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My Top Ten Albums of 2013

2013 was a major music year. This year saw some new releases from living legends and some of the biggest musicians around. Here are my picks for the top ten of the year.

10. The Electric Lady- Janelle Monáe

Monáe returns to her full-on future dystopia for her latest album. In this outing, an android goes on the run for the crime of falling in love with a human. Of course like much great science fiction, Monáe uses the science fiction trappings to explore social issues and anxieties. Of course while she’s at that she has created some deliriously fun music that is brimming with rebellion and sophistication.

Standout Tracks: “Dance Apocalyptic”, “Q.U.E.E.N”, “The Electric Lady”

9.  Cerulean Salt- Waxahatchee

My favorite discovery of 2013. This album, like many others on this list, concerns itself with finding your place in a brand new world. It’s an album about how realizing that the carefree world of innocence and carefree childhood is long gone and that there is no going back. It’s a beautiful album, all sung with a haunting poignancy by Katie Crutchfield.

Standout Tracks: “Dixie Cups and Jars”, “Brother Bryan”, “Peace and Quiet”

8.  Old- Danny Brown

While Brown’s XXX was a non-stop ruckus with an oddball character with just tinges and hints of darkness, Old takes a much different route. Through out the non-stop party, drugs, and other sorts of debauchery, there is a single, simple epiphany: that he is growing old. Brown looks back through all the partying to responsibility, his place in the world, and professional anxieties. On the flip side, there is a search for answers to these questions that may or may not arrive giving the album a slightly cynical bite . While the material here is much heavier, Brown still doesn’t drop the oddball fun.

Standout Tracks: “25 Bucks”, “Float On”, “Clean Up”

7.  The Next Day- David Bowie

 

It’s been ten years since Bowie released a new album. Combine that with the cloud of uncertainty whenever a music legend releases a new album in the later years. But Bowie does not disappoint at all. He pulls from all corners of his career for The Next Day, what was old is new again and it shows that he hasn’t lost it.

Standout tracks: “The Next Day”, “Dirty Boys”, “Love is Lost” (Hello Steve Reach Remix, found on Extra Edition)

6. Random Access Memories- Daft Punk

One of the most anticipated albums of the year and a song that swept the summer, the Bots returned with an album that wanted to bring EDM (Electronic Dance Music) into to the future by looking back into the past. RAM is a nostalgia-powered spaceship, an album that wore its influences on its sleeve, ranging from 70s disco and  funk to 80s synth-pop. The result is a fun, groovy album that is a non-stop dance party.

Standout Tracks: “Instant Crush”, “Touch”, “Get Lucky”

5. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You- Neko Case

Case continues to release beautiful, emotional-gut punches of albums with The Worse Things Get… Whether she is tackling gender constructs or pain from long ago, Case carries each song with a strong-willed tenderness that is filled with defiance, refusing to follow anyone’s path but her own.Case covers longing, heartbreak, and loneliness with a certain ferocity and confidence that makes this one of her strongest albums yet.

Standout Tracks: “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu”, “City Swans”, “Man”

4. Yeezus- Kanye West

It’s a shame that West’s Twitter rants, personal life, and Kardashian association seem to have overshadowed the music — a massive shame since this is a fantastic, uproarious album. With each passing album it seems that West does continue to experiment as an artist and Yeezus is no different. Yeezus is a war machine of an album powered by poison, anger, and a heavy industrial sound that is ready to tear everything around it apart and explode. Now, let’s all just forget the Bound 2 music video.

Standout tracks: “Black Skinhead”, “New Slaves”,” Blood on the Leaves”

3. Trouble Will Find Me- The National

 Proving the age-old idiom of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” The National return with another marvelous outing with Trouble Will Find Me. Unlike others on the list that have experimented, refined themselves and grew their sound, The National continue to do what they do best. That’s not to say that The National are recycling or repeating themselves. Instead of reinventing themselves or exploring new territory, the band has released another fantastically solid album of love and lost.

Standout Tracks: “Sea of Love”, “Graceless”, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”

2. Reflektor- Arcade Fire

It might be slightly distant and unsexy for an album with influences from Haitian music, Carnival, and with a song titled Porno; it’s easy to scoff and roll your eyes when Win Butler sings lines like “Is anything as strange as a normal person?”; and with its large swath of styles and influence it seems like a mess at times, but I love this album. I love the spectacular, wonderful mess it is. After a series of emotionally-charged indie rock albums, the band’s latest is one part Greek tragedy, one part Caribbean party music, and what the hell, some Kierkegaard thrown in for good measure. Arcade Fire has ramped up its ambition with Reflektor, trying something new and it pays off. Also, help from James Murphy and David Bowie is always welcome.

Standout tracks: “Afterlife”, “Joan of Arc”, “Hey Orpheus (Awful Sound)”

1. Modern Vampires of the City- Vampire Weekend

Or Vampire Weekend grows up. The band for its last few albums was a staple for more of a lily-white, oh-so-clever college crowd, yours truly included. With Modern Vampires, though, the band has grown up, along with its audience, delivering a much more emotionally weighty and grounded album. It’s an album that is a reflection of that unstable job market and financial uncertainty that has Embracing this, Vampire Weekend has created their best album yet.

Standout tracks: “Unbelievers”, “Ya Hey”, “Hannah Hunt”

Now with 2013 past us, I thought it would be a good idea to look at some albums ahead. Without a doubt, my most anticipated is St. Vincent’s self-titled album coming very soon in February. With two great tracks released so far, it’s already shaping up to be a stellar release. Beck’s next album, Morning Phrase, is a follow-up to his album Sea Change, which is very good news since Sea Change is definitely Beck’s best. Finally, Modest Mouse will be releasing a yet untitled album this year, their first since We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, seven years ago.

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