Marmoset's Top 20 Albums of 2013

Another year has passed, which meant another visit to the Marmoset Deliberation Chamber to create our annual list of our 20 favorite albums that came out.  After many rousing speeches and defenses, hugging, crying in fetal positions, laughing, arguing than laughing again, we found ourselves with a unique collection of albums that we absolutely love.

2013 was an incredible year for music.  We got to see national bands challenge themselves to new directions, and we're proud of some Portland-based bands getting the national attention they deserve.  We're honored present our list to you.  Without further ado...

 

1. Wakin' On a Pretty Daze // Kurt Vile

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Alright, it's one thing to win the hearts of fans in your hometown, It's another thing to have your hometown name a day name after you.  Philly has officially declared that August 28th is Kurt Vile Day.  And considering the fact that we've been listening to "Wakin' on a Pretty Daze" nonstop over here, we're jumping right on that bandwagon.

In his newest record, Vile has curated an amazing collection of guitar tones that sometimes feel like you're listening to a song straight out of Top Gun, and loving it.  With his own brand of slacker storytelling, his songs stroll along and throws structure to the curb.  This perfectly titled album brings out the stoner in all of us, hazed out and grinning. 

Marmoset's Music Scout + Artist Relations Wrangler Brandon Day said "Kurt Vile's psych-stoner jams are like non-other.  As he puts it "making music is easy - watch me".  I'm all ears."  Watch him below...

 

2. White Lighter // Typhoon

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This album kicked our ass.  We knew this band was good, but everything has been elevated on their new album "White Lighter."  With a staggering number of members (now up to 12), each song blasts out a wall of sound with horns, drums, guitars, violins and bass ringing out in anthemic majesty.

Drawing from personal experience, Kyle Morton is not afraid to tackle dark topics in his lyrics, yet there is always hope and beauty on the flip side (take for example the video below) What makes these songs so powerful is how you can't help but sing along with melodies that are catchy as hell.

Marmoset's Financial Guru Jonathan Haas said "I spent the better part of the last two years, prior to joining Marmoset, watching this album take shape [I worked for Typhoon and for their record label]. Often such an intimate perspective lessens the impact of the final record. This was not the case with this album. I teared up the first time I listened to it."

 

3. Modern Vampires of the City // Vampire Weekend

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These Columbia grads are on to something, because every damn song on this album will stick with you.  A perfect example is in their single Ya Hey (see the video below) where not only does their unique brand of indi-pop draw you in immediately, but will leave you singing along (even to the chorus, which sounds like chipmunk gibberish).

"Modern Vampires of the City" has transcended all of their past albums with songs that bring more weight than aesthetic.  Looks like these gents are growing up.

Our very own Jonathan Haas remarked "If you didn't like this album then you were doing it wrong. It's Paul Simon updated for the year 2013. Not that Paul needs to be updated."

 

4. Muchacho // Phosphorescent

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If I could choose one soundtrack that would follow me around during the lowest point in our lives, it would be this album - believe us, this is a huge compliment.  It's so sad, it's beautiful.

This album covers so much musical territory. From horse-shoe honky tonk ballads packed with pedal steel and violins to gorgeous and hypnotic synth-folk like their single Song For Zula (watch below)

This album appeared on many of our individual lists including the likes of Marmoset's Duchess of Digital Strategy Sarah Buchanan.

Marmoset's Brandon Day states "There's so much to say about this record - the heartache, the perfect blending of classic country and folk, and the honest songwriting of frontman Matthew Houck makes "Muchacho" my favorite record of the year and one I'll cherish for a long while to come."

 

5. Paracosm // Washed Out

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After listening to this album nonstop at the office since it came out, we've realized that this is not an album, this is a drugged-out daydream that we just woke up from.  Every song is jam packed with lush textures and synthetic soundscapes, it's been very easy to be sent straight to the astral plane with this musical journey.

Dig this collaboration they had with Urban Outfitters in this captivating music video below...

Marmoset's Studio Manager + Human Swiss Army Knife Tyler Nordby had this to say: "This record is freaking awesome. It has been my go to driving music for the year. Sadly I didn't really listen to Washed Out until this year. The grooving etherial landscape sounds makes me think of being on the train in Europe. This album has changed the way I look at Synth based indie rock."

 

6. Tall Tall Shadow // Basia Bulat

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I need to start this one off with a disclaimer: Basia Bulat's song "Tall Tall Shadow" will be burned into your brain once you've listened to it.  That pretty much goes for the rest of her album.  This album and Toronto-based songstress takes folk to a new platform, adding incredible vocals and programmed beats to make this into one cohesive testament of beautifully-arranged wizardry. 

In her best album to date, she's been killing it this year winning people over en mass (including yours truly - Marmoset's Social Media Dude, Stirling Myles) and even appearing on Canada's Hockey Night.

In summation: Basia Bulat is a baddass.

 

7. Haw // Hiss Golden Messenger

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This album brings enough straight up folk-rock to make Tom Petty weep a thousand tears of sorrow.  HAW is collection of exploratory folk ballads that are simple and complex at the same time.  Tying together influences that pull from the front porches of the Appalachians to modern city streets, the lyricism of M.C. Taylor is timeless and cutting.  It also doesn't hurt to have members of Megafaun as your backing band (well played Mr. Taylor).

Songs like "Sufferer (My Conqueror)" brings vivid imagery of tent revivals and strange rural psychadelia making AM Country radio proud. Beautiful and strange music that is so unique, yet so familiar.

 

8. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic // Foxygen

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Two main things come to mind when listening to Foxygen: 1. This duo is way too young to be playing music this matured, and 2. they were born in the wrong generation with the well-polished psychedelia they're playing.  Much like their partners in crime (Dr. Dog, Tame Impala, Cults), they don't simply play "retro" music, they embody it effortlessly.

While wearing their influences on their sleeves, they are creating something uniquely their own while paying homage to their predecessors of the past.

Marmoset's Intern of Awesomeness, Bob Werner said "Come on, you know you're a little jealous of Foxygen for being twenty-somethings that already sound like The Velvet Underground covering The Kinks." It's also no secret that Brandon has had a crush on this band for the past couple of years now. 

 

9. Sleeper // Ty Segall

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Ty Segall is a shredder through and through, and that doesn't stop on his acoustically-driven album "Sleeper." What stands out is how versatile Seagull is on this new record.  He traded instruments and carried on a new tone ala T. Rex with a new and more delicate approach to his songwriting.

Even in it's softest moments, this album still (folk) rocks and gives all the psychedelic mastery that we all know and love from Mr. Segall. This made it on the list of  Marmoset's Music Supervisor + Fellow Shredder Kat Olsen.

Marmoset's Ryan, Sarah, Brandon and Shane all explained having a euphoric time catching the stripped down performance at this year's Pickathon Festival, check it out below...

 

10. Animals in the Median // Radiation City

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Appearing on our list again this year, we've been further sucked into world that Radiation City has created.  "Animals in the Median" is so damn good. Here's why...

In this album, they brought soul, pop, psychedelia, dissonance and incredible musicianship together into one masterpiece of an album. Their music speaks volumes to how creative it is - it's no wonder they were voted as last year's Best New Band by the Willamette Week.

Marmoset Co-Founder and Head of Music Supervision, Ryan Wines, claims he's played no single record more in 2013 than this one. Also be sure to check out the Remix version of this record, a brilliant collabortion between Portland-based beat masters, G-Force, TxE and Rad City. 

Don't just take our word for it, watch the haunting video for their single Zombies below.

 

11. B Room // Dr. Dog

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We LOVE Dr. Dog over at the Marmoset camp and we caught them when they destroyed the Crystal Ballroom earlier this year.  Their new album "B Room" does not disappoint, we learned that they tracked everything live when recording the album which is incredible hearing all of their precision and intricate harmonies.

Here is another set of warped and strange pop ballads from this eclectic ensemble that we've known to enjoy so much over the years.  Here's to another awesome album, gents.

Shed a tear with the video for their single Broken Heart below. Dr Dog is a longtime fave of Marmoset's Brandon Day and Ryan Wines. Sadly, Music Supervisor Eric Nordby just doesn't get it. 

 

12. Tomorrow's Harvest // Boards of Canada

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We first want to give a huge round of applause to these lads for reemerging after 15 years of living in a cave of solitude.  This album is well worth the wait and picks up seamlessly from their last album over a decade ago.

"Tomorrow's Harvest" is addicting, immersive and reinvents the wheel again in the world of electronic music.  This duo has once again created something relevant and timeless at the same time.  Welcome back.

Our Head Honcho + Director of Music Supervision, Ryan Wines stated "Tomorrow's Harvest" feels like a chilled-out, atmospheric film score, wrapped around slowly brooding ambience and dimly lit electronic meanderings.  At times the record almost feels like the arrival of an ominous night fog, in the way that it subtly settles in all around you."

Check out their single Reach For Dead HERE and the rad video below.

 

13. …Like Clockwork // Queens of the Stone Age

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Imagine being on a desert road for days without an end in sight.  There's a biker gang chasing you, a constant sun beating down relentlessly. Gas is running out and you're running on fumes.  "...Like Clockwork" would be the perfect soundtrack to this experience, blaring the whole time.

This album presents one pummeling rock song after another - well worth the long wait since the last album.

Marmoset's Brandon Day remarked "After some dormant time, Queens of the Stone Age bring back their desert rock in a decidedly dark manner. Make no mistake, "...Like Clockwork" rips.  Josh Homme's been brewing this collection of stoner-rock for a while."

 

14. Monomania // Deerhunter

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The one constant element with Deerhunter is how unpredictable they are. These weirdos do not disappoint with "Monomania," they just get grisly.  With one wall of distorted sound to the next, they pummel our ears with riffs reminiscent of 70's Rolling Stones. With so much grit and gloss packed in every song, it feels like a hangover after every listen, but one we would never regret.

This album soared to the top of the list for Marmoet's Senior Producer + Dapper Man Extraordinaire Rob Dennler.

With songs like "Monomania" (see video below) they revel in the grizzled elements in our lives with fists pumped in the air.  The only question we're anxiously left with is "what's next?"

 

15. The Bones of What You Believe // CHVRCHES

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Congratulations to CHVRCHES for writing one of the catchiest albums of the year, seriously (insert slow clap).  This British trio has been killing it this year with their infectious dance-pop jams.  Much like M83 and Passion Pit, they have nailed down a very modern sound with a wide array of influences from the 80's.  

Marmoset Artist Relations Intern Julia Brotman and Big Ideas Badass Justin DeMers both had this album ranking high on their year end lists.

This album is not only energizing and uplifting, it also presents a very human experience within the electronic world, causing a rare and special hybrid of music.

 

16. Dream River // Bill Callahan

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So, Bill Callahan has been at this music thing for a while now, and it shows that with age, he just keeps getting better and better.  Dream River is a collection of serene and captivating folk songs that make you feel like you're listening to an old sage in a bar at the edge of town.

Callahan's rich and deep vocals has become one of the most signature and iconic voices in indie music.

Our Creative Director + Red Bearded Scallywag Brian Hall has this album ranked as #4 on his year end list.

Check out some songs from this quiet masterpiece in the NPR video below.

 

17. Overgrown // James Blake

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We've come to the conclusion that James Blake is an alien, no human this young should have a voice this good.  Overgrown is filled with some of the sexiest music of 2013 with enough classical music, R&B and solemn gospel to make your head spin,

Dig the song Retrograde and dive into the deep well of James Blake's baritone voice.

One of the main things we have to thank Mr. Blake for is showing us what real Dubstep is, we've been sadly misguided by the recent phenomena of "Brostep"  (sorry Skrillex, wait I'm not sorry).  So get sultry, already.

 

18. Orb Weaver // The Parson Red Heads

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These folks know exactly what they're doing, and they keep getting better and better.  The Parson Redheads have claimed a firm grasp on how write a distilled, poignant and catchy song.  This year's album has shown maturation from this already established and solid band.

We've been loving this album over; it's landed on many of our lists including the likes of Marmoset Music Supervisor + Golden Voiced Eric Nordby.

Marmoset Music Supervisor + Resident Music Encyclopedia Ron Lewis stated "The Parson Red Heads are almost singlehandedly carrying the torch for West Coast power pop.  Never straying too far from the late 70's + early 80's idioms of the genre, they pay faithful homage to the iconic songwriting of the Byrds, Big Star, Cheap Trick, Rain Parade and the bands of the Paisley Underground."

 

19. Keep It Safe // Wild Ones

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It goes to show that great things take time, and this is definitely the case when it comes to this amazing album from Wild Ones. After a year of complications, they finally came out with this stunning collection of songs. Their own brand of indie-pop is lively and brings together a lot of unlikely worlds and genres together harmoniously.

We were stoked to host them at our Hott Summer Nights MFNW Party and due to popular demand, they opened for The Flaming Lips.  After having such an incredible year and album, Keep It Safe is just a prelude to the national success that is to come.

Music Supervision Master Ryan Wines stated "Keep It Safe" feels like a giant leap forward for the band once dubbed by Portland's Willamette Week as "the dance party at the end of the rainbow." The new record delivers Wild Ones with a new sense of maturity and confidence.  While it's refined, it maintains a youthful, buoyant pop quality that keeps me coming back to it when I need a lift."

Dig this cool and strange video for their single From Nothing.

 

20.  Songs From the Vanished Frontier // Yellowbirds

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Sam Cohen (aka Yellowbirds) brought one of the most engaging albums of the year taking us all by surprise.  Songs From the Vanished Frontier mastered the art of time travel and crooned us back to the age of the 60's with a barrage of washy and psychadelic guitars.  There is a strong vintage sound throughout the entire album, setting a vivid scene of a drugged-out Beach Blanket Bingo and hazy mornings in Los Angeles.

Marmoset's Brandon Day commented "These folks came out of nowhere and completely took me by storm.  Songs from the Vanished Frontier is a well-thought out group of psych-rock." Yellowbirds have been faves around Marmoset HQ for a long while now, as Music Supervisor Wizard Ron Lewis has kept them in constant rotation, often referring to them as a "band's band." Damn these guys are good.

Check out the rad Terry Gilliam-esque video for their single Young Men Of Promise.


Honorable Mentions

(in no particular order)

Cupid Deluxe // Blood Orange

The Third Eye Centre // Belle & Sebastian

Mug Museum // Cate Le Bon

II // Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Trouble Will Find Me // The National

Somewhere Else // Indians

Home // Rudimental

Random Access Memories // Daft Punk

If You Leave // Daughter

Pure Heroine // Lorde

Mosquito // Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Moon Tides // Pure Bathing Culture

Beyonce // Beyonce

Regions of Light and Sound of God // Jim James

Big Wheel and Others // Cass McCombs

More // ARP

Antenna to the Afterworld // Sonny & The Sunsets

The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight // Neko Case

The Lives Inside the Lines in Your Hand // Matt Pond