals to the track “Knee Socks.”
11. Lorde – “Pure Heroin”
Ella Yelich-O’Connor aka Lorde released her debut album ‘Pure Heroine’ this year at the young age of 17. With her lead single “Royals,” she became the first solo artist from New Zealand to top the US Billboard charts. The beauty of this album is that it was driven to the top of the charts purely on the strength of the vocals and lyrics, and not because of a large marketing budget. I’m sure you know “Royals” by now but if you haven’t heard the rest of the album, do yourself a favor and give it a listen, it definitely lives up the hype.
12. Kurt Vile – “Walking On A Pretty Daze”
The president of contemporary classic rock, Kurt Vile, returned this year with his staple mumbled vocals and curt musical arrangements. Walking On A Pretty Daze is guitar utopia and poetic haziness in one perfectly wrapped package. With the average track clocking in at just over six minutes, each song allows the ideal space for Vile’s infectious hooks to run wild.
13. Drake – “Nothing Was The Same”
For all the fans that Drake has accumulated, there’s an equal amount of detractors. After Kendrick Lamar wrote-off the Toronto rapper for his apparent lack of street cred (in a word, “softness”), it raised the question of whether or not Drake’s detractors are actually listening? Or is it that they’re simply afraid to test the waters of rap music that favors introspection over masculine power? Regardless, Drake released his best work yet in Nothing Was The Same, and arguably the radio hit of the year in “Hold On We’re Going Home.”
14. David Bowie – “The Next Day”
David Bowie’s return from a decade’s absence is a bafflingly brilliant one. The Next Day takes an introspective approach, where Bowie looks to the past only to make sense of where he is now. If you’re longing for a bold, stimulating, and emotionally rebellious record – this one’s for you. Seriously, who still writes music like this at 66?
15. James Blake – “Overgrown”
Overgrown is James Blake’s second studio release. He’s improved upon his great debut in virtually every way, as he concocts dark electronic and hip-hop friendly rhythms with veteran skill. Strangely, Blake’s been nominated for “Best New Artist” at the Grammys this year, but don’t poke fun, they move a little slow. Leave the ear-buds at home, this record should be played on a stereo with a subwoofer after nightfall; it’s an experience. Get ready to hear this name a lot more: James Blake. James Blake. James Blake. (I’m just preparing you).
16. Parquet Courts – “Light Up Gold”
These upstarts are one of the first in Brooklyn’s gurgling “second wave.” Their slacker-friendly punk is a battle cry against the gluten-free minutia of a culture that’s become too tame. Parquet Courts is here to shake things up and Light Up Gold is a terrific starting point.
17. Haim – “Days Are Gone”
Haim’s debut record Days Are Gone is intimate yet universal. Musically and lyrically, it is stripped and to the point, filled with subtle sunrays of energy that leave you dancing like it’s 1970. If you’re into catchy melodies and hard-hitting indie pop tunes, look no further.
18. Portugal the Man – “Evil Friends”
‘Evil Friends’ marked the 7th full length album from the Portland, Oregon rock band but its first collaboration with producer Danger Mouse. The album was filled with great songs including “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,”Creep in a T-shirt,” and “Modern Jesus” which can be found in our Top 50 songs of 2013.
19. Queens of the Stone Age – “…Like Clockwork”
This return to glory for Queens of the Stone Age is 5 years in the making. The 6th LP for the cult favorites could have very well never happened, yet frontman Josh Homme finally put all the pieces together after tumultuous recording sessions. Hard rock fans rejoice; in a genre that doesn’t get much direct attention these days, …Like Clockwork provides a spark.
20. Chance The Rapper – “Acid Rap”
Although it’s technically a mixtape, there was just no way we could leave Acid Rap off of the list. With this release, Chance The Rapper has emerged to stardom. The Chicago native self-released the tape as a free digital download, but little did he know, it would become one of the most celebrated rap albums of the year. The production is on point, as Chance flows over it with his off-kilter delivery. The help of Action Bronson, Childish Gambino, and Ab-Soul certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
21. Run the Jewels – “S/T”
The combination of Killer Mike and El-P is a marriage of sheer force. Between the former’s bellowing flow, and the latter’s choppy production, this hip-hop tandem made some serious noise last year. On top of that, their label Fool’s Gold decided to drop it as a free digital download; the clever technique sent Run The Jewels into the stratosphere, in one of the best collaborations in recent memory.
22. The Naked and The Famous – “In Rolling Waves”
23. Cate Le Bon – “Mug Museum”
The way Welsh folkstress Cate Le Bon combines sounds of the past is truly original. In addition to her Nico-like vocal delivery, Mug Museum has everything else lo-fi and folk lovers crave – punchy baselines, whirling keyboards, fuzzy guitars, and dark poetry. On her third LP, Le Bon deviates between gloomy and playful, a combination that’ll keep you on your toes throughout.
24. Autre Ne Veut – “Anxiety”
Don’t worry about pronouncing the name correctly; as soon as you try to utter Autre Ne Veut, it elicits an excited response from those who have heard the R&B/electronic project from Arthur Ashin. Anxiety is one of the most under-appreciated releases this year, because this record could truly turn heads if it had the right exposure. Nonetheless, for those that have stumbled across this album, we can go ahead and guarantee that “Play by Play” and “Counting” are among the songs with the most repeats in their library. Anxiety is pure, contagious energy.
25. Majical Cloudz – “Impersonator”
The debut effort from Majical Cloudz rounds-out our list, but don’t sleep on this one. Impersonator is the soundtrack to late night drives and spaced-out dreams. It’s the feeling of living “on the edge of existence,” as singer Devon Welsh describes in “Bugs Don’t Buzz.” This record encapsulates you into an otherworldly place, one you’ll keep going back to out of sheer curiosity. It’s an album unlike anything else released this year, and undoubtedly, for years to come.