The 20 Best Albums of 2013

12/18/2013 4:00 AM |

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A$ap Ferg
Trap Lord


“There were times I ducked bullets at a basketball game, and then I went to a fashion show,” Ferg told the Boston Globe earlier this year. The solo debut from the Harlem-bred, art-school-educated fashion designer and current A$AP Mob member has a foot in both worlds, pitting menacing intimidation against gleeful vanity and sincere spirituality. While under the influence of countless styles from dancehall to gospel, he delivers rhymes in cadences that shouldn’t seem so easy to pull off, using his sharp tongue to paint himself as a black sheep, outshining his more famous friends along the way. Key Track: “Shabba” (feat. A$AP Rocky)  — LB

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The Knife
Shaking the Habitual


The wildly influential Swedish group return with masks dropped, trading in their deliberately cultivated air of ambiguity for a platform from which to preach. The most intensely left-wing album of the year puts its politics up front but unsettles you with insane sound rather than rote slogans. This record ups both their RPMs and their drones, pushing its songs into a semi-nauseous place where none of the hundred or so “Knife-ish” synth bands who’ve come to existence since Silent Shout will follow. The Dreijers continue to sound like themselves, exclusively. Key Track: “Full of Fire”  — JK

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Jake Bugg
Jake Bugg


England’s solemn-faced folk-rock warrior Jake Bugg is, by current indie-rock standards, uncool. His influences are uncool. His smirk-free self-seriousness is uncool. His hair is uncool. At a time when the most popular indie artists seem to over- or under-do whatever it is they do, from uber-minimal synth-pop projects to exaggeratedly self-aware disco robots, his debut (a chart topper in the UK last year, released here this spring) is a testament to playing it straight. It relies on Bugg’s nimble hands and an unshakable vulnerability to cut through everything else. Key Track: “Lightning Bolt”   — LB

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Factory Floor
Factory Floor


Strange contradictions pop up throughout the long-awaited full-length record from this harsh, relentless, ecstatic London trio. Clean techno lines move forward in space, only to get derailed by post-punk vocals painstakingly warped until they sound like machine malfunctions. It displays humanity by way of mathematical grid and compels motion while refusing to connect. It’s the best record out on DFA since LCD played MSG. Key Track: “Fall Back”   — JK

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