MT Staff Top 10 Albums of 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013 MT staffers offer up the year’s 10 best, plus our overall pick for Album of the Year.

Dec 30, 2013 at 4:28 pm
MT Staff Top 10 Albums of 2013
Danny Brown

Album of the Year | Danny Brown Old

The votes have been counted and the results are in. The 2013 Metro Times Album of the Year is Danny Brown's Old, and now we're feverishly assembling a trophy with a little gold joint on top. In all seriousness, Brown fully deserves this. He's had a tremendous year, and this album highlights why he's seen as one of the most exciting and unique names in rap right now. Hell, he was even able to make ICP sound great when he guested on the "When I'm Clownin" single. We're incredibly proud to call Brown one of our own, and we're delighted that his album finished the year on top of so many piles. —Brett Callwood

Top 10 Albums by Brett Callwood, music and culture editor:

No. 10 | Dutch Pink Lady Luck Motel Suite (New Fortune)
Dustin Leslie’s vocals are throaty and gorgeous, beautifully backed by Aja Sardis and Serene Arena, resulting in a sound that’s reminiscent of early Seger or Tom Waits — even a little Leonard Cohen.

No. 09 | Junk Food Junkies Junk Food Junkies (Gold Tapes)
Junk Food Junkies’ self-titled debut is quite deliberately rudimentary, in a Shaggs sort of way. However, the cutesy, food-obsessed tunes are so sweet and naïve (again, like the Shaggs), that any shortcomings quickly become positives.

No. 08 | Legz Diamond & the Purple Gang 9 Pistolas (Psychopathic)
There’s a ragged semi-concept to this album, the subject matter centering on Prohibition-era gangsters, good weed and other shit that gangsters get into. The tunes are awesome — super catchy and razor-sharp.

No. 07 | Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope)
It’s refreshing to know that Slim can still piss people off and do it via the medium of quality rap.

No. 06 | Axe Ripper Welcome to Detroit Destruction (Self-released)
This group of headbangin’ mooks plays the hardcore-influenced thrash metal that gave Anthrax its start — or would have made S.O.D. proud to this day. The art is wonderful (just take a look) and the tunes, while primitive and simplistic, are gloriously primal and tremendous fun.

No. 05 | Luder Adelphophagia (Small Stone)
A thrilling album that both picks up where the previous full-lengther left off and continues the journey — or evolution — into dark and murky waters. The songs, while not without hope, pull at every heartstring.

No. 04 | Danny Brown Old (Fool’s Gold/Warner Bros.)
Brown’s third album highlights exactly why fans love Danny Brown and why everybody else should love Danny Brown. Uniquely sharp and sassy, the man is a huge talent.

No. 03 | The Counter Elites Are You a Counter Elite? (Self-released)
A record that sees this Ferndale duo yelling and snarling about, “Grrr,” corporate greed and “Wuuaarrgghh,” capitalism and stuff. They can really play, and the little Zappa-esque jazz spots suggest these two guys can do what they want. They happen to want loudness and anger.

No. 02 | Scott Morgan Three Chords and a Cloud of Dust (Easy Action)
A box set spanning Morgan’s superb career — taking in the well known (Rationals, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band) and the lesser known (the Hydromatics, Guardian Angel). Most of it is superb — all of it worth a listen.

No. 01 | Bootsey X Women’s Love Rites (Jet Plastic)
There’s no fucking way I’m not putting Bootsey at the top of this pile. Battling cancer and just weeks away from death, he was still able to put out this awesome rock ’n’ roll album filled with trademark attitude and humor. We miss you, man.

Top 10 Albums by Lee DeVito, web editor

No. 10 | Daft Punk Random Access Memories (Columbia)
Two French guys spent their entire career pretending to be robots. Now they’re pretending to be a disco band. It’d be amazing if they somehow “tricked” a swath of EDM-loving millennials into making a disco song the “song of the summer,” but the obvious reason is because “Get Lucky” is so undeniably catchy.

No. 09 | Kurt Vile Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Mataodor)
I don’t even feel weird saying it: This album is pretty. 

No. 08 | Nine Inch Nails Hesitation Marks (Columbia)
In 2009, Trent Reznor announced a new NIN album called Strobe Lights that boasted outrageous cameos by Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Sheryl Crow and Fergie. The whole thing wound up being a giant April Fool’s Day joke (Goths have the best sense of humor), but — you know what? — Hesitation Marks almost sounds like it could be Strobe Lights… and I kinda like it.

No. 07 | New Order Live at Bestival 2012 (Sunday Best)
They may have lost founding member Peter Hook, but these synth-pop giants chug on. Recorded from a headlining set at last year’s Bestival fest in England, the band that was once famous for scrappy, awkward (but still awesome) live shows is documented here as a well-oiled, crowd-pleasing, arena-rock machine.

No. 06 | The Gories The Shaw Tapes: Live in Detroit 5/27/88 (Third Man Records)
Unearthed live recording of the ultimate garage rock band playing at the top of its game in an abandoned Hamtramck storefront. This stuff makes nearly every garage rock revival band from the last 10 years seem safe and slick. Maybe this makes them the ultimate “abandoned storefront rock band” too?

No. 05 | Queens of the Stone Age …Like Clockwork (Matador)
On previous efforts, the Queens sounded as big and dangerous as the desert. After a hiatus, they sound small and kinda vulnerable here, but even then the Queens still rock harder than almost anything else in alt rock right now. 

No. 04 | Arcade Fire Reflektor (Merge)
What are critical darlings to do when a shitty band like Mumford & Sons rips off their old-timey style and fire-and-brimstone, and takes it to the masses? Ditch the hurdy-gurdy and hire LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy to produce the outta-left field disco-calypso double album none of us knew we needed. Goofy, but a breath of fresh air from a band that has been too serious for too long.

No. 03 | David Bowie The Next Day (Columbia)
Bowie’s first album in 10 years and his best in probably … 33. Stripped down, but still pop and still weird. Plus, you’ve got to respect anyone who answers to accusations that he has become a parody of himself by cheekily appropriating his own Heroes for the album cover.

No. 02 | Mazzy Star Seasons of Your Day (Rhymes of An Hour)
Maybe they were waiting for ’90s nostalgia to become fashionable, but here the band picks up where it left off 17 years ago. The songs on Seasons of Your Day are right at home in Mazzy Star’s unique oeuvre of shoegaze, country and psychedelia.

No. 01 | Kanye West Yeezus (Def Jam)
Abrasive, blasphemous, absurd (“hurry up with my damn croissant!”), grave, decidedly radio-unfriendly, minimal to the max (it doesn’t even have an album cover) — Yeezus might’ve been a total drag if it wasn’t such a fascinating critique of fame.

Top 10 Albums by Eric Allen, contributing writer

No. 10 | Juicy J Stay Trippy (TaylorGang/Kemosabe/Columbia)
When Miley was still in Pampers, Juicy J was already talking and taking Molly. The release of Stay Trippy shows he’s still creating some of the most relevant hip-hop music 20 years later, and that pop culture is just now catching up.

No. 09 | Burzum Sol Austan Mani Vestan (1-2-3-4-GO!)
Burzum’s Varg Vikernes is socially and politically an idiot. With that out of the way, I can now tell you that his ambient work, including Sol Austan Mani Vestan from 2013, is genius. 

No. 08 | Epicycle You’re Not Gonna Get It: 1978-81 (Hozac)
Reissued on Hozac Records in 2013, this Epicycle comp is a master-class course in glam, power pop and proto-punk. Don’t believe me? Listen to “Radical Attitude” for a sonic sound that is as much Milk N Cookies as it is the Damned.

No. 07 | Various artists Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound (Numero)
The Numero Group always does amazing work, and its 50th release, Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound, is probably one of its best collections to date. Chronicling a time in the Twin Cities (pre-Prince), groups like 94 East and Mind & Matter created effortless R&B that many people will now be able to hear for the first time.  

No. 06 | Ulver Messe I.X-VI.X (Jester)
2013 was another banner year for people discovering black metal. Fuck upside-down crosses and corpse paint. Listen to Ulver’s Messe I.X-VI.X instead.

No. 05 | The Band Live at the Academy of Music 1971 (Capitol)
A no-brainer. The greatest band ever to exist appears in peak form on LATAOM five years before its (first) expiration date. Richard can still hit the highs, Rick’s voice is tender as ever, Garth is genius, Levon is powerful and Robbie doesn’t talk much. Just the way I like my Band live recordings.

No. 04 | Terrible Twos Horror Vaccui (Urinal Cake)
The record that should have been on Best-of lists in 2010, 2011, 2012 … I digress. Frantic, spastic and panicked as ever, Terrible Twos has created another full-length beast of epic proportions.

No. 03 | Danny Brown Old (Fool’s Gold/Warner Bros.)
Forget whatever you heard about Danny Brown from every other press outlet. Just listen to Old. You’re welcome.

No. 02 | Brett Smiley “VaVaVaVoom” b/w “Space Ace” (RPM)
Brett Smiley is not T-Rex. He might have been lumped in with a bunch of Marc Bolan clones back in the day, but his music stands on its own as perfect glam rock. This record also represents all of the wonderful work done by Sing Sing Records in 2013. All of the records they released this year could have made up my Top 10.

No. 01 | Big Eyes Almost Famous (Grave Mistake)
I’m a super latecomer to Big Eyes and that’s because I’ve heard all the comparisons before. “This band sounds like Thin Lizzy, Big Star and the Replacements.” OK … great. The three single greatest guitar rock-pop bands ever. Sure. Welp, believe the fucking hype. Almost Famous, the group’s second LP, shows a band that’s ready for big things.

Top 10 Albums by Robert “Nix” Nixon, design manager

No. 10 | Primal Scream More Light (Ignition)
With these guys, you’re never quite sure which Primal Scream you’ll get. I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of tracks on this record. Seems they’ve been around long enough, they’ve come full circle with their styles. 

No. 09 | MAN OR ASTRO-MAN? Defcon 5…4…3…2…1 (Communicating Vessels/Chunklet)
These experimental surf space-weirdos have been around for quite some time, and seem to never disappoint if you’re looking for post-modern noise-surf you can groove to.

No. 08 | Governor Grimm & the Ghastly Ghouls There’s No Escape EP (Self-released)
OK, so this isn’t technically an album (it’s an EP), but it’s quality over quantity, here. These cats are horror-tinged psychobilly with the production quality of Creepshow’s first record. Very fun and just oozing with undead energy.

No. 07 | Monster Magnet Last Patrol (Limited Edition) (Napalm)
I’m showing my age with all of these bands that have been around for the better part of 15 years, but MM knows how to bring spaced-out, trippy rock ’n’ roll to the masses with a thermonuclear delivery system. 

No. 06 | The Ruiners Motorcycle Lazarus and the Masters of Fire and Love (New Fortune) 
This record from Detroit’s own Ruiners is a bit of a departure for them, as I can best describe it as if the Cramps and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult had a sexy, magic baby. Their signature crazy is still intact, as is the unrelenting energy. 

No. 05 | Rob Zombie Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (Universal Music Enterprises)
This is what happens when you stop being a pretentious jaggoff and just sling some heavy riffs and create straight-up monster rock ’n’ roll. Grand Canyon-deep grooves mixed with his signature swagger makes for a hard-driving record I couldn’t stop listening to. 

No. 04 | Against the Grain Surrounded by Snakes (Self-released)
While we’re on the subject of hard-driving rock ’n’ roll, ATG’s latest is how it’s done if you require pit-gnashing heavy rock in your life. If I raced around the D in a murdered-out ’72 Nova, this would be permanently blasting from the stereo. 

No. 03 | Clutch Earth Rocker (Weathermaker Music)
If you’re into hard rock (or whatever you’d officially call Clutch’s current incarnation), then I probably don’t need to tell you about this record. Probably their best and most-accessible record to date, in my opinion. It’s simply epic.

No. 02 | Jonny Halifax & the Howling Truth The Bestial Floor (Self-released)
Loud, distorted, foot-stompin’, experimental swamp-blues. If you like your blues, noisy, weird and full of soul, then this is for you. Kind of like early Black Keys, only they’re trying to hurt your eardrums as well as please them.

No. 01 | Kreeps Spirit Clinic (Exi-Tone)
This record is dark, moody and harrowing, but amazingly warm in presentation and rich with layers of sound. Retro-tinged, surf-based rock that’s most at home six-feet-under in an old pine box.

Top 10 Songs by Jeff Milo, contributing writer

No. 10 | Shigeto “Ringleader” (Ghostly)This song’s 6-minute blender of bliss is an album onto itself, with four (or five) transitions and countless instrumental elements mashing and melding gracefully together: uncannily blending the organic and electronic, fervent rhythms under a restful ambience. 

No. 09 | Zoos Of Berlin “Movie On August Ray” (Time No Place)
These art-pop revivalists close out their best collection of recordings to date with a sneaky dance-jam; the chorus marches up with cinematic bluster and the guitars crash in with an electric roar under soft, wispy harmonies – but that disco-beat and that organ’s ratatat-hook keeps things kicking along.

No. 08 | Oscillating Fan Club “Gone Are The Faces” (Bellyache Records)
OFC are hot-rod of quirky indie-rock and Brit-pop sensibilities, spanning Kinks, Zombies, Thee Oh Sees, Pretty Things, and even Os Mutantes – They finally perfected their eclectic formula on this jam, which, despites its fun, wavy chorus and decorous space-rock bridge, requires seatbelts for its riffed-out verses. 

No. 07 | Eddie Logix + Mister + Benjamin Miles “In The Meantime” (self-release)
Producer Eddie Logix reworks beats from Swedish songstress Lykke Li’s while two distinctive emcees trade bars ruminating on daily disenchantments and refueling personal motivations as this wicked speeds up to a techno-tempo; an ideal way to sample three nuanced stylists in our local hip-hop scene. 

No. 06 | Duende “Bleed” (Bellyache Records)
This jam is a poignant, brooding breather towards the end a record that truly journeys through a library of disparate rock energies, with the kind of guitar line that really puts the hook in you, as ambient noise musters spookily at the sides and a roughly resolute singer softly seethes through his teeth. 

No. 05 | Doc Illingsworth “#ORWLT” (self-release)
“Only rappers will like this…you don’t have to be polite, just tell the truth.” Simple synth hooks and a minimalist beat – there’s not much too this blunt little jam but it’s blend of honesty and self-parody is charming. When life saps Doc’s soul, “…the only way to fight back” is passionate prose. 

No. 04 | Terrible Twos “Sickness Of The Swan”  (Urinal Cake)
The Twos’ quarry conveyor tumbles through various forms of rock in just two minutes, from meaty metal riffs to weirdo-new-wave space-punk and back to classic jam-kicking garage. If these gnarly mosh mavens could ever release a proper palatable single, this might be it. 

No. 03 | Saturday Looks Good To Me “Everpresent New-Times Condition” (Polyvinyl)
A distorted string sonata haunts the opening before the musical equivalent of Spring’s thawing sunshine bursts through with organs, twangy guitars and a steady kicking beat; quintessential chamber-pop from Michigan’s masters of the form, waxing wistful on cycles of friendships and cycles of a touring band’s life. 

No. 02 | Frontier Ruckus “Black Holes” (Quite Scientific)
A cornucopia of evocative lyrical imagery (a poetic seizure of splendors and shocks spanning key Michigan landmarks) as a wicked melodic waves its buzzy purr amid the rich cluck of a banjo; an instant indie-Americana classic. 

No. 01 | Bars Of Gold “Coffee With Pele” (Bellyache Records)
No other song consistently sent tremors through my whole body causing neck-ruining head-banging, no other song demanded I listen to it all the way through every time and no other song made me scream-along to its lyrics so heartily that I’d lose my voice for the rest of the day.

Top 10 Albums by Judy Adams, contributing writer

No. 10 | Wide Hive Players Turnstyle (Wide Hive)
The house band of the Bay area’s Wide Hive label grooves to a jazz sound tinged with dub, Latin, funk, hip hop and soul, spotlighting the talents of veteran guitarist Calvin Keys.

No. 09 | RJD2  More Is than Isn’t (Electrical Connections)
Classical, dance, and soul unite in a concept album based on three melodic instrumental pieces from Ramble John "RJ" Krohn, a gifted producer, and electronic composer out with a captivating fifth album.

No. 08 | Next Collective Cover Art  (Concord)
As they rework the music of D’Angelo, Pearl Jam, Meshell Ndegeocello and others, this impressive, young group, which includes stellar pianist Gerald Clayton, intertwines styles and superb musicianship for an fresh, new jazz experience. 

No. 07 | Pat Metheny Tap (Nonesuch/Tzadik)
Pat Metheny creatively interprets traditional Jewish inspired music from John Zorn’s Masada Book Two. With the exception of drummer Antonio Sanchez, Metheny more than competently plays all other instruments  - guitars, sitar, orchestrionics, bandoneon and more, himself.  

No. 06 | Booker T. Jones Sound the Alarm (Stax)
Original “soulster” Booker T. Jones of “Green Onions” fame, writes for a new generation of soul stars, e.g. Mayer Hawthorne, Estelle and others on his retro-flavored new release.

No. 05 | Keith Jarrett No End (ECM)
Jarrett unearths previously unreleased improvised material from a 1986 home studio recording, where he plays an array of instruments including electric guitar and bass, recorder, drums and a minimum of piano. 

No. 04 | Jaga Jazzist Live with the Britton Sinfonia (Ninja Tune)
This live recording knocks out super-charged arrangements that blend rock, jazz and classical elements from this 20 year old, ten-piece Norwegian fusion band that gets orchestral reinforcement from the Britton Sinfonia. No two songs are alike. 

No. 03 | Herbie Hancock The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988 (Columbia) 
An extravagant 34-CD assemblage traces Hancock’s music as it evolved through some of the most successful and influential years of his career. The set includes a trove of previously unreleased material that further illustrates his genius.

No. 02 | Robert Glasper Experiment Black Radio 2 (Blue Note)
Black Radio 2 fuses instrumental jazz with hip-hop and R&B to support the modern vocal treatments of Dwele, Common, Emili Sande and others on the follow up to last year’s Grammy winner Black Radio. 

No. 01 | Bombino Nomad (Nonesuch)
A Tuareg guitarist from West Africa, Bombino Moctar, accompanies geopolitical messages with trance-inducing Saharan folk music and guitar-driven blues on an impactful album, produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.

Top 10 Albums by Jackie Smith, intern

No. 10| Lorde Pure Heroine (Lava Records)
No. 09 | Balance and Composure The Things We Think We’re Missing (No Sleep Records)
No. 08 | Title Fight Spring Songs (SideOneDummy Records)
No. 07 | Whirr Pipe Dreams (Graveface Records)
No. 06 | Pity Sex Feast Of Love (Run For Cover Records)
No. 05 | Brave Bird Maybe You, No One Else Worth It (Count Your Lucky Stars)
No. 04 | And So I Watch You From Afar All Hail Bright Futures (Sargent House)
No. 03 | RVIVR The Beauty Between (Rumbletowne Records)
No. 02 | The Wold Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die Whenever, If Ever (Topshelf Records)
No. 01 | TTNG (Sargent House)