This was a great year for music, I felt like no one genre dominated. It also seems like the mainstream media and even some mainstream listeners were crossing boundaries and listening to musical styles they would typically ignore. There was so much music this year that even artists I really like I didn’t get a chance to fully listen to their albums. This top 10 evolved more than any top 10 I’ve ever worked on. I eventually had to remove albums with songs I really really loved because I didn’t love them as albums. There’s a lot of great stuff missing so at the end I’ll include an expanded honorable mention section.
After each entry I’ll include a Spotify link so you can listen to the album but if you’re lazy I also made a playlist of my 10 favorite songs from my top 10. I’ll leave that link at the end of the list. Feel free to leave some comments and share your favorite albums with me.
10. Venna – Third Generation Hymnal (Broken Cricles)
Third Genration Hymnal blew 2013 wide open by releasing in the first couple weeks of January. It wasn’t going to take me much convincing to like an album made by ex-members of The Felix Culpa but I was enamored with this release even after the first listen. Venna know exactly when to let a song breathe and when to let it exhale. The songs shift from soft ballad to rollicking acoustic number effortlessly. Unfortunately the band hung it up in August but at least they left us with this incredible album.
Spotify Link: Venna – Third Generation Hymnal
9. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (Columbia/Tan Cressida/Odd Future Records)
We all know the story of Earl Sweatshirt and his hotly anticipated 2nd album Doris. The only real question was would it deliver. It did, without a doubt. Earl raps over the dark twisted beats that Odd Future was known for when they were just kids making music on their own terms. Doris is a completely unorthodox hip-hop album. He routinely lets the guests rap first, segues are bizarre dark interludes, and the content is often in the vein of traditional hip-hop. The result is kind of genius, like a fun house mirror version of mainstream rap. Hopefully we don’t have to wait 4 years for the next album from Earl Sweatshirt because he has a lot of game changing to do.
Spotify Link: Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
8. Defeater – Letters Home (Bridge 9)
Defeater’s last album featured a 4 song acoustic epilogue and dare I say it some catchy tunes. They could have gone soft, made something even more accessible instead they got more aggressive. Letters Home is a blistering love letter (pun intended) to the genre they came up in. Singer Derek Archambault’s vocals are set to full grit sandpaper and the band almost never relents. Your ears rarely get a chance to relax during the album’s quickly moving ten tracks. Don’t expect an acoustic epilogue, don’t expect a catchy chorus, just expect one of the best hardcore albums of 2013.
Spotify Link: Defeater – Letters Home
7. The Front Bottoms -Talon of the Hawk (Bar/None Records)
Once you get passed their silly name, you’ll find their mostly silly music. Talon of the Hawk is 12 tracks of instantly unforgettable folk-dance-pop-punk. These songs bored their way into my head and never left for weeks. I spent whole train rides to and from work playing this album front to back. If you’re looking for an album that you can throw on and not think about too hard while the world passes you by you could do a lot worse than this.
Spotify Link: The Front Bottoms – Talon Of The Hawk
6. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish)
No other album this year crosses genres harder than Sunbather. Do you like metal? Do you like instrumental post-rock? Do you like good music? Stop what you’re doing and give your ears the sonic treat that is Sunbather. Give yourself an hour and a good pair of headphones you’re about to take a trip and you don’t want any distractions. Deafheaven has crafted an absolute crowning achievement in whatever weird genre they have carved out for themselves. This album is absolutely worthy of all the accolades it has received from all across the music press.
Spotify Link: Deafheaven – Sunbather
5. Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence (No Sleep Records)
Last year Mixtapes put out my 4th favorite album “Even on the Worst Nights”. It was their debut album and was a fun giddy blast of male-female dual vocal pop-punk. Well, honestly that’s exactly what you get on their second album. But they have matured perfectly. The songs are better, the lyrics are better, the musicianship is great, the band has upped their game in every way. There’s no reason these guys shouldn’t be huge especially if they keep this up on their next album.
Spotify Link: Mixtapes – Ordinary Silence
4. Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll (Island-Def Jam)
There was no way in a million years one of the biggest rock bands in the world was going to come back from a self-imposed hiatus and make a good record. Especially after putting out 2 messy albums. Anyone who listened to Folie a Deux could tell that Fall Out Boy was headed towards an implosion. The album tried to merge genres but it was clear this was due to infighting in the band. On Save Rock and Roll, Fall Out Boy sound like the most confident band in the world, like they were always supposed to be a dance-rock band. It may not sound like old Fall Out Boy, but it sounds like the best Fall Out Boy for the year 2013.
Spotify Link: Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll
3. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf (Odd Future Records)
You either love him or hate him, but Tyler, the Creator released the most creative hip-hop album of the year. That is as long as you went into this knowing it was the final part of the trilogy Tyler started with this 2009 debut “Bastard”. This is by far Tyler’s best work. His production work is at a point where I’m sure some rappers would just wish Tyler would quit rapping and produce beats for them. The lyrics range from his silliest to his most deadly serious. And of course Wolf is part of the overarching narrative that has permeated all 3 of Tyler’s albums. And when you get to the end of Wolf and you realize exactly what has happened and where this album fits into the trilogy you kind of just have to sit down and shake your head. How did this kid get so smart?
Spotify Link: Tyler, The Creator – Wolf
2. The World is a Beautiful Place and I’m No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, if Ever (Topshelf Records)
It took these guys 3 years to create and release their debut album and every second of it feels like its been meticulously planned. Its nearly impossible for me to start at the first track and not listen all the way through to the end. This was very very nearly my album of the year because its just fucking perfect. While this isn’t my number 1 album I can’t recommend it highly enough. Call these guys indie rock, post-hardcore, emo revival whatever just give this album a chance. Whenever, if Ever is an emotional ride that hasn’t been attempted since emo rock’s heyday. It blows me away every time I listen to it. Every piano key tickle, every lyric, every drum beat is placed so deliberately I find myself listening with my jaw open. These guys are incredible and if it takes them 5 years to make another album I won’t care as long as they do.
Spotify Link: Whenever, If Ever
1. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By (Deathwish)
Touche Amore is my favorite band. This was my most anticipated album all year. It lived up to all the hype and then some. While its not nearly as cohesive as “Whenever, if Ever” the lyrical content hit me in a perfect place at the right moment in my life. The band’s musicianship is at all time high. It’s produced and mixed perfectly. These guys could be a huge huge heavy rock band based on this album. Is Survived By is all at once sweeping, epic, aggressive, and emotional. No band is bending the hardcore genre to their will like Touche Amore and they are gaining fans by the thousands every day. See these guys on their next tour because next time it might be in an arena, or while standing in a huge field.
Spotify Link: Touché Amoré – Is Survived By
Balance and Composure “The Things We Think We’re Missing”
Kanye West “Yeezus”
Dowsing “I Don’t Even Care Anymore”
Sainthood Reps “Headswell”
The Wonder Years “The Greatest Generation”
Justin Timberlake “The 20/20 Experience Parts 1 and 2”
Into It. Over It. “Intersections”
Shone “Heat Thing”
The Fold “Moving Past”
Top 10 Albums of 2013 Playlist: Top 10 of 2013