It’s that time of year… when top ten lists are in full force, celebrating a year of astonishing culture and achievements. I’ve decided to do one of my own, but this list is nothing more than my humble opinion and contains the music that I personally enjoyed listening to this year. That’s why instead of creating this list as “The Top Ten Albums of 2013,” I’m simply listing it as my “Favorite Albums,” mostly because I’m tired of seeing articles proclaiming that they know what the best albums are. Honestly, there is so much great music released every year, and I’m sure there are better albums by several standards than the ones I’m listing. I know it’s tough for some hipster-types to admit, but the truth is, we can’t listen to everything. There were tens of thousands of albums released in 2013, over 50,000 for sure based on trends. If you listened to new releases consecutively 12 hours a day for a year, you’d still only be able to hear approximately 6,000 albums. I’m just a music fan who has a few favorite genres, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my favorites this year as well!
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor is from New Zealand, only 17 years old, and widely regarded as the breakthrough artist of the year. Her debut album, Pure Heroine, produced by Joel Little, is a sonic masterpiece capitalizing on space, melody, and electronic production. The lyrics explore teen-pop themes, but are executed maturely and naturally.
The 1975 - The 1975
It’s all about patience for The 1975, based in Manchester, England, who have been playing together for over ten years. After experiencing band name changes throughout the years, they began to release a series of EPs in 2012, which garnered attention on BBC Radio 1. Their self-titled debut album was co-produced by Mike Crossey and contains some of the catchiest songs of 2013.
Phoenix - Bankrupt!
I’ve considered Phoenix to be one of the most mysterious bands as they left nothing but crumbs over the past couple years for fans, dropping hints that a new album was on its way. This release was fun to follow, with cliff hangers at every corner. Although it’s a departure from the pop sounds of their last album, Bankrupt! challenges pre-conceived concepts on how songs should be formed, and contains some ingenious production.
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
You’ve probably heard it, but most listeners probably don’t have a clue as to the lengthy gear list and collaborator list that made this album possible. Paul Williams, Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Pharrell Williams, Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, Todd Edwards, DJ Falcon, and Chilly Gonzales are just a few names that helped make this of the most incredible albums of the year.
LEAGUES - You Belong Here
Nashville’s very own LEAGUES is composed of local talent that decided it was time to create music that they truly loved, and could bring people joy. That’s exactly what they’ve managed to do with their debut album, You Belong Here; a collection of catchy indie pop tunes produced by Paul Moak that has taken Nashville’s music community by storm.
Hurts - Exile
The synth pop duo from Manchester started Hurts in 2009, after years of making music and finding their sound. Their first single on YouTube quickly gained traction and their first album, Happiness, was the fastest selling debut by a band in the UK in 2010. They’ve continued to embellish their epic electronic pop/new wave sound on Exile, working once again with producer Jonas Quant. The result is a stunning, collaborative record filled with emotion and beautiful composition.
James Blake - Overgrown
If you haven’t heard James Blake, your first listen may surprise you, but don’t let it stop you from diving into his latest album, Overgrown. At 25 years old, he has become one of the most brilliant producer/singer-songwriters in the UK. The “melodic bass music” on his new album is dynamic and confident in production, largely influenced by his relationship with Jamie Lidell. It’s always amazing how relationships impact an artist, and this is a great example.
Chvrches - The Bones Of What You Believe
Iain Cook and Martin Doherty quickly found their sound after incorporating the distinct vocals from Lauren Mayberry. Their first official single, “The Mother We Share,” is cohesive with the rest of their album, released by Glassnote Records in March.
The Paper Kites - States
If you’re in need of the perfect background music for some chill time, look no further. The Paper Kites worked with producer Wayne Connolly, recording at the famous Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne and Connolly’s studio at Alberts Music in Sydney. The album was cut down to the best 13 songs from over 40 demos.
Twenty One Pilots – Vessel
Yet another debut album has made the list. Twenty One Pilots worked on Vessel with one of my favorite producers, Greg Wells. It’s their first full-length since being signed to Fueled by Ramen just last year, but has already peaked within the Top 20 on the US Billboard Alternative and Rock Album’s charts.
Overall, it was a seemingly good year for the industry. We saw plenty of spectacles, changes, and developments made and I’m sure there will be a few more before the start of 2014. There were so many great new albums that I enjoyed listening to this year! Let us know some of your favorites of 2013.
By Steve Harpine | Nashville Ambassador | @Steve_MWL | Beat-Play & Music Without Labels, LLC