You wanted the best, you got the best—the best albums of the year, judged solely on how much time they spent playing at my house, in my car, or in my headphones. The list is totally unscientific, utterly personal , and heavy on artists I’ve loved for years who put out great new music in 2013.
1. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork
Josh Homme and his hard-rocking minions released what I would argue is the best Queens of the Stone Age album, a sweeping opus equally satisfying to metalheads, punks and prog-rockers. No easy trick.
2. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
This time around, the most magnificent voice in so-called “alt-country” lent itself to a strong set of songs full of sonic experimentation new to Case’s music, and coming courtesy of members of Calexico, My Morning Jacket and Mudhoney, among others. It totally worked.
3. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
I read the hype. I bought the album. I buy the hype. Parquet Courts delivered brash, insistent indie-rock out of Brooklyn that was super-fresh while evoking the likes of Pavement and Fugazi.
4. Jason Isbell, Southeastern
The strongest of Isbell’s four solo albums from top to bottom, this highly personal, relatively low-key set from Isbell earned him well-deserved hype from media large and small while proving albums made by the newly sober don’t have to be boring.
5. Meat Puppets, Rat Farm
More than 30 years since the Meat Puppets introduced cow-punk psych-rock via a residence on old-school West Coast punk label SST, Curt Kirkwood and Co. are having a remarkable rebirth after going missing for much of the late ‘90s and ‘00s.
6. Yo La Tengo, Fade
Ira, Georgia and James added a stunning collection to a remarkably deep catalog this year, the songs bounding between epic noise-guitar jams and delicate ballads.
7. Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
It doesn’t sound much different from their three previous albums, but after a four-year hiatus, an invigorating jolt of dance-worthy guitar-rock is always welcome, especially on can’t-miss cuts like “Evil Eye” and “Right Action.”
8. Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
Sonically expansive and lyrically cutting, the latest from these crusty Scottish lads deserves a large audience.
9. Arctic Monkeys, AM
It took seeing these guys rock a large Austin City Limits music fest crowd to get me on board, and this latest collection from Alex Turner is heavy on straight-forward rock that is undeniable.
10. El-P and Killer Mike, Run the Jewels
Two hip-hop powerhouses join up, drop crazy-fun rhymes over simple, strong beats, and come up with a seriously sick summer album that stayed in rotation at my house long after fall hit.