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Earlier this year, New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica wrote a piece about pop’s Summer Of Smooth, about how many of this year’s big warm-weather crossover hits were soft and breezy and immaculately produced and comforting pieces of throwbacky, slick pseudo-R&B. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” drove the narrative, but it also encompassed Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk and Drake. If you wanted to reach a bit, you could also extend the same story to indie rock. This is, after all, the year Ariel Rechtshaid became a smart-pop production baron by helming albums from Vampire Weekend and HAIM and Sky Ferreira and Charli XCX. It’s the year the National once again affirmed their calm, tasteful, wood-scented dominance. It’s the year that Phoenix inoffensively ascended to festival-headliner status, and that Disclosure crossed over to indie by goosing its dance music with high-stepping and laser-precise R&B hooks.

But it’s also the year a lot of other stuff happened. Even as Drake arguably became rap’s center, this was the year that its margins overflowed with scarily talented wiseacre noisemakers, MCs unafraid to yelp and snarl and yammer over backfiring 808s and slice-your-face synths. It’s the year old-timer processed-guitar monsters like Kevin Shields and Trent Reznor returned with guns-blazing, sounding better, once again, than we ever could’ve hoped. It’s the year superstar acts got weird and confrontational and maybe self-undermining, making some fascinating and sometimes great music along the way. And if it’s not the year metal got smart and tough, it sure as hell is the year metal stayed smart and tough.

If you’re looking at our list as an indicator of the Year Of Smooth, you’ll find plenty to support your hypothesis. There are plenty of clean and friendly and professional melodies contained therein, and many of the Summer Of Smooth movers are represented. But there’s even more rupture: Mavericks fighting against the flow of their genres and of music in general, making messily ambitious, noisy, sprawling, smoke-emitting monsters when many would’ve been happy to see them hit their marks and get out. Our #1 pick is top-shelf superstar self-sabotage, and its close runner-up is darkness-and-light sprawl that seems, in many ways, targeted toward annoying the genre faithful. Further down, you’ll find plenty that’s both agreeable and disagreeable: Synth-drone wizards, heartfelt ’90s-indie revivalists, spacey guitar noodlers, DIY shit-starters, two different A$AP Mob members.

The cast of writers who put this list together is quite different from last year’s rogue’s gallery. That means our list is as much a reflection of those changes as it is of the year itself, and it’s part of the reason you’ll now see a word like “Gorguts” on a list like this. But all those different enthusiasms — sometimes working together, sometimes flying on cross-currents — mean a diverse and passionate mess of opinions, and at least a couple of great albums that you almost certainly haven’t heard yet.

The countdown starts here.

Comments (498)
  1. Bon Iver is too high.

    LOL j/k

    Nice representation of all of the diversity in the writing. The Deafheaven cover image is a bit too pink and not as fleshy as it normally is, but that aside, thanks for the year.

  2. I understand that Yeezus is pretty great, challenging and uncompromising music. But album of the year, particularly this year, really? The lyrics are just too weak for it to hold that title for me. Props for Deafheaven’s deservedly high ranking, though.

    • I’m with you. Yeezus is groundbreaking. It’s a defiant and bold statement from one of our most creative minds. But I don’t really want to listen to it all that much.

      • Yeezus grew on me the more I listened to it, because I really thought it was garbage the first time through, but I think people are saying it’s groundbreaking only because Kanye West made it and not some dudes in a basement in NYC. I think its statement is plenty strong, but ‘Ye himself has even stated that rap music isn’t his number one priority anymore, and that definitely shows in his actual rapping.

        Run The Jewels is better.

        • Yeezus does it, it changes the game. El-P does it, and it is more of the same. Sucks that RTJ does not get credit that it should.

          Yeezus takes credit for what others have been doing, changing the sound.

          • they’re not really similar albums…people will disagree over the kanye but the central issue is whether it is bold/experimental/groundbreaking…run the jewels isn’t really visionary, but it is excellent

          • Not comparing albums, merely comparing the fact that El-P has been doing the off the wall production for awhile.

            The main element to the album is that the sound of Yeezus is apparently sooo different, and he loves the fact that since most are only informed of hip hop through his brand, he becomes the benefactor of this groundbreaking sound.

            It just bothers me that more sites don’t look at what El-P is doing as something sustainable and worth more to Hip Hop overall than Kanye’s submission which may have been indirectly influenced by.

        • The Yeezus / Run The Jewels comparison is completely justified in my mind. They were my #2 / #1 hip-hop records respectively. They were both released within a week or two of each other and had many similarities:

          10 tracks / 30-40 minute run time / aggressive beats & lyrics

          Lots to love on both albums, but I feel Run The Jewels sets a better standard for hip-hop as we move forward into 2014. Two TERRIFIC rappers get together and one of them makes EVERY SINGLE beat on the record. I LOVED the simple creation process for RTJ, because it allowed the LITERAL FUN the two of them were having to come through clear as a listener. My friend dubbed RTJ “The Feel Good Album of the Year” and El-P himself has tweeted about it’s amazing that everyone is saying it sounds like Mike & El are having fun on the record because they actually were.

          I’ve compared Yeezus to 808s all year because I truly think this is just another in between album before he drops another true behemoth. On 808s, we could understand his heartbreak and why he’d write an album like that. With Yeezus… dude had a baby and got engaged and he’s rapping about… everything he’s rapping about on Yeezus? Plus we all know he just hashed together those lyrics last minute. Ye admitted in interviews that he could’ve spent more time on the album.

          Oh who am I kidding. We’ve discussed this to death already. They’re both great records. But to me, after last year’s double shot of Cancer 4 Cure & R.A.P. Music, seeing these two come together and nurture their collaboration one big step in the right direction, there was no better move in hip-hop this year. The chemistry El-P & Killer Mike is a rarity, like OutKast rare, or Beastie Boys rare. So that to me trumps one spot over a phoned in Kanye album (that of course, is still better than most things).

          • yeah, I’m a HUGE Kanye fan and there’s no way Yeezus deserves to be at number one. As others have already stated, he’s been pretty open about how phoned in that album was. Most people are heralding the production as ground-breaking, and while I agree that they definitely injected a lot of mayhem into mainstream rap’s generally monochromatic palate, he didn’t even do much of the production leg-work. Rapping over other people’s beats would be fine for anything rapper, but I expect much better from ‘Ye, ESPECIALLY when the lyrics are the worst of his career.

          • Yesss. I’ve been saying this for months now. Yeezus has some cool beats and ideas, but overall it’s not all that groundbreaking. There isn’t a thing on that album that hasn’t already been done. I love that it put the casual rap listener outside of their comfort zone and it’s not a horrible album, but to say Kanye is a genius or that Yeezus deserves to all of the praise that it’s gotten is a bit ridiculous and really just seems like the general public trying to fill the position of “NEW RAP SUPERSTAR IDOL ROCKSTAR”. I mean, COME ON. On most of the songs on this album (with a few exceptions) the lyrics are uninspired and almost insulting in how lazily they were put together. On the beat side, there are some really cool things going on in the album, but nothing that hasn’t been done, and also Kanye didn’t even create them himself. There was an army of writers and producers on this album, yet we give all the credit to kanye. Did is really require SEVEN guys to make the beat for “Send It Up”? No Less than five writers and four producers are credited on any one song. So could we please put this “Genius” thing to rest and be honest with ourselves. I grew up a big Kanye fan and I still will give any of his new stuff a chance, but we try to build him up to be so much bigger than he is just to justify his persona.

            El-P is severely underrated as both a producer and lyricist. I know he’s technically and underground legend, but I feel like he is still just as relevant in today’s hip hop scene as he was ten years ago.

    • Guys, the fact that Kanye made these last minute changes to the album doesn’t mean it was “phoned in”. Sometimes that happens.

      Lots of people are complaining that Yeezus’s status as year’s best should be questioned because these sounds did not originate with Kanye. Which, yes. They did not. But Radiohead didn’t invent their sound on Kid A. Nor did David Bowie invent glam. The thing that sets these artists apart is what they do with these interesing sounds–in short, their instinct for song structure and pop. It’s one thing to push musical boundaries, but it’s another to find a way to make challenging sounds that the people at large will understand and want to hear. Death Grips may have gotten there first, but it’s Black Skinhead that you can actually hear on the radio. And that’s not just because Kanye is Kanye, it’s because the song is magnificent. He’s a master craftsman. As for those of you who are claiming that Kanye doesn’t deserve credit for the beats, I’d point out that he has production credit on every song on the album. Sometimes–sit down, this may astound you–artists collaborate with other artists on their songs. Doesn’t mean he didn’t do the legwork.

      I’d also love those of you who are whining about Ye’s rapping to sit down with me and parse the lyrics of Haim, The Knife, and Chvrhces. Because I’m sure you’re listening intently to every single word, and not letting the bands sweep you up in a compelling world of sound.

      • “Because I’m sure you’re listening intently to every single word, and not letting the bands sweep you up in a compelling world of sound.”

        Except I’m pretty sure if you’re not listening to rap music for people rapping, then you’re doing it wrong. Great bars on a good beat still makes a good song, but great bars on a great beat makes a masterpiece. Sure, beats matter. Sound matters. I like party rap as much as the next 20-something. But when you talk about rap music in specific, lyrics matter most, I think.

        Anyway, taking weird and then watering it down for the radio isn’t groundbreaking. Business savy and super-smart, definitely.

        • I think that’s kind of a limiting idea of what Kanye’s doing. Yes, rap is largely a lyric-based genre, but it’s grown and changed so much since it’s inception that I don’t think we can use that as the only metric for success. What’s more, in the years since 808s I think Kanye has more accurately occupied this weird middle ground between rap and pop and whatever music he’s excited about at the moment. Judging his album by the same criteria as, say, Illmatic isn’t really the right approach. I’m also not sure what part of this ugly, abrasive album is “watered down”. I mean, just listen to I Am A God. This is pretty challenging stuff by any standard.

          • I was not challenged by I Am A God. A rock star like Kanye West titling a song “I Am A God” is challenging those who aren’t used to musicians outright blaspheming.

            I’ll agree that Kanye tries to occupy that weird middle space, but whenever he does try to occupy it, it ends up less than stellar (808s, Yeezus). Rap has grown since the golden age, largely for the better, and there is a new space for rap music that’s got a party priority, but Kanye West wants Yeezus to be seen as a manifesto. That’s hard, because his words aren’t exactly his best this time around.

            Can I judge Yeezus by Illmatic standards? Probably not; Illmatic is a 19-year-old hip hop record that adhered to the consensus of the day. Conscious rappers don’t get much love these days. But Nas obviously has command of language, something which Kanye certainly has in spades, but it’s not shown on Yeezus. For Kanye, Yeezus is a means to the larger end of total global corporate dominance.

          • People are probably so annoyed by this thread.

        • I’d argue hip-hop was never just lyrics. And emphasis on which aspect has always depended on the artist. Loving the lyrical proficiency of Kendrick doesn’t mean I have to see Kanye as a lesser artists and vice versa.

      • “I’d also love those of you who are whining about Ye’s rapping to sit down with me and parse the lyrics of Haim, The Knife, and Chvrhces.” Oh god yes. And I love The Knife! But none of those artists have great lyrics. hell, I’d say they phone it in more than Kanye ever has. But indie rock/pop always gets away with stuff artists like Kanye are constantly called out on.

      • This. So much this. I’ll never understand people complaining about Kanye’s lyrics. I love RTJ, but is Killer Mike rapping about how tough he is or El-P spitting a couple of bars of braggadocio really groundbreaking either? Let’s get real people. We don’t mind that they aren’t rapping about anything new because they rap about it well.

        Lyricism is only part of what makes a good emcee. It’s about flow, it’s about cadence, it’s about charisma and persona; but a good album also needs good production, or at least production that compliments the emcee and provides for the total experience. That’s why DJ’s have always been such an integral part of hip hop (and really the founders of the art in more ways than one) and producers have had an outsized role in hip hop when you compare it to other genres. Part of what makes Kanye’s music great in my opinion is that he understands this. No, he’s not Nas or Mos Def or Common or Rakim or even Kendrick Lamar. He doesn’t spit like that and never has. But he’s charismatic, fairly witty, built up a compelling (if a little ridiculous) persona, a great producer and obviously not afraid of trying new things for *him* in terms of sound.

        • You’re completely right. Except we’re not saying how Kanye approaches rapping isn’t valid as an art, we’re just saying that we think he didn’t do it very well on Yeezus. And I don’t think anyone claimed RTJ is groundbreaking. It’s just really damn masterful at what it’s trying to be. And I’d take masterful execution of the status quo over half-assed visionary efforts all day and every day.

          • I guess this is where we differ, since I don’t think Yeezus is half-assed at all. I also don’t see why people seem so intent on pitting these albums against each other, when, again, they aren’t really trying to do or be the same thing. If verbal pyrotechnics are what you look for in rap, I hear there’s a new Eminem album out there. The thing that frustrates me is that, given the content of this list, it’s highly likely that all of you who are giving Yeezy shit are big fans of at least one big album this year that has REALLY weak lyrics (down on our knees, begging us please, anyone?). It just seems like a bullshit double-standard to me.

            And I continue to be frustrated at those of you who insist that Yeezus is phoned-in or half-assed due to half-remembered stories of the last minute work Rick Rubin did. If Kanye had tinkered with these tunes for a whole year would this be a “full-assed” effort, even if they all sounded the same?

      • Eh, Bowie kind of invented glam…

  3. DEAFHEAVEN!

  4. I’m glad Disclosure is top 5. Because that is correct.

  5. *clicks post

    *makes sure Yeezus is at 1

  6. I feel like even the most die-hard Arcade Fire fan has to admit Reflektor is a huge snore. Somewhere in the top 50, sure. But top 10? C’mon, that’s just lip service at this point.

    • I would have said the same thing a few weeks ago, but every time I listen to it, I find a different song getting stuck in my head, in a good way. It didn’t seem like it at first, but I actually think most of Reflektor is pretty damn catchy.

      The laid-back party groove of “Here Comes the Night Time,” the Smiths-like jangle of “You Already Know,” the Gary Glitter beat and background vocals of “Joan of Arc,” the pure epicness of the title track (which I think is one of the best songs of the year). I really like it.

    • It’s actually my favourite Arcade Fire album since Funeral, and I’d have it easily in my top 5 this year.

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    • agreed – I just couldn’t get excited about it like Funeral or The Suburbs. It felt like there was a story in those two albums that is just not present in the Neon Bible or Reflektor and to me that was what made the other two albums great.

    • The Quietus always has kick ass lists.

    • Thank the lords. A list with teeth. I’m glad someone recognized how great the Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away is.

      Kudos to who ever was responsible for getting Gorguts and Pharmakon on the Stereogum list.

    • With all due respect to the more popular indie mags like Stereogum, Pitchfork and Spin, their tastes can get pretty trendy and conservative, and all end up making lists that share at least 60% of the same artists. I wouldn’t say that the Quietus’ lists ever make a lot of sense in how they choose it’s order (how dare anyone put MBV at #65?!) or why they leave out so much other great music you would think they’d like (Hookworms, Julia Holter, Darkstar, Melt Banana, Doldrums and BoC all come to mind), but their always excellent at exposing readers to stuff they’re not gonna find anywhere else.

      • Agreed. Was very surprised considering how much they like Noise bands such as Wolf Eyes and experimental electronic music. As I am looking at different top lists I am realizing how great this year has been for music. I could make a top fifty list for myself but I don’t think I could put it in any order.

        On that note, I listened to that Fat White Family album they had listed as #5 and am very glad I did. There is barely anything about these guys anywhere online but I hope I hear more about them. I highly recommend them.

      • Also the writing on their site is generally of a much higher quality than the average music blog/zine. Of course that means some people won’t bother to engage, but in a perfect world I think sites like Grantland and the Quietus would be more influential than Pitchfork, where the quality of the music isn’t really as important as an artists’ proximity to the Zeitgeist. You read one to learn what’s cool right now, another if you actually want thoughtful analysis and commentary.

  7. Vampire Weekend gets my vote. Would’ve gone higher with Chvrches.

    Good list.

    Drops the mic.

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  9. No idea what makes Sky Ferreira’s perfectly pleasant but not particularly musically remarkable album one of the top ten of the year, but I’m much more confused about Heartthrob breaking into the top 20 – it’s an okay pop album but it’s also easily Tegan and Sara’s most disposable and no one will remember it a couple years from now. If you really wanted pop representation, Lorde would have been a much more interesting choice.

    Big misses imo include These New Puritans and Foals (who didn’t get nearly enough love for Holy Fire)

    • Oh I also think the new Everything Everything was excellent and deserves to be on every end of the year list but it doesn’t seem to have gained much traction (especially in the American music press) so I’m hardly surprised not to see it

    • Yeah I was listening to Holy Fire today. That album packs an enormous punch.

    • Heartthrob is fantastic. And when you say ‘nobody will remember this album in a few years’ what you really mean is ‘I don’t like this album’. Because you have no actual idea what other people will think of it in a couple of years.

      • where again did I say I didn’t like it? I think “Shock to Your System”, “Closer”, and quite a few other songs on the album are great. My argument is not that it’s a bad album at all, but that it doesn’t do anything particularly interesting and won’t be remembered as one of 2013′s best works by anyone but poptimists who define staying power by things like “hooks per minute” and possible singles (which is fine, but seems a dreadfully narrow way of measuring music to me).

        basically, it would fit more comfortably on a “favorite albums” list than a “best albums” one.

        • All Best Albums lists are Favourite Albums lists.

          I don’t know if it does anything ‘interesting’, what I do know is I really like it. That’s my barometer for music.

          • erm, not really. favorite album lists are personal, and Stereogum isn’t a person – this list is a collaborative effort which allows people to accept their own genre biases, critique their colleague’s lists, then come out with something approaching a “best of” article. a favorite albums list would not have the genre inclusiveness of a more collaborative, “objective” approach.

            I’m perfectly willing to accept that Noah and the Whale’s “First Days of Spring”, which is my favorite album ever, would not be represented on many best album lists (and lots of things that might, like OK Computer, I don’t particularly enjoy).

    • I think Sky Ferreira was an excellent choice ..one of the best albums I heard this year..Kaya West great choice..Love the whole list!!!

  10. Why does every website make me go through a slideshow to read these? It takes forever.

    I see all the albums I liked this year, just not in the order I’d put them in. Apparently I’m the only one who adores the National’s new album. Also, I do not get the Kanye hype.

  11. ovlov’s “am” is sorely missed here.

  12. How is the Queens of the Stone Age album not on this list?

  13. Defiant statement insisting personal opinions are correct. Righteous anger at this arbitrary ranking.

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  15. I’m a little bit disappointed this list isn’t just Government Plates at 50, Matangi at 49, then 47 pictures of Kanye’s face followed by Yeezus at 1.

  16. My thoughts (because I KNOW everyone has been waiting):

    - Surprised to see Phoenix on here. I thoroughly enjoyed the record and it will be making my personal list but I thought the general reaction was sort of “Yeah…it’s what we expected”
    - Haim, CHRVCHES, fucking Sky Ferreira ahead of The National?!?!?! You trippin fools….
    - I was about to say “thank you for making the list DIIV-free” but then I realized they didn’t release anything this year (thankfully). I would also like to take this time to recommend that everyone’s LIFE be DIIV-free as well.
    - My other favorites from this year include: AFI, Sigur Ros, Portugal The Main, Lorde, Fall Out Boy, Jimmy Eat World, Foals, Bastille, Depeche Mode, Jagwar Ma, The Neighbourhood, Fitz and the Tantrums, Queens Of The Stone Age, Franz Ferdinand, Mazzy Star, Bad Religion, The 1975. Anyone else dig those records? No? Ok, just thought I’d ask.

    Hopefully that annoying kid with the swoop haircut comments on this with some idiotic post.

    • Don’t worry, chap. QOTSA and 1975 are both list worthy IMO.

      • You know it’s been a good year when I literally FORGOT Depeche Mode released an album in 2013. Saw them in August and everything too. Delta Machine was great… but in a year that was just so packed with good releases, I dunno if it’d even make my top 50.

        • I feel like Depeche Mode gets unfairly judged on their material post-Alan Wilder leaving. While Ultra and Excited have some of my favorite singles (Barrel Of A Gun, It’s No Good, Dream On) the albums as a whole were quite lacking. However, the last three have been great and the band is on fire live nowadays.

    • QOSTA, FF, Lorde, yes.

      And as someone who loved the first Fitz album, the second one was just miserable to me. I saw them do songs from their new album live, and there just isn’t that same oomph that there was with the first songs. Nobody at that show wanted to hear robot bubblegum pop. 6AM is maybe the only decent track to me, and that song was written back in 2010.

    • Haha, ‘that annoying kid with the swoop haircut’, hate that guy.

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  18. can’t believe “Floating Coffin” isn’t on here at all

    I think just completely slept through this year, musically speaking

  19. Oh shit, Arctic Monkeys missing too. What’s the dillio?

  20. kanye west no1? fuck you and your ears.

  21. Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.
    Government Plates.

    I was literally unable to listen to anything else for the following 72 hours after that album was dropped.

    • Is that nowhere on this list? Inexcusable.

      • Neither is My Name Is My Name. I know this is sacrilege, but it was much more fun to listen to than Yeezus. At least Pusha T still thinks he should be rapping.

        • Yeah I feel like My Name Is My Name was really underrated. I enjoyed it much more than Yeezus or even Old.

        • My Name Is My Name was the greatest rap album of 2013, hands down. Followed by Run The Jewels, Trap Lord, YRN and BOATS 2.

        • I loooove Pusha, and the MNIMN highs are really high, but I count 4-5 songs that are just not good, mostly because of unbearable choruses, that just get worse every time I listen to them. I know the album is already stripped down, but just imagine he scrapped the choruses/features from The Dream, Kevin Cossom, Chris Brown, Kelly Rowland and Big Sean. If he just went with bars over beats for short songs – almost MF Doom style – for those songs, the album would have been incredible. Right now, there’s a lot to skip on the second half before you get to Nosetalgia.

          • Agreed on the choruses, although I think he managed to use Chris Brown tastefully somehow. Even with the bad choruses, though, the good things about MNIMN are just SO GOOD that I feel like the bad stuff is completely offset. That’s true even within a song – No Regrets stands out to me in that respect.

    • I had the same exact affliction. I’m not a Kanye fan, so he wouldn’t even be on my list (I realize it’s a minority opinion), but I think any sane person being objective would agree that GP should be on the same list as Yeezus, if not ahead of it.

  22. I’d have Vampire Weekend at no. 1, seriously already one of my favourite albums of all time, and I feel James Blake is a big omission here. Still, this list just reminded me how great a year it was for music.

  23. Yawn, a very predictable list. So lame. So many other great releases this year. No Ty Segall, Fuzz, Cuntz, Sewers, Living Eyes ??

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  26. Christ…Kanye? Really? When is someone going to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes? Utter nonsense.

    • I just finally listened to a few ‘songs’ from this album. Jesus fucking Christ, has everyone gone insane? Moreso? That ‘bound 2′ shit isn’t even a song, it’s just some untalented fool slur-rapping over samples and terrible, inane beats. And that’s the best one I heard. I’m wondering 1) what the fuck is in everyone’s water supply that they can actually listen to this album without tearing their ears off and 2) how much cash is being shoved down the throats of people who are, with straight faces, recommending it. It’s fucking terrible.

  27. Deafheaven fans, help me out. I’ve never been a huge fan of music with that kind of singing. I like hard stuff, but the extent of the hard stuff I like is Japandroids, the Men, Ty Segall Band, etc. with some Metallica. But when singing gets to screaming/growling territory, I don’t love it.

    How do I get into the Deafheaven album? I want to love it too. I listened to a few tracks and I thought the music was excellent, but it’s tough for me to get into the vocals.

    • If you can’t get into vocals rougher than Hetfield, then it is what it is. And what it is is you missing out on a ton of great music.

    • try approaching it as a really aggressive shoegaze album, with headphones

    • Just focus on the instrumental parts. They practically drown out the vocals anyway.

    • I wouldn’t go that far for me — but I honestly do sort of wish it was an instrumental album, or at least that the screaming was cut down to a minimum rather than soaking practically every moment of the album.

    • I think that the problem is that most people are turned off of extreme vocals because it’s incomprehensible and tuneless, but in my opinion, screaming (especially the earth-shattering kind in Sunbather) is pure emotional expulsion at it’s most grand and primal, making exactly what is said less important than how it’s said. Combine that with the dizzying heights the instrumentals reach on Sunbather and it makes the experience all the more enormous and significant. The vocals, as incomprehensible as they are, add a sort of raw, obliterating power that no other type of normal singing probably could.

      Perhaps approaching the album with that context will make the vocals on Sunbather make a bit more sense

      • I would say the problem lies in its being not sufficiently incomprehensible and tuneless. This is saccharine screaming that is not bold enough to experiment outside the conventions articulated by the worst early 00s screamo band. That said, while I don’t like the vocal style, I like the album.

    • why do you want to love something that you don’t love? it’s ok to say “meh, this sucks”

      • I get your point, but who wouldn’t rather love a piece of music than dislike it, especially if a decent group of people with good-music-taste cred seem to like it?

        • Nope. I’d rather like something because I like it, not so that I fit in with others. There’s no intrinsic reward in liking or learning to like something because people you identify with or respect like that thing.

          I understand giving something a 2nd/3rd chance because of the fact that others you respect like something. An example for me was the National. I just didn’t get it, but knew plenty of people with similar taste to me that love them. I gave ‘em a few more spins but still, for me, they’re as dull and shapeless as old silly putty. But I didn’t nor do I wish that liked/like the National.

          everyone’s tastes are different and that’s a good thing!

          • I don’t think I conveyed my point the way I wanted to… but whatever, I see what you’re saying too. Didn’t mean it as a “fit in” type of thing, more of a “maybe I’m missing something/not hearing something that other people with similar tastes hear,” type of thing.

            Had a similar experience with Disclosure (as well as the National). I WANTED to like Disclosure because it’s different and pretty fresh, just couldn’t.

    • This isn’t really that helpful, but for what its worth I was in the same boat (liked ‘loud’ music, not ‘screaming/growling’ vocals), and couldn’t get into the album until I returned to it several months after the first listen. Something about going into it *knowing* exactly what to expect made me able to appreciate and enjoy the album as a whole.

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    • Passive eh? No statement sounds?

      Have you heard even a snippet of Deafheaven, Kvelertak, Windhand, Gorguts or Carcass?
      All of which feature prominently on this list.

    • Go listen to Savages, who represent a total opposite of what you described.

    • death grips?

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        • If you find it that empty just retreat into your cave of old music you can feel comfortable liking and stop following new music. And why would you listen to 90′s electro-industrial when you could listen to Throbbing Gristle and Coil?

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        • If you’re referring to Tackhead then I can see your argument but otherwise I would suggest chilling out a bit. Don’t get me wrong I agree with some of what you’re saying. Arcade Fire just made another Talking Heads album and everyone is losing their shit and the majority of critical lauding these days goes to the political aspects of groups like The Knife’s new album which is basically Skinny Puppy with gender politics. But there’s something to be said about even digging through the crates in the first place.

        • It must be really cool to have a perfectly complete knowledge of all music ever made. Personally, I will continue to consider Government Plates strange and exciting until you direct me to the specific album it so servilely recreates.

          • I hope that isn’t directed at me. I don’t have the clout or patience to make that kind of a claim. What Death Grips does is take cues from those groups, knowingly or unknowingly, that for me is a pleasant reminder of the cycles of ideas being taken up and played with. It just happens and will happen. Now you can take that another direction and focus on the traditional implications and get huffy really quick, but I don’t think its necessary to spend that much energy on calling out T.S. Eliot for plagiarizing all of The Waste Land. If you like something you’re bound to imitate it at some point or borrow from it or do something with it. Transparency goes both ways.

          • no, toward vfunct

        • As someone who listened to a lot of electro-industrial in the ’90s, I’d vehemently disagree. With Death Grips there is a saturated, bit-crushed quality to the overall sound, and a mania in the sample editing that literally could not even be physically achieved back then. The ‘all music now sucks compared to when I thought it was cool way back when/get off my lawn” sentiment is a real cop-out.

          • I think he has a point. I mean can you really argue that there isn’t any Tackhead or Techno Animal in Death Grips? Sure there’s the technological gap but we’re talking about music. My Life in the Bush of Ghosts could not happen today as it did then but you don’t see body of musicians at large abandoning sampling. And because you’re argument relied so heavily on there not being an extant comparison I think you might have an issue with reconciling My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with “literally could not even be physically achieved back then” due to the process of literally cutting and arranging tape to make that album happen.

          • Death Grips totally sounds like Techno Animal and Atari Teenage Riot.

            It’s only a cop-out when you’re being lazy about listening to new music. But if you study the broader scene, there really is nothing groundbreaking.

            Might as well spend time doing something else instead of wasting it listening to repetitive music.

            Obviously there are 20-something hipsters that have never heard music before 1995, and i’m sure the music scene excites them, but the scene has no appeal to anyone older than that.

    • I’m not surprised your comments rub people the wrong way, but i’m kinda with you, a lot of popular music from this year sounds like it’s been neutered. At least Oneohtrix Point Never’s getting some attention here. Check out the Quietus’s list that was mentioned above, they definitely showcase what i think you might be looking for.

      But don’t take the position of ‘no one’s pushing the envelope anymore’. People always will be, and if you’re not finding what you’re looking for then look harder, rather than getting all self righteous about how things were so much better in your glory days.

      • If people were actually pushing the state-of-the-art, then people will actually remember the work as iconic. It would be massively popular. They will be talking about the music YEARS from now.

        As it stands, everything here will be immediately forgotten. (and I even like a lot of the albums.)

        I think it’s because production has become so cheap and formulaic, that people don’t bother to bring something new.

        There will be no Madonna or Michael Jackson anymore of music. There will be no iconic band. You aren’t going to be able to go into a bar and start singing a son everyone knows and have everyone sing along, even for the biggest pop hits. It’s just not going to happen.

        Music has become something for geeks only, which is horrible.

        You can’t just be creative in music. You also have to make a cultural impact to matter.

        • Is it really that bad that there won’t be any Madonnas or Michael Jacksons? What is your idea of state-of-the-art? Since you seem to know so much, how about you produce music? Oh, wait. Your music would be trash? Pretty much.

      • Meanwhile, the only people that care about music these days are 20-something hipster kids, who have never heard music before.

  29. i’m in agreement with a lot of those. i probably couldn’t put together a top 50 of all the records i’ve heard this year, but definitely a top 10 with any of those – chvrches at #1

    i realize icona pop was probably excluded on the basis of top 40 radio play, but i really grooved on that whole record

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    • Not sure why you keep getting downvoted, I agree this list is missing The World Is a Beautiful Place, Daylight, and B&C along with Touche Amore, Defeater, Pity Sex and Diarrhea Planet.

      • It’s bizarre how much this post is getting downvoted. It’s like “Hey guys, here are some pretty sweet albums” and everyone is like “No way. Fuck you. YEEZUS!!”

    • 300 —> Roman Numeral —> CCC —> Cool, Calm, Collected

      You’re welcome.

  31. Where the fuck is Baths?

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  33. you forgot Mikal Cronin.

  34. So the Hebronix album is “rad” but not enough to make the list? Please. If that Yuck album made the list, the Hebronix album should be on it and at least several places higher.

  35. 10 honorable mentions from me in alphabetical order:

    A Great Big Pile Of Leaves – You’re Always On My Mind
    Bars Of Gold – Wheels
    Buke & Gase – General Dome
    Dungeonesse – Dungeonesse
    Hebronix – Unreal
    Milosh – Jet Lag
    Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond
    Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
    Torres – Torres
    Way Yes – Tog Pebbles

    …And an advance shout-out for Migos #YRN2.

  36. There was too much good stuff for a 50 records list to cover everything. Other good ones: Mount Eerie, Dean Wareham, Mount Kimbie, Islands, Luke Temple, Gold Panda, Holograms, Franz Ferdinand, Bleached, Blouse, Eleanor Friedberger, Minks, and pretty much everything Slumberland Records released.

  37. Why doesn’t anybody like DJ Koze’s album as much as I do?

  38. Hmmmm, interesting list, not really all that surprised though. QOTSA and James Blake are obvious omissions (to me at least). Muchacho is pretty low as well, and of course I’d put KV much higher. The order below 25 isn’t really an order as much as an “Also a Top 50 Album” grouping, but that’s just the nature of big lists. I’m curious as to the reader’s poll list… I’d imagine it’s rather similar.

    Also Mikal Cronin.

    Also Local Natives.

  39. Let me start this off my not reading the list and complaining. Because #1 should not be #1 – it should be #12 AT MOST. #23 should be #1 and #35 is also totally underrated (then again, people are over that genre and stereogum is nothing if not a populist).

    Rap is dead, metal is dead, what does ‘indie’ mean? Hip-hop is thriving but can it survive in such a niche environment? Pop is back because synth is king. Guitars are out unless they’re walls of sound, or used ironically, or non-ironically but in a 70′s style. The entire music industry is useless and is dead and is also thriving and an incredible reflection of our fragmented, hyper-connected world. 2013 is, was, and will forever be the best and worst year in music EVER.

    • Monomania at #1 ? No way.

      I’m going to finally get this off my chest. I’ve been madly in love with Deerhunter since Cryptograms. That love only grew and grew with each release. Even the Atlas Sound & Lotus Plaza albums received heavy rotation from me each year they came out. I was more than prepared to listen to Monomania over and over and over again this year.

      But I didn’t. The Deerhunter I knew and love is gone. I love Bradford Cox to death, but Monomania may as well be a Bradford Cox solo project (not even worthy of the Atlas Sound moniker). HE tried something new with their sound, not Deerhunter. I mean the man responsible for “Nothing Ever Happened” left the band. The man responsible for some of the biggest highlights on “Halcyon Digest” gets reduced to a one song contribution.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly listenable album. You could even toss out the argument that if this album was released by a new band it would’ve gone over better. But as a longtime fan of Deerhunter, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and let down with Monomania. Needs more Lockett or straight up needs more collaboration. I realize that’s sort of the whole point of the record, that it’s all about Bradford. But that really cuts off Deerhunter at the legs and cuts out a lot of what made this band my absolute favorite for MANY years.

      • On one hand I actually think Monomania is my favorite album this year, but as a Deerhunter album that would normally be half-filled with Lockett songs it really doesn’t satisfy that need, so I’m left wanting more. Who knows if they’ll be back with another album in 2-3 years, and who knows if Bradford will dominate that one too.

        Still, everything about this album worked for me. Maybe I found it easier to accept the album this way because I listened to Cryptograms and Microcastle much more after Monomania than before.

        Also I think Hartford’s post was a joke and the numbers are arbitrary and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m alone in thinking Monomania is #1.

      • I get this argument but isn’t it a great album on its own merits? The stretch of songs from “Pensacola” to “Monomania” is probably the best run on any album this year, and I honestly found the sole Pundt number kind of… limp. It feels totally out of place in the album’s context. I dunno, I just always find it kind of problematic when someone’s biggest criticism of a record is that the band didn’t make the record you wanted them to make.

        • Well I sort of feel foolish now that Hartford did grab numbers at random. Either way, I’m going to run with it because Deerhunter still is one of my favorite bands so this topic seems ripe for discussion.

          For what it’s worth, “Cryptograms” and “Microcastle / Weird Era. Cont.” were my #1 albums of 2007 and 2008. “Halcyon Digest” took a little longer to… uh… digest, but I eventually came around to it. For all I know, I still need more listens to come around to “Monomania” but deep down I know I could never love it as much as their previous albums.

          So to address your final sentence, I agree that criticism is problematic, but it doesn’t really apply to me personally. As a fan of Liars and Animal Collective, I’m totally fine with a band switching up the formula and trying something new from album to album. So that’s not the problem. I address the problem in my original post:

          It seems that even members of Deerhunter didn’t want to make “Monomania” as witnessed by Josh leaving the band. All I ever want from a band is an album that the BAND is happy with, because then fuck all what I think, right? So with “Monomania” when I see what used to be a powerful collaboration of talented musicians turn into The Bradford Cox Show, I think that’s reason to be disappointed.

          Now, I wasn’t alive in the 70s, but I’d think some people maybe felt the same way when Roger Waters started handling more of the songwriting duties as opposed to collaborating with his talented band mates. This comparison is especially apt for me, because one of the reasons I got into Deerhunter was because they were a badass psychedelic band, as that’s what I was into at the time. I’m STILL into psychedelic music, and I’m afraid that side of Deerhunter was marginalized on “Monomania” in favor of straightforward songwriting. Again, nothing wrong with that, but I feel they stopped doing something they do INCREDIBLY well. “Octet” is one of my favorite songs EVER and after seeing them live, these guys can JAM if they want.

          So sure, maybe that block of text can also be summed up with “they didn’t make the record I wanted them to make.” I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying they can do a lot better working together.

          • From what I understand Josh left the band for his own personal reasons. And I also heard that the recording sessions for “Monomania” were some of the best of the band’s career. Like every individual band member has commented how cohesive the whole recording experience was. Sure Bradford wrote a ton of songs by himself before they even recorded the album, but the band surely came together and decided what should be recorded and included for the finished product. So you don’t like “Monomania” as much as their previous records, I get it. But don’t blame it on Bradford. I think it was a definite group effort, and I think it especially translated well seeing them play the material live. And just F.Y.I. Deerhunter is probably my favorite band and “Monomania” is definitely in my top ten list, but it’s certainly not number one.

          • Halcyon Digest is an amazing, totally different, less consistent but I think overall better album. So… agreed.

        • I completely agree with you there. The album really hits an amazing groove toward the middle. Especially the sequencing of “T.H.M.” to “Sleepwalking” to “Back to the Middle.” And “Pensacola” is probably one of Deerhunter’s best songs. The album is definitely a little underrated.

      • For the record, I hadn’t actually looked at the list yet and was just making things up. But yea, it’s in my top ten.

    • Glad I’m not the only one who thought Monomania was the best album this year! I honestly think it was massively misunderstood and hope it gets reevaluated down the line,

  40. I like Cassie on here, and Blood Orange and Tegan and Sara up as high as they are. So much to choose from this year but I think the top 50 has room for Toro y Moi and UMO. Worried those ones got released too early to be a big presence on year end lists. I loved those albums. And I hate to lobby for people who couldn’t need it less, but I’d move JT and Drake both into the top 20. This must have been a difficult year to listify though.

  41. the best thing about this list is the ads that show up over the album covers.

  42. I’m gonna get shit for this but I don’t think Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” is a great album. It’s a really, really, really good album but it never achieves the heights to call it great or at least worthy of the 3rd best album of the year.

    • it’s their best album by a long shot

      • I agree with this massively but was also not too keen at all on their first two albums so just because it is their best doesn’t mean it’s spectacular

        • I mean, if you just straight up don’t like VW its hard to imagine that you’d find anything they put out “spectacular.” Or do you think that you have to personally find an album spectacular for it to be spectacular?

      • I agree it’s their best album and I really like the first two as well. I just don’t think it’s a great, monumental piece of work.

        • Fair enough. It’s a standout to me. I wouldn’t have predicted I’d return so often to a third VW album in a year with so much to listen to; the song craft is enough to push it high up on the list of remarkable albums.

        • Just curious, what are some albums you do think of as “monumental”?

          I can see how VW might not strike you as being monumental because it has a kind of lightness and breeziness about it. But the songs have a lot of depth, melodically, rhythmically, and lyrically! It’s just like, if your favorite movies are like epics or blockbusters or super intense dramas you might find a movie by Woody Allen or Wes Anderson a bit lacking in monumental-ness, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s own, more subtle rewards to be paid out in the long-run.

        • BTW I am not downvoting your comment because I like talking things out like grown-ups :)

  43. No Death Grips, Fuck Buttons, or Majical Cloudz? Boooooo.

  44. So the new Barenaked Ladies must’ve been 51, then?

  45. Listen to TV Ghost – Disconnect, Odonis Odonis – Hollandaze, The Black Angels – Indigo Meadow, Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique, and Night Beats – Sonic Bloom for some music that seems to be flying directly under the radar.

  46. future of the left.

  47. Tim Hecker, please.

    • It’s been a good year and a lot of albums could conceivably end up on a year-end list, but I have a hard time understanding how Virgins wouldn’t make it.

  48. No Pusha? :(

    My top picks were Haim, Kanye, Chance and Janelle, so no other complaints here. As long as something made the list, I’m good. Nobody will ever be able to agree with an order.

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