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Sowing's 2013

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2013.
20Lydia
Devil


For my money this is the catchiest thing they've ever done. Obviously in terms of artistry it's no Illuminate, but this is my second favorite Lydia record and probably marks the last time I truly enjoyed the band.
19Lorde
Pure Heroine


This album was a bit too rhythmically homogeneous for me, with the beats all sort of blending together. With that said, it has some absolute diamonds, like "Royals" and "400 Lux". This was a gateway to her much better record to come, Melodrama.
18CHVRCHES
The Bones of What You Believe


I could virtually say the same thing about this as I did for Pure Heroine. Some massive hits ("The Mother We Share" in particular), but very inconsistent. Those hits keep me coming back, but Chvrches' sophomore outing was far more consistent and arguably better.
17The World Is a Beautiful Place...
Whenever, If Ever


[3] to the above. I prefer Harmlessness to the band's debut, but this got my foot in the door and also opened my eyes to more modern emo/post-rock music.
16Foals
Holy Fire


My introduction to Foals, who I have a love/hate relationship with. I will never quite understand the hype for Total Life Forever, which to me is overrated. I prefer Holy Fire's heavier edge, although they'd do even better than this in 2019 in terms of achieving a rock sound.
15Alter Bridge
Fortress


Alter Bridge's heaviest album. It doesn't have the hooks that Blackbird did (which is the album that got me into them in the first place), but it's their most technically impressive. I rarely feel the need to revisit this, but every time I do, I wonder why I don't make it more of a priority.
14Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2


Clearly inferior to the first installment, The 20/20 Experience Part 2 is still better than it gets credit for. "True Blood", "TKO", and "Murder" are absolute bangers, and he achieves gorgeous atmospheres on "Amnesia" and "Not a Bad Thing". When I'm in the moot for JT, this still has plenty of tunes to bring back into rotation.
13There Will Be Fireworks
The Dark, Dark Bright


This would be some people's #1 for 2013, and I understand why. This is gorgeous and sweepingly poignant. I just think it lulls a bit towards the middle/end. There's no feeling like when "River" bursts onto the scene, though. A great album that is just shy of being something even more.
12Vampire Weekend
Modern Vampires of the City


Some publications overrate the hell out of this to the tune of ranking it near the top of the decade. This has a very nice flow and is a little bit creative in parts, but I just enjoy it because it's catchy indie-rock/pop.
11OneRepublic
Native


Laugh at this inclusion all you want, but this was an excellent mainstream pop record. Atmospheric and fun at the same time, it was a great blend of tunes you could sing along to and ones you could get lost in. The radio ruined a lot of otherwise superb songs here, but even beyond the singles there are gems waiting to be found. Possibly my most listened to album of 2013.
10Foxing
The Albatross


Another emo/post-rock discovery, this is probably the first album from this 2013 list that I'd consider truly essential. Foxing is a band everyone should at least know about and give a chance. This record is raw and beautifully intense, and they'd go on to explore different styles of music with their ensuing releases over the course of the decade, with their pinnacle-to-date arriving with 2018's Nearer My God.
9Frightened Rabbit
Pedestrian Verse


Another astounding effort in what is an almost flawless discography. The penultimate Frightened Rabbit album, it combines everything I love about the band from depressing personal accounts to anthemic choruses. Of the 5 LPs this band released, this is only my 4th favorite and it still ranks this high - a testament both to the band's talent as well as what I perceived to be a relatively weak year.
8Frank Turner
Tape Deck Heart


After the unbelievably good England Keep My Bones, which is a classic, I was all over Tape Deck Heart. It's nearly as good. Frank broadens his scope here, and while there aren't quite as many individual peaks, "Recovery" definitely got me through some rough months. This is his second best album in my book.
7Steven Wilson
The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)


The only real criticism that could be levied against this is that it's derivative of 70s prog, but most Steven Wilson stuff is. Otherwise, this is a damn-near flawless progressive rock album that is thematically creative and musically expansive without being overly complex. Wilson's talents feel wildly untamed on tracks like "Luminol" - a bass-driven track replete with guitar solos, pan flutes, synth flourishes, and lush piano reprieves. This is just sheer prog wizardry.
6Arcade Fire
Reflektor


Other than Funeral, this is the best thing Arcade Fire has ever done. The 80s influences are perfectly executed, and the songs are catchier than ever. The title track sounds like peak Bowie. "Joan of Arc" is the easiest thing to get lodged in your mind for days. "Awful Sound" feels like Arcade Fire's "Hey Jude". This is a magnum opus; it's only flaw that it is perhaps too over-the-top for its own good.
5Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience


Albums that revolutionize pop music are rare, but this is one of them. The expansive song structures, the integrated intros/outros, and the complexity of the instruments/electronics/production all make this a masterpiece. "Mirrors" is one of the defining pop songs of the entire decade, and it's probably the most straightforward radio-ready tune here besides "Suit & Tie". The remainder of the album is just something to behold as a listener. It transcends mere accessibility to become art.
4Laura Stevenson
Wheel


I was late to the Laura Stevenson hype, but once I listened to this album in 2017, I realized what I was missing. This is Stevenson's best album by far - it's more instrumentally impressive than Sit, Resist and The Big Freeze and catchier than Cocksure. The indisputable pinnacle for one of the best indie-rock songwriters to come out of the 2010s.
3Jason Isbell
Southeastern


Again, I was late to come around to this. I didn't even start getting into non country-pop country (aka real country/folk) until 2016-17, and I'm pretty certain Atari screamed into my shoutbox for years before I finally caved and gave this a proper listen. Now, it's among my favorite country albums that I've ever heard. There's nothing boundary-pushing or complicated, it's just a batch of consistently excellent songs that make me feel wonderful and terrifying things about life and death. His lyrics are pure poetry and his voice the ideal vessel of delivery. Simply put, this is a damn beautiful record.
2The National
Trouble Will Find Me


Ranking just behind High Violet and Sleep Well Beast in my personal ranking, this is another National album that is a classic or very close to becoming one. It's more melodically accessible than the forlorn, buzzing depths of its predecessor High Violet; the choruses swell to greater heights and Berninger's vocals climb to a slightly higher register in moments like "I Should Live in Salt". "Demons" is one of their best singles ever, point-blank. "Pink Rabbits" is on par with "Mr. November" as the best song they've ever written, and it practically reduces me to tears even to this day. It's not as consistent as HV or SWB, but man, some moments here just blow everything else out of the water. I'll always come back to this as a staple of the year 2013.
1Queens of the Stone Age
...Like Clockwork


This isn't the sort of album I'd normally slap a 5 on and call an AOTY - it's not some artsy indie-folk album with lots of synths and strings. Nope, this is good old rock n' roll - which in spite of rumors that the genre is long dead - thrives here. I truly believe this is one of the greatest "rock" albums of all-time. Every song is excellent, with no exceptions, and then some of them are just jaw-dropping - like "I Appear Missing". I listened to this all summer during 2013, and it defined a very busy year (and my only year as a sputnik emeritus) in which I didn't get to listen to much music. That doesn't seem to matter though, because even after 7 additional years, I still haven't found anything from 2013 that tops this.
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