Another year, another list. While last year was a bit of a cold fart for music, 2013 proved to be a cornucopia of great albums ranging from surprising débuts to some of the best comeback albums in recent memory. They couldn’t all make this list, obviously, so here is the year whittled down to only the best ten.
1. Owel – Owel
Owel self-released(!) their début album all the way back in January, and if that seems like forever ago, it was. In that (almost) one year’s time, I have listened to this album approximately 4,847,01 times. I listened to it when it was raining. I listened to it when it was sunny. I listened to it in the winter, and I listened to it in the summer. I listened to it in my car, on my headphones, and on my record player. I listened to it while I cleaned, while walking the dog, and while working. If you are a close friend, family member, casual friend on a social networking site, hell – if you are a stranger I passed on the street, I probably told you how great this album was and how badly you needed to listen to it. A year with this album has only strengthened my opinion of both the band and the potential they clearly have. If you haven’t given it a spin yet, please do so. Every moment that you are not, you are majorly blowing it. These guys are still unsigned but that simply won’t last. They are going to be huge. Mark my words.
2. O’ Brother – Disillusion
With Disillusion, O’ Brother have given us a window into an alternate universe where Thrice is still kicking out the jams. Ok, yes, O’ Brother are quite a bit heavier than Major/Minor era Thrice, but if you listen to Vheissu or the Fire EP from The Alchemy Index, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Thrice could have gone in this direction. Disillusion is heavy, sludgy, experimental, and most importantly, melodic. It is quite a bit darker than its predecessor, Garden Window, but it is all for the better.
3. Balance & Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing
Balance & Composure released one of my favorite albums in 2011, in Separation. I hopped on the train quite early with these guys, and I knew they were destined for greatness. That being said, I did not expect their sophomore album to sound anything like The Things We Think We’re Missing. What B&C have managed to do here is reference everything you loved about 90’s emo and 90’s alternative, and put their own spin on it so it sounds completely new, fresh, and original. I remember saying I couldn’t decide if B&C were a hardcore band on Xanax or a rock band with a hardcore edge. That sentiment still holds true as TTWTWM is heavy when it needs to be, but soft and beautiful throughout. With Separation, B&C showed that they were one of the scene’s up and coming bands. On TTWTWM, we see a band realizing their potential.
4. Letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful
Do you like post-hardcore? I like post-hardcore. And I like The Blackest Beautiful…a lot. On their Epitaph début, Letlive. deliver everything I look for in a post-hardcore album: great singing and melodies to pair with the screams and breakdowns. Jason Butler’s voice (really Jason Butler in general) is the focal point of the album. Yes the guitars and drumming are great and the songs are well written, but we are all listening because Butler has a phenomenal voice in the vein of the great Daryl Palumbo. As for the lyrics, I am reminded of the old sage Hansel from Zoolander when I say, I respect them. I don’t really know what they are about or look into them too much, but I respect the fact that he wrote them. All in all, Letlive. have released a truly fun record. Given the serious nature of the lyrics, that is quite the feat.
5. AFI – Burials
Crashwhat? AFI comes back in 2013 with the album many of us wanted in 2009. Needless to say, I was not a fan of Crashlove at all, and I had all but given up on AFI. I’ve been a fan of the band since I was 14 and Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes came out, so it is safe to say that a little piece of myself died with in the disappointment surrounding Crashlove. Well, Burials reignited my love for Davey and Jade, and everything they put in their music. This album is dark, dense, and very dynamic. Davey’s vocals haven’t been this on point since, well, ever actually (at least since he started the clean singing on STS). Take one listen to ‘I Hope You Suffer’ and tell me I’m wrong about anything that I just said. Lawyered.
6. Red City Radio – Titles
This new Hot Water Music album is pretty amazing. Oh wait, this isn’t Hot Water Music? Shit. I’m a little embarrassed. All joking aside, Red City Radio have released a gem of a punk rock album in Titles. I was a big fan of their debut The Dangers of Standing Still, but Titles outshines that record by a long shot. I know I joke about them sounding like HWM, but to be honest this album has more in common with The Menzingers and early Gaslight Anthem – but with a drunken version of HWM on vocals. The songs are super catchy without coming off as cheesy and I’m also a sucker for gravelly vocals. It’s all quite remarkable.
7. Defeater – Letters Home
Another chapter in the story that now spans 3 LPs and 1 EP, Letters Home tells the tale of the father from the first 2 LPs. Sonically, it has more in common with the first LP and the Lost Ground EP than it does their last album. The opener ‘Bastards’ is easily one of the best songs they have ever written, and it does a fantastic job of kickstarting their most pissed-off and heavy album yet.
8. The Story So Far – What You Don’t See
I’m a big fan of pop-punk, but I have definite favorites (Blink, NFG, MxPx, amongst others), and it is difficult for me to get into this new crop of bands. I had taken The Story So Far’s début for a spin back in 2011, and I honestly wasn’t very impressed. So when Casey came along and told me to check out What You Don’t See, I was a bit sceptical. But my faith in him was rewarded, as WYDS is one of my favorite pop-punk albums of recent memory: the vocals have a bit of an edge to them, which I greatly prefer to the typical whiny vocals of pop-punk; the song writing is much stronger (apparently thanks to Steve Klein of NFG); and from top to bottom, this album runs brilliantly. It will make a great summer record.
9. Touche Amore – Is Survived By
Is Survived By marks the first time, in this guy’s opinion, that Touche Amore has noticeably changed their overall “sound.” I was a big fan of …to the Beat of a Dead Horse and Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me, but Is Survived By is even better than both of those albums. More immediate and less in your face than their prior two albums, Touche’s latest album is built upon pretty soundscapes and memorable riffs. Much like their comrades in Balance & Composure did with their latest album, Touche have really broadened their horizons, and in so doing, they have created something that is both familiar and innovative at the same time. That is saying quite a lot about a hardcore band.
10. Local Natives – Hummingbird
Hummingbird is another album that came out earlier in the year and got a lot of plays on the ol’ turntable (really, the vinyl release was a fantastic package and a beautiful variant). Much like the Owel album, Local Natives’ latest is a perfect record for a lazy Sunday afternoon. The musicianship is top notch, which cannot be said for a lot of indie rock albums, and the songs are very dynamic and full of emotion. I don’t always like indie rock, but when I do (I prefer Dos Equis) I fall head first into it like I did with Hummingbird.
Banner image received from www.wantickets.com
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