To say that 2013 has been one hell of a year for music would be, well, the understatement of the year. The music community has been #blessed with some awesome new bands that weren’t around (or hadn’t released anything) prior to 2013 and are now making massive waves, some of which are in my top 10.
I started writing my “Albums of the Year” list back in November because I knew I would struggle over it for a while, and struggle I did. There were so many fantastic releases this year that narrowing it down to just 10 was incredibly difficult, but somehow I managed to do it. This year’s list compared to last year’s has much more of an indie flavor to it, and I don’t see my love for all things indie changing any time soon. Oh, and because I basically am Twitter, I composed my thoughts on each record into 140 characters-ish (with the exception of 3, 2, and 1) because why not?
Anyone that knows me at all won’t be surprised at the albums holding the top three spots, but for those of you that don’t, I’ll give you a bit of a background on how my 2013 was live music-wise. As it stands now, I attended 79 concerts. I currently reside in Minneapolis, and 13 of those concerts were in Chicago, 8 were in New York City, 3 were in Milwaukee, and 2 were in Madison, Wisconsin. You might be wondering “why the hell would you travel to all of those cities just to see a concert (especially if it was one you already saw in Minneapolis), Tarynn?” An easy answer would be why not? I somehow ended up becoming great friends with some of my favorite bands of all time this year which prompted a lot of the traveling, but it was mostly due to my love of live music. There was a two way tie for the band I saw the most this year between Manchester alt-rockers The 1975 and the uber-positive Los Angeles band The Mowgli’s, both at 6 times, if that gives you any indication of my taste this year and what this list will hold.
2013 was filled with a long list of “holy shit is this actually real life?!” moments for me. I went to my first festival in 2013, Lollapalooza, where I saw Nine Inch Nails who I’ve been waiting a long 8 years to witness live and it was worth every bit of the wait. I traveled across the country to see The 1975 and in the process of doing so met people who are now some of my greatest friends. I finally saw AFI live (and met them [hint: I totally fangirled]) who I had waited 8 years to see as well. I was recognized by some of my favorite bands from Twitter and the work I’ve done promoting their music, which was pretty surreal. Oh, and I finally saw Brand New, who I had given up all hope of ever seeing. 2013 was ridiculous in the best way, and still is.
Music is something that brings people together — this year proved that to me more than any other has. It was one of the best years of my life and I’m so, so thankful for everyone I met this year and all the opportunities I’ve been given. The list below are the things that ruled my year and meant the most to me.
Here’s to 2014 being just as rad and holding nearly as many adventures as 2013 did!
Top 10 Albums of 2013
10. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
Super cute vocals paired with way-too-danceable and still a little bit weird electronic beats? I’m sold. They’re fantastic live as well.
9. Little Comets – Life Is Elsewhere
Whip smart lyrics (think Vampire Weekend if they were British) and downright catchy guitar riffs had this record on repeat for months.
8. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
The album was a grower, but once it finally took hold, it did so with a vice grip. A more laid back, chill version of Vampire Weekend.
7. HAIM – Days Are Gone
Badass trio of sisters that don’t give a single fuck what anyone thinks and write some of the best indie rock out there. One of my favorite live acts of 2013.
6. Arctic Monkeys – AM
A groovier, more sensual, and attitude-filled Arctic Monkeys than their last two efforts. “Arabella” was my go-to ~going out~ track for sure.
5. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Phoenix are back and better than ever. Bankrupt! showed that what’s not broken doesn’t need to be fixed, maybe just given a bit more synth.
4. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
“Trojans” was inescapable on college radio in 2013, and for good reason. The Aussie duo can write a damn catchy tune, and When It Was Now is full of them!
3. The Mowgli’s – Waiting for the Dawn
The Mowgli’s are just so damn happy about everything. It seems that bands today are so focused on the negative and the rougher parts of life that when you hear a band that is so unabashedly positive, it shocks you in the best way possible. Their main message is to spread love all around the world and if by the time you’re done listening to Waiting for the Dawn you don’t want to join them in that mission, well, I just don’t know what to tell you. They’re also one of the busiest bands out there right now, heading out on tour after tour (I caught them six times in 8 months, on 5 different tours) so I’d say they’re doing their best to spread love, smiles, and happiness everywhere they can. Their shows are full of dancing, sing-alongs, and leaving your bad day at the door, which makes them one of my favorite acts to see live. If you like smiling, happiness, kittens, puppies (#AbbyAndSukiOnTour – look it up on Instagram), and love, you’ll adore Waiting for the Dawn.
2. Bastille – Bad Blood
Bastille kind of came out of nowhere for me. I came across their first single “Pompeii” around January, at which point they only had two EPs on Spotify, and I was desperate for more. Thankfully, Bad Blood came along in the mid part of the year to alleviate my need, and boy, did it do exactly that. From the first notes of “Pompeii” you’re introduced to vocalist Dan Smith’s outstanding voice, and when the track kicks in you know you’re listening to something special. His lyrics are incredibly relatable without getting too cheesy – I mean, he did write a track about Icarus, from Greek mythology, which I have to respect. While Bastille do a damn fine job at their more upbeat tracks like “Weight of Living pt. II,” “Laura Palmer,” and “Things We Lost in the Fire,” it’s in the ballads that they soar. “Overjoyed” sees Smith’s vocals reaching new, angelic heights amongst a gorgeous and simplistic piano part, and “Get Home” is both the perfect closer to the record, and to a night out with friends (or lovers). I find myself putting it on when I want to relax or if I’m getting too stressed out about life and all of its trials and tribulations – it has an ability to soothe that is really something else. It’s in all of these different impassioned, tender, stirring complexities that make Bad Blood my #2 Album of the Year.
1. The 1975 – The 1975
2013 was the year of The 1975 for me. Anyone who knows me at all could tell you this – I caught their first US tour date ever (outside of their SXSW show) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in March, and then saw them five more times in Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and even flew out to New York City to catch them with fellow monochrome act The Neighbourhood. I’ve watched them grow from basically nothing four years ago, under the moniker Drive Like I Do, to being one of the biggest buzz bands out there right now, and from the bottom of my heart I mean it when I say no one deserves it more. The 1975 has been a work in progress for the better part of a decade, and it shows that the Manchester four piece have lived and breathed their music and art form until it was absolutely perfected and ready to unleash into the world.
Normally albums that are 16 tracks long tend to lose me about halfway through (Paramore is a good example), but The 1975 offers something different with every track that keeps you coming back for more. If you don’t like the infectious single that is “Chocolate,” perhaps try the much more raw and emotional “Robbers” – or, if those aren’t your cup of tea, the dancey ’80s vibes that is their latest single “Girls” might be just what you need to get your day off on the right foot; if none of those options seem like your thing and you’re more a fan of ballads, “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You?” is the most heart-wrenching track I’ve heard all year. The 1975 is my Album of the Year for all of the reasons above and so many more (including the fact that they’re some of the nicest guys I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with), and I look forward to seeing what they come out with next.
TL;DR – I really, really adore this band. They deserve all of the success they’re having and more, and if nothing else comes of this “Best Of 2013” list for you, I hope you give them a listen and see even the slightest bit of what I see in them.
Top 5 EPs of 2013
5. The Neighbourhood – I’m Sorry…
The Neighbourhood don’t have anything to apologize for with this EP. Its dark, R&B influenced sound proved that they’d be one of 2013’s hottest acts.
4. The 1975 – Facedown
Their first EP released to the public, it introduced us to the sensation that is The 1975. Their perfectly crafted atmospheric tracks provide a fitting backdrop for single “The City.”
3. Magic Man – You Are Here
The best parts of Keane + The Killers = Magic Man. Energetic synths, fantastic melodies, and smooth vocals made it one of my favorite EPs.
2. American Authors – American Authors
“This is gonna be the best day of my liiiife, my li-i-i-i-i-ife!” You’ve probably heard at least the banjo intro to “Best Day of My Life” from Brooklyn’s own American Authors, you just haven’t known it yet. The song has been used in commercials for Lowe’s, Robin Williams’ show The Crazy Ones, the new Vince Vaughn movie Delivery Man, and the final five contestants on The Voice just performed it last night – it’s everywhere. Although it’s only five songs, two of which had been out for quite some time, you’d be hard pressed to find a more fun, earnest, and heartfelt EP than American Authors. “Hit It” and “Believer” will get stuck in your head for days (I say it because it’s happened to me) and “Luck” and “Home” are touching tracks about family and venturing out on your own that will tug at your heartstrings. If fun. were a little less Queen and a little more rock and roll (with a pinch of banjo, just for good measure), you’d have American Authors. I’ve followed the band’s successes for the better part of the year and it’s been a real treat to see them have all of the exposure that they’ve been earning lately – no doubt they’ve been having “the best days of their lives.” It’s a cliche phrase, but I think “best dudes, best band” definitely applies to American Authors. Keep an eye out for their debut full length which drops in March!
1. Smallpools – Smallpools
Much like The 1975 (albeit over not nearly as long of a time period), Smallpools are another band that I’ve been lucky enough to see blossom into one of 2013’s hottest new acts. When first single “Dreaming” hit my ears this summer it quickly became one of my most played songs in my iTunes, and I’m still not tired of it. They soon released their first self-titled EP, reminiscent of Passion Pit without their helium-inflated vocals but retaining every bit of their pop sensibilities. They’ve since hit the road with some of the biggest names in alt-rock out there now, including Walk the Moon, Twenty One Pilots, and a 2014 tour with Grouplove, so no doubt massive things are in store for the LA quartet next year when they drop their debut full length. Their tracks are so well crafted that they appeal to just about anyone that’s really ever found themselves enjoying pop music and the EP absolutely dominated my summer and the rest of 2013 (and still does). Smallpools are a band that you could turn on at a party and have people come up to you and ask “who was that? I loved it!” 2014 will be the year of Smallpools.
So, that’s it! That’s my Best of 2013 list, and I hope you enjoyed it. If you’re ever interested in what I might be listening to or just want to say hello, follow me on Twitter. :)