2013 has been a spectacular year for new releases. There were a lot of band reunions. There were a lot of “first new record in ten or more years”. There were a lot of great new records by familiar bands. Most importantly, there were a bunch of brilliant records by bands who are new to me, and a lot of brilliant debut records. It’s been a big year of discovery.
I got more new release albums this year than I have in any previous year. My first order of operation was the easy
one of narrowing all of my 2013 acquisitions down to a list of 80 that I liked a lot. I wanted to whittle that down to 60, then 35, then 28. It didn’t really work out that way. Every time I got the list below 30, I realized that it just wasn’t going to work. I finally settled on a top 40. A lot of albums that I liked a bunch didn’t make the list. A lot of albums that I had very high hopes for did not make the list. I might write something about those that didn’t make the list, but for now, I’m eager to share the ones that did make the list.
The rules are pretty simple. The albums had to have been released in 2013. They have to be full albums. They have to be new material. No re-issues. No tribute albums. No compilation albums. No motion picture soundtracks.
Here are the albums from 40-21. For each album, click on the artwork to go to a place to buy the album. And please buy the albums. Don’t fileshare or pirate them.
40) Rachel Zeffira — The Deserters
This Canadian-born, UK-based classically trained singer has been working with a band called Cat’s Eyes, and released her solo debut early this year. It was a late 2012 release in the UK, but in the rest of the world, it was released in March of 2013. It’s super-dreamy and cinematic. But instead of heavily delayed guitar bits, there’s a ton of piano on her record. It’s like Julee Cruise minus David Lynch, plus Tim Burton. The album features a magnificent cover of the My Bloody Valentine song “To Here Knows When”
39) Mazzy Star — Seasons of Your Day
I’m a big fan of all things Hope Sandoval, and I was really looking forward to this, the first new Mazzy Star record since the 1996 album Among My Swan. Two of the new songs were released two years ago as a bit of a teaser, and the album finally came out on September 24. I really like the first half of the album, but the second half doesn’t strike me as “worth the 17-year wait”. Even with that second half letdown, the album still got a bunch of spins at my house. “California” is one of the standout tracks from the first half of the album:
38) Eluvium — Nightmare Ending
Eluvium is one of many noms de plume for the Portland experimental/ambient/electronic musician Matthew Cooper. He’s released a bunch of records under this and other names, but this double album is the first one that I’ve ever gotten. Very nice atmospheric stuff. Serene. There’s a ton of piano on this record, but not so much on this song:
37) Widowspeak — Almanac
This is the second album by the Brooklyn dream-pop/indie-folk duo. They don’t write a bunch of songs that sound like each other, and it’s not really easy to describe them for that reason. What they certainly are, though, is a hard-working band. This album came out in the spring, followed by an EP of new material in the autumn. They have a new record scheduled for release sometime in the first half of 2014.
36) San Fermin — San Fermin
San Fermin is an eight-piece band when they play live, but it’s entirely the work of one Brooklyn man named Ellis Ludwig-Leone. He wrote all of these songs knowing that he would eventually collaborate with a bunch of musicians, but he purposefully did it before he even started trying to fill out the band. I saw about 10 minutes of their set at Hopscotch, and was pretty impressed. They’re better live than on the record, but it’s still a great record somewhat reminiscent of The National and Sufjan Stevens
35)Girls Names — The New Life.
The second album from the Belfast surf-rock/shoegazers. One of many fantastic new releases by Slumberland Records. It might be one of the most overlooked new releases of the year.
34)Bleached — Ride Your Heart.
This is the debut album by this LA band centered around a pair of sisters who have a lot of love for 1990s punk rawk. Their album came out in the spring and had a ton of advance praise. I loved it after only about ten seconds. Actually, I loved it before I even heard a note of it. They had me hook, line, and sinker with that album cover.
33)Fear Of Men — Early Fragments
Technically, this shouldn’t be in this list. This isn’t properly a new album. Early Fraagments is actually a singles collection from the Brighton lo-fi dream pop quartet. They were supposed to have a new album out this year, but I guess that it never happened. However, this stuff is way too good not to include here. I’m reminded quite a bit of the Canadian duo Memoryhouse, and that’s a really good thing.
32)Cumulus — I Never Meant it To Be Like This
Debut record by the Seattle indie-pop trio. They channel a lot of early 1990s twee and cuddlepunk, and that’s why I love this special new band. This was a late addition to the group of 2013 releases, and in a different version of this list, I had this album place much higher.
They already had me with their look and their sound, but I’m a sucker for sassy lyrics like this:
You said you were so lonely
I’ll make you less lonely
Come get un-lonely with me
Uh… Yes, ma’am!
31) Ceremony — Distance
This is a very late addition to the list. The album was released digitally just a couple of days ago. If it had been released in June or something like that, it would be much higher in this list. The band is named after the Joy Division song, and is made up of two guys who used to be in a band with Oliver Ackermann from A Place To Bury Strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that this sounds like it’s made of the same wood as APTBS. Just a good old-fashioned relentless wall of distorted noise.
So there’s the bottom ten. Look for 30-21 either late tonight or sometime tomorrow. When it’s all done, I’ll post the composite list without commentary.