“License to Confuse” is the excellent opening track from Sebadoh’s awesome fifth album, “Bakesale”. It’s a jangly ode to being comfortably outside of mainstream expectations. “License to Confuse” is built around an insanely catchy guitar riff and ends well before it wears out its welcome.
I had a hard time putting this together. I don’t think I’ve thoroughly blasted my brain with this much electropop since Goldfrapp released Supernature.Also, there was a lot of good music released this year, but only a few albums that absolutely gripped me. Still, there were definitely some outstanding albums released this year, and one anticlimactic choice for album of the year.
Also, unlike the list of songs of the year I put together, I’m pretty confident these are the best albums released in 2013.
Before “m b v” was released it was assumed the successor to the genre-defining “Loveless” would join “Chinese Democracy” and “Duke Nukem Forever” as long-gestating disappointments. Instead, after more than two decades Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher and company delivered an excellent album.
The guitars still sound like power tools and the vocals still have a glass armonica’s ethereal fragility.
At 20, Chancelor Bennet is responsible for one of the best releases of the year. Vibrant beats, excellent guest spots, memorable hooks and occasional bouts of intense introspection make “Acid Rap” truly excellent.
In a year when EDM and disco influence were everywhere two British brothers mined minimal acid house for all it;s worth. Every song on “Settle” seems like the album’s highlight until you hear the next song. Even with about half of the album featuring guests things never feel crowded.
This is a dance album for rock kids.
2. CHVRCHES- “The Bones of What You Believe”
CHVRCHES finally delivered on the promise of the singles they’ve had floating around online, and the result was better than anyone could expected. A full album of synth-driven pop songs was one the year’s best albums. Everything sounds fresh and dithyrambic. Listening to “The Bones of What You Believe” is one of the most purely enjoyable ways to spend the better part of an hour I could imagine.
1. Kanye West- “Yeezus”
There is so much to love about this album. It’s an album which draws more from the music of Death Grips than anything from Kanye’s own discography. It’s a dark, actively aggressive statement meant to burn off all the goodwill West earned with the impeccable “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”.
The album opener “On Sight” lays down the album’s mission statement of brutality while it subverts a past Daft Punk collaboration and one of Yeezy’s biggest radio hits.
What follows is a visceral gut-punch disguised as music.
2013’s best album concludes with the wonderful throwback jam “Bound 2” which serves to show Kanye West is an artist fully capable of delivering pleasant, moving music, but chose not to. After hearing the seething anger in the previous 9 tracks it’s not surprising West chose to be withholding.
This list comes with the obvious caveat that these are my favorite songs of the year and not necessarily the 10 best songs of the year.
I spent entirely too much time listening to the Flying Burrito Brothers this year and not enough time listening to Sky Ferreirra to be a good barometer of taste.
Still below are the 10 tracks I couldn’t get enough of this year. They are in no particular order.
1. HAIM-“Don’t Save Me”
Hercules is the demi-god with the strength of 10 ordinary men, and HAIM is mom-rock with the strength of 3 Stevie Nickses. Just one of several earthy, hooky jams from this year’s thoroughly praised “Days Are Gone”.
2. Ex Cops- “Separator”
The most accurate approximation of ’90s shoe gaze outside of “m b v”. A pleasantly throbbing bass line, a healthy coat of reverb varnish and a build to a triumphant jangle crescendo kept this song firmly entrenched in my head all year long.
3. Black Joe Lewis- “Skulldiggin”
This crunchy slice of blooze rock would be the hardest The Black Keys have rocked in a couple of albums. In a year when indie-pop and Yeezus reigned supreme this unapologetic throwback was a counter-intuitive breath of fresh air.
4. CHVRCHES- “Gun”
Chvrches were the Scottish-indie-synth-pop triumph of the year. “Gun” is my favorite song off of the excellent “The Bones of What You Believe”. After hearing this song, running away with everything you own probably won’t keep it out of your head.
5. King Khan & the Shrines- “Pray for Lil”
“Idle No More” is an exceptional garage rock album from King Khan & the Shrines. Its standout track is the “Little Wing” and Dusty Springfield indebted “Pray for Lil”.
6. Charli XCX- “Take My Hand”
“Take My Hand” is equal parts energetic, addictive and sweet. It’s audible cocaine cut with pixie sticks. It’s the biggest ear worm on, “True Romance” , an album with so many pop gems even its bonus tracks bump.
7. Los Campesinos!- “Avocado Baby”
I am an unabashedly huge LC! fan, and this is maybe the perfect culmination of the different musical directions the band has pursued. Gareth yelping his sardonic lyrics, twee backing vocals, a muscular rhythm section and a fruit-based metaphor no other band would attempt all make this an instant classic in the LC! catalog.
8. Chance the Rapper- “Juice”
“Acid Rap” is one of my favorite albums of the year, and this track epitomizes what Chano was up to on his excellent mix tape. It has a ragtime sample, Tupac references, plenty of vocal ad libs and some great double-time rapping.
9. Kanye West- “I Am a God”
“Yeezus” was an intense car-bomb of an album, and no song on it was as incendiary as “I Am a God”. West’s palpable anger is somehow on display next to moments of genuine humor in one iconoclastic statement. Hurry up with his damn croissants!
10. Disclosure- “F for You”
I’ve been infected with the restless urge to listen to this song on repeat. A great, slinky piece of house music.