It barely seems like yesterday that we compiled our list of the best of 2012, but already the year 2013 is half finished, leaving in its wake some of the best albums of the last twelve months. Here the SPB team have compiled the best of these records, sorted by genre, format and more, for your listening pleasure. Let us know what records have been dominating your year so far below.
Individual staff lists
The SPB team's favorite albums of 2013 so far
We've compiled a bunch of lists of our staff writers' favorite albums released so far this year. Read on for each staff member's top picks of 2013 thus far.
One part ghost story, one part love letter, The Raven that Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) definitively proves that Steven Wilson need not be confined to the shadow of his own bands. It feels like a step out of time, performed as an homage classic 1970s prog, and being written with a discerning pen and performed by a delicate hand, The Raven is never at a loss for moments of subtle passion and extravagant climax alike. It's both haunting and beautiful while avoiding outright melancholia, making for a pensive release that deserves the time to ponder it over.
2. Inter Arma — Sky Burial (Relapse)
Sky Burial is a brutal album—not because it's hard on the ears, but because the emotions it conveys are truly desolate, remorseful, and worse, sincere. This is an album that not only carries the sorrow appropriate of a funeral, but actually posesses the grandeur to do it justice. Listening to Inter Arma's sublime, understated ruminations will either bring you to tears or cripple you trying; absolutely no one will escape this album's majesty.
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan — One of Us is the Killer (Sumerian)
Threading that delicate line between pop hooks and pure technical insanity, One of Us is the Killer can't be escaped. The album oozes with enticing obsession, refusing to be put down even after a dozen listens or more. It's certainly the finest moment of the Dillinger Escape Plan's already impressive career, and certainly the best starting point for folks unfamiliar with this incredible band.
4. Deafheaven — Sunbather (Deathwish)
Deafheaven have a disturbing propensity for writing euphorically arresting music. Blending equal elements of the resplendent and the harrowing, Sunbather isn't merely a beautiful album, it's a punishing one, in a way that only the most passionate of musicians can begin to capture. This is about as close to true bliss as you can get on earth—aurally, anyway.
5. Pomegranate Tiger — Entities (Independent)
Taking equal measures from djent and progressive instrumetal, Entities is a fantastic debut. Pomegranate Tiger's effective mix of virtuoso technicality, triumphal melodicism, and a dash of undeniable silliness makes this an album that's not only a musical achievement, but incredibly fun to listen to. Entities is one of the few albums that we can guarantee will bring a smile to your face.
Top 5 of the Year So Far in Scientific, Alphabetical Order.
When black metal spins away from it's core and becomes an entirely different and frightening beast altogether.
When Trve Norwegian Black Metal turns into something no one could ever imagine and thrashes and burns and dances with greatness.
When black metal challenges your preconceived notions of the genre and induces a mesmerising catharsis.
When black metal is the most beautiful style of music in the world.
When black metal ruins your entire life.
Even with the devastation that their previous album, Mammal, managed to spread, Altar of Plagues did not just decided to remain stable and play it out the safe way. Teethed Glory and Injury takes the band much further that we could possibly imagine with its sheer intensity and ambiance, it is a monument of modern extremity in music.
Existing in a genre that is famed for its extremity, Portal were able to take it up a notch. With their unbelievable musicianship and their love for everything dissonant, Vexovoid resets the borders of extremity…as well as those of insanity.
Similar case with Altar of Plagues, Deafheaven’s debut album Roads to Judah gave us a glimpse of the full potential of the band. And the realization of these suspicions (and hopes) came with Sunbeather.
The blackened sludge of The Psyke Project has been maturing for some time now and with Guillotine the band from Denmark has reached its peak point. The pure strength of this album and their diverse sounds bring songs of colossal force and of undisputable hostility.
A towering atmosphere filled with slithering riffs is the dystopian setting for Inter Arma’s newest offering. Sky Burial is a true opus.
Low Culture pulls some intrigue before I’d ever heard them. Ex-Marked Men and Shang-a-Lang? Damn. Believe it or not, it lives up that promise, blending wonderfully fuzz garage with heartwarming melodies.
Chalk this one up in the “long anticipated” category, coming several years after their debut. Allez Allez, though, steps it up a notch and matches the anticipation—a rare feat, but this is a John Reis rawk band we’re talking about here.
I never got too into Big Eyes’ debut Hard Life. It wasn’t bad by a longshot, but it never grabbed me the way their live show does. With Almost Famous, they’ve pulled it all together, studio and stage alike.
Honestly, the book has been written about what OWTH do. The bigger question is more likely how they keep pulling off such solid and consistent records, one after another. Happy 10th anniversary guys.
This one crept up on me. It starts as a good record, but didn’t really grab. But there’s something to be said for repeated listening. It’s a full record, one of a tone more than any single jumping out and burrowing into your core and the calm, positive tones of Shell Shag have been spinning regularly on the ol’ turntable.
1. Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
Setting a watermark to which all other albums should aspire to rise, Homme and company take the "stoner rock" dismissive out to the desert and bury it in a shallow grave. There is a claustrophobic beauty in this album that is truly rare.
Much like Mule Variations was a whiskey-soaked distillation of Tom Waits' career, the dirges found on Push the Sky Away are a perfect distillation of Cave's. The only difference being instead of an oak barrel, these are served up in an oak casket.
The second best album with an ellipsis in the title. Everything we've come to expect from the beloved boys from Jersey is what made this album good. But all the things we didn't expect, is what made this album great.
Stainer, Denison, Patton and Dunn have created some of the best music of their hyper-prolific careers. One for the ages.
A rebirth with new vocalist Todd La Torre. All the elements of everything you've come to know and love from classic 'Rÿche without the spitting, cell-phone tossing pomposity and arrogance.
1. Nö Pöwer – No Peace (Sorry State)
Smash, kill, fuck, destroy, break, burn, shit, blood, piss, cum…aaarrrrghhhhhhhh, motherfucker! No Peace is the debut LP by Charlottesville, NC’s Nö Pöwer. Primitive, blown-out D-beat, injected with a dose of artiness and drenched in feedback; it’s the perfect amalgamation of punk sub-genres and a furious goddamn record. How much art can you take? Exactly this much.
2. Useless Eaters – Hypertension (Jeffery Drag Records)
Weirdo garage punk with some new wave-y parts from Nashville, TN. Hard to tell if the guitars sound like fucked-up keyboards or if there is a keyboard that drowns out the fucked-up guitars. I honestly could care less because I happen to really like it. Sometimes just being a stupid music fan and not some musician is awesome because you don't have to over analyze the shit out of how every little sound is made. Other times it's frustrating because you can't describe it to people without sounding like an asshole. Neither of those things matter to me right now but I thought it was worth mentioning for future reference. Well anyway, if weirdo garage punk with new wave-y parts and fucked-up guitars and/or possibly keyboards sounds like something you'd dig, then Hypertension is right up your alley.
3. California X – Self-Titled (Don Giovanni Records)
It seems the term “grunge” is getting thrown around quite a bit these days when it comes to describing the current crop of buzzy-guitar-based bands. And while the actual definition of the word has always been somewhat confusing, in the 20-odd years it’s existed, it has also become a fairly accurate identifier. It would not be incorrect to use the word when illustrating the sonic resonance of Amherst, MA’s California X. There are a variety of elements at play on their debut full-length—sludgy metal change-ups, lo-fi dream-pop, ‘90s-ish pop-punk (particularly in the vocals,) etc.—and all of them are buried under a glorious heap of ear-piercing guitar fuzz. There are a good chunk of bands doing this type of stuff right now, but California X is easily one of the best. Someone was just telling me about a dude they know who regularly wears a tee shirt that says, “Bring back the early ‘90s.” That dude would love this shit.
4. Baltic Cousins – The Broken Horn (Self-Released)
Out of Bellingham, WA come Baltic Cousins with their debut full-length. The Broken Horn displays an ominous, punk-y brand of Americana that picks up right where they left off on 2011’s For The Hell Of Us EP. Bradley Lockhart’s lyricism, which is seemingly rooted in honesty and realism, walks the line between optimism and gloomy despair. “Junk Beach, Parts 1 & 2” is the absolute best rock ‘n’ roll song of recent times that nobody will hear.
5. Milk Music – Cruise Your Illusion (Fat Possum)
At times Cruise Your Illusion treads dangerously close to guitar-music-for-the-sake-of-guitar-music territory, but never spins completely outside the realm of cult tuneage. Olympia, WA’s Milk Music understands that sometimes you just want a little Neil Young in your punk rock. Take some oddly melodic vocals and pair them with soaring yet murky guitar riffs and you have, you know, grunge or whatever. Their sound is clearly indebted to the past—particularly late-‘80s and early-‘90s alt-rock—but holy shit, have they ever made it sound so good in the present. For what it's worth, despite the CD and digital versions being released on Fat Possum, the band has took it upon themselves to release a vinyl version without the help of a label.
1. Locrian - Return To Annhihlation (Relapse)
Still stunned... absolutely stunning. Every time I pop this record on I still am shocked. Sure that will eventually go away, but Locrian has definitely turned in one of my favorite albums of this half of 2013. Essential listening for this year. Simultaneously uplifting sounds that feel like they are demanding attention.
2. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation (Triangle)
To this point, the words for describing this album have escaped me; but maybe, just maybe harrowing and ominous should be in the conversation. The Haxan Cloak is slowly but surely carving a wholly captivating path that is completely enthralling. Excavation is one of those records that I keep coming back to over and over again.
3. Iron Lung- White Glove Test (Prank / Iron Lung Records)
Not only ambitious, White Glove Test is just a beautifully vicious record that crushes all the pretenders in its path. Iron Lung is truly at the top of not only their game, but the game with this album.
4. The Night Marchers - Allez Allez (Swami)
The radio is a barren wasteland anymore with all the fun absolutely absent from what the radio cranks out on a day to day basis, and it is left to people that are not the radio to bring the fun consistently now a days. This is exactly why I say that the Swami proves once again that he is the undisputed king of modern rock ‘n’ roll, and with Allez Allez, he and his pals in The Night Marchers throw down the gauntlet that probably will not be answered the rest of this year.
5. Cult Of Luna - Vertikal (Density)
Certainly worth the long wait, Vertikal is everything that I was hoping for from the band; but Cult Of Luna take their music to new places with this album all while keeping the same intensity that they have always brought with every record.
1. RVIVR - The Beauty Between
RVIVR are finally back with their second LP and it is quite a "Beauty." Words of encouragement to be one's self and words of anger towards those who can't understand or just down right hate. All under the veil of fast punk melodies!
I wouldn't call Broadway Calls' second LP, Good Views, Bad News, a softmore slump, but it didn't quite grab my attention like their debut. Comfort/Distraction finds the band traversing some new territory, while bringing along some more of the intensity that I loved from the first.
I'll be the first to admit that I don't care much for the direction Tegan and Sara have been heading in over the years. However, I'd be lying if I said I didn't find Heartthrob to be a hotbed of catchy hooks. I still find myself humming in my head every once in awhile.
4. Bad Religion - True North
It's nothing groundbreaking, but it's also Bad Religion. It's hard not to like. Bad Religion headed back to the known with True North that worked in their favor. Fast and catchy short punk songs are what Bad Religion are all about (ok not ALL)!
5. The Thermals - Desperate Ground
Talk about a band that can pump out the jams! The Thermals take a turn back from 2010's, Personal Life, for a more raucous sound on their Saddle Creek debut, Desperate Ground. It's loud and aggressive, which is something we haven't heard from The Thermals so much since The Body, The Blood, The Machine.
1. Deafheaven - Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.)
It seems that everyone digs this album and rightly so as it is great. Unlike the black metal/ambient sections dichotomy it's been made out to be be, 'Sunbather' is a fully realised musical and thematic concept, enviable in today's market of forgettable acts. A record to remember for the rest of the year and beyond.
2. Modern Baseball - Sports (Run For Cover)
I can't get what I dig about this record as it's a combination of a lot of this I dislike, from lyrical matter to genre stylistics. That said, there's an upbeat, unabashed charm about this album in particular, reminiscent of the early days of pop-punk and being young in general.
3. Ghost - Infestissumam (Loma Vista Recordings)
When the singer wears that much makeup and a hat that big, no thought is required. Embrace the doom and smile.
4. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings)
I can't say this band have always blown me away, but this album is a significant step up from some of the more trivial material they've put out in the past. Perhaps they've finally realised their stature in pop culture, beyond all the cultural fetishism you could shake a Kula Shaker at.
5. Iceage - You're Nothing (Matador)
I was a big fan of their first album and their second builds on it in a number of ways. Vocally, Elias has managed to diversify so he can really rip when he wants to ('You're Nothing'), as well as keep in line with the music when the time demands it ('Morals'). Overall, they've managed to strike a great balance between heaviness and melody, accessibility and obscurity; bravo.
- Fin TJM