The Best Pop CDs of 2013

Here, we share our top ten picks for pop CDs released the past year, voted for and loved by Readings staff. Displayed here in no particular order.


best-trouble

Trouble Will Find Me by The National

Powered by Matt Berninger’s deceptively everyman voice that resonates like a conversation held by torchlight under the covers, The National have created an album full of ache and hope, told through sublime orchestration. Tracks like the masterfully off-kilter ‘Demons’ may take more than one listen to hook an IV directly into your goose bump vein, but once there, it’s where this album will stay.

– Fiona Hardy


best-random

Random Access Memories by Daft Punk

Here is an unexpectedly rewarding left-turn into late-night soul-pop after the gradually diminishing returns of their prior robo-funk offerings. Calling on the Gog and Magog of disco, Nile Rodgers and Georgio Moroder, among other collaborators, Daft Punk have fashioned the ultimate twenty-second-century pop album. Smoking-jacket ballads and glitter-sweating workouts alike are rich with textural detail and laden with hooks.

– Richard Mohr


best-fanfare

Fanfare by Jonathan Wilson

His 2011 debut Gentle Spirit was a minor, mellow classic and with Fanfare, Laurel Canyon revivalist Jonathan Wilson has damn near topped it. Once again there is a stream of illustrious guests along for the ride but this is Wilson’s baby entirely. His prodigious multi-instrumental talents, gorgeous production and wonderful songwriting make Fanfare a treasure throughout.

– Declan Murphy


best-american

American Kid by Patty Griffin

It’s always a good year when Patty Griffin releases an album. And when America’s finest folk-country-gospel female singer-songwriter releases an album as good as American Kid, then it’s a great year. Griffin is also rumoured to be touring again in 2014, so make sure you see her live – what a voice.

– Declan Murphy


best-dream

Dream River by Bill Callahan

Dream River is, at times, both intimate and universally awakening: Callahan’s baritone voice captures your attention, reminiscent of a 70s Terry Callier and, of course, Kurt Wagner of Lambchop. I am particularly taken with the second track, ‘Javelin Unlanding’, which transports me to Marvin Gaye circa ‘What’s Going On’. Recorded earlier this year at Cacophony, Texas, Dream River is a quiet gem.

– Michael Awosoga-Samuel


best-nextday

The Next Day by David Bowie

You pretty much have to admire someone like Bowie who has had such a long and varied career. The man knows how to reinvent himself, pushing the boundaries of what people expect him to do next. The Next Day is no exception – much like some kind of complex aural jigsaw puzzle it reveals more with every listen.

– Melody Wheeler


best-lowhigh

The Low Highway by Steve Earle and The Dukes (and Duchesses)

I do believe that Steve Earle has got this album just about perfect. From the opening title track, which gives us a gentle ramble about travelling through small-town America, to the bar-room rocker of ‘Calico County’, Earle has managed to capture the stories and snapshots of his home and its people. Backed by wife Allison Moorer and The Dukes, each song will move you, or get you moving.

– Lou Fulco


best-warp

Warp & Weft by Laura Veirs

Warp & Weft is layered with textures and sounds that make every song sound fresh. There are highs and lows, rockers and ballads, and an impressive cast of backing vocalists – when K.D. Lang and Neko Case are two of them, you raise your game and Veirs delivers on all fronts. This album is a joy to listen to.

– Lou Fulco


best-marling

Once I Was an Eagle by Laura Marling

This English rose has bloomed since moving to Los Angeles. Musing on relationships, this album sees Laura Marling’s songwriting elevated to another level. While her style hasn’t changed dramatically, you can hear new influences like Gillian Welch and the grandeur of Pink Floyd or early Genesis. Comparisons to Joni Mitchell resound from reviews but this wee lass is making her own way – these beautiful songs stand as a testament to her original talent.

– Lou Fulco


best-wakin

Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile

This fifth studio album from American lo-fi guitar dude Kurt Vile, Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze, is warmer and mellower as changes in his personal life, notably fatherhood, palpably affect his music. The angst in Vile’s previous album Smoke Ring for My Halo is replaced by understated wisdom and a one-shouldered Talmudic shrug. This album also marks a departure from Vile’s more experimental previous work; here are timeless, straightforward rock songs reminiscent of Tom Petty and Neil Young. Perfect for easy, sunny afternoons.

– Pia Spreadborough