At the moment, this is how I feel about my favourite 15 LPs of 2013. It's liable to change with time.
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City Quite obviously the same band that released Vampire Weekend and Contra and yet leaps and bounds better. This is the first time VW feels like a proper band, and not a kitsch art project scripted on someone’s retro typewriter in a college dorm room after everyone had a few too many whiskeys and barfed on their ironic sweater. There might even be something resembling ennui in this thing, for God’s sake. Welcome to adulthood, Vampire Weekend, it’s hell. Clearly, you already love it.
Atoms for Peace - Amok Stop everything you are doing and listen to “Dropped”. This album is everything The Eraser should have been.
Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob Weirdly, my favourite tracks on this LP were the two bonus ones, “Guilty As Charged” and “I Run Empty”. The danger always of T&S going more mainstream was that their perpetually indie broken hearts might slip into generic pop pining. They not only avoided that trap, but somehow managed to also channel Robyn. Which is why this is a little gem of an album.
Everything Everything - Arc A very nice surprise early in the year, borrowing a bit of the math-rock sound from Foals, but with a bit of orchestration thrown in here and there. Highlights: “Duets”; “The House is Dust”; “Radiant”.
Arcade Fire - Reflektor I swear to God if this had been a seven-track EP with only the songs from the back half of the album, it would have pushed for number one. There was no need for this to be a double album, and is weighed down unnecessarily by the naval-gazing “Flashbulb Eyes” and whatever in the hell “You Already Know” is. “Normal Person” is a bit of a slog, too, honestly. And together, they kind of ruin the front end of this LP. Conversely (no pun intended), the back half is more cohesive and, though slightly drearier, has some special moments. Maybe because it sounds most like James Murphy had a hand in it. That first “bwaaaannn” synth-y thing going on in “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” is downright glorious. And “Afterlife” is probably one of this band’s finer singles. Shame about the rest of it.
The National - Trouble Will Find Me I don’t know whether I want The National to completely reinvent themselves or continue doing the exact same thing forever. I liked this album a lot, but it’s tough to see, really, how far they’ve matured from Boxer, which was like, three LPs ago or something. At the same time, they’re great at what they do. Solution: three year break. Then we’ll be excited again. Still a solid effort, though. “I Need My Girl” and “Hard to Find” are two of their best. Lovely, lovely, lovely.
Kanye West - Yeezus Sorry, everyone. He might be crazy, but few others are doing whatever it is he’s doing here. I still don’t know. I’m bothered by a lot of this, don’t know how to feel about other parts, and yet love that it exists. Exactly as it should be.
Bob Dylan - Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series, vol. 10 I know, I know. Dylan? What is this, the Grammys? I didn’t buy the entire thing (it’s like, one thousand songs), but by God there are some nice things on this for Dylan fans. There’s this whole version of “Sign On the Window” with all kinds of strings and stuff, and a ‘new’ version of “Wigwam” and this other version of “New Morning” with all kinds of horns and shit going on and seriously you’re just like how the fuck did I not know about this earlier because wow. Dylan, man. That fucking guy. Legend.
Beyoncé - Beyoncé Remember all Jay-Z’s best parts from Watch the Throne? Where he was getting a little existential and accepting being a dad and sort of wondering, being an over-40 rap artist, what his place was now in popular culture, if not the world generally? Remember that? That was good. Beyoncé’s new thing is like all that, but steamier. "Rocket" is the sexiest song this side of TV On The Radio's "Lover's Day". You're just walking down the street or like, washing the dishes or something, and listening, then it's like, Whoa Jesus! But anyway, she manages to elicit both empathy and dance moves at basically all the right moments, which is what a good pop album is all about a lot of the time. I dunno. It’s good. It really is.
Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe Bit of a disappointment, given the single was so rad. But a good pop dance/techno/whatever album that probably should have dropped earlier in the summer to benefit from sweat-filled clubs and bars full of reaching arms and fingers pointed skyward and all that good stuff. But a decent outing, all in all.
Notable mentions: Daft Punk; Haim; The Strokes; Foals; David Bowie