The Best Albums of 2013 (So Far): 10-1


The Best of 2013 (So Far)

Below are the final ten entries to our picks for The Best Albums of 2013 (So Far). Click here for entries 20-11. While only time will reveal their significance, each of these records left a significant mark on our staff over the last six months. How many of these will be on our end of the year list? Who knows, talk to us in December. For now, The Best Songs of 2013 (So Far) will debut tomorrow; and Thursday will debut The Best Shows of 2013 (So Far).

10. The Woolen Men – The Woolen Men


The Woolen Men – The Woolen Men (Woodsist)

The best lo-fi recordings are generally defined by a certain innocent charm and immediacy, intimate to such a degree that they feel deserving of best-kept secret status. Such is the nature of The Woolen Men’s self-titled Woodsist debut, the kind of album you hoard jealously only to share with your best music snob friends or women that you are trying to impress. The Woolen Men’s brand of throwback proto-punk positively gels, buoyed by the plodding bass lines and propulsive post-punk drumming of the rhythm section and punctuated by lead singer’s B-52s-esque jabbering. Be it the early Elvis Costello jangle of “Mayonnaise”, the vaguely “Rock Lobster” stomp of “Hold It Up” or the college rock call-and-response of “Hazel”, the album covers a lot of range while remaining firmly rooted in undeniable catchiness. Ultimately, The Woolen Men succeeds in its smallness, a template for DIY gone right. –Tim Myers

9. Savages – Silence Yourself


Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

About 10 years ago, the indie world discovered post-punk. From TV On The Radio and Liars to The Rapture and Bloc Party, booming bass and scraping guitar noise could be heard everywhere from Williamsburg to Wembley. Then came Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend and dubstep, and that Siouxsie Sioux sound seemed relegated to the dustbin of history once again. Fortunately, no one told Savages. The female four-piece from London revive the mighty sounds of PiL and The Pop Group on their debut full-lenth Silence Yourself, a record that kicks your ass whilst simultaneously taking your name. No record in 2013 thus far has produced this kind of power, passion, and sheer ferocity, and no forthcoming record is likely to eclipse it.  –Leo Lopez

8. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual


The Knife – Shaking the Habitual (Rabid)

It’s no surprise The Knife have come out with a very challenging, confrontational, and occasionally absurd new album. Shaking the Habitual is that point in the dream where you realize something isn’t right. When lead single “Full of Fire” was first released, I was immediately excited. The abrasiveness of it made older Knife sound like the Postal Service. The nine-minute song isn’t even the longest piece on the hour and thirty-six minute album. While even their previous album Silent Shout found moments appropriate for a dancefloor, the majority of Shaking the Habitual finds me running away from an axe-murderer deep in the fjords of Sweden. The ambient pieces that break up the album allows time for a breather, although more often a false sense of security, before an electronic/percussive explosion jolts you back to reality at its most harsh. –Andrew Hertzberg

7. Deafheaven – Sunbather


Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.)

Take one glance at the album art for Deafheaven’s Sunbather, and you’d think they were a summer of 2009 chillwave act with a 2013 taste in typography and graphic design. Take one glance at the album’s song titles, from “Dream House” to “The Pecan Tree,” and you’d be convinced that they’re yet another Laurel Canyon sound retread. Take one listen to Sunbather, and you’re not proven entirely wrong. Yes, you’re mostly wrong, but Deafheaven are from San Francisco, and more importantly, they have found a way to make black metal shoegaze for the summer, their wintry cool somehow sounding just as appropriate for lying in the park outside as for sulking in a small dive bar in which everybody’s wearing the same black leather jacket. Deafheaven’s combination of black metal and shoegaze on Sunbather is a unique statement, but more importantly, it’s uplifting, emotional and melodic. –Jordan Mainzer

6. Mikal Cronin – MCII


Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)

It might seem daunting for a musician to emerge from the shadow of Ty Segall, who released three acclaimed albums in 2012. But Mikal Cronin –who first played with Segall in high school and has since performed in his live band and on last year’s Slaughterhouse— has finally come into his own. His sophomore solo album is a collection of jangly, bouncy, upbeat songs with melancholy lyrics. Anchored by Cronin’s sweet tenor over acoustic and electric guitars, MCII suggests a more bittersweet version of the Beach Boys, which makes sense given MC’s California roots. That said, Cronin also embraces the distorted guitars and driving drums of garage rock, some countrified strings, and yes, the album-ending piano ballad. On the opening track Cronin sings: “I’m not ready for the moment.” MCII suggests otherwise. –Keith Meatto

5. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories


Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Columbia)

There’s no denying that Random Access Memories is cheesy, but to use that word negatively denies Daft Punk credit for their sense of humor, playfulness, and passion. The duo recognizes the pure sentimentality behind songs like “Touch”, embracing their past obsessions no matter how silly. As much as it’s a musical history book meant to invite listeners on a journey to the past, RAM is also a deeply personal document for Daft Punk. While their love for disco and funk has never really been a secret, here they own it. If anything mirrors the true legacy of disco – the all-inclusive, “you be you” atmosphere of a ‘70s dance floor – it’s this album. –Jordan Mainzer

4. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork


Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (Matador)

Josh Homme is a fiend. Only a true rocker can reemerge after a near-death experience (more appropriately a back-to-life experience) with such purposeful abandon and this hyperactive of a sexual apetite. As usual, Homme covers the wide range of topics, including sex, revenge, desert landscapes, drugs and destruction, but never before has his songwriting reached the bare confessional state as heard throughout …Like Clockwork, specifically on “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing”. The instrumentation is a perfect encapsulation of the Queens of the Stone Age style, blending their melodic urges, harsh edges and powerful rhythms into a cohesive argument for the existence of mainstream rock and roll. While rock radio has certainly fallen from grace, we should be honored to have a band like QOTSA reach such significant veteran status in our lifetime. –Peter Lillis

3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City


Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings)

Like PBR and fixed-gear bicycles, Vampire Weekend divides the hipster community. There are some who find the band’s Ivy-League hauteur and colonialist proclivities abhorrent, while others take the position that they just plain rule. Count me in the latter camp. The Columbia cohort has now released three albums full of near-perfect pop, each one more accomplished than the last.  MVotC carries with it a combination of sophistication and ardor unheard of in modern indie music. As our own Keith Meatto pointed out in his recent review, the record is suffused with religious allusions, and appropriately so: young bloods everywhere are now worshipping at the altar of Vampire Weekend. –Leo Lopez

2. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze


Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze (Matador)

The phrase “pretty daze” comes close to capturing the mood of Kurt Vile’s latest, the follow-up to the acclaimed Smoke Ring for My Halo (#29 on our best albums of 2011). There’s not much here that suggests being fully awake. Everything about the album is languid: the lazy tempos; the spacious arrangements where guitars seem to float in space; and especially Vile, whose vocals sound like a slow motion version of Lou Reed or Stephen Malkmus, but with more twang.  Two of the album’s strongest songs are also its longest: the 9+ minute opener “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” and the 10+ minute closer “Goldtone.” Such unhurried music seems perfect for a mellow late night or a sleepy summer morning where you don’t have any place to be. –Keith Meatto

1. Kanye West – Yeezus


Kanye West – Yeezus (Def Jam)

Like a rising dictator, the central antihero of Yeezus agitates the masses using roundabout humility, impossible boasts, religious allusions and a stark yet mysterious presence, all providing sufficient fire to his burning, biting manifesto. Here, West is so convincing that even the record’s possible shortcomings come off as entirely intentional, dragging all bystanders into it’s dark murky world with nothing but the mad ravings of an excommunicated “rap-lic” priest to lead the way home. The goal of salvation (or redemption or sanity) that was once West’s trademark is pushed aside for the nihilistic joy of immediate satisfaction, ultimately serving a prophecy so fresh, only time will reveal its true significance. One thing is true, however: we are all devoted to Him, patiently awaiting His next testament on high. Until then, we will follow in His footsteps. –Peter Lillis

The Final List:

20. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
19. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
18. Brokeback – Brokeback and the Black Rock
17. Survival – Survival
16. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
15. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
14. James Blake – Overgrown
13. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
12. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
11. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
10. The Woolen Men – The Woolen Men
9. Savages – Silence Yourself
8. The Knife – Shaking The Habitual
7. Deafheaven – Sunbather
6. Mikal Cronin – MCII
5. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
4. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
2. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
1. Kanye West – Yeezus

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