Here’s some music I enjoyed listening to in 2013. I even wrote a little bit about some of it, partially because it’s an aesthetically pleasing way to break up all the videos, partially because not doing so would seem super lazy.
(I realized when I finished that I didn’t put any Seattle music on my list, so send me to music-writer jail, I guess. I’ve never been one for making a separate list for local music; if something’s good enough to stick with me, it shouldn’t need any special qualifiers.)
1) Kanye West, Yeezus
Kanye is on another level. Yeezus definitely isn’t the most enjoyable album on this list, or even the one I’ve come back to the most, but it’s an artistic statement that didn’t have an equal this year. It’s true that some of the lyrics on this album are embarrassing, but from a production standpoint, it’s pretty incredible and unprecedented—except for, say, The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Bowie—for a mainstream pop artist to make an album this forward-thinking.
2) Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
Pure pop. Easily the best thing VW has ever done.
3) DJ Koze, Amygdala
I wish more dance producers realized that when they make a album, not every song has to be a single or a club banger.
4) Earl Sweatshirt, Doris
Earl Sweatshirt is good at rapping. (#analysis)
5) Kurt Vile, Walking on a Pretty Daze
Kurt Vile is good at making chill dude-bro guitar tunes.
6) Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety
I spent a good chunk of this year writing Seattle Weekly‘s music calendar, which meant writing short descriptions of 20-ish shows in Seattle each week and fending off a sense of existential dread. Consequently, I listened to a lot of music I hadn’t heard before. It seemed like every other week there’d be some touring act coming through town that featured “kewl beats” with a person singing over them in an R&B style. Most of it wasn’t very memorable, but this album is quite good.
7) Forest Swords, Engravings
My favorite “beats + atmosphere” electronic release of the year.
8) Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience (Part 1)
This album’s detractors say it’s excessive and overblown, and they’re absolutely right. But that’s what makes this album notable: it’s an grandiloquent pop record that no one else could have made. Except for maybe Daft Punk, but the songs on this album are way better than most of Random Access Memories, and none of them feature Pharrell singing about his dick.
9) The National, Trouble Will Find Me
I tend to get defensive about The National, but they take an inordinate amount of shit from people (even right here in Seattle!) who want to make them poster children for middlebrow NPR music. And yeah, sometimes this stuff is banal and Decemberists-y, and sure, The National are a band that get something of a free critical pass from me because I was really into them when I was 16 and “music was important to me.” But that’s enough self-conscious backpedalling: Trouble Will Find Me is either the second- or third-best album they’ve ever made, and they’ve made a lot of good albums.
10) Burial, Rival Dealer
Before this year, I had only ever listened to Burial because people who write about music occasionally need to educate themselves about music that other people think is important. Rival Dealer was the first Burial album I actually enjoyed. It’s immersive, deep, and definitely a lot weirder than Untrue or most the other stuff he’s done.
Honorable mentions (alphabetical):
Here’s some other stuff I thought was cool this year:
Atu, Pictures on Silence
Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
Danny Brown, Old
Drake, Nothing Was The Same
The Haxan Cloak, Excavation
James Blake, Overgrown
Jon Hopkins, Immunity
Mikal Cronin, MCII
My Bloody Valentine, m b v
Sophie, “Bipp” b/w “Elle”
The Range, Nonfiction