courtesy photoSleigh Bells topped our list of pop favorites in 2013.

courtesy photoSleigh Bells topped our list of pop favorites in 2013.

The best pop albums of 2013

Musically speaking, 2013 was like a game of pop-star poker, with some solid hands being laid down defiantly and quite a few bluffs being called. Winners: Katy Perry, who ditched the girly shtick and embraced adulthood with “Prism,” and Miley Cyrus, who went kicking and screaming into the grown-up world with a promising “Bangerz.” Loser: Lady Gaga, who amped up every eccentricity to 11 as she hurtled toward also-ran irrelevance via the absurdly overhyped “Artpop.”

But the most interesting twist occurred in Nashville, Tenn., where young country kittens such as Kacey Musgraves, Lindi Ortega, Brandy Clark and Ashley Monroe unsheathed their razor-sharp claws, a la stylistic forebears Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. They had real meat-and-potatoes songwriting, not the white-bread R&B again foisted on us by Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake.

In reverse order, here is the best music of the year.

10. FIDLAR, “FIDLAR”

These squirrelly SoCal skate-punkers’ sneering odes to beer, pot, other stimulants/depressants. White-trash existence never suddenly sounds awesome. (Mom + Pop)

9. David Bowie, “The Next Day”

An amazing hat trick — no advance fanfare, no publicity, no talk-show appearances. Just a great new cutting-edge Bowie album that stood on its own. (Columbia)

8. Savages, “Silence Yourself”

When French chanteuse Jehnny Beth met atmospheric guitarist Gemma Thompson, sparks ignited. And a Banshees-brilliant new juggernaut started rolling. (Rough Trade)

7. Brandy Clark, “12 Stories”

Clark already has penned and co-written wry hits for everyone else in Nashville. Finally, she stakes out her own laconic turf with this debut. (Slate Creek Records)

6. Frightened Rabbit, “Pedestrian Verse”

The new Scottish version of Ireland’s Snow Patrol? Could be. Frontman Scott Hutchison has got the voice, the darkly poetic lyrics and the sweeping, panoramic vision. (Atlantic)

5. Editors, “The Weight of Your Love”

Gothic-timbred anchor Tom Smith lost his guitarist, gained two new members and actually pushed Editors into even more majestic territory on this fourth set. (Pias America)

4. Ashley Monroe, “Like a Rose”

Monroe — also a member of The Pistol Annies, whose sophomore “Annie Up” was a contender for this list — has a retro-country voice as pure as a mountain spring, but a songwriting sensibility that’s soap-opera trashy. (Warner Nashville)

3. Jake Bugg, “Jake Bugg”

This 19-year-old British wunderkind was a perfectly unexpected combination of existential angst and unbridled hunger, all to the tune of a retro-hip slapback sound. (Island)

2. Vampire Weekend, “Modern Vampires of the City”

What Ezra Koenig and company have accomplished here is an album so gorgeously ornate and intricate, its composition should be taught in college. But don’t study it — just let it wash over you. (XL Recordings)

1. Sleigh Bells, “Bitter Rivals”

Another record that could be dissected in school. Every spin through this delectable noise-pop delight unveils more carefully hidden underpinnings that keep the whole contraption thundering along. Even synthesized dog barks play a crucial role in this malevolent masterpiece. (Mom + Pop)artsJake BuggPop Music & JazzSleigh BellsVampire Weekend

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Chelsea Hung, who owns Washington Bakery and Restaurant in Chinatown with her mother, said the restaurant is only making about 30 percent of pre-pandemic revenues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown’s slow recovery has business owners fearing for the future

Lack of outside visitors threatens to push neighborhood into ‘downward spiral’

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

Jazz pianist and composer Jon Jang is an instructor at Community Music Center in the Mission District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Jon Jang composes bittersweet symphonies

Musician-activist’s works are steeped in civil rights history

Calfire (Shutterstock)
Wildfires burn around Northern California during first red flag weekend of the year

Firefighters around the region battled wildfires all day Saturday, starting less than… Continue reading

Most Read