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As 2013 winds to a close, we reflect on another fantastic year of music that has graced our ears and left aural imprints on our souls.
Here, in no particular order, are my picks for the top ten albums of 2013:
1) Red Ember: Wakes in Shadow, Lies by Fire
Genre: Modern Bluegrass, folk
The least known band on this list, Red Ember is an eclectic and energetic modern bluegrass band from Kentucky. As a self-proclaimed “hype string band, with bluesy grooves, and metal accents,” Red Ember will definitely capture your attention and move you with tunes like “Coming Home” and “Stop & Break.”
2) Lily & Madeleine: Lily & Madeleine
Genre: Indie folk
In their self-titled album Lily & Madeleine, you’ll find the duo’s divine melodies and intriguing harmonies quickly growing on you.
3) Halasan Bazar: Space Junk
Genre: Experimental, psych-pop (based in Copenhagen, Denmark)
Invoking feelings of contentment using raw acoustic guitar with periodic vocal cracks, Halasan Bazar is experimental and authentic-sounding; both soothing and intensely reflective. Top songs – “The Light of My Day” and “Am I Blind”.
4) Lorde: Pure Heroine
Genre: Electro-rock, indie pop
One of the biggest new artists of 2013 is the eccentric, 17-year-old New Zealand native Lorde, nominated for 4 Grammy awards for her first album. I really dig the musicality behind the minimalist percussive rhythms that power each song with highly compatible multi-vocal harmonies building depth, and single vocal melodies moving the songs forward.
5) The Black Angels: Indigo Meadow
Genre: Neo-psychedelic rock
Named after the Velvet Underground tune “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” this Austin, Texas based ensemble teams musical and artistic influences from the 60’s and 70’s with a modernized visual and auditory aesthetic.
6) Snoop Lion: Reincarnated
Genre: Reggae fusion
Renamed “Snoop Lion” by a Rastafarian priest during a visit to Jamaica, the artist formerly known as Snoop Dog took his island inspirations and experiences and applied them to exploring a new musical endeavor – and identity. My favorite track, “No Guns Allowed,” includes Snoop’s family members on background vocals, as seen in the album’s “Reincarnated” documentary.
7) The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
Genre: Synth-pop, electronic (from Stockholm, Sweden)
Layering multiple interlocking rhythms with a beautifully strained vocal melody, The Knife’s unique sound takes a familiar band in a new direction.
8) Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
Genre: French house, electronic
The French duo, Daft Punk, is another band who took a surprising new direction in 2013. The production of this album was inspired by late 70’s and early 80’s style, including live instrumentation, unlike previous albums.
9) The Flaming Lips: The Terror
Genre: “Eclectic” alternative rock
The Flaming Lips formed in 1983 in Oklahoma, and have been keeping us entirely entertained and continuously amazed with each passing decade. Recorded in a matter of days, The Terror album features vintage synthesizers and its bleak energy reflects the relapse and “life crisis” of band member, Steven Drozd. As Drozd elaborated in an interview via fuze.tv: “I hope fans are jarred by ‘The Terror’ and say, ‘Wow, these guys are really bummed out.’”
10) Devendra Barnhart: Mala
Genre: Alternative, indie folk
Mala is to be more concise and organized than Devendra Barnhart’s earlier albums, and more lyrically potent as well. Minimal musical arrangements and relaxed vocals keep the vibe moving forward, while holding onto Barnhart’s distinctive sound.
Last but not least, the honorable mentions of 2013 – because it was just too hard to choose only ten:
– Bonobo: The North Borders (Hip hop, electronic)
– Still Corners: Strange Pleasures (“60’s influenced, 80’s inspired”)
– Zola Jesus: Versions, feat. JG Thirlwell, Mivos Quartet ( Experimental indie rock)
– Soko: I Thought I Was An Alien (Folk-pop)
– Morcheeba: Head Up High (Trip hop, electronica)