We’re moseying on out of list season for another year, but before we do there’s still one last big mountain to climb. It’s time to count down the top 50 albums of 2013. Yes, there has been a billion of these over the past month or so – surely you can stomach one more without it turning into that scene from The Meaning of Life. Right? I hope so, anyway. Without further ado!
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Endless Heights, Janelle Monae, Dumb Numbers, Rosetta, Horrorshow, The Civil Wars, Sigur Ros, Au Revoir Simone, Pluto Jonze, Drumgasm, The Internet, Eleventh He Reaches London, Heights, City and Colour, Little Scout, Eminem, Austin Lucas, Arctic Monkeys, Tired Pony, Queens of the Stone Age, GROUPLOVE, The Uncluded, The Front Bottoms and Red Fang…
Few bands quite understand the joys, the plights, the struggles and the occasional existential crises that come with your twenties quite like The Wonder Years – mostly because they’re right there along with you. Over four albums, the band have evolved into spokesmen for pop-punk not just being for angsty, bedroom-dwelling teens. It can progress, mature and occasionally stir the extreme sides of the emotional spectrum. The sextet still find themselves struggling through small-town bullshit, life on the road and that unshakable fear of missing out. It’s in how they deal with it through the majesty of song that makes The Greatest Generation such a rewarding listen.
THREE TOP TRACKS: I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral, Passing Through a Screen Door, We Could Die Like This.
Believe it or not, there are still some bands who are keeping the dream alive for those that grew up with Taking Back Sunday, Jimmy Eat World, Something Corporate and Matchbook Romance. Citizen may well wear their influences explicitly, but it would be foolhardy to discredit Youth, their debut LP, as simply a product of its environment. Repeat listens will slowly but surely reveal a record with its own identity; intertwining elements of melodic hardcore and alternative rock while tapping into raw-nerve emotion to amalgamate into something vital, fresh and poignant. For those with pain and sadness a little more painful and sad than the rest.
THREE TOP TRACKS: The Summer, Roam the Room, The Night I Drove Alone.
Easily one of the year’s weirdest albums also turned out to be one of its most wonderful. Essentially a furious drum circle, the four percussionists that make up this Los Angeles band build up rhythms and beats only to tear them apart, slowly and vigorously. It’s primitive and barbaric, making it a perfect album to inhabit oneself in and lose track of the outside world entirely. Full of thunderous tom rolls and shrieked, quasi-philosophical mantras (“Why is there a God/And why is there not?”), Make Memories will certainly do just that over time. Indelible ones, too.
THREE TOP TRACKS: The End of the World, 1600 Dolla Bill, AIDS Sucks, Make Money.
47. Defeater – Letters Home
Without an acoustic guitar in sight, Defeater delivered a straight shot of their thinking-man’s hardcore on album number three. Letters Home is a take-no-prisoners affair; a full realisation of the band’s capabilities and songwriting integrity that encapsulates both their notable past and prosperous future. The high-concept lyricism follows on from the previous two records; delving further into the main character’s family history and their father’s trials and tribulations, with results that are nothing short of white-knuckle intense. It’s delivered with the conviction and fury of men possessed, awakening a fire in the belly that is becoming increasingly difficult to find within the genre.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Hopeless Again, Bastards, Bled Out.
“I was once asked how I’d like to remembered/And I simply smiled and said ‘I’d rather stay forever.’” So begins Is Survived By, an album of surmountable emotional weight and stunning introspection. By means of contrast, 2011’s Parting the Sea… was the kind of record that smacked you around the head brutally for 20 minutes and then left without any further explanation. Impressive, sure; but what would happen if they let those ideas sink in for a little longer? Is Survived By was the answer – and it proved that we’re dealing with one of the most consistently interesting bands in hardcore today.
THREE TOP TRACKS: DNA, Just Exist, Harbor.
It’s been said that actions speak louder than words. Northern Ireland quartet And So I Watch You From Afar like to put this theory into action by, for the most part, letting their music do the talking – and boy, is it loud. Sounding like Battles on happy pills, All Hail Bright Futures is a rousing and rambunctious collection of bounding, galloping avant-garde guitar-pop. Of their three albums to date, it is easily their most energetic – there’s simply no such thing as a passive listen to Bright Futures. You’ll be hoping the sun stays in your eyes as long as possible.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Ambulance, Big Thinks Do Remarkable, The Stay Golden Parts 1-3.
Perhaps “eccentric” is a phrase a little too obvious, but let’s just say that few people in Australian music have as vivid an imagination as Kirin J Callinan. The peculiar performer has taken his time in building towards this debut solo effort, swerving in his musical departures constantly in order to not be cornered into any particular style or sound. This continues here, moving through terrifying, dark ambience and the occasional pop hook thrown in just to mess with your head even further. Just when you think you know all the answers, Embracism goes right ahead and changes all of the questions.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Victoria M., W II W, Embracism.
43. Beyoncé – Beyoncé
As December drew to a close, most felt that it was safe to start doing their end-of-year lists. Nothing much else to see here in 2013. Then, of course, this happened.
Mrs. Carter essentially broke the internet with the release of her fifth album; but when the hype subsided, this was genuinely worth getting excited about. After a decade of being a singles artists, releasing phenomenal radio smashes attached to patchy, inconsistent full-lenghths, Beyonce finally graduated to being an album artist. Expanding a full spectrum from her darkest and nastiest to her brightest and bubbliest material, this eponymous affair topped off what was already a spectacular year.
THREE TOP TRACKS: XO, Partition, Drunk in Love.
There’s a scene in the film Cool Runnings in which Yul Brenner asks his soon-to-be teammate, Junior, to look in the mirror. “Let me tell you what I see,” he says. “I see pride! I see power! I see a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!” One must imagine that something similar happened to Neko Case in-between 2009’s Middle Cyclone and her lengthily-titled sixth album. Rich in alt-country melody and open-book honesty, it ranks as one of her finest efforts to date across her extensive discography. Pride and power are the orders of the day – and things can only get better from here.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Man, Nearly Midnight, Honolulu, Night Still Comes.
Another year, another round of Death Grips doing whatever the fuck they want, whenever the fuck they want. Apropos of nothing, they dropped their third studio album all over the internet – whether you caught it on YouTube, Soundcloud or even through a download link on the band’s own website, there was no escaping it. They made sure it was heard, too – raging on with their snarling, abrasive take on industrial-tinged rave-hop ensured that they would blow any speaker system you dared to play them through. The creative juices seem to be relentless when it comes to this trio; and those not yet on board only have themselves to blame.
THREE TOP TRACKS: Whatever I Want (Fuck Who’s Watching), This is Violence Now, You may think he loves you for your money but I know that he really loves you for your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat.