No doubt, this has been a great year for music. From surprise (and surprisingly good) returns from old favourites to instant classics from bands that were new (or at least new to me), I’ve heard a lot of albums that I simply loved in 2013. So much so that I struggled to limit myself to a top 10. Instead, I’ve decided to list out my top 50 in two parts. First up, here are albums 50 to 21:
50. Baths – Obsidian
Underground electronic music with catchy pop hooks. Miasma Sky
49. Sebadoh – Defend Yourself
Characteristically patchy album from the indie rock legends, but there are some incredible songs on here, particularly album opener I Will.
48. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt
Pearl Jam’s latest is underwhelming on first listen, but really grew on me. Inessential, but surprisingly solid. Check out Mind Your Manners, one of the punchier tracks.
47. James Blake – Overgrown
James Blake’s Mercury-winning album is hauntingly beautiful from start to finish. Retrograde is a perfect example – it starts softly but builds to something fantastic.
46. Nails – Abandon All Life
Fucking heavy. Seriously fucking heavy. Nails blast through 10 crushing songs in no time at all, leaving you thirsty for more. God’s Cold Hands
45. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons To Die
This is pretty special – a concept album from one of rap’s great storytellers, produced by multi-instrumentalist Adrian Younge. Watch the Rise Of The Ghostface Killah here.
44. Forest Swords – Engravings
Atmospheric, creepy electronic music. This album is crammed full of intricate productions and slow, trip-hoppy beats. Thor’s Stone
43. David Bowie – The Next Day
An early sign that 2013 was going to be a pretty special year for music, The Next Day is a great collection of songs that sounds modern yet timeless.
42. Chelsea Light Moving – Chelsea Light Moving
Thurstone Moore’s first album since Sonic Youth’s split flat-out ROCKS. It undeniably sounds like Sonic Youth, but with elements of sludge, grunge and even black metal thrown into the mix. Case in point: the heavy-as-fuck Alighted.
41. Castevet – Obsidian
This album is pretty out there. Proggy black metal, with lurching riffs and frequent time changes, but held together by strong songwriting and superb musicianship. The Tower
40. Atoms For Peace – Amok
I was a bit dubious about this album (I love Thom Yorke, but Flea? Really?), but it’s actually really good. And I bet they’d be great live – just watch them play Default on the Daily Show.
39. Autechre – Exai
Autechre’s latest is a treat – a long double album that sees them take a step away from their more experimental side and throw in some wicked beats, while still sounding like no-one else. recks on
38. Mouth Of The Architect – Dawning
If you’re looking for a post-metal band to take care of your Isis cravings since their tragic split, look no further – my only criticism of this incredible album is that it sounds too much like its influences (Isis, Neurosis, Cave In, Mare) to be truly original. But that hardly matters when it’s this good. Lullabye
37. Kylesa – Ultraviolet
This is the album that Kylesa clicked for me – I’ve liked their previous releases that I’ve heard, but this one I really love. Tracks like Unspoken have a fantastic blend of sludge, melody and moodiness.
36. Boards Of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
This was one of my most anticipated albums of the year, and it didn’t disappoint. A step back to the darker sounds of their classic album Geogaddi, yet totally gorgeous throughout. Reach For The Dead
35. Thundercat – Apocalypse
The best way I can describe this album is “futuristic space jazz”. Thundercat is a talented bass player that has worked with artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Suicidal Tendencies, and on this solo album (produced by Flying Lotus) he knocks out 12 remarkable fusion songs. Tenfold
34. Russian Circles – Memorial
Epic instrumental metal. A perfect blend of atmospheric post-rock build-ups with some truly crushing riffs. I missed the chance to see them live last year, and now I really regret it! Defecit
33. Palms – Palms
One of the most gorgeous albums of the year. My only criticism is that Palms sound too much like “Chino Moreno fronting Isis”, and not enough like a band in their own right, but with songs as good as Future Warrior that’s hardly a serious issue.
32. Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu
This is perhaps the most “hipster” album on my list (and I realise that’s saying something) – techno-influenced Syrian wedding songs executive produced by underground legend Four Tet. It’s great though – odd, unconventional, and incredibly danceable. He was quality live as well. Warni Warni
31. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
This is another album that I was eagerly anticipating coming into the year, and again it lived up to expectations. Bigger, noisier, and yet oddly more accessible, this is a great set of tunes that builds on the promise of their previous releases. Brainfreeze
30. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
Sky Ferreira’s debut is 80s-throwback pop with an alternative edge; a bit generic perhaps, but elevated by a strong collection of songs and a sultry vocal performance. Songs like Boys are just insanely catchy.
29. Mutation – Error 500
This one totally slipped under my radar at first – it’s a self-produced noise/metal experiment from Ginger Wildheart, with a string of big-name collaborators including Shane Embury, Mark E. Smith and Merzbow. It’s absolutely batshit insane, with elements of pop, metal, grind, and noise, like nothing else I’ve heard. White Leg
28. Windhand – Soma
Windhand play slow, heavy doom with a strong grasp of melody and song structure. The haunting vocals of Dorthia Cottrell really transcend this album far beyond typical genre fare, and songs like Woodbine are some of the most memorable I’ve heard this year.
27. Philip H. Anselmo And The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only
Phil Anselmo’s first solo album is one strange fucking ride. A million miles from the classic metal of Pantera, there are perhaps some similarities with previous side projects Superjoint Ritual and Arson Anthem. However, this album is a bit more out there – there are few real grooves or riffs to grasp onto, but somehow the crushing brutality of it all works. Bedridden
26. The Dillinger Escape Plan – One Of Us Is The Killer
This is the album where DEP have managed to fully integrate their experimental jazz-metal leanings with their anthemic pop side. Everything you’d expect is there, from off-kilter chords and crazy time progressions to anthemic choruses with brutal hooks. Paranoia Shields
25. ASG – Blood Drive
This album quickly went from being a mildly diverting background listen to one of my most treasured go-to listens. There’s nothing particularly original about it, it’s just full of fantastic stoner/metal songs with a strong Torche/Soundgarden vibe. Avalanche
24. Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
Chvrches are a Scottish trio (including Iain Cook, formerly of Aerogramme) that had a massive buzz following a strong series of singles, and their debut album lives up to the hype. Deliriously catchy songs with an 80s electro vibe. The Mother We Share
23. Tomahawk – Oddfellows
Rock’s finest supergroup return with another incredible album. After a bold experiment with Native American-influenced music that, for me, didn’t quite pay off, Tomahawk’s latest is back to the band’s alt-metal roots. Twisted rock anthems with the inimitable Mike Patton on fine form throughout. White Hats/Black Hats
22. Ka – The Night’s Gambit
This might be the most subtle, understated album on my list. Ka’s vocals are quiet and softly spoken, and the beats are minimalist to say the least. But there’s something captivating about this album and the story it tells. One of my favourite hip hop albums in a long time. Our Father
21. All Pigs Must Die – Nothing Violates This Nature
From one of the quietist albums on my list to one of the loudest. All Pigs Must Die play fast, heavy thrash-infused hardcore. Featuring Ben Koller from Converge on drums and several other scene stalwarts, the musicianship is impeccable throughout, but that would mean nothing without the songs to back it up and thankfully this album is killer all the way through. Chaos Arise
So, that’s my list so far. You can check out my top 20 here. Cheers!