The 30 Best Albums of 2013: 30 to 21

The music you needed to hear most this year

December 4, 2013

As Greg Kot and I gear up for this weekend’s airing of our favorite episode of Sound Opinions all year—the annual Best-Of Recap—here is part one of my look at my Top 30 albums, starting from the bottom and working toward No. 1.

Today: numbers 30 to 21.

30. Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, Under the Covers, Vol. 3 (Shout Factory!)

Collaborating as Sid and Susie in 2006 and again in 2009 to produce the first two volumes of Under the Covers, the results were pleasant but not revelatory examples of the tribute genre. This time, however, power-pop maestros Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet pay homage to groups that were their peers in the ’80s, making for the most fun and illuminating set they’ve given us. Here is my review for this blog.

29. PANTyRAiD, PillowTalk (Glass Air Records)

Mixing elements of dubstep, French house music, and the more lush end of underground hip-hop, the West Coast production team PANTyRAiD takes us on a journey that doesn’t just begin and end on the dance floor, thanks to a devotion to crafting albums that stand as albums. Here is my review for this blog.

28. Big Dipper, Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet (Almost Ready Records)

Under-heralded slacker pop geniuses from the indie-rock ’80s, the Boston quartet reunites and gives us its first set of new music in 22 years, and it hasn’t lost a step. As good as Weezer at its best, and always better (for my money) than Pavement, then or now. Here is my review for this blog.

27. Atoms for Peace, Amok (XL)

My friend and sparring partner Greg Kot admired the sonic architecture of this effort from Thom Yorke’s side-project supergroup, but he found the songwriting lacking. I disagree: There’s plenty of melody and soul amid the clang and hum of the machines, making this a rewarding follow-up to the singer’s Eraser. Here is our review on Sound Opinions.

26. Trixie Whitley, Fourth Corner (Strong Blood)

The daughter of rootsy singer-songwriter Chris Whitley at long last proffers her full-length debut, reimagining the sultry soul and R&B of the ’60s via Tom Waits recording on a laptop, seducing you even as she leaves you slightly unsettled. Here is my review for this blog.

25. Warlocks, Skull Worship (Zap Banana)

The classic Velvet Underground drones and subway train rhythms only rarely have been done better than this—and I’d say that even if it didn’t enter heavy rotation on my playlist the week we all mourned the loss of Lou Reed. Here is our review on Sound Opinions.

24. Rhye, Woman (Universal Republic)

Odd as it might be that one of the most sensuous and feminine albums of the year came from a Canadian electronic musician and a Danish producer who are both men, Rhye nevertheless gives us a cool but steamy reimagining of Sade for the laptop era. Here is our review for Sound Opinions.

23. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories (Columbia)

The most anticipated electronic dance album of the year didn’t wow me on the first few listens—its was too long, a bit too scattered, and I could have done without the Paul Williams tune. But Random Access Memories grew on me the more time I spent with it, and if you pare it down a bit on your personal playlist (bye, Paul), there’s certainly more ambition and more memorable music here than on any other dance-pop album in 2013. Here is our review for Sound Opinions.

22. Palma Violets, 180 (Rough Trade)

This twenty-something London quartet is steeped in classic garage rock and psychedelic thrash, complete with vintage’60s organ. A familiar sound? Sure. But the melodies are strong enough, the rhythms propulsive enough, and the guitars snarling enough to make it all sound fresh and vital. Here is my review for this blog.

21. Prob Cause, The Recipe Vol. 2 (probcause.com)

Prob Cause is almost as witty and engaging lyrically as his pal Chance the Rapper, cracking on everyday activities like watching basketball while getting high and confessing a giddy fondness for psychedelic exploration (“LSD” is the standout track). A solidly impressive debut that underscores the diversity of Chicago hip-hop, as well as bringing some welcome humor to the city’s traditional pre-Keef positivity. Here is my review for this blog.

Follow me on Twitter @JimDeRogatis or join me on Facebook.