The 30 Best Albums of 2013? 

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Here's what you'll be listening to next year, probably.


Adam Green & Binki Shapiro,
Adam Green & Binki Shapiro, January 29
Upon hearing that anti-folk hero Adam Green would be teaming up with one-time Little Joy member Binki Shapiro , thoughts drifted to the twee'd-out offerings from Green’s former collaboration in the Moldy Peaches—those that the Juno soundtrack blasted into suburban pop culture. In an act of gentle indignation, “Here I Am,” the first taste of Team Green-Shapiro, spotlights soft vulnerability without the cloying winks. If we were betting types, we’d call it an early candidate for one of the best tracks of the year.

Angel Haze,
Dirty Gold, Spring

While we have to admit that the news of collaborations with coffee-house lug Jason Mraz and dubstep dope Bassnectar on her full-length debut hasn’t exactly made us more excited for a record from rapper Angel Haze, it at least speaks to a confidence of vision totally unconcerned with what we think. Given the ferocity of her songs so far, we’re sort of scared to second guess her anyway.

Arcade Fire,
Title and date TBA

Having never won an Album of the Year award at the Grammys, we can't be 100 percent sure, but it seems like there'd probably be a lot of pressure to make sure your next album isn't a huge failure. This, of course, is what Arcade Fire is up against, after the runaway success of The Suburbs in 2010. We don't know much about what they'll do next, only that they're doing something and that James Murphy has been involved in some way, however small it may be. We have a good feeling about this one.

Azealia Banks,
Broke With Expensive Taste, February 2nd
We’ve been waiting a full year for star-watt rapper Azealia Banks to fully deliver on the promise of “212,” and the suspense is killing us. Banks always seems so giddy confident that the extended delay for this record’s release is almost out of character. That expensive taste she mentions has definitely extended past picking the perfect sea-punk hair shade and into which beats she’s latched onto. The stuff she let us hear in 2012 was pretty great. This has to be better.

Beach Fossils,
Clash the Truth, February 19
With the 2010 incarnation of Beach Fossils splintering to focus on solo projects, main man Dustin Payseur faced a clean slate for his sophomore LP, setting his sights on a record more aligned with the band’s punk-leaning live show than their jangly, relaxed recordings. To help, he enlisted experimental man around town Ben Greenberg (Hubble, The Men, Zs, etc.) to work behind the boards. The album’s single bubbles with off-kilter energy–though it is called “Careless,” so, you know. It’s not entirely in with the new, out with the old.

James Blake,
Title and date TBA

Has James Blake already been backlashed, or are we still waiting for it? There was definitely a current of discontent flowing through the acclaim for his debut record—that it was too empty, or quiet, or something. Which was basically true, but the way he did those things was pretty darn interesting. Another set from him in pop-songwriter mode (as loosely as the term fits) could be really interesting, especially now that dubstep’s rise to popularity has taken the genre far away from Blake’s still, snowblind version.


All Photos courtesy of the Artists



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Mikal Cronin,
Title and date TBA
With Cronin’s self-titled solo debut going largely and unjustly ignored in 2011, Merge Records, being the ballers they are, stepped in and secured the psych-rock mastermind and longtime Ty Segall collaborator for its roster. The directions he could go in with an expanded studio budget—matched by his ability to subtly turn the genre on its head—have us more than a little excited. He’s already signed on for the label’s official SXSW showcase to get you riled up too.

Ex Cops,
True Hallucinations, January 22

A project from former members of Hymns and MINKS, Brian Harding and Amalie Bruun have spent the last year establishing a spot in the ever-congested local scene behind textured, 60s-bobbing pop as Ex Cops. A year after their single “You Are a Lion, I Am a Lamb" became the premiere release from Other Music Recording Co., the Fat Possum imprint is set to unleash the debut full-length, from which Brooklyn’s best-kept secret will be propelled into next-level rock stardom. At least that’s how we imagine it.

Deafheaven,
Sunbather, Spring
For those curious to check out the increasingly buzzed about but still-insular world of indie-metal only to have pulled a broken toe from various water-testing excursions, a new record by San Francisco’s Deafheaven could be a good time to try again. Their last one brought to mind the legitimately pretty slow-burn of old Godspeed You! Black Emperor albums, but upped the intensity of that band's climaxes with their own chilling shrieks.

Deerhunter,
Title and date TBA

A two-year stretch without a Deerhunter release probably seems like eternity for manically productive Bradford Cox (not to mention his fans), so that's one sign a new batch of songs may see light in the coming months. The band will have headlining and curating roles at Britain’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in June, in addition to a top billing at the Austin Psych Fest in April, pointing in the direction of a spring or summer release date, says our crackerjack detective skills. We imagine songs will fall somewhere in the ballpark of psychedelia, noise-rock and pop. You know, detective skills.

Iceage,
You’re Nothing, February 19
Danish punk heartthrobs Iceage vault up to Matador Records for their second record, following 2011’s bracing New Brigade. Judging from the title’s putdown, and the fact that this is the most serious group of twentysomethings you can find outside of a college existentialism survey, we’re expecting similarly dark stuff. Still, the way they’ve packed downcast melodies and nervy structural kicks into their short, brutish songs gives hope for unexpected turns.

The Knife,
Shaking the Habitual, April 13
We should try to get a grip on our expectations for this one, honestly. The wait after the band’s masterpiece Silent Shout has been bearable only for the excellence of the weird time-killers they’ve taken on. Fever Ray? Swoon. Even that for-hire opera had, like, three perfect future-pop songs on it. But we’re sick of dozens of bands trying and failing to live up to a record that changed the course of synth-pop, and we need this medicine, badly.



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M.I.A.,
Matangi, TBA
To the surprise of exactly no one, there has been very little discussion about the actual music contained on M.I.A.'s forthcoming album, but quite a bit about its title and Hindu goddesses and parrots and the Internet. Presumably this is how things will continue to go down even after the record is released. Cross your fingers for a Madonna guest spot, you guys. Or don't!

Marnie Stern,
The Chronicles of Marnia, March 19

Head-lightening, finger-tapping guitar skills will get you a lot of appreciative critical notices and a determined cult following, but a ticket to the top of the charts they are not. This was Marnie Stern’s dilemma ahead of her fourth record. A possible answer, formed with the help of veteran Brooklyn producer Nicolas Vernhes, was to make what’s being billed as the brightest, most open-sounding pop record of her career. Her advance single, “Year of the Glad,” is a substantial down payment.

The Men,
Title TBA, Spring

Word has it that Brooklyn rock n’ rollers The Men are already hard at work on the album that’ll come out after their next album, which no one’s heard anything from yet. Open Your Heart was such a solid jump forward for them that we’re happy to play catch up. Despite releasing a single on Matador earlier this year, they’ll stay with Sacred Bones Records for this release at least.

My Bloody Valentine,
No idea, maybe never?
We really want to get excited about the late-2012 announcement that Kevin Shields has supposedly finished mastering a new My Bloody Valentine record, but we've been playing this game for 20 years now. Obviously, if it exists, we will listen to it. Immediately.

Christopher Owens,
Lysandre, January 15

When word came earlier this year that Christopher Owens's former band, Girls, was suddenly calling it quits, you could sense that it wouldn't be long before the renowned pop-formalist with the crazy, culty backstory would be back at it. And alas, his solo debut Lysandre will be upon us in just a few short weeks. Judging from the one song we've heard so far, he seems to have picked up right where he left off—with the added bonus of a flute. (2013: The year of the flute? It worked for the sax in 2011, you know.)

Phoenix,
Title TBA, April

If you were wondering just how much licensing cash Phoenix pulled in off their ubiquitous 2009 breakout Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, well, perhaps it's telling that it will have taken them four years to release its follow-up—there's not a whole lot of urgency there, it seems. And good for them, we say: that a smart, stylish guitar band could enjoy the success they did was impressive even back in 2009; if they can pull it off again in 2013, it'll be a miracle. A handsome, French miracle.



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Savages,
Title and date TBA

Since they took the positively old-fashioned step of turning themselves into a properly brutal live band before recording too much material, an extended listen to the UK post-punk band of the moment actually feels long overdue. Fall and winter recording sessions now concluded, we know we’re getting it this year, though the specific whens and wheres remain somewhat mysterious.

Tyler, the Creator,
Wolf, Summer
After the veritable shitshow that surrounded the release of his divisive 2011 album Goblin, Tyler the Creator will have everyone's undivided attention when he releases its follow-up. That attention is exactly what he's always wanted, of course, regardless of how loudly he insists it's not; what remains to be seen is whether he has enough to say to hold onto it.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra,
II, February 5
The hazy, out-of-time feeling of this New Zealand-by-way-of-Portland pop group’s first record didn’t conceal its infectious grooviness. On “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark),” the first song released from its follow-up II, that misty morning Martian feeling remains but in service of a gentle, folkie melody. If this is a sign that their beats are hiding entirely inside the psychedelic fog this time, at least it’s lovely sounding cover.

Vampire Weekend,
Title and date TBA
With three years since Contra, you would expect Vampire Weekend's new album to feature painstakingly intricate pop bearing even wider cross-continental influences… which may actually turn out to be a bad guess. In a recent interview with an Australian website, Ezra Koenig hinted taking a more traditional route: “I think there will be a few surprises for people, but some of the songs we got the most excited about for this record came from very simple things, like a great old piano.” We also have Twitter confirmation that an accordion has made a studio appearance.

VÅR,
Title and date TBA

Inside every punk is a dark, romantic heart. Keeping in line with human anatomy, then, VÅR sees Danish punk youngsters Elias Ronnenfelt of Iceage and of Loke Rahbek of Sexdrome expose a less aggressive but by no means less intense persona. Early teases of the synth-laden side project’s LP sound remarkably like a meeting point between Ian Curtis’s death and New Order’s birth. Very 2013.

Veronica Falls,
Waiting for Something to Happen, February 12

A good indie-pop band’s second record is typically the moment when the fuzz clears a bit and the melodies start to come into focus. London’s Veronica Falls don’t seem eager to buck that arc from the sound of things. But they were so sharp and smart to begin with that a slight adjustment to either should end up just swell.



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Wavves,
Title TBA, Spring

As a bulk of circa 2008 lo-fi bands fade into the sunset and R&B again becomes the genre du jour among the indie minded, it makes sense that Nathan Williams is finishing up his third LP with producer John Hill, whose credits include Rihanna, Santigold, M.I.A. and Theophilus London. It’s too early to tell, but perhaps Williams is taking a page from his sunbaked (or just baked) beat project Sweet Valley and transferring it into the punk realm. (Side note: weed jokes!)

Weekend,
Title and date TBA
With the Mayan prophecy debunked and the world still spinning, 2013 is the year everything turns pretty and we all get happy, right? Maybe? What? That’s why the first tastes of the follow-up to Weekend’s 2010 LP (that is, the noise-rock trio who recently relocated from San Francisco to Brooklyn, not the R&B smooth operator) boasts more pop hues than its predecessors’ twisted blacks and grays. Melody and noise have always gone hand in hand; no reason to think that’s going to change this year.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs,
Title TBA, Spring

It’s been four years since YYYs lovely third record, It’s Blitz!, impressed us with quiet sophistication and well-deployed synths. Karen O’s been busy covering Zeppelin and writing rock operas, so a wide vocal scope is probably a given. We’re more than ready for some new world-eating Nick Zinner guitar solos though, right? (Sleigh Bells have been eating your lunch, Zinner. Show some pride!) James Murphy won’t actually be producing this, by the way, an increasingly common thing for us to have to note.

Yo La Tengo,
Fade, January 15
It's hard to believe it's taken Yo La Tengo nearly 30 years to collaborate with the inimitable producer and all-around indie rock mainstay John McEntire. Fade, recorded almost entirely at McEntire's Soma Studios in Chicago, is a beautiful, sprawling album that focuses less on incessant genre-hopping (like their past few albums) and more on establishing a consistent tone: relaxed, but far from comfortable.

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