Another year, another year-end roundup from SPB. This is the tenth year of our existence and it's perhaps fitting that the album we've voted the best of 2013 is by a band which holds lots of significance for SPB. But no spoilers! Read on to see the list of the 30 best albums that came out in 2013 – be sure to let us know below which ones you think we've missed.
Overall sitewide list
As a zine built on the foundation of loving AFI, it would clearly be remiss not to talk about their new record. We try to pretend that Decemberunderground and Crash Love never happened - the first rule of AFI fandom is.... - but it would be silly to think that AFI made it to Burials without having to go through those two terrible albums. OK, I'll give them this, the songs they played live sounded great, but listening to the albums is a lesson in torture. Praise the Dark Lord then, that AFI have regrouped, re-energised and reclaimed their love of the dark. "The Face Beneath The Waves" closes Burials on suitably shadowy tones that bring the album full circle. The verses sit in subtle, minimal waves of vocal and slightly held back ambient noise (yes, really) while the chorus surges with a heady passion that surrounds and envelopes you in classic AFI tones. It holds a sense of finality in its closing moments and signals the rebirth and renewal of the much-loved band into one that is defiant in its outlook. AFI are back, make no mistake. – Cheryl
Standing in stark opposition to the intimate warmth of their other releases like Somewhere Along the Highway or Eternal Kingdom, Vertikal is just so perfectly icy and bleak that you can't help but feel moved by it. The way the music makes you feel like an outsider, like the band is somehow removed from the listening experience itself, creates an almost paralyzing sense of distress in the listener, compelling you to continue listening just so that you can reach some kind of consoling resolution. This album is huge, powerful, menacing, and strangely intriguing all at the same time. If you're looking for what will assuredly be one of the best post-metal records this year, you need to hear Vertikal. – Sarah
With an arbitrary approach to songwriting, Arctic Monkeys have developed infectiously. Are there dubious moments on AM? Sure. Amidst all the question marks, ender, "I Wanna Be Yours", eases hazily, resting ill placed at the close of a rock-strewn, eclectic collection of songs. But there's never anything worth entirely forsaking here. Despite their monkey business, these guys are a virtuous spectacle, keeping good company, and showing no signs of freezing. – Brennan
The Messenger is not The Smiths, The Cribs, or Modest Mouse; each track is unmistakably Johnny Marr's own. Seeming to unfold, there is no intent eagerness to please on any of the songs. This is undoubtedly the sound of a musician who knows what he's doing and couldn't care less about what's expected of him. At no point do the songs falter or sound repetitive, The Messenger offers a glimpse into the musical mind of Johnny Marr, and gives the distinct impression that there's a lot more to come. He may already have been officially crowned Godlike Genius, but it seems Johnny Marr will continue to remind us of exactly why he was so deserving of that title. – Aideen
Often an album comes along that defies all genre constraints and challenges your own perception on life and reality. Sometimes that album makes you delve deep within the self and question your own outlooks. Teethed Glory and Injury is that album. And oh, how it ravages your being. The music is racked with an agony that no mere mortal should ever be privy too and it’s testament to their ability to hone that despair into painful inflections of guitar and voice that it never crosses into “woe is me” territory or trite angst. Closing with “Reflection Pulse Remains” and driven cries of “I am not here,” Teethed Glory and Injury is a decidedly uncomfortable process to bear witness to, but the rewards are thousand fold and the cleansing absolute. – Cheryl
If there was ever an album to challenge Altar of Plagues' recent Teethed Injury and Glory for most divisive black metal record of the year, then Deafheaven’s sophomore effort Sunbather is surely the strongest challenger. The band split opinion in almost every circle – black metal fans, shoegaze fans, awful hipsters, critics – no one seems to know what to do with this group or where they fit within the black metal arena… and that’s ok. It’s clear that Deafheaven have learned a great deal since their beginnings in terms of manipulating their sound to maximise the effect on the senses and so Sunbather swirls in the heat of misspent youth and in the struggle to overcome the feelings associated with those mistakes and to move on to new, better and hopeful times. Deafheaven may be a young band, they may split opinion and they may not even really be black metal at all, but they are certainly a product of generation that was promised everything and received nothing and as such create haunting and personal work that resonates with desire and desperation alike. – Cheryl
Run the Jewels could easily have been a victory parade after the momentous 2012 that Killer Mike and El-P had. There are few negatives to be found here. Run The Jewels offers complex, lush and layered production, interesting and inventive wordplay, and it's free. The lack of any real "standout" tracks ("Sea Legs", if I had to pick a favorite) could be seen as a detractor to those more interested in cherry-picking songs, but the albums consistency does not drag it down. As prolific of a rapper as Big Boi is, his verse on "Banana Clipper" almost feels like it was tacked on as an afterthought. It's more of a testament to how natural and magnetic these two rappers are together and it's likely that anybody would be upstaged. Run The Jewels is not some sprawling, self-indulgent narrative, and it doesn't try to be. It's simply two MC's turning the volume up and going for the throat. – Josh G.
20 Buck Spin
In a genre such as funeral doom, most bands choose to try and do things the easy way, relying just on the slow pace and heavy guitars. Well, Lycus are doing much more than that. They include influences from some of the best that doom/death had to offer in the early 90s and they are defiant enough to make the extra mile in order to get a sound that is a shade darker than the rest, and it works. Tempest is an album that shatters your mind, it creates a mesmerizing vortex of dissonance and sorrowful melody from which you will not want to turn away. – Spyros
It has been 6 since Queens of the Stone Age released their album Era Vulgaris. An album this reviewer gave a favorable rating, but admittedly didn't fully understand at the time of reviewing for this site. I couldn't fully grasp what the band was trying to achieve at the time and when it finally dawned on me and it took everything in my power to not delete what I had written and start over with a new sense of enlightenment. Where once I was blind, I now can see, and the path is made clear with ...Like Clockwork. This is an album that is such a welcome sound for sore ears, it's almost enough to evoke tears of joy. ...Like Clockwork is the closest thing to a perfect album you're likely to hear all year. – Kevin
There's not a whole hell of a lot to be said about Darkthrone that is not already legend. Having survived the Norwegian Black Metal Scene relatively unscathed - both the chaos of the early 90's and all the cliches of the subsequent years, they are, with the exception of maybe Mayhem, the last band standing in the ashes of the genre. Darkthrone is a band that can be expected to evolve further as the years progress. Whether they take all of their fanbase with them remains to be seen as arguments within the genre over what is "true" and what isn't continue to rage on but whatever the outcome, Darkthrone remains a band that has earned the respect of us all. – Kevin
The only thing that would make sense of how this album came to be is the following scenario: Portal managed to somehow open a gateway to the realms of the Great Old Ones and were granted supernatural powers by malicious beings, such as Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth, Tsathoggua and obviously Cthulhu. And soon enough, Portal decided to put their newfound powers into good use… and that is how Vexovoid came to be. If you have a more likely explanation please let me know. So if you think that you are an extreme music fan (better think again), this is an album that will challenge even you, we are probably talking about the most extreme kind of death metal that there currently is out there, it might not be the fastest or the heaviest record around but it is definitely one of the nastiest and the meanest that you will hear. – Spyros
Southern Lord Records
The atmosphere that the band is creating in this case is truly unique and when the track finally breaks into a storm of heavy riffs you are left speechless with the ability of Pelican to create sonic trips out of their compositions. In their latest album, Pelican were able to once again re-invent themselves. It is as if at the time this is the same band and then it is not. It is quite weird in a sense but what matters mostly here is that Forever Becoming is an amazing album, filled with heavy riffs, emotion, melodies, solid grooves and great songs. – Spyros
Days Are Gone
The three LA sisters released a debut mixing classic soft rock with 90s R&B rhythms, with more than a hint of Fleetwood Mac to proceedings. Synths, reverb, and glossy melodies give a hint of their 80s influence, leaving Days Are Gone feeling nostalgic and confident all at once.
Svart Records/20 Buck Spin
The dreamlike setting that the band has crafted is still present accompanying you constantly, while the sound is steadily becoming more and more aggressive, promising a forthcoming moment of shattering fate. And all that while the effects are creating a warp that seems to be sucking up the very essence of existence. The track keeps evolving, switching from soothing parts to heavy moments and reaches its true majestic form in the few last minutes. Oranssi Pazuzu, with their third album, basically show what a unique band they are. Just when you think that you get what they are doing and how they are bending sounds to their will, they transcend your expectations, revealing that it is actually your consciousness and logic that is bending. Psychedelic music, black metal, space rock and experimental music, all are put through the sonic kaleidoscope that is Valonielu. The effect is imminent and this album is inescapable. – Spyros
Bad Seed LTD.
Nick Cave is an uncaring bastard. He doesn't care if you buy his new album Push The Sky Away, nor does he care if you like it. Of course, this is not what makes him a great artist. What makes him a great artist is the uncompromising nature of his work. The man does whatever the hell he wants to, and everything else are mere obstacles - Impediments to the work at hand. If Push the Sky Away is the portrait of an artist in the sundowning phase of his career, here's hoping the sun never sets. – Kevin