As the year quickly comes to a close, this was the week I went through my wishlist to get a handle on 2013 releases that had still eluded me. I never like to do my annual best of list without being diligent. So I went through and gave a listen to records that seemed like they had a possibility to sneak into the final list. I listened to a lot of albums, but have decided to just review the ones that really stood out for me. The others will get thrown in later on, because though they didn't seem to have a shot at best-of status, they are worthy of mention at some point. Enjoy.
Brendan Benson - You Were Right: There's a great line in one of Benson's earlier albums when he sings about a girlfriend telling him "You're not John Lennon." And while he's not, he's been constantly recording wonderful indie rock albums for nearly 20 years. On his sixth solo album, released a few weeks ago, he's produced his best solo material since 2005's The Alternative to Love. His recording career with Jack White, as a member of The Raconteurs has helped him free up his sound and be less concerned with making radio hits, though there are many radio friendly songs on this record. A genuine and solid album.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros: The third album from the L.A. based psychedelic folk group came out in the summer, and was widely ignored. The band is mostly known for the song "Home" from their 2009 debut, but have grown considerably over the years. I finally got around to listening to this album this week, and it's pretty fantastic. It's hippy groove folk is heavily influenced by Paul McCartney quirkiness and Beatles mantra of all you need is love. Super enjoyable, and at times, quite powerful.
Turin Brakes - We Were Here: Over the last decade, this London indie rock duo had made some quality records that have gone largely unsung. After a three year break, they released this album in the fall and it's among their most consistent throughout, and one of their best. The Pink Floyd inspired "Blindsided Again" is one of the highlights. They've also been able to mix classic rock, Britpop, and folk rock elements in an effective way. Not to be missed.
San Fermin - San Fermin: This debut chamber pop album was released in February, but I didn't know about until this week. I found it on Spin's 50 best albums of the year and I can see why it was included. It's sound it's very lush and full, and feels fresh despite treading ground often explored in trip-hop over the years. Yet it tones down the beats and plays out like an up tempo album played at a slower speed. With 17 tracks, it's a very fulfilling listen, conjuring many different soundscapes to enjoy.
William Tyler - Impossible Truth: The second solo album from the one-time Silver Jews guitarist was released last spring on Merge records. It consist of 8 instrumental tracks of American primitivism acoustic bliss. This is one of those perfect morning albums that slowly gets you into the flow of the day. Wonderful stuff.
Tricky - False Idols: As a member Massive Attack, Tricky exploded onto the scene in the early 90's, and then took over the trip-hop world with his first few solo albums. The albums that followed showed flashes of the old rebellious brilliance, but often failed to deliver a complete record. This is his 11th album, and the first I've paid attention to since 2008's Knowle West Boy. It's also his best in over a decade, capturing the tension of his earlier albums. It's a very club friendly record with perfect hazy beats and beautiful guest vocals. Like all his best work, it feels like the soundtrack to some Blade Runner underworld.
Earl Sweatshirt - Doris: The second full-length album from the L.A. rapper is one of the best hip-hop records I've heard all year. It combines traditional hardcore rhythms with abstract hip-hop influences. His flow is a breath of fresh air given the way every rapper these days seems to try very hard to bite somebody else's style. Earl has his own easy going style, spitting rhymes about this that and whatever and not caring about the image he projects. It's definitely a stoner rap album, and satisfies that niche to perfection.