Well friends, after weeks of writing about some of the greatest albums to come out in the last 20 years, we have reached our final installment. We find ourselves in 2013 with the records that are dominating our airwaves and pumping into cars, ear buds, offices all over the world. The highly anticipated record from some Montrealers got its release, Local Natives make the most of a heart-wrenching situation, and Toronto’s Born Ruffians continue to evolve. These albums are in no particular order and are just a few of the great albums to come from 2013.
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
The debut album to come from Scottish synthpop group Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe was released on September 20, 2013. The record was written, composed and produced all by the band themselves in Glasgow, Scotland. The infectious yet sincere voice of singer Lauren Mayberry is immediate – you fall in love as soon as you press play. That paired with the intelligent use of synthesizers and loops creates a large sounding group for just a trio of people. Releasing tracks online generated a lot of buzz, and their singles started making it on to radios worldwide, putting their debut in the top 10 in multiple countries.
Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
Released on September 3 of last year, The Worse Things Get… is the first record to come from Ms. Case since 2009’s well received Middle Cyclone. The album features a plethora of different musicians with over 20 different people adding a helping hand. With that many people working together, it’s easy for sounds to become cluttered and messy, but they find a way to balance it all out and create a sense of harmony. It’s a lush sounding record, with Neko’s angelic vocals shining on every track. The Worse Things Get… is a record that screams, “play me in Massey Hall”, and it was nominated for Best Alternative Music album at the Grammys.
My Bloody Valentine – m b v
After reforming in 2007, many were excited for My Bloody Valentine’s next step. The thing was, we wouldn’t actually get new material until 2013. On February 3 of 2013, the world received m b v. Some of the material was recorded prior to the break up in 1997, and the rest was done just before they regrouped in 2007. The album was a departure from the bluesy folk numbers found on Loveless – they set out to make something that sounded more raw. Frontman Kevin Shields said he was “purposefully not trying to write songs with a beginning, middle, and end.” Living in an 80s-90s mind set, everything was recorded straight to tape with no digital processing in post production. There was a drum and bass influence on the record which gave it a sense of diversity. m b v was received well, with Pitchfork rating it a very high score of 9.1/10.
Born Ruffians – Birthmarks
Born Ruffians’ Birthmarks was released on April 16, 2013 and it marked a shift from the band’s previous releases. The group went into the studio looking for a more production-heavy record, resulting in a more a cohesive sound. Birthmarks shows the band’s maturity and development, sounding tighter, brighter and catchier on each song. The record was written over the course of three years, with some tracks starting off as laptop demos, and some recorded at an Ontario farmhouse. Their quirky charm still shines through with The Shins-sounding first cut “Needle” and groovy bass lines reminiscent of Vampire Weekend. This LP played a big role in the band’s nomination for Breakthrough Artist of the Year at Juno awards.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
The long awaited and highly anticipated 3rd studio album from New York quartet Vampire Weekend was released on May 14. After releasing 2010’s Contra, the band started writing new material while on tour during their sound checks. Touring finished up and the band took a little break to work on other musical projects, but they regrouped in 2011 to get back on track. With no deadline in mind, Vampire Weekend hit the studio and for the first time gave some of the production responsibilities to someone outside the band. There was a conscious effort to do something new on this record, wanting to distance themselves from anything they had made before. Producer Ariel Rechtsaid said, “anytime we came up with something familiar sounding, it was rejected.” What we were left with was a darker, slow moving and dramatic record. Yes, there are flashes of poppy upbeat speed on tracks like “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” but this record truly shows the diversity Vampire Weekend is capable of. Modern Vampires of the City was named the best record of the year by multiple publications including Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, also winning them the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.
Arctic Monkeys – AM
The sleek and sexy AM was released on September 6, 2013. The LP continues the band’s progression from the fast-paced London punks they once were, to the groovy psychedelic and riff-heavy band they are now. Frontman Alex Turner describes the recording as sounding “like a Dr. Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.” This record got the band more airplay than ever before, resulting in their most commercially successful piece of work. NME ranked it as the best album from 2013.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
The National released their critically acclaimed 6th studio record, Trouble Will Find Me, on May 17, 2013. Produced by guitarists and brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, the album features contributions from St. Vincent, Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Parry, Sufjan Stevens, and more. The group began writing this record near the end of their tour in support of High Violet. It was the first time the band didn’t feel pressured to quickly construct a new LP. Singer Matt Berninger said “we felt like we could put the band on the shelf for a little while, put a record out in three, four years. There wasn’t any sense of, ‘what now?’” The recording process took place in a barn-turned-studio in Rhinebeck, New York. Most of the tracks were done live from the floor after being inspired and happy with the way “Sea of Love” was done. Trouble Will Find Me was included on numerous year end lists and was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the Grammy awards.
Local Natives – Humming Bird
Produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, Humming Bird was released on January 29, 2013. The lyrical content found on this album was inspired by the unfortunate passing of keyboard and vocalist Kelcey Ayer’s mother and departure of bassist Andy Hamm. Ayer said, “my mother’s passing was definitely really hard, that and the Andy thing and there were also relationship issues and weird stuff that impacted the record and the mood of it and what we sang about.” They felt it was a time to expand their sound and it ended up being a great idea. Making the most of a tragic situation, the album gave the means to have a very successful world tour.
Haim – Days Are Gone
The Haim sisters released their debut album on September 27th, 2013. The three grew up playing classic rock covers in a family band but once they got a little older, they shed their parents and went into the music industry as a trio. Still drawing inspiration from the bands they grew up listening to; Fleetwood Mac, Queen and Pat Benetar, they set out to create a record filled with catchy hooks and pop sensibilities. There was a generous amount of hype surrounding Days Are Gone because of their well received EP. Critics were impressed with the musicianship and perfect pop notes of the album, full of groovy bass lines and slick leads. The album was named the 8th best album of the year by Stereogum.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
The last record Arcade Fire released surprised the world by winning Album of the Year at the Grammys, so the pressure was on. It would have been easy to just stay on course making similar music to what they had done previously, but they did the exact opposite. Arcade Fire’s sound evolved into something we hadn’t heard from the indie collective before; more synths, more worldly instruments, and heavier production. Though they set out to make a short and concise record, after working with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy they realized they had enough material to make a double album with songs stretching to 8 minutes in length. Quickly after releasing the lead single and title track “Reflektor”, it was clear that our Canadian friends had another hit on their hands. They found a way to make long songs work on the radio, and their new exciting sound had made many year end lists including the number 5 spot on Rolling Stones “50 Best Albums of the Year” list.
Lorde – Pure Heroine
After blasting her way onto the scene with one of the hugest songs of the year, “Royals” from The Love Club EP, Lorde released her debut full length Pure Heroine on September 27, 2013. The album is dark pop built around deep bass and simplistic drum patterns. She built upon the success of the previously released EP with other hits including “Team”, “Tennis Court”, “Glory and Gore”, and more. Her awkwardly charming live performance is largely talked about, but she still finds a way to exude confidence. The 17 year old is only getting started and already she has won a ton of awards including Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, and a $2.5 million publishing deal with Songs Music Publishing.