WE’RE ALMOST THERE Y’ALL! Only three more lists to go after this, and then we’ll take a look at honorable mentions, EPs, songs/singles, and live performances. This is where the albums start getting the most interesting and unique of anything 2013 had to offer. Let’s do it.
20. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Daft Life / Columbia)
Who doesn’t have this on their list, though? Daft Punk’s long-awaited, triumphant return came in the form of a 75-minute long epic, space-disco symphony with a cavalcade of guest collaborators, from Pharrell Williams to Julian Casablancas to Giorgio Moroder, and many others. It’s about as sleek and as tight of a dance album as you’re going to hear this year, with a solid mix of single-worthy dance anthems and forward-thinking slowjams. As a whole, Random Access Memories is a journey through space, time, love, and funk
19. The Uncluded - Hokey Fright (Rhymesayers)
In yesterday’s list, I said that R.A. The Rugged Man’s Legends Never Die was the best traditional hip hop album I heard this year. The Uncluded’s Hokey Fright is what makes me have to make that distinction. Anti-folk starlet Kimya Dawson and Brooklyn MC Aesop Rock (who is, hands down, my favorite rapper of all time) put the best of both of their respective careers together to make one of the most interesting albums you’ll hear all year. On the surface, you could say many of the songs are either a Kimya Dawson song with Aesop Rock rapping over them, or Aesop Rock songs with Kimya Dawson singing over them. While there are moments that certainly feel that way, I was surprised at how much of it does flow extremely well together and how truly collaborative it feels. It took me a few listens to really get and feel that way, but I still get an immense amount of enjoyment listening to Kimya and Aesop’s eccentricities in songwriting come together in this form.
18. Coliseum - Sister Faith (Temporary Residence)
Coming in with the best punk album of the year is Louisville’s riffmasters Coliseum. The punk genre didn’t really have too many standouts for me this year, so I was extremely glad to hear an album that took it to such an outstanding degree. Not only is Coliseum heavy and furious on this LP, but the riffs and melodies are some the catchiest you’ll find on a contemporary punk rock album. I had the fortunate chance of seeing them live at the American Nightmare reunion show in Chicago and they were absolutely as vicious on stage as they appear on the record. There’s no time for slowing down with Coliseum; Sister Faith is the best-feeling punch in the face of 2013.
17. Kirin J. Callinan - Embracism (XL / Siberia / Terrible)
The album cover alone should tell you something about the tone of the record, right? Sort of. Australian experimental post-punk / noise rock artist Kirin J. Callinan puts out a debut LP that’s about as confusing as the action he’s doing on the cover. Embracism is not a bleak record, though it certainly has its scary moments sonically. There is a bit of tongue-in-cheek aggression in the songs, and some definite Birthday Party worship with an electronic edge, but it’s quite the fascinating listen. Kirin was the opening act for Cut Copy when I saw them last month, and I had never heard of him before. I went home that night and checked out this album because of how absolutely raw, intense, strange, and wonderful his performance was. Seriously. Go see him live or look up some videos. He’s on his way to be the next great experimental artist in the indie world.
16. Kvelertak - Meir (Sony Music Scandinavia / Roadrunner)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you’re a metalhead and you can’t find one thing you enjoy about Kvelertak’s music, then you need to open your mind much wider. Their 2010 self-titled debut still stands to be one of the best in contemporary metal, and has put them in my personal standings as one of the best bands in any genre to surface over the last five years. Their mix of rock n’ roll, hardcore punk, black metal, and stoner metal is one of the most distinctive in modern heavy metal right now, and that doesn’t go away on Meir, their fantastic sophomore effort. What I find the most fascinating about Kvelertak is that they can engage an audience so much with their music to where American audiences will chant, sing, and scream back their Norwegian lyrics, despite having no idea what the actual pronunciation of the foreign text is or what the English translation would be. They’re just as much fun live as they are on the album, and within a few years, they’re going to be huge. Though it’s only slightly less intense and enjoyable as their debut, there’s no doubt that Meir is one of the best metal albums of 2013, and Kvelertak is one of the best metal bands period.