When we began compiling our Best Albums of 2013 list, there were many differing opinions, and after briefly toying with the idea of pitting all our staff against one another in a Hunger Games fight-to-the-death scenario against the backdrop of Times Square, we conceded that the most diplomatic and least murderous thing to do would be to each submit our own list. You know, in the name of preserving a civil work environment and whatnot (not to mention our longstanding policy of avoiding contact with the human resources department). So while we didn’t battle it out in a conference room or some such nonsense, each one of us faced an internal battle — choosing our favorite albums of the year.
As far as consensus is concerned, there were 39 LPs that appeared on multiple ballots, but only 10 that appeared on five or more lists:
- Beyoncé’s BEYONCÉ, HAIM’s Days Are Gone and Kanye West’s Yeezus (9 ballots each)
- Lorde, Pure Heroine (8 ballots)
- Disclosure’s Settle (7 ballots)
- Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City (6 ballots each)
- Drake’s Nothing Was The Same, Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Collection Pt. 1 and Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob (5 ballots each)
Now, on with the show!
VH1 STAFF PICKS FOR THE BEST ALBUM OF 2013
Toro Y Moi, Anything In Return — Anything In Return was an early 2013 entry, but it was too amazing to be forgotten by year’s end. Toro Y Moi, also known as Chaz Bundick, had been known for pioneering the chillwave scene of the late aughts, but he expanded on his production skills on his third LP. Heavily evoking 80s synth R&B, Anything In Return is a funky ride through love’s sometimes murky territory.
James Blake, Overgrown — In a year where we heard hits that harkened back to the sounds of yesteryear (“Get Lucky,” anyone?), James Blake hurtled us toward a future landscape that was sonically sparse yet emotionally rich. However, the dubstep wunderkind wasn’t completely moody on his second LP. He did manage to add a little bounce to keep our heads nodding.
Laura Mvula, Sing To The Moon — If harmony is your thing, Laura Mvula’s Sing To The Moon has it in abundance. The British singer’s vocals feel empowering on certain tracks and haunting on others. Many of the album’s compositions feel almost orchestral, encompassing listeners and allowing you to lose yourself in the beautiful melodies.
Kanye West, Yeezus — Okay, we all know that Kanye was in total braggadocious mode all year, but we can’t really hate on Yeezus, the rapper’s sixth studio LP. You can totally feel that Kanye wanted to break hip-hop out of its comfort zone, with songs tinged with electronic and rock motifs.
Hiatus Kaiyote, Tawk Tomahawk — Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Hiatus Kaiyote made their mark this year with their soulful debut album. Tawk Tomahawk blends hip-hop, funk, and R&B in a way that can serve as the perfect soundtrack to any low-key house party.
1. HAIM, Days Are Gone
2. Johnny Marr, The Messenger
3. Lorde, Pure Heroine
4. Various Artists, Teen Beach Movie Soundtrack
5. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
6. The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
7. Disclosure, Settle
1. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories — Been a fan of Daft Punk’s for quite some time now and as soon as they premiered their 60 second snippet of “Get Lucky” on SNL I was HOOKED. I spent the time leading up to the album release eating up any and all content having to do with R.A.M and what they delivered was my absolute favorite album of the year. A disco album from the originators of EDM seems like a significant departure for the French duo…and it is. On RAM they take the time to visit sounds of the 70s and 80s and produce it with such impeccable quality it’s to be commended. They hired the world’s best session musicians and holed up in the best recording studios to deliver a proper album. One that the listener can feel invested in from beginning to end. I still go back to Random Access Memories, on a daily basis, and find different ways to fall in love with it [there’s got to be a better way to say that].
Recommended Songs: “Get Lucky”, “Fragments Of Time”, “Beyond”, “The Game Of Love”
2. Arctic Monkeys, AM — An utterly fantastic album from a band that put out its first record in 2006 and released one of my favorite songs of 2007 (“Fluorescent Adolescent”). Happy to report these guys keep getting better with age. This is, without a doubt, my favorite album of theirs. It’s 70s inspired rock with a hint of…R&B. It’s great from beginning to end with awesome bass lines, falsetto backing vocals, and hip hop influenced beats.
Recommended Songs: “Knee Socks” (features backing vocals from Queens Of The Stone Age singer Josh Homme), “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High”, “I Want It All”
4. Disclosure, Settle — Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence have undoubtedly released the best dance record of the year with Settle. A brilliant collection of 90s house inspired songs that delve into moments of hip hop and dubstep. On Settle, they bring in a slew of guest vocalists (Friendly Fires’ Ed McFarlane, Sam Smith, Jessie Ware, and Jamie Woon to name a few) that make for a handful of fantastic moments on the album. Kick things off with “White Noise” and follow it up with “Latch, and “Help Me Lose My Mind”.
5. Foals, Holy Fire — A band I’ve been following since their very first album, Antidotes, was released in 2008. Holy Fire is their most accessible work yet. Don’t let the word ‘accessible’ be a deterrent, this could be their best work yet. Working with producers Flood (U2, Sigur Ros, Nick Cave) and Alan Moulder (The Killers, Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins) the band bring us an album with excellent riffs (“Inhaler” – what a song. sure to wake you up. It’s like a swift kick in the crotch), MASSIVE builds (“Milk & Black Spiders” and “Late Night”), oh and it could get you to dance (“My Number”).
Recommended tracks: ALL of them.
7. James Blake, Overgrown — Blake might be an acquired taste for some or even polarizing for a majority of folks but Overgrown incorporates more R&B and hip hop elements than his debut and it might offer an entryway for listeners that weren’t convinced the first time around. His emotive vocals again are on full display alongside relatively sparse instrumentation and it’s a real treat.
Recommended Songs: “Life Round Here”, “Retrograde”, “DLM”, “To The Last”
8. Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg — Last year’s list had me list JB’s EP as one of my top albums of the year. The 19-year-old turned in an equally commendable self titled LP in 2013 full of some pretty excellent folk rock songs. His best work comes in the form of track #5, “Simple As This”.
Recommended Songs: “Simple As This”, “Two Fingers”, “Someone Told Me”, “Lightning Bolt”
9. St. Lucia, When The Night — Fell in love with the pop tunes St. Lucia had managed to expertly craft back a few years ago at SXSW. Their full length debut is the perfect summer album drawing on influences from the 80s (think Duran Duran, Toto, Peter Gabriel). Or a perfect winter album if you’re like me and looking to will warmer weather back to the East Coast.
Recommended tracks: “Elevate”, “All Eyes On You”, “September”, “Too Close”
10. HAIM, Days Are Gone — Not only are these some of the funniest ladies I’ve had the distinct pleasure of meeting BUT they also happen write some great tunes. You know, of the sometimes 90s pop/rock, sometimes 90s R&B variety. They’re so talented at creating catchy ditties we even named the band a You Oughta Know artist this past October. Days Are Gone is a good time. No doubt about it. VH1 You Oughta Know alum Jessie Ware lends her writing talents to the title track “Days Are Gone” and it’s my favorite moment in the album. “My Song 5” is the biggest departure from the rest of the album but with its badass riff it pays off. Be sure to also check out “Forever” and “Falling.”
11. Rudimental, Home— The UK quartet manage to introduce a variety of influences (dubstep, drum and bass, house, reggae) on this pop album. They’ve recruited some awesome vocal talents – Ella Eyre (fantastic), John Newman (now climbing the charts in the US with his own single), Alex Clare (achieved US success with his single “Too Close”), and Emeli Sandé. “Not Giving In” has an EPIC chorus that’s well suited for any and all sporting events. I’d be remiss If I forgot to mention their ability to create some excellent music videos to accompany their songs – check out the videos for “Not Giving In”, “Waiting All Night” and “Free”.
Recommended tracks: “Not Giving In”, “Free”, “Spoons”, “Waiting All Night”
1. Arctic Monkeys, AM
2. M.I.A, Matagni
3. The 1975, The 1975
4. Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail
5. The Palma Violets, 180
6. Foals, Holy Fire
7. HAIM, Days Are Gone
8. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
9. Sleigh Bells, Bitter Rivals
10. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
11. Peace, In Love
12. Kurt Vile, Walking On A Pretty Daze
13. John Grant, Pale Green
14. Yo La Tengo, Fade
15. chvrches, the bones of what you believe
Ranked by year-end mood order (not calibrated for any other time of the calendar year):
1. My Bloody Valentine, mbv — Yes, this month is all about Beyonce, but these fuzz noise masters were the first to drop an album on the Internet out of nowhere– and after a 22 year gap!
2. M.I.A., Matangi – I’m so devoted that she could release only a holiday card next year and I’d still rank it.
3. Yuck, Glow & Behold — Do not yuck someone else’s yum.
4. Upset, She’s Gone — Ex-Best Coast, ex-Hole members team up for great grrl power pop.
5. Savages, Silence Yourself — Such fury, I’m almost afraid to listen to this album sometimes.
6. Disclosure, Settle — If Haim is 2013’s best sister act, the Lawrences earn props for brothers.
7. Mark Mulcahy, Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You — His voice endorsed by Thom Yorke, his words by Rick Moody: worthy recommendations.
8. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz – Miley said we can’t stop (listening.)
9. Speedy Ortiz, Major Arcana – Vintage year for what was once dubbed “college rock,” this album among them.
10. Valerie June, Pushin’ Against A Stone — H/T to a pal who recommended and she’s echt Brooklyn in the what’s-old-is-new sense.
11. The Replacements, Songs For Slim (EP) — OK, I admit I am grading on a curve, but when one of your all-time favorite bands reemerge, it’s automatically listworthy.
1. Kanye West, Yeezus — The anti-Timberlake, Kanye released his album with little notice, and repeatedly said he didn’t care about producing radio-worthy singles or breaking sales records. What results is a unique and at times laugh out loud collection of Yeezy’s narcissistic musings, as well as serious racial and political commentary, plus his best use of Charlie Wilson’s signature vocals yet.
2. Beyoncé, Beyonce — DID YOU NOT HEAR THAT BEYONCE DROPPED A SURPRISE ALBUM ON ITUNES WITH NO PRIOR WARNING?! And the best part is it’s wonderful–“flawless” even.
3. HAIM, Days Are Gone — Fleetwood Mac minus the break-ups and drugs (we hope). These sisters and YOK alums reinvented the family band and produced a debut album full of jams to keep you toe-tapping at work.
4. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience Part 1 — After nearly a seven-year absence from the music world, it was difficult for JT not to be swallowed by hype and expectation. It’s not a follow-up to the inventive sounds of FutureSex/LoveSounds but a throwback to the big band styles of old, with Justin taking his time (literally–go ahead and try to find a song under six minutes) to prove he has one of the best crooners in the biz.
5. Bastille, Bad Blood — I’ve had the English newcomer’s debut release #ONREPEAT for a while, and that’s mainly due to lead singer Dan Smith’s distinct voice. “Pompeii” is infectious and at this point seems destined for use in future Winter Olympics/March Madness/World Cup promotion.
6. Drake, Nothing Was The Same — The majority of Drake’s third release focuses on the women in his life–his exes, his mom and a former Hooter’s waitress, just to name a few. But it’s not all just the contemplative and “sad” stuff that’s created Drake memes of old. “Started From The Bottom” is the brash bragging anthem of the year, “Come Thru” manage to combine late night booty calls with chicken orders and bonus track “All Me” features the greatest use of 2 Chainz’ fashion knowledge and the so-goofy-it’s-great stylings of Big Sean to perfection.
8. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob — All I want to get is… more T&S releases like this forever and ever and ever.
9. Local Natives, Hummingbird— With billowing vocals and resonating percussions, the band’s sophomore release is just as haunting as its first. It’s also the best album to fall asleep to–and I mean that in the best way.
10. Demi Lovato, Demi — While Miley was twerking and Selena was robbing chicken shacks in a bikini, their friend released the best purely-pop album of the former Disney stars.
1. Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
2. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City
3. Kanye West, Yeezus
4. Beyoncé, Beyoncé
5. Lorde, Pure Heroine
6. Tegan And Sara, Heartthrob
7. Diane Birch, Speak A Little Louder
8. Guards, In Guards We Trust
9. The Naked And Famous, In Rolling Waves
10. Johnny Marr, The Messenger
1. Waxahatchee, Cruelean Salt
2. Kanye West, Yeezus
3. Radiator Hospital, Something Wild
4. My Bloody Valentine, mbv
5. Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait
6. Joanna Gruesome, Weird Sister
7. Mikal Cronin, MCII
8. Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
9. All Dogs, split tape w/ Slouch
10. Dan Penn, The Fame Recordings
Tegan & Sara, Heartthrob
Kanye West, Yeezus
St. Lucia, When The Night
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City
Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
Chris Garneau, Winter Games
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience Pt. 1
Best Coast, Fade Away
Various Artists, Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack
V V Brown, Samson & Delilah
1. MS MR, Secondhand Rapture
2. St. Lucia, St. Lucia
3. Paramore, Paramore
4. Bastille, Bad Blood
5. Lorde, Pure Heroine
6. Pacific Air, Stop Talking
7. The Kin, Get on It
8. Drake, nothing was the same
9. Jhene Aiko, Sail out
10. Childish Gambino, because the internet
1. The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
2. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
3. The Lone Bellow, The Lone Bellow
4. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
5. Jamie N Commons – Desperation Blues EP
6. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
7. Moon Taxi – Mountains Beaches Cities
8. Ivan & Alyosha – All The Times We Had
9. Kings Of Leon – Mechanical Bull
10. The Neighbourhood – I Love You
5. Bad Religion, True North
4. Savages, Silence Yourself
3. Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks
2. Clutch – Earth Rocker
1. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
James Blake, Overgrown
Arcade Fire, Reflektor
Blood Orange, Cupid Deluxe
Danny Brown, Old
Washed Out, Paracosm
The Flaming Lips, The Terror
Juicy J, Stay Trippy
Wavves, Afraid of Heights
I won’t waste your time with giving you 10 albums or 10 songs that were “the best in 2013.” The music industry has become super saturated with tempo formulas, over-compressed sounds, and sound-a-likes that are actually pretty pathetic if you really stop to listen to them. I only talk about the stuff worth listening to: the cream of the crop.
Various Artists, Love for Levon – a Benefit to Save the Barn — The best “live” album of 2013 was the Levon Helm Tribute album called Love for Levon. Perhaps one of America’s most soulful drummers/singers/songwriters in the short history of our country was The Band’s Levon Helm. Not only did Levon lay down a solid beat for one of America’s premiere bands, Levon sang some of The Band’s biggest hits and played the mandolin. I was fortunate enough to go to this concert held in my home state of New Jersey on October 3rd of 2012, but the album and DVD were released in 2013. The album is star-studded with real musicians, not just flash-in-the-pan pop stars with zero longevity. Some of the music legends paying tribute to Levon are Roger Waters, Gregg Allman, Joe Walsh, Bruce Horsnby, Warren Haynes, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Lucinda Williams, Jorma Kaukonen, and many more. There is also love given to Levon from the new generation of musicians like John Mayer, Robert Randolph, My Morning Jacket, and Grace Potter. The highlights are “Ophelia” by My Morning Jacket, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Roger Waters and My Morning Jacket, “Up On Cripple Creek” by Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph, and of course the encore, “The Weight”, performed by everybody!
Alice in Chains, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here — Grunge is not dead. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains are all still going strong more than 20 years after the “grunge explosion” of the early ’90s. Soundgarden put out a great album last year, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains both put out albums this year, and I think Alice in Chains deserves a moment of recognition. Sure, Pearl Jam is by far more popular then Alice in Chains and PJ’s album Lightning Bolt will sell more, but to me, The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here is the best produced studio album of 2013. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (who has also produced Rush & Foo Fighters, just to name a few) the production quality is absolutely superb. The vocals and harmonies are mixed perfectly with the music and you can hear every single instrument clearly. There is absolutely no competition for frequencies on this album, which is a nod not only to Nick, but to the band and their leader Jerry Cantrell, who crafts the songs with this in mind. There is not really any song on the album that stands out to me as a highlight because they’re all equally awesome.
Sting, The Last Ship — It took me a few listens to understand the genius of this album. Most people will immediately dismiss this album because it is “way different” then anything Sting has ever done before; however, it’s similar to his 1990 masterpiece, The Soul Cages (which is my favorite Sting album). The Last Ship is his most non-pop friendly effort to date, pushing the envelope by abandoning pop formulas, calling upon his seafaring English roots as inspiration for the music, rhythm, and lyrics. Sting studied English literature and folk music as a youngster growing up in the port town of Wallsend, and this album reflects this. The lyrics are full of maritime and small town imagery, delivered in a cadence and style only Sting can provide. My favorite songs on the album has to be “What Have We Got” which is collaboration with a famous English musician /actor, James Nail.
Beyoncé, Beyonce — It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re dying over “XO,” or not. What matters is that Beyonce literally changed the way albums are created and marketed overnight. Not only that, but she probably saved the album as an art form.
Lorde, Pure Heroine — Lorde’s first full-length album is not only an incredibly self-assured debut from a teen artist, but it also provided a welcome respite from the overly sexualized, auto-tuned ’80s throwback sounds that most pop divas have been favoriting lately.
Little Mix, DNA — Even though Little Mix was birthed from the British X Factor, there’s nothing gimmicky about their approach to pop music. If it’s not enough that they continually deliver tautly written pop ditties, they also have the biggest and tightest harmonies since En Vogue.
Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady — Janelle Monae continued her quest to eschew pop cliches and get music back to a place where style and substance flow into each other with futuristic soul.
Bastille, Bad Blood — The British alt rock scene hasn’t been as vibrant or innovative lately as it was a few years ago, but Bastille proved with Bad Blood that there’s still some spirit and innovation to be found–not to mention it’s got some of the most heart-thumping melodies in the past year.
1. David Bowie, The Next Day — This is the real music story of 2013. After nearly 10-years of absence, David Bowie dropped what could easily be the best album of the year with The Next Day. The record is vintage Bowie: clever, melodic, and edgy. Now the man can tis his hair and put on leotards anytime, anywhere and we won’t mind.
Top Track: “Valentine’s Day”
2. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City — Modern Vampires of the City is perceived as the darkest Vampire Weekend album to date. But it’s remarkable that they achieved it without extensive use of cellos playing slow minor notes. Perfect for weekend drives with vamps.
Top Track: “Step”
3. Kanye West, Yeezus — Let’s get it straight right here. Kanye is not Beethoven nor is he Shakespeare or Gaudi. He is Kanye West and he is amazing at being just that. Yeezus is a masterpiece that transcends his genre and goes beyond labels and classifications. But feel free to use the word genius.
Top Track: “Blood On The Leaves”
4. Arctic Monkeys, AM — Arctic Monkeys records are usually best served cold. But their new album AM is just too hot for that. It is heavy, groovy with traces of soul, and enough references to their British rock heritage. This is without a doubt their best album since their unforgettable debut. While their debut is perfect mosh pit music, AM is also great for that but with an added extended middle finger to boot.
Top Track: Arabella
5. Lorde, Pure Heroine — Just like the album title, this debut record from the teen phenom from New Zealand drowns the listener with enough serotonin to generate pleasure, bliss, and addiction. Pure Heroine is so amazing that withdrawal symptoms occur when the music stops. That Lorde comes off as the antithesis of today’s twerk-crazed teen pop idols is even more impressive.
Top Track: “Royals”
Top Track: “Sirens”
7. Paul McCartney, New — Sir Macca’s latest record is a return to form of sorts after the saccharine-elevator sounds of his previous release, Kisses From The Bottom. Right from the very beginning of this new album, you are immediately placed into familiar territory where Wings and The Beatles reside. And in a universe were anything Beatles is still being heartily consumed by the public, that’s all he needs to be and nowhere else.
Top Track: “On My Way To Work”
8. Beyoncé, Beyoncé — Just like that. Beyoncé released what could be the most important album of the century and went back to sleep. It was the album drop that literally woke everyone up. 14 amazing songs, each accompanied by intricately shot music videos or mini movies and made available only on iTunes as a full album download. It was bold, beautiful and bombastic. Though the songs may not be the greatest ever written, the album is certainly the most impactful in terms of marketing and music as an art form.
Top Track: “Drunk In Love”
9. Johnny Marr, The Messenger — When The Smiths disbanded in 1986, Morrissey embarked on a successful solo career. Johnny Marr, however, did not. What he did was to collaborate with various artists often lending them his songwriting gifts or the unmistakable twang and jangle of his signature guitar sound. But in 2013, he released his first solo album, The Messenger. Perhaps he figured that it was time to step out of the shadows of others and answer the question of who really was the soul behind The Smiths. The Messenger answered it in marr-velous fashion.
Top Track: “Upstarts”
10. Travis, Where You Stand — Coldplay’s Chris Martin once said that he’s the poor man’s version of Travis front man and chief songwriter Fran Healy. While today’s music fans would probably dismiss Chris Martin’s claim, this is not the case for fans who caught the tail end of Britpop in the late 90s. For them, Healy and Travis single-handedly invented a genre that Coldplay treaded along with other soft rock groups in the early 2000s. Where You Stand is Travis’ first record in five years and it proves that the Scottish group hasn’t lost a beat.
Top Track: “Reminder”
1. Lorde, Pure Heroine
2. Phoenix, Bankrupt!
3. Drake, Nothing Was The Same
4. Beyoncé, Beyoncé
5. Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
6. The Head And The Heart, Let’s Be Still
7. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady
8. Local Natives, Hummingbird
9. The National, Trouble Will Find Me –
10. Arcade Fire, Reflektor
5. HAIM, Days Are Gone — We got a taste with their EP last year, but we were hungry for the main course from these three Cali sisters. They finally delivered in September, presenting a album full of playful up-tempo tracks that take the best from early Madonna, late Fleetwood Mac, and a hefty dose of The Pretenders. Mix with a dash of synths and serve loud. Fun for ages 10 and up.
4. Rhye, Woman — The twist (if you can call it that) is that the smooth Sade-esque femininely feline purr is actually the the falsetto of Michael Milosh. Interesting androgyny aside, the debut work from this Canadian/Danish twosome is fascinating for it’s dense layers of harmonies and airy trance-inducing instrumental work. It’s the perfect chill-out music for those long winter nights.
3. Paul McCartney, NEW — It’s a miracle anytime we get a full length offering from one-half of Lennon and McCartney, but this one was Macca’s most spirited album in years. Awesome production work from the likes of Mark Ronson, Paul Epworth, and Giles Martin made it sparkle, but the ol’ Beatle-magic made it shine.
2. Windowspeak, Almanac — The sophomore record from this Brooklyn band has a witchy harvest moon glow. Molly Hamilton’s drowsy 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.
1. Kanye West, Yeezus: “I Am A God” Yeezy raps on this manic ode to sound. And yet for the sheer original scope of the record, you can’t help but believe him. Layered and complex but never inaccessible or dull, the record is some of the most imaginative music being made today. Love or hate him (there are many who feel strongly in both camps), you can’t deny that he’s amazingly good at what he does.
Best Album of 2013: Disclosure, Settle — Does dance music get any better than this? Or music, period? For me, this album far outpaced any other in listens this year, and every few weeks a new favorite track emerged. Producers Guy and Howard Lawrence roped in some incredible talents to lend vocals to their debut album — Sam Smith, Jessie Ware, Aluna George, London Grammar. It’s an irresistible and exhilarating 13-track adventure.
Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
Jessie Ware, Devotion
Kurt Vile, Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Lorde, Pure Heroine
Studio Killers, Studio Killers
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
VV Brown, Samson and Delilah
1. Foals, Holy Fire
2. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
3. Volcano Choir – Repave
4. J. Cole, Born Sinner
5. Disclosure – Settle
6. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
7. St. Lucia, When the Night
8. HAIM, Days Are Gone
9. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
10. Kanye West, Yeezus
1. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz — The lyrics and beats on this album are PERFECTION and it’s my favorite album in 2013.
2. The 1975, The 1975 — Sexy sing-a-long pop rock #HotChocolate
3. Lady Gaga, ARTPOP — Underrated genius start to finish #A-R-T-P-O-P
4. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park — She wrote Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart so was already a star in my mind, this album solidified that. “Follow Your Arrow Wherever it Points.”
5. Diane Birch, Speak A Little Louder — The first note of the first track grabbed my ear and still hasn’t let go.
1. Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
2. HAIM, Days Are Gone
3. Danny Brown, Old
4. Alkaline Trio, My Shame is True
5. Pearl Jam, Lightning Bolt
6. Restorations, LP2
7. Cults, Static
8. Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart
9. The Bronx, IV
10. Phoenix, Bankrupt!
BEN SMITH, Sr. Programming Manager (@bhsmithNYC)
These are some records that came out this year that I heard that I liked, kind of in this order. There might be some other records I didn’t get to hear yet that I would like almost as much, but alas, I have not heard them yet so these 6 will have to do.
Queens Of The Stone Age, …Like Clockwork — Released with perfect timing as the band steps onto the big rock mainstage. Still heavy but no longer leaden, sonically and thematically ambitious without being overproduced or pretentious.
Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Mind Control — If The Fab Four were actually Tony, Geezer, George and Ringo, it would sound a lot like this.
Earthless, From the Ages — Balls-out instrumental psych rock not unlike Jimi jamming with Zeppelin’s rhythm section. Virtuosic with a small v.
Human Eye, 4: Into Unknown — Messy, uncouth and freewheeling space fuzz from the Francis Bacon of Detroit scuzz, Timmy Vulgar and his motley crew.
The Night Marchers, Allez! allez! — Punk rock and roll is about loud guitars strummed aggressively. Main Marcher John Reis has always been very good at this.
1. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
2. Lorde, Pure Heroine
3. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
4. Kanye West, Yeezus
5. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
6. Portugal. The Man, Evil Friends
7. HAIM, Days Are Gone
8. Danny Brown, Old
9. Jake Bugg, Shangri La
10. The National, Trouble Will Find Me
1. Arctic Monkeys, AM — The sexiest album of the year was delivered by the British quartet on their most mature and groove filled album yet. California hip-hop beats and Alex Turner’s needy lyrics, sung with that perfect hung over hunger. Everything from Aaliyah to Black Sabbath can be heard in ‘AM’ and it’s a delight to see the growth these guys have achieved.
2. Lorde, Pure Heroine — It’s almost impossible to find a flaw on this debut album, which works well as singles or when listened to as a whole. The perfect break from this year’s sugary sweet pop assault. If this is her debut album, I can only imagine what we have in store for us in the next few years.
3. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City — Their best album yet. Ezra’s lyrics get deeper and more obtuse while the melodies get mellower and more surprising.
4. Justin Timberlake, 20/20 Experience Part 1 — We waited for it and he delivered. The songs are long but worth the run time for the non-stop falsettos and grooves.
5. Beyoncé, Beyoncé — The surprise that shot round the world. Beyonce’s new album is all sex and sass and features the most risqué lyrics and production we’ve seen from her yet. Still need more time to digest it but I’m comfortable putting it here as of now.
6. Bastille, Bad Blood — British up and comers Bastille delivered one of the most cohesive and interesting albums of the year full of big layered vocals and beautiful production.
7. James Blake, Overgrown — The quietest album on this list, James Blake was a revelation on Overgrown, giving us moody, rainy Sunday morning music.
8. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories — “Instant Crush” may be a bigger star than “Get Lucky” in my mind, but the whole album delivered the old school funk we didn’t know we needed.
9. Declan Bennett, Record: BREAKUP Live — This live record from relatively unknown British actor/singer/songwriter Declan Bennett was a real gift: vulnerable, heartbreaking and raw.
10. One Direction, Midnight Memories — Pop confection mixed with Mumford-esque banjos and stadium shaking choruses, One Direction grew up and kept on making hits. Some real surprises were on this album that I could not stop listening to. Worth giving a chance.
Beyoncé, Beyoncé — On some level, it’s just not a fair game when Beyonce is playing. The surprising release of her latest album made me forget about all the other albums that came out in 2013. I’ve had the album on autoplay since its release. She pours on the sexy with a dash of hood blended with nostalgic sounds.
My favorite four songs are:
1. “Rocket” — Sexy, sexy, sexy! The song reminds me of D’Angelo in his heyday while she sings seductively.
2. “Blow” — This song is dope but the visuals just takes this track to another level. The song is very Prince 80s era, it reminds me of Vanity 6/Apollonia.
3. “Flawless” — Another ladies anthem from Mrs. Carter. “I woke up like this, I woke up like this, We flawless, ladies tell ’em, I woke up like this, I woke up like this”
4. “Drunk in Love” — Sister girl goes from crazy to all out drunk in love. The love and affection that Jay Z and Beyonce share on this fun song reminds us why they are the Hottest couple around and why many of us want to be just like them.
Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail — Jay’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail is an album that teaches all these little up and coming artists how the real King of this Game we call Hip Hop does it. It’s obvious on this album Jay Z doesn’t follow the crowd, he leads the crowd with a variety of different sounds on this very artistic album. Jay Z delivers songs for everyone, “Holy Grail” (featuring J.T.) is a pop friendly track where he talks about his love affair with being a celebrity. The club banger “F*ckWithMeYouKnoIGotIt” brings us back to Jay’s flossing his status while staying the hard core mastermind he is.
Favorite albums of 2013:
1. Aloe Blacc, Wake Me Up
2. Beyoncé, Beyoncé
3. HAIM, Days Are Gone
4. Jessie Ware, Devotion
5. John Newman, Love Me Again EP
6. Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience – 2 of 2
7. Labrinth, Beneath Your Beautiful EP
8. Rhye, Woman
9. Stacy Barthe, P.S. I Still Love You EP
10. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
1. Beyoncé, BEYONCÉ — Bow Down B*****s! See and hear for yourself.
2. Drake, Nothing Was the Same — He said it, nothing is the same after Drake.
3. Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d city — Allow him to introduce himself. If you didn’t know about Kendrick, you found out in 2013.
4. Justin Timerberlake, The 20/20 Experience — Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years!
5. Rihanna, Unapologetic — Technically 2012, but c’mon this was part of the soundtrack of 2013.
1. Majical Cloudz, Impersonator
2. The So So Glos, Blowout
3. Yvette, Process
4. Drake, Nothing Was The Same
5. Sky Ferreira, My Night My Time
6. Psychic Ills, One Track Mind
7. Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion
8. Mutual Benefit, Love’s Crushing Diamond
9. Widowspeak, Almanac
10. Drunken Sufis “Drone Wars” –
Chvrches, The Bones Of What You Believe
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
London Grammer, If You Wait
Lorde, Pure Heroine
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
Ellie Goulding, Halcyon Days
Drake, Nothing Was The Same