50 Best Albums of 2013

Vampire Weekend cut the cute and raised the stakes, Kanye assaulted our ears, Bowie shocked the world and Miley tossed a dance-pop party grenade

5

Arcade Fire, 'Reflektor'

Courtesy of Merge Records

Seventy minutes of wide-screen dance rock co-produced by LCD Soundsystem retiree James Murphy, the Grammy-grabbing, high-aiming, arena-filling, indie-earnest family band does what the Clash, Talking Heads and so many before it have done: reconnect rock to its dance-floor soul. There are flashes of glam, punk, disco, electro, dub reggae and Haitian rara. Being Arcade Fire, there's also emo dramatics and cultural critiques (staring at screens: don't do it!). Of course, the haters hated; the chin-scratchers debated the politics of the album's Caribbean undercurrents. But that ability to provoke actual feelings is what makes this great. And no release this year had a more entertaining rollout brouhaha. Stephen Colbert called them pretentious to their faces; they laughed too. And then the party started.

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