Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Best Of The Year 2013: Third Quarter Update

Welcome to MuzikDizcovery's quarterly article on our favorite releases of the year to date. Each of our staff members has posted a list of our five favorite albums of the year to date, with a little blurb showing why we love each one so much. Every album released in 2013 that we have heard was eligible, even if the album has not been released to the public just yet. As always, there's a wide variety of music on these lists, and every release on here is worth checking out. Kanye West, Vampire Weekend, The 1975, The Wonder Years, Captain, We're Sinking and Justin Timberlake all take prominent spots in multiple lists, and represent some of the best that 2013 has to offer. Check out of all of our lists below, and click on the links in the album names for our coverage.

Casey Whitman

1. Owel - Owel
Nine months with this record and it still sounds as brilliant as it did when I first heard out. There's barely been a minute this year that didn't contain this record at the top of my list, and while the competition has begun to finally approach on it, Owel's self-titled has prevailed as my favorite of the year. While Mansions's upcoming record Doom Loop is a very strong candidate to overtake Owel by the end of the year, that shouldn't damper what this very young band has done with this absolutely fantastic debut. When Grantland ends up mentioning you in an article, you know that you must have at least done something right.

2. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Whenever, If Ever
Since the last time I wrote about this record, I've seen this band twice. Both times ended up being some of the most magnificent live sets I've seen. It's a thing of beauty to see these nine people create both atmospheric and emotional power on stage, and few moments have touched me more this year than experiencing the end build-up of album statement "Getting Sodas." This record is definitely the pinnacle record of the recent emo revival, and it'll be interesting to see how the band can ever follow up this masterpiece.

3. The 1975 - The 1975
Just to express the enormous surge in popularity that The 1975 has had in recent months, their Facebook page had about 34,000 fans when I saw them back in March. At this very moment, the band has more than quintupled that number, and the pace seems to be growing faster every day. They're starting to sell out bigger venues in the United States, an honor that the band absolutely deserves after their incredible debut self-titled record. It's alt-pop rock in the best way, combining some of the catchiest hooks of the year with a killer sense of atmosphere and some of the best production of the year. It's risky for any band to put an alt rock anthem like "Sex," an 80's pop jam like "Heart Out" and a panty dropper like "Pressure" on the same record, but The 1975 makes it all sound so cohesive and wonderful.

4. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City
I never expected to like anything Vampire Weekend released THIS much. I enjoyed a few singles off of Contra, but I cared so little about them that I ended up skipping them headline the last night of Pitchfork Fest 2012. That's now one of my biggest regrets of the weekend, as they ended up premiering a track off one of the best records of 2013. The band has both matured their style and advanced their songwriting to a new level, pushing both their popularity and critical acclaim to new heights. They're very well deserving of the title of one of the biggest bands in indie music, and I regret not realizing that until now.

5. The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
Every time it feels that I'm totally done with the pop punk genre, The Wonder Years end up pulling me back in. The Greatest Generation is one of the best pop punk records in years, mostly due to doing the rare feat of keeping the music varied and interesting while still staying to the simple basics of the genre. Opener "There There" is the band's best song to date, and hopefully an indication of where the band may go next. I have a bad feeling that they've exhausted as much of the genre that they can. However, I thought that of Suburbia, so we'll see in 2015 (or so) if the band will surprise us again.

Honorable Mentions:
Kanye West - Yeezus
Moving Mountains - Moving Mountains
Volcano Choir - Repave
CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe
Mikal Cronin - MCII
Captain, We're Sinking - The Future Is Cancelled

Max Puhala

1. Enemies - Embark, Embrace
Everyone knows that magical feeling when one of your favorite bands releases a new record and the new material not only lives up to, but completely surpasses your expectations. I, of course, was not worried about Enemies creating a lackluster release, but I never thought it would be this good. Embark, Embrace finds these Ireland musicians at their best, refining their sound to include brief moments of vocals but never compromising the aspects that have always made them so great. “Indian Summer” would have been a fantastic song even without the words, but the additional soft singing makes it hit so much harder. Embark, Embrace is filled to the brim with fantastic instrumentals, beautiful melodies, and deceivingly complex structures, making it my favorite release of the year thus far.

2. Barrow - Though I'm Alone
I first saw Barrow in a dungy basement in Greensboro and was ridiculously impressed with their performance, only to later find out that these post-music geniuses lived right in my hometown. I’ve seen them 3 times since, and have been listening nonstop all summer long to Though I’m Alone, the band’s second full-length. While many people seem to prefer the immediacy of their first release, Being Without, I believe the mature, subtle nature of Though I’m Alone puts it on a far higher level of refinement than the prior—if you’re willing to give it the attention and time it deserves. “Fox Ears and Silence” is the band’s heaviest song to date, while “Clawhold” is their most restrained. The lyrics in “Wither” are some of the saddest I’ve heard, and I still get chills at the conclusion of “God’s in His Heaven—All is Well,” even after countless listens. Barrow has masterfully combined emotion, melody, and aggression here, and I can only hope that there is far more to come from them in the future.

3. HRVRD - From the Bird's Cage
After being endlessly compared to Circa Survive as either better, worse, or simple copycats, HRVRD decided they desperately needed to create an identity of their own—one free from the shackles of Anthony Green’s namesake—and From the Bird’s Cage does just that, asserting that HRVRD is a strong new force in the music community with just as much talent as their shadows. There has been a significant sonic overhaul with HRVRD’s sound on this record, with the guitars coming down in the mix to, instead, provide a wonderful backdrop to the band’s surprisingly creative rhythm section. Drummer Tim Cossor is the true star here as he keeps things complex without drowning out the rest of the band, and the light, floaty nature of Jesse Clasen's voice is a perfect conductor for the new, elite powerhouse that HRVRD has become.

4. Annuals - Time Stamp
I love a good comeback story, and Annuals’ third full-length, Time Stamp, was going to be one of the best in recent years. Dropped from their major label and completely out of cash, Annuals stayed strong and decided to self-fund the entire recording of the album themselves. The end result was a fantastically infectious blend of indie rock and electronics that never once loses steam throughout the entire 40 minutes. There’s a whimsical playfulness that dominates the tone of this record, from the happy-go-lucky “Broke” to the dark, but somehow positive “Omnicide,” an interesting contrast to the band's dark situation. While Time Stamp certainly won't be the end for the band, it will forever serve as a perfect snapshot of these criminally underappreciated musicians.

5. TTNG  -
Simply put, TTNG is a band whose sound is a perfect representation of the style of music I most enjoy. When extremely complex, clean guitars, reminiscent of the Midwestern emo tones, are paired with great melody, tempo fluctuation, and soft vocals, I can never get enough of it. My first listen of album opener “Cat Fantastic” had me sold immediately, and the diverse mix of instrumental tracks and more standard cuts helps keep the album interesting throughout all twelve songs. There are some time signature shifts on this record that are enough to make your head spin, and being the rhythm nerd that I am, will provide endless entertainment for me and many others for years to come.

Jonny Hunter

1. Ben Frost - FAR
The days grow shorter, rain starts to fall and coats re-enter the every day wardrobe. To this reviewer, the first sentence can also read: time to wack out the ambient; and what a glorious time of year it is. The first little surprise on my music radar was Ben Frost's FAR, which evolved under my changing disposition from a slow, difficult album to what can be said, with a fresh dollop of certainty, to be the best album of 2013 so FAR (ha!). The album sees Ben's focus change from looping beauty and harsh build-ups to fear and pain, the result of which will have those patient enough curled up in the fetal position from an undeniably powerful sea of raw emotion. However, don't expect it to be easy, one point will have everyone flinching.

2. Last DaysSatellite
On the other side of the ambient spectrum, Last Days shows a dramatic return to form with the serenely beautiful Satellite. Taking a leaf out of the Richard Skelton school of environmentally inspired, classical-come-electroacoutsic composition, the album draws heavily from the bleak (and pretty) Scottish countryside to offer up some of the most soothing works in past years. Although sometimes jumping to the romantic too soon for my tastes, some of the tracks on here zone you out to the point it's hard to finish writing abo... mmmm.

3. Geskia!Silent of Light
As the only Q1 survivor in my Q2 list, Silent of Light continues to be bloody excellent. Even after half a year of semi-regular listening the album still brings up little tidbits hidden under the unending layers comprising each track. The album relies heavily on the fun and catchy melodies, so it's all the more crucial to manage to feel box-fresh. At the same time, the wizardry fueling the completely mind blowing percussion will have old-school electronic fans wading through puddles of their own droo

4. Piers FacciniBetween Dogs and Wolves
Between Dogs and Wolves has spearheaded the recent invasion of folk music into my hard drive. It has also been the go to album for me if I want to feel all cozy and happy with the world, which surprisingly has been a lot. Piers' mellow and soulful voice is moving enough to have an effect even in the few non-English songs, and the minimalist palette of guitar-based instrumentation brings up acts like Bright Eyes and Bibio. Basically, it's very, very good.

5. SOHNBloodflows
When he's not producing brilliant EP's like BANKS' London, SOHN is crawling up my quarter lists like an ant to particularly sought after jam (because being on here is a very big deal, as we all know). Bloodflows is short, really short at three tracks, but perfectly displays the well crafted style he's already been able to carve out for himself. Beautiful electronic production with RnB-style falsetto vocals. It's usually not my kind of thing, which goes a long way to show you how brilliant this must be.

Ryan Naglak

1. Slow Warm Death - Slow Warm Death
I cannot stop listening to this album, and I cannot stop talking about it. It is hands down one of the greatest rock records I have heard in my life. John Galm has completely reinvented his style and ditched his emo past to create a bluesy, garage rock album that even The White Stripes would be jealous of. With its howling vocals, that lace the crashing cascade of guitars and drums, Slow Warm Death is so much more than an album. It is a sonic experience.

2. Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavelle - Perils From The Sea
I will always be a fan of Mark Kozelek’s work and his often minimalistic guitar playing. But when he sings over the bare-bones electronics of Jimmy Lavelle, and paints a perfect picture of each song in your mind, I melt. Perils From The Sea is the most introspective album of 2013 and while lengthy, it will challenge you and almost bring you to tears.

3. Deafheaven - Sunbather
Deafheaven’s Sunbather is an onslaught of tones and melodies, and is as light at moments as it is heavy. Being the epitome of post-rock meets hardcore, Sunbather is accessible to any fan of rock music and will easily be a highlight for many this year. The songs are warm and encompassing, even while berating you with double-bass and tremolo guitar. 

4. Owen - L’ami du Peuple
Owen has never put out a bad album. Hell, he has never even put out a “just okay” album. Every record he releases is wonderful, and a snapshot of his life at that moment in time. On L’ami du Peuple he struggles with the responsibilities of being a family man and comes to realization that he is growing older. It is a enlightening look into his life and he once again opts to share so much with his listeners. 

5. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
I am not afraid to admit that I’ve been listening to “Started From The Bottom” repeatedly for months now. Now that the complete album is out, Drake has surprised everyone by releasing a sensual and at times intimate record of hip-hop meets R&B. It’s a warm and easy to listen to record, with highlights being the more soulful songs where Drake chooses singing over rapping. A strong career move on his part, as we can only hope for more songs like these to come.

Maxwell Harcsar

1. Norma Jean - Wrongdoers
Norma Jean's newest release took me completely by surprise and shook my earholes until they bled. After a lineup switch, I felt that one of my favorite bands was doomed, and I'm glad to say I was completely wrong. Wrongdoers features the strongest and heaviest music from the metalcore band since Redeemer, or dare I say O' God, the Aftermath. It has some crazy punk influence, as well as some of the chaotic mathcore elements that thrust Norma Jean into the spotlight in the first place. Wrongdoers will tear your face apart in the best way possible.

2. The Wonder YearsThe Greatest Generation
This year has been absolutely amazing for music, and it pains me to put The Wonder Years at number two instead of one. At this time, Norma Jean and The Wonder Years are tied though Wrongdoers thoroughly surprised me. The Greatest Generation is the definitive pop punk album of the year and I don't think anything will change that. It's got the quiet soft parts, the loud, faster mosh parts and the deep lyrics that made the Wonder Years turn heads with their progression with Suburbia, but even stronger and much more poignant. We will see what ultimately happens at the end of the year.

3. Touche AmoreIs Survived By
As one of my most ancitipated of the year, Is Survived By delivers Touche Amore's signature sound through fast hardcore blasts and trademark yells, though with a more evolutionary melodic approach that ups the ante for the band. Songs cross the three minute barrier and wrap in and out of dissonant twangs and airy cathartic atmospheres which get pulled down in a hurricane of mindbending drum fills. Everything feels bigger and more calculated, which makes Is Survived By a much stronger, cohesive album than any of the band's previous albums.

4. Balance & Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing
Balance & Composure had very much to live up to with their follow up to their debut album Separation, and needless to say I was quite impressed with their follow up. It's an honest progression that shows Balance & Composure experiment with layering of guitars and effects to create something deep. It's a grungy hard rock champion that muses through the softest sounds and thrashes through the head banging bits. It's a valiant effort, and one the band should be commended for. It's a bit long and may drag a little in the middle, but The Things We Think We're Missing is not something you'll forget.

5.  Bring Me The HorizonSempiternal
This record is still a strong contender. It's got the best tunes from Bring Me The Horizon, and it's still a heavy banger. "And The Snakes Start to Sing" and "Sempiternal" are my go-to favorites, and it's just so amazing to see how far the band has come since Count Your Blessings.

Moses Kim

1. TyphoonWhite Lighter
Typhoon has always been a band about the big ideas--the countless dimensions to death, the unspoken horrors of time--yet the fledgling folk-rock dozen has never sounded as positively crushing as it does on White Lighter, where a rumination on mortality becomes an affirmation of family; an old tale of regret finds room for redemption; and a song for a martyr becomes a rousing battle cry. It is poetry in 3/4 time, painting without colors. It is every album at once and unlike any album I've ever heard. And I'm going to go listen to it again right now.

2. MorningbellBoa Noite
The title, for those of you who are wondering, means "good night" in Portugese. The Portugese must be nocturnal creatures. Admirably playful and moody at once, Boa Noite plays like a folk festival, a rock set and a musical act mashed into thirty-eight minutes of greatness. It swings from moments of tropical bliss ("We Have Eyes As Well As Ears") to smoky heartache ("Hush") to everything in between (the monolith title track). Morningbell have crafted a remarkably mature album that should have listeners hungry for more.

3. 65daysofstaticWild Light
Six albums into its career, 65daysofstatic proves with its latest musical vision that age hasn't silenced it a single bit. The songs here are refined, losing the grit of perennial yardstick The Fall Of Math, but no less visceral for how surprisingly graceful they are. There's also a refreshing sense of hope brought to the forefront of the album: with the destruction of small ideas comes new possibilities.

"Nobody knows what is happening," goes the ominous prologue that opens the album, an apt summary of things on both Planet Earth and Planet 65. And right now, Planet 65's prospects are looking quite a bit more promising.

4. DorenaNuet
Having written about Dorena quite a bit at this point, I've said just about everything that can be said about Nuet: however, Nuet has not finished with me. It stirs me in a way too complex for words like "nostalgia" or "beauty" to fully capture. It has just as much to offer to carefree souls as it does to more burdened ones, and its generosity shines through in each woozy synth, each sun-soaked guitar stroke, each gradual climax followed by the inevitable gentle fall back to earth.

5. Farewell FighterChallenges
Is there any time as absurdly bonkers as the late teens? You know you're only eighteen and this too shall pass, but you just can't get out of your own way. In the words Taylor Swift (who is, unlike the rest of us pimple-faced plebs, feeling 22, not 18), "It's miserable and magical." Farewell Fighter wisely leans towards the magical side of that equation, and Challenges strikes a chord with the romantic in me even in its bleak, most honest moments. Besides that, it's just a plain fun album, full of rebellious energy and wit. It acknowledges all of the growing pains of adolescence but argues for celebrating them anyway. Here's to never/finally growing up.

7. Lights & Motion - Reanimation
8. OneRepublic - Native
9. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady
10. The Como Brothers Band - Baby Steps

Daniel Rhoads

When Kanye came out publicly and said he thought the second verse of “New Slaves” from his latest album Yeezus was the greatest rap verse ever, I laughed, because that’s pretty ridiculous, right? I even listened to it and wasn’t quite sure where he was coming from. Well. I got tickets for the Yeezus tour and decided it was time to take a walk down memory lane and soak in ‘Ye’s entire discogrpahy. The College Dropout was my first rap album ever. Graduation was my second. When My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out in 2010, it was one of about 3 albums that got me through a tough Summer. After that, I kind of stopped listening to the Louis Vuitton Don, not consciously, but just because that’s what happened. I had the occasional thought about his being an asshole, and maybe even I entertained the idea that I had thought too much of him at some point. Yeezus’ release actually had me question more than ever. The whole punk thing I felt like he was going for seemed a little contrived, you know, like “Okay Kanye, you’re mad, that’s very cute.” But his antics have a tendency to make us forget - Kanye West is a genius, or else geniuses don’t exist. His almost 10-year career of releasing albums has left us with an absolutely stunning portrait of a complex human being (like you!): resentful, hopefully, intelligent, prideful, loudmouthed, excessive. Viewed from the moment of Yeezus’ drop, his motives seem questionable. Viewed as the next step in one of popular music’s greatest careers, they seem only natural. Back to the second verse of “New Slaves,” in which Kanye rips the world apart faster and with more efficiency than anyone has recently or will soon. The track is followed immediately by “Hold My Liquor,” a song heart-wrenchingly epic in scope but pedestrian in content. This is a nuanced record, with pain and angst sloshing up from between jagged, shattered sound bytes and straight-stark industrial noise. So forward-thinking is the structure that other the hundreds of other artists putting out stagnation almost should be ashamed of themselves. The sound of Yeezus is not the sound of our future, but Kanye’s. He shouldn’t be followed down the path he’s blazing for himself, but instead emulated in his seemingly endless quest to break ground. Thank you Kanye, for giving us something new to listen to again, and may you continue to impress us with many years of good health and music that makes us sit up and say “well, shit.”

The best albums tend to be the ones where I look back on my first impressions and wonder how I was ever so shallow. The initial thing that usually strikes me about a record is its place in history, or, really, its bloodline. For Field of Reeds, my mind went straight to Talk Talk in an almost accusatory way. How was I ever so shallow? Of course, it’s because Talk Talk’s last two records before sort of dissolving, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, felt wise and ancient and natural enough that they seem like they might be hiding some answers the rest of humanity is looking for. The same goes for Field of Reeds. Wake up on a dark, wet Sunday morning feeling uneasy, and this record will be your best and worst remedy. It’s full of these kinds of contradictions - it’s anarchic  almost but so clearly and expertly orchestrated, and full of love songs about being alone. While Talk Talk’s stuff had a sort of implied psychedelic nudge-nudge going on, in no way is this a record to take drugs to. It’s a record for when you can’t seem to stop thinking about the vastness. Here, These New Puritans tried to tame it. I’m not sure how successful they were, but Lord it’s beautiful. 

Vampire Weekend have spent their whole career as a band trying to get just right this very distinctive thing that they do. Baroque keys, collegiate themes, soft punk beats - their music is a mix of just the right amount of just the right bunch of ingredients. Before this year, it wouldn’t have been hard to call the band shallow. The instant success of their debut, after all, seemed fueled by the fact that they were just what the market was demanding - a quirky bunch of privileged friends making easy but smart pop about not-that-much. There’s nothing easy about Modern Vampires of the City. Ezra Koenig, standing on the verge of his 30’s, is at his most reflective, his most poetic, and his most relatable on every track of the record. The album art is a photograph of Manhattan consumed by fog, and it’s that kind of beautiful uncertainty that seems to drive Koenig’s worldview. “Hannah Hunt,” one of the hard-to-choose highlights, sees him and a lost love driving across the country, witnessing the strangeness and majesty of a big world while what they share slowly falls to pieces. His delivery in the final chorus makes it hard to doubt his words. The band take it slow and steady more than ever before on MVotC, and I love it, but even on their more typical mid-tempo or manic tracks, the songwriting isn’t just improved, it’s masterful. “Finger Back” makes a crowd-pleaser like “A-Punk” sound like the work of a high school band, and “Diane Young” takes the production experiments of Contra and pitches the band up to the forefront of atmospheric tinkering in the indie rock world. I can’t talk this record up enough. 

I’m always confused by the way people talk about Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold like it’s somehow retro. “Punk classicism” is how one commentator put it. In terms of mood, yeah, I can see it, and even sometimes stylistically. I still think that kind of analysis is missing the point. Light Up Gold is so perfectly, beautifully now. Parquet Courts are a band from Brooklyn, NY, the true machine of popular, semi- “alternative” rock n’ roll, pop, dance music, and all the rest. In fact, New York’s economy is barely first place in anything now but rock music. Brooklyn is trendy as all hell. If you have any problem with popular indie, you have a problem with Brooklyn. Parquet Courts are a band from Brooklyn, NY, but, by god, they don’t really sound it. There’s no reverb, there’s no dream pop. The guitars succeed on the merits of their players instead of the easy beauty of their tones. The songs are about things. The songs are about little things, things that seemingly don’t really matter, but things. The songs are about Brooklyn, New York, America, North Dakota, 7-11, and everything that’s wrong with everything in between. It’s a rebellion. Oh, and the songs are really good. 

Despite the fact that this record costs a despicable and usurious $40 new, My Bloody Valentine came back in 2013 the best way they could have. They’ve been off and away from the cutting edge for long enough, the most we should have asked was that they give us something we love to listen to. I guess it’s up to you to decide if they pulled it off. I think they did. It feels like the Noise Rock family reunion, and if you’re close to the band, the music, or the movement, it’ll make you feel nice and warm inside in a Christmas Eve dinner kind of way. I’ve decided, after thinking, that I do really hope they don’t make any more records. I’m so content with what they’ve left behind, and Kevin Shields should be too. 

Will Robinson

Since I've gone over most of the albums in my top five already, I'll provide a list of my top 20 albums of the year so far and go over a select five of them.

1. Kanye West - Yeezus

2. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

3. Naibu - Fall

4. The Naked And Famous - In Rolling Waves
I don't think anyone was expecting In Rolling Waves to be as good as it was. Instead of being your standard major-indie above-average synthpop collection, the album is brilliantly-made, cohesive, varied, and one of the best surprises of the year thus far. From potential track of the year "Rolling Waves" to "slow-jamz" king "The Mess," the band builds each track perfectly, reaching untold levels of patience as they slowly add in synth line after synth line until the songs are bursting with power - and then they fully burst, and everything's that much better.

5. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels
Though nothing rivals Kanye's production this year (and yes, I realize the controversy this statement's sure to spark), El-P and Killer Mike come damn close. Run The Jewels is easily the best by-the-book hip-hop record of the year, and El-P's tried-and-true yet still-inventive beats complement the two rappers perfectly. Though it's a bit unfortunate that guest artist Big Boi diminishes the value of the two artists on standout track "Banana Clipper" by schooling them with his impeccable flow, the song (along with trap-styled banger "Job Well Done" and wonderfully tuneful "Sea Legs") is a definite candidate for best rap songs of the year. Killer Mike and El-P (fuck boys, think about it) have shown to be a dynamic duo in the past, and Run The Jewels solidifies their reputations as some of the best in the game today.

6. Captain, We're Sinking - The Future is Cancelled

7. The 1975 - The 1975
Let's hear it for the best straight-up alt-pop record of the year. Though the record drags on a bit near the back end and its countless interludes, the LP barely stutters through smash pop song after smash pop song, and the consistency of The 1975 is astounding. Even given Justin Timberlake's prominent placement near the top of this list, "Chocolate" is quite possibly the most brilliant pop tune this year, and it's a wonderful representation of the album as a whole. The sing-along choruses drive every song forward, the band shows remarkable maturity given their relative inexperience, and the group handles every topic - from cheating to addiction to straight-up love - with poise.

8. Bonobo - The North Borders

9. Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy
Easily the best chiptune release in recent memory, Endless Fantasy is a case of an album that knows exactly where it wants to go. Its energy is unparalleled, and its sense of joy makes for a wonderfully cohesive and enjoyable listening experience. There's a remarkable amount of variety hidden below the surface here, and the album soars above expectations thanks to the band's talent, sound, and wonderful skill. From album standout "EVERYTHING EXPLODES" and its wonderfully frenetic lead chip-distorted guitar line to dancefloor-crusher Akira and its beautifully-executed distortion, the album is wonderful, weird, wild, and incredible.

10. Walton - Beyond
Hyperdub has been having a great year thus far, with great release after great release, and Beyond hits home as the best one. The top garage release of 2013, the album exudes confidence and class from every pore. The dark, weighty basslines are placed expertly throughout, the clicky drums complement the higher synths well, and the wonderful retro vibes everywhere work to make the album a completely modern experience. No matter whether he's in the realm of straight-up garage ("Help Me Out"), dubstep ("Frisbee"), or classic house ("Every Night"), Walton makes Beyond memorable. At only 23, he's managed to augment the classic sounds of the early 2000s and carve his own niche in the genre, and it'll be wonderful to see what he can do in the future.

For further listening:

11. Swindle - Long Live The Jazz
12. The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
13. V.I.V.E.K. - Asteroids / Over My Head
14. CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
15. How To Destroy Angels - Welcome Oblivion
16. AlunaGeorge - Body Music
17. Andrew Bayer - If It Were You, We'd Never Leave
19. CHON - Newborn Sun
20. Washed Out - Paracosm

Ali Welford

1. Jon Hopkins - Immunity
Lots of positive things have been said about Immunity over the past few months, but I'm not sure any of them have quite portrayed the sheer depth encapsulated in the Londoner's fourth solo LP. Veering from the club-friendly punch of "Open Eye Signal" to the knockout ambient bliss of its title track, each and every one of these songs is built upon layers of sonic perfection, steadily upping the intensity with each fresh loop, whatever the overall tone. Beautiful and enthralling in equal measure - and bearing a glorious warmth often associated with the best electronic music - it's the one and only worthy record nominated for this year's Mercury prize. I'm already preparing my rant for when it's inevitably overlooked.

2. Sigur Rós - Kveikur
Sigur Rós' performance at Glasgow's SECC back in March was by far and away the greatest I've ever witnessed - partly because it filled me with excitement... together with awe and pure bewilderment. As well as an astonishing run through their classics, the Icelanders also chose to air a trio of new songs - "Yfirborð," "Brennisteinn" and "Kveikur" - each of which suggested another glacial monument could well be on its way. Unveiled shortly thereafter, their seventh studio outing more than lived up to my hopes, but that's not to say it was void of surprises. Indeed, whereas early indicators had suggested a darker, industrialised new direction, what Kveikur actually yielded was some of their most immediate material to date - the likes of "Ísjaki" and "Rafstraumur" even boasting conventions which can only be described as pop. It's certainly not the monster many had hoped for, but rest assured the switch works marvelously.

3. RM Hubbert - Breaks & Bone
It may only take bronze at present, but if I had to bet on one of these records enduring beyond the next few months, my money would be firmly with Breaks & Bone. A return to the solo format exercised on debut First & Last, this third effort also marks the first time Hubbert's own voice has appeared on record, though the main source of wonderment remains in his superlative flamenco playing. Stunning in every sense, the likes of "Son of Princess, Brother of Rambo," "Couch Crofting" and "Go Slowly" achieve the rare feat of being both technically astounding and achingly beautiful, to an extent where it's easy to grasp the 'therapeutic' value they hold for their maker. Crucially, this is also an album you need not be a musician to appreciate, and thus already feels like another Scottish cult classic.

4. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
The Knife's transformation from synth pop sensations to avant garde behemoths hasn't been embraced universally, but for sheer scale alone their fourth album is nothing short of staggering. At 96 minutes in length, it'd be stretching the point to claim there's not a dull moment, with the last few tracks in particular bringing very little to the table. The meat of Shaking the Habitual, however, is absolutely sensational. Whether it's through the brutal incessance of "Full of Fire," the zonked-out drones of  "A Cherry on Top" or the industrial menace of "Raging Lung," this is a record crammed with sounds that'll rattle right through your body, firing shivers down your spine and causing your bones to quake. Headphones (and a lot of spare time!) are essential if you're to fully digest this beast, but even so the scale and confrontational tone here are capable of making an instant impact.

Frightened Rabbit are one of my favourite current bands, and have been for some time, yet the Scot's fourth LP took some time for me to get my head around. Initially, it all seemed a little upbeat; an eventuality I'd prepared for with them signing to a major label and whatnot, but still one which refused to sit comfortably. After weeks of repeated listening, however, I realised I was completely missing the point. This isn't a record about wallowing in misery, but rather celebrating it - a stance executed brilliantly with the group's token anthemism and some of Scott Hutchinson's finest lyrics to date. Each of the songs here has since ground its way into my psyche, but perhaps the most potent is "Nitrous Gas," whose couplet "If happiness won't live with me / I think I can live with that" provides a motto to embracing misery that's as inspiring as it is confessional.

Honourable Mentions:
John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts
Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

Alex Newton

1. The Ocean - Pelagial
Released both with and without vocals, The Ocean’s sixth LP is an astonishing journey through the depths of the ocean and the human psyche. Conceived as a single piece of music, Pelagial ranges from serene piano pieces to thunderous doom metal over its 53-minutes.

2. Ulcerate - Vermis
Fitting together layers of dissonance in a way that makes sense is a difficult task, but it’s what Ulcerate thrives on. Eline on Vermis builds off this foundation, so the album is saturated with utter dread and bitterness towards a crumbling world. Ulcerate has something special going and is running away from the pack with their third phenomenal effort in a row.

3. Sannhet - Known Flood
Known Flood, distills the band’s highly regarded live show into a 45-minute barrage that falls somewhere between early Isis and U.S. Black Metal acts like Krallice). Like the titual flood, songs here ebb and flow from devastating metallic bursts to long periods of ambience and percussion-driven interludes.

4. Kalmah - Seventh Swamphony
It’s been a good year for Finnish metal, but Kalmah’s newest album stands out from the pack. Combining the hooks of melodeath with the grit of thrash metal, Seventh Swamphony is solid top-to-bottom with explosive songs and adds several new dynamics to the band’s sound.

5. Leprous - Coal
Leprous may be known as Ihsan’s backing band, but that could change in a hurry with efforts like Coal, an album that aptly straddles two musical worlds of extremity and accessibility. Largely forgoing metal for progressive rock a la King Crimson and Rush, Leprous is quickly becoming major players in the heavy music scene.

6. Intronaut - Habitual Levitations
Continuing its evolution from a sludge metal outfit to a progressive powerhouse, Intronaut landed a headlining tour this summer in support of its newest album, Habitual Levitations. The quartet’s most accessible effort yet – and the first without harsh vocals – Levitations is an example of an excellent metal band showing they’re just plain excellent.

7. Secrets of the Sky - To Sail Black Waters
Secrets creates tension and atmosphere with space and emptiness as much as with a traditional metal onslaught. Songs such as ”Winter” have repeated motifs that appear throughout their ten-minute run times and make Black Waters a fulfilling listen and the band a new contender in the post-metal scene.

8. Scarred - Gaia/Medea
Scarred check the boxes of an excellent technical death metal album without adhering to the formulas that can sterilize such an effort. From its apocalyptic opening radio broadcast, Gaia/Medea is an impressively cohesive effort that sees Scarred re-envisioning rather than recycling the music that the album is patterned after and breaking away from the increasingly machined sound of technical metal.

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