What a great year 2013 was for music. At least if you look in the right places. Music for the sake of shock value may have spread across the mainstream, but the Impact is here to quell your agitation with the best new music out there. So here is my list for the Top 10 Albums of 2013
1. A Great Big Pile of Leaves – You’re Always On My Mind
The sophomore release from AGBPOL continues to purport their signature style of nostalgia-based, care-free indie rock. Though they seemed to have dropped the underlying mathy inspiration, they’ve created a very stripped-down, lick-based record that doesn’t stray from what fans crave.
It’s easy to find yourself out of your seat and dancing your cares away as Pete Weiland & Co. blast your ears with lines about snowball fights and consciousness laid over jazzy drums and noodly guitar lines. There is simply nothing not to love about this album. Check out “Snack Attack” “Fun in the Sun” or “Pet Mouse” to start.
2. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – We the Common
One of the most creative and inventive albums that have come across my ears in a while, We the Common perfectly blends a myriad of instrumentals to create a detailed-yet-straight-forward sound. You’ll find yourself hearing new and different elements with each listen, making each spin an adventure in itself. The epitome of what indie rock should be, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down are masters of their craft. There is no reason this album shouldn’t be blowing up. Don’t believe me? Listen to “City,” “Holy Roller” or “Age of Ice” and you’ll get it.
3. Native – Orthodox
The return of Native was inevitable, but no one could have predicted how valiant it would be. With the resurgence of the genre as of late, bands like Pianos Become the Teeth and Touche Amore have seen some great success and have created an environment in which Orthodox will reign supreme. The mathy post-punkers created an extremely fluid and almost ethereal record that has something to offer on every end, that is, if you don’t get lost in the pure genius of the drum beats themselves. I can easily say this is one of the best albums of the genre since the days of Refused and Botch (La Dispute sophomore release not withstanding). Check out “Word City,” “Books on Tape” and “Monday Night.”
4. This Town Needs Guns – 126.96.36.199.0.
No matter what year a TTNG album releases, it’s going to be on that year’s list. I don’t care if As Tall As Lions come back and release ten albums in one year, TTNG will still make the cut. The sheer ridiculousness of how good the instrumentals are in enough. One of the most original sounds around is expanded upon with the awkwardly titled album, the finger-picked-and-tapped, noodly guitar lines, off-color chords, tricky drum parts, and somehow beautiful vocals coalesce in a way that can’t be unheard. Also, big ups to TTNG for making it through the loss of their vocalist and coming through the other side with such grace. Listen to “Havoc in the Forum,” “I’ll Take the Minute Snake” and “Cat Fantastic” if you want your mind blown.
5. And So I Watch You From Afar – All Hail Bright Futures
I don’t even know what to friggin’ say about ASIWYFA. Proggy goodness as big as the solar system fills your ear holes with layer and layer of texture, electronic and acoustic alike. Don’t let the fact that it’s instrumental (for the most part) deter you. By the end of your first run through you won’t even have realized it. You won’t even have realized what happened. You’re different. You’ve changed, man. But in a good way. Listen to “Big Things Do Remarkable,” “Like a Mouse” and “Mend and Make Safe” if you want to live outside the matrix.
6. Their/They’re/There – Their/They’re/There EP
I have not been able to not listen to the album at least once a day since it came out. Though it’s just an EP, it packs as much of a punch as any other full album on this list. Completely devoid of filler, every song is a burst of melancholy, self-deprecating, mathy goodness. Mike Kinsella (Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Owen) and Evan Weiss (Balance and Composure) team up to further advance what good music is. Noodly guitars and perfectly placed harmonies fill the album and the off-color drumming makes it an insanely interesting listen. Start with “Concession Speech Writer” and “End and End.” You’ll thank yourself for doing it.
7. Surfer Blood – Pythons
The sophomore release from Florida-based Surfer Blood doesn’t disappoint in any sense of the word. Their original take on surf-meets-indie-meets-rock provides a fun, driving record that is easy to sing along to. They seem to have perfected the whole “two different guitar lines doing their own thing but meeting in the middle every once in a while” thing or whatever you call it. The drumming was dumbed down a bit on Pythons, but it’s simple nature doesn’t take away from the album at all. The whole record is kept together with some groovy bass lines from the most normal person in the band. If you get a chance, see them live. They’re a bunch of weirdos! Check out “Weird Shapes,” “I Was Wrong,” or “Prom Song.”
8. Brave Bird – Maybe You, No One Else Worth It
The full sound Brave Bird accomplishes with just three people is reminiscent of the old Green Day/Blink 182 days, though they seem to sound most like Your Favorite Weapon-era Brand New. An amazingly well put together album, Brave Bird’s debut Maybe You, No One Else Worth It very well may be the best album of their career. At least it’ll be pretty hard to top. Dueling vocals, mathy guitar riffs, some light screaming, and a general pop-punk feel make this album a beacon of hope for those of you holding on to the past. Did I mention that their from Ann Arbor!? Listen to “Whittle Down the Days,” “The Worst Things Happen to Me,” (listen for the Braid reference!) and “Tired Enough” now!
9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
California-based Foxygen come in a number nine with their eclectic, but mainly laid back and groovy psychedelic indie album that I don’t feel like typing out again. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what these guys sound like. The album is much more a production than is initially noted. There seem to be movements and acts shifting and changing everywhere. All you need to know is that this is the perfect album to sit back and listen to while forgetting all your worries and nightmares. There are definitely some audible Beatles and Rolling Stones influences in there. The vocals can sometimes be a little off-putting, but it adds to the complexity of the album and forces you to think about the decisions made during the writing of the album. Check out “In the Darkness” and “Shuggie.”
10. Owen – L’Ami Du Peuple
Apparently Mike Kinsella did some work this year, as he’s now made this list twice! The new Owen is just as impactful as all his other albums. The ingenuity this guy puts forth is astounding. Each song is as original as the next and each just want to make you tear up with joy. L’Ami Du Peuple is the happiest sad album I’ve ever heard. The whole record has a very melancholy feel, like waking up the morning after you hurt someone you love and reflecting on what you’re going to do, but being optimistic that everything will be okay. This may also be one of the heaviest albums he’s put out. Not that it’s heavy at all, just his heaviest. Listen to “A Fever,” “Coffin Companions,” and “Bad Blood.”
Tera Melos – X’ed Out
Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
Islands – Ski Mask
J. Roddy Walston & the Business – Essential Tremors
Noah and the Whale – Heart of Nowhere