Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time
Night Time, My Time may just be the best pop record to be released in 2013. It was also one of the year's best full-length debuts. After an unflattering September arrest for ecstasy possession along with boyfriend and DIIV frontman Zachary Cole Smith, it was refreshing to see Ferreira put out such an excellent record. The 21-year-old starlet generated buzz last year with the single "Everything Is Embarassing," but it's on Night Time, My Time where the world got to see Sky's full potential. The hook-heavy synthpop record was produced by Ariel Rechtshaid, who also worked on the new HAIM and Vampire Weekend records, and tells the story of an up-and-down relationship. On "Boys," Ferreira sings "I knew it was you all along" and "you put my faith back in boys." Later, however, she laments, "I won't even bother to fight/I know you're not the one" on lead single "You're Not the One." The track contains a catchy gutar riff and chorus melody, like many of the album's best songs. "24 Hours" is a personal favorite, thanks to chimey synths, disco drums, and an impressive vocal performance. Guitars are prominent once again on songs like the '80's flavored "I Will" and the production-heavy "Omanko." "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)" may be the album's most anthemic track, with a heavy drum beat and shouted hook. Ferreira's music will be broadcast to a wide audience in 2014, as she will be an opening act (along with Icona Pop) on Miley Cyrus's world tour. A cool blend of indie and pop, Night Time, My Time has the potential to be a late-blossmer on mainstream radio.
Key tracks: "Boys," "24 Hours,' "Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)," "You're Not the One"
Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze
A laid back, summery album, Kurt Vile's Wakin on a Pretty Daze harkened back to the days of Neil Young while adding in a dash of Pavement. A pleasing mixture of acoustic and electric guitars create vast sonic landscapes underneath Vile's lazy, mumbled vocals. The album opener "Wakin on a Pretty Day" is a sprawling, nine-minute monolith of a track. Several increases in tempo occur, as guitar layers glide around the track before a liquidy, effect-laden solo rides out the final two minutes. Many a stuffy subway ride into work on a hot summer day went by with ease thanks to this trancy tune and it's follower on the tracklist, "KV Crimes." Another leisurely song, the forceful guitar riff and percussion part standout as Vile offers "I think I'm ready/to claim what's fine/rightfully." Both of the tracks are great, and landed near the top of my favorite songs of the year. The album was one of the 2013's most effortless, most airy, and further increases Kurt Vile's status as a cult-hero indie rocker.
Key tracks: "Wakin on a Pretty Day," "KV Crimes," "Never Run Away," "Air Bud"
Savages - Silence Yourself
Ferocious post-punk Brits Savages burst onto the scene in 2012 much like Sky Ferreira did (though with a much different sound), but it wasn't until this past May that the female quarter established themselves as indie mainstays with their full-length debut, Silence Yourself. The album kicks off with a kick in the teeth, the unforgiving "Shut Up." In case the first song title and imposing album cover didn't tip you off, Savages are a band that don't take anything sitting down. Buzzfeed labeled them "the best band for when you feel like punching a wall." "Shut Up"'s booming bass intro and high-flying guitars remind the listener of fellow Londoners Siouxsie & the Banshees, as Jehnny (not a type) Beth's stammered vocals suggest a sense of fury, as do the lyrics. "If you tell me to shut up/I would tell you to shut up," she sputters justifiably. The harsh start-stop cymbals and Beth's raw vocals on "She Will" cry out in desperation and wrath, or possibly fear. It's a raw, angry album, and of 2013's biggest presents.
Key tracks: "Shut Up," "She Will," "Husbands"
Beach Fossils - Clash the Truth
The most conventionally indie album to gain a honorable mention here, Clash the Truth is a clear indication that Beach Fossils won't be going away any time soon, despite several recent lineup changes. Heavily influenced by lo-fi acts of the 1980's like Joy Division, Clash the Truth is a wonderful display of beachy guitars and old-style singing mixed with atmospheric production. The title track starts as a simple three-chord excursion before a chorus of voices join for a semi-spoken-word outro. "Careless" features lush guitars in the verses and screeching ones in the chorus over a dry drum beat. The best track might just be "Shallow," a layered piece with soothing melodies and varying levels of intensity. The album is chock-full of fun, short, classic indie-style songs, and was one of 2013's best lo-fi releases.
Key Tracks: "Clash the Truth," "Generational Synthetic," "Careless," "Shallow"