The Top 20 Albums of 2013
Here they are: The top 20 albums of 2013, as chosen by inthemix. From disco to trance, low-slung bass to homegrown floor-fillers and everything in between, this year sure gave us a wide spectrum of essential records. So with 2013 in its final days, we’ve combed through the standout dance releases of the past 12 months to give you the twenty indispensable albums of 2013. You’ll notice that there are no mixes on this list, a deliberate decision on our part to stick strictly to albums. Not that there weren’t plenty of excellent compilations to come out of this year – Sasha’s Involv3r was a sure standout, as were Guy J and jozif’s Balance contributions. But with that disclaimer out of the way, grab your headphones and get stuck in below.
20. Benga – Chapter II
We know, we know – Benga’s Chapter II might seem like an oddball inclusion here. Released to little fanfare in May, the dubstep don’s third album (and first solo effort since 2008’s game-changer Diary Of An Afro Warrior) slipped out more or less unnoticed. It wasn’t hard to see why – by mid 2013, everyone was just kind of over dubstep.
The thing is, Chapter II is actually a great album. Forefather probably should have ranked in our list of the Top 100 Tracks of 2013, and tracks like I Will Never Change are as good as anything of the Night era. Yes, the record flits between tempos and styles and yes, that cover art is god-awful. But when you put all of that aside, Chapter II’s only real misstep was that it came too late. That doesn’t mean history should forget it. [Katie Cunningham]
19. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
Don’t call it a comeback. Sure, it’s been eight years since Boards of Canada’s last album, The Campfire Headphase. But what they do is not like headlining festivals, slinging guitars onstage with cool haircuts. Their enterprising ambient experimentalism is far more organic and craftsmanlike, despite how weird and alien it sounds on the surface. It’s a way of life, like cooking or gardening; age doesn’t really factor in. As with Warp labelmates Autechre and Aphex Twin, they’ll probably be doing this when they’re 90, as long as they can sit at their machines. It’s beyond cool, beyond classic, almost timeless. Then again that’s exactly how BOC’s music felt when their full-length debut, Music Has the Right to Children, turned the electronic music world on its head 15 years ago.
All this is just what I glean from the surface after listening to it for a couple of weeks. If you’re a fan of BOC you know you’ll be unpacking the weird layers for years – the math equations, the obscure science, the codes and eerie subliminal messages that lurk beneath the beats and melodies. Boards of Canada put more painstaking effort into the craft of sonic architecture than any other band or musician I can think of. More than anything, that’s what makes the timing, or anti-timing, of this release make sense – there’s a whole new generation out there ripe for warping. [Jim Poe]
18. Rudimental – Home
Rudimental’s Home had the perfect recipe for success. Four guys from East London have taken the genres of the moment (house and drum and bass) and added vocals from some of the fastest rising acts around – and the result? Well, the proof is in the pudding: they’ve had two UK #1 singles (‘Feel The Love’, ‘Waiting All Night’) and now have an album that looks set to emulate that success. Despite this commercial ambition, Home never feels like a sell out. Apart from Emeli Sande (whose album is one of the most successful UK records ever), they’ve chosen relatively unknown guest slots that add to the project more than they overshadow it. The record feels like a collaborative effort and as a result has a real joyous, communal feeling to it.
Home is a cleverly crafted effort of sounds that seem to be defining London dance music at the moment and the addition of soulful, up-and-coming vocalists gives it huge crossover appeal. It’s a job well done. [Sam Murphy]
17. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
It was high time Classixx gave us an album, and the L.A. smoothies’ long-overdue debut LP didn’t disappoint. The product of two years of on-and-off studio time in Los Angeles, Hanging Gardens’ Californian home base, sure shows. Chilled out house, touches of disco and borderline pop numbers each get a look in, all unified by breezy, summery vibes (they call it the “L.A. Sound”). The best moments might be the Nancy Whang and Active Child collabs’, but as a whole, this is an essential summer soundtrack. [Katie Cunningam]
16. Lapalux – Nostalchic
Having teased fans of the Brainfeeder family with a few exceptional EPs over the last few years, Lapalux’s debut album Nostalchic was destined to be an underground hit, but it’s the album’s wider and more mainstream (if you will) success that truly shows how brilliant a piece this is. Thanks to the legacy of recent crossover artists like James Blake, The Weeknd and SBTRKT, Lapalux’s low-slung, R&B inspired beats were a refreshing and more accessible take on the psychedelic Flying Lotus inspired sound.
The only Brit signed to FlyLo’s label, there’s definite evidence of that wet, melancholy UK vibe weaved through the album, while still maintaining the quirkiness of other Brainfeeder producers. With utterly infectious tracks like Guuurl and Without You alongside more unusual, off-beat and clunky tunes like Kelly Brook and Swallowing Smoke, this album was able to appeal to both ends of the spectrum, a testament to Lapalux’s skill and ability to nail the balance between popular and experimental sounds. [Melanie Mahony]
Ed note: ‘Nostalchic’ isn’t available in full on Rdio, but you can stream the ‘Without You/Guuurl’ single.