JFM's 32 Favorite Albums of 2013

Last year, 2013, was the best year of music in recent memory. These are my favorite releases of the year:

1. +Andrew Belle's Black Bear. Summary: Unique and beautiful, Black Bear was my favorite album of 2013. Andrew Belle has matured considerably in the five years since his well-built freshman release, The Ladder. On this new album, Belle's artistry transcends the tropes of traditional singer-songwriter heartache by mixing equal parts simplicity and complexity, beauty and banality, confusion and utter certainty, exposing both sides of the human condition with each song. Belle has poured every ounce of himself into Black Bear, and it shows on this masterpiece. Favorite song: "The Enemy." Most relatable lyrics (from "Santa Fe"): "I never came across a spark worth faking / I should have told you, I never really had a heart for the taking." Video sample ("Pieces"): http://youtu.be/6S6g3pEw8uU

2. Drake's, Nothing Was the Same. Summary: This album marks a distinct shift in popular music: not exactly rap or R&B, though not exactly not, either; let’s call it post-hip-hop. Although it's hard for Drake to top 2011’s classic Take Care, he comes close with a host of  experimental songs that showcase a man who’s both at the top of his game and who’s willing to take chances—a dangerous combo that has paid off. Favorite song: “From Time.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Tuscan Leather”): “I dropped the ball on some personal shit, I need to embrace it / I’m honest, I make mistakes, I'll be the second to admit it / Think that's why I need her in my life, to check me when I'm trippin’.” Video sample (“Furthest Thing”): http://youtu.be/9j6VAg_QlvQ

3. +Imaginary Future's Fire Escape. Summary: Originally released under the name Imaginary Friend, every song on this album is simply beautiful. So beautiful. Favorite song: "April." Most relatable lyrics (from "The Thick and the Thin"): "Call it what you will / I'll be standing still / Watching you until you make up your mind." Video sample ("Fire Escape"): http://youtu.be/sU-KYrFgcCE

4. +Parlor Hawk's Parlor Hawk. Damn I love Parlor Hawk, an American indie folk band who hales from the most under-appreciated indie-folk scene in the world: Provo, Utah, home of greats such as Joshua James, Isaac Russell, Jay William Henderson, et al. Parlor Hawk, led by +Andrew Capener pristine vocals, avoids the sophomore slump with their eponymous second album, bringing with them a more subtle, rock-influenced approach than their remarkable debut, Hoarse & Roaring, though equally as poetic and masterfully curated. Favorite song: “Save Me.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Scars”): “I’m trying not to hurt you / Oh I know that I I deserve to / And I’ve tried to erase it / Forget it all and fake it / But I have these scars.” Video sample (“Maryanne”): http://vimeo.com/74257116

5. +The National's Trouble Will Find Me. Summary: The Cincinnati-bred Brooklynites somehow get better with each album, returning in 2013 with their best album to date. Matt Berninger’s baritone is as confident as a man who finds himself most comfortable in a three-piece suit, yet his lyrics are as wonderfully cryptic as ever—but that’s what makes the band so special. Favorite song: “Fireproof.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Fireproof”): “You keep a lot of secrets and I keep none / I wish I could go back and keep some.” Video sample (live on NPR): http://youtu.be/TdFCD3oXMZo

6. +Broken Anchor's Fresh Lemonade. One of the best songwriters alive, Austin Hartley-Leonard, a clean-cut, tattooed troubadour with a charismatic, raspy voice, returns under the cloak of Broken Anchor. Slightly heavier than Hartley-Leonard’s previous, stripped-down acoustic releases (his Everywhere I’ve Never Been EP contains some of the best lyrics ever penned), Fresh Lemonade is a diverse collection of songs that you’ll keep on repeat during your next roadtrip or jaunt across town. But listen closely, the lyrics will stay with you. And when the ride ends, you won’t want to let go of the wheel. Favorite song: “Dear Diary.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Broken Anchor Blues”): “Sarah said she won’t take me at my word anymore / I stare instead and count the cracks in my wounds / feel absurd / I close the door.” Video sample (“Broken Anchor Blues”): http://youtu.be/kerfJDAZK70

7. +Jay Nash's Letters from the Lost. Wayfarer Jay Nash, a brilliant songwriter, returns with his most complete album. At times haunting (“Wander”), and at times uplifting (“Twist My Arm”), but always gorgeous, Letters from the Lost represents a freer, more independent Nash, a man who’s back home in Vermont after many years spent earning the callouses on his fingers in L.A. Weaved throughout this album, it’s obvious that home suites this man; it shows in every chord, every lyric, every breath—Jay Nash is back. Favorite song: “The Art Thief.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Sometimes”): “I saw the look of sad resignation / as you stood up on stage in the bright lights.” Video sample (“Sometimes”): http://youtu.be/uVEyoo2NwxI 

8. +Matt Nathanson's Last of the Great Pretenders. Stylistically similar to his previous album, Modern Love, which happened to be my favorite album of 2011, this album is steeped in Nathanson’s hometown, San Francisco. Great Pretenders is a fun album with meaningful lyrics—contemplation with a smile. Favorite song: “Sky High Honey.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Earthquake Weather): “I’d kill anyone / who treats you as bad as I do.” Video sample (“Mission Bells”): http://youtu.be/tORhy2-fn0A

9. A Boy and His Kite's A Boy and His Kite. Dave Wilton, aka A Boy and His Kite, possesses a captivating falsetto that’ll give even the casual listen pause. This debut sounds like what I imagine Jonsi Birgisson, the lead singer of the Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros, would sound like if he moved from Reykjavík to rural Colorado to record a folk album. And I mean that as a compliment. I attended a Sigur Ros concert this year, and it can be described only as ethereal, which is also an apt description for A Boy and His Kite. Favorite song: “You Want It, You Got It.” Most relatable lyric (from “Carry All the Weight”): “I’ll know soon if it’s the cold hard truth / That all I have wagered I could lose / All but you.” Video sample (“Till the End of Time”): http://youtu.be/N-xEhZgXV90

10. Leagues's You Belong Here. Leagues, comprised of +Mat Kearney’s band members sans Kearney who is replaced by songwriter Thad Cockrell, delivers the funnest album of the year, exuberance embodied in this 10-song delight. Since I plan on making 2014 the most fun year of my life, You Belong Here might well become the de facto soundtrack for the upcoming dozen months. Favorite song: “Magic.” Most relatable lyrics (from “Spotlight”): “You want to know what love’s about? / Give it when you feel nothing.” Video sample (“Spotlight”): http://youtu.be/uOTXM5obLcA

11–32. These all deserve to be in the Top 10:

Lorde’s Pure Heroine. Sample: http://youtu.be/nlcIKh6sBtc
Gregory Alan Isakov’s The Weatherman. Sample: http://youtu.be/BK0DaT-uEgM
J. Cole’s Born Sinner. Sample: http://youtu.be/7AjD7nKiUQ4
Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. Sample: http://youtu.be/tG35R8F2j8k
Macklemore’s The Heist (Dec. 2012). Sample: http://youtu.be/gAg3uMlNyHA
+Matt Hires’s This World Won’t Last Forever. Sample: http://youtu.be/Zk4dKviGpXw
Jack Johnson’s From Here to Now to You. Sample: http://youtu.be/dBWFUVq85gs
+Lee DeWyze’s Frames. Sample: http://youtu.be/HFPIzdKq3go
+Noah Guthrie's Among the Widest Things. Sample: http://youtu.be/gpTNzQ1QcHE
+Matt Wertz’s Heatwave. Sample: http://youtu.be/OsSCkjcO-y0
+Aidan Knight’s Small Reveal. Sample: http://youtu.be/vYsQFgsiXZo
KT Tunstall’s Invisible Empire. Sample: http://youtu.be/A2WmlN8sP44
+Local NativesHummingbird. Sample: http://youtu.be/cR9t4X6tld4
Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name. Sample: http://youtu.be/YAFVu_A4OwQ
City & Colour’s The Hurry and the Harm. Sample: http://youtu.be/6f5qM-vROMA
+Ben Rector’s The Walking In Between. Sample: http://youtu.be/JZOJsl2RB94
+Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams. Sample: http://youtu.be/xFcxnQ0nsts
+Peter Doran’s Overhead the Stars. Sample: http://youtu.be/3DBGqf9W-qA
+The Boxer Rebellion’s Promises. Sample: http://youtu.be/HKTAXkpGceQ
John Mayer’s Paradise Valley. Sample: http://youtu.be/nSRCpertZn8
King Krule’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. Sample: http://youtu.be/hRzlbh4or3c
Cat Power’s _Sun_Sample: http://youtu.be/PDbPrOuXq2s

What were some of your favorite albums in 2013?
Shared publiclyView activity