If there is ever a year better than 2013 for music then I will be the happiest little boy alive
But there won’t be.
The long awaited returns of legends like Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, and Justin Timberlake left this year untouchable. Coupled with that, three of my all time favorites Janelle Monae, Kanye West, and Danny Brown all released some of their best works yet! As always, this is just a list of my personal favorites, but I make note in a couple places about which I think are the best albums and songs.
Thanks for reading!
50. Government Plates – Death Grips
“i got jesus. he got saved. i got power. its so cheap.” – The Birds
I have yet to listen to ‘Government Plates’ without getting a headache, but I think that means its good? Death Grips continue to be fascinating because they remain one of those rare bands that whole-heartedly practice what they preach. From the ‘Fuck you!’ they gave to fans who paid to see them perform only for them to be a no show, to the promotion free release of this album, the only rules they are playing by are their own.
49. Apocalypse – Thundercat
“Breakdowns, build ups, talk downs, drag downs” – Heartbreaks + Setbacks
Unfortunately yes, that is the cover we’re looking at. Washing that from my mind though, Thundercat is still the incredible bassist who gave me one of my favorite 2011 albums, the neo-jazz ‘The Golden Age of Apocalypse’ and his follow-up serves as a beautiful tribute to his gone-too-soon friend, Austin Peralta.
48. ARTPOP – Lady Gaga
“DO WHAT U WANT WITH MY BODY” – Do What U Want
This year was bookended by a slew of pop princess releases, and between Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Gaga, I think the Lady took top honors. While it falls behind her debut ‘Fame’ releases, its still leagues better than the (personally) dissapointing ‘Born This Way’
47. Wondrous Bughouse – Youth Lagoon
“Living in a 3-D world, where the clock is in control. He sits on his throne on top of my wrist and tells me what I know” – Mute
Trevor Powers has grown a lot in the two years since his debut album ‘The Year of Hibernation’. As its rather abstract cover art hints, ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ is certainly an auditory trip, acting as a sort of alternative soundtrack to Disney’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
46. Muchacho – Phosphorescent
“All that I know love, as a caging thing, just a killer come to call from some awful dream” – Song for Zula
‘Muchacho’ is an almost psychedelic twist on country music, and Matthew Houck acts as our lone wandering narrator.
Opening track ’Song for Zula’ is a strong contender for the best (and most heart wrenching) song of the year.
45. Free Your Mind – Cut Copy
“You gotta free your mind if you want your light to shine” – Free Your Mind
‘Free Your Mind’ pivots drastically from their 2011 release ‘Zonoscope’ and forgoes their grander vision in favor of their euphorically uplifting dance music roots. While I would’ve liked to see them continue on the track of grand-sounding electronic music, I’m more than fine accepting 14 tracks of sugary sweet pop tracks.
The album cover was brought to you by MS Paint.
44. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
“We’re brain dead, take a tug and then pass. I think we all addicted” – Cocoa Butter Kisses
Everyone’s favorite up-and-comer released his critically acclaimed mixtape for free early in the year and managed to meet the hype that had been steadily building up behind him! Chance has a magnetic personality thats likely to be a huge bonus for crossing multiple audiences in his bright future.
43. Overgrown – James Blake
“Sex shapes the body. Truth shapes the mind” – Take a Fall for Me
The dubstep choir boy returns and delivers something a bit more poppy than his debut. Unfortunately, I think ‘Overgrown’ is propped up by a handful of spectacular songs, while the rest of the tracks struggle to keep up, but it acts as critical step in James Blake’s growth and leaves me excited to hear what comes next!
42. lousy with sylvianbriar – Of Montreal
“All the evils in the universe, there are no victims only participants”- Belle Glade Missionaries
Damn it, I have a soft spot in my ears for Kevin Barnes. He’s in drastic need of an editor, or just a band mate who’s unafraid to castrate his most unappealing avant-garde ideas, but then again, that’d probably mean the death of what we knew as Of Montreal. Grotesquely sexual-disco-funk-glamour-rock, Barnes forgoes those middle three of his normal attributes to deliver a pretty swagger filled 12th album.
41. The 20/20 Experience: Vol. 2
“Tell me what’s better than the two of us? Cuz you by yourself is more than enough for me” – You Got It On
This should’ve been marketed as a collection of B-sides from the original, instead of an entire album. The songs are far more forgettable than the ones found in Vol. 1, and some of his lyricism could use a lot less creep, and a lot more sensuality. That being said, it’s still some great pop music, and it started playing while I was having grown-up adult fun time with a pretty lady, so I have a bit of a Pavlovian bias towards it.
40. Nonfiction – The Range
‘Nonfiction’ is a nice electronic album, from a man who I am sure is pretty neat, and I think that’s really all anyone can say about it.
39. Aleph – Gesaffelstein
“It’s just a temporary slide, back into the abyss” – Destination
Mike Levy is French, along with every other electronic artist worth listening to. Mike Levy performs as Gesaffelstein (gesundheit!). Mike Levy was contacted by Kanye West to help produce ‘Yeezus’. Mike Levy has his industrial, bass worshipping sound all over that album.
38. The North Borders – Bonobo
“Love is in the eyes of the beholder. I’ve kept the clouds, a distance from the view” – Pieces
Many a hungover morning found me turning to Bonobo (and advil) for help. He continues to craft beautiful downtempo music that blends the line between electronic and organic sounds, and leaves you wondering how much longer we have til those words even mean anything.
37. Engravings – Forest Swords
One of the last albums I listened to this year and I regret not having started it sooner! Gorgeous instrumental hip-hop (and rock, and dub, and dance, etc) infused with Japanese influence. The cover is an excellent portrayal of what’s waiting inside to be heard.
36. Free the Universe – Major Lazer
“Bubble butt, bubble bubble bubble butt, bubble butt, bubble bubble bubble butt, bubble butt” – Bubble Butt
‘Bubble Butt’ is the best thing to ever happen to any of us.
The overabundance of dubstep on this album is the worst.
35. Ice on the Dunes – Empire of the Sun
“VOICES INSIDE OF US ARE GUIDING US ON!!!!!!!” – DNA
This album will in no way be remembered in a couple years, but not all albums have to be, and Empire of the Sun excel at creating stupidly fun songs for the moment.
34. Kiss Land – The Weeknd
“They’re in love with this idea of love. It’s a shame they believe it’ll come for us all” – Wanderlust
I’m afraid that Abel may always live in the sleazy shadow of his incredible debut ‘House of Balloons’. It’s been a couple years since that dropped and it’s influences can now be seen in almost every corner of the music world. ‘Kiss Land’ itself even comes across as copycat of it, which isn’t good sign for The Weeknd’s future. Even with all that though, ‘Kiss Land’ is still a good album, albeit it one that should’ve maybe stretched a little more out of its comfort zone.
33. Wolf – Tyler, The Creator
“You remind me of my bimmer, a lot of trunk space, the perfect two seater” – PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer
I would quickly give up one of your firstborns just to hear Tyler create an album filled with bangers like ‘Yonkers’ and ‘Domo 23’, but until one of you are willing to do that for me and the rest of the world we’ll all just have to be content with Tyler’s slow, gradual growth. ‘Wolf’ is a step in the right direction, with both the production and lyrical content growing up with their Creator.
32. Ideas + drafts + loops – Flying Lotus
On December 10 FlyLo crested 300,000 followers on Twitter and rewarded us with a free 24 song collection of projects he’s had sitting in his harddrive from throughout the years. There are fantastic collaborations with The Underachievers and Shabazz Palaces, several songs he’s done for Adult Swim, and a Thundercat heavy ‘remix’ of ‘Black Skinhead’. If these are the rejects then I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us with his new album this year.
31. Future Presents F. B. G.: The Movie
“I can whoop a Maserati, pullin up on a donk, 50,000 on your watch” – Karate Chop
‘Karate Chop’ is the nuclear bomb on an album that wages war on intellectual music. Future throws his voice through every voice modulator available, yelping and squawking like some rabid cartoon til your brain surrenders to the assault and gives into the all powerful id.
30. Run the Jewels – Killer Mike & El-P
“The style is radiation leak at Mile Island, also known as Chernobyl talk, listen for the sirens” – Banana Clipper
Killer Mike’s ‘R.A.P. Music’ was one of my favorite albums of 2012, so it makes sense that its spirited sequel would make the 2013 list. Both of our anti-government mercenaries spit fire throughout (making even the Big Boi feature seem like an afterthought), and El-P’s militant beats will leave your walls trembling with their ferocity.
29. OLD – Danny Brown
“Its the return of the gangsta, thanks ta’, these phony ass wannaba thug perpetrators and wankstas” – The Return
I have never wanted an artist to succeed as bad as I have wanted Danny Brown to. I think his ‘XXX’ mixtape will go down as a hip-hop classic, and ‘OLD’ is an excellent follow up. While I miss the metallic taste that ‘XXX’ still leaves in my mouth, his newest delves once again into the psyche of rap’s most interesting participant. Documentaries of childhood dope dealing and grotesque sex with fiends acts as a foil to the second half where he flips on the party switch and unleashes a torrent of mindless bangers. Instead of allowing the two distinct messages to create a fissure in the album Danny reels them in and shows us a clearer picture of him than ever before.
28. Trouble Will Find Me – The National
“God loves everybody. Don’t remind me” – Graceless
The National have become masters of crafting sobering songs over their six studio albums, and ‘Trouble Will Find Me’ finds them at the top of their game. Matt Berninger continues to be as excellent a lyricist as ever.
27. Five Spanish Songs – Destroyer
“Espanol!” – the whole dang album
As if Dan Bejar didn’t already sound like the sexiest motherfucker alive he’s now serenading us in Spanish. The title is the ‘Snakes on a Plane’ of album names, but don’t worry about understanding the language, if you did you’d be missing out on some fantastic music.
26. Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails
“Data trails, like fingernails, scratch across the sky” – Satellite
‘Hesitation Marks’ is actually the first Nine Inch Nails I’ve listened to, and the claims of Trent Reznor’s studio wizardry seem fully justified. Every sound in his dark industrial return is as crisp as it could possibly be.
25. Reflektor – Arcade Fire
“When love is gone, where does it go?” – Afterlife
“I am losing my edge” said James Murphy, rather famously in his debut song of the same name, and Arcade Fire hired him seemingly as an insurance against doing the same thing. While they easily could’ve milked the Grammy winning sound of ‘The Suburbs’ they forgo that in favor of a more disco-infused double album.
24. For Professional Use Only – AraabMuzik
“You are now listening to Araab Muzik” – tracks 1 – 20
The soundtrack to any weekend night. Araab flexes his producing muscles and shows off a variety of instrumental sounds, from trap, to EDM, to the good ol’ standard hip-hop.
Put it on, pour some shots, and forget about that assignment due Monday.
23. Amygdala – DJ Koze
“It’s fully black inside your head” – Nices Wölkchen
Confession time: I’ve only finished this overindulgent album a small handful of times, but that doesn’t stop me from loving every second of the first ¾’s. Arguably the most technically impressive electronic album of the year, DJ Koze guides us through a stunning myriad of styles. ‘Homesick’ is a downtempo pop song, ‘Das Wort’ is some sort of German something or other, and ‘Marilyn Whirlwind’ will decimate a dancefloor.
22. The Pimpire Strikes Back – Roc Marciano
“My shoe ain’t got a spot, on the bottom or the top” – Ruff Town
There ain’t a smoother rapper alive than Roc Mariano. His voice is smoke in your ears, and if you told me he was a pimp on the side I wouldn’t doubt you for a second.
21. Watching Movies with the Sound Off – Mac Miller
“Looking up into the clouds where the angels sit. They looking down keeping watch til I’m dead, so how’d I get this red dot on my head?” – Red Dot Music
‘Watching Movies with the Sound Off’ is easily the album that surprised me the most this year! By mixing atmospheric production, psychedelic vocal pitches, and a flexible flow Mac Miller created rocket fuel, and escaped the frat-rap crap trap with startling trajectory.
20. Trap Lord – A$AP Ferg
“I FUCKED YO BITCH” – Dump Dump
A more appropriate album name would’ve been ‘Trap Disciple’ as young A$AP Ferg is clearly following in the gigantic footsteps of the trap music bible, ‘Flockaveli’. Even so, it is a worthy scripture in the rapidly growing genre. Ferg provides a refreshing escape for the mind, an astoundingly ignorant, yet undeniably fun album.
19. The Terror – The Flaming Lips
“Always there in our hearts, something good that we can’t control” – Always There…In Our Hearts
‘The Terror’ is a hauntingly beautiful electronic wasteland where the psychedelia of past Flaming Lips albums withers away under the radioactive disappointments of life.
18. MATANGI – M.I.A.
“This time I come as singer, next time I’ll come as pain” – Warriors
M.I.A. is back with power, power! Aggressive electro beats blow apart the entire album, making her 2007 hit ‘Paper Planes’ come off as a lullaby. M.I.A. continues to be one of the most forward thinking artists in the industry, always destroying preconceptions and leaving me excited for her next release.
17. Blue Chips 2 – Action Bronson
“Bought my bitch a present hope I don’t spoil it!
“What is it baby?”
Face to face toilets” – Rolling Thunder
Our obese, ex-chef MC is disgusting, hilarious, and coupled with Party Supplies, made one of the most fun releases of the year!
Available for $0.00 at Datpiff.com
16. LongLiveA$AP. – A$AP Rocky
“Extraordinary swag and a mouth full a gold” – Goldie
This album has been out for over a year now (#leak) and still hasn’t worn out its welcome! Who doesn’t agree that ‘Fuckin Problems’ is one of (if not) the best rap tracks released all year? Pretty Flocka transformed the sound of his debut mixtape into a cohesive debut album, leaving us all eagerly awaiting what he’ll do next.
15. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
“NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS, ITS BAD ENOUGH JUST GETTING OLD!” – Diane Young
Ezra Koenig’s wordplay is as sharp as his worldly observations, and hopefully with this release they’ll have shed the outdated ‘rich college boy band’ that their detractors plague them with.
This is Pitchfork’s #1 album of the year though, so I’m wrong.
14. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
“We’re up all night til the sun. We’re up all night to get some. We’re up all night for good fun. We’re up all night to get lucky” – Get Lucky
Daft Punk were the first electronic band I ever heard, and set me on a course that I’m still navigating a decade later. While ‘Random Access Memories’ may not have met all the hype behind the robots return, for that first listen I felt like a kid on Christmas morning again . Every song brought such a huge grin to my face that by the end of it my cheeks hurt, and there’s not another artist in my library I can say has done that for me.
13. BEYONCE – Beyonce
“Handprints and footprints on my glass. Handprints and good grips all on my ass” – Partition
Alternative title: ‘CUNNINGLINGUS’.
Beyonce’s self-titled is incredible, and significant, for many reasons. The midnight release without any marketing blew apart social media. Each of the tracks came backed with an accompanying video on iTunes. It is a pop album that is devoid of almost any hooks and features a shadow filled production style throughout. And finally (and most importantly) she owns her sexuality in a way that doesn’t bend to the usual standards set by the industry.
Marriage has not tamed Ms. Knowles, only made her fiercer.
12. Tomorrow’s Harvest – Boards of Canada
11. Cupid’s Head – The Field
Loop + loop + loop + loop = one of my favorite albums of the year
10. Nothing was the Same – Drake
“Girl don’t treat me like a stranger. Girl you know I seen you naked” – Furthest Thing
I think I’m more of a Noah ‘40’ Shebib fan than I am a Drake fan, but the two go so hand-in-hand its impossible to have one without the other. ‘Nothing Was The Same’ isn’t quite up to ‘Take Care’s stunningly high standards, but it is a very effective means of heralding in the era of a more confident Drake.
And how amazing is that piano line on ‘Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2?!
9. R Plus Seven – Oneohtrix Point Never
“R Plus Seven’ is the bastard child of pop and drone music. Where I found his ‘Replica’ album before this to be criminally boring, here OPN gives us just enough of a ledge to stand on in his cavernous follow-up. The booming organ pipes that climax the album are an almost religious experience following all the quiet minimalism that came before.
8. Rarities – Four Tet
Unfortunately, Four Tet’s ‘Beautiful Rewind’ ranks as one of my biggest disappointments of 2013. Kieran excels at bringing a distinctly human touch to his electronic music, which ‘Rarities’ gracefully makes up for where ‘Beautiful Rewind’ fell short. Merely a one track collection of 40 minutes worth of old, unreleased material it just goes to show how far ahead of the genre Four Tet was even ten years ago.
7. Woman – Rhye
“I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs. I’m a fool for that sound in your sighs. I’m a fool for your belly. I’m a fool for you love” – Open
Sex needn’t be a dirty word, and on their debut Rhye set out to remind us of that. ‘Woman’ is the warm afterglow you feel as you come down from the peaks, embraced in the arms of the most important person in your world.
6. The Electric Lady – Janelle Monae
“Oooh shock it, shake it, baby. Electro-sophista-funky-lady. We the kinda girls who ain’t afraid to get down, electric ladies go and scream out loud” – Electric Lady
‘The Electric Lady’ replaces its oil with R&B and funk and runs even better than before, allowing Janelle Monae to push certain songs into overdrive with a stunning flow!
Long live the Q.U.E.E.N.
5. Rival Dealer – Burial
“You don’t have to be alone” – Hiders
How Burial manages to do it again and again will never cease to impress and astound me. Bevan has created a sound wholly his own, inspired thousands of copycats, and yet somehow every single release has managed to sound like nothing done before. With ‘The Rival Dealer’ he has wrought his most emotionally powerful piece yet by creating a record as likely to bring dancers to their feet as it is to bring lone listeners to their knees.
4. The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake
“You are, you are, the love of my life” – Mirrors
The king of pop music returns with an album that only he could pull off! Timberlake/Timbaland ignore the easily digestible template of 4 minute songs and instead present us with ten songs which mostly push into the 7-8 minute mark. The penultimate ‘Mirrors’ manages to sprint ahead in it’s final two minutes to become the best song of 2013. In a genre that is saturated with one night stand singles, Justin created a triumphant ballad to love and marriage.
3. Anxiety – Autre Ne Veut
“Not gonna be no way, no way, no way you’re gonna be my baby.” – World War
The black sheep of my top 4. It’s praise is a quiet one. He isn’t a big name artist, and the album doesn’t even sound like anything worth remembering. Autre (Ohtra? Ahtra?) Ne (New? Nih?) Veut (Voh?)’s ‘Anxiety’ is an R&B album that is everything that the genre isn’t. It’s terribly unsexy but somehow clings to that genre in an odd way that stills escapes me. The last couple minutes of the album would be the panty dropping anthem of the year…if the lyrics didn’t scream of loneliness and depression. This was one of the first critically acclaimed albums of the year, and 11 months later it still deserves every compliment lobbed its way.
2. Settle – Disclosure
“I know you feel it workin’, workin’ you” – Defeated No More
Daft Punk were suppose to be the ones returning the human heart to dance music, but ‘Settle’ makes the strong case that maybe it’s time the robots pass the torch to a new generation. The EDM rave movement has drained the soul out of electronic music, but Disclosure refuse to sit passively by and let it happen. ‘Defeated No More’ is the best dance track to be released in ages, and it’s still only the best song on this album by a fraction of a percent.
1. Yeezus – Kanye West
“For my theme song, my leather black jeans on, my by-any-means on, pardon I’m gettin’ my scream on” – Black Skinhead
The beginning few seconds of ‘On Sight’ were the most jarring few seconds all year. None of us were ready. Like some gigantic synthesized cannon Kanye began his tyriad against the establishment with a terrifying aggression. ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ is pretty well established as the best album released so far this decade, and a lesser artist would’ve been swallowed up trying to follow it, but Kanye’s ego is too large to let that happen.
‘Yeezus’ is a ferocious, controversial beast, and the best album of 2013.