1. David Bowie - The Next Day
When David Bowie announced the release of his first new record in 10 years, I seriously wondered if the album would live up to the hype and high hopes that us fans were placing upon it. We were not disappointed. Bowie gave us things we didn’t even know we were missing. I mean, it’s Bowie. We got a new Bowie record in 2013! Even if you’re not familiar with his music, this would be a good place to start.
2. Butch Walker - Peachtree Battle EP
This 5-song EP will make you cry with it’s eloquence alone. Pair the lyrics and story-telling exhibited with the fact that Walker wrote it for his father shortly before he passed away and you’ll be even more amazed at the poignancy and stories within the lyrics. It’s a fitting tribute to a great man, and Walker should be damn proud of it.
3. Fitz and The Tantrums - More Than Just A Dream
You’ve heard a few of these songs already placed in various TV commercials, but don’t let that dissuade you from giving this one a listen. The 2nd release by Fitz & The Tantrums was a departure from their debut. They went a little heavier with the 80’s and 90’s New Wave influences instead of the 60’s soul sound, but that nod to great arrangements and soulful storytelling is still there if you take the time to listen.
4. Mikal Cronin - MCII
I’m surprised more songs from this record didn’t end up on soundtracks for movies featuring melancholy 20-somethings looking for all of the answers to life. The harmonies and the lyrics provide a perfect soundtrack to restlessness and adventure. The sometimes stark arrangements build beautifully into more complex layers that provide beautiful climaxes and releases for the musical soul.
5. Travis - Where You Stand
This is another record that I was afraid wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I anxiously awaited the release and by the time I finished the first listen, Travis had continued their tradition of making music so beautiful that it made me cry. Some claim that this record is lacking a “single.” You know what? I don’t care. It’s a beautiful record to enjoy from start to finish.
6. The Airborne Toxic Event - Such Hot Blood
This album is a little more somber and stripped down than their previous offerings, so some fans were disappointed that there weren’t as many of the broad sweeping anthems that were found on the previous 2 records. Again, if all you’re interested in is a hit, then this record isn’t for you. If you appreciate good lyrical storytelling, some of the most emotional singing you’ve ever heard and beautifully arranged power-pop, then give this record a listen.
7. Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
The first Mazzy Star record in 17 years picked up exactly where the band left off. Hope Sandoval’s ethereal vocals and the beautiful arrangements are faithful to the first 3 records and provide us long-time fans some new music to enjoy and love. This is a perfect slow Sunday morning record for me. I love to put it on when I want to relax with some beautiful sounds.
8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter At The Feast
I love BRMC. I love this record. The rock trio made a beautiful, albeit slightly subdued record compared to their usual jangly indie-rock. I actually play around with the song order on this one, but overall, I fell in love with the strangeness and of it. Returning, Lullaby and Sometimes The Light are all heart-breakingly beautiful.
9. White Lies - Big TV
Harry McVeigh has a voice that will make you fall in love. The stripped down vocals on the opening draw you in and by the time the synths drop in, you realize that loving this voice and this band could be a little dangerous and surprising. These songs will haunt you, popping up in your head at the strangest times. I kept finding myself seeking this record out.
10. Gold Fields - Black Sun
This is the debut record from this Australian electro-pop band. Despite its dark title, this is actually a fun top-down kind of record. The driving beats and the catchy hooks make a fun companion to any party mix or any time you need a little pick-me-up.
11. MS MR - Secondhand Rapture
This isn’t a lyrically spectacular record, but it grew on me. The vocals and the beats mix together to create a haunting and gorgeous. There’s a strength here that I’ve needed at certain points throughout 2013. This may be considered by some as an electro-pop record, but there’s a darkness here that isn’t necessarily dance-floor friendly. Plapinger’s vocals brought me in and I kept finding myself going back to them.
12. St. Lucia - When The Night
I’m noticing a lot of electro-pop on this list. I’ve always considered myself more of rock chick, but this record is so uplifting. I like music that can take you to another place. This record has beautifully layered songs that leave a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.
13. King Khan & The Shrines - Idle No More
The final record on this list is an entertaining mix of funky, psychedelic garage rock that brings plenty of hooks, fuzzy guitar and the occasional brass embellishment. This album takes you through party highs and bluesy lows that come with life. Born To Die is full of fun and Pray for Lil is a glorious tender tribute to Khan’s wife for putting up with his crazy. If a man wrote me a song like that, I’d put up with a lot of crazy from him.
10. Special - Garbage
11. (One of Those) Crazy Girls - Paramore
12. It’s All Your Fault - P!nk
13. News 4 You - Fitz & The Tantrums
14. Life Is A Bitch Slap - My Radio
15. When Did Your Heart Go Missing - Rooney
16. Lies - Band of Skulls
17. Take The Long Road and Walk It - The Music
18. Welcome To The Fold - Filter
19. I Think I Smell A Rat - White Stripes
20. We Hate You Please Die - Crash and the Boys