No music snobbing going on over here. These are the 20 albums I enjoyed the most this year, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy them just as much.
20. ‘Yours Truly’, Ariana Grande
No, this album isn’t really innovative in any way. With that being said, the mix of Ariana’s angelic voice and the nostalgia-inducing production on this album make it one of my favorites. Who doesn’t look a simple feel good album?
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “You’ll Never Know”, “The Way”
19. ‘Wolf’, Tyler, The Creator
This album has been so slept on. Tyler gave his all on this album. He tells a story, and creatively tells us how he really feels all while sticking to his authentic style.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Rusty”, “Jamba”, “IFHY”
18. ‘Yeezus’, Kanye West
I didn’t want to put this album on here, because I’ve had it with Kanye’s antics and horrible lyricism lately. Kanye West may be on a downwards spiral, both emotionally and lyrically, but there is no denying the amazing production that this album possesses.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Blood On The Leaves”, “Black Skinhead”
17. ‘Nothing Was The Same’, Drake
I wasn’t a fan of Drake’s last two albums, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with this one. There’s so much to take in on this, one must listen from different perspectives to really get the whole scope of it all It’s definitely Drake’s most complex effort, and best in my opinion.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Worst Behavior”, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
16. ‘Modern Vampires of The City’, Vampire Weekend
There aren’t really any songs on here that I can say I absolutely love, but it’s Vampire Weekend’s most cohesive album and a great listen as a whole.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Unbelievers”, “Diane Young”
15. ‘Flume’, Flume
I can listen to this album on repeat and never get tired of it. It’s authentic and beautiful in so many ways. The collaborations are perfect, but don’t take away from the great production.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Bring You Down”, “Sleepless”
14. ‘Because The Internet’, Childish Gambino
Donald Glover came HARD with this one. After his so-so “Royalty” offering, I didn’t expect much better, but this album blew me away in so many ways. Kanye should take some pointers on creative lyricism from this one.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Sweatpants”, “Zealots of Stockholm”
13. ‘The Electric Lady’, Janelle Monaé
Not nearly as amazing as the masterpiece that was ArchAndroid, but there are some amazing tracks on here. It’s a much more personal offering from Janelle, where we finally get to know the woman behind the white and black suit.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “What An Experience”, “Q.U.E.E.N.”
12. ‘Silence Yourself’, Savages
I just recently heard this album and I can’t get enough of it. From the the very beginning, the album captivates you and takes you to a place full of emotions. You won’t want to listen to anything else for a while.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Shut Up”, “Husbands”
11. ‘Night Time, My Time’, Sky Ferreira
I was pleasantly surprised by this one. After so many failed attempts, I never expected Sky Ferreira to actually release a great album, but what we were all hoping for came true. It’s intense, sincere, fun, angry, happy, and so much more.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “You’re Not The One”, “Boys”
10. ‘Overgrown’, James Blake
Everything about James Blake came full circle with his first original offering. I prefer his first album, but this is James’ classic. There is not one bad song on here, which shows James put his all into it.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Retrograde”, “I Am Sold”
09. ‘Absolute Zero’, Little Green Cars
Most underrated album of the year. So much beautiful, poetic lyricism on here. It’s such a fun record, but still cover a lot of ground and goes deeper than noticeable on an average listen. I love music that isn’t afraid to get too emotional or vulnerable, and this album doesn’t hold back on that at all.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “The Consequences of Not Sleeping”, “The John Wayne”, “My Love Took Me Back To The River To Silence Me”
08. ‘We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic’, Foxygen
Tame Impala do 60’s psychedelic rock justice, but Foxygen just did it so much better with this album. That’s all that needs to be said.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Shuggie”, “On Blue Mountain”
07. ‘Random Access Memories’, Daft Punk
It’s Daft Punk’s least original album, but still one of their best. Every song is an event. And when arguably the biggest record of the year, “Get Lucky”, is one of the worst on the album, you know it’s going to be amazing.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Instant Crush”, “Fragments of Time”
06. ‘Beyoncé’, Beyoncé
I don’t think anyone expected Beyoncé to show out like this after such a quiet year musically. Looking past the innovative release strategy and hype, Beyoncé’s fifth album is her most honest and enjoyable record. It’s great hearing Beyoncé finally let go after being so private and kept-together for so many years.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Rocket”, “Ghost”, “Blow”
05. ‘Days Are Gone’, HAIM
It’s hard to find a band whose members are so in touch with each other that everything they do happens so seamlessly and perfect. It may help that HAIM is made up of three sisters, but it’s also the result of working hard for many years. ‘Days Are Gone” has been criticized for being too neat and polished, but what many fail to realize is that these things happen naturally when a band knows themselves so well. Not all music has to be edgy and going against the masses. Trying and failing at perfection is one thing, but this album hits every target and you’ll have an amazing time hearing it unfold.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “If I Could Change Your Mind”, “Running If You Call My Name”
04. ‘Impersonator’, Majical Cloudz
It’s been a long time since a song hit me as hard as “Bugs Don’t Buzz” did when I first heard it. I didn’t think the rest of the album would live up to that song, but it exceeded my expectations. Devon Welsh showed his genius with this album, pouring out every bit of his heart throughout a magical journey of ten beautiful tracks.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Bugs Don’t Buzz”, “This Is Magic”
03. ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’, King Krule
When this album first came out, it’s all I listened to for a couple of weeks. King Krule has a way to suck you into his world and it’s hard to escape. Archy Marshall’s voice is gritty and raw, as is his flow with words, but his originality and sense of music is commendable in every way possible.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Easy Easy”, “Ocean Bed”, “A Lizard State”
02. ‘Wyoming’, Water Liars
Sad songs with grit that not only tug at your heartstrings, but your mind as well. That is the best way I can explain this album to anyone. Just like HAIM, Water Liars know exactly how they are, and it shows with this seamlessly cohesive album. It’s a bit hard to be completely original, especially when it comes to folk music, but Water Liars have found a way to make the genre their own.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “Fake Heat”, “Backbone”
01. ‘Settle’, Disclosure
If you asked me at the beginning of the year what I thought would be my favorite album of 2013 , I would have never said it’d be a dance album. I got so tired of listening to the washed down garbage people listen to at clubs nowadays and I found myself hating everything with a dance breakdown. Then one quiet day Disclosure came into my life and changed it forever. ‘Settle’ for me was like finally finding water after a long dry walk through a desert. It’s a dance album with great production, but even better songwriting. I want to be able to dance and sing along to something that actually took some creativity to write, which is what Disclosure perfects with this album.
STAND-OUT TRACKS: “January”, “White Noise”
Not only did Beyoncé’s new album already break multiple records, including being the fastest-selling digital album of all time, but it also has changed the way artists will release music in the future. With absolutely no announcement or promotion ‘BEYONCÉ’ was unleashed to the public exclusively on iTunes, equipped with 14 songs and 17 music videos. What makes this ‘visual album’ so much more respectable is the fact that all this was created while Beyoncé travelled around the world on a sold-out world tour.
With this revoluntionary release strategy, Beyoncé has shown other artists that they can take control of their work and don’t have to hype it up in order to sell. Word gets around fast on the internet, so releasing something digitally means that everyone will know about it soon enough. There is no longer any need to announce an album 5 months before its release, because it doesn’t take that long for consumers to catch on anymore.There is also the inevitable burden of “hype”. We have so many artists these days who advertise the hell out of their product and act as if it’s going to be amazing. So much hype just ends up creating too many expectations which hurts the artist in the long run. The same can be said for companies in other industries as well.
And it’s not only Beyoncé’s release strategy that’s amazing, the music is great as well. The R&B diva who has always held it together finally lets go on this album and shows us emotion we’ve never seen before. On “Pretty Hurts”, the first song on the album, Beyoncé tells the story of a pagent queen hopeful who is faced with the burden of having to be big-chested and skinny. She sings, “Vogue says thinner is better,” on the Sia-penned track. And while the song was written by the same woman who brought us so many pop hits in the last few years, including Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, Beyoncé makes the song her own and doesn’t end up sounding like a Sia imitator as some others have.
Beyoncé also gives us some blunt honesty on the record. We see this clearly on “Ghost”, a song Beyoncé wrote about being fed up with record labels and the same old game. “I’m climbing up the walls ‘cause all this shit I hear is boring,” Beyoncé states in the song before expressing, “I don’t trust these record labels, I’m touring.” Later in the song we hear Beyoncé telling us that she doesn’t expect to make a lot of money off this album, a sarcastic and ironic statement in that ‘BEYONCÉ’ has already sold over 800k copies worldwide after only three days of being released.
It isn’t all political, however, as the album covers such a wide variety of topics and genres that its almost hard to digest properly on first listen. But with writing help from Miguel, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, and even Chairlift’s Caroline Polacheck, what was there to expect. There’s signs of funk, R&B, trap, alternative rock, and so many other genres throughout the album. This results in a body of work with so much mass appeal that it’s insane to say it won’t crossover to multiple formats. The only other influential Pop album I can think of that changed the game and was so appealing to different audiences was ‘Thriller’, and we all know how that turned out.
Unfortunely, with such a strong statement of an album, there will be negative feedback. I’ve noticed some critics who’ve praised the album but ended up giving it a not so favorable score. It’s interesting that these publications are the same ones who give mediocre indie and rock albums 10s across the board. The problem with a lot of these critics is that they have a biased view on music and see Pop as inferior, so even if, just for example, Nicki Minaj came out with a better album than Muse, the latter would still get the higher rating just because it’s considered rock. Just because it’s a Pop artist doesn’t mean it’s inferior though, and Beyoncé has clearly earned that respect. Hopefully, as it all sinks in and people realize the brilliance, creativity, and hard work put into this project, some more traditional views will start to change.