Top Ten Albums of 2013, a playlist by Christopher Piazza on Spotify
Top Ten Albums of 2013:
Maybe it’s the confusion and anxiety in the air, not just in the record industry but in the world as a whole, that has produced such a remarkable year in music. Records from The Flaming Lips and Autre Ne Veut lived up to their names The Terror and Anxiety. Bands like Youth Lagoon and Nine Inch Nails wrapped feelings of inadequacy and dread in lush melodies and danceable beats. And who knows what the fuck Kanye West was doing on Yeezus.
Here’s a Spotify playlist if you want to listen to selections off all of these albums. Happy end of year!
Top Ten Albums of 2013
Arctic Monkeys – AM
For a band people complained were over-hyped before they were of drinking age in the United States, Arctic Monkeys have had remarkable staying power. AM is the best straightforward rock record of the year.
Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
Personal Record is a beguiling album full of breezy, likeable moments, which is amazing considering how hard Eleanor Friedberger’s previous band, The Fiery Furnaces, worked to make themselves hard to like.
Colin Stetson – New History of Modern Warfare Volume 3
Colin Stetson truly makes records like nobody else, and on his latest New History of Modern Warfare album, he explores new facets to his free-jazz saxophone sound and welcomes Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for some startling guest vocals.
Volcano Choir – Repave
Though this a collaboration with Minneapolis’ Collections of Colonies of Bees, Justin Vernon’s work on Volcano Choir’s Repave feels more vital and personal than anything he’s done since For Emma, Forever Ago.
Kanye West – Yeezus
Say what you will about Kanye West, but the first four tracks of Yeezus – the airhorn attack of “On Sight,” the thundering rhythm of “Black Skinhead,” the ominous drone of “I Am A God,” and the terrifying passion of “New Slaves” – are easily the best work he’s ever done.
The Top Ten Albums of 2013:
10. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels
A hip-hop all-star team of two, both Killer Mike and El-P came together after acclaimed solo albums as Run the Jewels. A looser, less political album than their recent work, it nonetheless features amazing displays El’s dizzying production and Mike’s jaw dropping verses.
9. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
While Hesitation Marks may lack the tonal consistency of Year Zero or The Fragile, it does feature enough intricately layered sonics and ear-wormy choruses to at least warrant mention with Trent’s finer work. “Copy of a” and “Find My Way” already feel like NIN canon.
8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
A bloated mess in some ways, but I’ll take some of Reflektor’s unsuccessful moments for such a wholly satisfying expansion of Arcade Fire’s sound. “Reflektor,” the soaring “Hey Orpheus” and the elegant closer “Supersymmetry” show us a band reinventing the boundaries of arena sized rock.
7. Pissed Jeans – Honeys
Honeys paints a searing, unflattering and absolutely hilarious portrait of low-level corporate-white-dude life behind the sharpest schizo-noise band since The Jesus Lizard. For certain audiences – and make no mistake, Honeys isn’t for everyone – I can’t imagine a more cathartic album in 2013.
6. Queens of Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
A swaggering return to form from Queens of the Stone Age, an album whose highlights both recall the sleazy psychedelia of Rated R and the crystalline rock of Songs for the Deaf. The down-tuned riffs of “My God is the Sun” and the epic sprawl of “I Appear Missing” cement Queens as a mainstream rock band for the ages.
5. Man Man – On Oni Pond
The carny freaks of Man Man may have toed the line of accessibility with their last album Life Fantastic, but there a few songs on On Oni Pond that could be almost be mistaken for polite indie rock. Almost. The band have become astounding craftsmen of catchy hooks, and they maintain enough drunken, unsettling energy to give their strongest album a unique kick.
4. Antre Ne Veut – Anxiety
Autre Ne Veut sound like Prince on the bad end of a panic attack, and it’s that paranoid, bursting-at-the-edges approach to bedroom R&B genre that, for me, elevates Anxiety far above it’s more straightforward contemporaries. “Play by Play” and “Counting” are anthems for the OCD, anxiety stricken Internet age.
3. Flaming Lips – The Terror
Perhaps the Flaming Lips most cohesive record since Yoshimi, and certainly one of the most profoundly woeful takes on mid-life crisis in mainstream rock history, The Terror isn’t an easy listen, but with moments like the stabbing bleats of “Look the Sun is Rising,” the heart-rending “Try to Explain” and the driving “Always There in Our Hearts,” it’s a sublimely satisfying Capital-A Album experience.
2. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
Over their long, underground career, San Francisco chugging garage spazzes Thee Oh Sees have earned a rep as one of the best live bands in the world (I’ve seen them. It’s true.) But to my ears none of their records have captured that same intense energy – until Floating Coffin. Throughout the record, John Dyer’s never-better guitar solos and vocal vamping are bouyed by one of the tightest rhythm sections in rock. Every song is a head bobber – the last track, “Minotaur,” even becomes some sort of cracked sing along.
1. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
Like my number one album last year, Attack on Memory by Cloud Nothings, Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse is the work of a bedroom artist (Trevor Powers) bringing his singular vision to a full band format. The result is an almost impossibly beautiful, idiosyncratic record that both has stunning individual moments (the startling opening of “Mute,” the soaring bridge of “Raspberry Cane”) and a cohesion not often seen in the works of younger artists. Wondrous Bughouse seems to have absorbed the entire history of outsider pop – from Daniel Johnston to Neutral Milk Hotel to the Beach Boys at their weirdest – and created something timeless.