Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

There was so much great music this year that it was hard to limit this list to only ten but here are the albums that remained in heavy rotation for me throughout the year.  Enjoy and here’s to another great year of music discovery!

Holopaw – Academy Songs Volume 1 (Misra Records)
For Academy Songs Volume 1, their fourth album, the Florida band led by the gorgeous vocals of John Orth, shifted from the spacey synths and fractured folk of their previous releases to go in a dreamier indie rock direction for their finest album yet.  

Okkervil River – The Silver Gymnasium (ATO Records)
Okkervil River’s new album, The Silver Gymnasium, their debut for new label ATO Records, marks the first time frontman Will Sheff has written about himself in song as he reminisces about growing up in small-town New Hampshire in the 80’s.  Produced by legendary 80’s producer, John Agnello (Cindi Lauper, John Mellencamp), the album evokes nostalgia for cassettes and VCR’s and features additional instrumentation such as sax solos and synths that set the stage for Sheff’s distinct storytelling. 

The Head And the Heart – Let’s Be Still (Sub Pop)
Seattle folk-pop band The Head And The Heart returned with their highly-anticipated sophomore album, Let’s Be Still.  Building off of the momentum and success of their breakout self-titled debut, the new album shows the band branching out to include more electric guitars and dreamy synths to their organic, harmony-rich folk palette to great effect. 

Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Merge Records)
Coming off of their Grammy win, Arcade Fire set the bar even higher with the release of their double-album Reflektor.  The synth and rhythm-driven album was produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem and exceeds all of the hype. 

Josh Berwanger – Strange Stains (Good Land Records)
Josh Berwanger formerly of early-2000’s indie rock legends, The Anniversary and The Only Children, returned this year after a lengthy hiatus – he coached a high school girls’ basketball team! – with his excellent new album, Strange Stains that showcases his catchy and honest folk-leaning rock-and-roll sound.  

Fourth Of July – Empty Moon (High Dive Records)
Lawrence, Kansas folk rock band Fourth Of July released their excellent third album Empty Moon.  Led by the clever, conversational wordplay of vocalist/guitarist Brendan Hangauer, the album was recorded with Chris Crisci of The Appleseed Cast and with its vivid and honest lyrics, listening is like watching reality TV or secretly reading your best friend’s journal. 

The ACBs – Little Leaves (High Dive Records)
K.C. indie-poppers, The ACBs’ stunning sophomore album, Little Leaves blends strutting bass lines and crisp, jangly guitars with upbeat rhythms and quirky 60’s pop-inspired melodies in two-and-a-half-minute spurts, sounding like The Strokes on a beach blanket. 

Preston Lovinggood – Sun Songs (Communicating Vessels)
The former Wild Sweet Orange frontman released his highly-anticipated debut solo album, Sun Songs which highlighted his genre-defiant folk sound that incorporates everything from chugging acoustic guitars and handclaps to New Wave-inspired synths and ornate blues with haunting, reverb-rich vocals.  Look for a newly recorded companion album Shadow Songs in February.

Signals Midwest – Light On The Lake (Tiny Engines)
Cleveland emo-revivalists returned with their excellent third album Light On The Lake.  Led by fiery singer/guitarist Max Stern, they create a forceful and smart brand of punk rock that blends math-rock time changes and shout-along choruses into their nostalgic anthems that recall everything from Braid, Brandtson and Red Animal War.

Carcass – Surgical Steel (Nuclear Blast)
The death metal legends return with their first album since 1996.  Sounding like the logical next step from 1993’s melodic metal masterpiece Heartwork, listening to Surgical Steel is like waking up from a 17 year coma and having never to have experienced nu-metal!    


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