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Listen up: Our 20+ best albums from 2013

Setting the record straight

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Black Angels – Indigo Meadow
Blue Horizon
By backing off their recent day-tripping and finally rediscovering the throttle on their sexy motorcycles, the neo-psych rock kings storm back with this powerhouse album to reclaim their throne. And holy shit goddamn, they’ll be returning (Feb. 24, the Social) with psychedelic god and miraculous comeback story Roky Erickson. – Bao Le-Huu

Mikal Cronin – MCII
It was almost unfair how much more I spun this than any other 2013 release and I’m convinced I will appreciate these effortless melodies, this multi-instrument approach to poppiness and these satisfyingly digestible lyrics for the eternity it already feels like I’ve spent with it. – Ashley Belanger

Dead Confederate – In the Marrow
Spiderbomb Records/Redeye
This well-pitched calibration of their darkly majestic sound proves that no one is forging and forwarding Southern rock with as much muscle, depth and arresting melody as these Athens boys. They’re not the face of the New South yet, but they should be. – BLH

Dumb Numbers – Dumb Numbers
Joyful Noise Recordings
It took a supergroup comprising members of Melvins, Dinosaur Jr. and capable ’90s throwback achievers Best Coast to finally birth a release that truly recalls the era – that, a gentle reminder, is bygone – without the stink of imitation. If you love loud, grungy, distorted guitars, embrace this album. – AB

Forest Swords – Engravings
Tri Angle Records
When composed in such an eerily organic way, electronica never felt so essential. U.K. producer Matthew Barnes eschews the dance floor in favor of dark-hued songs crafted from live percussion, deep dub groove, and swatches of synths, strings and horns. Dig deep and the odd interplay between earthy and industrial becomes obvious. – Nick McGregor

Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Sixties-worshipping nostalgia gone goofy, genuine and sophisticated. High-school friends Jonathan Rado and Sam France tried to bury their Davies/Jagger/Reed-inspired project in inanity: that band and album name, those self-destructive onstage tendencies. Yet the quirky instrumentation, queasy joy and slacker chic of their excellent debut album shines through it all. – NM

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
ATP Recordings
The most obscenely named band to ever be played at an Olympics opening ceremony (London 2012) has finally made the transition to more structured designs that work to their peerless strengths as masters of epic electronic music. – BLH

Gambles – Far From Your Arms EP + Trust
GMBLS/Secretly Canadian
Matthew Siskin’s one-man project strikes like a bolt of tragic lightning. Sure, it’s clearly indebted to Cohen and Dylan. But Gambles’ gut-wrenching personal perspective, laid bare in 2013 across an EP and full-length, feels far more honest. Like immersing yourself in evocative, often painful folk minimalism? You’ve found your latter-day savior. – NM

Grave Babies – Crusher
Hardly Art
This Seattle band may wear its gothic post-punk influences without shame, but they do it with really great fuzz. But, most importantly, they do it with excellent taste and superlative pop chops. And they, well, crushed it with this record. – BLH

His Electro Blue Voice – Ruthless Sperm
Sub Pop
Purveying terror rock that powerfully blends punk, post-punk, death rock, noise rock and shoegaze, this Italian band blitzed from out of nowhere and awed enough to grab one of only three five-star reviews I gave out this year. – BLH

Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God
ATO Records
Consider Jim James the Man With the Golden Voice. Fifteen years after his soaring, reverb-cloaked falsetto first wowed the world with My Morning Jacket, this solo debut stands as James’ most complete offering. Tender acoustic balladry, futuristic shades of gospel, theatrical psychedelia … this is rock & roll at its most exultant. – NM

Midaz the Beast – AU: Another Universe
Hippnott Records
Despite the album’s name, it’s the rich storytelling depicting a gritty reality that made this essential local hip-hop album sing for me. – AB

Morningbell – Bôa Noite
Orange Records
It is rare that an album with this many crazy-diverse references – from tribal drums to pop princes to tropicalia to psychedelia – achieves delicate composure, but this album goes beyond expectations in every way. And songwriter Travis Atria’s clever lyrics only further punctuate this space case of an album concept. – AB

Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple
A gorgeously aimed shot between traditional and indie, this record takes the North Carolinian country-rockers from promise to full and magnificent realization with some of the sweetest, most perfect melodies heard this year. – BLH

The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The brilliance of their deep-water indie rock is well-known by now. But this is their most vigorous and essential work in ages and proves that their quietly transcendental anthems can out-drama even Arcade Fire, with half the effort and volume. – BLH

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold + Tally All the Things That You Broke EP
What’s Your Rupture?
Whip-smart and bristling with nervy New Wave energy, Parquet Courts resuscitated thinking-man’s punk rock. Sure, it’s served best slathered in sarcasm – but that sneer only adds to the street cred. Based on their airtight live shows and prodigious two-album 2013 output, this debut represents but the tip of this band’s potential. – NM

Peals – Walking Field
Thrill Jockey
Indie filmmakers, take note. A hushed, home-recorded instrumental affair from two Baltimore bassists (Future Islands’ William Cashion and Double Dagger’s Bruce Willem), Walking Field embraces kinesthetic guitars, cinemascopic sound effects and a tidal ebb and flow of riveting sonic calm. Listen with headphones, and you’ll be instantly submerged. – NM

Pissed Jeans – Honeys
Sub Pop
This is necessary sludge punk with enough versatility to resonate with a lot more folks than just those who suffer from cat allergies. – AB

Poliça – Shulamith
Mom + Pop
That this Minneapolis group made my list two years in a row speaks to the cogency of their work. Dressed in Euro-sleek soul with sophistication not seen since Tracy Thorn and space-age midnight sensuality, they’re probably the sharpest, most distinctive electro-pop band in the game. – BLH

Emily Reo – Olive Juice
Elestial Sound
What a treat to hear home-recorded electronic ex-pat Emily Reo finally find her voice. You may have heard many of these tracks before, but assuredly not like this. Stand-out track “Peach,” with its dreamy drone, is exactly that. – AB

Set and Setting – Equanimity
Science of Silence Records
This heavy St. Pete band released their debut right in the middle of an admirably strong year for music, but its slow-build approach to distorted instrumentals quickly gained national attention and has me eager to hear these spiraling uncertainties continue to unravel. – AB

Shannon & the Clams – Dreams in the Rat House
Hardly Art
Modern garage rock has reached a saturation point – which strengthens the singular hand of Shannon & the Clams. Shannon Shaw and Cody Blanchard share crackling lead vocal duties, skipping from cartoonish rockabilly to raucous doo-wop to ghoulish gutter-punk with ease. And no album has captured their madcap live show more accurately. – NM

Suuns – Images du Futur
Secretly Canadian
Another one of my few five-star reviews this year, these mind-warping Canadians are proving so far to be a lock for my best list any year they release an album. Like a more single-minded and focused Clinic, these arty future-psych rockers are making some of the most concentrated and compelling music today. – BLH

Kanye West – Yeezus
Def Jam
This one may be obvious, but it’s indisputable. There are about a million-plus reasons to hate him, but this charging, radical magnum opus isn’t one. – BLH

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