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Tom Calderone of VH1's Top CDs of 2013

Wondering what albums to present, in hardware or software form, as a holiday gift? Here's an exclusive list of the top titles of 2013 from VH1 president Tom Calderone, who got his start as an alternative-rock DJ.

“The cool thing about this year was an immense diversity,” Calderone (pictured with one of his favorite acts, Haim) told me recently. “Not everything sounded the same. You could look at Kurt Vile and John Grant as quote-unquote singer-songwriters, but coming with a totally different perspective on how they get their words across. On the other side you have the power of the women this year. Whether it’s MIA, who basically did the album that Gaga should have done. Then you have three sisters from California who started a family band, Haim, and all of a sudden became international superstars and now are starting to take over the United States. That has been fun to watch.”

He also enjoyed seeing established artists such as Arctic Monkeys produce “probably their most seminal, important album in their career.”

Herewith, the list:

1. Arctic Monkeys: AM.

2. M.I.A: Matangi.

3. The 1975: Self-titled debut album. “Very simply produced, but complex lyrics, complex layers of sound.”

4. Jay Z: Magna Carta Holy Grail. “Really edgy. His rhymes are great in this one.”

5. Palma Violets: 180. “When you listen to them they sound more jingle-jangle pop, but they are full on a rock band. They are just disruptive for all the right reasons.”

6. Foals: Holy Fire. “I’m really impressed with the way they have taken on an incredibly complex production style and made it into their own.”

7. Haim: Days Are Gone.

8. The National: Trouble Will Find Me. “For me, it’s all about [Matt Berninger’s] voice. And this album is really, really strong.”

9. Sleigh Bells: Bitter Rivals. “They rock out as hard as Muse does but add a little more hiphop and topicality to their music.”

10. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold. “Clever is the best way to describe them. I’m just really impressed with them.”

11. Peace: In Love. “If John Hughes was still making movies today, he would be using Peace as one of his bands, particularly this song called ‘Lovesick.’ ”

12. Kurt Vile: Wakin On A Pretty Daze.

13. John Grant: Pale Green Ghosts.

14. Yo La Tengo: Fade.

15. Chvrches: The Bones Of What You Believe. “They’ve had a lot of really great singles but this is the first time they’ve put together a strong, strong record, and I think this one’s going to through for the next year or so.”

(This originally appeared in Multichannel News' Through the Wire.)