End of Year List, Music, Pop Rock Folk

LJR Music’s Best Pop/Rock/Folk Albums of 2013

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LJR Music’s Best Pop/Rock/Folk Albums of 2013 — Full List (360+ tracks)

LJR Music’s Best Pop/Rock/Folk Albums of 2013 — Highlights (180+ tracks)

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1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampire of the City

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Dianne Young, Unbelievers, Hannah Hunt, Step, Ya Hey, Obvious Bicycle
  • From – New York, NY

This quirky, well-read indie rock is the third installment from band members Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson. They formed the band in 2006 when they were at Columbia University. This eclectic assemblage of sounds and clever lyrics gets my highest rating this year.

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2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – I Should Live in Salt, Demons, I Need My Girl, Don’t Swallow The Cap, Sea of Love, Pink Rabbits
  • From – New York, NY

It’s easy to relate to the struggles that Matt Berninger’s baritone portrays for us on this album. Considering the overriding theme of adversity that’s presented, it’s even more impressive that the tracks don’t feel bogged down.

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3. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Man, Where Did I Leave That Fire, Night Still Comes, Wild Creatures, Local Girl, I’m From Nowhere
  • From – Transient (Washington, Vancouver, Chicago, Tuscon, Vermont)

Down-to-earth songwriter Neko Case gives us another thoughtful album to ruminate over.

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4. Haim – Days Are Gone

  • Genre – Alternative Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Honey and I, Falling, The Wire, Days Are Gone, Forever, Let Me Go
  • From – California

The Haim (rhymes with time) sisters have earned comparisons to Fleetwwod Mac, Feist and Destiny’s Child.  They meld 70’s folk, 90’s R&B, & 80’s synth-pop. I didn’t want to like what seemed at first glance to be 3 selfie-crazed millennials that ape the styles of the past. How could they possible have earned a comparison to Fleetwood Mac, right?  They won critical acclaim (BBC Sound Poll #1/Pitchfork Best New Music) and they had their big break at the respected SXSW Music festival, so I gave these sisters a listen. I found myself wanting to listen again and again despite myself.

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5. Kurt Vile – Wakin On A Pretty Daze

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Wakin On A Pretty Day, Goldtone, KV Crimes, Pure Pain, Girl Called Alex, Never Run Away
  • From – Philadelphia

East coast guitarist and songwriter, Kurt Vile, makes music that could easily be at home on a retro laid-back Californian scene. His obsessive perfectionism comes out in his compositions. Just as fellow perfectionist Neko Case relayed in a NPR interview that she had trouble deeming a song finished, Vile also expressed the same sentiment in a interview with a reporter for The Guardian. I don’t want to give the impression that the songs seem overworked in anyway. Actually, much of his music gives a sense of expansiveness — an open space with a nice breeze. Many of the tracks on his latest album linger on past the 5 minute mark.  Despite this, his songs stay engaging and listenable to the very last measure. Vile has been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Neil Young, Beck, Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty.

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6. Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon

  • Genre – Alternative Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Green Garden, That’s Alright, Flying Without You, Is There Anybody Out There?, I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be, Sing To The Moon
  • From – Birmingham, England

Laura Mvula blends many styles including rich soul, power gospel, bubbly pop, driving R&B and even second-line style brass. Mvula’s voice has a presence capable of fronting what seems to be an orchestra on some tracks and a marching band in others.  In addition to writing her songs, Mvula composes and arranges the pieces.  I love the drums, the brass, the strings, the bells, and her voice . . . which ranges from contemplative,  to matter-of-fact, to soaring, and then back to reflective again.

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7. Savages – Silence Yourself

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Post-punk Revival
  • Fav Tracks – Shut Up, She Will, Husbands, City’s Full, I Am Here, Marshal Dear
  • From – London

Silence Yourself, is a hard driving war cry of guitar and drums. On first listen, the music may seem like fiery white noise, but the album deserves more than one listen. The music’s melodic depth becomes more apparent with each play through. A quick look at their website reveals mini-manifestos covering topics such as their goal of making timeless music and asking their audience to live in the moment by putting down their smart phones at shows.  They say, “THE USE OF PHONES TO FILM AND TAKE PICTURES DURING A GIG PREVENTS ALL OF US FROM TOTALLY IMMERSING OURSELVES.” Raise your glass my fellow Gen-X-er’s, and toast to an old school band with an old school sound, album cover and manifesto.

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8. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle

  • Genre – Folk Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Master Hunter, I Was An Eagle, You Know, Take The Night Off, When Were You Happy?, Saved These Words
  • From – England, Los Angeles

Marling tells us a story of perseverance in love and relationships in a beautifully understated singer-songwriter album.

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9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Neo-psychedelia
  • Fav Tracks – Shuggie, San Francisco, No Destruction, In the Darkness, Bowling Trophies, Oh Yeah
  • From – Los Angeles, CA

Classic Rock loving twenty-somethings from Los Angeles, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, have been playing together since high-school.  They have a deep appreciation of music history and artfully combined styles from many different sub-genres including R&B, Doo-wop, and of course Classic Rock.  Their music could easily fall into cheesy mockery of these older styles of music, but somehow they blend them together skillfully to produce something new and very enjoyable.

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10. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Lo-fi
  • Fav Tracks – Hollow Bedroom, Coast to Coast, Tangled Envisioning, Swan Dive, Peace and Quiet, You’re Damaged
  • From – Alabama

Waxahatchee is the work of introspective songwriter Katie Crutchfield.  She named her band after a lake near her parents’ house in Alabama.  She shares intensely personal sounding stories (about wrong weddings, drinking problems, illness & depression) wrapped up in very listenable guitar hooks.  This sparse and haunting album makes me wonder if this set is fiction or auto-biographical.

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11. Eisley – Currents

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Currents, Blue Fish, Save My Soul, Real World, Wicked Child, Shelter
  • From – Tyler, Texas

Eisley is made up of 4 siblings and a cousin from Texas. Their sound is a dream pop with soaring vocals and lush instrumentation. This is their fourth and best album.  The acoustic versions at the end of the deluxe edition are a special treat.

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12 . Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – I Don’t Want to Bother You, I’ll Never Be Happy Again, Echo or Encore, I Am the Past, She’s a Mirror, Stare at the Sun
  • From – Illinois

Just as the title suggests, this seems to be a very intimate album.  The arrangements and instrumentation are interesting and the lyrics are thought-provoking.

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13. Esben and the Witch – Wash the Sins Not Only the Face

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Goth Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Slow Wave, When That Head Splits, Shimmering, Smashed To Pieces In The Still Of The Night, The Fall Of Glorieta Mountain
  • From – Brighton, England

The fairy tale, Esben and the Witch, was published in the Andrew Lang Pink Fairy Book in the late 19th century. This trio’s eerie sound is fitting for a band named after a frightening story about cannibalism and throats being slashed in the night.

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14. Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Untamed Beast

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Rockabilly
  • Fav Tracks – They Told Me, Party Kids, Lip Boy, Paris, Addicted
  • From – North Carolina, Alaska, Oregon

Lucky for all of us who enjoy vintage rockabilly, blues, jazz & rock n’ roll with a modern twist, North Carolinian, Sallie Ford met two Alaskans, Tyler Tornfelt and Ford Tennis in Portland, Oregon. Sallie Ford has quite a swagger and has no problems fronting the rowdy trio. Allmusic.com reviewer, Steve Leggett, describes her as, “like some sort of dream cross between Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin.”

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15. The Cave Singers – Naomi

  • Genre – Indie Folk
  • Fav Tracks – Have To Pretend, No Tomorrows, It’s a Crime, Northern Lights, Shine, Early Moon, When the World, Easy Way
  • From – Seattle

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16. Deerhunter – Monomania

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Neon Junkyard, Monomania, T.H.M., Sleepwalking, Back to the Middle, Leather Jacket II
  • From – Atlanta

Deerhunter mixes styles like punk, noise rock, and shoegaze.  They self-described their style as ambient punk and nocturnal garage.

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17. Arctic Monkeys – AM

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Do I Wanna Know?, R U Mine?, One For The Road, I Want It All, Knee Socks
  • From – Sheffield, Yorkshire, England

English indie rockers (now relocated to Los Angeles) have put out an arena rock album in the trend of The Black Keys, Franz Ferdinand, and The Strokes.

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18. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

  • Genre – Indie Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Closer, Drove Me Wild, Shock to Your System, How Come You Don’t Want Me
  • From – Calgary, Canada

Sister-act, Tegan and Sara head into a more Pop-friendly direction with Heartthrob with excellent results.

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19. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Indie Folk
  • Fav Tracks – Song For Zula, Ride On/Right On, A Charm/A Blade, A New Anhedonia
  • From – Georgia, New York City

Phosphorescent is the current recording name for American singer-songwriter, Matthew Houck.  Journalists have compared Houck to Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain. After a personal crisis and burn out after touring for his last album, Houck escaped to Mexico where he found inspiration to write his most recent and critically acclaimed album, Muchacho.

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20. Parquet Courts

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Careers in Combat, Master of My Craft, Light Up Gold II, Stoned and Starving, Borrowed Time
  • From – Texas, New York City

Austin Brown and Andrew Savage make up this punk duo. They originally started together in a couple of different bands out of Denton, TX, but now live in Brooklyn.  Their brand of Americana punk reminds me of the Dead Milkmen sound from the 80’s.  This band is clever while providing social commentary and at the same time wallows in their slack-tastic slack -itude slacker status.

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21. Patty Grifiin – American Kid

  • Genre – Folk
  • Fav Tracks – Go Wherever You Wanna Go, Ohio, That Kind Of Lonely, Gonna Miss You When You Are Gone, Don’t Let Me Die In Florida
  • From – Maine

Folk veteran, Patty Griffin gives us a very pure album this go around without too much frill to obscure the beauty of her song craft. She wrote most of these songs after learning of her Dad’s terminal illness.  These gorgeous, raw, heartfelt songs instantly draw you in and you’ll find yourself coming back to this album.  Robert Plant collaborated with Griffin on several tracks.

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22. Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond

  • Genre – Indie Folk Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Golden Wake, Advanced Falconry, C.L. Rosarian, Strong Swimmer
  • From – Columbus, Boston

Mutual Benefit is the recording project of singer and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lee. Jordan Lee grew up in Columbus, lived in Austin for a time, and then landed in Boston. Love’s Crushing Diamond, is a set of songs pulled together over several years and recording locales. The tracks unfold slowly and gently with light strumming, chimes and vocals. The album is described as unapologetically analog, happy, warmhearted and hopeful. These are certainly rare adjectives for critically acclaimed music this year. It’s not overly simple music however, and is mentioned in the same breath as respected artists like Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and Sufjan Stevens.

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23. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Reflektor, Here Comes The Night Time, Afterlife, It’s Never Over
  • From – Montreal, Canada

Grammy winner, Arcade Fire is back with another long player.  They are as eccentric as ever with just enough pop hooks to keep them out of my “experimental” list and on my pop/rock list.

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24. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time

  • Genre – Synth Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Nobody Asked Me, I Blame Myself, Boys, You’re Not The One
  • From – Los Angeles

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25. Courtney Barnett – The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Avant Gardener, History Eraser, Anonymous Club, Scotty Says
  • From – Australia

Courtney Barnett is part storyteller and part stand-up comedienne.  Listen to this Double EP when you have a chance to pay attention to the lyrics.

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26. Elephant Revival – These Changing Skies

  • Genre – Folk, Americana
  • Fav Tracks – Remembering a Beginning, The Rakers, Grace of a Woman, Over over And, Rogue River
  • From – Colorado

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27. Paramore – Paramore

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Punk Pop, Power Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Now, Ain’t It Fun, Still Into You, Fast In My Car
  • From – Tennessee

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28. Black Joe Lewis – Electric Slave

  • Genre – Blues Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Come to My Party, My Blood Ain’t Runnin’ Right, Vampire, The Hipster
  • From – Austin, TX

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29. Sarah Jarosz

  • Genre – Folk, Bluegrass
  • Fav Tracks – Fuel The Fire, Dark Road, Gone Too Soon, Rearrange The Art
  • From – Austin, TX

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30. Sam Phillips – Push Any Button

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – Pretty Time Bomb, All Over Me, When I’m Alone, See You in Dreams
  • From – California

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31. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone

  • Genre – Folk, Blues
  • Fav Tracks – Workin’ Woman Blues, Pushin’ Against A Stone, You Can’t Be Told
  • From – Memphis, Tennessee

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32. Yo la Tengo –  Fade

  • Genre – Dream Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Ohm, Well You Better, Is That Enough?
  • From – New Jersey

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33. Mazzy Star – Seasons of Your Day

  • Genre – Dream Pop
  • Fav Tracks – California, In The Kingdom, Sparrow, Spoon
  • From – California

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34. Attic Lights

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Power Pop
  • Fav Tracks – Say You Love Me, Future Bound, Hit And Miss, Mona Lisa
  • From – Glasgow, Scotland

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35. William Tyler – Impossible Truth

  • Genre – Folk, Instrumental Guitar
  • Fav Tracks – Country of Illusion, Cadillac Desert, We Can’t Go Home Again
  • From – Nashville, Tennessee

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36. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana

  • Genre – Indie Rock, 90’s Throwback
  • Fav Tracks – Pioneer Spine, Hitch, Cash Cab, Plough
  • From – Massachusetts

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37. Mikal Cronin – MCII

  • Genre – Indie Rock, Power Pop
  • Fav Tracks – The Weight, Shout It Out, Peace Of Mind
  • From – California

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38. Dawes – Stories Don’t End

  • Genre – American Trad Rock
  • Fav Tracks – From a Window Seat, Someone Will, Most People
  • From – California

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39. The Avett Brothers – Magpie And The Dandelion

  • Genre – Folk
  • Fav Tracks – Open Ended Life, Morning Song, Another Is Waiting
  • From – North Carolina

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40. Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

  • Genre – Indie Rock
  • Fav Tracks – I Sat By The Ocean, My God Is The Sun, If I Had A Tail
  • From – California

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