The top 10 albums of 2013

Parker Munson presents his 10 favorite albums of the year.

Parker Munson, Writer

It’s a bit of a daunting task to try and narrow down the hundreds of albums that have come out this year into one list of 10, so let me be clear: the following list contains the 10 albums I personally enjoyed most this year. Each album on this list has either been playing in my car for weeks, on repeat on my iPod or spinning on my record player. Consider it a mixtape.


10. Dr. Dog, “B-Room”

Dr. Dog has been keeping it real since “Easy Beat.” Every album these guys have put out has offered something unique to their repertoire of psychedelic folk, and “B-Room” is no exception. Sonically, it might not be their most inventive album, but it has classic Dr. Dog written all over it.


9. Arctic Monkeys, “AM”

“AM” is definitely a departure from the playful naivety of “My Favourite Nightmare,” but it shows that even though the Arctic Monkeys are all grown up, they haven’t lost their touch. There’s a certain seriousness on “AM” that until now has only been hinted at. It’s dark, smoky and it rocks.


8. Cage The Elephant, “Melophobia”

I’m not sure what happened to Cage The Elephant after their debut, but whatever it was, it’s working. After a rather angsty sophomore release, the guys seem to have gotten it mostly out of their system and transitioned quite nicely into a more mature sound while still keeping that slacker punk vibe. Moreover, “Melophobia” is a true testament to the band’s songwriting capabilities. From highly imaginative songs like “Telescope” to intensely personal ones like “Spiderhead,” Cage The Elephant manages to make the kind of poignant statements they’re known for — without the yelling.


7. Shad, “Flying Colours”

This album is not nearly as provocative as “Yeezus” but is definitely this year’s most thoughtful hip-hop release. Shad has yet to make waves in the U.S., but he continues to top the Canadian hip-hop charts. Creating a stark contrast to the money-worshipping, megalomaniac hip-hop we’re used to cramming the airwaves with, the conscious rapper focuses his attention on social justice, morality and religion. “Flying Colours” manages to make playful hip-hop meaningful and undeniably authentic.


6. Beach Fossils, “Clash The Truth”

Admittedly, this is the first Beach Fossils album I’ve really spent much time listening to, and though I can’t speak to how it holds up against their older stuff, I know it definitely holds its own. I’m not usually a big fan of bands that pile on the reverb, but I’ll make an exception for anyone who can write as well as Dustin Pasyeur. The album’s title track serves as a postmodern anthem for the generation that got “selfie” into the dictionary — and I mean that in the best way possible.


5. Local Natives, “Hummingbird”

Local Natives’ debut album, “Gorilla Manner” was such a big hit that I was a little nervous to see what would come of their sophomore effort. I was relieved when they exceeded my expectations. “Hummingbird” lacks some of the catchiness of their debut, but in doing so it establishes a unique sound, setting them apart from their influences and proving they can stand alone.


4. Jake Bugg, “Jake Bugg”

Jake Bugg’s debut was arguably one of this year’s strongest and most unexpected. The 19-year-old Nottingham native released his self-titled debut, and within no time it was sitting pretty on top of the UK charts. Bugg continues to garner comparisons to the incomparable Bob Dylan. Former A&E editor fro the Chimes,  Mack Hayden was quoted in the New York Times saying, "Here's an artist we can be surprised by, always thinking, 'This is so good. And he's just a kid!'” It’s true. With the release of his second album “Shangri La” having also been released this year, it feels a bit rushed and uninspired. Here’s to hoping the kid can pull through.


3. Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”

Ever since stealing the show at the 2011 Grammy’s, Arcade Fire has had people wondering who this breakout band is. As an avid fan, I wonder the same thing sometimes. Especially with “Reflektor,” where it’s often unclear if it’s them playing the songs of their giant, paper mache headed alter-ego’s “The Reflektors.” It’s their most conceptual release to date, and it’s arguably their best. The band has spent the last decade releasing albums that have increasingly drawn on the band’s Haitian heritage, and it all feels like it’s finally coming to a head on “Reflektor.” Unmistakable Caribbean dance grooves fuse snugly with jolting post-punk jams to make a complex but beautiful modern rock album.


2. Dawes, “Stories Don’t End”

I’ve never been able to consistently listen to an album for longer than I have listened to “Stories Don’t End.” Dawes achieves this certain level of purity that most modern rock bands couldn’t pull off unless they were being ironic. “Stories Don’t End” is an album about love, friendship, self-discovery and the hardships of life along with all its victories. They’re not saying anything new or too profound, but the album’s bold storytelling and simple truthfulness are what lend it its beauty and make it one of the most genuine albums of 2013.


1. The National, “Trouble Will Find Me”

As melancholic as it may be, this is perhaps The National’s most relaxed album yet. They didn’t set out with too many ambitious goals this time around, and it shows in the album’s casual atmosphere. The allusions to Elliott Smith, David Lynch and Violent Femmes prove that they’re confident enough in themselves to allow their influences to blatantly spill out in their lyrics. It’s incredibly refreshing to see a band so far into their career be capable of releasing an album that doesn’t sacrifice anything in way of consistency but also offers up a newfound perspective. My knee-jerk reaction to most albums by The National, given Matt Behringer’s droning vocals, is that they’re all sad — especially “Boxer.” But when peeling back the layers of “Trouble Will Find Me,” there’s actually a lot of humor in there — punchlines even. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.

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