Calling It Early | Noteworthy Albums of 2013.


These days it’s hard to find an actual musical underground where something new is truly discovered, as virtually every release gets some amount of exposure from writers online and in print. There is a lot of good music out there, it just takes time to wade through it all. So after ten months of wading, these are some of the best, and by that I mean these are the albums that have staying power; the ones that I continue to come back to over and over, the ones that are solid from front to back, the ones that made me actually feel something, the ones that didn’t lose steam or relevance after multiple spins. Like everything else on ACL, these releases are judged on quality, durability and style. Shouldn’t those always be the deciding factors, even with music? Everything listed below is available on download and streaming services, but also at your local record store on LP. – AJ

Phosphorescent – Muchacho
With a voice halfway between Willie Nelson and Will Oldham, Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent has made the best and most even album of his decade long career. With the openness and sprawl of Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, Houck’s voice hiccups and hollers along the way as he wrestles with the doubt and terror of love. The second track “Song for Zula” will be a tough one for Houck to ever better.


Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
First available online in 2012, this LP was properly released early in ’13 and it feels more like a classic album with each listen. This post-post punk band (or whatever you want to call them) came to New York via Texas, but you’d be hard pressed to find any twang left in their sound. On Light Up Gold it’s all Television-inspired jabbing guitar lines and dry, cutting vocals that recall The Modern Lovers at their brattiest.


Ashley Monroe – Like A Rose
The title track of Monroe’s second album is one of the best songs of the year in any genre so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that legendary songwriter Guy Clark helped coax it out of her. The rest of the album follows suit with tasteful production and bittersweet songs that bring to mind Allison Krauss or Dolly Parton at their best. This is the kind of modern country music album that we all wish was coming out of Nashville on the regular.


Thundercat – Apocalypse
This is futuristic head music, but there’s a soul buried deep in the layers of sound. Even though Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat) has done time with heavy metal acts like Suicidal Tendencies, Apocalypse is new age rhythm and blues inspired by the off kilter funkiness of 70s jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and the melodies of Stevie Wonder at his most experimental.


Pure Bathing Culture – Moon Tides
After a groundswell of interest in their self-titled EP, this duo of Daniel Hindman and Sarah Versprille quickly returned to the studio to record their first full length album. Working with producer Richard Swift again, they picked up right where they left off, creating another collection of romantic reverb drenched songs in the vein of Talk Talk, Prefab Sprout and Cocteau Twins.


Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Earl is arguably the most conflicted and sensitive of the Los Angeles based Odd Future family and he’s far and away the most talented rapper. The best tracks on his official debut Doris are built with simple, clean beats and samples that allow his brooding delivery to take center stage. So on “Chum” when Earl delivers a thought like, “His sins feeling as hard as Vince Carter’s knee cartilage is.” you can process the brilliance of the line just in time for the next one.


Lucius – Wildewoman
This is wicked smart music, but its intelligence, thankfully, never gets in the way of good songwriting. Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, two Berklee School of Music alumni, anchor their strong and beautiful voices to an inventive backing band that construct their arrangements with driving percussion and guitar minimalism. Imagine the spazzed-out Lindsey Buckingham tracks from Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk with gorgeous female harmonies soaring over the clatter and you can start to understand the appeal of Wildewoman.

Comments on “Calling It Early | Noteworthy Albums of 2013.

    A. Frankel on November 11, 2013 1:07 AM:

    “Song For Zula” on Muchacho is a phenomenal track.

    denis nelson on November 11, 2013 1:59 AM:

    great selection.. thanks for the write-up!

    A Treasury of... on November 11, 2013 1:05 PM:

    I haven’t heard of any of these artists, but am gonna dutifully research them all now. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Ryan Smith on November 11, 2013 5:28 PM:

    Thanks for the write-up. Interested to hear the Courts and Earl Sweatshirt.

    Me on November 12, 2013 2:19 PM:

    Hey, post a track, bro.

    Me on November 12, 2013 2:27 PM:

    Pro tip: If you’re going to take the time to do a write up at least post some links, if not mp3s, so people can listen to what you’re writing about.

    Matt Hill on November 12, 2013 8:34 PM:

    On my way now to catch Pure Bathing Culture in St. Louis. Looking forward to it!

    Michael Williams on November 13, 2013 12:11 AM:

    @ ME Send me your home address and I will mail the links to you.

    Curvylicious on November 13, 2013 1:33 AM:

    I don’t have the patience to wade through the noise, so I’m going to take the time to listen to your “best of” list. I have heard of Thundercat before, though I”m sure I’ve heard nothing he’d done. I do agee with @Me some links to songs would have been nice.

    Al James on November 13, 2013 1:39 AM:

    @Me Tracks are posted. If you click on the links you’ll see that about half the reviews have a link to a song that I’m writing about, or in the case of Parquet Courts, their entire album that’s streaming on their Bandcamp site. Additionally, like mentioned in the initial paragraph, you can stream all this on Spotify or get a taste on iTunes.

    Mike on November 13, 2013 7:45 AM:

    @Michael…Way to take great suggestions… Top notch. Not really sure why you had to answer @me like that, could have just said “Sounds good for next time” etc etc.

    Not really sure why you consistently need to come off as douche-y to your readers.

    Maybe you need a time out and juice box there Son.

    Michael Williams on November 13, 2013 8:56 AM:

    @mike 1. I’m just fucking around (sorry you have no sense of humor). 2. It was a douche-y question which got the appropriate response. 3. Your comments are equally as douche-y, son.

    Mike on November 13, 2013 10:23 AM:

    1. I am sure you know, but fucking around and tone do not convey well in text. So you were expecting @me to be able to sense the tone in your typing? Again something to think about in your replies. I have a great sense of humor, however being condescending is not really humor

    2.You always…always have the choice to be the better man. I suggest taking the opportunity.

    3. I cannot believe that while you act like a 8 year old in your responses, suggesting a “time out” is inappropriate. At least there is a juice box in it for you!

    Michael Williams on November 13, 2013 10:58 AM:

    @Mike 1. I wasn’t expecting much from you. 2. Being condescending is the best humor. 3. I act like I am 14. Can I have some vodka in my juice box?

    Jeff on November 13, 2013 2:51 PM:

    Since condescending humor is the best, I will say the interchange reads like an email war between two pompous third world dictators ;)

    Gairy on November 13, 2013 11:19 PM:

    I am really shocked at the comments, you read an article about an artist you have never heard of and you are too damn lazy to YouTube or google the songs? Have we gotten that lazy that you criticize a free blog for not spoon feeding you.

    torche on November 14, 2013 6:30 PM:

    seeing this selection makes me think you have not heard the new jason isbell album. If so, I’m pretty sure it would be here.

    Al James on November 16, 2013 10:02 AM:

    @torche Yes! Isbell’s album Southeastern is solid from front to back. Saw him when he came to town and he put on a great show. The new Bill Callahan Dream River is fantastic. Volcano Chior’s Repave too. All of these could have made the list.

Comments are closed.