Glide’s Best Albums of 2013 (So Far)

Even though July is most synonymous with festivals here in the music online community, we’ve decided why wait til’ December to round up the best albums of 2013?  Even with the “13” in the calendar year, it’s been quite a lucky one for Daft Punk, while David Bowie made one of the biggest surprise returns in rock history – tour or no tour. Through gems from Caveman, Foals, The National, Savages and Patty Griffin we present a Glide Magazine guide to the albums you maybe didn’t hear, those perhaps you already heard, but above all what we consider the 20 best of 2013 so far.

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CavemanCaveman

There’s something supremely relaxing about Caveman’s new album, even though you wouldn’t describe them as beachy, shoegaze or zoned out. No, this is a record that allows for space to come creeping in, giving depth to the songs and a roundness to the compositions that make them feel timeless and well-worn. You can’t escape the 80s influence (see single “In The City,”), but if this sophomore release is any indication, there’s a lot more greatness to be seen in this band.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories

Even without the summer hit of 2013 “Get Lucky,” this stunning album hits hard with the help of various luminaries, like Nile Rodgers, Chilly Gonzalez, Julian Casablancas, Pharrell Williams, Paul Williams, etc. Hard to label as EDM, Random Access Memories is more “disco revival” with slinky guitar riffs and low funky bass lines. It’s the brilliantly chosen collaborators where style and beats create memorable finished products like Panda Bear’s hypnotic “Doing it Right” and the spoken word piece from disco legend Giorgio Moroder that make for such a powerful display of creativity.

DaughterIf You Leave

Intimate is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of Daughter’s debut If You Leave, as the majority of these songs beg to be given closer attention and headphones. Originally meant as the solo work for singer Elena Tonra, this album eschews that intention by really coming together as a cohesive band record, and while it may be a bit too quiet to break through in the US, this is an absolute must-hear album. The songs are gorgeous vignettes of enchanting and bewitching music, anchored by Tonra’s silky voice and contemplative lyrics.

David BowieThe Next Day

Just when we thought we might have heard the last from the Thin White Duke, he comes out of nowhere with The Next Day (his first studio album since 2003’s Reality) and arguably the greatest comeback album ever.  Bowie and producer Tony Visconti worked hush-hush on this project, which many Bowie fans are calling his best since 1980’s Scary Monsters.  From the spine tingling ballad and lead single “Where Are We Now” to rockers “The Stars Are Out Tonight” and the throbbing robotic synth of “Love is Lost,” The Next Day will satisfy almost any Bowie era fan.

Devendra BanhartMala

Banhart’s Nonesuch debut makes a revealing streamlined artistic impression of DIY electronic pop, while moving from the ill -abeled freak folk to perhaps freak dance. With a distant and murky production on some tunes, the recording touches upon the cornerstones of each musical decade. Mala creeps up on the listener unexpectedly with thoughtful lyrics and exotic flair that conjures up simplicity in its most creative form.

FoalsHoly Fire

Holy Fire is a natural progression from the dense math-rock of their debut Antidotes, through to the spacious creations of breakthrough record Total Life Forever and into something bigger and somehow more infectious. The Bloc Party comparisons have not stopped, and as long as there’s a disco heart throbbing inside Foals’ multifaceted sound, they probably won’t. But there’s plenty of evidence on Holy Fire that Foals have their own unique way of doing things.

Frightened RabbitPedestrian Verse

On their first three releases, Frightened Rabbit more closely resembled an outfit fronted by a budding songwriter/front-man with backup players than a full band; that is not the case with Pedestrian Verse, however, as it has all come together for the group with this release. The lush production and confident playing shows that these road-tested tunes have worked their way into the framework of the players themselves, while Scott Hutchinson’s lyrical prowess is evident from the get-go, still addressing relationships, but moving from what feels specific to a more mature world view.

Ivan & AlyoshaAll The Times We Had

The debut full-length from Pacific Northwest Americana outfit Ivan & Alyosha is the work of a band that has spent an enormous time with their craft. It’s evident that they’ve worked tirelessly to bring together a collection of songs that are mature, well-honed and both demonstrate the band’s ability to make compelling work and also their potential for so much more in the future. This is different than the rash of Lumineers copycats– All The Times We Had is a great album in and of itself.

Laura MarlingOnce I Was An Eagle

While you run the risk of diminishing Marling’s music by mentioning her age, it truly is astounding that a 23 year-old is just now releasing her fourth record… and that all four of them have been amazing. It’s like watching a modern-day Joni Mitchell, whose string of albums in the 1960s are some of the most compelling one after the other. And the Mitchell references are apt, as this record is really Marling’s first travelogue, capturing her move to the US and the enchanting call of the road she felt from touring her last album. Once I Was An Eagle is a bit sprawling, at time obtuse and harder to digest, but the rewards are many and the return absolutely worth it. This is going to be a major grower of a record.

Milk Carton KidsThe Ash & Clay

With obvious comparisons to Simon and Garfunkel, this T-Bone Burnett-produced album hits all types of sweet spots: rich vocal harmonies, emotive guitar work and poetic lyrics. Their classic folk revival sound of twin acoustic guitars and matching harmonies never sounds obtrusive or wrong, but instead, like a good Gillian Welch tune, conjures a peaceful easy feeling.

The NationalTrouble Will Find Me

After the one-two kick of The Boxer (2007) and High Violet (2010), most National fans became suspicious as to whether the band could top these two much-beloved records. While their newest Trouble Will Find Me doesn’t best either of those records, it does stand on equal footing and creates an amazing trifecta of albums that truly demonstrate the palpable brilliance of the Cincinnati-based band. Songs like “Fireproof,” “Heavenfaced” and “I Need My Girl” are some of the best songs they’ve written, and this album just shows how well the band has honed their craft.

Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold

‘90s indie rock fans rejoice!  The sludgy guitar adventures of Sonic Youth, Guided by Voices and Pavement are alive and well with this debut from the NYC-based outfit Parquet Courts, which draws inspiration from the rich culture of the city.  Short snappy songs about the DMV and other meanderings ride tight grooves, and led by the allure of its frontmen Austin Brown and Andrew Savage, perhaps not as scene stealing as The Strokes, but gritty and honorable in their own right.

Patty GriffinAmerican Kid

Patty Griffin should really be discussed in the same vein as Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan — rock and country legends that write indelible melodies and wildly insightful lyrics that go down in time as changing the musical landscape of America. Griffin’s approach to folk music is not flashy or ostentatious; rather, she culls memories and feelings into remarkably lucid and hugely affecting work, and American Kid is no different. In fact, this may be her most raw and vulnerable album yet, and songs like “Wild Old Dog,” “Go Wherever You Wanna Go” and “That Kind Of Lonely” join the canon of mandatory Patty Griffin listening.

PickwickCan’t Talk Medicine 

This highly anticipated debut, featuring Pickwick’s triadic harmony of rock, indie-blues, and classic soul, sets it apart in the now crowded neo soul movement.  When Sharon Van Etten joins Pickwick for a cover of Seattle indie-rock icon Richard Swift’s “Lady Luck,” it astounds with relevancy. Think more Buddy Holly than Otis Redding; with a persistent need to scratch a blues-dance-band itch, Pickwick plays full-bodied rock n’ soul with animated electric guitars, bottomless organ swells and fertile voices. Consistent and abundant harmonies squarely situate the band’s vocal delivery at the forefront of their sound.

Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork

Frontman Josh Homme took 6 years in between QOTSA recordings to make an album with mighty friends (Elton John, Dave Grohl Trent Reznor and among many others appear on the album), as well as experiment with the work of his influences and peers (Them Crooked Vultures). The band explores many sounds on the music spectrum, from pummeling hard rock to sensitive ballads  while touching on dark and sensitive themes such as death and lost love, armored in the hard rock you’d expect from QOTSA.

Sanders BohlkeGhost Boy

While it’s been seven years since Bohlke’s debut, which was definitely more in the vein of Americana folk, his new album Ghost Boy proves it’s well worth the wait. These eleven songs are hypnotic and haunting, creeping into the mind and swirling around until they’re utterly fixed in, with well-crafted melodies and amazing production. While the world goes crazy for the Bon Ivers and Iron & Wines of the world, they all should be listening to Ghost Boy. Let’s hope it’s not another seven year wait for the follow-up.

SavagesSilence Yourself

Who says an album that drips with the influence of PJ Harvey, Joy Division and Siouxsie can’t be popular in 2013? UK-based quartet Savages show us that it absolutely can with their debut Silence Yourself. It makes us happy that noir pop can still be in vogue… but only when done right, and Savages totally nails it. This debut is fully-realized, brawny and an engaging listen from start to finish, and only makes you want to jump around and see the band play the songs on stage.

Tegan and SaraHeartthrob

Canadian duo Tegan and Sara Quin (identical twin sisters, at that!) have had quite the journey through the music business since their debut with 1999’s Under Feet Like Ours, venturing from folk to indie-rock, through to 90s throwback and then up into more muscular electric-guitar heavy rock, but their latest offering Heartthrob builds on the melodic strengths of both Tegan and Sara and lays it on top of an electro-pop foundation. Some may call it selling out, but that’s the easy way out and lazy, if you ask us, as this record is firmly a Tegan and Sara effort– tight harmonies, catchy hooks, thoughtful instrumentation and angsty lyrics. It’s a brilliant step forward for the band, and demonstrates the power of shaking up the formula from time to time and trying new things.

Unknown Mortal OrchestraII

UMO’s rather straightforward approach (short songs, tightly constructed) succeeds as they manage to achieve a form of psychedelia less with loud guitar feedback or long-winded jamming and more via texture and ambiance. First single “So Good at Being in Trouble” is a winner, a slice of washed out white boy R & B that plays like a hipster Booker T and the MGs: lots of slacker swing. “I’m so good at being in trouble/so bad at being in love.”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs — Mosquito

A lot about the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album Mosquito seemed confusing at first– mostly because of the grotesque image of the baby doll being attacked by a mosquito. That said, powerful first single “Sacrilege” soon quieted almost every naysayer and proved yet again the bands amazing ability to craft rock-centric tracks with a pop leaning. Also, it felt like it was treading some new ground for the band, with the gospel choir outro. Mosquito as a whole is a bit different aesthetically– it’s very raw, open and industrial, but it still harnesses Karen O’s incredibly evocative voice and is an altogether fantastic offering from an already outstanding band.

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4 Responses

  1. These are all white bands, do you guys listen to any music made by black people? As a race they’ve put out some good stuff over the years. You should look into it.

    1. It’s been a pretty average year in music, but a far below average year for African American work. Yeezus is a bad Death Grips imitation (and I still consider MBDTF an album of decade contender), Jay-Z’s latest is horrible, Run The Jewels and Ka have solid releases out, but I would still rate most of the titles on this list above either of those efforts.

      Don’t think there’s a grand racist conspiracy here, it’s just been a nothing year for black music so far.

  2. We have an artist by the name of Robinson. We are on our third album with him. We are also friends with Ivan & Aloysha so I would love to submit his album to you for review.

    Where do I do this please………………..?

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