The 30 Best Albums of 2013 — So Far

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Last week, we put up our list of our 30 favorite songs of the year, so far. And this week, we’re continuing the half-year survey of our 2013 favorites with a list of our 30 favorite albums of the year to date. We’ll do this all over again in December, after we’ve had a chance to spin the offerings of quarters three and four, but for now, the year’s on track to be overflowing with great music.

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and InjuryAltar of PlaguesTeethed Glory and Injury
(Profound Lore)
Buy at Insound

Altar of Plagues is, for all intents and purposes, a black metal band. But the Irish group also doesn’t seem too concerned with everything that entails. On their third album, they mix elegance with brutality, and with an avant garde sensibility. It’s more than rock, metal or otherwise — it’s art. – JT

God Alone

2_12_Autre Ne VeutAutre Ne Veut Anxiety
(Software/Mexican Summer)
Buy at Insound

The ‘10s have been overflowing with innovation and experimentation in R&B, so it only figures that the first R&B record released on Oneohtrix Point Never’s label was bound to be a little left-field. Autre Ne Veut definitely bring some sexy jams, but with synth-heavy atmosphere, as if these late-nite grooves were beamed in from the future. – JT

Play by Play

James Blake - OvergrownJames BlakeOvergrown
Buy at Insound

The electronic balladeer turns in his most song-oriented record to date and the results are superb. From the soaring “Retrograde” to the disorienting “Digital Lion,” the album is a stirring collection and a logical next step for the singer/producer. – CK


Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's HarvestBoards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
Buy at Insound

For all the publicity stunts and outrageously expensive Record Store Day vinyl that teased the release of Boards of Canada’s new album, it at least sounded pretty damn amazing once it finally got here. An abstract end-times soundtrack of woozy, spectral synths and gorgeous soundscapes, it’s exactly the album we needed from Boards of Canada. – JT

Reach for the Dead

David Bowie - The Next DayDavid BowieThe Next Day
Buy at Insound

Consciously or otherwise (the cover suggests the former), Bowie draws from the templates he used in the ‘70s and weds them with a set of songs filled with the chaos, violence, resignation and languor of today. It’s been literally decades since the elements of surprise and discovery were so thrilling on a Bowie offering. When he sings, “My father ran the prison/But I am a seer, I am a liar,” it’s a jolt that puts his entire career in perspective. The Next Day is how you pull off a proper comeback album; its success is twice as sweet because it was so unforeseeable. – PP

The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

Buke and Gase - General DomeBuke and GaseGeneral Dome
Buy at Insound

Anyone who made a New Year’s Resolution to disown any and all music made with ukuleles likely broke it pretty quickly with the release of Buke and Gase’s dynamite second album General Dome. The Brooklyn duo Frankensteins their own mutant instruments, including a bass ukulele (hence ‘buke’), but the end result is an art rock noise storm that falls somewhere between Deerhoof and Jawbox. Translation: It rules. – JT


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky AwayNick Cave and the Bad SeedsPush the Sky Away
(Bad Seed Ltd.)
Buy at Insound

After nearly 30 years with the Bad Seeds, Nick Cave hasn’t run out of good ideas. Even at his most quietly ominous, he’s a commanding figure, which becomes all the more obvious in their live shows. Push the Sky Away is classic Cave, brooding, brutal and beautiful. – JT

Jubilee Street

Charli XCX - True RomanceCharli XCXTrue Romance
Buy at Insound

The UK singer’s first full-length comes across almost as a greatest hits collection, pulling together a good portion of her official output from the past two years along with a handful of new songs. Although not every song is as strong as “Stay Away,” “Nuclear Seasons” or “You’re the One,” more often than not she hits pop gold. – CK

You (Ha Ha Ha)

Mikal Cronin - MCIIMikal CroninMCII
Buy at Insound

A onetime member of the Ty Segall Band, San Francisco singer-songwriter Mikal Cronin has earned his garage rock cred, but he’s even better at crafting hook-laden power pop gems. Merge debut MCII is a stellar showcase for his pop sensibility, with just enough fuzz for the rockers. – JT


Deafheaven - SunbatherDeafheavenSunbather
(Deathwish Inc.)
Buy at Insound

Sunbather is heavy — this much is not in dispute. But beyond that, there’s nothing expected or cliché about San Francisco metal act Deafheaven’s second album. They find beauty in unexpected places, and weight in even more unexpected ones. With this album, people might talk less about how “br00tal” black metal is, but rather how graceful it can be. – JT

Dream House

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