Music tastes are highly personal, so I’ll kick this off by saying that this list is not my idea of the absolute best songs of 2013—I’m nowhere near qualified enough to make those kinds of statements for anyone other than myself. These are just the albums and songs I liked best. If you like alternative pop/rock, maybe you liked (or will like) some of them too. Please note that not all of these will be appropriate listening for younger ages.
With that out of the way, let’s jump right in:
Just missed the list (alphabetical):
Foals: Holy Fire
Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
The Joy Formidable: Wolf’s Law
Lorde: Pure Heroine
White Denim: Corsicana Lemonade
5. San Fermin (eponymous)
It’s one of those stories out of a fairy tale, I guess, if your fairy tales involve going to Yale. Composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone retreated to the Canadian rockies upon his graduation and composed this album, returning to recruit vocalists in friend Allen Tate and the duo Lucius (Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig), a group which met at Berklee and which has their own acclaimed debut album out this year. The album is a story of characters in a relationship, and Tate is a real standout vocalist on the album.
4. Jake Bugg: Shangri La
Bugg’s vocals are probably an acquired taste, and the Dylan comparisons are certainly premature, but this guy is still really, really talented. His debut album was just out in 2012, and his sophomore effort to me is a little more well-rounded, as well as more up my alley in terms of rock style. He ought to be blowing up right now worldwide, and not just across the pond.
3. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
Few current bands are as consistently appealing in both a popular and critical sense, but Vampire Weekend seem to be regularly approaching that threshold. I still prefer 2010’s Contra among their albums and “Cousins” as their most impressive song, but the letdown here is only minor. It’s a more cohesive set of thoughts on Modern Vampires, if ultimately a little less interesting musically.
2. Arctic Monkeys: AM
The best rock album of the year. Arctic Monkeys have five #1 albums in the UK and none to date in the US, so anyone who is clamoring for a big rock band to succeed ought to hitch their stars to this one. Alex Turner’s vocals are almost as good as the album in the live recordings that I’ve seen, although for him, quality is more about delivery and tone than it is range. Several songs will be represented on the Top 40.
1. CHVRCHES: The Bones Of What You Believe
What a debut from this Glaswegian synthpop band. Lauren Mayberry seems like a potential star, and the album shows exactly the kind of way with words you would expect from a former music writer with degrees in law and journalism. I could take or leave the backing duo (depending on how much they contributed to the lyrics), but her vocals and lyrics are spectacular. There are at least five pop single–worthy songs on The Bones Of What You Believe, including several of the year’s best, in my opinion.
Next up: Songs that just missed, #40–31