While plenty of new acts released great albums in 2013, a few heavy hitters came back with awesome records after years of either inactivity or critical/commercial depression. Here’s a list of 12 of those records.
David Bowie had been relatively silent since 2003’s Reality. Then, out of nowhere, on his 66th birthday on January 8th, he announced a new album would be released in March. The Next Day largely blew away expectations, exceeding in quality just about anything else Bowie has done since the ’80s, harkening back to his most acclaimed phase, The Berlin Trilogy, comprising the albums Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Romantic rockers like “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” live alongside alien funk (the title track) and searching ballads (“Where Are We Now?”). It’s classic Bowie, throughout. (See where The Next Day landed on Aaron Detroit’s top 50 albums of 2013 list.)
We all love Macca, but his last record was a covers album called Kisses on the Bottom. Ick. But he tears through New like a teenager, with new wavers (“Save Us”), some over-the-top glam-rockers (“Queenie Eye”) and classic Beatlesesque pop, as on the title track. In a year that saw him playing live on Hollywood Blvd. and jamming with the surviving members of Nirvana, it was great to also have an awesome new album from McCartney. Don’t sleep on the recent Ram and McCartney II reissues, either.
Sigur Ros started the 2000s off with a couple of beautiful albums of searing guitar noise and Icelandic babble. Then they got kind of boring. Kveikur roars right out of the gates with “Brennisteinn” (one of my 2013 mixtape songs) and doesn’t let up with an album of melodic, upbeat and spacious songs. (See where Kveikur landed on Brad’s top 50 albums of 2013 list.)
It may seem a distant memory to access at this point, but Daft Punk had hit a wall for a while there, releasing their last regular album, Human After All, in 2005, and the Tron: Legacy soundtrack in 2010—both ho-hum. Daft Punk embraced disco, prog and early electronica while making friends with new heroes like Pharrell and Panda Bear on this party opus, which rewards repeat listens even as it offered quickstop singles like the ubiquitous “Get Lucky.” Check out the video for "Instant Crush," featuring Julian Casablancas, which was released today.
2009’s Tonight wasn’t bad, but it seemed difficult to care about Franz Ferdinand at that point. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action lives up to its title. It’s a lot of fun and neither finds Franz Ferdinand trying to mature or trying to hang with the young kids. They just give you what you want this time around—a nice set of solid dance-rockers for those of us who grew up around the time of Club Bang (how’s that for making us feel old?).
My pick for album of the year. I’ve had countless back-and-forths with other music nerds about this album, which says something alone. They still have the power to polarize even 22 years after releasing the seminal Loveless. The thing about Loveless and Isn’t Anything is that they only sound normal now if you’ve listened to them a million times and/or grew up with them or similar sounding stuff. I’ve still played Loveless around people who were like, is it supposed to sound like that? Why are the vocals so quiet? mbv caught us slightly off guard because it sounds so nuts, just like those other records once did.
It had only been four years since John Fogerty’s last record, but this one drew a lot of attention due to its premise: Fogerty takes on his own previously released songs with the help of a wide array of younger artists—Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, My Morning Jacket and Jennifer Hudson, to name a few. I could’ve done without Kid Rock, but the record mostly works, particularly the title track, featuring Miranda Lambert.
Mazzy Star made like My Bloody Valentine (actually, the current lineup features MBV’s drummer Colm O Ciosoig on bass), reformed and released a great record. It was their first in 17 years, and Seasons of Your Day features both new songs and some written during the band’s heyday, giving it a nice continuity from their early records as well as an entry to rub shoulders with those who’ve followed in their wake—opener “In the Kingdom” calls to mind Beach House, a band that was once dogged by Mazzy Star comparisons, and whom Mazzy Star has likely influenced.
While I love me some Depeche Mode, I couldn’t really get into their work post-Songs of Faith and Devotion. That was until Delta Machine, which takes on a distinctly noisier, nastier tone than their past few records.
2008’s Beautiful Future wasn’t bad, but five years later, More Light comes closest to the quality of their earlier records, big and messy and ambitious in the best way possible.
We’re just glad to have another Boards of Canada album after waiting eight years. It didn’t have to be so fucking good, but it is.
See all of our Best of 2013 lists here.
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