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The Best Music Of 2013: The Ballots

Our main list of the year’s best albums doesn’t just appear out of thin air. It’s tallied from ballots by a group of writers, each of whom list their top 10 in order, with their favorite getting 10 points, their next pick getting nine, and so on. Below are the individual ballots, plus some personal commentary on discs that didn’t make the big list, as well as other thoughts on the year’s best music. Don’t forget to vote for your favorites of the year in our readers’ poll.

Marah Eakin
1. Kanye West, Yeezus 
“Black Skinhead” is, hands down, my favorite song of the year. Next to “The Wire” and “Wrecking Ball,” of course, and “Blurred Lines.” 
2. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City 
This record was a very close contender for my no. 1. It’s just a massive, fun romp. Even if you don’t like Vampire Weekend (and why not?), check this record out. The band is pushing boundaries in a way that’s smart, sensible, and really creative.
3. HAIM, Days Are Gone 
4. Savages, Silence Yourself
I like both HAIM and Savages a lot, and I wrote both in the blurbs for the main list. As Annie Zaleski says below, I think both of these records are good indicators of what’s to come from female rockers—not that we need another piece on whether it’s the “year of the woman.” 
5. Rhye, Woman
Speaking of women, I can’t believe the singer from Rhye isn’t female. I’ve been listening to this record for almost a year, and I still can’t get over it as a whole. It’s stunning, and I hope the band lives to produce more. 
6. Mikal Cronin, MCII
This record is another that’s been a slow burner for me. It came out months ago, but every time it comes up in my iTunes, I’m pleased. MCII feels like one of those LPs that I’ll come back to on a regular basis for years to come. Plus, I’m really into Cronin’s tie-dye-shirt steez, even if I wouldn’t wear one myself.
7. Disclosure, Settle
I don’t “get” Chvrches. It’s too cutesy and pop for me. I like my dance music heavy and driven, like this Disclosure record. Play it loud. 
8. Pissed Jeans, Honeys 
9. Deafheaven, Sunbather 
10. Skeletonwitch, Serpents Unleashed 
Serpents Unleashed is Skeletonwitch’s best record to date, and that’s saying a lot. The band is one of my sentimental favorites, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t objectively believe that it’s criminally, criminally underappreciated. I suppose these last three records mark me as a fan of “heavy” music.

Immediate runners up
Arcade Fire, Reflektor — I wish I liked this record more. I have a feeling it’ll grow on me, though.   
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories — Same with this one. 
Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus — This one was on the bubble, for sure. It’s a fantastic record, but I just liked 10 others more.
The National, Trouble Will Find Me — Same, and it has some of my favorite cover art of any record this year.
The Flaming Lips, The Terror — I haven’t come back to this one a lot, but I think it’s a strong Flips record. It’s certainly not what fans (including me) wanted, but it’s well done in its own way. Now if I just liked Wayne Coyne more... 
Paul McCartney, NewThis one’s on here because of how much I like “Early Days.” That track’s a jam. The rest of the record isn’t half bad either. It’s actually driven me into much of McCartney’s back catalog again, and that’s a great thing.
CFCF, OutsideCFCF put out two records this year, and this is my favorite. It’s what I’ve listened to at work the most, but that’s because it’s mainly instrumental. It’s great background music, but it can definitely be more than that in times that require it.

Josh Modell
1. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City 
2. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
3. Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
4. Low, The Invisible Way
5. Kanye West, Yeezus
6. Volcano Choir, Repave
7. Superchunk, I Hate Music
8. Boards Of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
9. Drake, Nothing Was The Same 
10. Dismemberment Plan, Uncanney Valley 

Excellent songs from albums that didn’t make my top 10
Future Of The Left, “I Don’t Know What You Ketamine (But I Think I Love You)”
Lorde, “Royals”
Iron & Wine, “Caught In The Briars”
Dungeonesse, “Drive You Crazy”
Arcade Fire, “Here Comes The Night Time”
Basia Bulat, “Promise Not To Think About Love”
Aisha Burns, “Sold”
Atoms For Peace, “Dropped”
Killer Mike, “Banana Clipper”
Bill Callahan, “Expanding Dub”
Barton Carroll, “Laveda”
Retribution Gospel Choir, “Seven”
Chvrches, “Gun”
Waxahatchee, “Swan Dive”
Telekinesis, “Empathetic People”

Kyle Ryan
1. Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe
2. Fall Out Boy, Save Rock And Roll
I have no more interest in extolling the virtues of Fall Out Boy’s polished rock to skeptics. This album has an excess of hooks, and it’s one of the most purely enjoyable listens of the year.
3. Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
4. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
5. Los Campesinos!, No Blues
6. Bells≥, Solutions, Silence, Or Affirmations
The instrumental Brooklyn band featuring Jawbox drummer Zach Barocas made an engrossing, textured album that’s all post—post-rock, post-hardcore, post-easy labels. It’s an under-the-radar album that deserves notice.
7. Telekinesis, Dormarion
Michael Benjamin Lerner has assembled his best batch of collaborators yet, and that resulted in his best album so far. Telekinesis should be huge.
8. Pusha T, My Name Is My Name
When the continually delayed solo debut from one-half of Clipse finally arrived, it showed Pusha T in fine form. That it didn’t make a bigger impact is frustrating, if unsurprising considering Clipse’s history.
9. Savages, Silence Yourself
10. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
Am I really the only one who voted for this? This album hit a sweet spot for me this year: catchy, female-led synth-laden pop. (See also: Chvrches, Her Royal Harness.) 

Other albums I liked quite a bit, but didn’t make my top 10
The Naked And Famous, In Rolling Waves - Just barely missed my top 10. 
Girls Against Boys, The Ghost List - Welcome back, and more please.
Robbie Fulks, Gone Away Backward - Another fine return to form. 
Danny Brown, Old
Cheatahs, Extended Plays - The 2014 full-length is one of my most anticipated.
The Night Marchers, Allez Allez - John Reis = awesome.
Kanye West, Yeezus - I liked it more in theory than reality. 
Weekend Nachos, Still
Her Royal Harness, The Hunting Room
Bottomless Pit, Shade Perennial
The Julie Ruin, Run Fast - Another welcome return. 
Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels

Proof that I have yet to make one of these lists correctly
Somehow, I completely forgot to include Superchunk’s excellent I Hate Music when I originally submitted my ballot, and by the time I remembered, it was too late to resubmit. It probably wouldn’t have affected the overall standings, but it most certainly would’ve been in my top five or six. How I managed to forget about one of my favorite bands of the past 20 years speaks to some failing on my part, but I’ll fix it on my Pazz & Jop ballot. Superchunk rules, and so does I Hate Music. Get it!

Sean O’Neal
1. Jon Hopkins, Immunity 
2. Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
3. Tim Hecker, Virgins
4. Darkside, Psychic
5. Flume, Flume
6. Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind
7. My Bloody Valentine, mbv
8. Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven
9. Boards Of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest
10. Forest Swords, Engravings

The next 25
Mount Kimbie, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
Dirty Beaches, Drifters/Love Is The Devil
The Haxan Cloak, Excavation
Grouper, The Man Who Died In His Boat
Lapalux, Nostalchic
James Blake, Overgrown
Savages, Silence Yourself 
Blue Hawaii, Untogether
Andy Cato, Times And Places
RxGibbs, Contact
The Stranger, Watching Dead Empires In Decay
Kanye West, Yeezus
Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty
Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
Mister Lies, Mowgli
Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels
Zomby, With Love
Various Artists, After Dark 2
The National, Trouble Will Find Me
Rob, Maniac OST
Young Echo, Nexus
ERAAS, Initiation
Basic House, Oats
Painted Caves, Surveillance
Sorrow, Dreamstone

Notable EPs
Active Child, Rapor
Blue Sky Black Death, Glaciers
Burial, Truant/Rough Sleeper
Ricardo Donoso, As Iron Sharpens Iron
Flume/Chet Faker, Lockjaw
Pazes, Sleeping Dolls
Shlohmo, Laid Out
Sigils, Transverse
Vessel, Misery Is A Communicable Disease

Andrea Battleground
1. David Bowie, The Next Day

2. Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady
I have nothing original to say about Janelle Monáe. The Electric Lady had me “falling harder than a Sunday in September.”
3. JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Howl
Put on 
“River” right now, and I will probably start weeping, even though I’m half-dead inside.
4. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
5. Polica, Shulamith
6. Foals, Holy Fire
A release from early in the year that I still love to play. Also, this band is amazing live, so anyone who is able should probably see to that.
7. Arctic Monkeys, AM
8. Mikal Cronin, MCII
9. Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe
If this album had been released a few weeks earlier, it probably would’ve popped up on more lists. At least, I’d like to think so. Favorite tracks include “You’re Not Good Enough” and “On The Line.”
Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap
Three words: “Cocoa Butter Kisses”

The next 15
Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety
Hanni El Khatib, Head In The Dirt
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Low, The Invisible Way
Dr. Dog, B-Room
Days Are Gone
DJ Rashad, Double Cup
Alice Smith, She
Kelela, Cut 4 Me
Pickwick, Can’t Talk Medicine
Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
Into It. Over It., Intersections
Lorde, Pure Heroine
King Khan And The Shrines, Idle No More
Phosphorescent, Muchacho

Kevin McFarland
1. Deafheaven, Sunbather
I am not a metal person, but I will give any band from San Francisco a shot, such is my hometown bias. I’m so glad I did with Deafheaven’s second record, a beautiful bombast that blew away any genre preconceptions I had. Nothing I heard this year was as cohesive as Sunbather, which practically demands to be heard straight through from the needle drop. It’s the record I’ve played the most this year and was such an unexpected surprise that it doesn’t belong anywhere but the top spot.
2. Football Etc., Audible
My favorite album of the year that deserves significantly more press. Rilo Kiley’s B-sides collection RKives collected most of the extra material from the band’s career, but it was no surprise that my favorite tracks came from the Execution Of All Things era. Audible is like getting another album from the Saddle Creek version of Rilo Kiley, and it’s a delightfully simple blend of emo and what used to be the distinctive genre of “indie rock.” The title track and “Forfeit” are two of 2013’s standout songs.
3. HAIM, Days Are Gone
The first four tracks all made the cut when I compiled a playlist of my favorite songs of 2013. No other record contributed more than two. It’s the catchiest album I heard this year, and I don’t understand the Wilson Phillips knock at all.
4. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Listen up, Arcade Fire: This is how to properly zag when everyone is expecting a zig. So much could have gone wrong on this record with a decade of anticipation built up, but the robot duo moved forward by mining the sounds of the past. “Contact” is still ethereal, “Touch” still sounds like a missing number from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and “Get Lucky” is still the most danceable track of the year.
5. Best Coast, Fade Away
My pick for this year’s “All Killer, No Filler” award. Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno could have waited and rounded out this mini-album with a handful of filler tracks, but as constituted the seven songs can be played straight through without skipping, and that rare quality makes it memorable.
6. Savages, Silence Yourself
Other than Deafheaven, the Savages Pitchfork Fest after-show at Lincoln Hall was the best set I saw all year.
7. Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe
A Scottish band with a female vocalist and dreamy, bouncing digital instrumentation: Yeah, Chvrches is right in my wheelhouse. The way Lauren Mayberry pronounces “proud” and “cold” in the chorus on “The Mother We Share” makes my heart melt. Plus Mayberry got a master’s degree in Journalism and worked as a freelance writer before ending up in the band, which means there’s still hope for all of us!
8. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
9. Lorde, Pure Heroine
10. Into It. Over It., Intersections
No album this year had a more inviting and arresting opening line than Evan Weiss’s second as Into It. Over it. “I laid down last year / traded tobacco for new North-side air / And filled up my lungs with our home.” It’s tempting to call this the next best thing to a new Get Up Kids record, but Intersections is more than that, a series of hyper-specific glimpses into one guy’s emotional state in Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, and Chicago. Emo has spent so long as a denigrated genre that it has taken a long time for the kids of the most recent generation influenced by it to rise to the top. Intersections is another sign of the resurgence. 

The next five
Chris Ayer, The Noise
Tegan And Sara, Heartthrob
The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
Rob Simonsen, The Spectacular Now soundtrack
Rilo Kiley, RKives

Tracks I loved from records I didn’t
Earl Sweatshirt, “Chum”
Paramore, “Fast In My Car”
Drake, “Hold On We’re Going Home”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Despair”
Frightened Rabbit, “Holy”
The Lonely Island, “Semicolon”
Rogue Wave, “College”
AFI, “I Hope You Suffer”
Sky Ferreira, “You’re Not The One” 

Sonia Saraiya
1. Lorde, Pure Heroine
This is a hard call to make, but it’s impossible for me to argue for anything else. “Royals” and Pure Heroine basically took over my brain as soon as I first heard them. Pure Heroine is a near-flawless debut, linked together but not repetitive. The first line is: “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” The last line is: “People are talking / Let ’em talk.” 
2. Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
I came late to this album, but holy crap, it is so good. I love “Night Still Comes,” with its plaintive “You never held it at the right angle,” but my favorite song is “Local Girl.”
3. MS MR, Secondhand Rapture
Hurricane” made the rounds on radio stations in the Northeast and elsewhere after this Brooklyn-based duo released Secondhand Rapture, but the whole album is a treat—a bold, rolling sound that feels like you can live inside it. Spotify hosted an acoustic session with MS MR, and they are possibly even better unplugged. Along with acoustic versions of “Hurricane,” “Bones,” and “Fantasy,” they covered LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean,” which I think I like better than the original (blasphemy—I know).
4. James Blake, Overgrown 
This is a weird album—haunting, jarring, and ultimately beautiful. I’m not sure if it’s as strong as Blake’s first, but “Retrograde” is among my top five tracks of the year, so I have to include it. Blake’s live sound is also sharper than ever—the studio recordings feel like sketches for his stage performances.
5. Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady
This album is so impressive in its range and style. I admit that I was one of the cynics, unconvinced that Monáe had this kind of range in her. This album is a total contradiction to that. “Primetime” is probably my favorite track, but I cannot deny the power of “Q.U.E.E.N.”
6. Baths, Obsidian
This album feels so smooth and relaxing. I have nothing brilliant to say about it, but I like it a lot.
7. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
This is a new one that I listened to in preparation for this list—and I was pleasantly surprised by the sound of a solo effort that is stripped-down, but doesn’t feel slight. I’m a sucker for female singer-songwriters (as you might have noticed from this list), but alternative-folk, or however you might characterize this, isn’t typically my thing. But how do you not like “Hollow Bedroom,” a song just shy of two minutes that is beautifully sparse, but leaves you wanting more?
8. Miley Cyrus, BANGERZ
I have to give it a nod, for sheer egotistical nerve. It’s music as spectacle, but what a spectacle!
9. Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind
What am I going to do, argue with Sean O’Neal?
10. Various Artists, Inside Llewyn Davis 
I don’t know if I’m going to like Inside Llewyn Davis, but if history is any indication, I’m going to have a strong reaction to it, because the Coen brothers somehow manage to elicit that kind of response—whether it’s laughter, disgust, or awe. They have an incredible sense of atmosphere. This album offers folk music thats both accessible and beautiful, and I imagine it will make its way into my regular rotation alongside the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Runners up
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Disclosure, Settle
HAIM, Days Are Gone 
M.I.A., Matangi
Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob 
The Naked And Famous, In Rolling Waves
Yo La Tengo, Fade

Evan Rytlewski
1. Kanye West, Yeezus
2. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
3. Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap
4. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
5. Paramore, Paramore                                                                                                          6. Austra, Olympia  
7. Los Campesinos!, No Blues
8. Drake, Nothing Was The Same
9. Locrian, Return To Annihilation
10. Young Thug, 1017 Thug

Lots of love for these, too
Bilal, A Love Surreal
Volcano Choir, Repave 
Danny Brown, Old
Camera Obscura, Desire Lines
Rich Homie Quan, I Promise I Will Never Stop Goin’ In
The Joy Formidable, Wolf’s Law
Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge, Twelve Reasons To Die
Waka Flocka Flame, Du Flocka Rant Halftime
Meek Mill, Dreamchasers 3
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord
Ka, The Night’s Gambit
The-Dream, IV Play
Gucci Mane, Trap God 2
Marnie Stern, The Chronicles of Marnia
Deafheaven, Sunbather
Ace Hood, Starvation 2

R&B tracks of the year
Ciara, “Body Party”
Amel Larrieux, “I Do Take”
Sevyn Streeter, “I Like It”
K. Michelle, “VSOP”
Fantasia, “Without Me”
Joe, “Compromise”
The-Dream ft. Gary Clark Jr., “Too Early”
Jade Alston, “I Try”

City of the year: Atlanta
2013 wasn’t a particularly great year for music overall, but at least it was an absolutely phenomenal year for rap, and unsurprisingly, much of the genre’s best stuff came out of a city on an endless hot streak. Rich Homie Quan, Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka Flame, Young Thug, Bloody Jay, Migos, Future, Young Scooter, Jose Guapo, and Rich Kidz were just some of the Atlanta artists who put out vital singles or killer mixtapes this year, the best of which continued to mine new forms of expression without losing the city’s distinctive club-friendly kick.

Most perplexing critical favorite of the year: Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll.
Between the ugly, faux-hair metal production, the ambiguously ironic appropriations of Top 40 trends, and the indiscriminate bellowing of Patrick Stump, a singer who seems to have even less of an understanding of when Pete Wentz’s lyrics are trying to be sarcastic than I have, there was plenty to hate about Fall Out Boy’s exhausting comeback effort, but many of the critics I respect most didn’t see it that way. They greeted the record with open arms, and largely took its ridiculous title at face value, framing Save Rock And Roll as exactly the kind of album the genre needed in 2013. If what rock ’n’ roll needed was a record that looks down on its audience for enjoying it, maybe rock ’n’ roll isn’t worth saving.

Chris Mincher
1. Kanye West, Yeezus
2. The Devil Makes Three, I’m A Stranger Here
It’s hard for bands specializing in old-time Americana to avoid being dismissed as inconsequential (if passingly enjoyable) novelty acts. But with this frenetic collection of stomping ragtime hoedowns, bluegrass-gospel chant-alongs, and bohemian jazz-folk ballads, The Devil Makes Three—much like Creedence Clearwater Revival before it—transcends the antique influences and breathes new life into bygone genres. In an age of computer-crafted, digitally dependent music, I’m A Stranger Here validates our enduring musical roots. 
3. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City
4. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
5. Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
6. Alice Smith, She
Following up her Grammy-nominated 2006 debut For Lovers, Dreamers & Me, Alice Smith unleashes seven years of ideas in this compelling batch of soul-tinged genre-benders. She seamlessly weaves together electronica, chamber-pop, acoustic rock, Caribbean instrumentation, gospel, brass-driven jazz, and Motown choruses into intricate, complexly structured melodies that are at turns sultry, spirited, and soaring. With She, Smith bypasses the usual artistic maturation process and arrives back on the scene with confidence and intriguingly refined ambition.  
7. Paul McCartney, New
Now in his 70s, Paul McCartney has no interest in being a dormant legend contently resting on his accomplishments and past contributions to modern popular music. New is an audacious statement of continued relevance, embracing contemporary sounds and techniques that are effortlessly fused to the piano-driven pop and acoustic folk he pioneered with The Beatles. It’s a fantastically bright, colorful, evocative record, a feat rarely—if ever—accomplished more than 50 years into a career. 
8. Camera Obscura, Desire Lines
Camera Obscura’s tragicomic soft-pop has never been as comfortable and clever as it is on Desire Lines, a breezy bundle of shiningly subdued guitar riffs, mellow synth lines, and crystalline harmonies. Dialing back the orchestral swells and buzzing reverb of prior albums, Desire Lines’ low-key sound more perfectly matches the band’s resigned, dryly humorous message. Camera Obscura has long excelled at this stuff, but Desire Lines distills years of experiments into one fully realized concept.
9. Marnie Stern, The Chronicles Of Marnia
It takes a while for those familiar with Marnie Stern’s elaborate shredding arrangements to get comfortable with The Chronicles Of Marnia, a record that eschews bombastic fret-board explosions in favor of discernible hooks and loose melodies. As prior expectations fade with repeated listens, the controlled balance of pop structure and finger-tapping fury ceases to feel like unnecessary restraint—but, rather, Stern wisely wiping away some technical proficiency to let her impressive songwriting abilities come through.
10. Of Montreal, Lousy With Sylvianbriar
After years of Kevin Barnes’ increasingly dense, overblown electro-pop, it’s difficult to overcome the surprise of Lousy With Sylvianbriar, a genre U-turn into classic psych-rock. As such, it’s easy to initially disregard Of Montreal’s forays into country, roots, and R&B music of the ’60s and ’70s as disingenuous trifles. But Barnes’ obtusely witty lyrics and catchy hooks prove an enchanting fit with these retro styles, and the record’s memorable, lasting charm cannot be denied.

Annie Zaleski
1. Fall Out Boy, Save Rock And Roll
2. David Bowie, The Next Day
3 Johnny Marr, The Messenger
4. Minor Alps, Get There
5. Paramore, Paramore
6. Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
7. Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob
8. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
9. Potty Mouth, Hell Bent
10. MS MR, Secondhand Rapture

The next six
11. Upset, She’s Gone
12. Panic! At The Disco, Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!
13. Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
14. The Julie Ruin, Run Fast
15. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
16. London Suede, Bloodsports

File Under “Why Didn’t This Song Make The Actual Album?”: David Bowie’s “Atomica”
This bonus track from the reissue of The Next Day feels like an outtake from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)—a nasty funk underbelly, soulful backing vocals, handclaps, and glam-swagger coalesce to make this song one of the most energetic things Bowie’s done in decades.

Best ’80s Homage: Bleached’s “Next Stop”
Bleached’s Ride Your Heart—a sun-kissed collection of California punk and new wave indebted to the Bangles, The Pandoras, and even X—was one of the more underrated records of the year. This upbeat song’s rolling surf licks, girl-gang harmonies and breezy melancholy were nothing short of perfection.

Dance music for newbies: Disclosure, Settle
This U.K. duo isn’t doing anything super novel, but its debut record is a throwback to the days when dance-pop made you think and want to move; Settle is a string of great vocal performances and simmering beats rather than big, obvious electronic gestures.

A dozen 2013 Perma-Jams
HAIM, “If I Could Change Your Mind”
The Polyphonic Spree, “You Don’t Know Me”
Tegan And Sara, “Drove Me Wild”
The Julie Ruin, “Oh Come On”
Justin Timberlake, “Take Back The Night”
Lorde, “Tennis Court”
Toad The Wet Sprocket, “I’ll Bet On You”
Arcade Fire, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”
Popstrangers, “Heaven”
The Joy Formidable, “Little Blimp”
Sky Ferreira, “I Blame Myself”
Lady Gaga, “Do What U Want”

Best trend
Lots of women made music that was exciting, inspiring, empowering, and smart.

Worst trend
The buzz-hype cycle continues to speed up, meaning that more and more excellent albums get lost in the shuffle—simply because there’s so much music to sift through, it’s hard to take time to absorb the good stuff.

David Anthony
1. Deafheaven, Sunbather
Since Deafheaven’s first demo, the San Francisco band has shown promise, and with each release leading up to Sunbather it came closer and closer to cashing in on this potential. Though Deafheaven is not the first band to twist black metal’s template, its success at pushing the genre into a more mainstream consciousness is noteworthy. Sunbather’s lasting resonance is in its ability to make the genres it melds heartfelt and human, never faltering but unafraid to show its warts.
2. Kevin Devine, Bubblegum
It’s been a long fight for Kevin Devine to get attention outside of the small scene that first embraced him, but the tandem release of his seventh and eighth albums pushed him into new worlds. Bubblegum is not only the better of the dual releases; it’s the best record Devine has ever crafted. Though it deals in similar territory to his previous albums, Bubblegum focuses on concise sing-alongs (“Bubblegum,” “Private First Class”) and sprawling moodiness (“Red Bird”). Devine may be eight albums in, but he’s never been more vital and energized.
3. Pelican, Forever Becoming
Pelican is at its best when staying true to its own course, and though that’s diverted in recent years, Forever Becoming has all the trappings of a career-defining record. Though its debut LP Australasia is often bestowed with such praise, a decade later the band offers up the album that may trump it for that designation. Over nearly an hour, Pelican shows all its sides by juxtaposing ambient excursions with straightforward, riff-laden rockers, never allowing the record to feel as if these pursuits lack purpose or commonality. 
4. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
Much has been made of the post-P.S. Eliot endeavors by the Crutchfield sisters, and rightly so. The debut albums from both Swearin’ and Waxahatchee deserved the praise heaped upon them, but on Waxahatchee’s follow-up Katie Crutchfield (and the Swearin’ members she brought on as her rhythm section) craft a record that balances ’90s indie-rock with the singer-songwriter sensibilities that typified American Weekend. Cerulean Salt showcases Crutchfield’s innate ability to wrap soul-crushing lyrics in arrangements that never betray these emotions as Waxahatchee creates something both delicate and rocking, displaying substantial growth from a debut that was barely in need of such developments.
5. Touché Amoré, Is Survived By
Given that I’ve already spilled a ton of ink about this record in my review I’ll keep it brief: Touché Amoré, despite all odds, just keeps getting better. It’s sophomore album, Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me seemed untouchable, but leave it to the California quintet to best it. Trends in hardcore may become stagnant, but that hardly seems like a concern for fans of Touché Amoré.
6. Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe
Though imbued with more hype than seemingly any other band this year, Chvrches never became a victim of it. This album’s electronic backbone never betrays the heart of the band or the emotion that pours out of Lauren Mayberry, making it a spiritual successor to the new wave and synth-pop that was so adeptly commercialized in the ’80s. It’s a danceable record that retains substance, making each bite-sized track sugar sweet and wholly filling.
7. Into It. Over It., Intersections
Evan Weiss is a busy man, and 2013 saw him offer up his three strongest releases with three different bands (Pet Symmetry and Their / They’re / There being the other two). His sophomore full-length as Into It. Over It. somewhat betrays Weiss’ prolific nature, as split 7-inches and lengthy songwriting projects have allowed Into It. Over It. to grow by leaps and bounds in a short time. Intersections is an album that, from the opening notes of “New North-side Air” to the interwoven guitar lines of “Contractual Obligation” show Weiss at his most ambitious and his very best. The liner notes advise the use of headphones, and for good reason: It’s an orchestrated indie-rock album that unveils new intricacies with each listen.
8. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Whenever, If Ever
The band with the long name took quite a long time to offer up a debut LP, but patience is rewarded with Whenever, If Ever. It’s an album that flows together seamlessly, offering up sing-along tracks such as “Fightboat” as well as the epically brooding breakdowns of “Heartbeat In The Brain” and “Getting Sodas.” The band’s name may be a mouthful, but its goals have never been as sharply pointed. 
9. Swearin’, Surfing Strange
To pick up where the discussion of Waxahatchee left off, Alison Crutchfield’s Swearin’ has grown into a band that no longer deserves the overly simplistic designation of being a “Crutchfield band.” Surfing Strange features an increased presence by the band’s other vocalists, offering variations on the sound that typified its debut without ever repeating itself or abandoning it. 
10. Radioactivity, Radioactivity 
The songwriting team of Jeff Burke and Mark Ryan came to prominence with The Marked Men, a band whose later output remains an ideal measure of both garage and pop-punk. After a tenure in Japan, one which largely separated the pair’s creative efforts, Burke returned to the U.S. with a batch of songs that may be his catchiest yet. Enlisting Ryan as his bassist resulted in Radioactivity, both an album and band. It’s hard to find a bigger earworm than “World Of Pleasure,” and each track deals in a similar style while avoiding redundancies. Radioactivity has already readied a second album, and if it’s half as good as this one, it should be one of 2014’s best.

Honorable mentions: LPs
Bars Of Gold, Wheels
Crusades, Perhaps You Deliver This Judgment With Greater Fear Than I Receive It
Curmudgeon, Amygdala
Drug Church, Paul Walker
Football, Etc., Audible
Iron Lung, White Glove Test
Laura Stevenson, Wheel
Low Culture, Screens
Nails, Abandon All Life
Radiator Hospital, Something Wild
Shat Shorts, Shat Shorts
Signals Midwest, Light On The Lake
Sundowner, Neon Fiction
Superchunk, I Hate Music
True Widow, Circumambulation
A Wilhelm Scream, Partycrasher

Honorable mentions: EPs
Braid/Balance And Composure, Split 7-inch
Cloakroom, Infinity
Dad Punchers, These Times Weren’t Made For You
Dads, Pretty Good
Paint It Black, Invisible
Pet Symmetry, Two Songs About Cars. Two Songs With Long Titles.

Erik Adams
1. HAIM, Days Are Gone
2. Kanye West, Yeezus 
3. Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus
4. Savages, Silence Yourself 
5. Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe 
6. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold 
7. Tim Hecker, Virgins 
8. My Bloody Valentine, mbv 
9. Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven 
10. Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap 

Becca James
1. HAIM, Days Are Gone
2. Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe 
3. Lorde, Pure Heroine 
4. Ski Lodge, Big Heart
5. French Camp, Odd Particle 
6.Houndmouth, From The Hills And Below The City
7. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
8. Laura Marling, Once I Was An Eagle
9. The Head And The Heart, Let’s Be Still
10. Polarizer, Lightscapes 

Jason Heller
1. Locrian, Return To Annihilation
2. Chelsea Wolfe, Pain Is Beauty
3. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana
4. The Body, Christs/Redeemers
5. Deafheaven, Sunbather
6. Subrosa, More Constant Than the Gods
7. Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt
8. My Bloody Valentine, mbv
9. In Solitude, Sister
10. Savages, Silence Yourself