Top 50 Albums | Brett Berliner

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bestof musicPull up a coffee, maybe two, and read about Brett's 50 favorite releases of 2013.

 

  1. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City | I’ve always enjoyed Vampire Weekend, but I never believed them to be capable of something this good. Although they showed increased maturity from their self-titled debut to 2010’s follow up Contra, their third album is a gigantic leap forward. Modern vampireweekendVampires of the City is deep, layered, and powerful without losing the whimsy for which the band is known. Tracks like “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers” show they haven’t lost their playful nature, but the highlights “Step” and “Hannah Hunt” are where they show the most growth. It’s not just that album is surprising; it truly is best described as “absolutely bursting with sound.”
  2. The National: Trouble Will Find Me | Discovering The National records is personal and ritualistic to me. I always start out with a negative attitude, believing their latest record to fail to hold a candle to anything else they’ve produced. As I listen to it more and more, and the little pockets of sound and hidden riffs begin popping out, my attitude changes and I declare it perfect. Usually, a few more listens will settle the album down, but Trouble Will Find Me didn’t settle much at all. Start to finish, every track has an insane amount of depth and replay-ability. This is a dark album in places, even for The National, but it has its small triumphs like “Graceless,” their most up-tempo track yet. Ultimately, Trouble Will Find Me lives and dies on its ability to take over your mood, as it does on the stunning “This Is the Last Time.”
  3. Mikal Cronin: MCII | 2013 was surprising in that there weren’t many high-profile disappointments; often, highly anticipated albums were very solid. As always, there were numerous great surprises, such as Mikal Cronin’s MCII. Cronin has been around a long time, releasing several albums both solo and with Ty Segall, but his music never sounded this clean or refined. His charm has always been exemplified in how raw it was, so the shock of the amazing opener “Weight” can’t be understated. The craftsmanship never stops coming, as MCII delivers a tight 35 minutes, culminating with the powerful and well-named “Piano Mantra.”
  4. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories | Daft Punk was definitely helped by their long layoff in between full albums, as they incorporated a more straightforward pop sound for this release. The duo was heavily influenced and helped out by their guests, such as Julian Casablancas, Pharrell Williams, and Panda Bear. However, even on their solo tracks, the duo grows up and creates an album that can be played in every club or home. By the time this album reaches the ultimate jam of the summer, “Get Lucky,” it’s built up such momentum that finishing seems a relief. Random Access Memories definitely feels like an experience as opposed to just a collection of songs.
  5. Arcade Fire: Reflektor | “Double album” is a dirty phrase in music due to the number of talented artists who have slipped up by releasing watered down work. Arcade Fire have thankfully avoided this trap as every track on each side is fully fleshed out and enjoyable. Thankfully, Reflektor runs only a few minutes longer than The Suburbs, and while the tracks are a bit longer on average, they build well to give each one a very epic feel. This is almost certainly one of 2013’s most debated albums, as it is more upbeat and dance-y than some of their previous works. However, their more straightforward rock songs like “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)” still hit with just as much power as the first time you put Funeral on.
  6. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork | This is a very welcome return to form after 2007’s disappointing Era Vulgaris. In comparison to many of the previous Queens records, this is a much leaner and focused effort. There was concern among QOTSA diehards that the amount of work Josh Homme put in with so many different artists would lead them to lose their identity. However, his extracurricular activities have actually had the opposite effect, as this is without a doubt in the vein of all of their best work. The straight-up rockers like “I Sat by the Ocean” and “My God Is the Sun” are still there, the funky tracks like “Smooth Sailing” are present, and songs like “The Vampyre of Time and Memory” provide the haunting, spooky feeling that QOTSA are known for. However, …Like Clockwork feels more like a back to basics record than anything derivative. Homme has developed a talent for honing in directly on the strengths of whatever artists he is working with, and his own talents are definitely on display here.
  7. David Bowie: The Next Day | When Bowie announced his first release since 2003’s Reality, it was met with excitement and skepticism. Ten years is a long time in music, especially considering Bowie’s advanced age and recent health problems, so there was reason to question if he still had it. The doubts turned out to be unfounded, however, as The Next Day fits in perfectly with past works as his best release since 1980’s Scary Monsters. Although Bowie’s voice is a little more haggard and his songs a little less intense, it feels like one of his more experimental records such as Low and makes great use of his varied influences and talents. Hopefully, this is the start of another chapter and not the end, because if The Next Day is any indication of what Bowie is still capable of, he’s still got a lot to give.
  8. Wavves: Afraid of Heights | I don’t think it’s right to have a punk band with a classically talented lead singer (although that might be an idea for a band), so the first time you put on Afraid of Heights, don’t be shocked if Nathan Williams sounds abrasive: That’s what he’s going for. His voice fits in perfectly with the upbeat punk stylings here to produce something that’s invigorating but catchy, loud but at the same time harmonic.
  9. Colleen Green: Sock It to Me | Colleen Green has been described so frequently as “a girl, a guitar, and a drum machine,” that it has to be the title of her coleengreenautobiography. It’s easy to pigeonhole her, but she brings much more to the table. At its heart, Sock It to Me is a pop record, as it uses Green’s unique and gorgeous voice to produce catchy hooks and beats. However, songs like “Close to You” and the title track show there’s a lot of depth in everything she does. Her music never sounds minimal or tinny; rather, she achieves an impressive fullness for any artist, especially one working with so few instruments.
  10. King Khan & the Shrines: Idle No More | I know that King Khan is one of the biggest influences of Black Lips, who are one of my favorite bands, so I should have discovered him sooner; I’m now kicking myself because of time wasted. Many have described this record as “psychedelic garage rock,” and it nails the style to a T. There are Eastern influences, noise jams, as well as some of the best rock, mixing in of horn sections you will ever hear. Khan’s intense ’60s influence is definitely on display on Idle No More, creating an album you will hear nothing like anytime soon.
  11. The Knife: Shaking The Habitual | To me, this album is even more divisive than Reflektor and definitely 2013’s most controversial. Some of the records on this list would be excellent to share with other listeners to see their opinions—but this is not one of them. Shaking the Habitual is a very difficult listen that can be downright exhausting to try to describe, let along make it all the way through. It’s loud, aggressive electronic music that takes no prisoners. It’s either angry or perfectly serene, catchy but disturbing, featuring a hybrid half-singing, half-howling. It’s never relenting or boring, but it is daunting. At first, I found myself drawn in by the shock, the loudness and intensity behind the tracks, but I found myself caught up in the experience, in the shock and the feelings that the duo is able to convey. More so than any of their other albums, Shaking the Habitual is a rollercoaster that leaves an intense feeling of satisfaction and discomfort at the same time.
  12. Ty Segall: Sleeper | Somehow, Ty Segall only found the time to release one album this year, and it isn’t anything like you would expect. The West Coast rocker went through a lot of family issues, including the loss of his adopted father, leading him to a different style. He admittedly could not maintain his punk–surf rock hybrid while he was going through his issues, so he instead came out with a nearly all-acoustic album full of emotion. It’s surprising how far he has come, as Sleeper is Segall’s most mature work, combining folky ballads with his raw nature and succeeding at all turns.
  13. Disclosure: Settle | It’s sad to say that Disclosure’s style is “old school,” but considering what electronic music often sounds like, the timeless beats found on Settle seem more retro than they should. This is a great example of an album on which every track is outstanding but does not tell a story, so there’s no need to listen to them in order. They can pop up randomly on your iPod and get your head nodding with the catchy hooks and outstanding production, leaving you feeling good. The British duo knows exactly how to craft an excellent song, which it has with every track here, leading to a memorable experience.
  14. Portugal. The Man: Evil Friends | Portugal. The Man has had trouble establishing an identity, as their albums often switch gears so rapidly that listeners can’t catch their breath. The best way for a band to gain focus, though, is linking up with super producer Danger Mouse, so it’s no surprise this is by far their best work. Previous records had issues with the big picture in how the sounds all fit together, but Evil Friends flows well, is incredibly catchy, and makes great use of the band’s ability to incorporate awesome guitar riffs in with electronic production.
  15. Kavinsky: OutRun | Kavinsky gained some recognition from the Drive soundtrack with his track “Nightcall,” but that single doesn’t truly exemplify the sound of this album. Instead, faster songs such as “Protovision” are a better representation, showing that his production is some of the cleanest in the entire genre. Also adding to the catchiness of this album is Kavinsky’s ear for selecting good samples; you’re as likely to sing along as you are break out into dance.
  16. Deerhunter: Monomania | Another strong notch in Deerhunter’s belt; they have been on quite a roll. Monomania is the year’s best vinyl record by far, absolutely made for loud speakers and a great record player. While fans of 2010’s Halycon Digest might find this jarring, Monomania’s raw and unfiltered sound is more indicative of the band’s previous catalog, yet still ripe with sing-alongs and all-out jams.
  17. My Bloody Valentine: m.b.v. | Some of the extended delays in between releases among artists on this list are positively short in comparison to the 22 years mbvsince My Bloody Valentine released Loveless. Nearly every MBV fan, myself included, was both ecstatic and terrified. I purchased it online the first day it was released but waited a while to listen, mostly because 1991 was a long time ago, and they haven’t exactly kept sharp on their recording. When I discovered MBV as a senior in high school, I was a very different person; thankfully, there was no need to be scared, as m.b.v. is outstanding in every sense of the word. Like the band’s previous work, it’s often very eerie in between moments of intensity and power, and will take you on a rollercoaster ride every time you listen.
  18. Bass Drum of Death: Bass Drum of Death | When Bass Drum of Death was recommended to me, I was shocked to find out they aren’t a thrash metal band, but rather a ’60s-influenced, old-school rock band. They have such a unique sound that permeates through every song, and really, the only issue here is the songs are often very similar, albeit good. However, the band is still very young, and if the growth from their last record, GB City, to this one is any indication, we’re in store for a lot of good music to come.
  19. Savages: Silence Yourself | Without a doubt, this is 2013’s most aggressive and menacing album that can be described as alternative rock. Although the style isn’t exactly the same, Silence Yourself is similar to last year’s Swans’ album The Seer in that it’s in your face and unflinching at every turn. Savages don’t fail to create melodic sounds on top of the amazing drum lines, giving them a unique sound that they’re 100% committed to.
  20. Johnny Marr: The Messenger | Although it was 30 years in the making, Johnny Marr finally released his first solo record, and it’s great. Marr has survived a series of decent, if forgettable side projects in between his excellent work with some of the world’s greatest bands to release a surprising shot from left field. It’s a well-timed, 100% British rock album that sounds right at home with early 1990’s releases by Oasis, Blur, and the Stone Roses. It’s often hard to invoke that feeling without making an album sound derivative, but Marr succeeds. He was one of the pioneers, and he still can produce a better record than most anything that’s coming out.
  21. Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost | The only reaction that anyone could come up with when this was announced was mine as well: “Huh?” However, due to the R&B influence that has been prevalent through Costello’s entire career, as well as the fact that ?uestlove definitely has similar influences, the combination works together. I do think that leaving out Black Thought was a mistake that, if remedied, could have taken this album to legendary, as there are so many opportunities for him to come in and drop a few verses. While he does make a few appearances on the remix album, it’s not quite the same. Still, this is the best Costello album in years, and stands up favorably to a lot of his catalog.
  22. Foxygen: We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic | Whereas we saw a grungier ’60s influence earlier from Bass Drum of Death, Foxygen brings a little bit more upbeat and whimsical picture of songs from the decade. You hear a bit of all of the classic bands here, and it feels like a love letter to that era. At a very tight sub-40 minutes, it’s pretty easy to make it all the way through over and over again, discovering new as homages to artists diverse as Sam Cooke or Pink Floyd.
  23. RJD2: More Is than Isn't | It’s been a long time since an RJD2 album appeared on a list of mine, as I’ve liked—not loved—every album since the amazing Deadringer. This is the first time the Columbus native has felt so accomplished and composed, with the hip-hop interludes timing perfectly. Songs such as “Milk Tooth” and “Descended from Myth” are among the catchiest electronic of the year.
  24. Deafheaven: Sunbather | Just as we saw earlier with The Knife, Deafheaven have produced something completely unique, challenging, and uncompromising. It’s been described as genres as far apart as shoegaze and black metal; what I really think is that it’s a very intense and well-composed zone-out album that happens to feature some amazing drums and great solos, with all-around epic moments. Not a record for everyone, but those it does appeal to will fall in love immediately.
  25. Arctic Monkeys: AM | It’s never a surprise to see a good Arctic Monkeys album; although they have few “classics,” they have never failed to put out a record that wasn’t at least solid. This might be their best work yet, though, as they mix in their typical fun tracks like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” 2013ArcticMonkeys Am_150713with restrained, atmosphere epics like “Do I Wanna Know?” That a band composed of members in their mid-20s keeps releasing better and better albums gives hope to the idea that they will create an all-time classic at some point. Until then, AM is definitely worth your time.
  26. Phoenix: Bankrupt! | At this point, you aren’t going to be surprised from what you get from a Phoenix record. It’s going to be incredibly catchy alternative rock with pop sensibilities. You will get awesome guitar riffs and excellent keyboards, and you will try to sing along with Thomas Mars and fail miserably over and over again. Bankrupt! isn’t a departure from the norm; rather, it’s more of the same. But Phoenix is so good at what they do that it isn’t derivative or imitative of their past works. They move forward, incorporate a bit more electronics than before, and pump out another great album.
  27. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge: Twelve Reasons To Die | This is kind of a reverse of Wise Up Ghost, as Ghostface teams up with super-producer Adrian Younge and his band to release a very different album. Presented as a movie soundtrack and actually an adaptation of a comic book, Twelve Reasons to Die isn’t as cohesive as you would like, in that the sound fluctuates heavily at times from epic, Wu-Tang style to a choppier rock style. However, every individual track is excellent, as Younge and his band mix well with Ghostface and their guests’ voices. The chief complaint about Twelve Reasons to Die is that Ghostface is only really good on this album instead of at his absolutely top level, like on Supreme Clientele. It’s understandable considering that it’s a collaboration and GFK wasn’t just selecting his own beats, but still a little disappointing.
  28. Darkside: Psychic | Rarely do albums come through with such ambience, but Darkside, the brainchild of Nico Jaar, is built around the concept. This is not an electronic album built around constant movement; rather, every track on Psychic is more like a miniature epic that builds toward a great end. The danger at times in albums with long, slow builds is they can fall flat or seem calculated, but the different instrumentation used here helps give Psychic a much more organic and inviting feel. The investment here is the journey to get to those conclusions.
  29. Shark?: Savior | This is definitely one of this year’s most overlooked records, as almost nothing has been said about it online. That’s a shame, as while Savior isn’t necessarily a game changer, it hits every mark that Shark? is trying for. They have created a very upbeat, bass-driven album. It’s catchy and mid-’90s without being kitschy, which is really difficult to do in this day and age.
  30. Kanye West: Yeezus | With reason, this is another one of the year’s most divisive albums. Kanye West fans generally enjoy his music due to the impeccable pop/hip-hop production, but that isn’t very prevalent on Yeezus. In fact, there’s a very obvious shift in his demeanor, as his singles including “Blood on the Leaves,,” “New Slaves,” and “Black Skinhead” are some of the most aggressive and intense hip-hop songs to be played on the radio in years, let alone to be found on West’s album. Ultimately, Yeezus fails a little bit in that the production is so far different from what the artist is used to. While it’s outstanding at times, it isn’t at the level of Late Registration, his personal benchmark as far as production goes. Considering West is only a decent lyricist, it really does have a big effect on the overall quality. He deserves a lot of credit for trying something different; he just hasn’t quite matched his top work here.
  31. Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite: Get Up! | This is a more sensible team up than Elvis Costello & The Roots, as 68-year-old Charlie Musselwhite lends his harmonica to Ben Harper’s voice and guitar. The pair has teamed up before, but its first full-length release is a revelation for anyone who is a fan of Harper’s bluesiest work, as he bonds better with Musselwhite than he does on his own albums. They make great use of each other’s individual talents to combine for 2013’s best throwback, an intimate record that would be as timeless in 1950 as it will be in 2050.
  32. CHVRCHES: The Bones of What You Believe | There was a noticeable backlash against CHVRCHES before this album even came out, but it turns out the buzz was warranted. Although The Bones of What You Believe isn’t revolutionary by any means, it’s still a great record. The production is impeccably clean and allows lead singer Lauren Mayberry to show her outstanding range, producing pop hits such as “The Mother We Share” as well as epics like “Recover.”
  33. Danny Brown: Old | When you hear that an upcoming album will feature Purity Ring, Charli XCX, and A-Track, Midwest rap isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Danny Brown doesn’t really care what people expect, and as a result, Old is one of the most unpredictable albums in years. Although XXX (which I discovered unfortunately over a year after it came out) is slightly stronger, Old is still an incredibly diverse and creative album. The production does have a few slight missteps, but Brown’s lyrics more than make up for it, as he is without a peer in today’s hip-hop when it comes to storytelling. He takes on so many roles and spins so many tales that it’s hard to know what really happened and what Brown has made up. With the heavy subject matter and extended album length, it take can a lot to get through Old, but after the first few times, it becomes nearly impossible to turn off.
  34. Cults: Static | It’s a wonderful thing when an album title perfectly describes what lies within. Cults’ 2011 self-titled debut was solid, if a bit underwhelming. Technically, there wasn’t anything particularly wrong; it just failed to pull a collection of good songs into something better. Static is absolutely the opposite. Despite a lack of true standouts like last time and “Go Outside,” the ups and downs on which the band takes its listeners are very pronounced. Cults choose this time to feature Madeline Wollin’s voice not with the dreamy pop music for which it sounds suited, but instead over out-of-control distortion and heavy riffs on the way to an excellent album.
  35. Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus | Fuck Buttons aren’t only hard to recommend because of their name, but also their sound. Their style doesn’t have the mass appeal of many acts on this list, but you can tell the brilliant minds behind the group prefer it that way. It almost seems as if their music being used during thefuck buttons opening ceremony of last year’s Olympics has bothered them, as Slow Focus is their loudest album with the least amount of mainstream lean. Like others on this listen, they perform powerful electronic with great ambience, but unlike others, there is no time to catch your breath. Instead, they fill nearly every moment with some sort of sound, often abrasive, forcing listeners to pay full attention to their outstanding production.
  36. Atoms for Peace: Amok | This has definitely won the title of 2013’s most disappointing. Nothing about Amok is bad, but considering the people involved (Thom Yorke, Nigel Godrich, Flea, and Joey Waronker, among others), it should have been better. It feels much like Radiohead’s last release, The King of Limbs, in that every track is significantly better live. They are made for powerful and energetic performances, but fall a little flat during the studio sessions. If Amok is taken on its own, ignoring the “supergroup” aspect, it’s a very well-crafted album with some strong songs. But like many supergroup records, it didn’t live up to expectations.
  37. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: II | Ruban Nielson, the architect behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is one of the coolest characters in the game today. His influence is clear on each of their albums, as he shows his love for classic rock and soul. The focus of every UMO song is its melody; however, rather than just playing along with the melody, Nielson uses his awesome guitar work to create a really catchy and smart record. What surprises most about II is that, for an independent album, it has such surprising mass appeal and only needs exposure to gain the audience it deserves.
  38. Foals: Holy Fire | Although Foals are best described as a hard alternative rock band, they produce some of the most catchy, head-nodding rock out there. Songs such as “My Number” show that in abundance, as Holy Fire succeeds in improving on 2010’s excellent Total Life Forever. Foals have made a stronger, more cohesive record that’s cleaner and better produced. In some cases, they have lost a little bit of their charm, as a few of the songs seem a bit drab, but overall, they keep improving with each release just enough to make the next one exciting.
  39. The Strokes: Comedown Machine | Most Strokes fans have not enjoyed the band’s two reunited albums, this and Angles, the major complaint being that the band’s sound isn’t as revolutionary as it was in 2001. But this isn’t fair: Both Angles and Comedown Machine are criminally underrated and deserve more credit. They are infinitely more cohesive than previous albums, which is crazy, considering the band members aren’t even friendly enough to share a studio together. This is the ultimate grower in that, after several listens, it becomes hard to put it down. At its best on “50/50,” which stacks up to their biggest singles, Comedown Machine belongs in the conversation for best Strokes album above some of their more popular releases.
  40. Atlas Genius: When It Was Now | Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of buzz about When It Was Now, as most overlooked it; however, it deserves some attention, as it is a really good alternative rock record. Atlas Genius makes great use of a really solid keyboard section and awesome melodies and harmonies to create some great heavier electro-pop. The real star here is front man Keith Jeffrey, who has the vocal range to nail heavier, upbeat tracks like “Electric” as well as lead sing-alongs on singles including “If So.”
  41. A$AP Rocky: Long Live A$AP | This album seemed to be a bit of a letdown at first, partially because A$AP was nearly perfect on all of his mixtapes for years before this album, and his cohort Kendrick Lamar spoiled us with his outstanding debut. Rocky definitely found out it’s a little harder to create a full album than a mixtape, and that’s where he falters. Long Live A$AP is very long with too much filler, but at its best, its tracks are as strong as any of 2013’s in hip-hop. He has an awesome voice, good beat selection, and great guests. If the strong tracks are as solid on his next release, he could make the next East Coast classic.
  42. Janelle Monae: The Electric Lady | The best way to describe Janelle Monae is “supremely talented.” She has influences in every genre, so classifying this album would be impossible. At heart, it’s an R&B album, but her contributor Kellindo Parker is an amazing guitarist who completely changes the feel of many of the tracks. The Electric Lady is best when it’s loud and funky, as on “We Were Rock and Roll,” but doesn’t suffer at all when Miguel shows up for a more traditional jam on “Primetime.” Most notably, any artist who can hold their own against Prince, as Monae does on “Givin ’Em What They Love,” is worthy of attention.
  43. Jake Bugg: Jake Bugg | It’s absolutely impossible to believe this was created by a 19-year-old. In fact, this is a significantly more mature album than Bugg’s other 2013 release, Shangri La. While his voice and style draw obvious comparisons to Bob Dylan, there’s so much more peppered within, as you can hear a little bit of Hendrix, Neil Young, and the Beatles, among others. Still, Bugg is anything but derivative, as his own style is much more hardened and downbeat than any of his influences. Although he did take a small step down with Shangri La, Jake Bugg shows he is capable of truly great things.
  44. The Naked & Famous: In Rolling Waves | The success of “Young Blood” led Passive Me, Aggressive You to become an out-of-nowhere hit; even without a single of that popularity, In Rolling Waves is significantly better. The band uses the wonderful vocal duo of Alis Xayalith and Thom Powers perfectly, as they complement each other well, allowing Xayalith to wail while Powers brings her back to earth. Most notably, the synth from both records takes a giant step up as every track gives off an amazing, epic feeling.
  45. Born Ruffians: Birthmarks | Somehow, this was the first time that Born Ruffians have made it on my radar, but with good reason: This is the best work in their very inconsistent catalog. Their influences are on record and easily spotted: Pixies, the Replacements, Guided by Voices. However, Birthmarks doesn’t exactly sound like anything that has come before. It’s a very solid rock album that isn’t a game changer, but deserves credit for its tightness and charm.
  46. Haim: Days Are Gone | Although Haim is slightly overrated, their hype was relatively justified because Days Are Gone is, at its heart, incredibly creative. It can definitely be described as pop, but rather than just making catchy songs to sell records, they love to experiment and try many different things. At times, you can hear a very straight-up R&B and funk album, but Haim is their best when they incorporate it all together, like they do on the title track. It will be interesting to see where the sisters go next, because the second album is often the hardest; however, a solid step up could lead them to create a true classic the next time out.
  47. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest | 2013’s biggest theme was long layoffs and subsequent returns to form. Boards of Canada were no different, as Tomorrow’s Harvest calms fans’ nerves on first listen. Like Darkside’s Psychic, Boards of Canada have built an atmospheric, dark epic that all of their fans will appreciate. As My Bloody Valentine did after their layoff, Boards of Canada have come back with a focused, harsh sound that feels fresh, but doesn’t stay too far from its core.
  48. The Men: New Moon | Many fans of The Men prefer New Moon to last year’s Open Your Heart, simply because it is more of a fully fleshed out album. They clearly add ’70s rock to soften up their sound a bit, and they do a fine job of it. However, just as when peers Titus Andronicus made the same step with its latest release, The Men lose a bit of their heavy grit and charm. Still, New Moon does that sound amazing justice, as it is a fun, solid record from front to back.
  49. Nine Inch Nails: Hesitation Marks | The best Nine Inch Nails albums are the ones on which Reznor refuses to overdo it and restrains himself, such as The Slip or Broken. When he tries to do too much, such as on Year Zero and here, the results are predictable. The album will be very solid with some outstanding tracks, but it will be too long and have a few ideas that don’t quite work. Songs such as “Came Back Haunted” and “While I’m Still Here” are true, excellent Nine Inch Nails songs that sound incredibly current due to their crispness and more detailed keyboards. However, there are some pretty weak tracks, most notably poor-choice-for-a-single “Everything,” with Reznor trying to hit too high of a note. It lacks the punch of anything close to their best loud tracks or the ambience of their quieter ones. The great thing about NIN is that even their weaker albums are better than most, so while Hesitation Marks is far from perfect, it’s still worth many listens.
  50. Of Montreal: lousy with sylvianbriar | It’s been a long time since an Of Montreal album has made an appearance on one of these lists. Not to say their albums have been bad, but since Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, the three full-lengths and several EPs and compilations have not been on this level. On lousy with slyvianbriar, Of Montreal dials it back a little on the funk and pop and the Georgie Fruit persona, and shockingly introduces a bit of folk into the mix. They don’t lose all of their sound, though; they just integrate a bit more successfully, and Barnes is back to singing a bit more normal and not so high. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction, toward the Of Montreal of 5 to 10 years ago, and will start a resurgence. | Brett Berliner
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