Best of 2013

In lieu of rank and file list that relies on tallying votes and crunching numbers, we thought DOA’s readers might simply be interested in a smaller selection of our truly favorite albums of 2013.  Here is a selection of the best of 2013, according to our writers:

Thee Oh Sees - Floating Coffin

Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin (Castle Face)

Whilst John Dwyer’s equally prolific protégé-turned-peer Ty Segall also put out two more creditable albums across 2013 (with the sublime solo acid-folk flavoured Sleeper and the eponymous debut from psyche-grunge trio Fuzz), it was the clear that the best record to burst from the febrile San Francisco garage-rock scene emanated from Thee Oh Sees. Although Dwyer and co. sustained the melodic drive of 2012’s terrific The Putrifiers II, a sleeker – yet no less grittily-applied – sense of groove also came along for Floating Coffin. Serving a menu resplendent with fried Nuggets primitivism, seared Krautrock careening, deep-stewed psychedelia, boiled VU chugging and marinated Pavement slacker-rock, this fantastic long-player captures Thee Oh Sees in rapture-inducing peak condition. Only Blank Realm’s rambunctious Go Easy LP (given its belated UK release in 2013) has come close to such visceral majesty in recent times. — Adrian P.

1984 – Influenza

1984 – Influenza

1984Influenza (Deaf Rock Records)

It’s time to take a trip back to 1984 and discover the best French rock album of 2013. Frontman Etienne Nicolini sings in English, he and his bandmates Kevin Matz and Thomas Figenwald sound British, and their extremely infectious album Influenza was produced by Steven Ansell and Laura-Mary Carter (AKA the British band Blood Red Shoes). This vivid, feverish album is all killer, no filler, and crammed with solidly crafted melodic rock songs. The band members are masters of quiet vs. loud dynamics and know when to lay low and when to explode. Each note and tone is in its right place and the sometimes repetitive, short-phrase lyrics reward with a piquant, deeper meaning. The rallying sweep of Etienne’s emotive exclamations mirrors the high energy, post-punk sonics and anthemic, chanting choruses. You can’t go wrong with any song off the album. — Jen Stratosphere

Ayreon – The Theory of Everything

Ayreon – The Theory of Everything

AyreonThe Theory of Everything (InsideOut Music)

As the reigning king of progressive metal operas, Arjen Anthony Lucassen is often considered a musical genius, and with his latest Ayreon album, The Theory of Everything (the follow-up to 2008’s under-appreciated 01011001), is another complex and catchy epic. There are several aspects that make this one a unique entry in the Ayreon legacy (namely, its organization, conceptual continuity, and affective segues). Its seamless flow and thematic reprisals make it utterly brilliant, and although it doesn’t quite match its two immediate predecessors, it comes very close, which makes it a remarkable new start for the Ayreon name. — Jordan Blum

The Civil Wars - The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars

The Civil WarsThe Civil Wars (Columbia)

It’s so disappointing that the sophomore release from The Civil Wars arrived right at the time the duo decided to go their separate ways. On their debut, Barton Hollow, it seemed the pair was a perfect match. Joy Williams’ angelic voice alongside John Paul White’s guitar and Southern drawl tinged vocals fit their songs expertly. Maybe it was just too good? While The Civil Wars has a few songs that need repeat listening before they settle in, there’s a handful of stunners that set the tone. Opener “The One That Got Away” could easily speak to the discord within the group, “I never meant to get us in this deep, I never meant for this to mean a thing.” The intensity continues with “I Had Me a Girl”, where White busts out some smoking electric guitar next to sultry, sexy lyrics about a girl who taught him to “pray”. Although the future of the Civil Wars is hazy, their self-titled album is deeply intense and could just be the strongest break-up record in years.  — Jenn O’Donnell

Shadow Of The Torturer - Dronestown

Shadow Of The Torturer – Dronestown

Shadow Of The Torturer – Dronestown (Self-Released)

Released in April, this two track 40 minute opus is Doom at it’s finest. Dronestown focuses on the 1978 mass suicide of 909 people under the guise of religious cult leader Jim Jones. “Indianapolis/Ukiah” begins slow, with a synth undertone that reverberates throughout, humming its way into the depths of your soul. Mikey Brown’s vocals never reach that of a whisper until the last few minutes of this 19 minute eye-opening jaunt. “We Are A Righteous People/Guyana” is terrifying in its simplicity. The song contains snippets from the actual audio recording made during the People’s Temple suicide on November 18, 1978. If you know the full story about this tragedy, Dronestown provides a haunting narrative. — Brad Tilbe

Magic Trick - River of Souls

Magic Trick – River of Souls

Magic TrickRiver of Souls (Empty Cellar Records)

There are some things that can’t be faked. Tim Cohen knows where the emotional weight of a song lies and isn’t bashful about milking it for all its worth. Recorded in The Tree House, his attic studio, River of Souls combines retro grooves with heavenly female backing vocals and Western guitar lines. It is an unobtrusive record that manages to make subtle musical and lyrical statements without coming across as preachy or pretentious. — Mike Olinger

Oliver Wilde - A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears

Oliver Wilde – A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears

Oliver WildeA Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears (Howling Owl Records)

Having slowly been coaxed into the open world by the benevolent and fast-rising Bristol label, Howling Owl, Oliver Wilde delivered one of 2013’s most arresting and promising debut albums. A Brief Introduction To Unnatural Lightyears feels like a work-in-progress affair in the very best sense; documenting an artist showcasing an array of diverse yet cohesively connected fledgling ideas, ripe for future exploration and finesse. From balmy layered folktronic ballads dually indebted to Sparklehorse and Four Tet, via dreamy bedroom-birthed fuzz-pop drawing from James McNew’s Yo La Tengo side-project Dump as much as Atlas Sound’s Bedroom Databank series and through dizzying MBV vs. Animal Collective mash-ups, Wilde skilfully honoured his influences whilst finding us reasons to believe he’ll transcend them with ease on album number two, already earmarked for release in early-2014. — Adrian P.

New Politicians – Drag a City EP

New Politicians – Drag a City EP

New PoliticiansDrag a City EP (Self-Released)

This recently-formed, NJ-based, post-punk quartet has only two self-released EPs (Alpha Decay in March and Drag a City in November) to its name, but the band has already gained a loyal fanbase and critical acclaim for its live performances and captivating EPs. Renal Anthony (vocalist/guitarist), Gian Cortese (guitarist/vocalist), Winston Mitlo (bassist), and new addition Chris Cox (drummer) create a restless atmosphere that is at once exciting and contemplative. A brooding mood of metropolitan malaise hangs fittingly over Drag a City. The ghost of Interpol unintentionally, but welcomingly, floats through the EP’s four tracks. Renal’s vivid to enigmatic lyrics and Paul Banks-like vocal tone, the bright, ringing guitars, and loping pace of the drums all recall the best of Interpol. — Jen Stratosphere

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings)

With the final installment in Vampire Weekend boyhood trilogy, the preppy indie pop outfit sought to produce a much more textured and experimental record. The resulting songs exhibit a craftsman like approach that was not evident on their initial offerings. One of the keys to the album’s success comes from band member Rostam Batmanglij, who has emerged as the sonic tastemaker of the group, co-producing and arranging with a masterful flair. — Mike Olinger

Steven Wilson - The Raven that Refused to Sing

Steven Wilson – The Raven that Refused to Sing

Steven WilsonThe Raven that Refused to Sing (Kscope Records)

Steven Wilson’s various projects (especially Porcupine Tree) have catapulted him into the forefront of contemporary progressive rock, and his relatively new solo career is off to an equally promising start. His third record, The Raven That Refused to Sing, is significantly more cohesive, original, and intricate (which is due in part to its enclosure of jazz fusion) than its two precursors. Opening piece “Luminol” is likely the best instrumental Wilson has ever created, while “The Watchmaker” is packed with multifaceted genius. The title track (which closes the record) is also stunningly sorrowful; it will stay with you forever. In the end, The Raven proves to be another masterpiece; in fact, it’s as good as anything else he’s done. — Jordan Blum

Queens Of The Stone Age – Like Clockwork…

Queens Of The Stone Age – Like Clockwork…

Queens Of The Stone AgeLike Clockwork… (Matador)

Master craftsman Josh Homme, his band cohorts, and assorted guest artists (Trent Reznor! Elton John!) have forged a ruminative to rousing melodic rock record that jumps between, and sometimes melds, carefree, 70s-inflected groovers, rollicking collaborations, and reflective balladry. Lyrically, Like Clockwork… is Josh’s meditation upon mortality and survival. These deep themes run like blood most notably through two standout tracks; the emotionally fragile “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” and the haunting, but stirring epic “I Appear Missing”. Other highlights include the lyrics-jammed, insouciant to serious, cool cruiser “If I Had a Tail”, the cocky strut of “Smooth Sailing”, the trippy “I Sat by the Ocean” with Josh’s airy vocal flourishes that match the sonic astral ascension, and the more aggressive rock of “My God Is the Sun”. — Jen Stratosphere

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City

The first album is Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend. Because sometimes all a band has to do is release more of the same material. Modern Vampires of the City is jam packed with the classic upbeat rock that we have come to like from Ezra Koening and his companions. The first song “Unbelievers” may be an unexpected (but nevertheless great) opener; it’s only uphill from there. Vampire Weekend grabs total hold of your attention and doesn’t let go until Batmanglij plays the last notes of “Young Lion” on his piano. From the joyful “Unbelievers” and the vocal play in “Diane Young” to the entertainingly inaudible vocals in “Worship you” and the spooky synths in “Hudson”. Vampire Weekend was expected to deliver, and deliver they did. — Jasper Croonen

Set And Setting - Equanimity

Set And Setting – Equanimity

Set And Setting – Equanimity (Science of Silence Records)

Hailing from St. Petersburg, Florida, this five piece instrumental group are downright thunderous, possessing moments of tranquility and beauty. Taking influences from a wide range of genres, Equanimity builds with intensity, coupled with overwhelming and heartfelt rhythm. One can picture black and white landscapes, glistening off a bright yellow sun. There’s also a darker side to the record, one of terrible loss and regret. The mood of this record encapsulates all spectrums of human emotion. Equanimity is welcoming, warm, and full of tragedy. It’s a listening experience one soon won’t forget.  — Brad Tilbe

Dog Society - Emerge

Dog Society – Emerge

Dog Society – Emerge (Self-Released)

This is the first collection of songs Dog Society has released in over a decade. The aptly titled new album finds the band in great form, re-energizing their grunge roots with a sharp indie sensibility. Co-produced by Rob Schnaapf and Tom Rothrock (Beck, Elliot Smith), Emerge showcases the group’s visceral dynamics while stirring up a whirlwind of raw psychedelic rock that becomes more compelling with each listen.
— Mike Olinger

Anathema – Universal

Anathema – Universal

AnathemaUniversal (Kscope Records)

Liverpudlian rockers Anathema have had one of the most diverse careers in modern music, and their last two records, We’re Here Because We’re Here and its spiritual sibling, Weather Systems, are easily their most emotionally striking and elegant. Honestly, I’d rank them (especially Weather Systems) among the greatest records I’ve ever heard. Naturally, the group wanted to celebrate their work in front of a live audience, and that’s exactly what Universal captures. Featuring plenty of songs from those two records, as well as a host of older material, Universal acts as a lovely retrospective on the band’s career. In addition, the songs are given an extra boost thanks to Bulgaria’s Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, whose strings make the tracks even more regale and powerful. — Jordan Blum

Suede – Bloodsports

Suede – Bloodsports

SuedeBloodsports (Sony)

The British band Suede, led by frontman Brett Anderson, has made a triumphant return (minus original member Bernard Butler) after a decade’s absence from the music scene. Bloodsports could have been a tired retread, but is instead an inspired reemergence of the band’s signature sound and vision. Ravishingly melancholic missives rub sophisticated shoulders with elegant, world-weary ballads and unadulteratedly enthusiastic, melodic rockers alike. Brett is in fine vocal fettle, leaping agilely over the anthemic “Barriers” along with a cantering beat and wiry guitar twangs. The on-target “Hit Me” dazzles with a punchy, glorious chorus of ascending, airy vocals from Brett and sizzling guitar line from Richard Oakes. A poignant surprise comes in the form of the hymn-like implorations of “What Are You Not Telling Me”. The lingering longing of “Sometimes I Feel I’ll Float Away” lasts well after the captivating song’s end. — Jen Stratosphere

Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple

Mount Moriah – Miracle Temple

Mount MoriahMiracle Temple (Merge)

I discovered Mount Moriah’s Miracle Temple by accident while googling a Philadelphia area cemetery by the same name. Miracle Temple was released early in 2013 and it’s slow burning songs are still revealing their secrets months later. The North Carolina base band is fronted by Heather McEntire, whose lyrics and voice steal the show. This woman could be singing almost anything and it would still be mesmerizing. That’s not to say the musicians are lacking in any way—the band’s meanderings are the perfect backdrop to McEntire’s vocals. “Miracle Temple Holiness” may be the only soulful, bluesy song of recent memory to make use of the term  “B-Boy pose” to good effect. Keep your attention on Mount Moriah as their third album will likely be just as wonderful as their second.
— Jenn O’Donnell