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Ears & Fingers—Top 25 of 2013

by Jason Leger

1. The National-“Trouble Will Find Me”
The National are a band who have only gotten better with age, as their front man finds more and more reasons to succumb wryly to his demons. It’s actually been fairly odd to watch how the songs on this album seem to have morphed around my own personal circumstances this year. I haven’t been able to pick a favorite song because the one I wear out changes from month to month. It’s extremely personal. Top track: “Pink Rabbits”

2. Phosphorescent-“Muchacho”
Matthew Houck, the creative force behind Phosphorescent, seems to have found a very clear goal in the simplicity he strives for in his music. It’s always been clear, from 2007’s “Pride” to this year’s powerhouse “Muchacho,” he just isn’t a big fan of frills and overproduction. “Muchacho” is an album filled with introspection, gravity and even in upbeat numbers, somber overtones. Top track: “Muchacho’s Tune”

3. Local Natives-“Hummingbird”
When Local Natives first appeared on my radar in 2010 with “Gorilla Manor,” I was immediately impressed with how well put together they were. “Hummingbird” doesn’t disappoint in similar regard. Ideas of heartache run throughout, but what’s impressive are the feelings of hope, which still emanate from the jangly guitar, stimulating drums and soaring harmonies. Surely, we can expect much more from these cats. Top track: “Heavy Feet”

4. Arcade Fire-“Reflektor”
The events leading up to the release of Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album, “Reflektor,” were shrouded in vagueness and secrecy. One is almost inclined to think the band wanted some misdirection, and it would be true if “Reflektor” wasn’t such an impressive album. However, this nuanced disco-noir undertaking is impressive, adding a notch in the belt of a band who have already accomplished quite a bit. Top track: “Afterlife”

5. Kanye West-“Yeezus”
I’ve watched several interviews with Kanye West about what he was trying to accomplish with “Yeezus,” his incredibly ambitious sixth studio album, He is very intelligent, bitter about the way he feels the black community is marketed to, and also seems disillusioned by his role in society. At any rate, “Yeezus” is a flourishing success, so at the very least, the guy can back up his neuroses. Top track: “Blood on the Leaves”

6. Caveman-“Caveman”
Everyone loves a good underdog story, and Caveman live it. They have been making attempts at breaking through for the better part of a decade, specifically in the NYC music scene. This year saw the release of their second full length, “Caveman,” and the band is finally getting some long overdue attention. Top track: “In The City”

7. Danny Brown- “Old”
Danny Brown has risen to prominence on his own terms and no one can take that level of pride away from him. He is self-made and his name has been on the lips of almost everyone this year. “Old,” Brown’s second studio album, is entrenched in the seemingly whimsical, while maintaining the dark ideas Brown has always made us tense over. Top Track: “Side B (Dope Song)”

8. Haim- “Days Are Gone”
If you’ve never heard the name Haim after the year they had, chances are you spent most of 2013 under a rock. This trio of sisters have been everywhere in the past year, and they deserve the notoriety we are giving them. Haim have written one of the most cohesively catchy pop albums I have ever heard and their bass player is a total fox — just saying. Top track: “Don’t Save Me”

9. Daft Punk- “Random Access Memories”
Daft Punk had a massive year and released what should be considered the album of their careers. Mostly organic neo-disco, funk and house bleed through this release, which is also brimming with impressive collaborations. Keep your eyes peeled as the duo just announced they will make their first televised performance since 2008 during the Grammys. Top track: “Instant Crush”

10. Volcano Choir- “Repave”
What can be said about Justin Vernon that we don’t already know? In 2011, he taught us how to feel feelings again with Bon Iver, and this year he showed us an impressive introspective rock side with “Repave,” by side project Volcano Choir. The album, while seeming heavy on the surface, is actually Vernon and his friends enjoying making music together. Top track: “Dancepack”

11. White Denim- “Corsicana Lemonade”
12. Foals- “Holy Fire”
13. Yo La Tengo- “Fade”
14. Earl Sweatshirt- “Doris”
15. Queens of the Stone Age- “…Like Clockwork”
16. Wavves- “Afraid of Heights”
17. The 1975- “The 1975”
18. Vampire Weekend- “Modern Vampires of the City”
19. Cayucas- “Bigfoot”
20. Blood Orange- “Cupid Deluxe”
21. My Bloody Valentine- “mbv”
22. Thundercat- “Apocalypse”
23. Kurt Vile- “Wakin’ On a Pretty Daze”
24. Night Beds- “Country Sleep”
25. Moonface- “Julia with Blue Jeans On”