On the “highly anticipated albums” scale, 2013 has already exceeded most music fans’ expectations. While there were unavoidable promotional blitzes for bands like Daft PunkParamorePhoenixFall 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.

HTDAHow to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion
Released March 5, 2013
Columbia Records

In 2009, Trent Reznor stunned Nine Inch Nailsfans by announcing that he was putting the band on hiatus, launching the Wave GoodbyeTour, 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 nativesLocal Natives  – Hummingbird 
Released January 29, 2013
Frenchkiss Records

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 producedHummingbird. 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 someattention upon release, but it deserves more. -Jillian Mapes


joy formidableJoy Formidable – Wolf’s Law
Released January 21, 2013
Atlantic Records

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.” WhileThe 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


frank turnerFrank Turner – Tape Deck Heart
Released April 22, 2013
Interscope Records

Turner’s on his way to legend status in the U.K. as an anarchist-leaning singer-songwriter who’s played to Wimbley Stadium crowds. His roots come from the hardcore scene, but Frank Turner changed the game when he realized he could make as bold a statement with an acoustic guitar and tattoos as he could with an amp. His latest album, Tape Deck Heart, is perhaps his biggest act of anarchy yet: a deep dive into his own psyche after a rough break-up. The songs literally strip him bare, placing the blame for a love gone wrong on himself, his lifestyle choices and occasionally his lover. It’s one part barroom sing-along, one part emo and one part romantic. All parts add up to a folk-rock album you don’t want to miss. -Courtney E. Smith


flaming lipsThe Flaming Lips – The Terror
Released April 16, 2013
Warner Bros. Records

These icons of art-rock are a major label anomaly, producing more than 20 years’ worth of gloriously experimental psychedelic jams peppered with bona fide hits, like “She Don’t Use Jelly” (from 1993′sTransmissions from the Satellite Heart) and “Do You Realize,” (from the band’s 2002 magnum opus, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots). For their most recent full-length, The Terror, however, the Flaming Lipseschewed their more upbeat, life-affirming side to delve into a dark and dour concept album based around the absence of hope and ultimately, death. It’s hardly a crowd-pleaser, but this wrenching and downbeat collection that touches on frontman Wayne Coyne’s 25-year relationship coming to an end and longtime bandmate Steven Drozd’s drug relapse is ultimately a rewarding listen, worthy of more attention than wacky “news” about Coyne’s hi-jinks with Ke$ha that have stolen the spotlight in recent years. –Scott T. Sterling



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