AHHH YEAH!!! It’s here! After weeks of pondering, listing my favorite songs, and my rookie of the year, it is time for my top list, THE BEST ALBUMS OF 2013 (Applause). I will go through each of my favorite albums with a few sentences of analysis for each album and then go into more depth as I reach my top 5. You ready, lets go.
Toro y Moi – Anything In Return
Chillwave artist, Chaz Bundick, AKA, Toro y Moi, released Anything In Return in January of 2013. Although the album was released in the winter, the album has a very summer like feel. The production is very light and the album brings back Bundick’s Chillwave atmosphere. Many of the tracks tend to deal with more mature themes and issues such as his problems with women and relationships. These themes are executed very well in a way that doesn’t seem too emotionally draining on a listener, something that many artists fail to do.
Stand Out Tracks : “Harm In Charge”, “So Many Details”, “Touch”, “High Living”, “How’s It Wrong”
Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Sometimes, a hiatus from music is one of the best moves an artist can make. After his 2010 album Recovery, rapper Eminem took a three-year hiatus from the public eye and followed up his 2000 LP, Marshall Mathers with The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Overall, this project became a worthy follow-up continuing the story left behind in 2000. It features great features and production from Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, and Rick Rubin while also having a few catchy radio singles.
Stand Out Tracks : “Bad Guy”, “Rhyme or Reason”, “Legacy”, “Rap God”, “Love Game (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”, “Evil Twin”
Classixx - Hanging Gardens
When I wrote my list of my favorite 25 songs, it was a huge struggle to me mainly because this year had so many good tracks across genres. With that being said, the new album, Hanging Gardens by Classixx, made making that list so incredibly difficult because so many of their songs from this LP were so captivating. With bouncy production and appealing vocals, the album gives a great funky/retro vibe.
Stand Out Tracks : “All You’re Waiting For (feat. Nancy Whang)”, “Holding On”, “Long Lost (feat. Active Child)”, “A Stranger Lover (feat. Sarah Chernoff)”, “Borderline (feat. Jesse Kivel)”
Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae in 2010 released her debut studio album, The ArchAndroid. The album was an experimental concept album combining pop music and R&B. The follow-up to that project, The Electric Lady continues the same themes of her previous LP by continuing the story and using crossover genre appeal. The album features incredible guest appearances like Prince, Erykah Badu, Miguel, and Solange who help to bring more to the album. Tracks like “Dance Apocalyptic” “Ghetto Woman” and more continue to show herself more as an artist without the help of features.
Stand Out Tracks : “Givin Em What They Love (feat. Prince”, “Q.U.E.E.N. (feat. Erykah Badu), “PrimeTime (feat. Miguel)”, “Dance Apocalyptic”, “Ghetto Woman”, “Sally Ride”
A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP
Harlem rapper, A$AP Rocky, exploded in late 2011 when he released his mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP. After that, he released his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP in 2013. Unlike his mixtape, the latest LP features a more upgraded sound and even a more upgraded Rocky as his rhymes have become much better and he as a rapper has become much more versatile. Aside from his rapping, the production varies from the sounds of UGK and Bone Thugs and Harmony to styles kin to boom – bap and even electronic beats. The album is a worth while listen and definitely a great debut project.
Stand out Tracks: “Long.Live.A$AP” “Goldie” “LVL” “Wild for the Night( feat. Skrillex)” “1Train(feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big Krit)” “Suddenly”
Flatbush Zombies – Better Off Dead
The Beast Coast music in New York City is seriously picking up steam as new comers like Pro Era, The Underacheievers, and more are continuing to show a diverse look at rap. One of those groups, Flatbush Zombies, came through with a haunting mixtape, Better Off Dead. The mixtape features heavy topics like politics, religion, race all over chilling production provided by Eliot Arc Eliot.
Stand Out Tracks : “Nephlim”, “Bliss”, “Club Soda (feat. Action Bronson)”, “Drug Parade (feat. Danny Brown)”
The Weeknd – Kiss Land
No artist in recent years has probably been able to sing about drugs, sex, and love with so much passion other than Canadian singer, The Weeknd. The Weeknd returned in 2013 with his most mature project yet, Kiss Land. Unlike his previous projects, Kiss Land features a tamer dialogue of The Weeknd who sings more about the pain in relationship singing about his addictions and party happenings only in moderation. However, songs like title track “Kiss Land” return to that side of him show.
Stand Out Tracks : “Professional”, “The Town”, “Belong To The World”, “Kiss Land”, “Wanderlust (Pharrell Remix)”
Haim – Days Are Gone
Days Are Gone, the debut LP from L.A. band, Haim, features some of the best pop/rock tracks of the year. Their sound seems influenced by many classic rock artists from the 70s and 80s, but add a more updated/refreshed vibe to those sounds. Tracks like “Falling”, “The Wire”, and “My Song 5” are extremely captivating catchy tracks that show Haim’s versatility on a number of diverse production.
Stand Out Tracks : “Falling”, “The Wire”, “Days Are Gone”, “My Song 5”
Pusha T- My Name Is My Name
Right after Kendrick Lamar released his debut album last year, rapper Pusha T stated that he went back to the drawing board to create a more cohesive album. Lets just say his decision paid off. Pusha T’s first full length album since his days of Clipse continues to show his dominance in rapping but this time over a plethora of different types of production. Tracks like “Sweet Serenade” put Pusha in a club like atmosphere while tracks like “King Push”, “Numbers On The Board”, and “Nostalgia” show his dominance in lyricism. The album’s diversity in production help to put Pusha in new territory that seems to benefit him greatly.
Stand Out Tracks : “King Push”, “Numbers On The Board”, “Sweet Serenade (feat. Chris Brown”, “Let Me Love You (feat. Kelly Rowland)”, “Nostelgia (feat. Kendrick Lamar)”
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience
After 7 long years, one of the most accomplished and talked about entertainers of the 2000’s returned with an incredible two part album, The 20/20 Experience. The album sees Timberlake return to his roots by working with producer Timbaland over catchy ballads and infectious party/dance numbers. Tracks like “Pusher Lover Girl” and “Mirrors” bring a softer side while tracks like “Suit & Tie”, “Take Back The Night”, and “TKO” bring a more celebratory and more aggressive side.
Stand Out Tracks : “Pusher Lover Girl, “Tunnel Vision”, “Suit & Tie”, “Take Back The Night”, “TKO”
James Blake – Overgrown
British singer and producer, James Blake, released his second full-length album in 2013, Overgrown. Just like his previous LP, Overgrown explores Blake’s melancholy through electronic sounds and post-dubstep while remaining still remaining fresh.
Stand Out Tracks : “Overgrown” “Take A Fall For Me” “Retrograde” “Digital Lion” “Our Love Comes Back”
Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Odd Future member, Earl Sweatshirt, released his debut studio album in 2013, after following his debut mixtape, Earl. This new project, Doris, shows a more matured Earl with an expanded palate of topics such as his upbringing, drug usage, and even more expansive production from people like RZA, Tyler The Creator, The Neptunes, and more.
Stand Out Tracks : “20 Wave Caps (featuring Domo Genesis)”, “Sunday (featuring Frank Ocean)”, “Hive (featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies)”, “Chum”, “Molasses (featuring RZA)”, “Knight” (featuring Domo Genesis)”
Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
British singer, Dev Hynes, released his second album under that pseudonym, Blood Orange called Cupid Deluxe. This album is definitely an easy one to get into. The album is an incredible mixture of pop music, R&B, jazz and even Afro beat. Hyne’s vocals also are seen as extremely eclectic as he goes from singing with a falsetto to lower voices across the album. Definitely support this artist, especially since his apartment just burnt down in New York City and someone this talented deserves all the help he can get.
Stand Out Tracks : “Chamakay”, “Uncle Ace”, “No Right Thing”, “Chosen”, “Clipped On”, “On The Line”
Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe
This year saw the emergence of a lot of new talents, especially oversees. Scottish synth pop band, Chvrches, is no exception to this. Their debut album, The Bones Of What You Believe, is a plethora of catchy synths and even more catchy hooks. Every track is captivating and mesmerizing especially from Chvrches’ lead singer Lauren Mayberry, who transforms what could’ve been a basic electronic album into a delightful and fun synth pop record that does nothing less than transport the listener into a place of joy. It’s pretty much like Disneyland in music form.
Stand Out Tracks : “The Mother We Share”, “We Sink”, “Gun”, “Recover”, “Lungs”
Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Every year seems to be Drake’s year. With an endless number of hit tracks and also hit guest verses, the Canadian rapper/singer can easily be seen as one of the most successful artist out. On his third studio album, Drake delivers with Nothing Was The Same, an album that continues to go deep into Drake’s personal life, lost love, and struggles with family. Tracks like “Tuscan Leather”, show Drake’s versatility, “Started From The Bottom” celebrates his success. “Worst Behavior” shows a bragadocious side, while slower tracks like. “From Time” and “Too Much” touch on his mortality and issues with family and relationships. Say what you want about Drake, he’s too soft, too vulnerable, whatever, this guy knows how to put out good records.
Stand Out Tracks : “Tuscan Leather”, “Worst Behavior”, “From Time (feat. Jhene Aiko)”, “Hold On, We’re Going Home (feat, Majid Jordan), “The Language”, “Too Much”, “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2 (feat. Jay Z)”
Kanye West – Yeezus
Kanye West’s sixth solo album is definitely different from any of his previous efforts. Unlike his earlier work that saw influences from soul and baroque music, his latest album, Yeezus, features influences from noise – hop, acid house, and drill music. The album features some old faces like Daft Punk, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver, and Charlie Wilson while also bringing new collaborators like Chief Keef, King Louie, Hudson Mohawke and even God (Check the track listing). Overall, the album has some of the best songs of the year while taking the sounds that groups like Death Grips and Clipping have made, and putting them into the mainstream.
Stand Out Tracks : “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”, “Blood On The Leaves”, “Guilt Trip”, “Bound 2”
Danny Brown – Old
If there is one thing that Danny Brown has gained since he exploded onto the scene a few years ago, it’s the idea that he’s a jokester here to have fun. But if anything, the album Old does the best it can to show himself in more depth. It’s a reflection of the life he once had, a drug dealer in Detroit, to the now celebrating of the new found riches and the party life he now participates in. Unlike his last album XXX, which showed comedic overtones mixed with depressing undertones, Old switches the two around. There seems to be more of a focus on his past with the first side of Old reflecting on his time selling drugs as a young child with tracks like “The Return”, “Wonderbread”, “Gremlins” , and more. The second side of the album goes into his new found wealth and his usage of the drug Molly. The album brings a Jekyll and Hyde approach that does well to give Danny Brown dimension and shows many different sides of him.
Stand Out Tracks : “The Return (feat. Freddy Gibbs)”, “25 Bucks(feat. Purity Ring)”, “Torture”, “Side B (Dope Song)”, “Dip”, “Smokin & Drinkin”, “Float On (feat. Charlie XCX)”
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Every once in a while, every band or artist has to reevaluate themselves as an artist and in many cases change their entire style. Many times, this can go terribly wrong but in the case of the Canadian band, Arcade Fire, their style change paid off tremendously. With the help of LCD Soundsystem front man, James Murphy, Arcade Fire was able to incorporate groovy psychedelic melodies in many of the albums tracks like the title track “Reflektor”, “We Exist”, and many more.
Stand Out Tracks : “Reflektor”, “We Exist”, “Here Comes The Night Time”, “Joan Of Arc”, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”, “Porno”
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Chicago Rapper, Chancelor Bennet AKA Chance The Rapper, released his second major mixtape in 2013, Acid Rap. The mixtape feature Chance rapping over jazzy and psychedelic instrumentals as he covers topics from his acid use, family, and Chicago’s growing violence. If anything, Chance proved on this mixtape that he is a force not to be reckoned with and a voice that’s here to stay.
Stand out tracks: “Good Ass Intro” “Pusha Man” Coco Butter Kisses” “Lost” “Acid Rain” “Chain Smoking”
Milo – Things That Happen At Day// Things That Happen At Night
If there were ever a James Joyce of rap, it would be Milo. One of the most philosophical rappers out put out an incredible two part EP pondering relationships, human interaction and nerdy references all over incredibly lush and atmospheric production. Some of the best production I’ve heard all year.
Stand Out Tracks : “Sweet Chin Music (The Fisher Kings Anthem)”, “Folk- Metaphysics”, “A Lazy Coons Obiter Dictum”, “The Otherground Pizza Party (feat. Open Mike Eagle)”
Disclosure – Settle
British electronic producers, Disclosure, made a huge band this year with one of the best debut projects released in recent years. Their debut album, Settle features extremely funky tracks that bring some of the most danceable tracks of the year. What really helps the songs stand out so much come from the vocals. Unlike a lot of electronic music, the production and the vocals blend very well together to the point where the drops and experimental sounds don’t tend to overpower the vocals, in fact, the vocals almost mesh together perfectly. What makes the album even better though is Disclosure’s understanding of using a combination of multiple genres in a way that doesn’t seemed forced. Certain tracks resemble music that can be compared to those of New Wave sounds but also tracks that show their influences in funk and even late 90’s R&B. Overall, this project isn’t just a great debut album, it’s one of the best electronic albums that I’ve heard in recent years. Great production, great vocals and great fusion.
Stand Out Tracks : “F For You”, “White Noise”, “Stimulation”, “Help Me Loose My Mind (feat. London Grammar)”
Killer Mike and El- P – Run The Jewels
When it comes to hip hop duos in recent years, no one is quite as abrasive, experimental, and as skilled as rapper/producer duo Killer Mike and El- P. Although the two have collaborated before like last year’s R.A.P. Music, this album incorporates raps from El- P and not just his production. What makes this album so good is that each artist brings their absolute best for Run The Jewels. There isn’t one song where you can say with absolute confidence that either didn’t try their hardest to make the track explosive, lyrical, and aggressive. The lyrics on this album are some of the best lyrics of the year. The songs find both Killer Mike and El-P delivering lines and quotables that need a dictionary to be deciphered. At ten songs long, there isn’t one song that seems extra, not one song that seems like it was just there to gain an audience other than the one they initially intended. This album is an explosion of experimental noises, electronic and even boom- bap beats and the lyrics are on point with incredible word play. Recommendation: Open up Rap Genius when playing it.
Stand Out Tracks : “Banana Clipper (feat, Big Boi)”, “DDFH” “Job Well Done (feat. Until The Ribbon Breaks)”, “Get It”, “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
It’s been three years since anyone’s heard anything form the indie rock band Vampire Weekend and in three years, a lot of things can change. First off, three years is almost an eternity in the music world. Rarely can acts even pull off such an elongated hiatus and still expect the relevancy they once contained. But with the release of Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend showed their fans and critics that not only can they remain relevant, but also that they can remain one of the most popular forces in indie music. If there is one thing on this album that deserves a tremendous amount of praise, it would have to be the growth of lyricism from front man and songwriter Ezra Koenig. Compared to their previous albums, Modern Vampires takes a more political approach with their lyrics. Tracks like “Unbelievers”, “Hannah Hunt”, and “Ya Hey” tackle the many problems with organized religion and the question of human salvation. On the lead single “Diane Young”, Ezra discuses topics like death, dying young, and mortality. “Step” discusses a previous relationship and the issues of commitment and responsibility. “Hannah Hunt” also discusses relationship issues but more in line with a breakup instead. Overall, this album features solid songs that show off great songwriting and instrumentation.
Stand Out Tracks: “Unbelievers” “Step” “Diane Young” “Hannah Hunt” “Everlasting Arms” “Ya Hey”
Childish Gambino – Because The Internet
Donald Glover has had a rather turbulent year. He disappeared from the media in early 2013 deleting his tweets and Facebook without making any major announcement. He then made headlines over the second half of the year when announcing his leave from the NBC sitcom Community, announced a new FX series he would be creating, and then of course released those infamous Instagram notes. If anything, his new album Because The Internet, is the amalgamation of all of the commotion that Glover felt earlier this year. Under his stage name, Childish Gambino, Glover put out a project that was not only captivating, but was also one of the deepest projects of the year and put out one of the most unique album experiences to be put out recently. The album features a 76 page script that he wrote to accompany the album and he’s been promoting it by hosting album listening sessions in parks across the world, releasing a short film titled Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, which acts as a prelude for the album, throwing mansion parties and for the last few months has seemingly been promoting his entire album in interviews as the character portrayed in his album and screenplay. His rapping drastically improved from his earlier projects, as well as his singing. The production also drastically improved with him and cohort Ludwig Göransson (composer for Community, New Girl, Haim producer) using much darker sounds and influences from noise hop, indie rock, and Baroque music. The album also features contributions from Chance The Rapper, Jhene Aiko, Azealia Banks, Miguel, Mystikal, Kilo Kish and Thundercat.
Stand Out Tracks : “Crawl”, “Worst Guys (feat. Chance The Rapper)”, “Telegraph Ave” (Oakland by Lloyd)”, “Sweatpants”, “No Exit”, “Zealtos of Stockholm(free information), “Urn”, “Life : The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer) [ Feat Donald Glover]”
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
The most instrumentally captivating album of the year and their first full length album since 2005. Who am I talking about? I’m talking about one of the most secretive and mysterious duos of recent time, the masked duo, Daft Punk. Although it’s been eight years since Daft Punk released their last album, the duo has remained in the news for their work on the soundtrack to the 2010 film Tron, and through their viral marketing which sparked the anticipation for their latest album Random Access Memories. As opposed to their last albums, Memories finds itself discovering the roots of electronic music rather than following the trend of it like their previous albums did. It’s been a long time since I could listen to an entire album without skipping any songs, and Daft Punk’s Memories is one of those albums. Every song on the album features exquisite instrumentation that traces the roots of electronic music and seamlessly incorporates disco, classical, and funk music together without having it seem too abstract or forced. Even the featured artists in the album fit perfectly within the album. Pharrell Williams adds a great disco/funk vibe to the tracks “Lose Yourself To Dance” and “Get Lucky.” Panda Bear from Animal Collective adds great vocals to the track “Doin’ It Right” and Paul Williams probably has the most emotional and most captivating vocals on the album in “Touch”, a ballad about the troubles of being a robot and not being able to experience the same senses that humans can. Every song, beat, and sound on the album seems absolutely natural and sound borderline opera like and therefore deserves to be number one on my list of favorite albums of the midyear.
Stand Out Tracks : All of them