These 10 albums are the cream of the crop for me so far in 2013. I wish I had room to write a top 20, because there are several other artists—including Thundercat, Youth Lagoon, Savages and the Black Angels—that have put out albums deserving of your time. However, these are the top 10 so far, and we have half a year to go. Obviously, if your record collection is shy of any of these, I highly recommend any and all.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “II”
For their second album, UMO pour on the sweet funk and souled-out psychedelic rock that made us love them in the first place, but they also leave plenty of room for guitar bravado and just a pinch of higher fidelity.
Local Natives – “Hummingbird”
Local Natives made the 3+ year wait more than worthwhile. “Hummingbird” is a shimmering beauty of an album, with all of the soaring harmonies, intriguing drum patterns and jangling guitar we have come to expect from these guys.
My Bloody Valentine – “mbv”
What is there to even say about this album that hasn’t been said? Shoegaze archetypes, My Bloody Valentine benched albums amid struggles and made their audience wait patiently on new material for 21 years. This year, they made it up to us all in a big way. If you don’t have this album yet, you’re doing it wrong.
Phosphorescent – “Muchacho”
A decade into his career as the creative force behind Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck has streamlined his sound and made his most accessible album to date, while simultaneously staying true to himself and his fans.
Wavves – “Afraid of Heights”
On “Afraid of Heights,” California surf-rockers Wavves take their love of ‘90s punk and grunge and their penchance for self-deprecation and churn out 42 minutes of distorted goodness. While sticking true to the punk roots which helped them gain notoriety, Wavves have taken their raw sound and put a layer of polish on it, making this album more accessible to a wider audience.
The National – “Trouble Will Find Me”
The National is undoubtedly a band who has become more and more refined as time passes. Every album finds them leaps and bounds better as musicians and skilled artists than before, while at the same time singer Matt Berninger seems to fall further into confusion and depression. “Trouble Will Find Me” displays the artisanship of a group of perfectionists alongside the confusion of an aging romantic.
Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City”
Our ivy-leaguers are all grown up and displaying a very refined and dynamic sound on their third long-player for XL Records. While maintaining the approach that originally made them loveable, Vampire Weekend have made an album which also bleeds somber and, at times, disdainful tones, making this their most emotionally balanced album yet.
Foals – “Holy Fire”
British band Foals have allowed themselves to breathe and have created the most relaxed and fully defined album of their eight-year career. Displaying an undeniably direct approach to the band’s concise and catchy style of rock, “Holy Fire” demands and deserves attention.
Foxygen – “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic”
For the most part, Foxygen are still flying undeservedly under the radar for many music fans. The L.A. duo are very new to the attention that they have received since the release of “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” their impressive debut record. Playful, sexy, emotive, and in the spirit of early rock and soul, one listen to “We Are…” is certain to prompt many repeats.
Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories”
As I’m writing this, “Random Access Memories” is in its third week on Billboard’s top ten albums, now resting at number two, after spending two weeks at the top of the chart. Considering the pomp surrounding this album, a number one debut is not surprising by any means. The energy surrounding the album is necessary, because the music is so fervent, breathing a mix of disco, R&B, and techno, as well as providing an all-star cast of cameo appearances. “Random Access Memories” is arguably the best album of Daft Punk’s already impressive career.