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The 10 Best Albums of 2013, Really.

It’s almost irrelevant. Best albums? No one listens to whole albums anymore! But every year I can’t help it. Something compels me to select my favorite album of the year. Not just a single. Not just a band — a whole album.

Maybe it’s because one of my first jobs as a teenager in the late ’80s (DON’T JUDGE ME NEW YOUNG HIPSTERS — I’VE SEEN SOME THINGS) was working at Pegasus Records. It was a dream job. We did a lot more than vacuuming at night and alphabetizing the racks. We counseled our customers. They trusted us. They weren’t just spending $.99 online with the click of a button for a song they liked. They had to plop down cold hard cash for a record, tape, or CD. They wanted to know, “Is the whole album good?”

There are tons of great songs this year. But it takes a little culling to find an album that you can put on and listen to without having to skip a disappointing track. As a mom I prefer albums without a lot of obvious swears so Eminem and Kanye are out of my top 10, even though I think they have good albums this year. And Daft Punk gets an honorable mention, but NO ONE can listen to that whole album without skipping through to “Instant Crush.” Go ahead and try.

It’s an academic exercise, I know. It’s just so easy to pick songs a la carte. And I’m glad for that. But let’s give credit where it’s due to the artists who turn out whole, listenable albums.

Here are my top 10 picks with links to listen on Spotify or to buy on Amazon. Enjoy!

  • The Best Albums of 2013 1 of 11
    albums
  • Haim | Days Are Gone 2 of 11
    haim

    Fun, funky, and singable, Haim's tunes are perfect for clearing-the-table dance parties. These sisters are talented. Their Eagles-ish song "The Wire" is a great stand-out — sounds like a modern take on "Heartache Tonight," but the whole album is a treat. 

    Listen to Haim Days Are Gone on Spotify

     

    Available from Amazon for $9.99

  • The Avett Brothers | Magpie and the Dandelion 3 of 11
    avett

    This is beautiful, well-crafted, folksy, twangy, gorgeous Americana. Long live The Avett Brothers — their banjos, their fiddles, and their harmonicas too.

    Listen to The Avett Brothers Magpie and the Dandelion on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $9.25

  • Phosphorescent | Muchacho 4 of 11
    phospherescent

    OK. The mom in me has to look the other way on this one. Muchacho's got a nudie cover and a couple of swears. But, I mean, come on. Not only is "Song for Zula" the most arresting song of 2013, the rest of the album is simply fantastic. (I never said I was a perfect mother.)

    Listen to Phosphorescent Muchacho on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $9.79

  • Tegan and Sara | Heartthrob 5 of 11
    tegan

    This one is rated PG. Sure it has lots of love songs, but if you don't think too much about it, you and your 10-year-old son can belt out these songs at the top of your lungs. I took my four kids to see Tegan and Sara this year. They are adorable and awesome and talented and great. This album is super fun and very good. Whether you love the '80s ironically or because you lived through them, you might pick up a Cyndi Lauper vibe from these twins.

    Listen to Tegan and Sara Heartthrob on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $8.62

  • The Civil Wars | The Civil Wars 6 of 11
    civil

    The haunting ballads of this country nouveau duo are almost too intimate to listen to, but you can't resist, so go ahead. And while you're at it, ponder the mystery of why the members of The Civil Wars, John Paul White and Joy Williams, hate each other. How could such beautiful music be born of hatred? What happened? Williams says there are clues on the record itself.

    Listen to The Civil Wars The Civil Wars on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $11.11

  • Arcade Fire | Reflektor 7 of 11
    arcade

    I felt the same way when Arcade Fire's 7-minute single "Reflektor" came out as I did when I heard that Peter Jackson was breaking up The Hobbit into 3 movies: "Toooooo loooooong, guys. Too long." Now that I've seen the first movie and heard the whole album, I have completely reversed my opinion. I can't get enough of Reflector the single or the album. You were right, Peter Jackson and Arcade Fire. You win, guys. Head bowed.

    Listen to Arcade Fire Reflektor on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $9.51

  • Kings of Leon | Mechanical Bull 8 of 11
    bull

    It's kind of interesting how many family bands made great albums this year, no? Kings of Leon are no exception. Made up of three brothers and a cousin, these guys rock hard. Last year I was sort of mad at Caleb Followill for not taking care of his alcoholism but when he sings, "I can shake it like a woman," I forgive him. He's Ronnie Van Zant in "Rock City," he's Bono in "Beautiful War," and he's sorry in "Comeback Story." He's back in a big way on this album. Godspeed, Caleb Followill.

    Listen to Kings of Leon Mechanical Bull (Deluxe Version) on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $13.99

  • Phoenix | Bankrupt 9 of 11
    bankrupt

    Pretty, pleasant, atmospheric, fun, and enjoyable — Phoenix is trying to be cool, and it's working. 

    Listen to Phoenix Bankrupt! (Deluxe) on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $7.19

  • The National | Trouble Will Find Me 10 of 11
    national

    They depress me, but I like it. And I don't want to live in a world without Matt Berninger's booming baritone. Do I wish they would cheer up? Yes. Still, it's a great album and addicting. Get down with your demons and dance it out to The National.

    Listen to The National Trouble Will Find Me on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $9.20

  • Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City 11 of 11
    vampire

    Brilliant, expansive, and so freaking smart, Vampire Weekend's third album is probably the best album of the year. But you don't have to "get it" to like it. Just put it on and start humming along, or air-harpsichording, if you like.

    Listen to Vampire Weekend Modern Vampires of the City on Spotify

     

    Available at Amazon for $9.42

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