In the process of compiling our 2013 “Best of” list, thirteen members of LA Music Blog’s writing staff voted for their favorites, and like our site itself, the finished list is eclectic and has a little something for everyone regardless of genre loyalties. The album that would go on to earn the #1 spot landed on ten of our voters’ lists and broke the top five on eight, so to say it was universally lauded here at LA Music Blog is a bit of an understatement. Curious as to which release that was? The only way to find out is to read on. These are LA Music Blog’s Top 50 Albums of 2013.
#50: Deerhunter – Monomania
When our own Sarah Bellman first reviewed Deerhunter’s new album, she called Monomania “cruder [and] less polished” than their preceding five full-length efforts. I wholeheartedly and happily agree. As bands get to the point in their careers when they have side projects and — as with Deerhunter — five albums under their belts, it’s easy to fall into a rut of redundancy. Not so with Monomania. The latest album from the Atlanta natives was a graduation into that perfect balance Sarah references between new and interesting but still true to the characteristics and sounds that earned the group a fan base in the first place. – Angelica Corona
Listen: “Back To The Middle”
#49: Foxygen – 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
At first listen, Foxygen’s new psychedelic album 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic sounds like an album from another era, at home in the company of Velvet Underground and The Doors. It reverently ties together the old sounds of soul and rock while infusing new sounds akin to those of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Playing the album through in its entirety provides the listener with an immersive experience that never becomes overpowering to the point of detachment. “San Francisco” epitomizes the acid-rock sound characteristic of this album, and closer “Oh No 2” perfectly summarizes the full breadth of the effort, revealing the true nature of Foxygen and what they have to offer the music world. – Christine Perez
Listen: “San Francisco”
#48: The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
The past few years have seen a resurgence of folk-infused music breaking into the Top 40 charts, and Brooklyn’s The Lone Bellow is a shining example of this newly-invigorated genre done right. I predicted their self-titled release would be the best folk debut of the year, and I stand by it. The Lone Bellow strikes a perfect balance of country rock and Southern polish to create uniquely rousing anthems of hope (“Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold”) and heartbreak (“You Can Be All Kinds of Emotional”) with stirring gang vocals aplenty. The trio’s harmonies command listeners’ attention from the get-go, and the emotion behind frontman Zach Williams’s vocals is enough to knock you over. With their fan base rapidly growing and their tour schedule quickly expanding, The Lone Bellow will continue to rise in 2014. – Mary Bonney
Listen: “Bleeding Out”
#47: Iron & Wine – Ghost on Ghost
Like the drink in the latter half of his group’s name, the music of Sam Beam has seemed to have just gotten better with age. With his fifth full-length under the Iron & Wine moniker, the South Carolinian singer-songwriter continues his evolution from stripped-down folk troubadour to jazzy, pop orchestrator, and the tone of new album even ventures into (dare I say?) the realm of the upbeat. Bright horn lines, retro-inspired backing vocals, and Beam’s lyrical storytelling style made this my personal pick for album of the year, and his live show in support of the effort only served to cement Ghost on Ghost’s position atop my list of favorites in 2013. – Kristin Houser
Listen: “Grace for Saints and Ramblers”
#46: Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Fuck Buttons are pretty good at making sure you latch onto one beat for more than eight bars. The group is even better, however, at making sure you know just how phenomenal their beats are each and every time. For their third LP, Slow Focus, Fuck Buttons deliver epic beats that get increasingly tense and tireless by layering new ones on top of the old, pummeling them into your consciousness over tracks that can last up to ten minutes. The thing is, though, you never get the urge to stop listening.
They practically go for broke right from the start, building on an abrasive drum track that opens the album and whose aggression never quits, resulting in a breathless and effortless example of artistic purity. You can feel the duo’s sweat and tears in every rocketing synth, pervasive loop, and menacing percussion hit to the point that Slow Focus becomes three dimensional and makes you feel alive. – David Fisch
#45: FIDLAR – FIDLAR
I’ve always been enchanted by the meaning behind FIDLAR’s name. I was (and still am) charmed by the life motto “Fuck it dog, life’s a risk.” (Sweet, no?) Like their name, their music is simple, funny, catchy, and, frankly, irresistible. When a local punk band signs to a label, there’s an indie twinge of worry that I feel, hoping the move doesn’t polish out the grit and grunge that makes bands like FIDLAR so damn good. After hearing the group’s debut self-titled full-length under Mom + Pop, any fears or reservations I had evaporated. The only change I noticed was a cleaner recording. The music was the same, an impressive continuation of the lighthearted songs centered not on love, longing, or loss, but rather beer, surfing, smoking, and skating. – Angelica Corona
#44: Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Much-beloved French indie rockers Phoenix have been at this a long time. The band’s fifth release, Bankrupt!, comes four years after its insanely popular predecessor, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and while it’s difficult to measure up to such lofty standards of indie-rock greatness, Bankrupt! manages to do just that. I love the danceable riffs of “Entertainment” as much as the next person, but it’s the delicious chorus of “Trying To Be Cool” that wins one of my “favorite things that happened in music this year” awards. Really, though, this entire release is chock full of feel-good guitar riffs that have this awesome knack at getting my toes tapping. – Lesley Park
Listen: “Trying To Be Cool”
#43: Danny Brown – Old
The album was meant to appear at the beginning of 2013, and then the worrying delays started. What was taking so long for Danny Brown to finish his follow-up to the brilliant mixtape XXX? In recent interviews, Brown has said it was simply a case of waiting for the right beats to get the album right, and the evidence of his powerhouse new record suggests it was a wise decision to wait.
Every aspect of Brown’s enthralling personality is on show on Old. There is the clown on the club banger “Dip,” the grim realist in “Torture,” the forward-thinking artist on the haunting “Kush Coma,” and all three on “Dope Song.” The collaborators, including the eclectic likes of Rustie, A-Trak, and Purity Ring, all left their considerable mark, but in the end, Danny Brown remained the undoubted star of the show, proving to be one of the rare musicians able to straddle the line between mainstream accessibility and independent credibility. – Jay Chirinos
#42: Atoms for Peace – Amok
Thom Yorke, a mad scientist of musical collaboration, has made his talents known yet again. He stitched together a makeshift band that included the iconic sounds of Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M. fame, and Mauro Refosco of Forro in the Dark to help him widen his musical palette. This musical concoction has been christened Atoms of Peace, and their 2013 album, Amok, features a fully developed sound greater than the sum of its parts. The influence of Radiohead is prominent in the execution of the album, with familiar sounds emitting from tracks such as “Before Your Very Eyes,” but overall this album is a unique mix of electronica and alternative rock that could only be created by this perfect mix of musicians with Thom Yorke at the helm. – Christine Perez
Listen: “Before Your Very Eyes”
#41: City and Colour – The Hurry and the Harm
I can’t say I ever really listened to post-hardcore band Alexisonfire, but vocalist Dallas Green’s folksy acoustic project City and Colour? Now that I can really get behind. Released in June, Green’s fourth full-length album under the City and Colour moniker (Dallas = city, Green = colour. Get it?) features a dozen wistful tracks sung in the artist’s sweet falsetto and featuring themes of loneliness, isolation, and desperation. With Alexisonfire officially disbanding in 2011, looks like City and Colour will be the artist’s primary focus going forward, and as long as he keeps releasing albums as great as this one, I can even forgive Green’s occassional slam on our beloved California (as on “The Golden State”). – Kristin Houser
Listen: “The Lonely Life”