My Favorite Records of 2013

Here’s a list of my 50 favorite albums of 2013. This is by no means a definitive list. These aren’t “the best” or “the most important” records of the year. They’re simply the 50 records that, for one reason or another, managed to capture my attention, spark my imagination, excite and inspire me. They also often drove me into fits of loud song, wild dance, and happy laughter. I love these records, I’m grateful for them, and I want to share them with you. Many of these you will already know. Others will be new to you. I hope you enjoy them all as much as I do, but I will, of course, understand if you don’t. Please feel free to share your own favorites in the Comments section.

Note: I’ve linked to sites where you can learn more about the music, sample the music, enjoy it in its entirety, and/or purchase it. The formats listed are simply those that I happen to own; in most (if not all) cases, other formats are also available. (Usually, I just buy the first format I can find and/or afford.)

Random observation: Lots of black-and-white album art this year.

1) Jenny Hval: Innocence Is Kinky (CD/LP, Rune Grammofon RCD/LP3142)

2) Daft Punk: Random Access Memories (CD/LP, Columbia 88883716862)

3) Kanye West: Yeezus (CD, Def Jam B0018653-02)

4) Aidan Baker: Already Drowning (LP, Gizeh Records GZH43LP)

Note: Already Drowning was Stereophile's "Recording of the Month" for June 2013. And, at the end of May, I interviewed Aidan Baker.

5) Julia Holter: Loud City Song (LP, Domino Recording Company WIGLP306)

6) Oneohtrix Point Never: R Plus Seven (LP, Warp Records WARP240)

7) Circuit des Yeux: Overdue (LP, Lewis + Lynn Records/Ba Da Bing 92)

8) Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (LP, Domino Recording Company WIGLP322)

9) Sigur Ros: Kveikur (CD, XL Recordings XLCD606)

10) Tim Hecker: Virgins (LP, Kranky KRANK 183)

11) Laurel Halo: Chance of Rain (LP, Hyperdub HDBLP021)

12) Darkside: Psychic (LP, Matador OLE-1035)

13) La Luz: It’s Alive (LP, Hardly Art HAR-076)

14) L. Pierre: The Island Come True (LP, Melodic MELO 081)

15) The Asphodells: Ruled by Passion, Destroyed by Lust (DL, Rotters Golf Club BRC-347)

16) Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus (LP, ATP Recordings ATPRLP49)

17) The Knife: Shaking the Habitual (LP, Mute 9556-1)

18) Beacon: The Ways We Separate (CD, Ghostly International GI-180)

19) Moderat: II (CD, Monkeytown 9571-2)

20) King Krule: 6 Feet beneath the Moon (LP, True Panther Sounds TRUE-101-1)

21) Willis Earl Beale: Nobody Knows (LP, HXC Recordings 6 34904 07011 3)

22) The Memories: Love is the Law (LP, Burger Records BRGR301)

23) Dean Blunt: The Redeemer (LP, Hippos In Tanks HIT025LP)

24) Ulrich Schnauss: A Long Way to Fall (LP, Domino Recording Group LPDNO318)

25) The Haxan Cloak: Excavation (LP, Tri Angle Records TRIANGLE18)

26) David Lang: Death Speaks (LP, Cantaloupe Music CA21092)

27) Falty DL: Hardcourage (LP, Ninja Tune ZEN192)

28) Marina Rosenfeld: P.A./Hardlove (LP, Room 40 RM452)

29) William Winant: Five American Percussion Pieces (LP, Poon Village PV007)

30) Matmos: The Marriage of True Minds (LP, Thrill Jockey THRILL 316)

31) Four Tet: Beautiful Rewind (LP, Text TEXT025)

32) James Blake: Overgrown (LP, Polydor B0018305-01)

33) Zomby: With Love (LP, 4AD CAD3305)

34) The Underachievers: Indigoism (DL, Brainfeeder)

35) The Stranger: Watching Dead Empires in Decay (LP, Modern Love LOVE

36) Lucrecia Dalt: Syzygy (LP, Human Ear Music HEMK0032)

37) Lee Ranaldo and the Dust: Last Night On Earth (LP, Matador Records OLE-1041)

38) Standish/Carlyon: Deleted Scenes (CD, Felte)

39) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (LP, Bad Seeds, Ltd.)

40) Wale: The Gifted (CD, Atlantic Records)

41) Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience (LP, RCA 88765-47850-1)

42) A$AP Rocky: Long.Live.A$AP (CD, Polo Grounds Music/RCA)

43) Locust: You’ll Be Safe Forever (LP, Editions Mego 162)

44) Miles: Faint Hearted (LP, Modern Love LOVE081)

45) Lawrence English: Lonely Women’s Club (LP, Important Records IMPREC367)

46) Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (CD, Constellation Records CST098)

47) Savages: Silence Yourself (CD, Matador Records OLE-1036)

48) Mohammad: Som Sakrifis (LP, Pan 37)

49) Ashley Paul: Line the Clouds (LP, REL Records REL20)

50) Mary Lattimore: The Withdrawing Room (LP, Desire Path Recordings PATHWAY006)

***

My Favorite Records of 2010.

My Favorite Records of 2011.

My Favorite Records of 2012.

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COMMENTS
jonahsdad's picture

Thanks Steven for pointing toward new and interesting music.  It's hard to keep up at my advanced age.  You perform a valuable service.

torturegarden's picture

You had a pretty good list. My top 25 are listed below, still haven't posted it to my blog as it is still a work in progress. The final will have 100, and the top 25 should remain as below with #1 being my favorite.

  1. Lucrecia Dalt – Syzygy (LP)

  2. Aidan Baker – Already Drowning (LP)

  3. Jenny Hval – Innocence is Kinky (LP)

  4. Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe (LP)

  5. Colleen – The Weighing of the Heart (LP)

  6. Broken Deer – Polaraura (CS)

  7. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day (LP)

  8. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare 3 (LP)

  9. Zola Jesus – Versions (LP)

  10. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Two (LP)

  11. Félicia Atkinson – Visions/Voices (LP)

  12. Julia Holter – Loud City Song (LP)

  13. Grouper – The Man Who Dies In His Boat (LP)

  14. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin (LP)

  15. Matmos – The Marriage of True Minds (LP)

  16. FKA Twigs – EP2 (LP)

  17. Oval – Calidostópia! & Voa (DL)

  18. Tiger Village – Tiger Village I, II, III (CS)

  19. Saltland – It Was Us But It Was All of Us (LP)

  20. Broadcast – Berberian Sound Studio OST (LP)

  21. Tim Hecker – Virgins (LP)

  22. Berangere Maximin - Infinitesimal (DL)

  23. Rachel Zeffira – The Deserters (LP)

  24. Sean McGann – Music for Private Ensemble (LP)

  25. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines (LP)

burnspbesq's picture

No Jason Isbell, Wayne Shorter, Pavel Haas Quartet, Sarah Jarosz, Robbie Fulks, Aaron Diehl, Fred Hersch & Julian Lage, Gretchen Parlato, Ashley Monroe, Vampire Weekend, Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris, Dunedin Consort, Dawes?

Must be a generational thing.

Devil Doc's picture

Thelonious Monk: Paris 1969

And the Devil Makes Three:  I'm a Stranger Here

Gene Clark:  The White Light Demos

Richard Thompson:  Self titled

Bob Dylan: Another Self-portrait, Side Tracks, Blonde on Blonde remaster

The Civil Wars: Self titled

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Made up Mind

Joe Bonamassa: An Acoustic Evening at the Vienna Opera House

That's my top ten.

Catcher10's picture

Too much pop music, need to expand your listening selections. From the progressive rock/jazz area.....Fantastic music and producton all around, a few of my favs.

 

Steven Wilson~The Raven That Refused To Sing (and other stories)

Haken~The Mountain

The Aristocrats~Culture Clash

Spock's Beard~Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep

The Flower Kings~Desolation Rose

Fright Pig~Out Of the Barnyard

JR_Audio's picture

Hi Catcher10

Thank you for your list and expanding into the prog rock field. When I read your list, I thought, most of them are also my personal CDs of the year, but I was not aware of the group Fright Pig. So I gave them a listen and ordered the CD right after 5 minutes. How could I have missed this band.

So maybe I could expand the prog rock / metal / rock list with some more titles:

Flying Colors – Live in Europe (with Mike Portnoy, Steve Morse, Neil Morse, ..)

Leprous – Coal (you need to give it a bit of time to creak over you)

Deep Purple – Now What? (I know more classic rock style, but I like it to listen)

Dream Theater – Dream Theater (Some titles are good, others are so so)

Subsignal – Paraiso (not so good as the first and second one, but still good)

Enjoy listening.

Juergen

Catcher10's picture

Thanks Juergen,

Flying Colors~A fav of mine, actually have seen Neal Morse on his last two tours and will be seeing the Transatlantic tour in Feb 2014.

Leprous~I have tried on that one...maybe need more spins

Deep Purple~Have not heard that one yet

DT~Huge DT fan...this one though is hit and miss for me, I miss Portnoy.

Subsignal~Never heard so will look them up

Thanks again!

José

monetschemist's picture

For those of you unfamiliar with The Vinyl Factory, they are worth investigating, if only for their weekly newsletter.

Anyway, here is their list:

http://www.thevinylfactory.com/vinyl-factory-releases/the-top-100-vinyl-...

Stephen Mejias's picture

What an outstanding list! Thanks for sharing. Here's another great one:

The Quietus' 100 Albums of 2013.

Rephleks's picture

Lots of your picks are in my top albums of the year as well.

kelven's picture

And I could (rightly or wrongly) be put in my place as per my own opinions and preferences.

I often wonder if the sensory overload so many have grown-up with may require the following when it comes to selecting music:

• bombardment of the senses via electronica and rap to mirror one's day to day life experience (of too much going on), and hence, perpetuate the bombardment;

• bombardment of the senses via electronica and rap, to serve as a type of sensory flooding for "numbing" the senses, or as is the case with a double negative, the summed effect creates a positive shift in perspective--temporary it may be with mindstuff;

• there is no such thing as sensory overload.  I am just an old fuddy duddy who has failed to "move with the times," and electronica and rap are the modern day equivalents of indigenous music created in cadence with nature and spirit.

Granted, definitions for nature and spirit might be helpful, but beyond the scope of a comment section.

Still, try as I might to be open minded in my attempt to understand the impetus for the creative process, I really don't get the Kanye West piece. . . ?

As early evening approaches I suggest the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIrkjXHuhAM

I hope you like it!

cobrando's picture

Love your picks Stephen. Some of these are my favorites as well.

@kelven - By the way you describe the music as 'sensory overload' and 'bombardment' it sounds like you are simply not accustomed to developments in modern music. That's OK, and so what if you're an old fuddy duddy? Many of us will be one day. If the music doesn't speak to you, it doesn't speak to you. But if you can be open minded, maybe you'll give some of the new music a chance. Context can definitely help in understanding music and other forms of creative expression. For instance, if you'd never listened to jazz before and say picked up a record by Food, you might not understand what they were inspired by, what perspective they're coming from. Not saying context is going to help you appreciate Kanye as an artist, but perhaps there's something more to his work than meaningless dribble? Maybe it is meaningless crap. But there is good stuff out there that's unique, and inspiring, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to pass it all up because music has changed.

kelven's picture

. . .for your genuine kindness and generosity of spirit.

In some ways I am aware of how anachronistic I can be, e.g., more inclined to enjoy art from the Renaissance period over the Contemporary.

I am fascinated by electronica music and get a kind "kick" from it from time to time--and for that matter am currently burning-in some speakers with Yello's Planet Dada Flamboyant (but in all fairness will soon be leaving the house for a few hours).

However, when it comes to what I might refer to as a "heart connection" with music, I guess I am not yet there with a lot of the current artists.  (Hence, my grossly "pop psychologizing" of the current day social milieu as overstimulatiing of the senses--and a possible link/mirror with music preferences.)

Still, I cannot deny the experience I have with electronica and rap is one that goes "around me" instead of "into me."  But maybe that is what is intended with what some describe as ambient music. . . ? 

nunhgrader's picture

I have alot in common with your music tastes! I was especially pleased to see Falty DL and Moderat on your selections! Cheers

Toptip's picture

I listened to this album, beginning to end, hoping to discover the spark that must have appealed to Stephen Meijas. Sorry, I cannot find any: it is a mess and very very pretentious to boot. Interestingly, it is like a lesser Laurie Anderson + Björk (check out the way she pronounces the word "city" in the opening track. It is identical to Björk's).

pablolie's picture

I'd like to first and foremost submit Gregory Porter's latest. A bit forward in the recording, but nevertheless 5 stars for content and 4.5 for recording.

There is the "Beethoven" Yundi recording. Great interpretation. Getting a piano right must be a nightmare as a recodring engineer. Many recordings seem to show you struggle with placement, and many have you listen to the piano too close, like your head has been pushed into the casing and the high are to your left and the lows to your right. The Yundi recording is guilty of that, bet then again how to record solo piano...

"Catalyst" by Marqueal Jordan is a refreshingly well recorded album by an emerging jazz talent i hope to hear more from.

"Hand Picked" by Earl Klugh also exposes the challenges of recording solo instrument performances - how do you resolve staging since it could get boring with just one instrument... but it is *very* well recorded.

Finally, I'd nominate "Just what you need" by Brian Simpson. This is a 256k MP3 Amazon recording I can listen to through my -revealing, if I may state so- system and be entirely happy with it. Awesome all around, crystal clear.

Finally - "Shades" by Lebron and "Smooth Grooves" by Jeffrey Smith. Great music, and excellent recordings.

 

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