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James is a contributor at The Hudsucker and Indianapolis Monthly. He's also a full-time student at IUPUI where he's one year away from a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a minor in Sociology. Music and friends are his main interests. He also loves sports, vinyl records and photography. Born and raised in the Midwest, he loves Indiana. But in a perfect world he would take Nashville, Tennessee and place it on the coast of St. Augustine, Florida, where he would live and never leave.

Top 10 Albums of 2013

I realize all the major outlets have the same albums hanging around towards the front of their lists (which raises a slew of other questions) but nonetheless, these are my personal favorite albums released this year.

Before someone wonders how I could leave out Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Frank Turner, Justin Timberlake, Lorde, or any other seemingly obvious choice, remember these lists come from an individual’s personal viewpoint. While I enjoyed the albums from the artists above, they failed to strike the chord in me to keep me for the long-haul. If I feel like I won’t really care about an album this time next year, it doesn’t make my list.

The Story So Far // What You Don’t See. Image Credit: Pure Noise Records

1. The Story So Far // What You Don’t See
Normally, I’d never consider a pop-punk band for my top release of an entire year. But I haven’t stopped playing this record since it came out. Most pop-punk acts try entirely too hard to stand out, The Story So Far steered clear of that by writing 11 solid tracks, with excellent cohesion. The only thing wrong with this album is the off-putting cover art. Musically, I’d chuck “What You Don’t See” up to fitting, but emotionally it’s a gritty delivery that feels bittersweet and believable. If there’s any hope for pop-punk, it’s right here.

Stand Out Tracks: “Framework” and “Things I Can’t Change”

The National // Trouble Will Find Me. Image Credit: 4AD

2. The National // Trouble Will Find Me
It’s hard to argue there’s a better indie-rock band on the planet then The National. Their previous record, “High Violet,” will be one of the great musical souvenirs of my generation. “Trouble Will Find Me” picks up right where they left off. It’s the highest quality of tone full of droning metaphors only frontman, Matt Berninger, has the ability to make such a warm and sentimental experience. This album is exactly what I expected from The National.

Stand Out Tracks: “Graceless” and “Demons”

Owen // L’Ami du Peuple. Image Credit: Polyvinyl Records

3. Owen // L’Ami du Peuple
In the late 90s, Mike Kinsella used to front American Football, an indie-rock band with intricate electric guitars and lyrics that could pass for, if I must say it, emo. When Kinsella broke away he matured and started his acoustic-driven solo work under the name Owen.  “L’Ami du Peuple” is classic Kinsella. This album continues his unique style of acoustic and electric guitar blending, laid under his rather honest and frank lyrics. To hear all of this working at once check out, “Love Is Not Enough.”

Stand Out Tracks: “Coffin Companions” and “Love Is Not Enough”

Foals // Holy Fire. Image Credit: Transgressive

4. Foals // Holy Fire
“Holy Crap!” That’s all I could think during my first listen. “Holy Fire” is a giant ball of energy with haunting melodies and seductive instrumentation. Foals shines a good light on the fickle hipster scene they belong in. Tracks like “Providence” paint a perfect picture of a small club full of tenacious twentysomethings, local beer, a weird incense smell, desert boots, and American Spirit cigarettes. And it’s awesome. Hold tight until it releases just after the three-minute mark.

Stand Out Tracks: “Milk & Black Spiders” and “Out Of The Woods”

Lily & Madeleine // -Self Titled- Image Credit: Asthmatic Kitty

5. Lily & Madeleine // -Self Titled-
It’s hard to believe two teenage sisters wrote the material on this record. Even crazier than that is it’s their debut album, released on Sufjan Stevens record label, Asthmatic Kitty. This record is a constant mix of lighthearted tones and delightful melodies. If a listener knew nothing about these two, and put their record on they would surely think these were two women in their late 20s/early 30s.  I’m honestly blown away by the control these sisters have of their voices. Musically, they’re wise beyond their years, for sure.

Stand Out Tracks: “Spirited Away” and “Come To Me”

Rhye // Woman. Image Credit: Polydor

6. Rhye // Woman
With a few years under the name Rhye, Michael Milosh and Robin Hannibal finally released their first full-length, “Woman,” in March. However, this record feels like a winter evening with the shades drawn sitting next to the fireplace wrapped in a warm blanket. Milosh’s voice is so raw it’s like you can see his breath over the smooth and steady electronic-heavy production from Hannibal. Also, I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard an act sound so flawless live, search them on YouTube later to see what I mean.

Stand Out Track: “3 Days” and “Open”

Dawes // Stories Don’t End. Image Credit: HUB

7. Dawes // Stories Don’t End
“Stories Don’t End” is full of exceptional songwriting. Guitar player and vocalist, Taylor Goldsmith, is absolutely one of the most underrated songwriters in the music industry. His words are poetic and thoughtful on top of a nostalgic roots rock vibe. Sometimes I just sit around and read the lyrics to this album. And “Just My Luck” might be the best woe is me song there is.

Stand Out Tracks: “Something In Common” and “Just My Luck”

Grouplove // Spreading Rumours. Image Credit: Atlantic Records

8. Grouplove // Spreading Rumours
This is one of those albums where if you try to catch the lyrics as they pass you’ll be so confused, but you won’t really care because everything else going on sounds so awesome. With that being said, Spreading Rumours also has its fair share of indie-rock anthems like the somber tracks “Didn’t Have To Go” and “Schoolboy.” But the album thrives off its dorky, yet addictive, flow. If you don’t find fun in “Shark Attack” you’re lying.

Stand Out Tracks: “Ways To Go” and “Didn’t Have To Go”

Kacey Musgraves // Same Trailer Different Park. Image Credit: Mercury Nashville

9. Kacey Musgraves // Same Trailer Different Park
Today, mainstream country music likes to construct the same type of man or woman to regurgitate the same stagnant songs, holding true to annoying gender roles. Kacey Musgraves destroys the majority of these issues throughout this record, especially with the two final tracks. In “Follow Your Arrow” she stands up for many of the topics mainstream country music seems to be one-sided on, including the gay and lesbian community and religion. The final track is an ode to the fact girls can orchestrate a “rendezvous” too, and it’s ok.  With better timing, Musgraves could’ve been in Taylor Swift’s shoes, with a better voice.

Stand Out Tracks: “Silver Lining” and “Follow Your Arrow”

Daft Punk // Random Access Memories. Image Credit: Columbia Records

10. Daft Punk // Random Access Memories
Possibly the smoothest and warmest record I’ve ever heard. It’s sounds so perfect I often find myself not finishing it, longing for some human-feel I suppose. “Random Access Memories” is a super long creative ride through digital and physical sound that nobody achieves better than Daft Punk. In the end, I felt they deserved a spot on my list for creating the best sounding piece of music in 2013.

Stand Out Tracks: “Touch” and “Give Life Back To Music”

Close Calls:

11. Superchunk // I Hate Music  
Stand Out Track: “Out of the Sun”

12. Chvrches // The Bones Of What You Believe
Stand Out Track: “Tether”

13. The Joy Formidable // Wolf’s Law
Stand Out Track: “Forest Serenade”

14. A Day To Remember // Common Courtesy
Stand Out Track: “The Document Speaks For Itself”

15. Atoms For Peace // Amok
Stand Out Track: “Dropped”

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