Here are my favorites from 2013. I may have accidentally omitted a few releases, but these compositions are those which I can remember were released and enjoyed this year. These are numbered in a fairly arbitrary fashion, so take a listen to all of them!
1) Vasudeva – Life In Cycles
Killer instrumental shreds from New Jersey - These guys are excellent at building fun, dance-able grooves that have a great virtuosic, mathy feel. I was able to see Vasudeva live and they sounded incredible. The recordings do a justice to the live performance and both are very well-refined.
Standout Tracks: Tuxford Fall, Punch-reel
2) Bonobo – The North Borders
The North Borders is the fourth (I believe) album from UK DJ/producer/musician Simon Green. This piece is an excellent blend of trip-hop, chillwave beats, looping leitmotifs, and sparse, yet sensuous vocals. The North Borders is less of an orchestral arrangement than his last album. This album features more electronic percussion and more synthesized sounds in general. This album is very calming and easy to listen to. Each song grows and subsides into the next. Bonobo recently embarked upon a full-band US tour supporting the album. I was unsure of how he would transform this album to a full band arrangement (Black Sands was much more organic), but he pulled it off extremely well. Take a listen to this album - you won’t be disappointed.
Standout trakcs: Sapphire, Know You, Ten Tigers
3) Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Daft Punk captured a whole lot of attention with this album. They strayed from their electronic roots and incorporated a funky, “wanky-wanky” guitar as their staple sound. Although fairly dynamically monotonous, this album is filled with superstar vocals (i.e. Pharrell) and very catchy grooves.
Standout Tracks: Get Lucky, Giorgio By Moroder
4) BATHS – Obsidian
Obsidian is a great album that I had slept on for much of 2013 (it was released in May). Most of the songs feel ominous and dark. Will Wiesenfeld experiments with a wide variety of percussive sounds that are layered to produce very intriguing rhythms. Wiesenfeld’s voice is very prominent throughout this album compared to his past works (which I am less familiar with). His lofty, falsetto vocals are stacked to sound ethereal. Very interesting dark experimental chill jams.
Standout Tracks: Miasma Sky, Ironworks, No Eyes
5) Langosta – Super Nature
Langosta (formerly known as Super Nature) is a band out of Manchester/South Windsor, Connecticut. The Super Nature EP is the start of something incredible. These guys are all great at playing their instruments and know how to craft a good instrumental song (although they have been adding vocals live). This EP is their first recorded material and although quality may not be excellent, it shows the potential and caliber of these musicians. I have seen them perform several times and each has been better than the last. I am eagerly looking forward to hearing more from Langosta.
Standout Tracks: The Death of The American Beaver, Jerry Krueger
6) Vitamin Sun - Ergonometry
Long awaited EP from progressive-mathy 4 piece from Boston, MA. This release was definitely worth the wait. Vitamin Sun crafts catchy, rhythmically complex songs, with an accessible melody and groove. These guys put on a phenomenal live show and really know how to play. This album has loads of killer drums, intertwining guitar harmonies, and rock n’ roll vocals. Definitely a thrilling listen. Bonus: these guys know how to record a good sounding album.
Standout Tracks: Orangutan, Aggrocrag
7) Zefs Chasing Cara- Ultra Gown
Zefs Chasing Cara is a UK solo artist I found out about recently. After one listen, I was hooked. Ultra Gown is an album full of guitars tapping melodies that are too perfect and too fast, blended with keyboards and pads playing similar melodic lines. The opening track hits you right in the face with sweet melodies and interesting rhythms and loops. The album swells and recedes in a nice fashion. The guitar melodies have a jubilant essence, but they seem to be played effortlessly and with little dynamic range. The mix of “acoustic” and electronic instruments makes for an interesting type of electronic math rock, which is very easy to listen to.
Standout Tracks: Pink Sweat, Clay Brother
RIYL: The Bulletproof Tiger
8) This Town Needs Guns - 188.8.131.52
Now commonly referred to as TTNG, the new incarnation of This Town Needs Guns is not dissimilar from their previous album, “Animals”. Since then, bassist Jamie Cooper and singer Stuart Smith have left the band. The duo of brothers Chris and Tim Collis still proves to be electrifying. The atypical, angular, fingerstyle guitar melodies meld so smoothly with the solid, hard-hitting drum grooves. This guitar and drum combination is by far one of the best I’ve heard. The new addition to the band is the singer/guitarist of Pennines, Henry Tremain. Tremain fills Smith’s void very well - some don’t even recognize the difference between their voices. Tremain also fills in on bass guitar (and sometimes a second guitar). The band puts on an incredible live show, which I have seen in both incarnations. Tremain brings a more confident voice and humorous stage banter to the band’s live show. Although the band was hardly unfunny during their “Animals” era.
Standout Tracks: Nice Riff, Clichard / Left Aligned
9) Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
JT’s at it again. Producing several hits on this smooth rockin’ R&B groove jam of an “album”. My only issue is that Part 2 of the ”experience” includes some filler tracks and is mediocre at best. I am a bit perturbed by the over-saturation of the single “Mirrors”. Regardless, Timberlake has a great voice and melds it with great beats and great collabs. Smooth jams.
Standout Tracks: Strawberry Bubblegum, Take Back The Night
Listen (to a bootleg bandcamp stream): http://the2020experience.bandcamp.com/album/the-20-20-experience-no-bullshit
10) The Noras – Allusions
I don’t know much about The Noras, but I do know that they are doing something gritty, edgy, and unique. The Allusions EP immediately caught my attention with the jangly, single coil sounding guitars mixed with brash vocals. This is a great mix of little boy screamo punk math that really rips. It’s laden with tasty guitar riffs and angst-filled skramz that are well-blended with the music. Not the BEST quality recording, but it’s not meant to be.
Standout Track: Calendars and Converse
RIYL: Lion Of The North, Merchant Ships
11) Native - Orthodox
This second full-length album from Valapraiso, Indiana post-hardcore band really captures the loudness that they’re trying to portray. I haven’t delved into this album more than a few times, but it ROCKS.
Standout Tracks: Coin Toss, Kissing Bridge
Other really excellent albums that I’ve missed:
Russian Circles - Memorial
Delta Sleep - Management