As I sat down to wrestle with my top 10 of 2013, I had an easy time putting together this unranked list of the albums which almost made the top 10, but there were other albums which I listened to and enjoyed more. I really dig this albums, and while some of these records are critical darlings, they just never caught my ear in the same way.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
2013 was the year The National and their latest effort Trouble Will Find Me began to resonate with me, it might have been their interview on the Nerdist podcast which made them more accessible, but in listening back on Trouble Will Find Me, it allowed me to truly appreciate the magic behind these chilly atmospheric slices of indie folk rock. Some may call the National sleepy, but those in the know may tell you that slow and steady wins the race, and that The National has a winner on their hands.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
This was so close to making my top 10, but just missed the cut by having a lower number of full album spins. Modern Vampires of the City was something of a slow burn for me as I didn’t love the lead single “Diane Young” and it wasn’t until “Unbelievers” began to get radio rotation that I started to “get” “Diane Young”. It might have been the fact that I wanted the Vampire Weekend which Contra promised, rather than a pretentious art project, and that fun, energetic band from Jersey was here bubbling under the surface of “Diane Young”. I came around, albeit a bit late, but it was still one of my fave’s of 2013.
Walk Off The Earth – R.E.V.O.
Another of those albums where it was top 10 worthy, but wasn’t quite there. In early 2013, I blasted the hell out of this disc just as “Red Hands” began to break on local radio, hot on the heels of their viral cover of Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know”, it was a fun, summery slice of pop which was needed in the bleak wintery month of March. Tracks such as “Speeches”, “Summer Vibe” and “Shake” all deserve your attention as well. If you take a look at WOTE’s youtube page you’ll find a bunch of fun and interesting covers which they are constantly posting. Hopefully they will make their way east in 2014.
Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
Fans of Gambino know him as Troy Barnes from the hilarious Community (on NBC) or his alter-ego Donald Glover, but since the release of his self-titled EP in 2011 Gambino has been building a name for himself by way of a grassroots marketing campaign and the recent release of his sophomore major label release Because The Internet. While this is not the EP, Just a Rapper (1 or 2), Camp, Royalty, it is another step in the evolution of Childish Gambino. It has that dark energy like an early Kanye record, but feels like an indie effort with the cuts and production throughout. At times it is as disorienting as an evaporating dream, voices and scenes evaporating away in an atmospheric wash, but eventually those dream states lead back to Gambino’s bread and butter, his sliver tongued flow. The lyrical flow contained within this effort would make most emcee’s envious, as it seems to effortless. It was a late entry into 2013, but was certainly worth the wait, as it is one of the best of 2013.
Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull
“Supersoaker” was a track somewhat similar to “Diane Young” that left me feeling a bit lukewarm upon first listening, and even now it still strikes me as one of the lesser tracks on the KOL comeback album Mechanical Bull. This was an album that was easy to add to my Next Best list, as it wasn’t a top 10 album, but it was an album I enjoyed listening to, and one that held up reasonably well for a band who has been out of the game for almost 3 years. It was on the strength of tracks such as “Beautiful War” and “Temple” which lured me in and kept me coming back, it’s a hazy sun-drenched record which is an enjoyable afternoon listen.
Arctic Monkeys – A.M.
This is another of those albums which I truly enjoyed in 2013, but just didn’t settle into a steady rotation among the other albums which managed to secure their places. It’s a great disc which manages to fuse that energy and wit from the band’s first couple of albums with the dark, brooding intensity which was the following efforts. AM was the first album where a perfect balance was struck between those two periods of the band. The wordplay and the thick, greasy guitar licks on a track like “R U Mine?” is exactly why I love the Arctic Monkeys. It’s an album which is worthy of your time, and it’s one I will be listening to for some time to come.
Like a Motorcycle – #Motorpool
While you may argue that #Motorpool is only a scant 4 tracks, it is these 4 tracks of ear rattling rawk which welded the repeat button to the dash. This EP from one of the most exciting acts to emerge from Halifax in recent years is a fantastic blast of music which can pick up you and propel you through your day. It’s that unbridled energy and power which lands Like a Motorcycle on my best of 2013 list. Pick up the EP and support great local music.
Matthew Good – Arrows of Desire
There are few artists who I can say I will gladly shell out for their latest album, or c oncert tickets when they come to town, but Matthew Good is one of the few who are on my list. Arrows of Desire is a great indication of why, as this is the solo release which bears resemblance to his early work with the MGB and still manages to retain the intelligent musicality which abounds on each of his solo works. This is an album which I played the hell out of in 2013 and was in the audience for his performance at the Cohn. If you love a great throwback to 90’s era can-con rock n roll, then Arrows of Desire is an album for you. Check out tracks such as “Hey Hell Heaven” and “Via Dolorosa”.
Amos Lee – Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song
The albums of Amos Lee are always stealthy efforts, at times I wonder if his label has a legion of Storks ready to drop off bundles of his albums at only the most obscure record shops, there is little to no fanfare when a new album drops. However, the experience is that much more rewarding when you do discover a new Amos Lee record, as you never really know what to expect, as he has released albums which may not be commercial successes, but are almost always critical darlings. If you dug his breakthrough single “Windows Are Rolled Down”, you will enjoy the listen and might also agree that it was one of the best to be released in 2013.
Well, there you have it, better late than never. We’re working to get things back on track, so hopefully you shall start seeing more posts as we fire the ol’ brain buckets back up. What albums did we miss that we should have been listening to in 2013? Let us know in the comment sections.