Veterans like Kanye and Miley held the spotlight with their ridiculous antics, but the real madness has been the remarkable amount of new talent. In what has been (in my humble opinion) the greatest year for music since 2001, more than a handful of debut albums stand out amongst the finest of the year. Some of these records topped the charts while others flew under the radar, but all of them contributed into making this one hell of a year to be a music fan.
1. Palma Violets – 180 (Rough Trade)
Made up primarily of bare-bone guitar riffs and vocals that sound like they were recorded in one take, Palma Violets' debut album "180" brings some old-school swagger into 2013. While the lead single "Best of Friends" put the London rockers onto the map, deeper hits like "Chicken Dippers" and "Last of the Summer Wine" solidify this as one of the strongest albums of the year.
2. Lorde – Pure Heroine (Universal)
Lorde may be topping the pop charts but don't confuse catchiness for shallowness. Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor is just 17 years old but her voice packs the punch of a seasoned veteran and those lush, minimalist beats carry her vocals to new highs. Unlike most of her fellow pop stars, Lorde never loses touch of reality and the album is blessed by a nourish tone, filled with accounts of underage mischief and nihilistic boredom.
3. Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)
On "Silence Yourself," Savages live up to their name with a rage that is outright haunting. These four women from Britain might not be the most virtuosic musicians on the scene but with an unrelenting sense of panic and urgency, they are certainly the most ferocious. There are a few rare moments on the album when the base drum slows down and the distortion pedal clicks off, but Jehnny Beth and her bandmates shine brightest when they are at their most frantic.
4. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe (Glassnote)
CHVRCHES took over college radio stations nationwide with the release of their "Recover" EP and it only took a few months to spread into the mainstream charts. By the time "The Bones of What You Believe" was released in September, the world was spellbound by Lauren Mayberry and Co.'s glitchy synth-pop. Innocent vocals hover delicately over lush synthesizers finding that perfect balance between chilled out and danceable.
5. Parquet Courts – Light up Gold (Dull Tools)
Parquet Courts may not have anything of substance to say but meaningless garage rock has never sounded so important. "Light up Gold" is refreshingly lighthearted and even funny but it doesn't back away from hard-hitting guitar licks or heavy, dissonant, melodies. If Sonic Youth took a chill pill and backed away from all the political stuff, it might sound a bit like this.
6. Haim – Days Are Gone (Polydor)
This summer, these LA sisters took over the indie headlines in a storm of publicity in anticipation of their debut record. If there was any doubt that the record could live up to the hype, it only takes a quick listen to realize that the stardom is well earned. On "Days Are Gone," laid-back guitar lines mesh with harmonized summery vocals in a carefree but totally unique tone.
7. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time (Capitol)
When model/actresses like Sky Ferreira decide to try their hand at music, it never works. "Night Time, My Time" is the exception to the rule. Sky Ferreira's debut is filled with swelling synthesizers and beautiful melodies but underneath it is a ferocious attitude that drives the album forwards. While tracks like "Boys" play as straight up pop anthems, Ferreira breaks out the grittiness on songs like "Omanko" and "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)."
8. Disclosure – Settle (Cherrytree)
Howard Lawrence won't be able to order a beer in the States for another year but he and his brother Guy are already up for a Best Dance Album Grammy. Go figure. Disclosure's combination of disco and old school house put the country into a groove this summer and reminded us that you don't need to "drop the base" to make it in the electronic music game.
9. FIDLAR – FIDLAR (Mom + Pop)
Although FIDLAR have been kicking it around the LA house party scene since 2009, with the release of their self-titled debut, the band launched their surfer punk jams into a new realm. From the album's raunchy opener, "Cheap Beer" to it's close, FIDLAR practically dares the listener to listen on. If you're not scared off by the vulgarity, this is one hard-hitting post-punk record to sink your teeth into.
10. The Child of Lov – The Child of Lov (Domino)
While there is certainly a poetic subtlety to the Child of Lov's self-titled debut record, it was not until Cole Williams died last month that it was revealed that he began his artistic career as a well-respected poet. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding Williams' aka Martijn Teerlick's death, one thing is absolutely clear: the artistic world lost an incredibly talented young musician. In the aftermath of his death, "The Child of Lov" becomes even more emotional than it already was. That hip-hopish dissonance sounds even darker, and lyrics like "Maybe this is time for goodbye/I really need my wings to fly/I'm up in the sky" feel hauntingly prophetic.