Universal

The 25 Best Albums of 2013
The 25 Best Albums of 2013

10

Pet Shop Boys, Electric

While one set of European electronica heroes spent the year getting rich off barely tweaked disco nostalgia and ironic robot outfits, Pet Shop Boys were taking an easy and well-earned career victory lap with one of the best dance albums of 2013. The key words in that description are the two that distinguish Electric from the chart-crushing opus by those adorable French retro-futurists: “dance” and “2013.” This isn’t a nostalgia cruise through the sounds of its creators’ lost youth, but rather a daringly foolhardy effort to communicate with the kids in their own blissed-out lexicon. For this task, Electric brought the man most perfectly suited to marrying ‘80s electro-pop classicism with genre-straddling EDM modernism, Stuart Price. More importantly, the duo brought a collection of wry and wonderful earworms that are every bit as huge as Price’s canyon-sized sound. A reminder that classic songs don’t have to arrive already frozen in amber. Sullivan

The 25 Best Albums of 2013

9

Drake, Nothing Was the Same

Nothing Was the Same is less a leap forward than a luxuriant, bittersweet reflection on the view from the top. Drake, the Canadian master of confession-rap, cuts the usual sharp lines, and his lamentations have never felt so knowing, nor more tuneful; Kendrick and Cole can sing, but Drake (as Slant‘s own Calum Marsh observed in Esquire) has gone post-808s on us, with tasteful but unapologetic recourse to Auto-Tune and a sense of artistic confidence to counter his romantic vulnerabilities. Corners of the album sound like Kid Cudi on a very, very good day, and the stoned but slick cohesion in the album’s construction and production gives the lie to Drake’s signature self-pity. He doesn’t need a handful of guest MCs, and he doesn’t want our sympathy either—just the chance to give us mellow ear-gasms, which he does on nearly every track. Scheinman

The 25 Best Albums of 2013

8

The National, Trouble Will Find Me

Trouble Will Find Me is a black-tie affair, formal and reserved, but it gracefully extends the intricate, sometimes hermetic formula of the National’s last two albums into a general invitation. The album’s haze of harmonies and damp, layered production techniques demand repeat listens, but it’s the arrangements that reward that patience. The orchestration is complex, but never overtly avant-garde. The experimental flavors are subtle: mixolydian scales, jazz chords, polyrhythmic drumming, quiet oboe, and french horn. The tension is no longer raw, but it’s still there, simmering below the surface of tracks like “Sea of Love.” And don’t let Matt Berninger’s shadowy baritone and opaque lyrics fool you: When he mumbles, “I’m having trouble inside my skin,” on “Slipped,” that’s exactly how he likes it. Caldwell

The 25 Best Albums of 2013

7

The Knife, Shaking the Habitual

Dense, visual, and unapologetically aimless, its social conscious half-concealed below a mixed artifice of ubiquitous and macabre imagery, Shaking the Habitual is probably the album David Lynch had in mind when he made Crazy Clown Time. A combination like that could easily be clunky in the hands of a lesser band, but the Knife has always possessed an innate ability to make their creepy inclinations sound both pretty and interesting. Thus, when broken, nightmarish chimes and Karin Dreijer Andersson’s androgynous drone come slinking out of the fog four minutes into “A Cherry on Top,” it’s like a sonic Grand Guignol, as captivating as it is frightening. Liedel

The 25 Best Albums of 2013

6

Typhoon, White Lighter

The existential urgency underpinning Typhoon’s debut, White Lighter, can be traced back to a single moment in frontman Kyle Morton’s childhood: when “a different bug must have bit my leg,” as he sings on “The Lake,” transmitting a bad case of Lyme disease, crippling his immune system and filling him with the sense that his life could end abruptly at any instant. “Every star is a possible death,” he sings on an album whose focus widens from the intensely personal to the cosmic on any given song. Recorded by upward of a dozen musicians, each track is a mini-symphony, modulating layers of strings, horns, percussion, and voice, and executing shifts in tempo and tone with surprising grace. For an album so deeply concerned with mortality, Morton’s ability to manage thematic gravity without sounding maudlin feels revelatory.Galvin

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