Home Music Music Lists

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

Best Albums of 2013

The past 12 months had more great music going on than any year in recent memory. Some of the most innovative artists of the last decade — Kanye West, Daft Punk, Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire — all made watershed albums. Rock & roll greats like John Fogerty, Paul McCartney and David Bowie proved they could be as vital as ever. The EDM explosion kept blowing up thanks to artists like Disclosure and Avicii; old-school titans like Eminem and Pusha T pushed hip-hop forward alongside new-school innovators like Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt, J. Cole and Danny Brown; Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe made country that was traditional and iconoclastic. But the most exciting news of the year might've been the astonishing number of breakout new artists, from retro-Eighties sister act Haim, to Brit-folk prodigy Jake Bugg, to indie-rockers Parquet Courts, to post-punkers Savages to chart-topping 17-year-old truth-bomber Lorde. Even Miley Cyrus' wrecking ball of an adult-oriented breakout album was kinda awesome. Oh 2013, you gave so much and asked so little; 2014, get crackin'. You've got a lot to live up to.  

Contributors: Jon Dolan, Will Hermes, Christian Hoard, Rob Sheffield, and Simon Vozick-Levinson

Courtesy of Glassnote Records

22

Phoenix, ‘Bankrupt!’

The French indie-pop group didn't come through with hits on par with "1901" or "Lisztomania." Phoenix did something even cagier, rolling out sleek, savvy songs that took apart fame, fashion and coolness from the inside, without scrimping on their space-rock whoosh, surging melodies and wry New Wave pout.

Courtesy of Capitol Records

21

Sky Ferreira, ‘Night Time, My Time’

Ferreira's Eighties-weaned diva pop recalls no-nonsense Nineties alt-rockers like PJ Harvey and Shirley Manson, setting love-wracked disclosures to grungy guitar static, electronic gauze and computer-groove churn. When she sings about her "heavy-metal heart," she's not kidding: The woman works well with machines.

Courtesy of Virgin Records

20

Laura Marling, ‘Once I Was An Eagle’

Marling is the most compelling singer-songwriter of the U.K. roots-revival scene, with a voice that conjures young Joni Mitchell. Kicking off with a heart-surgical seven-song opening suite, her fourth LP is the record Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis might have made after kicking Justin Timberlake to the curb.