July kicks off next week and that means 2013 is half over, y’all! A lot of music has been been released this year, and whether it’s via a returning veteran or a fresh up-and-comer, we now present you with VH1 staff picks for the best songs of the year (so far…)
Emily’s Pick: Heartthrob, Tegan & Sara
#OnRepeat since January, the mix of euphoric songs of infatuation and devastating heartbreak are just enough to make me dance on the subway.
Rahsheeda’s Pick: Anything In Return, Toro Y Moi
If you miss the highly-synthesized sounds of ‘80s R&B, this one’s for you. The complexities of modern love never sounded so funky.
Meghan’s Pick: DNA, Little Mix
Little Mix’s DNA is the best debut pop music album since Lady Gaga’s The Fame and La Roux’s… uh… La Roux both debuted in 2008. What does that mean? It means every song on the album is an unabashedly pulpy pop hit that will get into your head and get you on your feet.
Orlando’s Pick: Born Sinner, J. Cole
Rap haters always complain that lyricism is dead. Those critics don’t know about the storytelling of J. Cole. Born Sinner is a complete album that keeps you intrigued and entertained from start to finish.
Stacy’s Pick: The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake
JT is finally back! And back with a fantastic album that flows from one song to the next. Sure most songs are over five minutes, but I’m not going anywhere – I have time to jam out. Also “Blue Ocean Floor” is an unexpected gem. (Yeezus by Kanye West is easily a close second.)
Mark’s Pick: Modern Vampires Of The City, Vampire Weekend
Those who dismissed Vampire Weekend as a bunch of financially privileged, Upper East Side Paul Simon knock-off artists have been forced to reconsider their position in the days and weeks following the release of the band’s third full-length. Lead singer Ezra Konig has taken the proverbial “leap” as a lyricist, spending much of the album contemplating his evolving relationship with mortality, religion and God. It’s a bold work that rewards repeated listens, but thanks its confident and assured production, can be equally enjoyed by those who are simply on the lookout for catchy riffs and elegant melodies. Stand out tracks include “Diane Young,” “Obvious Bicycle” and the sublime “Hannah Hunt.”
RUNNER-UP: Pedestrian Verse, Frightened Rabbit
Jordan’s Pick: Almanac, Widowspeak
Despite its February release, the sophomore record from this Brooklyn band has a witchy harvest moon glow. Molly Hamilton’s drowsy crystalline vocals sit as the crown jewel among Robert Thomas’ interstellar overdrive guitar figures. Sure, the “Fleetwood Mac in High Def!” comparisons are tiresome -but fairly accurate. Hypnotic drums from Kyle Jacques will lull you into a pop dreamworld, but listener beware: These cats have claws.
Caity’s Pick: Reincarnated, Snoop Lion
I was pretty hesitant when the D-O-Double G announced reggae was his true calling but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved most of the tracks on this record. Sometimes change is good!
Ben’s Pick: Like Clockwork, Queens Of The Stone Age
The band returns from hiatus to take their place in the rock’s premiere league with their strongest, most cohesive album to date. Heavy without being cumbersome, experimental without being aloof, melodic but not pop, this is what hard rock sounds like in the future.
Lacey’s Pick: Overgrown, James Blake
It’s hard to describe what happens when emotion-provoking machines meet Blake’s voice. Whether it’s the tender title track, the RZA-featured “Take A Fall For Me,” or “Digital Lion,” each cut on this LP is special, and played consecutively, they take you somewhere else. (J. Cole’s Born Sinner earns the silver medal in this category.)