Best of 2013: The Best Albums of 2013

9. Julianna Barwick: Nepthene
After suffering a painful loss of a loved one, the adopted Brooklynite headed to Iceland to craft a glorious rumination on the experience. The result is as beautiful a eulogy as you’re ever likely to hear with Barwick’s elegiac, celestial vocal loops soaring over careful instrumentation, courtesy of Sigur Rós affiliate Alex Somers. It’s alive in a way that very few albums are, with every song breathing and undulating to perfection.

Hottest Jams: “Forever,” “One Half”

10. CFCF: Outside
Though he is mostly known for his instrumental work, on his second LP, Michael Silver stepped out of the shadows and up to the mic. Written mostly in transit between his native Montreal and New York City, the disc beautifully captures the kind of nostalgic, contemplative thinking that is best done on long train rides. While he’s still an extremely effective storyteller with just his keyboard, his soft, understated vocals and direct lyrics add a new level of communication. Maybe it’s because I spent a lot of time this year on planes and trains, but in my eyes, it’s a hugely relatable LP.

Hottest Jams: “This Breath,” “The Forest At Night” 

11. Bill Callahan: Dream River
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 23 years since Bill Callahan released his mega-influential debut LP. 15 studio LPs in, he’s still going strong, and Dream River shows that the 47 year-old has no intention of slowing down. Its sprawling, emotive eight tracks see the Maryland-native tackle getting older, making love work, and contemplating his own mortality with startling perspective and depth. That said, its lush, airy arraignments keep the mood from getting weighed down, making sure it stays fun to listen to without getting preachy.

Hottest Jams: “Small Plane,” “Spring”

12. Harold Budd: Perhaps (Root Strata)
First released digitally by David Sylvian in 2007, the piano master’s stunning tribute to fellow musician, the late James Tenney, finally got a proper release this year. It is sparse, heartfelt, and overwhelmingly beautiful at times, and Budd’s uninterrupted live eulogy to a departed friend feels like the kind of magical heirloom you find in an upstairs attic, just waiting to be discovered. The 77 year-old’s “soft pedal” style is on full display, and its sustained, delicate chords gives it the kind of haunting, evocative spirit that is hard to shake off.

Hottest Jams: “Quandari,” “Templar”

13. Deptford Goth: Life After Defo
It’s easy to write Daniel Woolhouse as a paint-by-numbers, miserable mope merchant, but if you listen closely, there is more than enough light seeping into his outstanding debut LP. While its overall feel is decidedly downcast, the former schoolteacher masterfully balances his lovesick vocals with the kind of deft, swelling arraignments that gently take your breath away. It’s one of the most under-discussed albums of the year.

Hottest Jams: “Feel Real,” “Union”

14. Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe
Dev Hynes has spoken about how he often doesn’t like his vocals, and it shows. It’s hard not to imagine how good Cupid Deluxe could have been if he either hired someone else to sing it or simply trusted his voice a little more. When he really opens up, his voice is powerful and evocative, a massive upgrade from the breathy near-whisper he spends too much of his outstanding second Blood Orange LP using. That said, it is still an exquisite collection of tracks that only the NYC resident could have created, with its roots in the past and its eyes toward the future.

Hottest Jams: “Chosen,” “Time Will Tell”

15. Majical Cloudz: Impersonator
Music is made for a lot of different reasons — this is not a new discovery. The Canadian duo is here for one reason and one reason alone: to make you feel. Vocalist Devon Welch sounds like a man who wants to Mortal Kombat-style tear your beating heart out of your chest, and the naked, visceral keyboards of Matthew Otto form the ideal platform for him to do it. Nothing sounds like it, and the duo’s mission to plunge into the kind of depths very few artists dare enter is truly inspiring.

Hottest Jams: “This is Magic,” “I Do Sing for You”

16. Skin Town: The Room
A victim of the blogosphere’s R&B fatigue, the LA duo’s debut album masterfully blends 90’s R&B with 80’s radio pop, resulting in an extremely consistent collection of earworms and boner jams. Vocalist Grace Hall weaves some of the most alluring melodies of the year over Nick Turco’s razor sharp synth lines. It’s the kind of album that isn’t going to change your life, but it is going to soundtrack some pretty fun nights.

Hottest Jams: “Abyss,” “Ice Crystal Palace”

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best Of '13, Featured

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