Best of 2013: Best albums of 2013

Our Music team rounds up the year's choicest releases, including LPs from breakout pop stars, resurgent metal titans, country songbirds and, oh yeah, some guy named Kanye West.

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Sophie Harris's top 10 albums of 2013

  • 10. James Blake, Overgrown

    From super fashionable, feted dubstep producer to Grammy-nominated star, Londoner Blake has retained one constant strand in his music: a sense of repetition as mantra, a pathway to something really sublime. Overgrown was a moody delight.

  • 9. Billy Bragg, Tooth & Nail

    The Bard of Barking (Bragg’s British hometown) released his most intimate and warm album yet; the sweet, soft songs on Tooth & Nail affirmed his status as “the Sherpa of heartbreak” (a nickname from a fan). I was lucky enough to talk to Bragg about the record (and, of course, politics) here.

  • 8. Earl Sweatshirt, Doris

    Part three of the Odd Future success story (after Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean), Sweatshirt’s major-label debut showed him to be equal parts mysterious like Frank and gross teenager à la Tyler. Doris has a dark, easy swing to it; says Sweatshirt, “I’m just trying to make pretty music.”

  • 7. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

    Observing Vampire Weekend’s evolution as a group is a little like watching John Hughes movies over the years and seeing one’s own character identifications shift; in short, Ezra Koenig and crew have grown up enough to deliver lines like “Wisdom’s a gift, but you’d trade it for youth” (“Step”) with some knowing, while staying young enough to make music that moves the hips and heart.

  • 6. Arcade Fire, Reflektor

    This concept-driven double album is overblown in places, and even lyrically lazy in spots (with lines like “Down on my knees, begging you please”)—but when Mr. and Mrs. Arcade Fire and their Montreal crew get it right, the results are glitter-ball dazzling. And yes: bongos.

  • 5. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park

    At last, a country record that doesn’t sound like it was designed to make money, appeal to a certain audience or have its singer tagged as the new Loretta Lynn. The fact that it achieved all these things in 2013 anyway was a testament to the crisp brilliance of its oh-so-real songs.

  • 4. Devendra Banhart, Mala

    The lead single from Banhart’s latest offering is named after 10th-century nun and mystic Saint Hildegard von Bingen, which gives you an idea of Mala’s eclectic scope—but not necessarily of its grooviness and gorgeousness. Try the title for that: It translates as “darling” in Serbian, the native tongue of Banhart’s photographer fiancé.

  • 3. Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap

    This was a big year for the 20-year-old Chicago MC, who offered this outrageously sweet, weird, hooky confection: a trip that includes an ode to his grandma (who berates him for smelling of cigarettes) alongside the year’s louchest love song.

  • 2. Phosphorescent, Muchacho

    Man, Matthew Houck can really make you feel blue—and the Alabama song man did just that on his fifth album as Phosphorescent, only this time mixing it with spacy sweetness and ecstatic disco. Qué hombre.

  • 1. Kanye West, Yeezus

    There’s a reason why we spent more time talking about Yeezus than any other record in 2013: because it was the best album released this year—and in recent memory. Read Lou Reed’s beautifully written assessment (thetalkhouse.com/reviews/view/lou-reed), or just revel in the madness of the “Bound 2” video, and realize that you will never truly understand Mr. West—nor do you want to.

10. James Blake, Overgrown

From super fashionable, feted dubstep producer to Grammy-nominated star, Londoner Blake has retained one constant strand in his music: a sense of repetition as mantra, a pathway to something really sublime. Overgrown was a moody delight.

Listen to the top tracks from Sophie Harris's best albums of 2013 on Spotify



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