Mid-Year Report: My Favorite Albums of 2013 So Far

2013 has been very kind to the inner rock and roll loyalist in me.

When I’m talking about rock and roll I’m not talking about four dudes playing loud guitars with no electronics, though there was plenty of that in 2013 which I also loved. I’m talking about the idea of an album crafted by your favorite band meeting some sort of expectation or a new band coming out of nowhere with a debut that blows you away. The past couple of years have been great for music, but there were only a handful of true classic albums that’ll stand the test of time, though I’m sure I’ll be eating my words in 2029 when I’m reviewing the reissue of a Yeah Yeah Yeah’s album.

But the first half of 2013 is already full of classic albums that we know now are fantastic. We had comeback albums from classic artist (David Bowie, Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, The Strokes), career-peaking albums from established artists (Vampire Weekend, Kanye West), and we’ve heard albums that will finally bring bands from the underground and possibly into long(er) careers (Savages, Deafheaven, Kurt Vile). And even take away all the critically praised albums, there were plenty of other albums that were just great, albums that even if they weren’t life changing were still worth shelling out fifteen buck for.

2013 is already the year of the classic album, and I’m not the only one who is relieved to hear that. Here are my favorite albums of 2013 so far in no particular order:

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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I could go on all day about Vampire Weekend’s maturity from Columbia lads to adult New Yorkers and how this album comes full circle to their realization of all our expectations of this band destined to make the best popular music not made by Paul Simon. And believe me, I really want to. But I won’t. Partly because it’s too easy to judge Vampire Weekend based on how far they’ve come from Oxford Commas to Diane Young, which most other reviewers (including myself) have done.

But my main reason is simple and innocent enough – Modern Vampires of the City is just a great fucking album. Forget their quirkiness, forget their cleverness, forget their backstory – just focus on the music. Listen to every note, harmony, and lyric and hear how everything is crafted with the upmost care and that these songs are true works of art. Gone is any sense of pretentiousness and instead we have an earnest album from a band finally hitting their stride.

If nothing else, listen to “Hannah Hunt”, which as of now is my song of the year, and just sit back and be grateful that a band in 2013 could make something so great.

Read my full review here.

 

Kanye West – Yeezus

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Here’s something that won’t shock you – I love Yeezus. I love Kanye West being Kanye West at his most Kanye West, I love this anti-pop album that’s both abrasive yet instantly likable, and I love to see haters shake their heads at Kanye simply for being Kanye. Here’s something that might shock you – Yeezus it not the album of the year. Not even close. Well how about Kanye’s best album? Nope, that’s still My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

But still Yeezus is so far (and will be) the most fun album to talk about in 2013 and it will still stay fresh in our ears come around December. Whether you love or hate this album you probably already have a strong opinion on it, which makes Yeezus the ultimate pop album and Kanye the ultimate pop star.

Read my full review here.

 

The Strokes – Comedown Machine

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Comedown Machine is my favorite Strokes album. I know that I’m supposed to say that Is This It? is my favorite, but that album has been wrapped up in so much legend that I think we like the idea of that album more than the actual music. Comedown Machine is great because the songs are strong and The Strokes actually sound like a band again having fun playing with each other. If the band decides to split for good, then this wouldn’t be a bad way to end things.

Read my full review here.

 

Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

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I’ve always liked the idea of JT doing a classic throwback blue-eyed soul album, but at first 20/20 left me uninspired. Now I’ve seen the errors of my ways. The most impressive thing about this album is how JT manages to sound modern yet classic at the same time. This is partly due to some fantastic production, but you have to give credit to JT for being able to appeal to rock fans and pop fans with the same song. The album is very hit and miss and most of the songs are too long, but when JT hits it’s a home run.

Read my full review here.

 

The National – Trouble Will Find Me

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Trouble Will Find Me is the sound of The National becoming the arena indie-rock band they were always destined to be and having nothing left to prove, so of course this is the most National-sounding of National albums – gloomy, beautiful, and depicting every day worries as if they were life or death. Even if it’s too moderate for its own good, a good National album is still better than most albums released in any given year.

 

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

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Radiohead had to follow up Kid A, Springsteen had to follow up Born To Run, and My Bloody Valentine had to follow up Loveless. It’s always a daunting task to make your next record when your last one is already hailed as a classic, which immediately puts a world of pressure upon a band that most of the times proves to be too much.

It’s one thing to release an album that has been in the works for nearly 20 years, but it’s a completely different for that said album to actually be satisfying. m b v sounds like the next logical album for My Bloody Valentine; a little different from Loveless but still capturing that signature swirling guitar sound that helped define modern indie-rock. Don’t worry kids, Loveless is still the band’s masterpiece, but what’s incredible with m b v is how well it stands on its own feet. There are only about two songs that remotely sound like “singles”, but no one goes to MBV for singles but for albums, and this album delivers. And if nothing else, many people will go back to discover Loveless, which is a beautiful moment for any music fan.

 

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

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Daft Punk’s place in electronic dance music history has never been in jeopardy, but for a while their relevance was. Their last album was made eight years ago and it was a dud and their contribution to the Tron soundtrack was weaker than anyone will admit.

So how does Daft Punk confront their weakening relevance in modern music? They made a classic throwback non-electronic dance album of course. Random Access Memories is full of dance tunes that sound like tributes to 70s and 80s dance music. An incredible list of contributors and some quality production can only do so much, but in the case of Random Access Memories they secure Daft Punk as relevant as ever. And if nothing else, “Get Lucky” is the perfect single for 2013.

Read my full review here.

 

Savages – Silence Yourself

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There were stronger albums made in 2013, but what separates Silence Yourself from every other album this year so far is Savages’s total confidence in itself, and this is their debut album! The album is a ruthless onslaught of post-punk confronting the modern sense of losing touch in a time when we’ve never been so connected. The guitars and drums match the intensity of Jehnny Beth’s vocals who also manages to write lyrics that stand tall among a genre that is mostly known for noise. Expect plenty of great things in the future from Savages.

 

Other great albums to check out:

Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze

 

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away

 

James Blake – Overgrown

 

Deafheaven – Sunbather

 

Mikal Cronin – MCII

 

Albums to (hopefully) look forward for the rest of 2013:

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Self Titled (July 23)

John Mayer – Paradise Valley (August 13)

MGMT – MGMT (August 20)

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks (September 3)

Arctic Monkeys – AM (September 9)

Drake – Nothing Was the Same (September 17)

Kings of Leon – Mechanical Bull (September 24)

Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Part 2 (September 30)

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (?)

Arcade Fire – TBA (?)

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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