Top 30 Albums of 2013

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30. Emily Reo – Olive Juice

The long-awaited debut LP by Boston native Emily Reo finally saw a release in 2013. Through a steady backbone of lo-fi Casio beats, Reo’s gorgeous voice fluttered through a distinct electronic distortion. Lyrically, it’s a stunner. But the long, ambling fairy-like compositions are what really stole our hearts this year. (Adam)

BLD-CLOSE-GC-GATEFOLD-LP29. Close – Getting Closer

Will Saul runs Aus Music and has made many appearances on the label, albeit with other producers. Under his new Close alias, Saul released his first album in eight years. Getting Closer hypnotically entrances listeners with house of the most romantic of souls. Never coming to a dizzying peak, and always keeping a level head Saul utilized a quality assortment of guests (which included Scuba, Fink, October, Appleblim, and others).The cast of characters continued on Getting Closer’s three singles, “Beam Me Up”, “My Way”, and “Wallflower” also received the remix treatment from an all-star cast including George Fitzgerald, Dusky, Midland, Kyle Hall, Huxley, Scuba, Deetron, and Hercules and Love Affair. (Alex)

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28. Counterparts – The Difference Between Hell and Home

Counterparts brings a whole different sound to their second studio album. They are back and letting everyone know they are heavier and louder than ever before. With heavy guitar riffs and drum solos and clean vocal choruses, The Difference Between Hell & Home defines melodic hardcore. Every breakdown seems more passion filled than the one before and surprisingly tasteful lyrics for a band that can be so heavy. Definitely something everyone can get pumped listening to. (Katherine)

forest-swords-engravings27. Forest Swords – Engravings

Congrats to British producer, Matthew Barnes, for creating undoubtedly one of the most unique albums of 2013. Engravings pretty much breaks the bounds of any and all genres. As his first full length album, it is dark and lonely but most of all, it is powerful. The post-industrial clanks and bangs, chopped and layered vocals, and abstract textures will keep you continually entertained from start to finish. Barnes seems to have found a very special niche somewhere between psychedelic pop, old English folk, and dub that makes for something quite spectacular. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to this yet then please carve out an hour of your time and do so because you probably haven’t heard anything quite like it before. (Erin)

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26. Kitty – D.A.I.S.Y. Rage

Part of the appeal of NYC rapper Kitty’s music is her spitfire wit and self-awareness. She has a deft flow and consistently pairs herself with incredibly talented and unknown producers. On D.A.I.S.Y. Rage she runs circles around guest rappers like Antwon and Lakutis, piling on stinging insult after insult at unfortunate subjects of songs. As a rapper who admits her career rose out of a joke song, she’s become a legitimate talent with a necessary voice in an industry that hardly pretends it’s not a boy’s club. (Joey)

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25. R.L. Kelly – Life’s a Bummer

Life’s a Bummer, the debut EP by Rachel Levy under the moniker R.L. Kelly, thrust the L.A.-based songwriter into the Orchid Tapes family of sad bedroom pop stardom. Capping 2013 with a slew of shows with the likes of Elvis Depressedly, Julia Brown, and a split EP with Alex G, Levy’s melodic melancholy was among the years most crushingly beautiful releases. (Adam)

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24. Saint Pepsi – Hit Vibes

Vaporwave’s incredibly short lifespan was predicted almost from the moment it had a name, but like most musical movements, it had it’s breakthrough. Producer Ryan DeRobertis, AKA Saint Pepsi, melded disco, funk, and hyperactive house on his debut full-length Hit Vibes. It’s party music in the traditional sense, with a 70s attitude your parents can get down to blended with a fresh millennial sampling technique. (Adam)

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23. Perfect Pussy – I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling

With New England punk having a small revival of sorts, the Syracuse, NY noise band has risen up as poster children of the growing scene. Their self-released EP I Have Lost All Desire for Feeling is the kind of radical, intense crash of noise that incites riots, with frontwoman Meredith Graves sounding like she’s screaming into a wind tunnel. The band recently signed to NYC label Captured Tracks and have a debut LP on deck for a 2014 release. (Adam)

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22. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator

This is a hauntingly beautiful album. It’s incredibly stripped-down for an electronic album, which I fear may make it forgettable to some, but Devon Welsh’s lyrics are incredibly cathartic, emotive, and intelligent and bring some serious feels. If you enjoy crying then this album is for you. (Jasmine)

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21. Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond

Upon first listen to Mutual Benefit’s latest release, it is clear that this is something very extraordinary. Listening to Love’s Crushing Diamond is kind of like hearing that special moment when the orchestra pit is warming up before a performance. When multiple beautiful noises are overlapping and colliding at once. Most easily described as orchestral folk, these songs filled with strings, piano, wind chimes, and almost every other instrument you could imagine float and sway back and forth giving you those carefree feelings you probably thought you lost a long time ago. The lyrics are personal and insightful offering a range of emotions from happy to sad and everything in between. Love’s Crushing Diamond is pretty much as heartwarming as it gets. Thank you, Jordan Lee. (Erin)

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20. Pity Sex – Feast of Love

One of the most immediate appreciable qualities you’ll notice while listening to Pity Sex’s debut LP is how precise a picture it paints. A bedroom clouded in cigarette smoke, clothes carelessly tossed to the floor, an air of disappointment concerning the lack of intimacy hangs from the ceiling. The indie rock hooks and jammin’ guitar solos juxtapose Greaves’ and Drake’s depressingly dreamy vocals, melting the opposing feelings in a shoegaze-y pot of unhealthy sentiments and sweat. (Joey)

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19. Machinedrum – Vapor City

In a year where footwork and juke proved to be on the rise, Berlin via New York’s Machinedrum gave us the most comprehensive full length the genre has seen. From the opening moments of the Burial meets 170 bpm of “Gunshotta” to the soulfully reminiscent-of-DJ Rashad cut “Seesea”, and incredible deep cuts like “Don’t 1 2 Lose U,” “U Still Lie,” and “Baby It’s U”, Machinedrum takes you on a wonderful journey through every neighborhood of Vapor City. (Adam)

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18. Balance and Composure – The Things We Think We’re Missing

The perfect mix of loud, quiet, and everything in between. Balance and Composure is the best kind of alternative rock. The entire album lyrically encapsulates the “angsty teenage relationship shit” that we can all relate to with sad but still slightly angry guitar riffs. The raw emotions can be heard in the intense yelling and soft vocals and the painfully moody, but true lyrics. This album is one that indie and rock fans can both enjoy from beginning to end. Songs like, “Tiny Raindrop” and “Notice Me” completely submerge you into this feeling of vulnerability yet give off a very “fuck you” kind of attitude that everyone can appreciate.  (Katherine)

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17. Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back

Although this may have gotten slot #17 on KZUU top albums, Pull My Hair Back gets the #1 slot for the sexiest release of 2013. This is Jessy Lanza’s debut album and it is pretty much fire, filled with electronic R&B influenced beats backed by a fair share of snaps. Her vocal work is very breathy and airy, chopped up and manipulated into something quite compositionally interesting adding to the texture that is already present in the melodies. Lanza pairing up with Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan seems to be one that works out quite phenomenally and we hope that they collaborate more in the future. Pull My Hair Back is sexy, fun, and definitely one of 2013’s essential listens. (Erin)

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16. Whirr – Around

An absolutely gorgeous piece of music, Around is something Whirr fans will recognize as a decidedly slower release than their past works, and the change of pace fits perfectly with their hazy post-rock agenda. The dream-like quality of the vocals will have you sighing the lyrics along for the whole half hour. Around‘s brand of shoegaze is one that feels like an drugged journey, a voice growing in volume guiding you through the mist. (Joey)

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15. Dirty Beaches – Drifters/Love is the Devil

Alex Zhang Hungtai’s Dirty Beaches project established a lo-fi, wandering rockabilly troubadour persona with his 2011 album Badlands. On Drifters/Love is the Devil, Hungtai developed that alter-ego into a mature globe-trotting soul. Backed by neon-flecked urban imagery, Drifters/Love is the Devil shifted between ramshackle rock ‘n’ roll and achingly beautiful ambient compositions making it a natural, thoughtful continuation of his unique project. (Adam)

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14. Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety

This fantastic R&B album came out early in the year and has been in steady rotation for me all year. The combination of Arthur Ashin’s high falsetto, the grand orchestration, and the dreamy ambience is amazing… and beautiful and fun and awesome. And the combo of “Play by Play” and “Counting” as the first two tracks is just perfection. (Jasmine)

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13. Keep Shelly in Athens – At Home

After a slew of dreamy EPs, Greek pop group Keep Shelly In Athens had a real gem ready with their debut LP At Home. Still retaining some of the electronic chillwave vibes that had them buzzing in the first place, At Home is a dimly lit 80s-tinged driving record bathed in neon light. It’s somehow both futuristic and nostalgic, with some of the year’s most singable hooks. (Joey)

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12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II

Following the critical success of their first album in 2011, UMO released II, once again harnessing their fantastic lo-fi bluesy sound.  Ruban Nielson’s filtered vocals encompass the album, acting as a soulful apparition accompanied by fuzzy guitar riffs.  II often delves into the realm psychedelia while skillfully retaining its pop elements, making it an incredibly fun listen. (Denali)

bringmethehorizonsempiternalcover11. Bring Me the Horizon – Sempiternal

Probably one of the most massive releases the metal scene has ever experienced, Bring Me The Horizon’s fourth studio album was sure to please, and that it did. Being known for enveloping a different sound for each album released, Sempiternal does not disappoint. With a unique blend of Oliver Syke’s ever evolving vocals and the addition of a keyboardist to the group, the album effortlessly combined ambient and electronic music with their trademark heavy vocals and dark themes. Songs like “Can You Feel My Heart” and “Sleepwalking” embody the album’s new sound and give fans the heavy metal they always expect from BMTH. (Katherine)

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10. Grouper – The Man Who Died in His Boat

It seems as if it is impossible for Liz Harris (aka Grouper) to make something that isn’t heart achingly beautiful. The Man Who Died in His Boat acts as sort of an extension of her 2008 release Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, her breakthrough album and magnum opus up until this point. Grouper has been described as drone, ambient, and dream pop but it is hard to pinpoint an exact sound on her as her work is so unique. The lyrical distinction of Harris’ vocals are often lost under layers of distortion (with the exception of the closing track, “Living Room”) while the feeling of the songs still comes across loud and clear. It’s sort of like reading a diary without actually being able make out the specifics. The muddy looping guitar and overcast, gloomy tone will surely set the vibe for a rainy evening. The Man Who Died in His Boat is both soothing and devastating, and certainly one of the most gorgeous releases of the year. (Erin)

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09. Deafheaven – Sunbather

Metal might never have a bigger crossover indie hit. As the critical storm of praise consumed all discussion about Sunbather this year, we briefly forgot about the actual music contained within. Deafheaven’s chef d’oeuvre is an overwhelming assault of shrieking vocals buried under an avalanche of distorted guitars and powerful drumming. While Deafheaven aren’t the first to blend post-rock, shoegaze, and metal, they do it with stunning precision and without pretension. There was a whole lot of discussion this year about the authenticity of such an accessible metal record, but iPhone commercials aside, doesn’t it just feel nice to bathe in the sun?  (Adam)

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08. Glasser – Interiors

Inspired by Manhattan’s architecture upon recently moving there, Cameron Mesirow aka Glasser created her sophomore LP Interiors. This concept album on architecture floats, sways, melts, and then freezes over all at the same time. Mesirow sings echoey lyrics about windows, walls, landscapes, and other architectural features over steady electronic beats and textures. Conceptual and abstract in the way Björk’s greatest albums are, Interiors is a magical listen from start to finish, overflowing with light melodies and angular tones. (Erin)

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07. Baths – Obsidian

Will Wiesenfeld makes no attempts to hide the dark nature of Obsidian: the album cover features people covered in charcoal and a black blanket, standing in front of a black cloud. The album name is a color variant of black for Christ’s sake. But in reality, no amount of warning can truly prepare you for this album. From the desire to die, or the exploitation of a relationship for meaningless sex, nothing is spared in Wiesenfeld’s latest pop confessional. And while this album has enough raw depression channeled
into it already, comparing it to the jovial, innocent nature of his previous works will make you think this was written by someone else entirely. Emotions aside, this is a beautiful work of pop. But this isn’t an album that will let you completely disregard those emotions; Obsidian extends it’s hand out to you as it plunges into darkness. The pop hooks only lure you to take it’s hand and dive in as well. (Joey)

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06. Julia Brown – To Be Close to You

Thoughtfully composed over it’s brief 17 minute runtime, To Be Close To You recalls the wide-eyed wonder of early K Records releases through a thick lens of tape hiss. Despite the length, To Be Close To You contains desperately affecting lyrics about longing, heartbreak, and love encased in some of the year’s most memorable pop melodies. From the boombox heartthrob of “Library” to the melancholy waltz of “Virginia”, Julia Brown’s music is both heartfelt and sincere. With multiple giveaway singles and side projects from each member, Julia Brown have a big year planned for 2014 when they’ll release their follow-up album. (Adam)

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05. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels

Peanut butter and chocolate. Whiskey and coke. El-P and Killer Mike. All of those are excellent things on their own, but not until you added them together did you realize how perfect they were paired. On Killer Mike and El-P’s debut album as Run the Jewels, they deliver an experience that combines El-P’s cerebral, sci-fi production and dizzyingly percussive raps with Killer Mike’s relentless and Southern fried flow. Never pulling punches, these two will leave you amazed by the end of the record. (Alex)

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04. Toro y Moi – Anything in Return

When Chaz Bundick started off making music during the great chillwave purge of the late aughts, few expected him to be anything more than a fad like most of the musicians of that era. Fastforward about five years and Bundick has solidified his Toro y Moi project as a shapeshifting act, capable of slowly morphing sound between albums. On his third LP, Anything in Return, he combines laid back funk hooks with minimal house and electronic production. Toro y Moi works in an odd space between indie R&B revival and straight-up party music, but the slow BPMs on tracks like “Grown Up Calls” and “High Living” keep things relaxed enough to lounge at any time. When things get upbeat, like on the insanely catchy “Say That”, it’s too much to resist dancing. No record this year was more unanimously fun than Anything in Return, and at this point in Bundick’s career, that shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. (Denali)

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03. Braids – Flourish // Perish

This was one of the most anticipated albums of the year for many of us here on KZUU management. Native Speaker is a KZUU favorite so we were excited to hear the news that Braids was at it again with Flourish // Perish, and oh boy, flourish it did. While Native Speaker was super organic sounding, basically transporting you to the middle of a jungle for 44 minutes, Flourish // Perish offers a more crisp, fresh, and guitar-less sound not much unlike the work lead singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston has been doing with her other project Blue Hawaii. Standell-Preston’s heavenly voice, electronic cuts, fluttery keyboards, and all around energy make this album one worth listening to over and over…. and over again. Perhaps losing their founding member, Katie Lee, had some sort of effect on their change in musical direction, but maybe it’s just a matter of the trio wanting to try a new sound. All we can do is enjoy the vast variety of tunes that Braids has offered us in the short amount of time that they have been gracing our ears with their music. (Erin)

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02. My Bloody Valentine – m b v

It’s hard not to understate how massive m b v‘s release really was. 22 years after the Dublin band released their genre-defining Lovelessm b v hit the internet like an atomic bomb. The mythical album that no one thought would ever see release finally arrived, and somehow lived up to every expectation. Opening with a hushed wash of guitar, m b v was soft when we least expected it, and somehow almost more melodically beautiful than its predecessor. With the final pair of tracks, more frantic and loud than almost anything they had released before, m b v encompassed the entire scope of My Bloody Valentine’s sound. More importantly, it helped us realize that in a world of instant downloads and massive promotional campaigns, two decades of anticipation can be worth it when the payoff is this sublime. (Staff)

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01. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

Akin to walking through a house of mirrors, R Plus Seven is like distorted and fractured images of reality fluttering and warping in front of your eyes while you stumble through an unending maze. It’s undulating metallic surfaces are like microscopic electronic components triggering unending sample after snippet. Through a massive palette of sound, R Plus Seven‘s moonstruck ambiance is essentially uncharted musical territory. Flirting with retro-futuristic kitsch, sci-fi movie soundtracking, and vaporwave cut-n-paste culture, Daniel Lopatin’s intricate songs are at one moment temporal, naturalistic fetish compositions (“Along”), and the next moment quasi-religious extravagance (“Chrome Country”). It’s nothing short of a masterpiece, the kind of year-defining gem that renders everything else irrelevant. (Staff)

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