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Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 Albums of 2013

Another year is coming to a close and with that, I have made my annual top 10 list.  I was partial to many of this year's prog-rock/metal releases and also got into an entire genre I previously didn't know existed (female-fronted psychedelic doom metal).  2013 was also a year of various comebacks.  David Bowie, Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Queens of the Stone Age.  Some were good and others were fantastic.

Here's my top 10, which will no doubt change 6 months from now when I discover more albums that came out this year:

10) The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

Hailing from Wales, and led by a female singer/guitarist, this band rocks hard and they rock loud.  Key tracks: "Little Blimp", "Maw Maw Song" and "Silent Treatment"

9) Bad Religion - True North

After releasing a few average to below-average albums, Bad Religion return with their fastest, most balls to the wall punk album since Against the Grain.  Key Tracks: "Hello Cruel World", "Nothing to Dismay" and "Robin Hood in Reverse"

8) Sigur Ros - Kveikur

After taking a several year hiatus, Sigur Ros returned with their 2nd album in as many years.  Whereas last year saw an incredibly sleepy effort titled Valtari, they redeemed themselves this year with their most aggressive album to date.  Key tracks: "Isjaki", "Stormur" and "Brennisteinn"

7) Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

The greatest American band of all time come back after a 4-year break with a very strong album with top-notch songwriting.  Eddie's voice has aged like a fine wine and sounds phenomenal on this album.  If you haven't see them live, do it now.  Key tracks: "Infallible", "Pendulum" and "Sirens"

6) Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark

The album that introduced me to the female-fronted psych/doom metal I previously mentioned.  Think Black Sabbath but with wonderful female vocals and excellent usage of the flute.  Key tracks: "The Magician", "Witchwood", and "Ballad of the Weird Sisters"

5) Jex Thoth - Blood Moon Rise

This band also fits in with the female metal, but this leans much more heavily on the psychedelic side rather than doom metal.  This is a slow, beautiful album with superb vocals and tasty, almost Pink Floydish guitar work.  Key tracks: "Psyar", "Keep You Weeds" and "To Bury"

4) Dream Theater - Dream Theater

After several mediocre to downright bad albums released in the mid to late 2000s, I had practically given up with this band.  But they made a controversial personnel change when they replaced drummer Mike Portnoy with Mike Mangini and released the excellent A Dramatic Turn of Events in 2011.  Picking up where that album left off, they turned in another great album that's more reminiscent of their work in the 90's.  Key tracks: "Behind the Veil", "Illumination Theory" (22 minute epic) and "The Looking Glass"

3) Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork

Quiet since 2007's Era Vulgaris, Josh Homme and his never-ending changing personnel of QOTSA finally banded together to release their (very) long awaited 6th album.  It was well worth the wait.  This is a different sort of sound for the band as they explore some slower, more experimental sounds, but is still very much QOTSA.  Key tracks: "I Appear Missing", "If I Had a Tail" and "Kalopsia"

2) Ayreon - The Theory of Everything

2-discs, 42 tracks, 8 vocalists, and 12 different musicians make this one of the absolute best albums of the year.  This "band", which is essentially 1 guy, Arjen Lucassen, who rounds up the best talent in the world of prog rock for each album, has been putting out excellent prog albums for years now.  This one is no different.  The instrumentation is incredible, the vocalists are at the top of their game, and the melodies will be stuck in your head for days.  Key tracks: "Diagnosis", "Love and Envy", "Magnetism", "The Parting" and "Collision"

And without a doubt:
1) Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)

Two years ago when Steven Wilson released his album Grace for Drowning, I had stated it was the best album I had heard in at least 2 years.  Well, another new album from Mr. Wilson and I consider this to be the best album I've heard since Grace for Drowning.  Yes, he is just that good.  Just listen to it.  Key tracks: the whole damn thing, there are only 6 tracks, just listen to it (fine, if I had to choose a favorite, it would be "The Pin Drops", which is conveniently posted above)

Honorable Mentions:
AFI - Burials - great comeback album after the extremely disappointing Crash Love
Ezra Furman - Day of the Dog - this guy can do no wrong, and this is another fantastic album
Purson - The Circle and the Blue Door - more excellent psychedelic chick rock

That wraps up another great year of music for me.  Be on the lookout for other Top 10 lists from the rest of the contributors here at AtoZappa and please share your favorite albums of the year below.

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