Top 5 Albums and Singles of 2013 So Far:

Photo Credit: The AV Club

2013 has been a huge year for music already, here’s a look at the best.

Hugely successful releases from Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Queens of the Stone Age, and Kanye West are sprinkled in among countless great releases from indie bands in a year that has already seen more good releases than most entire years. Here’s a look at the very best:

Top 5 Albums of the Year:

5. Daft Punk – “Random Access Memories” – The French electronic duo’s best album is a long but consistently original album that includes just about every form of EDM, house, dance and electronic music there is. It is an easily accessible work made to delight every listener possible without ever sounding desperate.

4. Foxygen – “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic” – An indie duo that takes their musical inspirations from the Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground, Foxygen’s second album does not sound out of place in any decade of music. The album, only in the 35 minute range, takes dozens of listens to pick up all of the self-referential and darkly humorous lyrics.

3. David Bowie – “The Next Day” – Bowie’s wholly unanticipated return to music after a decade came with little announcement and no tour. The album is Bowie’s only conventional work to date, the only field he has left to tackle. Lyrically, Bowie is uncomfortably settling into maturity at 66, showcasing a dying playfulness inside of him. But the album is not remorseful, it paints Bowie as an outside observer, gleefully watching the world speed past him.

2. The National – “Trouble Will Find Me” – Gloomy indie gods the National put out their best record yet, one that continues to wallow in it’s own misery, but invites the listener in for once. Touches of humor and references to things in the outside world help to make the National’s music even better.

1. Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City” – Vampire Weekend, on their third go-around, ditch the African-pop combos that made them famous and focus more on tough alt-pop. It is equally smart but less pretentious, catchy but with a lot of depth. Vampire Weekend might seem like permanent college kids too focused on their studies, but their maturing while they do so.


Top 5 Singles of the Year:

5. “She Will” – Savages – The debut album from the British, female noise-rock group was perfect throughout, and single “She Will” features a typical rock song structure with the addition of a screaming guitar before the chorus. The song’s title is wailed over the guitar, all building to a fatal finish where the listener can almost hear the band collapsing in the studio. Savages deliver assaulting, sweat-inducing music.

4. “Sacrilege” – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – The first track off “Mosquito” sees the Yeah Yeah Yeahs embracing the lo-fi sound they promised to deliver on this album, with Karen O’s vocals sounding like they were recorded in a basement. The band slowly gives way to a chorus of choir singers, though, that bring the song to an unexpected and pounding conclusion. If only the rest of the album had delivered.

3. “Suit & Tie (Featuring Jay – Z)” – Justin Timberlake – Some throwaway lyrics keep this from being an almost-perfect pop song. The music is written equally for mothers and clubs, giving off the aura of big band music while keeping club beats. Jay-Z’s inclusion, rapping about politely taking a girl out on a date, fits perfectly into the song’s theme. It winds, it changes tempo and volume, and is never not catchy enough to get stuck in your head.

2. “Get Lucky (Featuring Pharrell)” – Daft Punk – Even easier to get stuck in your head is an incredibly dancy Daft Punk song. Funky, speedy guitar plays smoothly behind Pharrell singing the most innocently dirty lyrics ever. The robotic vocals the band is famous for only make a brief appearance, as the song basically abandons EDM entirely, in favor of a song meant to be played more at dance halls than clubs.

1. “Sea of Love” – the National – This track starts off instantly with marching band-like snare drums, before Matt Berninger’s darkly humorous lines of “Hey Jo / Sorry I hurt you but / They say love is a virtue / Don’t they?” The song is an ode to a break-up, told optimistically but after-the-fact. St. Vincent provides background vocals on the song’s conclusion, which is a spine-shivering crescendo in volume and pitch that engrosses the listener so much so that the song’s sudden end feels like waking up from a crazy dream.

Here’s to six more months of great music.

-By Andrew McNally

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