As I write this best of 2013, many great albums dropped in the beginning of the year, lest they be forgotten in December. In fact, Autre Ne Veut’s “Anxiety” would have been my favorite of the year. Playing it incessantly when it came out in February this year, I thought that there was no way any other album could even come close to its scope and feel and was destined to be at #1. Well, I was very wrong. Disclosure’s beautiful electronic dance pop epic masterpiece, “Settle”, with its infectious house beats and notable guest artists make it an absolute slam dunk as the best of the year! Then, Charli XCX’s “True Romance” dropped, an incredible mix of dance, neo-goth industrial fuzz electronica mixed with an lots of hard beats and emotionally personal lyrics. She really produced an amazingly careful set of well crafted pop songs. The rest of my list is a collection of what I consider “the best.” My thing is that it needs to be a “fun” record, and I use the term very loosely. Chelsea Wolfe’s “Pain is Beauty” is a dark, cavernous and echoey goth-like record, but is no less fun to listen to than Jagwar Ma’s surf rocking psychedelic sounds on “Howlin'”. Also, notably, there are two entries from bands from Pennsylvania: Kurt Vile from Philly, and original dream poppers, The Ocean Blue from Hershey, PA. Overall, the album must be likeable from the beginning to end for a reason, not just because of a genre or because it’s part of a movement, but it was creative, relevant and hip. It’s because the album felt good in 2013, and it could be replayed over and over, and it still moved me in some way.
30. Cut Copy “Free Your Mind” (Modular) – Still producing epic dance songs with huge hook laden choruses on their songs. Each Cut Copy record scores with epic-like crescendos and infectious dance beats. The album is best played from track 1 to the last track in succession.
29. David Bowie “The Next Day” (ISO)– He’s not ready to retire. Bowie’s latest is relevant, poignant and edgy….best since “Let’s Dance”. Hear the urgency and the brilliant instrumentation, the shriek-filled guitar and up-tempo high energy songs he produces. It’s a tribute to an amazing glam rock legend.
28.Young Galaxy “Ultramarine” (Paper Bag)- This is a fine collection of the finest electo-pop songs with inspirational lyrics, dreamy and ethereal.
27. Amateur Best “No Thrills” (Double Denim)– I reviewed this album earlier this year. It’s an incredible mix of neo-R&B, but it has a bit of a retro neo psychedelic feel not uncommon, and the voice is unique sounding, strong and powerful, and the songs are relevant and exciting. See my review on Philthy mag.
26. The Ocean Blue “Ultramarine” (Korda Records)– These late 80’s dream pop inventors are back and are just as relevant now as they were back in 1989 serving up a nice album full of updated dream pop rock with a bit harder edge for the times without lacking in its ethereal roots.
- 25. Toro Y Moi “Anything in Return” (Carpark)- This is cool, dance and groove-oriented electronica all mixed with a bit of R&B. The original chillwaver is as cool as ever with this collection of dance tunes!
- 24. Eleanor Friedberger “Personal Record” (Merge)- This is a collection of intelligent pop songs…lots of huge hooks, and clever lyrics.
- 23. Arcade Fire “Reflektor” (Merge)- Complex, danceable, and intricate, yet “Reflektor” doesn’t lose it’s pop sensibilities. I like its flow and intricacies, all with an epic format with 2 very distinct styles on each side.
- 22. Waxahatchee “ Cerulean Salt” (Don Giovanni)- This album reminds me of something more ’90’s oriented with its straight forward, guitar sound, yet the songs are so well-crafted. This is so poignant and beautiful in its own way.
- 21. Kurt Vile “Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze” (Matador)- This is the best laid back guitar guitar rock for the new era. In fact, one can imagine walkin’ or lying on the beach to this music. It’s lovely and relevant and hazy psychedelia.
20. Haim “Days are Gone” (Columbia/ Polydor) –Pop geniuses, Haim, 3 sisters from Los Angeles are making the very best of the 80’s pop revivalists imaginable. They are having a great time and creating highly listenable, quirky, complex and danceable high energy pop/ rock tunes!
- 19. Haerts “Hemiplegia” (Columbia) – This one should be in my top 10. I love this song and the others on this EP. It’s a dreamy, ethereal journey, lots of huge hooks and retro style lyrics reminiscent of Stevie Nicks. It does not stray from it’s incredible roots and sticks with you. It’s a high class dreamy view of it all. Amazing!
- 18. Polica “Shulamith” (Mom & Pop) – This is great minimal electronica with an edge. The bass and drums drive this modern R&B classic forward. Polica shines on the sophomore “Shulamith” with lots of shimmering synths and powerful hooks. Great record!
- 17. Daft Punk “Random Access Memories” (Columbia) -This is an incredible effort of relevant dance, progressive rock and pop produced this year. This is a amazing listenable from start to finish, each song is every bit as different as the one before it.
- 16. Baths “Obsidian” (Anticon)- This is an electronic indie masterpiece. Lots of bits and pieces not really organized to be made and felt cohesive. It’s like a journey towards something better than what is presently here.
- 15. Rhye “Woman” (Republic/ Innovative Leisure/ Loma Vista) This is the coolest collection of neo R&B songs of the year. Lots of down beat R&B with a smoothness not heard since the early 80’s. Truly an amazing record.
- 14. Julia Holter “ Loud City Song” (Domino)- This is some of the best dreamy, eccentric and exotic pop sounds with a complex sound including strings creating an amazing sound, and Julia has a unique wondeful delivery.
- 13. Chelsea Wolfe- “Pain is Beauty” (Sargent House)- Beautiful post-punk goth genius, Chelsea Wolfe produces the most incredibly beautiful dark music I’ve heard in a very long time. It’s listenable, discernible, journey-like and quite frankly shimmering and beautiful. The instrumentation is reminiscent of an early 80’s Echo and the Bunnymen or any other dark or goth oriented band of the genre, but she adds strings and an echo. A must listen.
12. Ejecta “Dominae” (Driftless) – This is a fine collection from Neon Indian’s keyboardist, Leanne Macomber and producer, Joel Ford. It’s a dreamy 80’s ethereal journey to the farthest of our mind’s thinking. The instruments and the lyrics are well coordinated and dance floor oriented. Her voice is quiet and precise. It’s the most amazing piece of 80’s synth pop dance not produced in the 80’s.
- 11. Jon Hopkins “Immunity” (Domino)- Industrial, choppy, danceable, fun, it’s like a dreamy travelogue. It’s everything you want it to be and more. This is the ultimate in house dance industrial that I have ever heard. It conjures up images of traveling and feels like a work room full of sounds and beats.
10. Savages “Silence Yourself” (Matador/ Pop Noire)- Rock and roll survives in the form of Savages…This quartet from the UK is a post-punk odyssey. It feels like U2 on overdrive…incredible guitar driven riffs and a desperate ethereal voice. It’s a throwback to an 80’s revival with a tinge of angry newness. This is really quite impressive.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kebq-cENNn0]
- 9. Jagwar Ma “Howlin” (Marathon Artists)- This Australian surf rock psych-pop band relies heavily on a retro sound and synthesizers but it’s pop sensibilities and willingness to provide a great pop sound are there. A feeling of psychedelic and dance permeate throughout, yet it feels light and danceable.
- 8. Classixx “Hanging Gardens” (Innovative Leisure) – Like many electronic bands this year, this one looks back to the 70’s and 80’s for inspiration. This made my top 10 because it’s a positive outgoing piece of art, the modern sythn-pop to glide it along.
7. Foxygen “We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic” (Jagjaguwar)- I love this changeable clever psychedelic debut from this young band from California. It has a neo-retro feel. At times, you feel like you are listening to the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan or some other band from the 60’s and 70’s, but overall, it’s really very modern sounding and new.
- 6. Chvrches “ The Bones of What you Believe” (Glassnote)- This Glasgow, Scotland trio has produced the most palatable synthpop of any group I’ve heard since the ‘80’s. It’s danceable, loveable, graspable, and the hooks are huge and likeable.
- 5. AlunaGeorge “ Body Music” (Vagrant/ Island)– This incredible duo of Aluna Francis and Ben George is one of perfection. It’s just a meticulous collection of intricately produced electronic dance pop tunes. Aluna uses her British accented voice and poignant lyrics with Ben’s accompaniment to her advantage. Pop perfection!
- 4. Shout Out Lounds “Optica” (Merge)– This Swedish pop band finds a sweet spot with me producing songs that are cool, danceable and just amazingly relevant. I found myself playing this one on double repeat. These are just palatable hook laden pop songs with a shimmer and glow to them bringing with them a high amount of listenability.
- 3. Charli XCX “True Romance” (IAMSOUND)- “Stay Away” As a huge goth and industrial music fan, this one was an instant hit. There were lots of good singles and danceable neo-goth industrial fuzz electronic tracks with a bit of brightness to it. This is a sublime, neo-goth dance classic, full of very clever lyrics, fine hooks and choruses. There is a tremendous amount to love about Charli XCX. She is the real deal. She is a pop artist genius.
- 2. Autre Ne Veut “Anxiety” (Mexican Summer/ Software)- Wow, I listened to this one non-stop at the beginning of the year. There is so much emotion, so much going on in each one of these songs. It’s an R&B electronic dance pop masterpiece. Every single song is complex and emotional, just a joy to listen to each of them over and over again.
1. Disclosure “Settle” (PMR) – This is the ultimate collection of pop, R&B, dance and house hits of the year or any year. Each song hits hard on on many levels. The guest list on this record takes it to an even more interesting level adding to its uniqueness. This one will be regarded as one of the best of the decade and will be referenced by those in the future.