Favorite Albums of 2013

After reviewing 45 albums released in 2013, here are my top 30. My commentary below is pretty minimal since I have already reviewed all of these. (A lot of the first reviews I did were pretty short though, so just a heads up on that. I initially conceived reviewing albums as a YouTube thing; I dropped this approach after a few months because I found myself writing longer and longer reviews. And besides, talking about music on video isn’t terribly exciting since you’re mostly limited to describing sensory experiences.) I have also listed the Grammy nominations (and victories) these albums got this past January. Should any of the October, November and December releases receive nominations in early 2015, I’ll be sure to add those too.

#30: Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull (September 24)

A surprisingly enjoyable outing after the face plant that was Come Around Sundown, Mechanical Bull proves that the Followills still have plenty left in the tank. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#29: Disclosure – Settle (June 4)

Although it’s too long and it gets a little redundant, Settle is a solid and highly entertaining debut from electronic duo Disclosure. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

#28: Yo La Tengo – Fade (January 15)

I don’t know much about Yo La Tengo, but Fade is an excellent piece of work. | Review

#27: Avicii – True (September 17)

Not an album I would typically go for (I’m not an EDM guy, at least not yet), but I rather enjoyed True a lot. | Review

#26: Kanye West – Yeezus (June 18)

Really did not enjoy Yeezus very much at first, but I have come around on it. I disagree with the degree of acclaim it has received, but I do agree it is a startlingly original entry in a genre that is showing its age a bit — this is the only hip-hop album that makes my list. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

#25: Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (May 14)

Didn’t enjoy this one very much initially either. Still don’t quite understand all the hoopla, but I do like it. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#24: Primal Scream – More Light (May 14)

Primal Scream has had a long history — and I don’t know much of it. However, I still enjoyed More Light a lot. | Review

#23: Beyoncé – Beyoncé (December 13)

Beyoncé‘s latest may not be her greatest — 2006‘s B’Day holds that honor — but it’s the most personal and most interesting album that I have heard from her yet, and it happens to also be really solid. Should get plenty of Grammy noms next awards season. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

#22: The National – Trouble Will Find Me (May 21)

This album took my National virginity, and truth be told, I still haven’t gone back and listened to any of their previous efforts yet, though I hope to soon. Trouble Will Find Me, for me, was an unexpected delight, considering I had been resisting this band for years. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#21: Black Sabbath – 13 (June 11)

Now this has to be the most unexpected successful comeback album in recent memory. Black Sabbath making a really good album in 2013? Are you kidding me? | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#20: Yuna – Nocturnal (October 29)

A delightful major-label debut from Yuna, a singer-songwriter imported from far away Malaysia. In today’s music industry, pure pop doesn’t get much better. If there is any justice, Yuna will receive some Grammy nominations in the pop categories next year. | Review

#19: Sons of the Sea – Sons of the Sea (September 24)

Brandon Boyd and Brendan O’Brien‘s side project, I thought, turned out pretty great. Some startlingly melodic songs with excellent vocal harmonies and really weird (in a good way) sounds. | Review

#18: Arctic Monkeys – AM (September 10)

Definitely not the same band that emerged eight years ago — unlike the noisy garage rock on the Arctic Monkeys‘ first couple albums, AM is dynamic, sleek, and muscular. It’s a makeover that serves the band well. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

#17: Capital Cities – In a Tidal Wave of Mystery (June 4)

Really strong, even if it’s pretty much a ripoff of Phoenix‘s sound, with some trumpets thrown in. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#16: Atoms for Peace – Amok (February 26)

Not most people’s cup of tea, I would imagine, but I enjoyed this side project from Thom Yorke and co. | Review

#15: My Bloody Valentine – m b v (February 2)

A most welcome return. It’s not every year that a band comes back after 22 years in the wilderness. | Review

#14: Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (June 4)

I might have been a little hard on this one when it came out last summer. I still don’t like it nearly as much as Songs for the Deaf, but …Like Clockwork is damn good, even if it’s in a more introverted sort of way. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#13: Pistol Annies – Annie Up (May 7)

The first of three country albums that make my list, and before 2013, I listened to just about no country at all. Very listenable. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#12: How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion (March 5)

A really strong debut from Trent Reznor‘s other act, Welcome Oblivion has a bit more of an electronic edge than the industrial machinery of Nine Inch Nails. A little long and slightly uneven, but loaded with excellent tracks. | Review

#11: Elvis Costello and The Roots – Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs (September 17)

So much fun. Although it’s always a pleasure to hear Costello or the Roots when they play on their own, listening to their collaboration Wise Up Ghost is even more fun than it sounds on paper. | Review

#10: Johnny Marr – The Messenger (February 26)

A stellar solo debut from the former Smiths guitarist. The production methods sound a bit dated, but it’s great that Marr has finally come out of the woodwork some 25 years after the Smiths broke up. | Review

#9: Paul McCartney – New (October 15)

I guess never count out the former Beatle, because New is a fantastic return to form for Sir Paul. Should receive some Grammy nods next winter. | Review

#8: Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose (March 5)

Really good debut from the budding Nashville star who also happens to be in the Pistol Annies (see #13) with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley. | Review

#7: Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks (September 3)

An unexpected but welcome album that finds Trent Reznor at the top of his game nearly twenty years after we thought he had peaked. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#6: Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze (April 9)

Didn’t discover this one until after the year had ended, but I’m glad I did. I loved Wakin on a Pretty Daze immediately. | Review

#5: Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park (March 19)

I love everything about Kacey Musgraves. This Grammy winner for Best Country Album has a considerable amount of appeal, so if country has never really been your thing, I would advise giving this a spin and seeing how it goes. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

#4: Phoenix – Bankrupt! (April 23)

Well, I definitely listened to this one more than any other album this year. Crazy addictive. | Review

#3: Haim – Days Are Gone (October 1)

What a debut. Not sure what’s up with the ’80s nostalgia feel but the songs are great. A surefire contender for lots of Grammys in early 2015.  | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best New Artist

#2: The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (April 9)

In the fullness of time, I think this will be considered the greatest album released in 2013. So far ahead of what everyone else is doing with electronic music. | Review

#1: Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (May 21)

This is my favorite album of the year by a fairly wide margin. By now you’re surely tired of everyone heaping praise upon it, so I will save whatever is left of what I have to say for the inevitable retrospective post for my In Rotation column. | Review

2014 Grammy Award Nominations

Honorable Mentions

The following are albums I consider good — I gave each of them four stars out of five — but I don’t like them enough to put on the list:

  • David Bowie – The Next Day | Review
  • MS MR – Secondhand Rapture | Review
  • Paramore – Paramore | Review
  • Tricky – False Idols | Review

Flawed, But Worth a Listen

I’m going to round up the rest of the albums I reviewed now for the sake of completeness. These are albums I gave three and a half stars that were never considered for this list:

  • Arcade Fire – Reflektor | Review
  • Deafheaven – Sunbather | Review
  • Depeche Mode – Delta Machine | Review
  • Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 | Review
  • Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt | Review

Unworthy of Attention, Aside from A Few Good Tracks

These are the three-starrers:

  • Alice in Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here | Review
  • Eric Clapton – Old Sock | Review
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine | Review
  • MGMT – MGMT | Review

Not Really Worth Your Time At All

I gave these two clunkers two and a half stars, and although they are hardly the worst albums of the year, they are certainly the worst that I reviewed:

  • JAY Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail | Review
  • The Strokes – Comedown Machine | Review

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