#25: Disclosure - Settle
Maybe Settle doesn't make the top billing for B&B's Best Of list, but few albums had a bigger impact upon arrival. The super-young duo of Guy and Howard Lawrence crafted house textures into an array of deftly memorable packages, topped with Chris Rock's angry epitaph "When A Fire Starts To Burn" and the penultimate 2013 house anthem, "Latch." Both are merely shining tokens from Settle, an album reborn in a muddled, sanitized spectacle of a gentrified eletro-pop movement - proving there's a way to be casually accessible and above the monochromatic mentality.
#24: Washed Out - Paracosm
There isn't really a technical way to track how "warm" an album can be, which is a failure I believe on the part of engineers somewhere. It's the anointed tone of Paracosm, the second full-length album from Georgia-born producer Ernest Greene, brimming with firmly-executed lush echoes and naturalist sampling. It's everywhere on the album, even down to it's nostalgia-chic cover art, reminding listeners of a effortless - as Greene refers it - "daydream psychedelia." So while it's not easy to pin "warmth" to a title, Paracosm comes through as one of the year's best accessible productions.
#23: The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Ushered with the improbable task of topping 2010's supreme High Violet, Ohio's resident indie icons The National filled in with another admirable anecdote for its profusely well-done catalog. No longer meandering between the inaccessible march of under-appreciated bands, The National - to some degree - has earned its dues, lambasting its work across national television throughout the year. They may still be the aged indie darlings, considering Trouble Will Find Me touches on death and apathetic despair, but it seems like people are catching on to the value.
#22: Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven
If there's an antithetical comparative to the gamut of electronic and pop fusion that furiously dominated the music industry in 2013, then Daniel Lopatin is its scouring devil's advocate. On R Plus Seven, the fragmented compositions of his mathematical reflections come off as garish, even tantalizingly frightening. It's all part of a convexly creative outline, which uses commercial samples and disassembled constructions to edge the point even closer to neurosis; a place that few can even dare to approach quite as confidently.
#21: CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
After "The Mother We Share" debuted in late 2012, few eyes were straying from the emerging force of Scottish trio CHVRCHES. And as the singles of "Gun" and "Recover" continued to fall through, the young band was eagerly on path to the entrenched romantically-embattled twee legion. The full piece of The Bones Of What You Believe followed through, offering genuine romanticism and carefully energetic pop perfection.
#20: King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon
Nineteen-year-old Archy Marshall's brimming British voice doesn't so much bellow as it croaks on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. But the young phenom doesn't shy away, rather, he revels in his distinct snarl. It chips at the urban motif that Marshall builds on the record, playing with jazzy interludes and echoed guitar plateaus. The lyrics aren't quite there, yet, however. Marshall is - nay I repeat - 19, after all. But 6 Feet Beneath The Moon gives profound hope (and hype) for a figure that should be around for a while.
#19: Danny Brown - Old
The Detroit oddball, after a series of depressing delays from his new label Fool's Gold, returned with a spitball force that reminded everyone that a gap-toothed, fray-haired former drug dealer might be the most powerful rapper around today. Old, the second official full-length studio LP, lends its prowess to Brown's dual persona's. On side one, we see serious Brown playing with his humbled, bruising verses. It's a succinct anecdote to those who harness on Brown's image; a refreshing reminder of an upbringing that most of us don't have the faintest idea of. He doesn't sit steady on it though, as side two edges the nerves away for Brown's patent drug and sex heavy anecdotes. It's a truer perspective than one might think; a person that has more than one story worth telling.
#18: Bombino - Nomad
Admittedly, there's a newfound trepidation to whatever Black Key's frontman Dan Auerbach produces. A referendum of his own recent success, Auerbach has ventured out to help out the likes of JEFF The Brotherhood and Hanni El Khatib, refining their edges into palatable, if not nomadic interpretations of apathetic white boy blues. The finished products are not offing pieces, rather simply digestible and pragmatic ones. So when I heard he also helped out little-known Nigerian singer-songwriter Bombino, it was a little surprising.
Bombino's approach stems from his Tuereg-inspired teachings, flinging effortlessly complex orchestrations in the mold of finely-tuned guitar blues. Maybe, in the end, a lot of that was Auerbach. And if so, credit where its due; the work here - allowing Bombino to flow freely with his Nigerian roots and intermittent psych-magic - is masterful.
#17: Tim Hecker - Virgins
Possibly, for one fraction of a second, you forget what kind of music Tim Hecker produces. An electronic composer of sorts, Hecker's aim is assuredly finite on Virgins, even seconds into the opener "Prism." It's a lurching, crawling track breathing heavy drone down the neck of the listener. It's tantalizing, like watching your dreams play out over and over in front of you. You look for niches, new paths in your madness as you constantly try to figure things out. But as soon as you do, Virgins moves on; an impossible, endless metaphor for physiological reality. It's best not to get too caught up in the moments, because its so easy to get lost here - a terrifically unique reason to listen.
#16: Kvelertak - Meir
In a year precluded with epic electronic masterpieces, Norway's Kvelertak produced its best metal album with already defined parameters. Cycling black metal and brutal hard rock, the band's sophomore release tooled only with elements that strengthened the genre. But rather than muddle in black metal's dystopian pathology, Meir comes off with Mastodon-level appeal; a meticulously crafted, genuine reach for an epic that eschew's Heavy Metal with more realistic promise.
#15: James Blake - Overgrown
Cooing with impossibly cool rhythms, hushed vocals, and rich subtextures, James Blake has affirmed himself to be one of the most casually cool figures in the business. His works reigns in sweet, dire emotive distance without much overtone of perfectionism, despite working in touches from Euro dub, soul, pop, and bass all into one. Overgrown works as a refining maturity over his 2011 self-titled debut; cutting the frill and honing in on humming choruses, both dark and pleasantly atmospheric.
#14: Smith Westerns - Soft Will
Chicago glam rock trio Smith Westerns faced and uphill climb to revival. After a harrowing experience at the 2011 Pukkelpop festival, when the band's stage collapsed and killed three people on site and injured dozens of others, the band's meddle was likely tested. At the time, the trio were already treading water, releasing two quality albums but still lucked out of any breakthrough moments. Soft Will didn't come with much hype, despite Smith Westerns' emergence in the late 2000s, so maybe its unreal quality went by the wayside. It's a testament to a newfound maturity of the group, with meticulous pacing through and through without losing a microcosm of pop principle. The choruses boom, the vocals ebb, and guitarist Max Kakacek continues to affirm his place among today's best guitarists.
#13: Alexander Spit - A Breathtaking Trip to That Otherside
Spit, born Alexander Manzano, crowned 2013 with a gamut of noteworthy material. January's A Breathtaking Trip to That Otherside was followed by his self-released instrumental Mansions 2 and recently with his West coast ode to beloved fallen criminal Dillinger. But it's his first entrant to the year that still reigns as his strongest. A cautious blend of DIY aesthetics and superstar bravado, the 25-year-old rapper sits out of the scene as a confusing but welcoming blend of conscious styles but not overly serious demeanor. While listening through the LP, his first big-time release, there's an opportunity to make him out to be anything; a tactical producer, a West coast prodigy, a haze beat proprietor. Manzano simply proves all of those to be possible.
#12: Milo - Cavalcade
Curiosity lends itself to improbable strengths for Hellfyre Club upstart Milo. The Wisconsin rapper is so tapped into the boundaries of what he can do with it that it's impossible to see where he turns next. His first two 2013 releases, the dual EP's Things That Happen At Day/Things That Happen At Night, gave unforeseen promise on that end, but his free album Cavalcade launches it even further. The sampling ranges from James Blake to America to Kanye West, while divulging into what makes his past, present, and future minds tick. He calls it "art rap," a term that subtlety defaces other subgenres. Unintentional, sure, but he makes himself rap music's most bright new figure even without saying it.
#11: DARKSIDE - Psychic
It's hard to say how much pressure producer Nicolas Jaar seems to be putting on others in his field. A Brown graduate, Jaar his already found his reputation as a textural wizard with his solo work, as well as his previous stint in DARKSIDE alongside guitarist Dave Harrington. Performing live, Jaar's shown his delicate perceptions as an interpreter, bringing brush strokes of house, psychedelia, funk, and bass into nearly any orchestration. With Pyschic, Jaar clearly takes his time to cleanse his approach, focusing on the flows of his movements between Harrington's. Its deftly perfected, but doesn't leave any of Jaar's obsessive ends untended. It's also terrifyingly intimidating for anyone competing against Jaar, seeing as how he's always one step beyond anyone's expectations.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we round out the top 10 to end the year.