Beth’s “Top 13 of 2013”
As the year begins to wind down and we look ahead on the work we have for 2014, all of us at TheBlueIndian.com want to extend our sincere thanks to each of you who have supported us in what marks our fifth year as “Georgia’s Indie Music Hub.” Some of us are newer than others, and we’ve expanded to not only have a close focus on music in Georgia, but to also expose our readers across the globe to the incredible music scenes throughout the Southeast. We asked each of our staff and team of writers to compile a list of their personal favorite releases from 2013 for our year-end features. Since each of us have different preferences, we felt individual lists would be the best way to give maximum exposure to the bands we’ve grown to love. We hope you’ll take the time to listen to these artists and appreciate your feedback. Happy New Year! – TheBlueIndian.com
Beth Yeckley’s “Top 13 Albums of 2013″
13. Hot Chip – Dark and Stormy
To be fair, and set expectations right, Dark and Stormy is more like an EP with as many remixes as original tracks on it. But it’s dark, and synthy, and kind of strange. It’s been a weird but refreshing palette cleanser for the beginning of 2014. I can promise you that none of the album makes sense, and once you accept that, it’s really fun. It’s a little 80s, a little merengue, and a little off the beaten path.
Standout tracks: “Dark and Stormy” and “Flutes”
12. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
When I first listened to Chvrches, I was playing “Recover” on repeat. Lauren Mayberry’s voice was mesmerizing and a little haunting, and the whole affair felt upbeat. The Bones Of What You Believe was a little surprising as a follow up to the EP–it feels darker, and definitely shows a nice depth and range for the band.
Standout tracks: “Science/Visions,” “Gun,” and “Recover”
11. Arctic Monkeys – AM
AM sees a departure from the raucous punk-flavored nature of the previous albums that put Arctic Monkeys on the map (think Favourite Worst Nightmare). The English rockers bring out a more blues-rock approach in some songs, reminiscent at times of the Black Keys. The album is a mashup of sounds crossing eras, offering up what I can only assume is a look at grown up Arctic Monkeys.
Standout tracks: “Do I Wanna Know?,” “R U Mine?,” ” Arabella”
10. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
I feel like I can’t be the only The National fan who thinks High Violet can never be outdone. That being said, I think Trouble Will Find Me is most obviously The National doing what they do: tragic, deeper-than-angst, beautifully composed and layered music. In some ways, it feels less introspective than the last album, but the stories Berninger’s telling still overwhelm.
Standout tracks: “I Should Live in Salt“, “I Need My Girl“, and “Fireproof”
9. Lorde – Pure Heroine
I don’t know if anyone has not talked about Lorde this year. “Royals” set the airwaves a buzz with her sultry, too-mature-to-be-16 voice. Pure Heroine, as a whole, boasts a well-balanced duality of seriousness and playfulness; I found myself wanting to sing and dance along while feeling a little sober about the whole experience. Regardless, what I love about the album is that I get the impression Lorde said everything she wanted to say with Pure Heroine.
Standout tracks: “Tennis Court” and “Buzzcut Season”
8. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
I always feel like new QOTSA albums just sneak up on me. I think it’s easy to forget the brilliance of Joshua Homme, until you hear a song like “I Sat By The Ocean” and you realize that it’s so good. …Like Clockwork plays with QOTSA’s typical speed, shadow, echoed-out/arena-esque vocals, and heavy guitar presence. And only on a QOTSA album does the strange “blllaaaahhht” that comes at the beginning of “Smooth Sailing” make sense and feel at home. Homme does strange, and he does it well.
Standout tracks: “If I Had A Tail,” “My God Is The Sun,” and “Smooth Sailing”
7. Valley Maker – Yes I Know I’ve Loved This World
I was ecstatic when Valley Maker released a new album this year. While the first album was a reflection on Biblical stories, Yes I Know I’ve Loved This World is a somber, observational album that shows decided growth from the last time we heard from Crane. It carries his signature grounding yet minimal guitar strumming, poetic lyricism and the sweet (and always welcome) addition of Amy Godwin.
Standout tracks: “Only Friend”, “The Mission”, and “Goodness”
6. Alpine – A Is For Alpine
This girl-fronted sextet is one of the standouts for this year. A Is For Alpine was on constant rotation this summer because it brought a playful, easy-going pop sound that offered something a little scandalous, too. I said in my review of the album that dancing was inevitable when listening to this album, and I still stand by that.
Standout tracks: “Lovers 1“, “Lovers 2“, and “Gasoline”
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – The Speed of Things
A few years back, I saw an email come through promoting Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. I ignored it, and I wish I hadn’t. The Speed of Things blends fun arcade-sounding synth, whirring, and dance-inducing percussive elements. What’s most impressive is that this Detroit duo has created an album that is cohesive without having any tracks that sound the same–there’s not a dull moment on it.
Standout tracks: “Run“, “If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On The Dance Floor]“, and “Mesopotamia”
4. Cults – Static
Cults sophomore album is a real gem; one of those albums that’s solid all the way through for a road trip or a get together. While their first album felt more energetic, Static draws some similar soul-based elements from Broken Bells and Fitz and The Tantrums. They round out with well-balanced, harmonized vocals between the pair.
Standout tracks: “High Road,” “Were Before,” and “We’ve Got It”
3. The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sincere sadness that the Civil Wars have basically broken up. That they left us this album in the wake of their angst is both a gift and a curse. Much like “Barton Hollow,” there are highs and mediums on this album, with the highs boasting an energy and intensity that almost makes me uncomfortable when I think of it in the context of what’s happened to the band (think “The One That Got Away”). Regardless, I think we’re all lucky to have experienced this album, which could have never been.
Standout tracks: “The One That Got Away,” “I Had Me A Girl,” and “Devil’s Backbone”
2. Local Natives – Hummingbird
My second favorite release of 2013 has to be Local Natives’ Hummingbird. I’m incredibly proud of these guys–following up 2010’s Gorilla Manor is no small feat. While I don’t know that there’s a song on the new album that can compete with “Wide Eyes”, the band put forth an impressive sophomore album with incredible energy and clear signs of maturity.
Standout tracks: “Breakers,” “Ceilings,” and “You & I”
1. Foals – Holy Fire
Foals Holy Fire is my absolute favorite release of 2013. Antidotes felt very Arctic Monkeys to me. Total Life Forever was a departure from the heavy handed math rock and an entrance into a smoother, more pop-friendly sound (the good kind of pop, people, not the bad kind). And Holy Fire feels like the bridge between those two worlds, with the addition of a metal-heaviness that wasn’t apparent on the last two albums. Not only does this album cover the spectrum, but performed live, it is absolutely incredible. I’d encourage anyone to go see them play.
Standout tracks: The entire album. Seriously.