Before we get into it, please check out my 20 Honourable Mentions - all amazing albums that didn't quite make the cut for the top 50.
OK, here we go, my #50-26 best albums of 2013:
50. Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork | Matador
It's been six years since QOTSA last put out an album, and some fans might feel a bit perturbed at a relatively meager 10 tracks on their comeback album, but cut Josh Homme a break - he did (nearly) die in the interrim. As such death plays a big part in the lyrics on this album, and the guitars, grooves and wit are all their to sell it as coolly as ever.
49. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest | Warp
Another album fans have been waiting lifetimes for, this one coming eight years after the Scottish duo's last LP. It may not be quite as immersive as their first two classic albums, but it still has the intricacies and invention at its most incredible moments (both beautiful and creepy) to keep you coming back.
48. Bonobo - The North Borders | Ninja Tune
The British beatmaker has been on the steady rise with each subsequent album. His last release Black Sands was his most exotic and escapist, and The North Borders takes it even further with more intricacies and aural delights, coming both in the form of the instrumentation and the varied cast of guest vocalists that appear here.
47. Torres - Torres | Self-released
This debut album from 22 year old Nashville singer songwriter Mackenzie Scott is a seriously impressive collection of stark, bold and heartbreaking tracks. Many "real" issues are discussed so vividly and in such a raw way that it always leaves an impression, even after a dozen or more times listening.
46. Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels | Fool's Gold
After both Killer Mike and El-P released amazing albums in 2012 they needn't have recorded again so soon, but the duo teamed up once more for a victory lap as Run The Jewels. Throughout this album the two MCs bounce off each other perfectly, producing the right amount of swagger, braggadocio and show-stealing lines to make one of the most repeatable hip-hop albums for someone like me who's not the biggest hip-hop fan. It also gets bonus points because it was given away as a free download, which you can still get from here.
45. Merchandise - Total Nite | Night People
Merchandise's 2012 album Children of Desire cracked my top 5 for the year, and really this year's follow up was only barely a step down from that. The fact that it's landed so much lower on my list speaks to how good of a year this has been, plus it doesn't have a powerhouse quite like "Become What You Are" (which is now one of my favourite songs of all time), but all songs here, especially "Anxiety's Door" and the title track, are still absolutely steam-rolling tracks both in terms of the brutally unstoppable guitars and the crushing lyrics.
Bonus award: Worst album cover. Seriously it looks like it was made in the 90s by some teen just getting the hang of clip-art.
44. Atoms For Peace - AMOK | XL
An album that I thought would never actually arrive, after years of talking about it Thom Yorke's "other band" Atoms For Peace (which includes Nigel Godrich and Flea amongst others) finally put out their debut album and it's fantastic. Full of great bass grooves, intricate rhythms and mysterious but intriguing lyrics, it appeals to all my sensibilities as a Radiohead uber-fan while offering plenty of other joys at the same time.
Atoms For Peace - "Ingenue"
43. Arcade Fire - Reflektor | Merge
If anyone has the right and the ability to make a double album is big, pompous and high-minded as Reflektor it is undoubtedly Arcade Fire, who are not only one of the biggest "indie" bands in the world today, but also one of the smartest and most talented. This album proves in spades that those things all still remain truer than ever, but in the end it might just be a little too overlong with some moments that could have easily been cut out, but then it wouldn't have quite met the ambition they were aiming for. Overall this album possibly deserves to be much higher, but it's so difficulty to digest in one sitting that it didn't have me keenly going back to it as often as most of the albums higher up.
Arcade Fire - "Afterlife"
42. Kanye West - Yeezus | Def Jam
There's not much to say about Kanye that hasn't already been said (mostly by himself). But the reason we still put up with this arrogant, loud-mouthed fool is because he's undoubtedly extremely talented. Yeezus is a relativeloy slim 10 tracks, but they pack a serious amount of punch in the production department and over the top Kanye's lyrics veer wildly-yet-lovably from on-point social commentary to dick and pussy jokes. Something for everyone to enjoy.
Kanye West - "Black Skinhead"
41. Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe | Dead Oceans
In terms of pure beauty, I don't think any album tops Julianna Barwick's second album Nepenthe this year. This album is mostly ambient tracks, using woven together loops of Barwick's stunning voice to great effect. Although they're almost all wordless, they're all deeply resonant and cathartic. It was recorded in Iceland at Sigur Ros' studio, and you definitely feel that in there too.
40. The National - Trouble Will Find Me | 4AD
The National may be becoming victims of their own consistency. Trouble Will Find Me is their 4th? 5th? amazing album in a row without them really having to change their sound or style in any drastic way at all. The drums are still pounding, the guitars still rich, with dashes of brass and singer Matt Berninger's voice that's so melodramatic and swoon-worthy that he can sell any line, and when they're all as poignant as the ones he writes it's sometimes hard to shake off the tears. The final four track run of "I Need My Girl," "Humiliation," "Pink Rabbits," and "Hard To Find" is some of the most emotional they've put out, and I wouldn't be surprised if in further years I'll wonder why the hell I didn't rank this album much further up this list, largely thanks to that closing foursome.
The National - "Sea Of Love"
39. HAIM - Days Are Gone | Columbia
HAIM came into 2013 already riding a giant tidal wave of hype - one that I was extremely wary of. I'd enjoyed their singles somewhat, but wasn't quite sure why they were receiving so much love. When their debut album finally dropped I decided to listen to it more as a means of making sure I was up to date with the conversation than out of any real interest or excitement. I was absolutely sucker punched then by the utter joy that I found amidst these 11 tracks. It's one of the most repeatable albums of the year and every single hook is catchy as heck - just ask my students, they've probably heard me singing most of them while I walk around school.
38. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories | Columbia
Another album that seemed like it may never materialise; Daft Punk's Random Access Memories finally arrived eight years after their last proper album and it came with a rather lofty ambition: "Bring Life Back To Music" as their mission statement of an opening track says. They do it with a high level of success, from the Disney musical-esque "Touch", to the Panda Bear-featuring fun time jam "Doin' It Right" to the world conquering single "Get Lucky." This album will always be tied to this summer, particularly my trip to Yorkshire, which this soundtracked (including the drives to and from).
Daft Punk - "Instant Crush" (feat. Julian Casablancas)
37. Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady | Atlantic
Another opus from RnB's most intriguing and fastest rising star. Janelle Monae's new 19 track monster of an album is just as colourful, varied, original and full of life and character as its predecessor, so I'm not really sure why it isn't much much higher up this list. I guess it's just because it is so damn long that it's hard to find time to go back to it as often as I'd have liked. But this album is absolutely superb and deserves the attention of lovers of all kinds of pop music, and especially those who like it both intelligent and sappy at once.
36. The Men - New Moon | Sacred Bones
New Moon isn't exactly a continuation of last year's incredible Open Your Heart, nor is it a reinvention. The Men just seem like a bunch of guys who get in a room and jam the fuck out and out if it comes a host of incredible songs. There are still the absolutely blistering rockers like "Electric" and "Supermoon," then there are the more bombastic swingers like "I Saw Her Face" and even Replacements-esque numbers like "The Seeds" (which is one of my absolute favourite songs of the year). I can't wait to see what these guys do next, and I won't have to wait long since they've already announced their next album Tomorrow's Hits will be released in March. Prolific as fuck!!
35. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium | ATO Recordings
Okkervil River's last album I Am Very Far was an utter turd in my opinion, which was a huge blow for me as they're one of my favourite bands of all time. The Silver Gymnasium is certainly a return to form and I couldn't be happier about it - and by the sounds of it neither can they. Okkervil have been steadily growing out of the alt-folk niche and into a full-on rock band in their live shows, and on this album they've fully embodied the sound of what they want to be. The songs are fuller amd rockier than ever, and chock-full of 80s nostalgia from singer Will Sheff, which makes it go down all the more sweetly.
34. Thundercat - Apocalypse | Brainfeeder
The second album from bass guitar virtuoso Thundercat was "executive produced" by Flying Lotus, and the melding of those minds has created an album steeped in originality and tenderness. It veers from bleepy, beat-heavy electro-soul like "Heartbreaks + Setbacks" to downright dancefloor jams like "Oh Sheit It's X." There's equal amounts of heartbreak, misery, and fun on this album, and it's a potent concoction.
33. Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic | Jagjaguawar
It's kind of surprising all the trouble and intra-band arguments that have dominated the headlines around Foxygen this year, since on this album it seems like everything just went so right. The nine tracks are so packed with happiness and musical trickery that they can carry off the mostly nonsensical lyrics that populate it. I enjoyed this album from the first time I heard it, but that blossomed into real love when it was on heavy rotation during my trip to California in February, after all that is where the band is from and the state's spirit fills a lot of these tracks. It's perfect for driving around in that West Coast sun, whether cruising, or, more likely in LA, stuck in traffic, it's always a joy.
32. Dirty Beaches - Drifters / Love Is The Devil | Zoo Music
An ambitious and difficult to penetrate double album from Taiwanese artist Alex Zhang Hungtai, I almost gave up on this album many times, like I did his debut album Badlands. But there was something there in the cinematic scope of the long ambient/drone tracks ("Mirage Hall," "Alone At The Danube River"), the undeniable bass grooves ("Night Walk"), and the screaming at himself in French ("Aurevoir Mon Visage") that kept me coming back. Eventually I found the right spot for this album on lonely late night walks around London and later Daegu, it's haunting presence perfect match for the long shadows and bitter cold of after-midnight life.
Dirty Beaches - "Night Walk"
31. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt | Don Giovanni
Cerulean Salt is a big step forward sonically from last year's American Weekend for Waxahatchee. Katie Crutchfield's whipsmart, heartfelt and heartbreaking lyrics are still intact, but now with a full band to back her up they pack even more of a punch. Though at the core of all these songs it's really just a tender young woman and a guitar singing her heart out, which is what makes it all so compelling.
30. Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond | Other Music
Mutual Benefit's debut album came out just as Autumn was nearing its close and winter was about to set in, which was the utterly perfect time for it. It's a folk album that is ripe and check full of aural scenery, but it's also so rich and full of texture that immersing yourself in it can feel like being wrapped in a warm blanket of guitars and violins. Beneath it all is the beating red heart of Mutual Benefit's mastermind Jordan Lee, which expresses itself beautifully and poetically in his wavering, reedy but lovable voice.
29. Disclosure - Settle | PMR
The criminally young brother duo Disclosure bounded onto the house music scene in 2012 with the undeniably fantastic The Face EP. For them to go even bigger and even better on their debut album Settle so soon after is a major feat. All 14 of the tracks on the album come replete with bouncy, power-packed bass and beat combinations and some kind of brain tickling hook. Put this on at a house party and there's no need to skip a single track, you're onto a winner that'll get people going without fail.
28. Vondelpark - Seabed | R&S Records
An album that seems to have been criminally overlooked by pretty much everyone else, Vondelpark's debut full length Seabed is one of those albums that fully embodies its title and album cover. It just showed up in my postbox one day, I stuck it on and was immediately engrossed. Listening to Seabed is like going on the most blissful, dreamy exploration of underwater worlds, all in the most laid back and peaceful manner.
Vondelpark - "Dracula"
27. Mikal Cronin - MCII | Merge
Mikal Cronin's brand of fuzz rock has always been fun and rollicking, which probably comes with being part of Ty Segall's touring band, as well as downright talented guy in his own right. For his second album Cronin signed to Merge and stepped out of the fuzz somewhat to make his voice heard. The things he'sd saying may not be profound, but they're entirely relatable and combined with the downright buoyant anthems that he's written to transport them you'll be nodding and banging your head throughout this gem of a record.
26. Cloud Boat - Book Of Hours | Apollo
London duo Cloud Boat create a unique blend of acoustic singer songwritery music and UK Garage. The result is an album full of atmposphere, weight, poise, tension and downright jaw dropping moments of beauty, mostly at the hands of Tom Clarke's gorgeous and painstaking croon. My hurried words really do it no justice, so I urge you to just go and hear it.
Cloud Boat - "Pink Grin II"