2013 is only halfway over, but since it’s never too early to start categorizing things and scaling them based on their quality in comparison to other similar things, here’s a list of the six best albums to be released in the past six months.
Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
After spending a considerable amount of their career crafting heartbreak indie-acoustic, Tegan and Sara elected to toss out all prior conceptions about their sound and replace it with glassy synths, danceable beats, and snappy drums all ripped straight out of your favorite 80’s one-hit wonders. The duo bound from one soaring, retro chorus to another in an effort that’s half homage and an unexpectedly perfect pairing of two unlikely forces.
National – Trouble Will Find Me
For a rock group, The National tends to keep things on the down low. Whether it’s the deep baritone of vocalist Matt Berninger, the ominous overtones, or just the deeply muted melodies, the group’s sound always takes a darkly brooding stab at the genre. Their deeply personal and intricate lyrical work paired with heavy-handed delivery and powerfully minimal instruments creates songs that weigh greatly, cloaking the listener in a dark curtain of placid grimness that is both overbearing and calming.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
After their first two albums, the self-titled freshman release and it’s follower, Contra, I’d all but chalked Vampire Weekend up as a summery pop band that, while lighthearted and infectiously catchy, never bore any real weight. Sure, they’d mastered the bopping and hum-a-longs, but with Modern Vampires of the City, they show themselves capable of so much more; With a little less flash, the album stills manages to hook and capture with songs that are all at once mellow, vibrant, richly-layered, and a just the right amount of odd. At times Modern Vampires sounds like an entirely new group altogether (see “Step”), at others a revamped maturation of their former goofball indie selves (“Unbelievers”). All in all though, it’s a pleasing summer listen sure to capture those in the midst of a hazy afternoon.
Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
There’s something refreshingly simple about Frank Turner and his combined formula of bitter acoustic brood and punk rock fury. Whether it’s the folksy and oft-twanged guitar that accompanies Turner on his slower ballads, the flawless stylistic transitions from somber to pissed-off and everything in between, or the familiarity and humor of the tongue-in-cheek lyrical stories Turner weaves in and out of every song. Although Tape Deck Heart shows the folk-punk-singer-songwriter-whatever often at his slowest, you never quite know when a slow jam is going to turn into a roaring punk anthem and, even when they stay down, the mellowed formula doesn’t change the sardonic, biting nature of his songs brimming with truth and bitterness, but also comfort.
Portugal The Man. – Evil Friends
Never a band to easily define, the Alaskan group have once again redefined themselves after an almost two year gap between albums, a new record for the band that never sleeps. This time around Portugal. The Man take a heavy cocktail psychedelics and wash them down with a bit of jazz, dirty bass beats, and some hip-hip thrown in for good measure. It’s an acid trip laced with ecstasy that rocks as much as it spaces out.
The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
When it comes to modern pop-punk, there is quite unarguably no one doing it better than Philadelphia natives, The Wonder Years. With the signature ultra-personal lyrics of lead vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell, the sloppy distortion, and belted vocals, The Greatest Generation is not so much the album’s title as it is the band’s definition. Meshing elements of seminal scene acts like The Get Up Kids, Modern Baseball and Weezer with raw, unhindered energy and spontaneity, The Wonder Years have both outdone themselves and proven that they’re still just warming up. The second six months of 2013 take note, the bar has been set.
Honorable Mentions summed up in once sentence:
Sigur Ros – Kveikur
The atmospheric indie group give an industrial and terrifying twist to their usual ethereal ambience.
Kanye West – Yeezus
One part emotive and honest Dr. Jekyll, four parts crazy, electric, and eclectic Mr. Hyde.
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock and Roll
Although it’s less rock and more pop, the car crash hearts return to dominate your summer playlist.
I Can Make A Mess – Enola
Ace Enders is out to prove that he can write clever, catchy songs that aren’t just simple or poppy.