Best of 2013: The most underrated and overrated albums
Kanye West, Haim, Savages got a lot of love this year. Far too much, actually. We'd rather shine some light on Bibio, Veronica Falls, Ciara and more.
1/105. Arcade Fire ReflektorReflektor isn't a bad album, unlike the others that will show up on this list, merely decent. The Canadians looked to dub and disco for inspiration and managed to make a record you can't dance to.More deserving: British Sea Power has always been better than Arcade Fire at being Arcade Fire, and its latest, Machineries of Joy, might be its best yet. Franz Ferdinand continued to fuse disco and rock with far hookier, boogier results. And there was�
2/105. Shout Out Louds OpticaIt's no secret the Swedes write pop music as well as they protect automobile drivers and pickle fish. This Stockholm outfit started a decade ago, in the wake of Phoenix and the Strokes. In 2013, the five have perfected its craft with snow-blind synthesizers and bright melancholy. So many acts in 2013 mined the '80s, but none struck me with the emotional impact of the Shouts.Instead of: Arcade Fire, CHVRCHES
3/104. Deafheaven SunbatherDespite what music writers and popular hamburger joints tell you, you don't have to listen to metal. Nobody is impressed by your endurance through "brutal" records. Thanks to pink packaging and emo influences, Sunbather was the metal album for people who don't care about metal. I suspect true heshers sought out harder, more hirsute acts.More deserving:When it came heavy, the Flaming Lips reminded me of their chutzpah and brilliance with The Terror, an album honestly staring death in its face and the band's best since The Soft Bulletin.
4/104. Ciara CiaraUntil Beyonc� dropped her bombshell, its was a down year for our pop divas. Katy rediscovered her Xtian roots, Gaga delivered inane lyrics over immediately stale EDM beats. In R&B, I enjoyed Kelly Rowland, the Weeknd and John Legend, but all fell a bit short. Yet Ciara quietly keep up her streak of delicious joints for the club and bedroom. The ubiquitous Mike WiLL Made It crafted the stellar "Body Party," four minutes of breathy, sexy heaven.Instead of: Some people have seriously put Miley Cyrus's Bangerz on their top-whatever lists. C'mon.
5/103. Savages Silence YourselfWhile this fourpiece has perfected the art of the moody press photograph, Savages were otherwise ripping off the post-punk that previously hyped bands were ripping off a decade ago. In other words, She Wants Revenge is looking for revenge. Jehnny Beth does a poor Siouxsie Sioux impression over glossy angst rock. Just lighten up and allow yourself to listen to Paramore, people.More deserving: Iceage, Joy Formidable
6/103. Har Mar Superstar Bye Bye 17Stop thinking of him as Ron Jeremy lookalike in tighty-whiteys. Retro-soul has been done to death-now its practitioners have largely moved into the blue-eyed gloss of Hall & Oates-but Sean Tillmann added new wrinkles to that dusty analog sound with timeline-distorting keyboards. Also, the dude can legitimately sing the shit out of some soul.Instead of:Some endlessly mine '60s rock to universal acclaim, like Foxygen. So why is it passe to go Motown?
7/10Photograph: Christopher Polk2. Kanye West YeezusRemember back in June, when this record came out and how everyone was underwhelmed? What the hell happened in the six months since? This year was loaded with great music, and somehow this batshit bullshit topped most best-of lists. Aside from three or four great songs, Yeezus turned water into whine with sloppy production and cringe-worthy lyrics about dicks and gold. Kanye used to pen some of my favorite couplets. Now he talks about eating Asian pussy with sweat and sour sauce. So, yeah, still some work to do before more people than just Kanye start comparing Kanye to Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.More deserving:West can still be the best producer in hip-hop when he wants to be, as heard on the genuinely tough Pusha T record, My Name Is My Name, the top mainstream rap LP of 2013.
8/102. Bibio Silver WilkinsonStephen Wilkinson balances the organic and electronic with stunningly gorgeous results, melding Nick Drake with Boards of Canada. Though ostensibly an electronic musician, he can do this with little more than his voice and guitar. He treats a sampler as a folk instrument. This, his third album for Warp, was partially recorded in his garden, as evidenced by the subtle sample of snapping shears on the irresistibly bubbly "� tout � l�heure." It's just so goddamn lovely.Instead of: Boards of Canada, Darkside
9/101. Haim Days Are GoneWe in the office have all been collectively scratching our heads over this preposterously overhyped group. Danielle Haim has yet to met a syllable she won't hiccup, grunt, stutter or pant. Her overwrought singing matches the cruel, cruel things done with computers and effects to the instruments. Production utterly steamrolls the humanity out of "The Wire," clich�s piled upon clich�s. What an airless, cold, calculated album."My Song 5" sounds like Bonnie Raitt making dubstep with a tuba. WTF.People like this?Oh, and I'm still calling you "Hay-m." R.I.P., Corey.More deserving:For more interesting takes on L.A. pop, seek Lissie and Cate Le Bon. For slick, '80s rock, stick with Danielle's former bandmate, Julian Casablancas, and his Strokes. You can't tell me any Haim song is as good as "Tap Out" or "Slow Animals."
10/101. Veronica Falls Waiting for Something to HappenCan I be lame and just gush about how much I adore this band? This is the perfected ideal of "the indie band"-Scottish (of course), coed members, twin hollow-body Gretsch guitars wrestling like knives, bittersweet vocals about deadly serious crushes. Say twee and I'll flick a switchblade. Though their uncannily melodic songs are dripping with harmonies and tales of love gone wrong, these four rock hard and tight. Boy-girl harmonies is the wrong term. This is romantic chase. Boy chasing girl, girl chasing girl, never quite meeting. Though they're playing together in the same room, Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare sound as if they're in bedrooms across some gray, lonely town. The best love line of the year: "I wanna get sick, I wanna catch everything you've ever caught." Young love is a graveyard.Instead of: Mikal Cronin's rough update of Matthew Sweet's power-pop, Waxahatchee's whatevs take on the Breeders.
There were a lot of great albums in 2013. In some years, it can be challenge to come up with 20 records you want to lock in as the very best. Honestly, I could come up with 50 off the time of my head this year. It was a winner, loaded with surprises (Beyoncé, My Bloody Valentine) and roaring returns (Bowie, the Knife). But a handful of releases keep appearing on lists, to my utter befuddlement. Hence this list, to offer a differing voice. Hey, at least we can all agree that ARTPOP was a dud. Well, maybe not.