This was a fantastic year for new releases and though it was quite daunting coming up with only a select few for this list, in the end we turned to the ones that really resonated the most. Do you agree or disagree? Tweet us!
Ultramarine by Young Galaxy
Canadian electro-pop group Young Galaxy put out one of the most sophisticated and LSS-inducing albums of the year with Ultramarine. Everything is in order and so well-written, especially the lyrics that could appeal to both lovelorn hipsters and classy music snobs. Most of the songs are also just incredibly seductive and made for multiple listens at a time. There are plenty of other synth-pop bands making the rounds right now, but this record tells us Young Galaxy is not just passing through and thank goodness for that.
Favorite track: “Hard To Tell”
Overgrown by James Blake
I think it’s fair to say that James Blake has proven himself enough to be rid of the ridiculous issue on whether or not his music is dub step. That discussion is now irrelevant as he’s gone beyond those restrictions and has demonstrated that his best instrument of all is his voice. That perfect voice. Winning the Mercury Prize this year and beating the likes of David Bowie and Disclosure wasn’t a big surprise. Overgrown is an articulate album of hard to forget tracks that tells us he’s got a lot more up his sleeve.
Favorite track: “Life Round Here” (with or without Chance The Rapper)
Paracosm by Washed Out
Ernest Greene aka Washed Out responds to critics by proving he can do more than just press buttons on his computer and keyboard. With a more apparent presence of real instruments integrating beautifully with Greene’s irresistible beats and loops, the texture of almost each track is explosive. While his singing is still secondary to all the other elements of his music, it effectively brings everything together.
Favorite track: “Don’t Give Up”
Heartthrob by Tegan and Sara
Even long-time Tegan and Sara fans were skeptical at first when the twins decided to take their music to dancey electro-pop territory, but after a successful round of shows across the country and worldwide and a pile of ecstatic reviews, it’s clear they knew exactly what they were doing. Heartthrob is 10 tracks of addictive goodness (or 12 tracks, for the deluxe edition) that can bear infinite re-listening. They’ve come a long way from their indie folk roots and with a change this good, we really don’t mind.
Favorite track: It’s a strong tie between “I Was a Fool” and “Now I’m All Messed Up”
Nothing Was The Same by Drake
Our third Canadian act on the list and our only rapper, Drake brought his music to new heights with Nothing Was The Same. Though it features a less modest version of the man formerly known as Aubrey Graham during his Degrassi days, his verses about his achievements and riches while being so young aren’t nearly as offensive as, say, someone comparing himself to Jesus. Drake continues to successfully sing and rap at the same time, oozing a lot of confidence and sincerity that it’s hard not to stay firmly on his team.
Favorite track: “Furthest Thing”
Repave by Volcano Choir
If there’s some Justin Vernon has proven to us, it’s that he can take us to journeys far beyond our expectations with a simple falsetto here and there. Volcano Choir is a different, slightly more dynamic band. What he has done with Repave is create an experimental post-rock record that doesn’t necessarily make us question our spirituality, but reaffirms our faith in the man who became famous as the frontman of Bon Iver (aka Bonnie Bear). It’s eight tracks of rhythmic perfection that’s consistent throughout.
Favorite track: “Comrade”
Desire Lines by Camera Obscura
Fans have waited so long for Scottish indie pop band Camera Obscura to return and Desire Lines successfully filled the void and then some. Tracyanne Campbell has challenged her lovely melancholic voice to go beyond the usual while staying true to the sound that has defined their band for many years. The songs are just as addictive and emotional as when they first came out with Biggest Bluest Hi Fi. There’s no other band like Camera Obscura and I doubt there’s any who could actually qualify to join them in their own genre of carefully crafted and earnest pop music.
Favorite track: “Do It Again”
Carrier by The Dodos
San Francisco duo The Dodos deliver an unrelentingly hopeful record with Carrier. In spite of its dark back story, it offers much more than stripped down songs about death. This is an album that needs and deserves time to fully envelope you with its layers upon layers of emotional folk-rock goodness.
Favorite track: “Confidence”
Reflektor by Arcade Fire
Okay, Arcade Fire may have hyped this baby up too much and, sure, it was a little bit annoying, but you can’t escape the fact that they’re good. Reflektor is a well-executed album made up of several musical influences fused together to form a cohesive, complex, and endlessly fascinating electro-pop record. With this album, they are finally upfront with us that nope, they are definitely not an indie band anymore, but please stay with them anyway because they are still great.
Favorite track: “Porno”
Lily & Madeleine by Lily & Madeleine
The Jurkiewicz sisters Lily & Madeleine provided the world with much needed sweetness with their self-titled debut. It’s a folk-pop record free of distractions. Once you hit play, it’s just their voices blending beautifully together and the gentle strumming of their guitars as they sing about familiar themes of love and longing without any hint of cheesiness. It’s an achievement to be this real in a time where almost everything isn’t. Is that cynical? No? Perhaps that’s why we need Lily & Madeleine.
Favorite track: “Devil We Know”
AM by Arctic Monkeys
I think any Best of 2013 list without at least one Arctic Monkeys song, let alone AM, is inaccurate. But music taste is subjective, you can’t shove your preferences down people’s throats, blah blah blah. Oh, but I can and I will on this one. I was not an Arctic Monkeys fan at all before this release, and yet I can’t think of any other record that has penetrated even my deepest of slumbers. My dreams were set to “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and “Do I Wanna Know?” for weeks. You can deny it all you want, but AM is ridiculously good and everyone needs to accept that.
Favorite track: “Do I Wanna Know?”