Although admittedly I’ve been a bit out of the loop in terms of new music (a blasphemous act), a few albums couldn’t help but dig their claws in. Through either complete happenstance or a recommendation from those better attuned to the world of indie than myself, enough music came through my own myopic mirror to warrant a best of 2013 list. After all, it’s the least that a so-called indie blogger can do for its readers. So here it is. The best albums of 2013 in (roughly) descending order.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
For fear of sounding trite, Reflektor is on the list not simply because it’s an Arcade Fire album, but rather because it does possess some unique elements. Its use of space and ability to blend genres makes it one of the more diverse releases of 2013. Having James Murphy of the now-defunct LCD Soundsystem in the mix doesn’t hurt either. It appears low on the list mainly due to the fact that Arcade Fire’s sound is a shadow of what made them so ‘hip’ to begin with. As far as artistic evolution goes, AF is at the head of the curve, which is impressive in its own right, but may be problematic for listeners hopelessly attached to the past.
Typhoon -White Lighter
On the surface, Typhoon might sound like an un-neutered version of Fleet Foxes, but further examination reveals so much more. Carefully orchestrated, their music possesses all of the appeal of the ‘too many acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies’ bands currently saturating the indie market, but with more of an edge. I’m not quite sure how many artists Typhoon is comprised of (quite a few I’m pretty sure), but they utilize each element to the full extent. White Lighter might not appeal to everyone, but at very least, it’s an improvement on the existing ‘slow indie album’ archetype.
Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
A cohesive, ambient creepshow from front to back, the latest Fuck Buttons album is one that truly illustrates their desired creative direction. While Street Horrrsing and Tarot Sport were great releases, Slow Focus displays arrangements divergent from conventional indie-electro and give Fuck Buttons a loud voice within the vein. Slow Focus is essentially a horror soundtrack; a tense production that resonates with the listener and that should only be experienced in the right headspace.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The latest from New York-based crooners The National is one that may take a few listens in order to fully embrace. It’s considerably slower than such releases as Boxer and Alligator, but still manages to capture their cautious, yet hopeful nature. With a more mature sound, Trouble Will Find Me is almost old for its age, but still has an edge that cool kids will embrace. The nature of their content makes The National a band that many will grow into rather than out of.
Deerhunter – Monomania
Bradford Cox, AKA Deerhunter is the perfect choice for those seeking something different. His music brilliantly pushes the envelope of experimentation without losing sight of what rock music should sound like. Monomania is the latest evolution in a musical endeavor that provides a great deal of diversity and tension at every turn. It stands out as one of his more ‘otherworldly’ projects, but is still worth being lauded as one of the best rock presentations of 2013.
My Bloody Valentine – MBV
Although MBV was released 22 years after Loveless, it still somehow feels like a followup. To many, Loveless makes the list of ‘best albums of all time’, with MBV simply being the ‘next album’. However, if viewed through the scope of music of 2013, MBV is a solid release that does not stray too far from the conventions that made their previous releases so extravagant. There’s a reason that My Bloody Valentine is regarded as the apex of shoegaze music, and even 22 years later they’ve made a strong case to support that argument.
Danny Brown – Old
Danny Brown’s borderline insane appearance and personality are charming to say the least; and his unconventional, well, everything, makes him a truly fresh face in the rap industry that demands attention. It might be the fact that he’s from the same-ish place, that I’ve been browbeat by his music, or that I’ve listened to him DJ on an indie station, but DB is one of those artists that is inherently cool – in every aspect. Something that makes his brand of rap stand out as clever, artistic, and possess enough realness to stand up to some of the best. Old is no exception, and the perfect followup to XXX.
Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana
Speedy Ortiz is a band that flew well below many radars in the past, and many were pleased to see them finally register. Their barebones makeup (guitar, bass, minimalistic drum kit) produces a sound that has nearly been lost in the archaic world of 90′s music. For those that wish distorted guitar and unpredictable changes were more prevalent in modern music, there is no substitute for Major Arcana. After first listening to the release, many swear that this album was one that they’d heard in passing long ago – and wish they had.
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Hardcore is seldom a genre that intersects with the indie populous, and is one that many listeners tend to avoid. Couple that with the fact that many indie rockers are now in their thirties, many fans are simply too old to have people screaming at them. Also keep in mind that many of the ex-hardcore kids have moved to post rock as their preferred variety of sonic aggression. Musically, Deafheaven’s Sunbather is absolute post-rock bliss, but combined with one of the best hardcore screams imaginable. For many, it’s the type of release that reminds aging hipsters of why they liked specific genres to begin with. If every hardcore band was as good as Deafheaven, many would still find the genre engaging.
Drowner – You’re Beautiful, I Forgive You
Speaking of Loveless, those looking for a good ripoff/reproduction should look no further than Drowner. Present in You’re Beautiful, I Forgive You are the same elements that made Loveless so infectious. Not to mention some of the same melodies and chord progressions. Whether it’s a blatant knockoff or a carefully crafted homage is irrelevant. It stands as my new go-to segue into a conversation about shoegazing once it’s been established that both parties are fans of Loveless. It’s that good.