in Top Ten

I’ve never struggled to put together a “Top Ten Favorite Albums” list as much as I did in 2013. I agree with my colleague Mr. Colin Wessman that 2013 peaked in May, leaving the rest of the year to flounder. I literally spent the last month of 2013 desperately scrambling to put together something that didn’t suck. In the end, I’m satisfied with my choices and now have the confidence to live my life to the fullest.

Honorable Mention
David Bowie – The Next Day
Haim – Days Are Gone
Paul McCartney – New

10. Washed out – Paracosm

PrintMost of that “Shoegaze” or “Chillwave” stuff or whatever you want to label it doesn’t grab me much. Honestly, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t few moments on Paracosm that dragged. On the other side of the spectrum there’s some other moments of indescribable beauty. Paracosm is a cracker jack bag of delights, maybe there’s a few peanuts but there’s also some nifty prizes.

9. Kanye West – Yeezus

kanye-west-yeezus-tracklistWhat does it say about me that the first Kanye West album I embraced is his least accesible? Am I drawn to its unpolished non-commercialism? Am I that cool? From the opening static garble of “On Sight” I was intrigued. The refreshing originality of “Black Skinhead”, “I Am a God”, and “New Slaves” only add to that argument that Yeezus has one of the best first sides to any album this year. I’ll admit the album lags once Kanye decides to just “fuck it” and auto tune everything. Though I do like “Bound 2”, even if it did produce one of the most confusingly bad music videos of the past ten years.

8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

reflektorWe’ve taken a stand here at Mildly Pleased by declaring Reflektor as overrated. Yes, I believe it’s overlong, self-indulgent and less relatable. Though when you get down to it, Arcade Fire is still one of the most creative music collectives out there. I wouldn’t normally go to Arcade Fire for my dance music but they make a compelling argument. Toe tappers like “We Exist” and “Afterlife” instantly call back to the era of sherbet color suits and Don Johnson. I’m also a big fan of “Porno”… Let’s pray no one take that out of context.

7. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

homepage_large.61c85a5cCalling back to 80s underdog’s the Minutemen right down to the trio lineup, “Light Up Gold” is a brief but memorable ode to post-punk. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it runtimes remind me of the exciting spontaneity of Wire’s Pink Flag. There’s always enough variation between tracks to wet my beak. Take the new-wavy mod of my favorite cut, “Borrowed Time” and see how much changes as it transitions into the following track “Donuts Only”. Light Up Gold always keeps the listener guessing.

6. They Might Be Giants – Nanobots

they-might-be-giants-nanobots-idlewildNanobots was my first post 90s TMBG’s album experience and instantaneously, the nostalgia came flooding back. TMBG was one of the first non-Weird Al bands I ever listened to, particularly the 1992 cult classic Apollo 18. Nanobots has all of the humor, melody, and clever wordplay that made them underground nerd-rock icons. Being a child of the Looney Tunes Generation, I appreciate the quirkiness of the humor but it’s not until now (as a grown ass man) that I can appreciate the satire.

5. Rhye – Woman

rhye_woman_5x5_phys-29f00bf_custom-01679020529c267c46cfe4b4f6fb3ab08b37dc7b-s6-c30Woman goes down smoother than a six pack of Colt 45. I love albums that can craft a mood and keep it enticing the whole way through. That early 80s R&B funk makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in some kind of Hot Tub Time Machine (now on DVD). I’m always intrigued by a retro approach but even more impressed when said approach is successful. I’m not sure how Rhye developed such wizardry in the studio but they instantly lured in my ears. It makes me wanna dance/make love!

4. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

220px-Tegan_and_Sara_-_Heartthrob_coverI was at first hesitant about Teeg and S making the transition from indie-rock to full on pop but they nailed it! Sean can vouch for me when I say “Closer” brought the house down at the last Bumbershoot Musical Festival. The simple beats and peppy keys keep Heartthrob palpating, but as usual it’s the flawless vocals of T&S that make the album so wonderful. How can two people sing together so perfectly? Is it a twin thing? Would the Wonder Twins make a great music duo?

3. Grouplove – Spreading Rumours

homepage-coverimageDespite the song “Ways to Go” almost being a candidate for the Mildly Pleased Awards, I’m a big fan of the song. In fact, it may have been my favorite song of the year. I got so jazzed by that leadoff single that I revisited the first album and in a matter of weeks was front and center at the Crocodile in Seattle watching Grouplove live. Grouplove has a youthful energy that never seems to wear thin. Christian Zucconi is a talented songwriter with a delightful Black Francis-like voice. Zucconi’s vocal interplay with co-singer Hannah Hooper is another dynamic that continues to bring me joy. I’m happy to have Grouplove in my life, they’re like friends that never visit.

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

daft-punk-random-access-memories-coverI didn’t even like Daft Punk before RAM but now I’ve welcomed this and all of their work into my heart. It’s hard not to appreciate such studio magic put into such a sleek and unique package. I can’t get enough of Nile Rodgers sexy funk guitar, the duo’s old school synths, and their infectious robot voices. “Get Lucky” gets most of the attention and it is good but how about “Lose Yourself to Dance”? Or Daft Punk’s marvelous collaboration with Panda Bear, “Doin it Right’”? There’s such a wealth of amazing material, it really leaves you wanting more, more, more.

1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire-Weekend-Modern-Vampires-Of-The-CitySometimes an album is so good with so much going for it that you don’t even know what to say. I’d like to let Modern Vampires of the City speak for itself but I can at least try and scratch down some ideas. Vampire Weekend’s third album sees the band at its most mature and most creative. Genres are blurred, instrumentation is varied, it’s a smorgasbord of musical exploration. Lyrically, it’s the band’s most astutely potent record, which says a lot coming from a group of Ivy Leaguers. Most importantly, I can already tell it’s an album I’ll be listening to for years. Let the good times roll in.