10. Cults – Static
I didn’t give Static a full listen until about two weeks ago, and I’ve had trouble putting it down ever since. I enjoyed the duo’s 2011 self-titled debut, and the follow-up is a deeper streak of the same charming,‘60s-drenched pop vibrance. Dive in with “Always Forever,” “We’re Before,” and is that an Interpol nod on the “High Road” rift?
9. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety
Last spring I caught a colleague’s recommendation for “Play by Play,” and after a listen, I was hooked; one of my most played songs of the year. Anxiety is an impressively produced collection of piercing, meaningful and captivating R&B cuts. Autre Ne Veut’s Arthur Ashin transcends the pain and heartbreak into some of the best jams of the genre this year.
8. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
After the success of their 2009 breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Phoenix did not rush to put out a follow-up while the buzz was still hot. Instead, they shied away from their previous album’s hit-heavy pop formula, and in turn reached for a more experimental, encompassing sound, reminiscent of their earlier albums. The result is a fantastic fifth album, nowhere near as immediate as it’s predecessor but sometimes the best songs are the ones that soak in (“Bankrupt!” “Bourgeois”).
7. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Arcade Fire are dauntingly good. They’ve been that way for awhile, and it doesn’t appear that’s going to change anytime soon. Just when you think there’s too much hype, the album drops and everyone shuts up. Here’s another soundtrack to race your heart, entrance your mind and make you want to dance all night.
6. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
My most read review in 2013 was that of Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. I honestly feel it’s the Cold War Kids strongest album to date. As I put it in my review, Long Beach soul is alive and well. If you like smart, engaging and meaningful rock music, don’t pass up Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. My favorite tracks include “Miracle Mile,” Bitter Poem,” “Tuxedos” and of course, the title track.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
For years now, The National have been my favorite band. I’m not sure if that makes me hold their new albums to a higher standard, or I just buy in to every new note that much quicker. Lately, I’ve been catching the video ad for “Graceless” on youtube, and each time I think to myself, that is a great song. Trouble Will Find Me follows in High Violet‘s footsteps of increased accessibility, but the the same beloved passion and uneasiness is still very much present, as heard in the carefully poignant “Pink Rabbits” and sultry “Don’t Swallow the Cap.”
4. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
2013 has been a roller coaster year for Foxygen and its two founding members, Jonathan Rado and Sam France. Juggling cancelled tour dates, breakup rumors and a solo album arms race, it’s safe to say the peak of the band’s year happened back in January with the release of their outstanding second album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. It’s a collection full of ’60s and ’70s classic and psychedelic rock inspiration, resulting in a end product that’s enthusiastically expansive while still surprisingly thoughtful. Late to the Foxygen circus buzz? Start with the enchanting “San Francisco,” Rolling Stones-inspired “On Blue Mountain” or gorgeously arching “Oh Yeah.”
3. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
Frightened Rabbit are an amazing band, with a live show that will reaffirm that every time. But, I’ll admit, they bring me down. Their previous releases The Midnight Organ Fight and The Winter of Mixed Drinks are both excellent, but they flirt with the notion of being sad just to be sad. This year’s Pedestrian Verse triumphantly move beyond that rut by delivering songs that anchor on self-awareness (“Oil Slick,” “Nitrous Gas”) as well as increased glimmers of hope and beauty (“Acts of Man,” December’s Traditions”). Their fourth album is a wonderfully endearing sign of growth from the hardworking Scottish band.
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
Their debut showed potential, but I never thought Vampire Weekend had the staying power until Contra became a winter favorite in early 2010. Modern Vampires of the City is better. On their latest effort, the New York band tackles the heavy subjects of life, death and the meaning of it all. It could have came off as preachy or overly serious, but instead it was personable and thought-proving while still being lively and fun. There isn’t a bad track on Modern Vampires but “Don’t Lie” and “Hannah Hunt” may be the best.
1. Arctic Monkeys – AM
I enjoyed the playfully heartfelt “Cornerstone” immensely, but it wasn’t until 2011’s Suck it and See that I fully took notice of the level of craftsmanship that went into Arctic Monkey songs. At times, that album felt like a window into my mid-twenties heart, mind and soul. That’s good songwriting. When I heard AM was going to explore a more hip-hop sound, I didn’t know what to expect. But if the infectious stomping single “Do I Wanna Know?” was any indicator, this was going to work. For me, the most sustaining element to music is the words, and with AM, Alex Turner pairs even the album’s most adventurous tracks with the utmost sincere and relatable lyrics. It’s an album you want to play full volume at a party, but also one to reach for through the headphones on an introspective night in. For me, that’s never been the same album, but that’s AM.