We spend hours upon hours every November and December, tinkering and toying with our individual Albums of the Year lists. It’s a labor of love. Even if the end result is ultimately arbitrary- you may spend a half an hour debating whether to put a post-hardcore album over a hip-hop album for the number 14 overall position, but does it really matter in the end?- we create them nonetheless. Which brings us to this new feature you are currently reading. This is what we are titling Throwback Thursday, in which one of the three hosts of the show will look back at a year end list they made in the past, correcting their mistakes and commenting on why certain albums have either entered their chart or dropped out entirely. Hindsight is 20/20, and that’s why it may be fun to take a look at these previous lists- knowing what we know now.
First up, we’re going to take a look at my (Craig) 2013 Albums of the Year List:
Original Top Albums of 2013
20. AFI- Burials
19. Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires in the City
18. Kanye West- Yeezus
17. Hands Like Houses- Unimagine
16. Bastille- Bad Blood
15. Paramore- Paramore
14. The Dangerous Summer- Golden Record
13. Lydia- Devil
12. Cartel- Collider
11. Silverstein- This Is How The Wind Shifts
10. A Day To Remember- Common Courtesy
9. Balance and Composure- The Things We Think We’re Missing
8. Jimmy Eat World- Damage
7. Letlive. The Blackest Beautiful
6. Moving Mountains- Moving Mountains
5. twenty.one.pilots.- Vessel
4. The Wonder Years- The Greatest Generation
3. The Front Bottoms- Talon of the Hawk
2. Fall Out Boy- Save Rock and Roll
1. The 1975- The 1975
Dropping Off (Original Ranking)
Balance and Composure- The Things We Think We’re Missing (9)
Cartel- Collider (12)
Lydia- Devil (13)
The Dangerous Summer (14)
Bastille- Bad Blood (16)
Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires in the City (19)
AFI- Burials (20)
Some of these (for example, AFI) aren’t particularly surprising. Often, if an album comes out later in a year, as Burials did, it come sometimes sneak into the list undeservedly off the strength of a few songs. I really like “I Hope You Suffer” on that record, but I probably haven’t listened to the whole thing in full since I made this list. Cartel and The Dangerous Summer both dropped down on my list because their bands disappeared in 2014- but for entirely different reasons. While Cartel seemingly lost all momentum they had and just went silent for a while (before re-appearing for the recently announced Chroma tour) The Dangerous Summer imploded and the ugliness of the band’s breakup definitely has a lot to do with it falling off this list. Lydia’s Devil was an album I definitely overrated out of my love for the band’s album Illuminate. Modern Vampires in the City and Bastille’s Bad Blood are both pretty similar in the sense that they are much more widely canonized than much of my list and both have some stellar songs, but they just narrowly missed my new top 20. And then there is Balance and Composure. Rated in the top 10 on my initial ranking, The Things We Think We’re Missing drops out because simply put, whenever I listen to Balance and Composure, I would pretty much listen to everything in the band’s discography before listening to that wildly inconsistent record in full. Separation still holds up as the band’s high water mark, and the Tigers Jaw split is an accomplishment as well, but there is just something missing- excuse the pun- from that second full-length.
Updated Top 20 (Spots Moved)
- Silverstein- This is How The Wind Shifts ( ↓ 9)
Still a really strong metalcore album to this day, Silverstein returns to form in a big way with their best album since Discovering the Waterfront. A loose concept album in which the songs 1-7 correspond to songs 8-14 (including tracks 7 and 14 being combined together to form one song if played simultaneously) it’s one of the most creative records the genre has produced in years.
- Foxing- The Albatross (NR)
Previously unranked because I completely missed this record when it came out, Foxing proves that all those people jumping on the hype train are completely right, by simply writing one of the most miserably sad records of this generation.
18. Tegan and Sara- Heartthrob (NR)
Narrowly missed my initial top albums list- it was high on my honorable mentions- and I gave it the bump because I still spin it in full every few weeks or so to this day. Heartthrob is simply still jam-packed with memorable melodies, intensely catchy hooks, and timeless synths. Try to not bob along to the beat of “Closer,” “Goodbye, Goodbye” and “Drove Me Wild”- and at the same time- try not to cry along to “Now I’m All Messed Up” and “How Come You Don’t Want Me Back.”
- A Day To Remember- Common Courtesy ( ↓ 7)
While I don’t really go back to this record in full anymore (I don’t really go back to any A Day to Remember album in full anymore to be honest) I cherrypick songs from it pretty consistently. “Sometimes You’re the Hammer” and “City of Ocala” especially are among the best of the band’s career.
16. Paramore- Paramore ( ↓ 1)
Say what you will about this album’s inconsistency. It is definitely an uneven listen (due in large part to the ludicrously unnecessary interlude tracks.) But if you don’t think this album has the best vocal performance of Hayley Williams’ career or doesn’t have some deliriously fun pop anthems, I don’t know what album you’ve been listening to. They may not be the same band that created Riot, but they are the band that bested it (twice, now).
15. Kanye West- Yeezus ( ↑ 3)
Kanye recieves the first album on this list to actually move up on this re-rank. I don’t think I gave Yeezus enough credit for how diverse and intricate the production is. Rick Rubin and Kayne did a tremendous job crafting a captivating listen, not just in terms of Kanye’s lyrics- which are as introspective and self-aggrandizing as ever- but in how each tracks gives the listener a different aural experience.
14. Jimmy Eat World- Damage ( ↓ 6)
Jimmy Eat World is glad that The Gaslight Anthem released Get Hurt and it’s cartoon butt album cover, because it let Jimmy Eat World off the hook for worst clip-art-created album cover. The album which is housed underneath that album cover is no laughing matter though, with perhaps the band’s most richly evocative and gloomy lyrical content since Clarity in 1999. It has fallen off a bit for my in 2014 and 2015, mostly because I have listened to the band’s other records significantly more in that time period (Futures and Bleed American especially)
13. Alcoa- Bone and Marrow (NR)
I don’t know why I left this one of my list. Perhaps I just didn’t give it enough listens, but it is just so much better than Honorable Mention territory. Folk-country with a crooner for a vocalist- and just simply not at all what you would expect from the singer of lead singer of post-hardcore band Defeater. The brainchild of Derek Archambault, Alcoa is one of the most heartbreaking listens on this entire countdown. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Cab Rides and Cigarettes” right now. It’s one of the top 5 best songs of 2013 no doubt.
- Beyonce- Beyonce (NR)
So I agree with Kanye. Beyonce’s self-titled album (which created the verb “to Beyonce” to describe the act of releasing a piece of art/media with no warning or publicity) should have one the Grammy Award for best album (Sorry, Beck). It went unranked simply because it came out after I had already finalized my top albums list in 2013. But it’s a powerhouse pop record, with some of the best hooks of Ms. Carter’s career.
11. Lights and Motion- Reanimation/Save Your Heart (NR)
Cheating a bit here and putting two separate albums by the same artist at the number 11 spot, but if you haven’t listened to Lights and Motion’s three full-length records (including Chronicle, which I recently reviewed for this very blog) go and pick them up right now. They are available for free download and they are the kind of beautiful instrumental post-rock that will go perfectly with your next study session.
- CHVRCHES- The Bones of What You Believe (NR)
This is an album I didn’t really start listening to in full until late last year- possibly I guess because I find their band name incredible dumb (though smart in terms of SEO.) The Bones of What You Believe is so much more than lead single “The Mother We Share.” Lauren Mayberry’s vulnerable vocal delivery and the layering/texturing of the synths on this record are just so unlike anything else I normally listen to that I often end up just playing the album on repeat and dancing around like an idiot. Don’t judge me (you’re judging me.)
- Letlive- The Blackest Beautiful ( ↓ 2)
The best live band you will ever see also makes some pretty snazzy records in the studio. Letlive brings that live energy to this record. Probably would’ve stuck with me more if I could listen to it in my headphones without it sounding absolutely terrible. The mastering on the vinyl record pressing sounds slightly better, but the whole thing still sounds like it was recorded underwater.
- Fall Out Boy- Save Rock and Roll ( ↓ 6)
Perhaps the most disappointing drop-off, Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock and Roll, my number 2 album at year end 2013, falls to the back half of the top 10. It’s still a great pop record, but I think the newness of Fall Out Boy’s hiatus hid some of the album’s obvious flaws behind the “”OH MY GOD GUIZE FALL OUT BOY IS BACK AND THEY HAVE BIG SEAN ON A TRACK AND HE SAID FALL OUT BOI” -ness of it all. Still, it compares favorably to all but From Under The Cork Tree and Folie a Deux in the band’s now-deep discography.
7 Have Mercy- The Earth Pushed Back (NR)
I would like to take this moment to formally apologize to my friend Matt H., who told me back in September of 2013 that Have Mercy’s The Earth Pushed Back was probably his album of the year and that I needed to listen to it. I didn’t do so until early 2014 and immediately regretted that decision. This is just a fantastic emo album from top-to-bottom, from a band that has become one of my favorite bands in the past year. Sorry again about that Matt.
- The Front Bottoms- Talon of the Hawk ( ↓ 3)
Moving this Front Bottoms album down 3 spots from 3 to 6 is not necessarily a slight against Talon of the Hawk, but rather a testament to how much I still love the 5 albums that come ahead of it. Talon of the Hawk is still the stellar accomplishment of songwriting talent that it was 2 years ago when it came out. I can’t wait to see where the band goes when their long awaited follow-up comes out in- hopefully- 2015.
- Moving Mountains- Moving Mountains ( ↑ 1)
I wavered, over and over, with my top albums of 2013 list, trying to find a way to include the final self-titled album from one of my favorite bands into the top 5. Ultimately, they fell one place short. A year and a few months late, I correct that mistake here and give this swan song the title it deserves. It’s simply put the amalgamation of everything that made Moving Mountains successful in their career. Combining the post-rock ambience of Pneuma and Foreword with the driving ethos of Waves, Moving Mountains is the sadly-defunct band’s highest musical accomplishment.
4. Hands Like Houses- Unimagine ( ↑ 13)
The biggest mover of the albums that were actually on my chart in 2013, Unimagine skyrockets from number 17 to number 4 on the strength of a year of near-incessant listens. In fact, Unimagine was my most played album of 2014 and it didn’t even come out in that year. It’s simply one of the best post-hardcore albums to come out since Saosin’s self-titled and perhaps even since Thrice’s The Artist In the Ambulance. Deeply diverse and featuring suprisingly philosophical lyrical content, Unimagine had everything I was looking for in the genre.
3. twenty|one|pilots- Vessel (↑ 2)
The dynamic duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun make music that they self-describe as weird- a mixture of hip-hop, electronic dance music, and alternative rock- but there is just something so intangibly relatable to their songs that I find myself listening to Vessel on repeat to this day. Perhaps it is Joseph’s self-deprecating lyrics, the infinitely danceable drum beats or the neurotic sense of humor they carry with them, there is something lovable about twenty|one|pilots.
2. The Wonder Years- The Greatest Generation (↑ 2)
Some may say I am placing The Greatest Generation so high on my re-ranking because I just saw the album performed in full at the band’s 10 Year Anniversary shows in Philadelphia- and those some people would almost certainly be right. But the reason this album re-climbed my list after that show is because seeing each of these songs showed how consistently great the songs on The Greatest Generation are. There are no stretches on the album where the songs lull (even “Madelyn” the album’s clear low-point) is surrounded by the stellar songs “A Raindance in Traffic” and “Cul-de-sac.” When most other bands would’ve played in safe after an ambitious record like Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, The Wonder Years upped the grandiosity even more and knocked it out of the park.
- The 1975- The 1975 (-)
For once on this list, I can’t definitely say I didn’t make a mistake. The 1975 still claim my title for the Album of the Year 2013. The band’s self-titled debut is still one of the most unique, varied collections of songs I’ve ever heard, and I can’t recommend it enough. Even as the band takes time off from their ceaseless touring schedule to begin to write and record the follow-up, I’m still struck by how timeless the entire record feels.