Below are 11 of my favorite albums released in 2013. Sure, I liked a whole lot more than 11 albums this year (this Spotify playlist has most all of them I enjoyed), but these are the ones I liked the most this year, the ones that played the largest roles in the soundtrack to my year. Chances are they aren’t the ones you liked the most or think are ‘best,’ but that’s what makes music the best- it does/means different things to each of us.
Quick note: the list below is in no order at all, really, aside from the Typhoon record, which was my favorite released in 2013. Enjoy.
Night Beds – Country Sleep
For about the first month of 2013 this was the only album I listened to. That’s not hyperbole or anything- it was, quite honestly, the only thing I wanted to listen to at that point in my life, an album full of the pain and loneliness I was going through but offset here and there with the hope I needed to hear about. It remains perfect almost a year after first being given a burned copy by Winston while visiting Colorado, still punching as hard as it did on first listen, still containing my favorite last line of an album in some time: ‘sorrow stole my youth- what’s left I’ll give to you.’
Caroline Smith – Half About Being A Woman
Why yes, one of this thirty year old male’s favorite albums of 2013 was an album about a young lady’s journey to finding out what it means to be a woman. It is equal parts soulful, fun and serious through and through, well-written and just damn good from first note to last. My only complaint: I want more. I want like 19 songs more. It always feels over before it ever should be. That longing is the mark of a stellar album, yes? Caroline Smith is a woman on the cusp of being a household name, methinks.
Small Houses – Exactly Where You Wanted To Be
Sometimes an album becomes a large part of the story of your year without you really realizing it- Exactly Where You Wanted To Be was that album for me this year. I know every word on this album, have seen the songs played in dive bars and living rooms and have included various tunes on just about every mix I’ve made for both the site and for friends since springtime. It’s followed me around all year, and I don’t mind it one bit.
Josh Ritter – The Beast in Its Tracks
This album meant everything to me at a time when I needed it, and the stories of grace and hope it contained, the most.
Typhoon – White Lighter
My favorite album of the year, hands down. Kyle Morton and his crew crafted an extremely smart, extremely personal record that never feels too smart for its own good or so personal that it’s inaccessible.
Nathaniel Rateliff – Falling Faster Than You Can Run
An album that showed up unannounced and completely floored me. Rateliff’s voice is one of the finest and most emotive out there right now, hitting all the right notes in all the right ways while telling stories of love, loss and trying to find oneself. Can someone explain to me how Nathaniel Rateliff isn’t huge yet? I don’t get it.
Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
I remember sitting in a stunned silence in my apartment in early March as I got my first listen to Can’t Talk Medicine. That scene has been repeated any number of times since. The record is full of weirdness, soul and fuzz- so, basically all of the things I was hoping it would be filled with.
Phosphorescent – Muchacho de Lujo
The exception to the ‘Deluxe Albums Are Dumb And A Waste of Time/Money/Resources’ rule, because holy crap, guys and gals. How do you improve what was already one of the most brilliant, heartbreaking records of the year? You put Matthew Houck and gang in an old church, have them play rearranged versions of a majority of the tracks from the album (and a few from his exceptional back catalog), record it, and then package it with said album.
Houndmouth – From The Hills Below The City
A dynamic, fun album full of songs about drinking, gambling, love, drugs and traveling that pretty well captures the electric energy of their live show. Also, it contains the most compelling song about Ms. O’Leary’s cow that I’ve ever heard, so there’s that.
Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond
A well-written, deeply hopeful, realistic album about love and friendship that sounds like a sad bastard record? You’re damn right I’m going to love that. One of the most unexpected, delightful discoveries of 2013 for me.
Hayden – Us Alone
If it’s possible to be unassumingly phenomenal, Us Alone is that. Hayden Desser’s latest offering is an ode to the real, every day struggles of marriage and adult life- the strain a birth can put on a relationship, the complicated expectations created by nostalgia, the fight to keep love alive as you both change and evolve and especially when things are tough. It’s heavy stuff, though at each point it feels like it might get too heavy for its own good, Desser focuses on the beauty and hope and love that can be found instead of giving in.