Top 50 Albums of 2013
50. Deerhunter – Monomania
I’ve been a longtime fan of Bradford Cox and his incessant jamming and creativity, whether with Deerhunter or his solo effort, Atlas Sound. This year, Deerhunter returns with Monomania, the sixth studio album in their catalogue. While not as a wayward or experimental as some of their previous albums, Deerhunter have crafted an almost perfect, albeit modest, execution of the American garage rock sound. Gone are the sprawling, psychedelic hallucinations of songs like “Nothing Ever Happened” and “Helicopter.” Instead, Cox and his gang have fuzzed out their six strings and donned leather jackets and sunglasses to produce a sound that is decidedly different but still all too familiar.
49. Whirr – Around
Whirr is a band that has been dazzling me since their inception. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a band whose name matches up with their sound as much as Whirr, and they’ve had two distinct namesakes (formerly Whirl). The band has perfected the current state of shoegaze music (not discrediting mbv, but that’s a different beast), offering rises and falls, crescendos, reverbed female vocals and sprawling guitar effects. On Around, the band condenses their sound into 4 tracks, the majority of which almost hit the ten-minute mark. It’s certainly more ambitious and monolithic than their previous effort Pipe Dreams, but for a band as expansive and ethereal as Whirr, it only makes sense.
48. Have Mercy – The Earth Pushed Back
There’s nothing better than a band who reminds you of your teenage years, and if you’re anything like me, Have Mercy is gonna be that band. New-ish to the ever growing Topshelf Records roster, Have Mercy recreates the pop punk/emo anthems of years past with a more than helping dose of the “emo revival” sound that seems to be taking up everybody’s time. Catchy hooks, super ultra tortured singing about “how I know that you know that I know that you don’t really care” and being “the loneliest ark,” all the while channeling the greatest parts about old Drive-Thru bands and dudes like Manchester Orchestra and Brand New. Call it a guilty pleasure or not, these guys from Baltimore made a record that fits right in with bands like The World Is… and basically the rest of their label. I mean let’s be real, last time I saw them live they were opening up for Knapsack.
47. Volcano Choir – Repave
With the dissolution of Bon Iver, superfans of Justin Vernon’s symbolic croon and anguish were left with a pit in their hearts and no outlet for their emotional wounds. Thankfully, Mr. Vernon went to work again with Collections of Colonies of Bees to release Volcano Choir’s second full length. Honestly, this collection of songs plays more like a natural continuation of Bon Iver, Bon Iver’s orchestral chamber rock. I can just picture Justin Vernon telling the backing band to just “make music that sounds like a more rocking Bon Iver.” Standout tracks like “Comrade” and “Alaskans” bleed emotion like open wounds. Sparse guitar picking and gentle pianos carry the weight of the latter while the former centers on a repeated explosive climax that culminates in an auto tuned Vernon spewing “give it another fortnight/eye to eye the culprit/just ride the fucking pulpit” reassuring us that he stills waxes abstract poetry no matter what he’s singing over.
46. Modern Life Is War – Fever Hunting
I remember when it happened. “Finally,” I thought. “A new Modern Life Is War record.” How sad of a day it was when to my chagrin, I was underwhelmed by their effort. Who wouldn’t be when the iconic Witness, the band’s swan song and a nearly perfect hardcore record, was released 6 years prior. Upon further listening I realized that I was comparing Fever Hunting to closely to Witness and I failed to realized that the new record was undoubtedly a reaffirmation of the bands ability to write anthemic and meaningful hardcore music. The catharsis found in “Brothers in Arms Forever,” the rancorous condemning of “Chasing My Tail,” and the explosive energy of opener “Old Fears, New Frontiers” are unequivocally demonstrations of the band every former hardcore kid knew and loved returning like a bitter, contemptuous phoenix.
45. Tiny Moving Parts – This Couch Is Long and Full of Friendship
2013 has certainly been a prolific year for emo bands, and there has been numerous articles on the internet detailing the emergence of an “emo revial.” Tiny Moving Parts are a major contributor to this revival, and they didn’t seem to get the recognition they deserve. Tiny Moving Parts give us an earnest and candid slice of the math-rock infused Midwestern sound, complete with half shouted/half yelled lyrics of science experiments, love loss, and old friends. The musicianship is intricate and involved, and as the onslaught of finger tapped riffs and tangled bass lines swarm in, it becomes difficult to believe the band is only made up of three dudes. The lyrical content is at times way to emo (“throwing up no throw up/because dry heaving is the new black”) but it’s delivered with such fervor and panic you can easily forgive these dudes. And yeah, these guys are “twinkle daddies.”
44. Daylight – Jar
Daylight’s musical evolution has been an interesting to witness. From theemo punk days of the Sinking EP to the grunge tribute of 2013’s Jar the band has definitely come a long way. Earlier tunes were at times far too saccharine in a punk rock way, but with their latest effort we see these dudes paying an enormous tribute to Nirvana and the grunge scene of the 90’s. It makes for a more nostalgic experience as opposed to the immediate emotional connection that was established in their earlier songs. It’s a shame that Balance and Composure’s new record came out this year as well, because this would have placed higher on the list as the “indie alt rock guitar record” to listen to this year.
43. Iron Chic – The Constant One
I slept on this record when it came out and I’m still fucking kicking myself about it. That’s oddly appropriate given the lyrical content and what this band stands for: self loathing, ennui, loss of identity, a search for purpose. There’s nothing quite like a great punk record reassuring you that somewhere out there, somebody is having basically the same exact problems you’re having. Iron Chic writes absurdly catchy songs, each one with sing-alongs, woah-ohs and essential crowd surfing opportunities. Every time I hear the beginning to “A Serious House On Serious Earth,” with the martial drumming and the rising feedback, I’m already shitting myself ready to sing along: “you had a heart of gold/I know because I fucking sold it/and truth be told/I couldn’t even say what I did with the money.”
42. My Bloody Valentine – mbv
This is no Loveless. At first I was taken aback. I didn’t know what to think. “What happened to my golden boys and girls of shoegaze?” I preserved and kept listening and realized it wasn’t that bad, just a little different. A whole lot darker and experimental. At times crushingly dense and difficult to understand, but othertimes offering the same serenity and tranquility everybody knows and loves from Loveless. It’s a disappointment of sorts in my eyes, but like Modern Life Is War, it stems largely from the importance of their previous record. It’s still monumental given the magnitude of a band like My Bloody Valentine and we can at least all be thankful that we have another record to add to their ever-challenging body of work.
41. Defeater – Letters Home
As someone who was fully invested into the tough guy hardcore scene a couple years ago, I can safely say that I’m a bigger advocate of the hardcore that’s interweaved with melody and passion. Defeater have always given us music for the hardcore intellectual, offering narratives and converging story lines in their songs, all the while pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a “hardcore” band. With Letters Home the band continues to delve into the lives of a family ripped apart by World War II, and they offer us their take on the tragedy in their usual fashion. Nevermind the precision and emotion dripping from the music itself, the centerpiece of the band has and always will be the tortured, embittered howls of vocalist Derek Archambault. Listening to Defeater’s music is almost always a mentally taxing experience (in a good way mind you) and it’s no different this year.
40. Pissed Jeans – Honeys
The reason Pissed Jeans are so amazing deals mainly with how perfectly they express how pissed off they are about growing up and becoming adults. The band writes songs about screaming at your fellow employees at whatever stupid grown up job you have, meeting someone and realizing they aren’t who their online profile says they are and signing up for a health care plan. All these themes are delivered in a flurry of noisy and discordant punk rock all the while frontman Matt Korvette’s disgusting snarl drills a hole in your ear. Honeys is the record to help you through your midlife depression and make you want to spit in your boss’ face at the same time.
39. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
I’m a sucker for heartfelt and shattered music and whenever I can take the time to listen to a musician spill their guts out into the world I’m gonna give it a chance. Katie Crutchfield writes almost overwhelmingly sentimental songs about failed relationships and waking up late. Cerulean Salt is carried largely by Crutchfield’s honeyed, fragile voice and her guitar, but the addition of sparse, well placed percussion gives her sophomore album a more explosive dynamic than last year’s American Weekend. Crutchfield is essentially the current generation’s Elliott Smith.
38. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze
The first time I listened to Kurt Vile’s newest record I thought I acquired a bobo copy that had incorrect track lengths. But as I listened on I realized that this crazy motherfucker just decided to jam out, but in the most laidback and effortless way. I’ve always described Kurt Vile as the laziest guitar prodigy ever, and Wakin On A Pretty Daze is basically his testimony to the accusation. A lot more involved than previous records, and just a little bit trippier, Kurt Vile wrote the swan song for every musician too high to pick up their instruments.
37. Danny Brown – Old
Danny Brown is one of the most virulent personas in the hip-hop game. His trademark nasally voice is instantly recognizable and his rhymes actually form a narrative. The old Danny Brown used to rap about eating pussy, drugs and other banal shit, and somehow still managed to make it interesting. The new Danny Brown on the aptly titled Old, raps about more serious topics, from the crushing hopelessness of life to the realization that recreational drug use has transformed into a crippling addiction. Old is a fantastic album because it’s a rapper who never really took anything seriously eschewing that attitude and seriously attempting to speak some form of truth about his life.
36. Frameworks – Small Victories
I love when bands from my home state put out amazing music. I love it even more when it’s a screamo band that’s actually making waves in the scene. Gainesville’s Frameworks blend the best aspects of the atmospheric, cascading style of screamo with the aggression and fervor of more intense bands in the genre. Despite being only a four song EP, Small Victories does wonders at demonstrating everything the band is capable of. The most important aspect of a screamo band is their ability to create emotions out of music that may initially sound unpleasant. Frameworks transcend this task throughout the entirety of the EP, culminating in the final track “Old Homes,” a sublime blend of Envy’s crescendos and Touche Amore’s zeal. Their full length coming out on Topshelf is gonna be something to look forward to without question.
35. Kilgore Trout – Immemorial
Another excellent screamo EP places on the list, this time from Richmond’s Kilgore Trout. Forget the fact that their name comes from the infamous Kurt Vonnegut character, the band draws influences from the most visceral screamo bands of the early 2000’s, especially the sound coming from several European bands (I’m looking at you Louise Cyphre and June Paik). The five tracks on the EP shift from scathing sonic assaults to melodic, yet still impatient and seething lulls. Listening to the EP is honestly like reliving the previous golden era of skramz, and it’s a true delight to still have active bands producing music like this.
34. Burial – Rival Dealer
I don’t think there’s a more present and prominent enigma in electronic music than Burial. Equal parts reclusive and prolific, each new installment of Burial’s discography is like a new edition to the New Testament. His most recent EP is among the most breathtaking of his releases, and we find him pushing the boundaries of his music as he shifts away from the predominantly subdued and hushed tendencies of his previous efforts. Within seconds of the first track, we’re treated to an actual pulsing, thriving house beat that might actually give listeners used to his older sound a heart attack. Despite all of this, the EP is still decidedly a “Burial” EP, complete with his signature pitter-patter drum sounds and clanking metal samples. The prominence of warped vocal samples exceeds his previous works, but it shows a natural evolution in his sound. It’s a shame this came out so late in the year, otherwise it may have ranked higher on my list.
33. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
2013: the year hip-hop, R&B and electronic music finally consummated. Autre Ne Veut’s latest was one of the first outstanding LP’s of the year, and on it the New York based singer blends the best parts of 90’s pop and the current trends of electronica. From the immediacy of the first track “Play By Play,” I knew this dude had something great on his hands: gentle croons, jarring and dizzying production and lyrical content that aptly coincides with the name of the record. It’s basically a perfect record for the neurotic romantic who still wants to be able to dance along.
32. Merchandise – Totale Night
Tampa, FL’s Merchandise continues their post punk/Smiths worship on Totale Night, a harrowing attempt to escape each of their hardcore punk pedigrees. A slightly more “pop” affair than last year’s Children of Desire, we’ve got elements of The Cure, Joy Division, New Order and The Smiths strewn throughout all five of the songs. Vocalist Carson Cox’s bellow remains a centerpiece for the band, especially on the ballad “I’ll Be Gone.” Not to discredit the swirling guitars and synths surrounding him, but there’s something about the plaintiveness of his vocals that channels a side of Morrissey nobody can really hear anymore.
31. Iceage – You’re Nothing
Danish teen punks Iceage have perfected the art of not giving a fuck on You’re Nothing. Advancing both sonically and lyrically since their debut album, these dudes have given us another barrage of angst and despair. The best part about Iceage comes from having seen them play live and realizing that these kid flailing about just as much on stage as they are while they’re recording. Equal parts punk and post punk, You’re Nothing is a requiem for the disgruntled asshole inside all of us.
30. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP
I guess part of a hip-hop’s artist success is attributed to how quickly they can blow, and A$AP Rocky took care of that almost effortlessly. After his mixtape launched him into instant fame, there was a long, desperate lull before his debut album dropped; but goddamn was the wait worth it. A$AP’s appeal is certainly his “give no fucks, I’m rich and pretty” attitude, and on Long Live A$AP it shines through radiantly. The record offers compelling production, captivating guest features, the song “Fucking Problem” and a song Skrillex made that isn’t terrible. Sounds good to me.
29. Baths – Obsidian
Compared to Baths’ previous effort Cerulean, this year’s Obsidian took a devastatingly sharp turn towards depressing. I suppose it makes sense, since Will Wiesenfeld, the man behind the music, nearly succumbed to a bout of e. coli during the production of the record. I can best describe Obsidian as “The Postal Service for the even more depressed.” It’s an electronic record that hardly sounds electronic, with orchestral strings and swells cushioning the pillowy beats and synths, all the while Wiesenfeld’s falsetto filters in between the spaces. It’s a perfect companion for a rainy day or for the recovery from an irrelevant disease like e. coli.
28. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
This is definitely the record I regret sleeping on the most. Speedy Ortiz offers us the best Pavement/Built To Spill/(good) Modest Mouse worship in recent memory. Jangled riffs and catchy choruses are plentiful, all the while singer Sadie Dupuis drowsy voice laments about memories from high school and self doubt. Major Arcana is a shining beacon for guitar driven rock in a haze of stuffy electronic music that’s coming from every which way.
27. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever
In addition to having either the best or worst (depending on how you look at it) band name ever, The World Is… have provided us with another solid addition to the emo revival of the year 2013. Essentially an orchestral emo band, The World Is… plays with at least 8 people on stage, and they do their best to recreate that sensation on record. Guitars, synths, violins and trumpets blaring every which way, meanwhile three distinct voices are shouting about taking a rocket to space or carving initials into a tree. The band does a great job of deviating from the expected tropes of the ever-present “emo revival,” and as such, have done their part in breathing new life into a kind of music I hope never dies.
26. Caravels – Lacuna
Las Vegas, NV’s Caravels have put out EP after EP after EP for as long as I can remember, and this year we’ve finally been given a proper full length. Ten tracks of tangled and tumbling post hardcore infused scream, conjuring up images of older bands like Native Nod and Moss Icon. Any fan of “guitar rock” will find something to obsess over in this tundra of a record, as will any fan of passionate and emotive music. The record serves as a reminder for the impermanence of things as well as the overwhelming beauty of what we currently have.
25. Locktender – Kafka
Locktender is a relatively unknown band that rose from the ashes of an even more unknown band called Men As Trees. Stylistically, the two bands play the same style of music: cathartic, winding and expansive screamo infused with post rock tendancies. Locktender has taken a noticeably more “metal” approach, but the premise remains the same. Songs that wind and twist, scathing growls, blistering drumming and soaring guitars meshed with lush instrumental breaks. Locktender’s Kafka is heavily influenced by the writings of Franz Kafka (who would have thought) and each of the five songs on the record are directly related to five of the aphorisms from Kafka’s text “The Zau Aphorisms.” As such, the lyrical content deals with several distinct philosophical ideas that I won’t go into here. Just listen, because this record is essentially the screamo equivalent to Deafheaven’s Sunbather.
24. The Appleseed Cast – Illumination Ritual
In my eyes, The Appleseed Cast have consistently been putting quality music for so long, they can essentially do no wrong. Illumination Ritual is a deviation from the post rock tendencies of the last few records and finds the band exploring the stylistic choices they unraveled in earlier records like Mare Vitalis. Essentially, the band has resurrected the indie take on Midwestern emo they breathed life into during the late 90’s and have given it a modern “rock” sound. It’s nothing new, but the album reeks of a nostalgia that I can’t shake.
23. Brighter Arrows – Dreamliner
Brighter Arrows is the weirdest emo band you’ll most likely ever listen. In fact, I have doubts about calling them an emo band since they incorporate such an eclectic mixture of sounds into Dreamliner. The tracks contained within the record resemble a ghost haunting you, as the band mixes dissonant and discordant rock music with a more traditional emo sound that they explore on their previous EP, Division and What It Is to Abide. If you’re looking for an “emo” band that doesn’t sound like any other emo band out there, you would be doing yourself a favor by checking out Brighter Arrows.
22. The Men – New Moon
NYC’s The Men are a band that embodies Darwin’s theory of evolution in a musical sense. I’ve witnessed their progress from a noise rock band during the days of Leave Home to the alt/country/indie band we have on New Moon today. I hear traces of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Fleetwood Mac, while still discovering traces of the punk and hardcore roots the band naturally seemed to grow up with. Regardless, The Men are most likely “your favorite band’s favorite band” or whatever that dumb expression is, given their uncanny ability to shift and transform while still offering quality music. I said they are a band that personifies the natural theory of evolution, but it isn’t only because they are adapting to a changing musical landscape. The Men seem to actively seek a growth and evolution in their sound as opposed to remaining stagnant, and that’s ultimately the band’s greatest feat.
21. Disclosure – Settle
Electronic dance music is undoubtedly all the fucking rage right now, and honestly, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the genre. But when a group does it right, effectively and earnestly, a great piece of music is the result. Forget Daft Punk’s lackluster effort at revitalizing disco, Disclosure’s Settle is most likely the great “dance” record to come out all year. The sounds and themes are all encompassing, and the guests they brought on board compliment this British duo’s uncanny ability to produce music perfectly. Settle is music made for cocaine and MDMA and there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about that.
20. Local Natives – Hummingbird
To me, Local Natives are the greatest indie band everyone forgets about. Their debut album was an amazing collection of guitar pop, and their sound has matured significantly on Hummingbird. Tribal drumming, claps, soft ballads, ringing guitars and vocal harmonies are threaded throughout the entirety of the record. Local Natives are a band that are fully comfortable with the music they’ve chosen to play even though it may sound “kinda sorta” like some other bands out there. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory, since I find their music to conjure up images of beaches I’ve never been to and drunken house parties I’ve long forgotten about.
19. Little Big League – These Are Good People
To this day I can’t decide if Little Big League is an indie rock band or an emo band, but I suppose it’s best to just call them a little bit of both. They have the ebb and flow that make up the majority of bands falling into the “Midwestern” sound while maintaining a pop sensibility that makes them accessible by nearly anyone, while at the same time propelling their songs forward with the tenacity of the most aggressive punk bands. Michelle Zauner’s candied vocals will be sure to melt the hearts of emo boys everywhere (I mean, fuck, I still swoon every time I hear here croon on standout track “Settlers”) and the rest of the band do their very best to demonstrate that even the softest of punk bands can fuck you up.
18. Foxing – The Albatross
I’m calling it now; The Albatross might be the contender for this generation’s End Serenading or American Football. It has every characteristic of an iconic, sappy emo record, but it does so without being overbearing or corny. Lush brass instruments fill every other song, while twinkly, mathy guitars carry the barely whispered vocals. The record paints images of snowy mornings, evenings alone in a bedroom and memories of loved ones. I suppose all of those comparisons are going to inevitably result in someone thinking this is a sappy emo record to cry to, but it’s really something special from a recently formed band.
17. Wild Moth – Over, Again
Equal parts Joy Division, Bloc Party and Japandroids; Wild Moth aren’t afraid to make dancey punk for sappy drunks. Over, Again is fueled by an undeniably punk attitude but the band maintains a brooding, ominous sensation throughout the entirety of the record. I gave those comparisons, but listening to the record it’s sometimes even hard for me to acknowledge that they are accurate given how original I find this band to be. If you’re in the mood to break glass but you don’t really want to make a mess, Wild Moth would make an ideal soundtrack.
16. Crash of Rhinos – Knots
When a band like this starts making noise on Pitchfork, you have to assume they’re doing something right. These Brits take the best parts of Hot Water Music and Small Brown Bike and the result is a twisting whirlwind of twinkly emo jams. I hate to sacrifice originality in this write up, but I believe the band offered the best possible description about themselves: “We make a racket. Five voices, 2 guitars, 2 basses and a drum kit.”
15. Pusha T – My Name Is Name
Finally, in the year 2013, after years and years of delay, Pusha T’s debut album dropped and holy shit what a banger. I guess with his pedigree (Kanye’s blessing and full involvement in GOOD Music) it would be incredibly unlikely for it to be anything else, but every time I think about why Pusha T kicks so much ass I get a little confused. His flow is basically the laziest of all time and he constantly raps about pushing dope. But then I remember that in hip-hop, confidence is key, and this dude is one confident motherfucker. In a year where minimalism in hip-hop has reigned supreme, My Name Is Name set the tone for the movement (alongside Yeezus). Regardless, there are still a heaping amount of raging tracks (see “No Regrets” and “King Push”) to balance out all that hip and savvy minimalism. Like I said earlier about The Men, Pusha T will always be your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.
14. Lemuria – The Distance Is So Big
Powerpop sweethearts Lemuria returned triumphantly this year with The Distance Is So Big, a grander and more complete statement than their previous effort Pebble. This time around we find Sheena Ozzy and crew expanding on their established indie twee sound by offering explosive reprieves in tracks like “Brilliant Dancer” and more orchestral compositions like in “Oahu, Hawaii.” The record is a testament to their level of comfort with their music while at the same an exploration of untouched aspects in their songs.
13. James Blake – Overgrown
The world’s favorite British siren strikes again, offering us an even bigger and more robust sound than his debut self-titled record. A little bit of research on the Internet quickly reveals that Mr. Blake openly loves hip-hop (he’s moving in with Chance The Rapper for fucks sake) and Overgrown stops at nothing to make this point totally clear. From the obvious, like RZA’s feature on “Take A Fall For Me,” to the subliminally hip-hop tinged production strewn throughout the album (title track “Overgrown” and the one-two banger of “Digital Lion” and “Voyeur”). James Blake is without a doubt one of the most interesting new artists, and of the few electronic artists I can actually respect. With Overgrown he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
12. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
The biggest newcomer in hip-hop is without a doubt Chicago based Chance The Rapper. With a single, free, debut mixtape, Chance was able to garner an amount of fans that would take other rappers an entire career to establish. Of course, the rabid fanbase is entirely justified because Chance is an incredibly talented rapper, possessing a flow that is entirely unique and characteristic of his music. Not only that, but the dude can sing better than most people. Acid Rap is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the sense that it strayed from the stark minimalism taking over a couple of the biggest acts in hip-hop by offering a variegated and robust approach to modern hip-hop.
11. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Part of me wants to rate Reflektor higher than this, but in my eyes, these dudes have already won a Grammy and have been around for basically forever. Having said that, I can understand how and why the band decided to release The White Album of our generation. Reflektor proudly and skillfully weaves together almost every single important form of rock music from the last couple decades into one single, cohesive album. Everything from disco, funk, punk, folk and electronica is present and executed to the best of the band’s ability. Reflektor is a piece of art from a band that has already mastered their craft and decided to try to take on everything else.
10. Lil B – P.Y.T.
It’s the year 2013 and Lil B is my friend. Few hip-hop artists have been able to make a bigger name for themselves simply by fucking around on the Internet as Lil B has. His catalogue of music is at times overwhelming and absurd, but every now and then The Based God drops a mixtape that is interesting and compelling the whole way through. The serious songs are quality hip-hop and the comical songs still have their merits. Lil B’s ability to rap over almost anything is astounding and his selection of beats on P.Y.T. are among his best. Thank you Based God!
9. Balance And Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
Balance and Composure have successfully made the transition from punk band with alt-rock tendencies to an alt-rock band with punk tendencies, and I don’t think anyone in their fanbase is upset about it. The Things We Think We’re Missing is a collection of songs that could all be featured on your local rock radio station sandwiched between Foo Fighter’s “Everlong” and Matchbox 20’s “Bent.” That description sounds ridiculous, but I don’t give a damn and I honestly don’t think Balance And Composure cares either. Perhaps a more acceptable description to just please everybody would be something like the transition Brand New made from Deja Entendu to The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me.
8. Pity Sex – Feast Of Love
Fuzzed out emo songs are undoubtedly quick ways to make my best of year list, and Pity Sex stopped at nothing to give us just that. Half of their appeal lies in their simplicity, but every song featured on Feast Of Love gives off such a warm and comfortable glow that makes the simplicity of the tunes all the more memorable. The two pronged attack from vocalists Brennan Greaves and Britty Drake has always been a central part of Pity Sex’s sound, but some of the stand out tracks on Feast of Love only feature Drake’s saccharine, barely audible voice (“Keep” and “Fold”). Regardless, the album makes a “happier” leap from the slightly more depressing Dark World, but it’s a leap that gives their music a slightly more fluid quality. On top of that, they have one of the best band names in music right now.
7. Touche Amore – Is Survived By
I’m having trouble thinking of a band that gets better and better by writing the same record over again other than Touche Amore. Is Survived By is filled with the same existential quandaries that riddled their previous records, as well as the stop and go rhythms the band creates by melding adrenaline-riddled post hardcore and calmer, melodic refrains. I suppose if something isn’t broken you don’t have to fix it, and Touche Amore consistently makes some of the highest quality music in the new “melodic hardcore” scene. Jeremy Bolm still screams the effigies of every disgruntled punk out there, and the rest of the band still plays their instruments like their lives depended on it, and ultimately that’s all the matters.
6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
By now, I don’t think anyone expects anything else other than quality music from these motherfuckers. Honestly, I wanted to hate this record because of the craze Vampire Weekend creates, but I simply couldn’t. The record is amazing. Socially aware pop songs riddled with all of the member’s personal touches. The distorted vocals on “Step,” the congo-like percussion of “Everlasting Arms,” minute 2:30 on “Obvious Bicycle” if you want to get really specific, it’s all great. It’s funny to think how a band whose claim to fame was the heavily guitar driven “A Punk” ended up putting out the best record of their career while featuring as little guitar as possible. At this point, Vampire Weekend could rewrite a Journey record and still receive praise I guess.
5. Rhye – Woman
I remember when I first heard the song “Open” after Woman got BNM on Pitchfork and no one knew who they were. I thought to myself, “Gosh this lady’s voice sure is beautiful” and then kept listening to the record. I researched the group afterwards and nearly jumped out of my window when I discovered the faces behind Rhye were two guys. The band channels all of the amazing aspects of Sade and sensual R&B and molds it into a hipster friendly formula. It’s an astonishing record, with some of the most lush and gentle production of the year and one of the most outstanding vocal performances throughout all ten songs. Rhye makes the kind of music you listen to with the person you love and even though you know other people can listen, each and every song belongs only to the two of you.
4. Kanye West – Yeezus
What more can be said about Yeezus that hasn’t already been said by literally everyone in the entire world? Kanye went fully orchestral with 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and I guess he quickly tired of that. Yeezus is a dark and gritty record, shorter and more aggressive than any other record in Kanye’s catalogue. Listening to the record all the way through is analogous to having sex revolving entirely around BDSM, safety words and all. In the year of minimalist hip-hop, Kanye West reigns supreme; proving once again that no matter what kind of egomaniacal nonsense spews out of his mouth, the man has an incredible ear and passion for his music.
3. Deafheaven – Sunbather
Sunbather is the ultimate crossover album. The San Francisco based outfit amalgamates their favorite parts of black metal, shoegaze and post-rock in an effort to create one of the most aggressive and beautiful rock albums of the year. The songs on Sunbather literally soar and crash like a fucking phoenix, all the while vocalist George Clark howls into your ear about the dissonance that exists between the haves and the have nots. It’s truly a beautiful and majestic piece of music that not only defines Deafheaven as a force to be reckoned with, but also makes a statement about musical genres and how the lack of barriers between them are just as important as the actual barriers.
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National always have and always will hold a special place in my heart. I’ve realized that as this list draws closer to the number one spot, a certain amount of bias affects how I ordered it. Trouble Will Find Me is an exploration of existential defeat and ennui, a litany of dealing with depression and growing old. It’s both a pleasurable listen and a coping mechanism for the devastating cruelty of the outside world. Somewhere inside the songs of Trouble Will Find Me is a personal message for each and every person listening, and that is the crowning achievement of the record.
1. Drake – Nothing Was The Same
I’m the kind of person that would write fan fiction about Drake. I have dreams about meeting Drake and doing cocaine with him. I incorporate Drake lyrics into daily conversation. I make an effort to defend Drake when someone tries to insult him. At times, I find myself asking myself if I would take a bullet for Drake. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I sound like Drake’s biggest fan it might be because I am, and if you’re reading this list and want to disregard this record being number one, that’s fine. But in reality Nothing Was The Same is a fucking statement. It’s another step in a man’s journey to greatness. There have been countless works of art detailing a journey very similar to Drake’s: Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” the movie “Scarface,” and plenty of others I can’t be bothered to mention. If you don’t like Drake, I suppose that’s fine as long as it’s for a serious reason. If you don’t listen to Drake because he’s “soft” or because “he fucking sucks,” open up your mind and give it another listen.