Welcome to yet another addition of my Year-ending Album extravaganza, just in time for the holidays!
This should kill at least 10 – 15 minutes of your family asking why you haven’t met any of those milestones in your life they expect.
The ghost of auto-tune has blessed us with 45 albums that made the cut. Luckily I’ve had the chance to travel to live performances of some of these artists who charge money to play their mp3’s to others. If nothing else, it reminds us that in an age with everything within reach there is still a place for the connection that hearing favorite or new songs in person. That is, until some jobber holds his ipad up to record the one song he came for right in front of you.
Let’s take a moment to recognize the Hall-of-fame, our past extravaganza winners. 2009 – The Decemberist’s Hazards of Love. 2010 – Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs. 2011 – The Felice Brother’s Celebration Florida. 2012 – Dr. Dog’s Be The Void/Father John Misty’s Fear Fun. You can actually look at my list from last year HERE. If I was ranking the list over again, I would have Father John Misty number one.
If you are interested, here is a link to our very own the Hazean’s list he made a few weeks ago for a slightly different look at the year in music. So if you want to make fun of my list, make fun of me, argue why Tegan & Sara shouldn’t have been left off, mention that you know maybe 1 of these artists or maybe want to share your own list – find me on twitter.
Let’s get to it. I was discussing my list with my friend Frank Sinatra while we were eating some Zaxbys. After reading through the entries, he left mid-meal and went and recorded IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR. That really happened earlier today and is a true story. You can look it up.
Since the holiday season means you have nothing but free time, perhaps you could sit a spell and put on this SPOTIFY PLAYLIST with a song from each of the artists on this list. Go ahead, don’t cost nothin. I have tried to categorize each artist so you’ll have an idea on what to expect if you check them out further. This way you can relive the extravaganza over and over and over.
45. MGMT – MGMT = ay ay ay this album tests my patience. I really liked previous album Congratulations, but this one requires way more faith in their “artistic direction” than anything previously. The fact that you can hear snippets of former sound in a few songs puts them on the list. It’s also a chance to acknowledge I’m disappointed in this album.
44. Reckless Kelly - Long Night Moon = Looking for a country fix on this list? I’m sure you are familiar with Reckless Kelly. Straight Alt/Country.
43. The Flaming Lips – The Terror = This is a difficult listen; I’m not going to lie. I’m a fan of albums that set a mood, which it definitely accomplishes. Not an album with any singles or hooks. Experimental indie.
42. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In = walking the line between country and alternative, I got to see her live and made these songs stand out. Mostly country.
41. Frightened Rabbits - Pedestrian Voice = Scottish indie rock. This even better than the last album I liked of theirs The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Just a solid indie rock album with accents.
40. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe - this is about as far as I go into synthpop. These songs are as every bit radio-ready as anything by Katy Perry.
39. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse = What I think MGMT set out to accomplish, Youth Lagoon pull off. Experimental indie that doesn’t feel like it’s going through the motions.
38. Grouplove – Spreading Rumours = Let’s not go expecting their debut album, there aren’t any “Colours or Tongue-tied” here. However, they still make catchy-upbeat songs. Alternative/Indie rock.
37. Justin Timberlake - the 20/20 Experience = not my favorite genre by any stretch, but I have soft spot for JT. FutureSex/LoveSounds was a fantastic album. While this isn’t that good, the first half of 20/20 is pretty great. Still wish he would just join SNL though.
36. Laura Marling – Once I was an Eagle = All the folk. No stranger to my album lists, Laura Marling is one of the best singer/songwriters these days. The first half of the album is pretty slow though before it picks up.
35. Neko Case – The Worse things Get, The Harder I fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You = I haven’t always been a big Neko Case fan. As my leanings go more folk, she popped up on my radar. This album is pretty fantastic though and it has a really long title, so there’s that.
34. Dustin Kensrue – The Water & the Blood = are you like me and don’t hate Mumford & Sons? Wish you had more music from them? Enter Dustin Kensrue. Can’t tell if I should like this more or less because it sounds EXACTLY like the boys from London. This is a christian-based lyric album.
33. Jake Bugg - Shangri La = full disclosure, when thinking about him I group his debut from last year into this album. The debut is better. Think Oasis but possibly cockier. Indie folk/rock.
32. Okkervill River - The Silver Gymnasium = I’ve always been into OR, but this is probably my favorite of their albums. Great lyrics and interesting song structures. Album based upon growing up in a small town. Indie/Alt-country.
31. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away = An alternative band that’s always tough to describe. You either like his singing style or not, but the landscape created musically to me is fantastic. Moody album that rewards upon multiple listens.
30. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito = My least favorite YYY album. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, It’s not nearly as bad as perceived. They were on their way to Headliner festival status, will be interesting to see if they can recover. Rock/Indie.
29. Haim – Days are Gone - Female 80′s throwback pop/rock. Not sure what else to add. Probably didn’t like them as much as the year-end lists, but its fun music that provides a distraction from seriousness of concept albums etc.
28. The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law = Alternative rock. Borderline best track on the album is hidden at the end, don’t miss it.
27. Deer Tick – Negativity = Haven’t seen much buzz all year about this album, but I thought it was a big upgrade on the previous two efforts. Their debut is one of my all-time favorites and this is a step back in that direction. Gotta love that voice.
26. Lorde – Pure Heroine = if The Terror was an anti-singles album, this one is its evil twin. Smart and catchy beyond imagination. It’s tough to escape Royals on the radio these days.
25. Sarah Jarosz - Build Me Up From Bones = I have been a major bluegrass proponent the past few years. One act I’ve kept up with since her debut is Sarah Jarosz. Her voice has a very Gillian Welch quality to it.
24. Camera Obscura - Desire Lines = Camera Obscura albums do what so many others try, consistently have songs that are easy to listen repeatedly. Simple pop songs that are catchy. Female pop/alternative.
23. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros - S/T = My least favorite of their albums, but there are plenty of chant-a-longs and good ole-fashioned knee slap-a-long moments that I can enjoy. Indie/Folk/Hippie
22. Volcano Choir – Repave = wasn’t expecting to like this Bon Iver side project as much as I did. Beautiful music. Indie. Song in playlist “ByeGone” is one of my favorites this year
21. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork = Hey look, a real rock album! I knew it was here somewhere. I’ve always been kind of hot or cold on QOTSA, but this album is too good all way through to ignore. Rock.
20. The Avett Brothers – Magpie and the Dandelion = Ahh…the Avetts. Guys I love you but you’re bringing me down. Remember when you used to play faster songs? I do. Ballads are cool too, but not mostly only ballads. We are reaching the point where I don’t know if they can have a great album again
19. Portugal the Man – Evil Friends = Indie/Alternative. PtM is not scared to explore multiple genres from one song to the next. This is the best of their albums though. Sure it’s produced by Danger Mouse (don’t get me started) but it is catchier than ever here.
18. Charles Bradley – Victim of Love = American soul. The King of soul these days, who brings the heat on the festival circuit. I’d rank this effort behind his debut, but if you liked the first you’ll like this as well. He pours everything he’s got into each song.
17. Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt = If you believe Pearl Jam hasn’t done anything good since Vitalogy, then this album isn’t for you. But since I like every album, I can find the good here. While I prefer Backspacer overall, there are plenty of good tracks to suffice. They can still rock and solo Eddie is great at ballads as well.
16. Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still = Indie/Folk rock. Interesting to note that this album isn’t being talked about anywhere on the national lists. The lack of “singles” the debut had is probably to blame. Even the first time I listened I wasn’t impressed but the more I gave it a chance, the better it became.
15. Arctic Monkeys – AM = This is much better than I was thinking. While I’ve liked Arctic Monkey albums before, they never really stuck with me. This does. It’s full of haunting rock songs that are clever.
14. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories = Full disclosure, I’ve never really been a Daft Punk fan. Hell, you can tell from this list I’m not an EDM fan. That’s what I like about this album – there are guitars and singing. Easily the most fun record of the year. Electronic Funk.
13. Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart = English singer/songwriter folk/punk. What’s not to like? English accent….check. Great lyrics…check. Catchy songs that sound real…..check. Reminds me of Glen Hansard.
12. Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God = I don’t understand how I haven’t seen this on any lists. This is as solid as the latest MMJ at least. While only 9 songs, they capture James at his acoustic or experimental best. American Indie.
11. Foxygen – We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic = the winner of the 2013 race to sound like the trippy Beatles? Congrats Foxygen, you’ve pulled it off. Described as an experimental rock duo, they sound like some out-of-time-and-place stoners on couches. It’s that good
10. Dr. Dog – B-Room = Alternative/rock. I love some Dr. Dog. Indie enough to be cool, catchy enough to be accessible. This is another great album but wasn’t as strong as Fate or even last year’s Be the Void. The curse of setting the bar too high.
9. Phoenix – Bankrupt! = Alternative rock. The problem with making one of the greatest albums of the past century, is that you have to follow it. Maybe that’s why Bankrupt! wasn’t considered higher on average. Listening on its own reveals tight, catchy tracks that I can listen to all the time. Plus the song “Entertainment” is my favorite of 2013 to watch the drummer.
8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor = Alternative/Indie. An easy target for cynics, I still love AF. Their debut is one of the best albums of all-time. Reflektor is also a great album, but without the grand-sweeping choruses of the past. It drags in the second half to me on some songs but think they would translate great live.
7. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze = Rock/folk. Do you call this stoner rock? I prefer music that doesn’t sound like it’s in a hurry. Sometimes I want it to be background music and sometimes it’s the best thing I’ve heard all year.
6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City = Much like Daft Punk earlier, I’ve never cared that much for VW. Sure some cute songs in commercials, but it never felt real. That’s why I am surprised I like this so much. Still cool enough songs, but now there is substance behind the songs to me. Rock/Alternative.
5. Sigur Ros - Kveikur = The internet calls this “Post-Rock”. Another Sigur Ros album, another spot in my top ten. Icelandic singing or not, it’s just pretty music. RELATED: The band has been cast to play in the upcoming season of Game of Thrones. Proof that good things recognize other good things
4. Local Natives - Hummingbird = Alternative rock. Not sure how you have one of the best debuts of the past decade and your next album flies under the radar. After multiple listens, I prefer this to the original because it trades the big choruses for emotion.
3. Jason Isbell – Southeastern = Alt/Country. This is the album that comes along that reminds you that people who talk about only great written songs happened decades ago are full of it. Every tune has a story to tell. The toughest part was deciding which song to put into the playlist off this album.
2. Phosphorescent – Muchacho = Indie country-ish. Brilliant album that has a definite mood the entire length. I enjoyed his previous work Here’s to Taking it Easy, but this is on another level. Probably not the most accessible initially but worth it.
1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me = Indie/Alternative. The National were already one of my favorite bands. Then they expanded on 2010 #2′s High Violet with the same basic formula. Brooding lyrics, dark and beautiful backing music pretty much fits me these days. If you like this album, then you’ll like their entire catalog. It’s good to see them get exposure this year because this record is fantastic.