During the creation of my Top Albums of the Year list in 2013, I was blown away with the number of incredible albums released this year. With so many unforgettable artists and efforts to choose from, it was nearly impossible to narrow this down to a succinct and manageable 20. And I’ll probably be kicking myself well into 2014 about stuff I overlooked, forgot about, or discover again later. However, as of December 20 when this list was assembled, this is what I recalled as my favorite records of the year. Enjoy:
20. Kylesa, Ultraviolet
I’m perhaps a little biased here because interviewing Laura and Phillip earlier this year was such a pleasure. This is a heart-wrenching album from a progressive bunch who push the boundaries of heavy music at every turn.
19. Daylight, Jar
Nirvana-influenced guitar rock brought by some up and comers with serious chops.
18. Melt Banana, fetch
The musical weirdos from Japan have done it again. A truly mind-boggling experience from across the ocean.
17. The Wonder Years, Greatest Generation
Philly-based punkers deliver another heart-on-sleeve one-two punch to the gut. To be 17 again…or 37 and still finding joy in revved up, earnest rock.
16. Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed
From the Athens, Ohio-based metal heads with unparalleled work ethic. And they’re my mom’s favorite band, which has to count for something. Pairing them with Kurt Ballou was nothing short of genius.
15. Youth Code, Youth Code
Warped, aggressive, industrial sounds from a pair of hardcore/punk kids from Los Angeles. 2014 is going to be a huge year for these guys.
14. Crash of Rhinos, Knots
If this is the resulting sound of the “emo revival” the blogs are buzzing about, consider me on board. Creative, forward-thinking, and offering bits of aural nostalgia that are just right.
13. Hyrrokkin, Pristine Origin
Dayton, Ohio’s contributions to the musical landscape have been well documented, but here is one that should be recognized in 2013. Inspired and experimental, this instrumental trio delivers serious chops…just ask Merzbow…
12. The Hussy, Pagan Hiss
Wisconsin rock duo proves that garage rock is alive and well. Catch them on their forthcoming tour with Nobunny.
11. Touche Amore, Is Survived By
Visceral post-rock and hardcore with teeth, this is the kind of band that will be heralded as crucial and influential long after they hang it up.
10. The Blues And The Greys, Bright Lights EP
From these relative newbees comes a delightful sampling of indie rock that will delight fans of Jenny Lewis and Mazzy Star.
9. Savages, Silence Yourself
This London four piece is both fierce and commanding. And the results are a breath of fresh air on the current musical landscape.
8. Pusha T, My Name Is My Name
Best known for his work in Clipse, Pusha T claims his rightful spot as an uncompromising force to be reckoned with in the rap game.
7. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
The Scottish synth pop band delivers a stunning, unforgettable record. Believe the hype.
6. Caravels, Lacuna
Brilliant and brooding post-rock that is both intricate and gut-wrenching. Though Caravels are perhaps a bit unsung at the moment, 2014 could be their breakout year.
5. Brainbow, II
Columbus, Ohio’s premiere instrumental post-rockers deliver a post-humus record that Godspeed You Black Emperor and Explosions In The Sky should be envious of.
4. Night Sins, To London Or The Lake
This came to the table late in 2013 so it will probably be largely overlooked in year-end lists, which is a damn shame. The goth and post-punk leaning record is at once grimy and sexy. Fans of Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division should seek this one out.
3. Dads, Pretty Good EP
Modern emo that matters, this is the kind of record that will make the kids say, “That’s how I feel.” Despite all the lyrical self-deprecation, this is a band who have found themselves.
2. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
Just when you thought you knew these Canadian twins, they reinvent themselves as a dance band to remarkable results.
1. Zola Jesus, Versions
Zola Jesus’ collaboration with a string quartet led by J.G. Thirwell (of Foetus) is nothing short of breathtaking. The songs aren’t new, but their provocative reinvention sure makes it sound like they are. A stunning record by an artist who is poised to become an icon.
Honorable Mentions go to these 20 records that narrowly missed making the list:
Bad Religion, True North
Balance and Composure, The Things We Thing We’re Missing
Doomriders, Grand Blood
Drug Church, Paul Walker
Heartsounds, Internal Eyes
Hostage Calm/Anti-Flag split
Into It. Over It., Intersections
Iron Chic, The Constant One
Jonathan Rado, Law and Order
Kris N., Thankful Parade
Kurt Vile, Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Mixtapes, Ordinary Silence
Russian Circles, Memorial
The Slow Death, No Heaven
The Story Changes, Static and Trembling
This Will Destroy You, Live in Reykjavik, Iceland