I am running a little behind on getting my “favorites” out there, but it’s still 2013, right? Anyway, I’m not sure if anyone cares what a theologian’s favorite albums are. But every year I enjoy looking back and trying to figure out which albums stood out the most.
Keep in mind that I’m not saying these are the “best,” just my personal favorites. And no comments about the genres in which I placed various groups. Some groups are a pain to pin down, and musical genres are notoriously ill-defined anyway.
And if you’re a music fan, let me know if there’s an album you loved that isn’t on the list. I’m always on the lookout for something new.
Favorite Overall Album
This was also one of my go-to albums for writing music this year. Lots of twists and turns to keep it interesting, but mellow enough to have in the background while I’m reading, taking notes, or banging away on the keyboard. I’ll be listening to this one for a while yet.
- Runner Up: The National, Trouble Will Find Me
- Honorable Mentions: Phosphorescent, Jason Isbell, Lucius, Alice Smith, Vampire Weekend, Neko Case
Favorite Pop/Rock Album
This was also one of my favorite debut albums of 2013, though I didn’t make that it’s own category. Like any good pop albums, this one has plenty of energy and fun along with several tracks that lean in a more ephemeral direction.
- Runner Up: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
- Honorable Mentions: Waxahatchee, Mikal Cronin, CHVRCHES, Sky Ferreira, Lorde
Favorite Alternative/Indie Album
I like The National, so maybe it was a given this was going to win in this category. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a great album, as long as you don’t mind The National’s trademark beautiful music about depressing subjects. And this one also adds flair with quite a few guest appearances.
- Runner Up: Arctic Monkeys, AM
- Honorable Mentions: Chelsea Wolfe, Jagwar Ma, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Okkervil River
Favorite Indie Folk Album
This is another one that leans in the direction of haunting and/or depressing, while still being a beautiful and enjoyable listen. It was god enough that I gave it the slight edge over Laura Marling’s outstanding Once I Was an Eagle, but it was really close.
- Runner Up: Laura Marling, Once I Was an Eagle
- Honorable Mentions = Valerie June, Mutual Benefit, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Patty Griffin
You have to take this one with a grain of salt because I don’t listen to much country, sticking largely to people who would fall in the crossover or alt-country categories. But I heard enough good albums this year in the general realm of country to give it its own category for the first time.
- Runner Up: Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You
- Honorable Mentions: The Lone Bellow, The Devil Makes Three
Favorite Electronic Album
This is another genre that I started listening to more this year, largely because my oldest daughter has started to show some interest. But the genre as a whole, and this album in particular, also became a favorite for writing music. Although you can get a little startled when the album takes an unexpected turn, which happens quite a bit, the rather “hypnotic” effect of many songs works great as background music for studying.
- Runner Up: The Knife, Shaking the Habitual
- Honorable Mentions: James Blake, Tim Hecker
Favorite “Other” Album
I needed a category for albums that fall into genres I don’t listen to enough to make a category of their own, but were still good enough to be among my favorites. And Alice Smith’s bold and beautiful debut album definitely deserves a place on that list.
- Runner Up: Buika, La Noche Mas Larga
- Honorable Mentions = Bryan Ferry Orchestra, John Legend, Rhye
Favorite “Guilty Pleasure”
That One Album I Just Couldn’t Get Into
Every year there’s at least one album that I feel like I’m supposed to enjoy, but I just can’t get into it for some reason. This year it was Arcade Fire. Lots of other people like it, and it seems well constructed. But it just didn’t work for me.