Cohesion, fresh sounds, and loads of singles…
5. Iron & Wine – “Ghost on Ghost“
Ghost on Ghost finds itself somewhere between the simplified yet crisp production found on Our Endless Numbered Days and the sonically layered and swirling sound of Shepherd’s Dog. The result is played out as an album full of pieces infused with blues, jazz, bop, R&B, and folk that blend together to create a cohesive unit rather than a mechanized collection of songs. Sam Beam & Co. have artfully crafted an album full of subtleties and story that listeners are sure to find something new in every spin.
Stand-out track: Low Light Buddy of Mine
For fans of: Jazz, Iron & Wine / The Decemberists / Pedro the Lion / farms / US South
4. Infinity Shred – “Sanctuary“
I once described Infinity Shred’s sound as if Explosions in the Sky had a love affair with computers and scored the TRON soundtrack. While not entirely accurate, Sanctuary works as the soundtrack to the ’80s vision of our current tech future. This three-piece of once legendary chip-tune outfit Starscream have found solace in a new name and a refined sound. The record plunges listeners into instrumental arrangements full of huge drums, waves of electronics, and an onslaught of guitars. While those who found Infinity Shred’s EP 001 (Gnar Dream) to be a refreshing escape will find its successor to be of a similar likeness; not the giant leap in evolution from Starcream’s Future, Towards the Edge of Forever to Infinity Shred’s debut, but a comfortable continuation of their new and unique sound.
Stand-out track: Mapper
For fans of: Anamanaguchi / Explosions in the Sky / TRON / metaphysics / computers / science / math / love
3. Portugal. The Man – “Evil Friends“
2013 has been a tremendous year for the Alaskan outfit Portugal. The Man. In 2006, the band offered up a feast of experimental post-hardcore on their debut record. They have since traversed through the worlds of conceptual blues to Beatles-esque structure to roots-rock hooks to electronic technique, all the while never loosing touch with their hip-hop and pop sensibilities. On their seventh studio album Evil Friends, their ever evolving sound has been tightened and refined by producer Danger Mouse. All of this experience and influence produced a record chock-full of singles and anthems audiences of all genres will be fit to fall in love with.
Stand-out track: Creep In a T-Shirt
For fans of: The Beatles / Danger Mouse / Broken Bells / rural small town jams
2. Vampire Weekend – “Modern Vampires of the City“
Where Vampire Weekend would normally fit the bill of a modern day ’80s Paul Simon, this mature record from the quirky surf rockers spans a new variety of sounds. On Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend explores dark sounds, careful modulation, scaled back instrumentation, organic textures, and emotive tones. That is not to say that the fun loving and light-hearted romps don’t exist (see Unbelievers, Diane Young, Finger Back), their prominence is simply dialed back in lieu of introspective, spacey, and cooled off tracks such at Step, Hannah Hunt, and Ya Hey. The variety found in this record keeps it fresh with every spin and every mood.
Stand-out tracks: Step
For fans of: Fleetwood Mac / classical / cities / US East Coast
1. Foals – “Holy Fire“
While the open tracks Prelude and Inhaler make for a heavy barrier of entry, the literal core of the album is rooted in the colorful tracks of My Number through Milk & Black Spiders. This series of six sonically perfect tracks compliment each other with bouncing rhythms, deep lyrical content, huge atmospheres, catchy hooks, and Yannis Philippakis’ rich vocals. Providence acts as the album’s climax, a driving 7/8 juggernaut layered with a bluesy vocal melody and a pounding end that releases the collected emotion pent-up in the six tracks prior; a sonic brother to the opening Inhaler. Holy Fire finishes with two complimentary deep and mellow cuts; Stepson decending into death and Moon sweeping into the unknown.
Holy Fire drops listeners into a dark and atmospheric world full of love, loss, and yearning wrapped in human’s most feared elements of time and death.
Stand-out track: Late Night
For fans of: Coldplay / Minus The Bear / Circa Survive / longing / perseverance
Coheed and Cambria – “The Afterman: Descension“
Coheed finds their metal stride. This second half of double-disc metal record oozes with emotion and finds the band at their most accessible phase yet.
Anamanaguchi – “Endless Fantasy“
What’s not to love from the 8-bit infused pop-punk quartet. Anamanaguchi ventures into the 16-bit pop realm on this Kickstarted double-disc unclassified high energy jaunt.
Sigur Rós – “Kveikur“
Full of large drum patters and distorted bass, Sigur Rós’ experimentation with dark and heavy atmospheres makes Kveikur their greatest and most passionate album since ().
Local Natives – “Hummingbird“
Local Natives prove that they have cracked the code to satisfyingly catchy and organic indie jams. Sprinkle a little desperation in there and you have the perfect heartfelt record
The Appleseed Cast – “Illumination Ritual“
The Appleseed Cast fall back to the lo-fi production values of Low Level Owl and throw in their highly skilled and (now) experienced instrumentation. Christopher Crisci’s vocal melodies are this catchiest yet and act as a great layer behind flurries of guitars and wild drum patterns.