Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
ALBUMS 25-11


A sweeping movement of Asian theater, prog-rock, and psychedelic melody that allows singer Ruby Kato Atwood and drummer Alaska B to thematically invoke the Chinese sea goddess Mazu while still laying waste to your ear drums. A grand bit of rock opera that never dips into pretentiousness.


WAMPIRE Curiousity

Danceable, nightmarish, and mired in 80's cheese, this thing comes on like the year's best auditory in-joke. There's antiquated synths, electronic backbeats, and warbly vocals, but most of all there's a real goofy charm to Portland duo Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps's sardonic debut.




There's no shortage of 16-bit bleeps, click-clack percussion and intricate rhymes on Los Angeles MC Gajah and Brighton beatmaker Mute Speaker's manifesto On & Offspring. It's one of the year's most underrated underground rap albums, and one that's as playful as it is experimental. Left-field hip-hop is still alive and buzzing.


PURLING HISS Water on Mars

It's been a while since we got a full on rock n'roll album that not only taps into the pre-grunge 90's sound but also emulates it's intensity without coming across disingenuous. Enter Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze, who makes his bid for Dinosaur Jr/Pavement-style axe wielder with this stunning slab of detuned chord progression, reckless soloing, and snarling vocals. A more polished affair than past Purling Hiss efforts, but no less ferocious.



MATMOS The Marriage of True Minds

Matmos's ninth album is a collection of dense instrumentals involving parapsychological telepathy that's still remarkably catchy. If you want slow lurches of piano, telephone sounds, bath water, and choral chanting dance music, you've come to the right place. Bat-shit crazy and brilliant.



Electro-folk is a weird genre label, but Argentine musician Juana Molina fits the bill with this beguiling mosaic of fragmented bass loops, repetitive guitar chords, and mysterious Spanish mutterings. It's dark and slightly off-kilter, but also wistful, reconfirming Molina as the avant-garde female heir apparent to Tom Waits.




South African guitarist John Withers and Rwandan singer Emmanuel Nzaramba came out of nowhere to land one of the year's most original creations; a magical stew of Afropop, electronica, chamber-pop, reggae, dub, and house that's both bewildering and forward-thinking. A work of endless imagination that takes a multi-ethnic approach and hits the sweet spot.



Think cocaine-addled sax playing, reverberating bass-guitar hooks, strange guttural noises, French babbling, thumping congas and African rhythms. This is world music with a circus freak edge, with saxophonist Pete Wareham leading this motley crew of talented musicians down the rabbit hole. A great, big bellowing party record.



ELISON JACKSON Do Not Fear To Kill A Dead Man

With a dash of Bill Callahan-style rustic balladry and the experimentation of something altogether darker, the third full-length by this CT five-piece is the perfect synthesis of atmospheric folk, blues, and baroque pop. An Intimate, organic, beautiful piece of work.


DEATH GRIPS Government Plates

Perhaps an even more startling record than last year's No Love Deep Web. With no one left to offend and all bridges burned, Death Grips unceremoniously dropped this claustrophobic fuck-off to the music industry that took MC Ride's normally ballistic rants and hid them behind Flatlander's spastic production. An auditory landscape as unsettling and frantic as anything they've done yet, and that's really saying something.




A black metal album that doesn't bludgeon the listener with blast beats and incessant noise, this tripped out masterpiece from some insanely talented Finnish dudes switches gears so gleefully that even metalheads favoring experimentation will be taken aback. An epic bit of business; with all matters of doom, psych, and space-rock trappings tailored to repetitive guitar riffs and hoarse screams.


BLACK MILK No Poison, No Paradise

Contrasting childhood experiences with adulthood responsibilities, Detroit producer/MC Black Milk takes on a semi-fictional character and delivers an introspective hip-hop album that deserves mention alongside J Dilla and Madlib. Unhurried rhymes, frank thematic content, jazzy instrumentation, and syncopated drum snares mark the sound of an artist searching for meaning in a genre largely concerned with surface excess.



ROBERT POLLARD Honey Locust Honky Tonk

Certainly the best thing the mad genius has released in many years, this modest charmer (Pollard's 19th solo joint!) has all the usual staples; relatively short songs lengths, catchy melodies, stream of consciousness lyrics, but it's also got deliberately paced songs that feel surprisingly polished. Often criticized for his refusal to edit himself, Pollard once again proves that he simply has music in his heart and can't contain a wellspring of ideas. We should consider ourselves grateful.



Deerhunter could have easily reproduced the jangle-pop ambiance of 2010's Halcyon Digest and made everyone happy. Instead, they jerk the wheel into oncoming traffic and deliver a bold artistic statement where discordant noise collides with blues and glam rock. It's the sort of thing that will likely divide fans, but chances are frontman Bradford Cox doesn't care. Confident and daring.



ZORCH Zzoorrcchh

A bombastic melding of digital craziness, this one. Austin duo Shmu and Zac Traeger get into some serious afrobeat, electro anthems, chiptune and prog-rock excess on their debut and make something unclassifiable. A glitch pop explosion of sonic ideas and harebrained oddness, kind of like Animal Collective on Ritalin jumping inside a bounce house, and just as awesome as that sounds.

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