5. Phoenix- Bankrupt!
Phoenix is always fun to listen to, and Bankrupt! is no exception. The album is quirky, slick, and cool without trying to be. It wavers between electronica and rock, using an intriguing blend of live instrumentation and synthesized sound. It’s somehow both incredibly laid back and remarkably peppy, often at the same time. Thomas Mars’ smooth vocals and the band’s infectious combination of traditional rock instruments and electronic effects make this an album not to be missed.
4. Streetlight Manifesto- The Hands That Thieve
The Hands That Thieve is high energy, rough around the edges, and deeply moving. Sure, it’s not too different from what Streetlight Manifesto has been doing from the start, but with the winning formula they’ve put together that’s not a bad thing. What’s more, the album contains some of front man Tomas Kalnoky’s most complex and interesting lyrics to date. The horn section delivers some truly memorable hooks and solos as well, so anyone with a taste for ska should check it out.
3. Capital Cities- In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
Arguably one of the best debuts of the summer, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery crashes onto shore with absurdly catchy hooks and toe-tapping beats. It’s hard not to catch yourself singing along to songs like “Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast” or “Safe and Sound.” If you’re a fan of electronic music, electronic, or even jazz trumpet, there’s something for you here.
2. Vampire Weekend- Modern Vampires of the City
Vampire Weekend gives us the sort of intellectual lyrics and unique world music-inspired rhythms and instrumentation we’ve come to expect, but Modern Vampires of the City has a more reflective, atmospheric, and slower-paced sound than the frenetic, gleeful indie pop sound of its predecessors, Contra and Vampire Weekend. That’s only by comparison, though. Plenty of its songs are catchy in a more mature way, like “Unbelievers” and “Worship You.” As a whole, the album had me rubbing my chin as much as nodding my head. There are ingenious turns of phrase, classic hooks, and all in all some exceptionally original music that’s a joy to listen to.
1. Franz Ferdinand- Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
If you’re like me, you were wondering where on Earth Franz Ferdinand has been the last 4 years after they released “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand” in 2009. Well, it was worth the wait. Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is one of those rare albums that manages to evolve a band’s sound without getting rid of what made people fall in love with them in the first place. Franz Ferdinand keeps their trademark powerful bass groove, moving rhythm, bright guitar distortion, and theatrical vocals, but everything sounds tighter and more polished than their previous work without being overproduced. They’ve also managed to work in richer vocal harmonies and a slew of new instruments, including synthesizer, violin, and a brass section in spots. In terms of creativity, catchiness, and pure musicality, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action is my top album of summer 2013.