The ever-smiling DJ's bass-heavy productions conjure images of dimly lit dance floors and sweaty basement parties, but play just fine at more mainstream events like Las Vegas' Electric Daisy Carnival and Los Angeles' HARD Summer Music Festival.
Au Revoir Simone stands out because its members offset their lush keyboard melodies and faultless vocal harmonies with serrated melancholy. But the Brooklyn band also knows well enough to inject its songs with sass and snap.
Three singers' voices swap out and intertwine throughout the Brooklyn band's ambitious, evocative debut. The album sets their contributions against orchestral arrangements that sweep and swell with a pitch-perfect mix of forcefulness and delicacy.
Recorded in a year's worth of experimental sessions, Wise Up Ghost sounds like the best of Costello's stuff, and like nothing he's done before. Working with musicians who've figured out how to apply hip-hop principles to a band dynamic, Costello locates himself within that framework to produce some of the most focused and visionary work of his later career.
The candy-coated craftsmanship and joy on display throughout Spreading Rumours makes the record ludicrously easy to love — a welcome dose of summertime from the L.A. pop-rock band, just in time for fall.
The band's first album since 1999 once again mixes unlikely sensibilities: miserablism made vital by gritty forcefulness, scabrousness harnessed in the pursuit of beauty. Even as singer Lou Barlow offers up clear-eyed postmortems of a wrecked marriage, Defend Yourself exudes the live-wire energy of musicians brought back from the brink.
There's an element of Porter's singing that feels like a welcome throwback, though he doesn't spell it out precisely. On his third album, he only seeks the soulful spirit of griots gone by. And all he asks you to do is clap your hands now.
A rich and approachable encapsulation of the singer-songwriter's unpredictable sound, Nobody knows. opens with two full minutes of Beal's unaccompanied voice before fanning out into a deft mix of spare blues confessionals and classic soul.
One of the year's best rock albums features four women who play impassioned punk. Phoebe Harris' guitar riffs on Hell Bent are some of the catchiest of 2013, and while Abby Weems' monotone voice isn't polished, but it's a perfect fit for Potty Mouth's rough-hewn melodies.