Rankstravaganza 2013: My 5 Favorite Albums of the Year

Cloud Cult, The Independent, SF, 05.09.13

Cloud Cult performing at The Independent in San Francisco back in May. More on the concert here.

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:

mbv5. 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.

_..Like Clockwork4. …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.

3The Next Day. 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.

American Kid2. 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.

Love1. 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.

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3 Responses to Rankstravaganza 2013: My 5 Favorite Albums of the Year

  1. Jeremy says:

    Last year I made no comment on your list, because honestly I couldn’t think of enough albums for a list of my own. This year, however, was a good year for ‘music I like,’ so here, in no particular order, are my fav five:

    -Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork. (For all the reasons you note, plus great lyrics.)
    -Rob Zombie, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (A pleasant surprise and so much zany fun after I’d all but given up on Zombie.)
    -Lorde, Pure Heroine (An obvious choice, but deserves the praise.)
    -Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (Monae just keeps getting better and better.)
    -M.I.A., Matangi (After her last album being such a letdown, I wasn’t expecting much, but she’s came back in fine form.)

    Honorable Mentions:
    -Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks (Best NIN album in years.)
    -Of Montreal, Lousy With Sylvianbriar (This is one you recommended, and it’s subtle but just keeps growing on me.)

    • Bill says:

      Of Montreal probably deserves to go in my honorable mentions. And I just gave Lorde’s full album a good, close listen for the first time today. It’s got potential, for sure.

      • Jeremy says:

        I listened to American Kid after seeing it on your list. Great stuff. Really really good! Makes me wonder why I ever checked out on Griffin, I remember liking her first few albums, and then I just lost track of her somewhere in the 2000s. So much to catch up on!

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