Some old friends, some new friends – 2013 provided a lot of surprises. One of the biggest surprises was that SiriusXMU played Haim and Chvrches in heavy rotation, and people pretended like that was a good thing. This is music to bore Norah Jones. And she’s as boring as they come! However, it wasn’t all goo dripping off the turntable. So, without further criticism, our editors present the best of last year.

Grant Hart

The Argument (Domino Records) – No, this isn’t a musical chronicle about his days with Husker Du. It’s a retelling of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Burrough’s unpublished “Lost Paradise,” both of which deal with Lucifer’s fall from heaven. While blending various musical styles, including an ukelele number, it only takes 2 songs in to hear the melodic genius that made Hart an Indie Rock god. “Morningstar” sounds like a song he’d sandbagged from “Candy Apple Grey.” “So Far From Heaven,” “Shine, Shine, Shine” and “Glorious” are highlights, but this is an entire record to be enjoyed from start to finish. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Leo Johnson.

Neko Case

The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight the More I Love You (ANTI) – So, her titles can be biblical sounding and don’t fit well on a cover, but the music on the inside always goes down smooth. No longer even remotely a country-leaning chanteuse, Neko has such a defined style that makes her the greatest vocalist of her generation. However, she is also the greatest lyricist around. Check out “Calling Cards” and “Night Still Comes” to confirm as fact! Twin Peaks character equivalent: Agent Dale Cooper.

Washed Out

Paracosm (Subpop) – Is Ernest Greene the reincarnation of Cocteau Twins? Did I see Washed Out open for China Crisis. Probably not, but I wish I had. This is a beautiful, ethereal record of dreamscape sounds and haunting atmospherics that seems out of place in today’s Indie Rock. Maybe that’s why this music is the lead-in to “Portlandia.” Check out “All I Know” and “It All Feels Right,” and chill. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Jean Renault.

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City (XL Recordings) – Yeah, I’m kind of surprised myself. I remember seeing them test market “Diane Young” on SNL and thinking: audacious and not reggae, yay! Though I enjoyed their previous efforts, I always felt they were “packaged.” With “Modern Vampires” I finally believed that they are a complicated band trying to earn our love. Why else would they make “Unbelievers” and “Ya Hey?” Twin Peaks character equivalent: John Justice Wheeler.

Mikal Cronin

McII (Merge) – Rarely do I agree with Paste, but am I ever glad that I talked Etouffe into buying this. My first thought was that Jason Faulkner is recording under a different name. However, towards the middle of the record, I thought, Hey, Gary Louris is recording under a different name. This is a masterful record brimming with confidence, and oh so delightful power pop. Chock a bloc full of gems. Start with Track 1 “Weight” and keep on digging. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Bobby Briggs.

Okkervil River

The Silver Gymnasium (ATO) – Did Will Sheff skip 6th Grade gym class? Well, you’ll have to buy this record to find out. Always the literate New Englander, Sheff has crafted an autobiographical coming of age composition that rocks and writes (trademarked!) Highlights include “Stay Young” and “Lido Pier Suicide Car.” Please overlook the ATO connection. Twin Peaks character equivalent: James Hurley.

The National

Trouble Will Find Me (4AD) – Matt Berninger and the boys have entered comfortably into Dad Rock territory. While they still rock “Mr. November” live, they haven’t recorded a straight rocker in quite some time, and “Trouble Will Find Me” is no exception. Quiet, introspective and lovely, Berninger’s lyrics seem more focused. If “High Violet” was a drummer’s record, than this is their bass record. Check out the pulse on “Graceless” and “Sea of Love.” Dy-no-mite. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Pete Martell.

Arcade Fire

Reflektor (Merge) – The best Grammily Award winners return to…the disco era! Their use of Bowie as a model has them skipping “Scary Monsters” and heading straight to “Let’s Dance.” The double-album opening title track breaks out the mirror ball, and it’s not until “Normal People” that Win Butler sounds pissed off again. I love the James Murphy influence, especially on “Afterlife,” but, as always, I’m hoping for more Regine. Perhaps a solo record? Twin Peaks character equivalent: Jocelyn Packard.

Kurt Vile

Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador) – Prolific singer/songwriter/ and Built to Spill aficionado, Vile opens this record with a 9 minute song that features some beautiful guitar work. He jams his way through 69 minutes of hooky blues/pop that really gets into your head. This record gets better as it goes on with “Too Hard,” “Shame Chamber” and the sublime “Snowflakes are Dancing” providing a killer punch. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Big Ed Hurley.

Guided By Voices

English Little League (Self Released) – Look who slowed down their production. Only 1 release in 2013, but a great one to add to their canon. Uncle Bob Pollard still turns every phrase or non-sensical word salad into a hook laden pop gem. And Tobin Sprout contributes 3 awfully good songs as well. Standout tracks include “Xeno Pariah,” “Flunky Minnows” and “Send to Celeste. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Leland Palmer.

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories (Columbia) – Play that funky music, Frenchy. Look anybody can do a disco tribute album, but these guys deify Georgio Moroder by creating an audio autobiographical song as narrated by Moroder. With guests such as Niles Rodgers and Pharell performing “Get Lucky”, this record will pull you out of your lethargy. Other guests, such as former “Planet of the Apes” actor/singer Paul Williams are more confusing. And lets not forget Panda Bear’s contribution, “Doin it Right.” Twin Peaks character equivalent: Man From Another Place.

Los Campesinos!

No Blues (Wichita Records) – When Gareth David sings “There is no blues that can sound quite as heartfelt as mine” on the sublime “As Lucerne/The Low” you realize that this young Welshman is no Blues Hammer. When he adds the lyric “Perpetually a philistine, but darling I am longing to learn” you just know he’s making our list. Sure “Avacado, Baby” might be song of the year, but this entire record is fantabulous. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Dick Tremayne.

Camera Obscura

Desire Lines (4AD Records) After 17 years as a band and 5 proper albums, TracyAnne Campbell and company continue to delight. They vacated Glasgow to record this in Portlandia with some help from Neko Case and Jim James, so bonus points for that. While still focusing on her school girl days, the lyrics have more adult themes and the guitar work is exquisite. Enjoy “William’s Hear” and “Do It Again” sitting by a fire with a dram of whiskey. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Audrey Horne.

Frankie Rose

Herein Wild (Fat Possum) – This would have made the list strictly on the strength of “Sorrow,” which was one the most hypnotic and ear pleasing songs of 2013. However, this former Dum Dum Girls drummer put together a great record from start to finish. Her voice is soft/powerful in the tradition of Ronnie Spector and Bjork. As Letterman might say, “Are those your drums?” Twin Peaks character equivalent: Shelley Johnson.

Frightened Rabbit

Pedestrian Verse (Canvasback/Atlantic) – The anthemic lads from Scotland shot big on their 4th record, and 1st on Atlantic. The soaring vocals are there as usual, and the sweeping guitars keep the party going even if the subject matter is sometimes bleak. Check out “Acts of Man,” “The Woodpile” and “State Hospital” and ask why they’re not selling out arenas. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Bob.


We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (Jagjaguwar) – Here is the MGMT album you were hoping to get, complete with pot smoking braggadocio. Sure, it’s hippie tribute music with swirling touches of psychedelia and Dylan Americana, but it’s also incredibly catchy. “No Destruction” and “San Francisco” will be played at all of your future parties. Twin Peaks character equivalent: The Log Lady.

Best Coast

Fade Away (Jewel City) – So Bethany Consentino is a moon/spoon/june lyricist. So what? How good of a songwriter is she that this 7-song ep may the best of list? Yeah, opens her mouth and hook-filled melodies spring forth. As long as she’s singing about life in California she’ll be making the list. Blare “This Lonely Morning” from your car speakers and then disagree. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Laura Palmer.

Shout Out Louds

Optica (Merge) – I’ll take Swedes for $1000, Alex. Trying to shed the gloom rock sounds of Beowulf country, these guys added xylophone solos. Maybe adding Bebben’s female vocals to more of the songs also adds to the joyful sounds. Less of a guitar-centric record than their previous work, the keyboards really fill out the sound. More of a fun Hooverphonic experience. Check out “Illusions.” You’ll be humming it for months. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Deputy Andy Brennan.


Matangi (Interscope) – Can we finally forgive her for not releasing another “Paper Planes?” Now that Lou Reed is dead, she is my second favorite speak singer (Craig Finn moves into first). This is a fun, beat crazy record that keeps you interested from start to finish. “Warriors,” “Bad Girls,” “Y.A.L.A.” – they’re all great. Be the cool mom and blast it. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Ronette Pulaski.

Kanye West

Yeezus (Def Jam) – Boy – marriage and fatherhood really mellowed him the fuck out. I don’t know. This record sort of resides in Howard Stern/ shock jock territory. Not his most creative sonically or lyrically. Really, it makes this list on the strength of 2 tracks: “Black Skinhead” and “New Slaves.” Seems like his collaborations with Daft Punk and Bon Iver are wasted on a series of dick jokes. Still, it made the 20. Twin Peaks character equivalent: Giant.

Honorable Mentions:M

Majical Clouds
My Bloody Valentine
Parquet Courts
Saturday Looks Good To Me
Math and Physics Club