The past year was packed with new releases. Here are five top choices for the best albums of 2013 that definitely warrant space on your iPod.

Jason Isbell

Jason_Isbell_Southeastern-_cover-by-Michael-WilsonSoutheastern

The former member of Drive-By Truckers received ubiquitous high praise for this solo release, and it was all well deserved. With recent sobriety and new marriage (to fellow singer-songwriter Amanda Shires) on his mind, Isbell made a poignant confessional record through an impressive array of Americana styles. The opening solo acoustic “Cover Me Up” is vivid with shame, while “Travelin’ Alone” is a vintage country ramble that moves on to greener pastures. As a Southern storyteller, Isbell is also amazing. Case in point the stunning “Elephant” about two friends soaking their sorrows in booze while one is dying from cancer.

Kurt Vile

vile coverWakin on a Pretty Daze

Vile’s ethereal folk rock takes full shape on this extended album, where tracks typically hover around the six-minute mark. The opening “Wakin on a Pretty Day” clocks in at over nine and immediately showcases what Vile does best—patient lazy rambles soaked in warm atmospherics and the occasional extended guitar outburst. The overall vibe is youthful Neil Young in chill hipster experimentation mode.

The National

PrintTrouble Will Find Me

There’s something cathartic about hearing The National front man Matt Berninger reveal his own personal frailties in his intense baritone. On his Brooklyn outfit’s latest, it’s surrounded by powerfully textured indie rock–fully realized sonic statements that range from dark bombastic ballads (“Demons”) to dance-rock grooves (“Don’t Swallow the Cap”).

Houndmouth

Houndmouth packshot_20130327_105159From the Hills to the City

A breakout band this year, Houndmouth hails from a small town in Indiana and delivers gritty folk rock with plenty of heartland realism. On the group’s debut, blue-collar themes dominate edgy electric fist pumpers like “Ludlow” and “Penitentiary,” but the songs also manage to stay tuneful with infectious hooks and soaring three-part harmonies. Lead track “On the Road” gets downright poppy with a playful piano bounce and a catchy chorus about finding a better place. This group is on its way.

Daft Punk

daft-punk-random-access-memories-410Random Access Memories 

It’s hard to resist “Get Lucky” and the other expertly crafted throwback electro-enhanced soul grooves on this surprise effort from the helmeted French production duo. Live instrumentation and guest vocals give this record its character, especially the cool falsetto from Pharrell Williams and the funky guitar from Nile Rodgers on the aforementioned hit and additonal funk jam “Lose Yourself to Dance.” Much like the best of early Michael Jackson, these tunes will be soundtracking late-night living room dance parties for years to come.

Ring It In

Check out these hot Colorado New Year’s Eve shows.

Flaming Lips
Belly Up • Aspen
12/30-31
It’s hard to imagine how the sensory overload of a Flaming Lips show will translate to the intimate confines of the Belly Up. But we can promise you one thing—it will be intense.

Yonder Mountain String Band
Boulder Theater • Boulder
12/27-31
Yonder planned to take December 30 off, but then added the date as a flood benefit with all ticket proceeds going to Lyons’ institution Planet Bluegrass.

Big Head Todd and the Monsters
Paramount Theatre • Denver 
12/31
Todd Park Mohr will bring in the New Year with a long night of old school Colorado roots rock. Double the nostalgia?

String Cheese Incident
Broomfield Event Center
12/28-29, 31
SCI will supposedly release mew material next year, so the band is definitely feeling it. Bootsy Collins joins the party on 12/28.

Pretty Lights and Bassnectar
Colorado Convention Center • Denver
12/30–31 
Mix master Derek Vincent Smith is hosting a big hometown dance party.