10. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
The Chicago kid broke the radar with #10Day, blipping past Midway and O’Hare to land worldwide in such a shockingly short time. The lead single “Juice” and the beautiful organ build surrounding “Cocoa Butter Kisses” made this stellar mixtape reach the skies so fast Richard Branson would be jealous.
9. Gesaffelstein – Aleph
Up till now, Lyon’s biggest name has been the historic chef Paul Bocuse. Yet 2013 is the year the Lyonnais Mike Lévy surged beyond Social Club to engulf the world with his imposingly adept Aleph. From “Out of Line” and its persistence leading into the panic-inducing “Pursuit” to “Hellifornia” and its warped hip-hop based beats, this debut electronic album-recorded originally in 2011-serves as the status mark for what is to come from Europe in the coming years.
8. Grouplove – Spreading Rumours
“Ways to Go” was unavoidable, especially on Sirius. The hooks of “Borderlines and Aliens,” “Schoolboy,” and “Sit Still” among the other 13 tracks rounded up one of the most satisfying albums to hit alternative in this year. Catchy, yet playfully ruckus.
7. The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man
If any album could draw forth sweltering summery nights knocking back Oberon and Fat Squirrels from the bottle, Justin Vernon and Co. surely made it. “Heaven Knows” alone packs a wallop of blues that levels you with a harmonica to the gut.
6. Pendentif – Mafia Douce
A complete sleeper hit with their song “Embrasse moi” floating pleasantly as if patience was seriously the best policy. Lovely, floatingly carefree, Mafia Douce is one of the top retro disco indie pop albums to come along in recent years. Think dancing with that girl, frozen in time, under warm gels of light washing over whispers of French indie pop. Yea, you wanna dance to this.
5. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
What in the world happened to The Year of Hibernation? Trevor upended his followers with one of the most eclectic, sophomore slump-melting follow-ups mere notes into the opener “Through Mind and Back.” Tingly gorgeous, confusingly comforting, Wondrous Bughouse is the charm that bewilders with its growing familiarity.
4. Stromae – Racine Carrée
First off, an island-inspired track about mussels and French fries? Sign. Me. Up. Or a stripped back vacuum banger of “Humain à l’eau” that reverts the human existence into a tribal frenzy. Or just the two lead singles: “Formidable” with its misery-laden piano beauty of depression or “Papaoutai” with its wordplay over father abandonment. You don’t understand the lyrics? Racine Carrée will move you.
You understand the lyrics? Racine Carrée will move you.
3. Savages – Silence Yourself
“Shut Up.” These female musicians will make you do just that from beginning to end. Heaviest, most frenetic album of the year drenched in punk undertones and urgency.
2. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin
Best consumed on vinyl, Psycho Tropical Berlin swarmed France while those ripples are just beginning to catch on outside of the hexagon. “Sur la planche 2013” roiled up a country, lifting the band on surfboards over their heads during the live performances. With keys that hearkened back to the black and white horror and thriller flicks of the 1920s and 1930s, this French band transported legions into the past with not only an unforgettable trip of nostalgia, but a wickedly devious live performance that brought to mind a burlesque, Burton-esque New Wave version of Gogol Bordello.
1. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
Joshua Homme’s opus …Like Clockwork was the album that could not be played piecemeal. Each listen felt like one track, demanding to be repeated once the hypnosis was snapped by reality. “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” may never make it onto radio, but the lyrical magnificence is touching, befitting that of a crushing theatrical performance. The closest comparison I could make is that of Brand New’s The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me. It’s pure emotional gold.