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CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio’s Top 15 Albums of 2013!

CHIRP Radio Best of 2013

The votes are in, the numbers have been counted, and we are pleased to present CHIRP Radio’s top 15 albums of 2013!

In expressing their favorite albums of the year, our volunteers cited over 200 albums from over 160 labels (including the most popular outlet, “Self-Released”). The records cover the width, depth, and breadth of the music spectrum. And in a CHIRP Radio end-of-year-best-of-list first, we have a tie for the top spot, with one album from arguably Chicago's biggest and most controversial musical force and another from Rock legends bringing another sonic mastepriece two decades after their previous album.   

Here’s to another great year of music and many more to come. Happy New Year from all of us at CHIRP Radio!

 

 

Kanye West – Yeezus#1(TIE) Kanye West – Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

The most controversial record of my generation and the most dangerous piece of American music recorded since the suburbs freaked out over Marilyn Manson. People whose opinions I greatly respect have either hated or loved this record but no one has failed to be passionate about it. Is it a work of hypocrisy or of psychotically grand and taut ambitions? A masterpiece or a massively catastrophic experiment? On Yeezus we finally see the darkest corners of Kanye West’s imagination to witness him toss around nightmares of civil rights regressions and pornographic nymphomania fantasies clustered together over a concoction of Chicago drill, Jamaican dancehall, excavated '90s industrial and Bon Iver. I haven’t heard a musician put together sounds so disparate so flawlessly since Brian Wilson’s SMiLE. A deeply personal record that sees a brilliant artist and deeply flawed human being at war with himself, “Yeezus” is an untouchable lightning rod that will be as venomous as the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks for as long as we listen to pop music. –David Toropov




My Bloody Valentine – m b v#1(TIE) My Bloody Valentine – m b v (Self-Released)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Oft-imitated, but never equaled, the band that launched thousands of shoegazers reclaim their throne. Some were disappointed in the lack of innovation after 20+ years away. This is a bit unfair, as creating a whole new rock sound once should be enough. This album, with more all-enveloping sonic creations, shows how close to perfection they are. And the last third of the record shows that they do have some new things to say. –Mike Bennett

Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt#2 Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Man, the Crutchfield sisters hit it on the nose this year. I would add the Swearin' debut to this list, but that came out in 2012 (and I like it more than the new one). The first time I heard Cerulean Salt, I didn't like it. Higher production values and less cutes-y-ness than American Weekend, the first Waxahatchee record that I'd been obsessed with for a few weeks. But I grew with it and into it and ugh. Just those songs. Lyrically poignant and true. I love the way the music is circular and rises and falls. Just try to get "Swan Dive" out of your head. –Megan Frestedt

Savages – Silence Yourself#3  Savages – Silence Yourself (Matador)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

A ferocious debut from London-based quartet. It’s great to see a buzz band that lives up to its buzz—especially when the overall message of said buzz band is telling you to tune out all the hype, noise and distractions. –Al Gabor

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories#4 Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (Columbia)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

I could go on and on about this album, but I truly believe that the robots have made a timeless album. It was ballsy doing what they did. They took some artists that were sorta past their prime and made them cool again. They very easily could have used somebody more current than Pharrell (Frank Ocean?) or Paul Williams(!). That's what separates good from great. Great ones don't follow the trends, they make them. Now everyone wants to work with Nile Rodgers and be remixed by Giorgio. Now every artist is stepping up the rollout of their album (RAM's was masterful). RAM re-opened a lot of doors, and created new paths. And I think it's pretty awesome when my old roommate(who's more concerned about college football) texts me: DOIN' IT RIGHT, to which I reply: DAFT PUNK, to which he replies: PANDA BEAR. –Mauricio Reyes

Arcade Fire – Reflektor#5 Arcade Fire – Reflektor (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Arcade Fire’s most enigmatic album. During the first couple of listens, I found myself admiring its ambition, but hating its pretension; finding the songs derivative, then inventive; diffuse but too solipsistic. But every listen gave me more to admire. Reflektor is one of those albums that rewards patience and getting past preconceptions. –Al Gabor

Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You#6 Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (ANTI-)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

A mother and daughter walk onto an airport shuttle in Hawaii. The little girl is singing a happy song and smiling at the other passengers. The mother screams, “Get the fuck away from me!” It’s a moment that was only captured because one of America’s (and Chicago’s) greatest songwriters happened to be on the bus as well. She was recovering from the recent deaths of both parents, and turned it into the most emotionally brutal 2:38 pressed to wax in calendar annum 2013. The album with 17 words in its title contains a lot of contemplations about the fragile connections that bind people together, related and not so, as well as those that bind people to their motivations (or, “that fire”). It’s unlikely to be the most played Neko Case album in anybody’s iTunes, but it’ll continue to be there whenever you need it. –Kyle Whelliston

Baths – Obsidian#7 Baths – Obsidian (Anticon)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

This album got under my skin more than any album I've heard in a very long time. I am not a person to listen to the same album on repeat, but that's exactly what I did for about 6 weeks this summer. “A big vision for the record was to write pop music about apathy," Will Wiesenfeld, AKA Baths, told Fact magazine; it's not a theme that hits you over the head, though. For me it's more about the quality of the songs, musically. They are dense and layered, with odd pops and clicks reminiscent of Hauschka's prepared piano. Listening to it is an immersive experience. I'm not listening to it on repeat anymore, but any time I hear the first few bars of the opening track, I feel compelled to listen through the whole album. –Tony Breed

CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe#8 CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe (Glassnote)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Two Scotsmen walk into a bar. “Andy won!” one exclaims. “Our boy’s finally done it! Round of Tennent’s on me!” The other stops and pauses. “There’s only one problem, Ethan. We’re still stuck in Scotland.” From Donovan to The Poets to Teenage Fanclub and beyond, nobody in the world can do melodic melancholy like the Scots. One has to keep a chin up when the weather is more random and miserable than ours. Plus, it helps if you have a pretty voice like Lauren Mayberry does.The Bones Of What You Believe is all broken families, failing relationships, yearning, non-fulfillment, hurting, deep triangular ache. But it’s catchy and hummable, and you can dance to it! (Not too wildly, though. Best to be proper.) –Kyle Whelliston

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork#9 Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork (Matador)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

QOTSA brought us the rock comeback of the year with ...Like Clockwork, the band's best written and produced material since 2002's Songs for the Deaf. And having Dave Grohl once again man the kit for a handful of these killer tunes especially didn't hurt the cause. –Mike Scales

Mikal Cronin – MCII#10 Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Listening to this record is like releasing a bunch of different emotions you've been holding in for too long - it's got that level of energy and variety. There's great sequencing too. When one song ends I get excited about the next one. MCII is like Rumours because every song's a single! –Megan Frestedt

CAVE – Threace#11 CAVE – Threace (Drag City)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

Side A of this album consists of a total of 2x tracks! Track #1 - Sweaty Fingers - is downright hypnotic in nature. The baseline can slightly terrify you and, in all likelihood, mesmerize you all at the same time. It is an amazing start to a great album. CAVE has done it again and they are a true Chicago gem. They took a line-up change like a mere speed bump and released their best music to date. In addition if you have never seen them live do not hesitate to go! Their precision is just as precise live as it is recorded. It is something to behold. –Andy Weber

Superchunk – I Hate Music#12 Superchunk – I Hate Music (Merge)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

After taking almost ten years off, the second decade of the 21st century has seen Superchunk reinvigorated. I Hate Music follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, Majesty Shredding, both offering up refreshing blasts of energy that echo some of the finest points of the band’s early career. The lyrics may focus on adult responsibilities and mortality, but the sound is pure youthful exuberance. –Shawn Campbell

Rhye – Woman#13 Rhye – Woman (Polydor)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

I was a huge fan of Milosh back in 2008, but shortly forgot about him until I saw his mysterious music video for “Open.” While I was aware of singer’s gender, it was everything else that was completely cloak and dagger. In an age that is constantly exposed and documented either for bragging rights or for self-archriving, it was a relief to wonder and explore the true nature of its release. The results: a heartfelt love letter. It’s just about a man that really loves his wife. What could be more honest than that? --Cher Vincent

The National – Trouble Will Find Me#14 The National – Trouble Will Find Me (4AD)

BUY: Reckless / Permanent / Insound / iTunes / eMusic

So I have never been a National super fan but I have always liked them from a distance so to speak. Then shortly after the release of Trouble Will Find Me I had the rare moment to sit on my back deck on a Friday evening with a glass of whiskey as the sun was setting and listen to some new music. I threw on this album and I was blown away! For most of the year I thought that my love for this record might just have been sunset and whiskey induced. Then I started to re-listen to this year's favorites in anticipation of compiling this list. This album did not have any letdown for me... So here it lands squarely in my top 10. –Andy Weber

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2013

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