Mount MoriahMiracle Temple (Merge)

In a year filled with excellent country albums—Caitlin Rose’s The Stand-In, Ashley Monroe’s Like A Rose, Kacey Musgraves’s Same Trailer Different Park—Mount Moriah’s Miracle Temple stands out. Maybe it’s that bright orange flame erupting on the cover of the record. Maybe it’s metal-innovator Jenks Miller’s haunting and elusive guitar tones. Maybe it’s the sense of comfort and unease elicited by these dark, poetic songs. Maybe, like Heather McEntire’s smoky voice, it’s just a mystery, and we should simply love it for that. – DJ

My Bloody Valentinem b v (self-released)

In an ever-changing world, evolution is nature’s way of sticking with the times, sometimes violently and sometimes unexpectedly. After 22 years in a state of hibernation, My Bloodly Valentine, who had for long occupied a very specific, important and frantically visceral space in rock history, emerged equally as important and visceral, only in a different manner. Don’t pretend you just wanted Loveless: The Sequel. There are enough amp-distorting nods to the past so that m b v is still MBV, but this just soothes the transition for the MBV of 2013. And that band is as equally as forward-thinking and natural as they were two decades passed. Only this time it’s creating a thick layer of melty haze rather than a reverb-induced tinnitus. – LH

Nick Cave And The Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)

Push The Sky Away has Cave doing his signature brand of blues-poured-in-molasses brain-fuckery that turns anyone who lends an ear into Pavlov’s dog. “We Real Cool” makes me feel like I’m dying in a swamp while he lurks on the edge, comparing his hairline to the way the swamp murk is rising up to my neck, and I’m dying and staring at his hairline and all I can think is that this is what I want. On “Higgs Boson Blues” when Cave purges out “It was hhhhhhhhot,” I’m always suddenly, inexplicably sweating. He’s got to be some sort of mind-controlling dominatrix alien, I think. – LP

PhosphorescentMuchacho (Dead Oceans)

Revealing and true, Matthew Houck’s sixth studio album is his rawest and most fulfilling. Muchacho is a rife with a harrowing loneliness, conveyed through a series of shivering choral echoes, orchestral strings and earnest folk jangles. Like a desert wanderer constantly seeking both deeper meaning and protection from the brutal elements, Houck trudges on to balance extreme temperaments: violence and calm forgiving. – LH

SavagesSilence Yourself (Matador)

The static-to-noise ratio is too high. So just listen to their stark memorandum and STFU. More music, more post-rock dreams; fewer words. – LH

Next page: Top 20 Albums Of 2013 (So Far…): Continued