Top 10 albums of 2013

1. “Reflektor” – Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire is the tortoise of the music world. The band’s albums are crafted with patience and an unflinching confidence in their own sound. In a world where listeners demand an unending stream of new and dramatic styles, Arcade Fire subtly refines its songwriting so every album deftly picks up the conversation where the last left off.

“Reflektor” touches on the past themes of rapid urbanization, third-world neglect and crafting identity among an increasingly fragmented global consciousness. The album makes a name for itself by further perfecting Arcade Fire’s penchant for contrasting tension with anthemic choruses, and tying it all together with pounding rhythms that make even the most anxiety-inducing tunes infectiously dance-able.

2. “m b v” – My Bloody Valentine
I don’t think I have ever been more nervous to listen to an album than when my hand hovered over the play button that would finally answer a question that was never supposed to be resolved.

“m b v” is the first album My Bloody Valentine recorded after the landmark genre-defining, noise-wall classic “Loveless,” released 22 years ago. Lead songwriter Kevin Shields faced the insurmountable task of trying to follow up an album that most listeners had accepted would never have a successor; but “m b v” masterfully fuses Shields’ shoegaze nostalgia with his love of driving jungle music.

3. “Immunity” – Jon Hopkins
Electronic musician Jon Hopkins managed to fill a void left in the ill-defined landscape of 2013 electronica. The genre is overstuffed with Flying Lotus imitators and half-baked bedroom producers still trying to grasp onto the dying rays of chillwave’s popularity.

“Immunity” grabbed the torch of electronic music and finally pushed it into a fresh direction with ambient buildups that somehow manage to be dance-friendly, mellow, experimental and brilliantly moody – all without echoing the electronica sounds of yesteryear.

4. “Apocalypse” – Thundercat
Electric bass guru Thundercat is the middleman of Flying Lotus’ influential and all-inclusive label, Brainfeeder. His second release, “Apocalypse,” re-imagines the soul of Lotus’ jazz relatives (namely jazz harpist Alice Coltrane) and fuses it with the trip-hop of fellow label-mates Teebs and TOKiMONSTA to create a sonic Frankenstein that is all his own. “Apocalypse” also brought us one of the greatest summer jams, “Oh Sheit It’s X,” that is still sound-tracking mass murders on Lotus’ radio station in Grand Theft Auto V.

5. “Modern Vampires of the City” – Vampire Weekend
In an age where conceptions of what indie rock is supposed to sound like are actively being avoided, Vampire Weekend stripped itself of the percussive, Afro-beat influences that initially made them stand out from its indie brethren in 2008.

“Modern Vampires of the City” pays tribute to a quieter, more introspective side with baroque pop-influenced songs like “Hannah Hunt” and “Step.” The previous frenzied side makes sparse appearances among choruses with surf-rock single “Diane Young.”

6. “X’ed Out” – Tera Melos
“X’ed Out” only made a few ripples among critics that usually table praise for math rock, but Tera Melos continues to defy the label by finding pop sensibility among its incredible technical proficiency.

On the surface, “X’ed Out,” Tera Melos’ fourth release, has many staples of math rock: head-spinning song structures, bombastic rhythms and chaotic riffs. But the album goes much deeper when Tera Melos effortlessly flies from radio-ready singles, like the skate-punk “Sunburn,” to songs that make memorable melodies alongside walls of dissonance and noise.

7. “Settle” – Disclosure
“Disclosure” makes me feel like my teenage years were incredibly unproductive. At the ages of 22 and 19, respectively, brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have catapulted themselves to the forefront of UK’s albums chart.

“Settle” is one the most impressive debut albums in recent memory. While the brothers’ bouncy, warm production takes a backseat to the impressive vocal work of collaborators like Sam Smith and AlunaGeorge, their instrumental tracks compete alongside the pop of radio-dominating singles like “Latch.”

8. “Government Plates” – Death Grips
It’s hard to be punk rock in an era where Internet buzz takes precedence over DIY ethics, but Death Grips continues to polarize critics and fans with a core ethos that eschews any corporate influence.

Earlier in the year, the band’s bizarre (and often frustrating) publicity stunts were in danger of becoming more interesting than its actual music. But Death Grips’ self-released third album “Government Plates” reminded the world that its bombastic, nihilistic, hodgepodge hip-hop has no equals and never stops to let listeners catch up with where the band’s sound is jumping off to next.

9. “Yeezus” – Kanye West
Kanye West is a walking contradiction. He wants to go against the grain while being sponsored by Adidas. He wants to be a wellspring of influence who despises people with power. “Yeezus” embodies West’s hypocritical politics but often proves him right in the worst of ways.

His production is never content to sit still and let the rising tide of hip-hop newcomers overcome its originality. His lyrics have always taken a backseat to his beats, but they reveal a discomfiting fact about West: Even though many people have understandable reasons for disliking him, his ego often outshines his music. He has kept his sound fresh enough for the world to care about his every move despite his constantly cringe-worthy antics. Isn’t that his goal anyway?

10. “Cold Spring, Faultless Youth” – Mount Kimbie
Mount Kimbie’s debut album, 2010’s “Crooks and Lovers,” received a mammoth amount of praise for articulating the post-dubstep sounds of artists such as James Blake and Sepalcure. The duo could have easily expanded on the dense, cerebral styles of their debut but instead divorced themselves from many of the tricks that garnered them so much praise, and embraced live instruments and even their own singing.

With the help of rising UK singer/songwriter King Krule, Mount Kimbie infused “Cold Spring, Faultless Youth” with detached melodies and a brooding warmth that distanced the two from any categorization.