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Friday, July 12, 2013

Best Albums of 2013 (So Far) 10-1

Albums 10-1

10) High Highs: Open Season - I've been gushing over High Highs for a couple of years now, since I first heard "Flowers Bloom" followed by their self-titled debut EP. The duo, comprised of Jack Milas and Oli Chang, feature and extremely chill and beautiful arrangement of instruments and voice/harmonies. You may have heard them in recent movies like Pitch Perfect, For A Good Time, Call..., and a recent Amazon Kindle commercial. Unfortunately, I missed them when they were here for SXSW so remain high on my "need to see live" list.

2 years later, the hauntingly beautiful "Flower Bloom" is still one of my favorite songs, be impressed

And the full song from the Kindle commercial, and title track, "Open Season"

9) The Lone Bellow: The Lone Bellow - One of the last reviews I actually did earlier this year, which you can check out HERE. Have seen them live since and they are AMAZING. How this band hasn't blown up yet is beyond me.

Just listen to the below live rendition of "You Never Need Nobody." Unbelievable voices and harmonies..

This song is included in my initial review, but how many of you clicked it? My favorite, "Bleeding Out"

8) Shout Out Louds: Optica - A band that continues to seemingly stay under the radar for most. Been a huge fan of this Swedish indie pop outfit since 2007's Our Ill Wills. A penchant for 80'sish pop and singer Adam Olenius' ability to channel a less depressing version of Robert Smith (The Cure). If you enjoy an updated version of upbeat 80's style pop then you should check them out. Great band.

The more chill slow burner, but awesome, "Blue Ice"

And the awesome and kinda rocking "14th of July"

7) City and Colour: The Hurry and the Harm - Alex Green, aka City and Colour, returns for his fourth album and follow up to 2011's Little Hell. Green is a master of beautiful indie folk and acoustic jams. Things expand out on Harm with Green dabbling in some beats and funk. One of the best albums I've heard this year, from top to bottom. It was only released early June so has plenty of time to gain additional steam.

Here's the just-released video for the pounding (at least for City and Colour) "Thirst"

And one of my favorites on the mellow side, album closer "Death's Song"

6) Phosphorescent: Muchacho - Back-to-back entries by solo artists with stellar releases. Matthew Houck, aka Phosphorescent, released his 6th album earlier this year and it's nothing short of amazing. "Song for Zula" could quite possibly be the best song of 2013. Just listen to it.

The aforementioned "Song for Zula"

And the surprisingly bumpin' "Ride On/Right On"

5) Rhye: Woman - Hands down the most gorgeous (and sexy) album of 2013, at least in this guy's opinion. Also, one of the most confusing, seeing as how I literally found out a couple of days ago that the singer is a DUDE!? Shocking. Just wait till you check out the tuneage below. Not a concern, though, cause I haven't stopped listening to this album since it was released back in March. The California duo consists of the Canadian Mike Milosh and the Danish Robin Hannibal. When they first started releasing the occasional song on the internet, there was a cloud of mystery around the source of the tunes other than it came from Rhye. Sensual, dreamy soul-pop. That's all you need to know. Baby-making music.  

...honestly having trouble deciding with just 2 songs...

Here's album opener "Open"

And the song that caught my initial attention "The Fall"

4) Jim James: Regions of Light and Sound of God - Shocking that the debut solo album by the lead singer of my favorite band (My Morning Jacket) would be so high on this list. Not so shocking is how great this album truly is. As has come up in any conversation I've had about this record, it's beyond really chill. You can read my full breakdown of the album HERE from back in February before it was released. One thing I can say, after seeing James live 3 times in the span of a few weeks...SXSW, an amazing Austin City Limits episode taping, and then headlining at Stubbs the follow night...James brings a lot more rock and soul to the live versions of these songs, as one might expect. Like many albums, especially ones involving MMJ/James, it's hard to truly appreciate the songs without hearing them live.

For this reason, I present a live version of the slow building rocker "State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)"

And another entry into "Best song of 2013," the video for the epic "A New Life"

3) Local Natives: Hummingbird - Finally, Local Natives return with their follow up to their exquisite 2011 debut, Gorilla Manor. One of the best albums of the year, let alone debuts. The afropop percussion and 3-part harmonies were a welcome addition to the musical landscape. Hummingbird finds much of the same, slightly less urgency with the percussion, but with a more refined and cohesive collection of songs. Although the band may argue, there is a darker feel to the recent release. Some may attribute this to it being produced by Aaron Dessner of The National. There have been some changes to the members of the band since Manor but the current LA-based quintet have progressed very well on their sophomore release. No slump here. Not anything close. I for sure recommend the album version with the Bonus Tracks. 2 of my favorites, "1111" and "Palms" are featured here.


And the video for "You & I" that's just as hauntingly gut-wrenching as the song

2) Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City - 3 long years since Ezra Koenig and company released Contra, these New Yorkers come back with, to me, their best album to date. Comprised of a cleaner sound across the board, there are no disappointing tracks. That said, the album is kinda front-loaded with most of my favorite tracks comprised within earlier in the album. There may not be an "A-Punk" or "Oxford Comma" this time around but VW (no, not Van Wilder) continues to grow and progress musically while still maintaining why we are drawn to their sound in the first place.

I know everyone seems to love "Ya Hey," it's a good song and all, but not even in my top 5 for the album.

My absolute favorite that I can't get enough of, "Unbelievers"

Still can't go wrong with the ludicrous speed "Diane Young"

1) The National: Trouble Will Find Me - Oh The National. Another of my favorite bands and one of my most anticipated albums of 2013. It was going to be hard for me not to like this album, since the band typically sticks to their guns while still sounding fresh. But it was also going to be hard to live up to my expectations. Well, it saw my expectations and destroyed them like Chris Farley destroys a sale (and biscuits) in Tommy Boy before he finds his niche. a year with so much amazing music, The National found a way to park themselves at the top of the mountain and swat away all challengers that came before and after them. The haunting sadness of the lyrics are relentless, yet somehow don't put me into a deep deep depression. That's their formula and they're the masters. Kudos. Bravo. Excellent. Even Ron Burgandy thinks it's Super Duper...

Further proof this album belongs as my #1, I could easily pick any 2 songs from the album at random and couldn't argue against their inclusion. All 13 tracks are that good.

"Demons," fantastic song/lyrics.

Still love this kid in the video for the anthemic "Sea of Love"

"If I stay here, trouble will find me." A phrase I can relate to. 

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