The Top 20 Albums of 2013

5. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

“Headphones music" might be a tired way of labeling electronic offerings that sit at the gentler end of the spectrum, but it's hard to describe Mount Kimbie any other way. Cold Spring, Fault Less Youth, the London duo's second album together and first on the legendary Warp Records, feels like a victory march for fans all things restrained and meticulous. The tracks where angst-extraordinaire King Krule features ( You Took Your Time and Meter, Pale, Tone respectively) stand out as affecting highlights in an album that sucks you in from start to finish. Who wants a big-room banger when you could get lost in this? [Katie Cunningham]

4. Maya Jane Coles – Comfort

Comfort has been long in the making – Coles says she’s been working on it for at least four years, and some of the initial ideas date back to her teens, when she first started playing music. It’s a far cry from your typical collection of tracks re-purposed from earlier hits; instead it’s made up entirely of vocal tunes, and almost all new material. House is a definite connecting thread, but the album explores many styles and tempos of contemporary electronic music, from indie to dubby breakbeats. Coles herself handles lead vocals on the bulk of the album; guest turns include Karin Park, Miss Kittin, Kim Ann Foxman from Hercules & Love Affair, and none other than Tricky. It’s all knit together with Coles’ lush sonic sensibility. Massive Attack and their progeny such as Lamb and Goldfrapp are obvious signposts; as are more recent and indie-ish acts like Hercules and The xx.

My generation was seduced into the underground by crossover acts like Deee-Lite; Maya Jane is probably destined to be a hero to kids thirsty for intelligence in their dance music and awakening to new sounds. Even better if she’s a symbol of girl power. [Jim Poe]

3. Darkside – Psychic

We won't lie to you – inthemix very nearly crowned Psychic our album of the year. The debut record from Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington's Darkside project was always going to be one for the end-of-year lists – what with Jaar's proven track record and he and Harrington's long history as like-minded bandmates – but even with expectations high, Psychic still managed to floor us. It's nothing short of a visionary effort, consuming and urgent in the way only the best music is. It's also further proof – as if we needed it – that Nicolas Jaar is one of the very best producers working in the electronic sphere today. [Katie Cunningham]

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

The universal appeal of this Random Access Memories is not only deserved but well-timed. Daft Punk came along with their analogue synthesizers and their robot costumes and placed themselves, like a postmodern Trojan horse, right into the middle of a frighteningly inhuman mass culture with the most intensely human music that could be imagined right now.

It must feel like a triumph for collaborator Nile Rodgers, 30 years after he was left out in the cold by the ‘death’ of disco and a fickle music business. When it comes to chart-topping sounds, if the choice is between Random Access Memories and something else – say mindless EDM on the one hand and The Voice on the other – we’d have to take this every time, are you kidding? [Jim Poe]

1. Gesaffelstein – Aleph

Yep, Aleph was the best album to come out this year, and here’s why. Mike Levy’s debut album is the fully formed realisation of five years of experiments in creating his own unique sound that seemingly came out of nowhere: industrial, primal, paranoid, dystopian techno. It’s underground music for late nights at Berghain, and yet it’s been picked for the backing of a major label marketing campaign. While there are no explicit references to art in Levy’s music, he’s made his interest in art history abundantly clear in interviews, and there’s a strong feeling of connection with the grotesques of Hieronymus Bosch or Pieter Brueghel the Elder: nightmarish, post-apocalyptic visions.

Then there’s Levy’s mysteriousness, his carefully studied personal aesthetic (face it, you either want to fuck him, be him, or both) and the powerful, symbolism-rich video clips. And there are the high profile collaborations about which he just DGAFOS (on working with Kanye: “I did the Kanye stuff not because I’m a fan, but because for me it’s interesting to make some new music in an old style”). But most of all, it’s the best album of the year because it sounds like nothing else out there. [Nick Jarvis]