Ah, it’s that magical time of year again! Few things thrill me more than seeing everyone’s end of year “Best-Of” music lists – I always discover so many new artists because of them. I first started blogging mine in 2011 since my brother, Adam, and I
argue about them make them anyways! 2013 was an awesome year for music. I felt like I had to work really hard to make a list I loved in 2012, but this year it just came together organically. If anything, I had a hard time narrowing them down! Here we go:
10. Night Beds – Country Sleep
I was hooked on Night Beds within a few seconds of hearing Winston Yellen’s gentle voice ring out on the track, “Even If We Try.” This album is a little folk, a little indie-rock, a tiny hint of alt-country. It’s so pretty and emotive. Even the way Night Beds describes their own music is beautiful – “The sound is like something emergent from a tunnel. It may be the red eye of a cigarette in the dark, or it may be the dawn peeking out.” Exactly.
Favorite tracks: “Faithful Heights″, “Even If We Try”, “Borrowed Time”
9. Typhoon – White Lighter
Like so many other awesome indie groups, Typhoon hails from Oregon. This eleven-person band creates gorgeous orchestral arrangements that mesh perfectly with the moody vocals of lead singer Kyle Morton. A number of Typhoon’s songs focus on an overriding theme of mortality due to Morton’s childhood struggle with Lyme Disease…not the happiest of lyrics, but oh so good. I saw them play an intimate show at The Satellite in Silver Lake and was so impressed by their performance.
Favorite tracks: “Artificial Light″, “Morton’s Fork”, “Hunger and Thirst”
8. Lucius – Wildewoman
I’d been anxiously awaiting this first full-length release since hearing the track “Turn It Around” off of Lucius’ EP earlier this year. Led by vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, this indie pop quintet creates incredibly charming and catchy melodies. Wildewoman is easy to listen to and full of uplifting scores – I just adore it. Very excited to see them when they come to LA in February!
Favorite tracks: “Two of Us on the Run″, “Wildewoman”, “Turn It Around”
7. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
This is the fourth solo studio release from Neko Case, who is also a prominent member of the band The New Pornographers. I was a huge fan of her 2006 release, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and this latest album is right up there with it. Her lyrics are powerful, and according to Pitchfork, “emotionally wrenching” – especially on the stunning yet heartbreaking track, “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu.” In spite of these moments of dispair, this album is really about strength and resilience.
Favorite tracks: “Night Still Comes″, “Calling Cards”, “Magpie to the Morning”
6. Laura Mvula – Sing To the Moon
It’s pretty surprising that this is Laura Mvula’s debut album. The English artist has such a unique sound – an indescribable combo of a pop-jazz-soul-classical – that one would think she’s been releasing work for years. This music is complex, yet accessible. I have KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic to thank for pushing this album so heavily – what an awesome discovery.
Favorite Tracks: “Green Garden”, “Father, Father”, “That’s Alright”
5. The Head and the Heart –Let’s Be Still
I put The Head and the Heart’s debut album at #7 on my list in 2011 as a late discovery, and my intense esteem for the record has only grown stronger over the last two years. This second release from the Seattle-based folk-pop band is also awesome – and after hearing them in concert two weeks ago, I’m more in love with them than ever.
Favorite Tracks: “Josh McBride”, “10,000 Weight in Gold”, “Homecoming Heroes”
4. Lorde – Pure Heroine
Seventeen. This girl is seventeen. New Zealand native Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, has taken the world by storm with her single, “Royals.” I should be sick of it…but I still can’t get enough of the track. Prior to the album’s release, I wondered if Lorde would be a one-hit-wonder. After hearing Pure Heroine in its entirety, however, I quickly discovered the error of my judgment. This album is so catchy, yet intelligent. It’s perfect for a drive through the desert or a late-night cruise down the freeway.
Favorite Tracks: “Ribs”, “400 Lux”, “Royals”
3. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
This is one of those albums that truly grew on me with time. It’s The Lone Bellow’s first full-length release, and they knocked it out of the park. I went into it expecting quiet harmonies à la the Civil Wars, but this group has serious power behind their voices. After some time with the record, I realized that I’d fallen for it. I especially love the history behind the music – lead singer/guitarist Zach Williams first started playing after his wife was in a horseback riding accident which caused her temporary paralysis. Creativity brews from the most interesting places, doesn’t it? I saw The Lone Bellow in concert last week and was completely blown away by their energy on stage. We also had the immense pleasure of talking with some of the band members after the show, which made me love them that much more! Such a talented and wonderful team of musicians.
Favorite Tracks: ” “Tree to Grow”, “You Never Need Nobody”, “Green Eyes And A Heart Of Gold”
2. Josh Ritter –The Beast in its Tracks
Singer-Songwriter Josh Ritter has been putting music into the ether for decades now, but I think this is his best album yet. It chronicles his divorce, the healing process, and falling for someone new – it’s incredibly personal, and I very much identified with it. “Joy To You Baby” might just be my favorite song of 2013. It’s a gorgeous melody, and I love the idea of wishing nothing but good vibes for those who have touched your life.
Favorite Tracks: “Hopeful”, “Joy To You Baby”, “Lights”
1. The National –Trouble Will Find Me
Trouble Will Find Me is The National’s sixth studio release, and I’ve probably listened to this album over 100 times already. It’s been my constant companion since May, whether I was driving in the car, editing photos at home, or walking through the neighborhood. The National is known for their moody indie rock, especially thanks to lead singer Matt Berninger’s baritone voice. Truly, this album has brought me an immense amount of comfort, and I’m excited to grow with it in the years to come.
Favorite Tracks: “Pink Rabbits”, “Humiliation”, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”
(A huge thanks to my boyfriend, Mike, for taking this photo of me with my #1 record outside of Amoeba Records in Hollywood!)
I try to keep my top 10 list free of soundtracks and compilations, but it’s important to note that the soundtrack to Inside Llewyen Davis is phenomenal. Although the film was just released, I can already tell that some of the songs on the album will be longtime favorites – namely “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)”, “500 Miles”, and “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” – gorgeous folk music.
Other honorable mentions:
Instrumental guitar picking from Glenn Jones, My Garden State
Introspective folk from Laura Marling, Once I Was An Eagle
Nice indie pop from Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
Modern-meets-1960s indie rock from Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
Lovely female duet harmonies from Lily & Madeline, Lily & Madeline
What were your favorite albums of 2013? Please share!