On the “highly anticipated albums” scale, 2013 has already exceeded most music fans’ expectations. While there were unavoidable promotional blitzes for bands like Daft Punk, Paramore, Phoenix, Fall Out Boy and Vampire Weekend, there were other solid rock (well, rock-ish) albums that didn’t get the attention they deserve. Here are five overlooked picks from 2013 that we endorse. Some of these albums simply deserve more of the spotlight, while others — like Flaming Lips and HTDA — managed to out-hype themselves with the attention their frontmen received for other endeavors.
In 2009, Trent Reznor stunned Nine Inch Nails fans by announcing that he was putting the band on hiatus, launching the Wave Goodbye Tour, culminating in a show at L.A.’s Wiltern Theater on September 10, 2009. In 2010, Reznor debuted the band How to Destroy Angels, featuring his new wife, Mariqueen Maandig. Independently releasing their self-titled debut EP in June 2010, HTDA signed to Columbia Records in 2012 to issue An omen EP_, further establishing the band’s moody and minimal electronic soundscapes highlighted by Maandig’s impassioned vocals. Here, the group dove even deeper into the digital darkness, invoking the more experimental side of NIN but pushing the sound into new and unexpected sonic destinations. Right around release time, there was some excitement for Welcome Oblivion, but once Reznor announced that he’d be bringing back NIN for festival dates and now an album, HTDA seems (unfortunately) to some like a distant memory. -Scott Sterling
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Released January 29, 2013
Throughout 2010 and 2011, Local Natives were garnering buzz for their debut Gorilla Manor, an album that’s unshakably energetic even on the sad songs. Here, the L.A. indie rockers turned a heel on the hype, with a little help from The National’s Aaron Dessner, who produced Hummingbird. Death, the departure of a band member and a look at grown-up relationships – the L.A. indie rockers dug deeper and got darker on the sophomore set. And yet, there’s a balance of light and dark, with bouncy hooks, beachy riffs and Brian Wilson harmonies defining certain songs (single “Breakers” chief among them). The band, however, does allow itself to explore the fearful, unspoken corners of the mind on songs like “Colombia,” which poises the question, “Am I loving enough?” against a wall of eerie strings. While the term “indie rock” has become ubiquitous to the point of meaninglessness, Hummingbird has been one of the true quintessential albums of the genre this year so far. It got some attention upon release, but it deserves more. -Jillian Mapes
Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
Released January 21, 2013
Joy Formidable’s latest album takes right up where the Welsh band’s 2011 debut, The Big Roar, left off. Carrying the torch for alt rock, powerhouse vocalist Ritzy Bryan sings like an overly aggressive wood nymph, toeing the line between ethereal and guttural on songs like “This Ladder Is Ours.” She coos, “Where are we going? What are we doing?” on the guitar-driven “Cholla” and beautifully shouts at the top of her lungs about a broken relationship on “Forest Serenade.” While The Big Roar was deeply hyped (and rightfully so), Wolf’s Law simply hasn’t gotten the love it deserves, despite early anticipation of the album. Luckily, you have six whole months to try and right that wrong. -Shannon Carlin