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Friday, July 5, 2013

My Top 10 Albums of 2013 (SO FAR)

As we cross past the half-way point of the calendar year, I'd like to take this time to present ten albums that I enjoyed in 2013 so far. This year has shaped up to be a great year. A lot of strong hip-hop and even electronic music has somewhat overshadowed rock music however most of the genres are still filled with great releases from 2013. And there are many more releases to come this year so I'm sure this list will change over the next 6 months. But here it goes.

10. Kanye West - Yeezus

 

There were definitely mixed emotions of the incredibly polarizing new Kanye West album, however I enjoyed the album quite a bit. Although the production on this record really was the main focus on the album and Kanye quite frankly did not seem to put too much time into his lyrics, some of the sounds on Yeezus are very industrial, very dark and very chaotically noisy. They aren't groundbreaking, and even though it's nothing Death Grips hasn't done, I find myself enjoying tracks like "Black Skinhead" and "New Slaves". As for some of the crass subject matter on Yeezus, nothing else can be expected from Kanye West. This was definitely not one of his best releases but I still stand behind it and will listen to it in the future.

 

9. Foxygen - We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

 

Foxygen's latest LP came out fairly early in the year. I remember it being one of the first great albums of the year and I still think it's great. Obviously as most albums do, it has lost some of its initial appeal on me over the last few months. However, the list of influences that this indie-rock duo pay homage to is quite impressive. Whether they try to rock out like the Stones or keep it quiet and soulful like Dylan, Foxygen forge their own memorable identity in the process. Tracks like "San Francisco" and "No Destruction" are playful, quirky and pretty legitimate compared to other acts that try to make it in today's indie-rock game where bands often sound boringly similar. These guys are fun, they love the music they make and for that they will surely have very successful careers in this industry.



8. Atoms For Peace - AMOK

 

The supergroup Atoms for Peace delivered as Thom Yorke, Flea, and Nigel Godrich proved they were worth the hype with the group's debut album, AMOK. This album electronic experimental mindset that Yorke and Godrich adopted after Radiohead's Kid A and matures it to a complete project. The beats, grooves, and cool instrumentation on "Default" makes it one of my favorites of the year so far. AMOK is full of songs that all Radiohead fans would enjoy and although Thom Yorke will consistently tell you that this isn't like Radiohead or even closely related to it, it seems impossible not to compare this to King of Limbs. Radiohead fans who are patiently waiting for Thom and company to put out another full length project can occupy themselves this record even though the hype and comparisons definitely diminish its actual quality.


7. Phoenix - Bankrupt!

Unfortunately, Phoenix have found themselves in that no band wants to be in. They are constantly compared to their debut album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and I'm sure this will continue for the remainder of their career. However, the French pop-rock group's new album is full of some memorable synth tracks like "Entertainment" or "Trying to be Cool". Also, the synth sounds on here are very heavy and are used for more mellow sounds which is a new direction for Phoenix. This was the case on tracks like "Bourgeois" or even the title track. Nonetheless, Phoenix did well for themselves with this record and it's why they are on of the biggest bands today. This respect is absolutely deserved in my opinion and I think it will continue.

 

 

 

6.  The Flaming Lips - The Terror

 

In what is by far the strangest and arguably darkest release I have heard in 2013, the Flaming Lips' The Terror does not at all fit the mold of any of the modern music genres. Rather this trippy, psychadelic collection of random synth patterns and electronic noises is basically devoid of any sort of melody. Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips try to tell the story of a futuristic almost apocalyptic world in which love and emotion are non-existent. To them, this is 'The Terror'. Overall the album's message is about as dark as the sounds that it possesses. The Flaming Lips continuously do well to keep this kind of music alive. They are not the most accessible musical group in the music industry for sure and I think they are aware of it. So rather than care, they keep making meaningful music which is something I can thoroughly admire.


5. My Bloody Valentine - M B V

 

When I heard earlier this year that My Bloody Valentine would be releasing another album, I was ecstatic. After all, it had been 20 years since the incredible album Loveless was released. The genre of Shoegaze was made somewhat popular by My Bloody Valentine in 1990's but they only had one full length LP. For years they stayed out of the spotlight until finally Kevin Shields and company came back with mbv in 2013. I didn't review this album on the blog because to be honest, I didn't fully understand it. And now, I still don't after listening to it for the 5th or 6th time. I think the point of this genre and for the most part all music in general is that it can be interpreted in any way. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me this album is definitely very solid. Some very lush and pretty sounds along with distorted guitar and vocals make it a top 2013 release.

 

4. J Cole - Born Sinner

 


One of the promising young rappers in the game today behind only Kendrick Lamar in my opinion, J Cole proved once again that he has got the makings of a hip-hop superstar with his second album Born Sinner. J Cole's production on "Villuminati" cannot be ignored. It's high-intensity and epic energy make it the standout on Born Sinner for sure. Although some of the subject matter was a bit repetitive for instance when Cole talks about kicking it with Jay-Z or not being respected because he isn't rich yet, this record is the real deal. Born Sinner is doing very well on the charts despite being released on the same day as Yeezus. In my opinion, J Cole might have even outdone Kanye with this release. Everyone, including myself, is excited for what the future holds for J Cole.


3. Queens of the Stone Age - ....Like Clockwork

 

Queens of the Stone Age come through again. They haven't released a bad album and in fact, Like Clockwork might even be my favorite QOTSA record besides Rated R. The darkness of this album's sound and overall message was definitely unexpected but it definitely all worked out in the end. There are some fun songs that bring out the old spirit of rock n' roll that Queens of the Stone Age are helping to keep alive. However, the most interesting songs are the ones where Josh Homme seems to step out of his comfort zone and take it slow. The title track and "I Appear Missing" come to mind immediately. However, the actual music is top notch. Queens are notorious for their heavy riffs but what doesn't always get noticed is the weird time signatures, the creative transitions and the overall musicianship. Another big win for Queens of the Stone Age with the best rock record of 2013 so far.

2. Killer Mike and El-P - Run the Jewels

 

About 2 weeks ago, this would not even be on the list. It's amazing to thing that an album with such little hype and announcement could be so memorable and amazing. I'm loving the songs on this record more and more every day. I still can't get over the heavy hooks and beats on "DDFH" and "Sea Legs" but after listening to the album more and more, I'm realizing how creative the lyrics from Killer Mike and El-P are. This album deserves more than one listen for sure. Because although it seems relatively short at 32 minutes, it packs a punch in every song. The content is incredible and I urge everyone to go to the Fool's Gold website and purchase either the CD copy, Vinyl Copy or any merchandise in order to support both of these creative artists.





1. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

 

 The Kings of Electronic Music, Daft Punk reign supreme once again, however this time the French duo chose to incorporate live instrumentation into their music. After working on Random Access Memories Daft Punk may have left some of their core fans angry by abandoning the basic the rules of EDM which they essentially wrote back in the early 2000's with Discovery. In my opinion, the soft rock and funk sounds on Random Access Memories are beautiful. "Instant Crush", "Get Lucky" and "Lose Yourself to Dance" are some of the catchiest songs I have ever heard in my entire life. Daft Punk showed the world a new side of Electronic Music. Just because EDM uses computers and new technology does not mean that it has to be monotonous and sound the same. Electronic music can still have identity and character and Daft Punk proved that emphatically with this wonderful LP.