I only did a countdown of five albums this year, rather than what has been the customary 15. Beyond these five, I wasn’t convinced that I truly loved the other albums I listened to in 2013. I might end up loving them, but the jury’s still out.
The verdict is in on these five, though. I’m confident I’ll continue to return to them regularly in coming years. They’re full of strong songwriting and make cohesive statements as a whole. Two were unexpected releases from legendary artists who’d seemingly called it quits. All are at least somewhat artsy and experimental while keeping the proceedings somewhat poppy and accessible. Because that’s what I go for.
If that’s what you go for, too, then you should totally be listening to these albums:
5. m b v, My Bloody Valentine
For fans of…loooong breaks between albums, sneak attacks, shoegazing, androgynous vocals way back in the mix, distortion, uncreative album titles and lowercase letters, picking up where things left off, perfectionism, walls of noise.
4. …Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age
For fans of…Bowie-esque glam-rock, metal-ish moments, guitar solos, nonchalant dancing, spelling vampire with a Y, stuff that would be vaguely sinister if it wasn’t so darn goofy, deceptively complex chord progressions, beating death, rock ‘n’ freakin’ roll.
3. The Next Day, David Bowie
For fans of…Bowie-esque glam-rock minus the “esque,” triumphant comebacks, literary shifts in voice, growling baritone sax, dissonant guitar, misleading lead singles, indignation, subversion, provocation, risk-taking at 66, strong melodies, mystery, drama, celebrity-cameo videos.
2. American Kid, Patty Griffin
For fans of…the Greatest Generation, fathers, folk music, Americana, the Underground Railroad, waltzes, Robert Plant cameos, acoustic guitars, belting it out, touching tributes, strong songwriting, earthy production, Lefty Frizzell covers, drunken choirs.
1. Love, Cloud Cult
For fans of…trying to be a better person, letting go of anger, earnestness, Polyphonic Spree, Arcade Fire, classical, folk, rock, electronica, lush arrangements, dynamics, horns, strings, synths, the joys and challenges of fatherhood, life, love.
Honorable Mentions: The Low Highway, Steve Earle; The Silver Gymnasium, Okkervil River; Southeastern, Jason Isbell; Idle No More, King Khan & The Shrines; We the Common, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down; Gone Away Backward, Robbie Fulks; The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae.