Here’s the extended version of the Indie section of my top five, with commentary and numerous honorable mentions.
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
I firmly believe that this song is the reason the baritone saxophone was invented. My surely-a-cousin-somehow James Murphy produced a masterpiece.
2. Night Drive – Drones
Surely the catchiest song ever written about the murky ethical considerations of drone warfare, this pop piece-de-resistance earns its place entirely on musical merits.
3. The Strokes – One Way Trigger
I was addicted to this jaunty tune, which apparently causes involuntary head bobbling, on the first listen. Lighter fare than expected from The Strokes but the snappy drumming is outstanding.
4. Vampire Weekend – Step
The early VW oeuvre is hit-or-miss for me but I can’t say enough good things about this more mature track. Seeing it live in London this summer was a personal highlight.
5. The National – Graceless
This album will no doubt appear on many Best of… lists — for me it wasn’t as good as High Violet but the once-Ohio-now-Brooklyn-based outfit can still deliver.
* Cults – High Road.
Color me slightly disappointed with this much-anticipated sophomore outing but this track has a great vibe reminiscent of 60s-tinged Camera Obscura or Tennis, and other keepers like Always Forever include a tinge of Beach House.
* Geographer – This Is How We Walk On The Moon (Arthur Russell)
* Hot Chip – Dark & Stormy.
This title track of this consistently excellent EP just edges “Flutes” for its slight undercurrent of menace. Besides, choosing Flutes would have put me between the original and the nasty Sasha mix.
* The Neighbourhood – Sweater Weather.
OK, totally cheating here since I didn’t discover this song until January 2014, but I like it so much that I decided to retroactively include it instead of saving it up for an entire year. Great new band with a shade of Amy Winehouse/Mark Ronson in the songwriting.
* Pixies – Andro Queen.
They’ve lost Kim Deal and the new EP hasn’t exactly taken the world by storm, but I’m happy to have them back. This song is further evidence that when they aren’t busy being one of the loudest bands in the universe they are capable of lovely stuff (exhibit A being “Wave of Mutilation [UK Surf]“.)
* Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.
I missed this album in 2012 but am glad I found it in early 2013 — besides this one check out Why Won’t They Talk To Me or Nothing That Has Happened.
* Two Door Cinema Club – Handshake (or Sleep Alone).
A toss up — their hooks are among the catchiest in pop.
* Vance Joy – Riptide.
A touch of the folksy, Lumineers/Bon Iver-thing in this catchy track.
* White Lies – Change.
I wanted to go with the much more straightforward power-pop lead single “Big TV” (which I nevertheless recommend) but I couldn’t get past this stunning, stark and very unexpected ballad. In high school I would have listened to this song endlessly – I didn’t get out much back then :) – and it wouldn’t be out of place on a This Mortal Coil LP.
* Young Dreams – First Days of Something.
Whoever produced this track has the classic indie sound down pat, but good fundamental songwriting shines through and the riff during the chorus has shades of Paul Simon or, more lately/likely, Vampire Weekend.