Joe’s Top Ten Albums of 2013

10) Say What You Mean – Allison Weiss

ImageEver heard of Allison Weiss? Yeah, me neither. That is, until my roommate/co-host Matt saw her open for Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace and then introduced me to Weiss’s new album, Say What You Mean. Running just short of 35 minutes, this album is a quick burst of all you can ask for, if you’re a fan of indie/folk rock. The best way to describe it is essentially the Front Bottoms with a female vocalist, a bit more of a punk feel, and some synth and strings thrown in for fun. The harmonies Weiss slips into her choruses make the overall album way more catchy than it already is, which is pretty damn catchy. This isn’t Allison Weiss’s first album, and if all of her material is this good, she deserves to be way bigger.

Favorite Song: “Don’t Go”

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9) Paramore – Paramore

ImageYeah, I know, I know, I hated this album when it first came out, like most Paramore fans. First of all, their initial single, “Now,” was a huge turn-off. Then the band decided to start their album with “Fast In My Car,” which is honestly just a goofy song. But if you can look past the handful bad songs and get used to Paramore’s new sound, then their self-titled album really takes off. Songs like “Last Hope” and “Still Into You” are some of the catchiest of the band’s career, and the fun ukulele interludes echo She And Him, but with Hayley Williams’s own unique twist. Everyone thought Paramore would never be able to recover after the loss of the Farro Brothers (Josh and Zac), but this album did the trick. It even landed them their first show at Madison Square Garden. If this list had a “most improved” category, Paramore would definitely be number one. However, Paramore’s self-titled album deserves its spot on this list because it is very catchy rock music, plain and simple.

Favorite Song: “Ain’t It Fun”

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8) In Blue – The Static Jacks

ImageThere is always at least one album by a local artist that makes my top ten list, and this year, it is none other than the Static Jacks. These Westfield, New Jersey natives are actually good acquaintances of my friend’s roommate, which means I could meet them before they blow up (which will almost certainly happen). In Blue is mostly grunge rock, in a way that blends Weezer with Smashing Pumpkins. The Static Jacks definitely get this year’s award for best use of fuzz pedals. The vocals are also occasionally reminiscent of the National’s Matt Berninger. The shining gem of In Blue is the song “Wallflowers” (I would highly recommend that any nineties kid should check out this song’s music video, trust me…). “We’re Alright,” although not as high-intensity as the rest of the album, makes for a nice little interlude. The rest of the album flows very well right into the last track, “Greensleeves,” which ties the album up very nicely. Like I said before, definitely one of the best albums from a local group this year.

Favorite Song: “Wallflowers”

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7) Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

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I am aware that I usually only put rock albums on a list of this caliber, but Daft Punk is certainly an exception. No one could have seen this album coming – a sudden shift from EDM to throwback funk and disco jams. And people who know me well know that I’m a sucker for funk. Featuring an all-star cast of special guests – Julian Casablancas of the Strokes,  Pharrell Williams, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Williams, and Chic frontman Nile Rodgers – this album finds the perfect blend of old school funk/disco with the classic Daft Punk sound. Plus, Random Access Memories features arguably the biggest song of the year – the undeniably catchy “Get Lucky.” I never used to be a fan of older Daft Punk records, but this sudden shift in the group’s sound made me an instant fan. There are a couple of 9+ minute tracks which can be a bit much, but the grooves are so pleasing that you won’t realize how much time has gone by. Worth a listen, especially if you’ve never heard a Daft Punk album before.

Favorite Song: “Instant Crush”

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6) Saves The Day – Saves The Day

ImagePrinceton, NJ rockers Saves The Day have been continuing their streak with Saves The Day, their eighth studio album since forming in 1997. Hardcore fans will know the majority of Saves The Day lyrics are focused around car crashes, self-mutilation, and the like, but the band’s 2011 release, Daybreak, marked the first use of positive lyrics from frontman Chris Conley. This album transitioned perfectly into 2013’s self-titled album, which is easily the happiest album the band has put out. Just listen to the album’s last track, “Stand In The Stars.” It’s pure sugary indie pop. Even if this isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of songs on this album that sound like old school Saves The Day (see “Ring Pop,” “In The In Between,” “Lucky Number,” etc.). Saves The Day fans will love this album, and people who haven’t heard of Saves The Day will love this album too. Definitely a victory for rock n’ roll in 2013.

Favorite Song: “Ring Pop”

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5) My Shame Is True – Alkaline Trio

ImageThe only comeback that was able to trump Paramore’s recovery with their self-titled album was Alkaline Trio’s 2013 release, My Shame Is True. Fans of old Alkaline Trio know that their previous releases – 2010’s This Addiction and 2011’s Damnesia, where they cover their own songs acoustically – were tremendous disappointments. Alkaline Trio went back to their punk rock roots on My Shame Is True, and that was the best idea they’ve ever had. This album is packed with infectious punk rock, and the brutally relatable lyrics are fueled by frontman Matt Skiba’s recent breakup. My Shame Is True also features a killer special guest – Tim McIlrath of Rise Against – who duets with Trio’s bassist, Dan Andriano, on the hard-rocking “I, Pessimist.” Alkaline Trio have been through a ton of ups and downs since their first studio album back in ’98, but My Shame Is True demonstrates that the band is still going strong. Rock on, guys.

Favorite Song: “The Torture Doctor”

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4) Heartthrob – Tegan And Sara

ImageIt is very surprising that TWO of the albums featured here are electronic/disco hybrids rather than the standard rock albums that always crowd my lists, but Canadian duo Tegan And Sara’s new album, Heartthrob, was just too good to pass up. Just as Daft Punk made the random switch from EDM to funk, twin sisters Tegan and Sara Quin decided to scrap the folk rock sound from their previous studio albums and go straight for throwback ’80s new wave and synthpop. Luckily for me, I grew up listening to my dad’s favorite ’80s artists – The Cars, Duran Duran, and Eddie Money to name a few – so I was well-prepared for the ’80s throwback sound. Another great thing about Heartthrob is that the songs are just as catchy as the duo’s earlier hits, if not more so. The album’s opening track, “Closer,” even made its way to Top 40 radio stations across the country. If you’re a fan of old Tegan And Sara, I would surely say embrace the change and give their new album a chance.

Favorite Song: “Closer”

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3) Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner

ImagePunk Rock Album of the Year goes straight to Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls and their new album, Tape Deck Heart. This is the fifth studio album from the English singer-songwriter, and many of the songs were written after the collapse of a long-term relationship. So like Alkaline Trio’s new album, Turner’s lyrics are dripping with anger and remorse, giving the songs a very raw feeling. Though these songs compose much of Tape Deck Heart, there are still some tracks – like the stand-out single, “Recovery” – that take the opposite approach and talk positively about the recovery from such a tragic loss. You can hear Turner’s punk rock roots in this album, and every song has been stuck in my head at some point since it came out. This is some of the best stuff Frank Turner has put out since going solo.

Favorite Song: “Recovery”

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2) Talon Of The Hawk – The Front Bottoms

ImageI have been following the Front Bottoms very closely ever since hearing their self-titled album, which came out back in 2011. It was the first studio album they put out on a major label, and you can tell how much better the recording quality is from their self-released material. Back in May of 2013, the band put out their second album from the label, called Talon Of The Hawk. The recording quality is even more impressive, and I can safely say that the band’s sound has expanded in completely new ways. The first track that anyone heard from this album was “Twin Size Mattress,” and any fan of the Front Bottoms can tell you it was a whole new style of music for the band. While these new songs are a welcome addition to the album’s tracklist, there are plenty of tunes on here that any fan of the band’s old material will fall in love with too. The Front Bottoms are another local band from Jersey, but this album has surely propelled them to a whole new level of popularity. Gotta root for the underdogs.

Favorite Song: “Twin Size Mattress”

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1) AM – Arctic Monkeys

ImageAnd the winner of 2013 Album Of The Year goes to the Arctic Monkeys and their beautifully crafted, incredibly seductive fifth studio album, AM. With the release of AM in September, it marked the fifth consecutive studio album the band has released to go straight to number one in the UK charts. Arctic Monkeys struck gold with their first two studio albums, but they began to tail off with their next record, Humbug. When they released album number four, Suck It And See, in 2011, you could plainly hear a change in the band’s sound. AM perfects this new sound, combining the best of Black Sabbath and Dr. Dre in tracks like “Do I Wanna Know?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” Every song on AM is so incredibly smooth, and honestly, I think it’s the best sound the band has ever had. If you’re stumbling into a dusty, sweaty dive one night for a drink, expect to hear this album playing because that is the ideal setting to spin this record. I have been obsessed with this record since it’s release, and it is hands down my favorite album of 2013.

Favorite Song: “Do I Wanna Know?”

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 Well that’s my list! Feel free to share your own lists and compare! Happy holidays, and I’ll see you all in the new year!

          -Joe

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