Here are the albums that thrilled me the most in 2013, as well as some runners up (and some letdowns). Full disclosure: I have not yet heard all of MIA’s new record (nor Beyonce’s) so maybe this list is premature! Anyway:
1. “A Sea of Split Peas”, Courtney Barnett
Hollllllly shit this is great music. Fun, disarming and poignant all at once, every track on this record is excellent. Courtney Barnett is my new favorite.
2. “On Oni Pond”, Man Man
What a dancy, upbeat—if bittersweet—album from a perennially awesome group.
3. “Glow and Behold”, Yuck
This album makes me think the ’90s are back, and I like it.
4. “Electric Lady”, Janelle Monáe
How the heck did Janelle Monáe outdo herself? Not only is this record just as much as an artistic feat as the first, it’s sexier and shows her vulnerability. I prefer listening to it over her former one.
5. “Day of the Dog”, Ezra Furman
Forget for a minute that I’m this artist’s biggest fan—this is a classically great rock record.. (It may be tied with “Banging Down the Doors” as my favorite.) It’s straightforward rock n roll, which Ezra Furman does with an authenticity few modern young musicians possess. He recorded it with his new band, The Boyfriends, and it’s got a full, rich sound: definitely a reflection of how he’s blossomed.
6. “AM”, Arctic Monkeys
Someone told me this record is perfect to have sex to. I have not yet tested that claim, but after listening to it half a dozen times, I’d guess she is probably right.
7. “MCII”, Mikal Cronin
This is just pure summery fun. It reminds me of the Beach Boys.
8. “Can’t Talk Medicine”, Pickwick
Lovely, squeaky clean, white boy soul.
9. “No Love Deep Web”, Death Grips
Death Grips are spastic, random and intense, but I love them for it. Listening to them is like hearing a Girl Talk song that’s actually just one artist. They’re doing something totally new, and my guess is they’ll spawn quite a few imitators.
1. “Bye Bye 17”, Har Mar Superstar
This is such a quick, but enjoyable compilation. “Lady You Shot Me” is the best track and worth listening to 1,000 times.
2. “It’s Alive”, La Luz
I like the ethereal—if formulaic—quality to this album.
3. “Herein Wild”, Frankie Rose
Ditto to the above.
4. “The Affliction”, Bare Mutants
Despite the singer flicking off my friend at one of the group’s Empty Bottle shows, I do like the atmospheric sound of this local psych-rock band.
BIGGEST LETDOWNS BY ARTISTS I LOVE
1. “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You”, Neko Case
Neko Case is a goddess among mortals, but what happened here? I wanted to like this. Really I did. Did anyone?
2. “The Blow”, The Blow
The Blow is one of my favorite bands, and since the lineup has changed so much over the years, I was thrilled at the prospect of another record (I’d assumed they’d just stop recording music). This record wasn’t terrible, but since singer Khaela Maricich usually creates flat-out brilliant songs, I was bummed that this was only mildly catchy and interesting.
3. “Personal Record”, Eleanor Friedberger
I loved 2011’s “Last Summer” so much, it was pretty hard for “Personal Record” to measure up, personal as it does seem to be. (The exception is the song “Other Boys.”) I certainly don’t regret seeing her this year (that was a fun show) but for as open as Eleanor Friedberger was on this album, she could have been a little more catchy.