10. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
9. La Vida Boheme – Será
8. Biffy Clyro – Opposites
7. Franz Ferdinand – Right Words, Right Thoughts, Right Action
6. Moving Mountains – Moving Mountains
This album completely came out of left field for me, because I usually get bored of electro/synthpop pretty quickly. CHVRCHES’ debut album, The Bones Of What You Believe, managed to toe the line between being totally dynamic and easily accessible. Bones sort of sounds like “Sprawl II” from Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs got extended to an entire album. There’s nothing shallow about CHVRCHES, which is a problem I find pretty prevalent in electropop bands. Each song is totally dynamic and discernible from the next. These synths might be as slick, smooth, and glittering as diamonds, but they still pack quite a punch. Couple that with some truly awesome lyrical kiss-offs, like “Who are you to tell me how / to keep myself afloat / I tread the water all the while” from “Gun,” and you’ve got one of the best albums of 2013.
To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for Vampire Weekend’s latest album. After the stereotypical sophomore slump of 2010’s Contra, it was going to take more than an album that was merely good to get Vampire Weekend back on track. Modern Vampires Of The City was so much more than “merely good.” It completely leaves behind the African-influenced percussive elements so prevalent on Contra. The replacement is rollicking and rebellious. It’s obvious that Modern Vampires is a step into serious adulthood for Vampire Weekend. It may sound as ebullient and fun as ever, but the lyrical content, which explores more mature themes like faith and mortality, shows real growth. If Vampire Weekend were a person, the debut album would be its energetic childhood. Contra would have been its awkward adolescent phase. Modern Vampires Of The City would be the entry into adulthood, filled with thoughtful commentary with just enough reckless abandon to keep things interesting.
Much like Kveikur, Trouble Will Find Me was an album that dominated my 2013 from its release date. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from The National: chock full of heartbreak, mournful melodies, and general malaise. You’d think that after ten years, we’d get tired of hearing vocalist and frontman Matt Berninger waxing poetic about how humanity is deeply flawed, but Trouble proved that wrong. Between the drop-dead gorgeous melody on “Fireproof” to the krautrock-inspired drums on “Don’t Swallow The Cap,” Trouble kept it interesting at every turn. With so many moving parts, Trouble could have turned into an overwrought mess, but in the capable hands of Berninger and company, it’s a masterpiece.
I’ve given Kveikur plenty of lauding this year, so much so that I’m starting to feel like a broken record. For the past decade, Sigur Rós have made their entire career about making music so ethereally beautiful that it sounds otherworldly. (Or, depending on whom you ask, like it’s sung by whales.) For them to totally switch up that core and add in, of all things, a metal-tinged approach that sings of aggression and violence is about as daring as you can get. And they pulled it off without a hitch. Kveikur’ll move you just as strongly as Valtari, ( ), and Takk did. It’s just as beautiful, but now, it’s an altogether different brand of gorgeous, one that’s jagged and raw. Aside from the superb quality, Kveikur’s just as exciting because it breathed new life into something that was already incredibly dynamic and spirited. Standing ovation to Sigur Rós for perfectly taking everything that made their band notable and flipping it on its head to create a whole new monster.
For a very long time, I assumed that my top AOTY spot would either go to Sigur Rós or The National, but as it turned out, I should’ve put my money on a new dark horse. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been as excited by a new band as I am by HAIM. These three sisters sound like the second coming of Fleetwood Mac with a heavy dose of grrl-power thrown in. Their full-length debut, Days Are Gone, would be respectfully good for a veteran band. For a new trio, it’s nothing short of shocking. You’ll come for the (deserved) hype, but as soon as the drums on opening track “Falling” hit, you’ll be hooked in for the long haul. “The Wire” has one of the strongest, catchiest hooks of 2013. If I had a dollar for every time I caught myself belting this out in my shower, I could probably pay HAIM to play a private show in my living room. My other standout track is “My Song 5,” whose down and dirty bassline introduces a perfect amount of Joan Jett-esque swagger. The quality of HAIM’s debut is outrageously good, but even more surprising would be if they don’t enjoy a long and successful career. Download this album now and be prepared to salivate for their next.
Most Anticipated: Elbow