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Top 40 Albums of 2013 (1-20)

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(Check out 40-21 HERE)

As I came to my conclusive final ordering of albums, I couldn’t help but feel like my list differed from the norm. You’ll find familiar faces like Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, but many of the albums that ended up surfacing near the top are absent from all the major lists I’ve perused in the past few weeks.  Does this mean I’m out of touch or that I’ve become such an outsider that I can’t connect with the mainstream? I hope not. Those albums you find on this list that you’ve never seen included on other lists are not my attempt at being different, rather, they are albums that fell through the cracks by the major outlets and deserve a listen from anyone who still appreciates “the album” as a work of art. The BDWPS.com mission statement of “guiding you down the path less traveled” is truer than ever in 2013.

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The Best Album Covers of 2013

bob-dylan-freewheelin copy

In the age of digital media, the idea of album artwork seems a bit archaic, but if you’re anything like me, you still hold the intrinsic connection between music and  art to be sacrosanct. Below you will find what I deem the 20 best images to be seen on the cover of albums in 2013. You can go get a closer look at that place your parents used to go to called the record store.

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The Top 20 Albums of 2013 (So Far…)

bob-dylan copy

I always have difficulty when coming up with these lists because there are often albums I’ve enjoyed that I’m forced to leave out. When I had the current mid-year list down to 25, I thought about bucking my yearly tradition of 20 and upping it to 25. Then, I recollected a long forgotten high school memory. During my junior year, our basketball coach had a decision along the same lines – with 10 returning seniors and a strong incoming Junior class of 10 quality players, he had to make cuts in order to meet the roster limit of 15. Instead of manning up and just cutting some of the old players or telling some Juniors to take a year off, he let the extra five Juniors (one of them being me) stay on the team as kind of a practice team. This would turn out horribly with our group of five often feeling outcast and forgotten, and by seasons end, we’d named ourselves The Bullheads (because in Iowa, a catfish isn’t considered a keeper). I decided that, yes, there are some great albums on the outside looking in this year, but at the same time, including them would water down my already loaded list. 2013 is off to a great start musically, and here are my “Top 20 Favorite Albums” so far (no bullheads included: i.e. Daft Punk).

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Ghostface Killah “12 Ways to Die”

Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge

Twelve Reasons to Die

[Wax Poetics; 2013]

Rating: 8.8

Rap music lends its self naturally to the narrative form, so it’s no wonder that many modern MCs have created conceptual albums focused around an overlying story.  The problem is that these attempts at concept are usually failures in terms of following the traditional story arc.  Tyler the Creator’s psychiatry session Goblin was a haphazard, sloppy mess; Kanye West’s mental breakdown on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was entertaining but a little bit too self-absorbed (go figure), and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city lacked any sense of character development or maturation. Maybe they could all learn a thing or too about storytelling from the legendary raconteur Ghostface Killah with his 2013 masterpiece Twelve Reasons to Die.

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Top 100 Albums of 2000 (40-31)

40.  Sigur Ros – Agaetis Byrjun

When this came out, people hyped like they were the first band to make their music even more pretentious by making up and singing in their own fake language.  Well, they are not (but I guess I could use a history lesson on a few subjects as well).  Listening to Agaetis Byrjun makes me feel like this (basically a grown up, creepier version of their album cover):

— Kid Kilowatt

39.  Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele*

The hungriest and most consistent rapper of the last 15 years.  An amazing lyricist.  21 tracks, so expect some filler and some cartoon skits.  Well worth it.  My second favorite Ghostdeini joint.  – Dr. Anonymous

38.  Faraquet – The View From This Tower *

Faraquet is the culmination of two decades of Dischord records.  They are conceptual like Fugazi, melodious and raw like Jawbox, dramatic like Shudder to Think, and as earnest as anything Minor Threat ever did.  On The View From This Tower the band masterfully takes all that is Dischord and blends it together into something that can only be defined as Faraquet.  – Android50

37.  Ulan Bator – Ego: Echo

Ego: Echo’s producer said this about recording the album: “Adrenaline, stress, heat chaos, and panic, combined with the language barrier (they’re French, the engineer was Italian), forced us into places we never expected to end up in, which to me, was incredibly elating.”  I quote this because it helps one to understand the music.  Ego: Echo’s procucer was Michael Gira and it came out on Young God Records.  I mention this because it reminds me of the Swans at times and because almost everything on Young God or involving Gira is pretty great.  Andy Kellman from All Music Guide compared them to ‘80s era Sonic Youth.  I allude to his assertion because it has some truth to it.  Mark E. Smith said, “Repetition, Repetition Repetition,” when referencing his music ( I think he said that).  I point this out cos this album reminds me of it.  — Pthestudp

36.  Dirty 3 – Whatever You Love, You Are

With the use of only drums, a guitar and a violin, this trio created something more beautiful than any other band with an army of instruments in 2000.   This album is just devastating, something you’ll want to listen to over and over again.  Probably their best album, in a long line of excellent ones.  – Suzy Creamcheese

35.  Elf Power – The Winter is Coming

The most underrated of the Elephant 6 groups (Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal, Olivia Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo).  Their 3 album run ending with The Winter is Coming is one of the best of the 90-00s.  Psychedelic, dark lo-fi pop and fuzzy sunny melodies at their best.  You know how albums carry memories along with them?  Well, after having my driver’s license suspended for a year, I listened to this on the way home with my brand new license burning a hole in my pocket.  Fitting.  – Pthestudp

34.   Les Savy Fav – Rome (Written Upside Down) EP*

This 18 minute EP chronicles the band’s transformation from humans to machines.  Tim Harrington sings, “I hope Adams are enough, cos Eve sure ain’t coming.”  It seems Eve couldn’t hand the new machine army and their hyper angular shards disguised as guitar riffs they brought with them to the party.  Fuck her, she can have her fig leaves and fruit from the forbidden tree.  I’ll take Rome.  – Ho Chi Unser Jr.

33.  Trans Am – The Red Line

I like to sometimes explain what an album sounds like by comparing it to other, similar sounding bands.  Something like this: “track 12 of Trans Am’s The Red Line, “I’m Coming Down” sounds like Brian Eno fronting Spacemen 3.”  Now that really describes that song perfectly.  But the problem is, on The Red Line, Trans Am took all their influences and went so far out with them, that they ended up sounding like no one else but Trans Am.  Sure, one can hear all sorts of Krautrock, some Suicide, New Order, ambience, vocoders and classic rock, but I cannot figure out the recipe for how it all goes together so well, because this shouldn’t work at all (especially 73 minutes of it).  – Willie Rambo Strider

32. Clientele – Suburban Light

It’s weird how things come full circle.  I remember listening to this album after losing my dog, a rottweiler named Max, to a dude who liked to drive down our dirt road too fast.  And now, 7 or 8 years later, I listen to this as I think about how much shit I am in after losing an old ladies’ dog while house sitting for her, due to it being able to run much faster than me.  At first the album kinda runs together (it is a compilation of the band’s early singles and scattered recordings), cos every song sounds the same.  But the more you listen, the more every song becomes distinctive and takes you down a different lane (albeit it’s autumn and every lane is tree lined).  But that’s me; see where it takes you.  – Pthestudp

31. A Silver Mt. Zion – He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms

Remember Y2K?  I sure as fuck do.  I had a high school teacher obsessed with it.  I don’t know where he heard about it, but he told us well ahead of time that shit was going to hit the fan.  I hadn’t been so excited for anything that I could remember.  I couldn’t wait to see what would happen and was ready to start my career as a revolutionary early (I’ve always been obsessed with Che and Fidel).  My excitement boiled over in all types of forms, imagining how I would survive (easy, I lived on a farm), practicing my marksmanship, and writing all my assigned papers on something to do with it.  But mostly just being really fucken stoked about it, I didn’t know what all was going to go down (although I had a healthy imagination and the media fueling some big ideas), but it was going to be better than that Sublime (April 29th, 1992) song and maybe even better than the Revolution of 1776.  I woke up that morning and probably had the most disappointing day of my life.  Not one damn thing happened.  At least I have this, the soundtrack to what Y2K would have been, had it not been some scaremongering media sham (swine flu anyone?).  Features guitarist Efrim Menuck, bassist Thierry Amar, and violinist Sophie Trudeau of Godspeed You Black Emperor. — Songssuck

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