We Present To You… We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2013
Over the past week, we have been counting down our Best Albums of 2013 list from #50 to #11, superbly highlighting the best albums to be released in 2013 and you can revisit them all HERE, HERE, HERE & HERE. It is now time to conclude our Best Albums of 2013 countdown by revealing which albums hold the coveted Top 10 positions…
10. Rudimental – Home
This was definitely a good year for Rudimental, Home is such a brilliant album and it continues the vibe of their anthemic single “Feel The Love” with unforgettable music, incredible vocals from the likes of Alex Clare and John Newman. I’m not even going to go into its production because sonic and beats are what the London quartet do so naturally well, you would expect nothing less than a solidly produced record from them. They do however go one step further with the selected features on this album, striking gold with the voices of Ella Eyre, MNEK and Emeli Sande in addition to Clare and Newman. I doubt if Rudimental were being touted to end up on any Albums of 2013 list at the start of the year, but right now, we cannot imagine 2013 without Rudimental, especially through those Summer festivals.
9. Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go
It’s not often that you get to see an artist evolve and grow in their talents as their career progresses, but with Mayer Hawthorne, we as listeners get that gift. Where Does This Door Go is at once an introspective look at the relationships we have with others (“Reach Out Richard” might be one of the most personal songs we’ve heard form an artist all year), and a throwback/tribute to the past through the many influences of Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder and Hall and Oates. There’s even time to throw shade at the police for being the ultimate buzzkill (“Crime”). Most of all though, this is just feel-good music; no stress, no worries – just throw the record on and chill. Isn’t that what we ultimately want in music anyway?
8. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
What can you say about this project that hasn’t already been said? Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper has had a hell of a year, and this album definitely catapulted him into the stratosphere, building strongly on his “introductory” 10 Day mixtape from 2012. We remember listening to Acid Rap and being blown away completely – it was the feel good album of 2013 without question. The multilayered production of “Good Ass Intro” still gets me while “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and “Acid Rain” are two strong contenders for the song of the year, all in all, the musical backdrops courtesy of in-house producer Nate Fox are a brilliant compliment to Chance’s wit, descriptive songwriting dexterity and his catchy sung-rap melodies. The sound is cohesive, varied and psychedelic – Acid Rap more than hits the spot!
7. Haim – Days Are Gone
“Revivalist” is a tricky qualifier when applied to Pop music: specifically, just how close to its source material should the “revivalism” part sound? For HAIM, the eponymous trio of California-bred sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana, the answer doesn’t matter: the eventual product eschews any and all comparisons to its stylisic influences – it sounds and feels extraordinarily fresh. Days Are Gone is an infectious slice of sun-kissed, summer-centric Pop – a fluid set of new songs with old souls. Though 80’s revivalism and/or romanticism are no novel concepts, the sisters Haim’s singular take on the sounds of the era makes for some of the most vital Pop music of the year.
6. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monae has so much freaking talent, it’s insane to realize that it’s taken so long for her to finally have her name known in the mainstream realm of the music industry. Thankfully, she doesn’t waste this opportunity by adapting to its ways. The character of Cindy Mayweather remains a staple in her continous thread of a concept album, but Electric Lady still lets us learns more about who Janelle is. To have collaborations with Prince and Erykah Badu — legends in their own rite — on your third album is no feat; luckily for us, Monae lets us know that she can play in the big leagues and still maintain her uniqueness. “Q.U.E.E.N.” will forever be on our playlist while her duet with Miguel will remain something to behold for years to come.
5. Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Drake has been among those who have taken a minute to blow up, but now that he’s been around for a while, Nothing Was the Same is his way of reminding us that he’s still here, he still can’t believe he made it (though if he says that one more time, we’ll scream – that’s not really valid anymore) and he’s still striving to be his best. Even if you take away the lyrics, the production on this album is solid — we always replay “Pound Cake” several times, just to keep the hypnotic, smooth feel of that track going. Along with the hidden easter eggs for Toronto residents, we’re looking forward to seeing what Drake has in store, as long as he stops the Taylor Swift-esque charades.
4. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Q: When you’re Daft Punk, and your last album was not only released the better part of a decade ago but was also your worst received yet, and the pressure is on to re-re-invent the proverbial wheel of House music, then what’s your best course of action? A: Dash any and all conventional expectations and pioneer a Frankensteinian hybrid of Disco and House for the mainstream climate in 2013. Random Access Memories propels House music into the future by conjuring influence from its past, and the Disco influence in particular is hardly subtle: Nile Rodgers co-wrote three songs here, and there’s a song titled “Giorgio by Moroder” featuring Moroder himself waxing poetic… about himself. With Random Access Memories, Daft Punk made arguably the comeback of the year, in a year where the musical comeback story has frequently verged on cliché, no less; this is their most ambitious, eclectic, bombastic, excessive, and indulgent work yet.
There was a lot of flack from people claiming that RAM wasn’t an electronic album, and that it didn’t represent the real Daft Punk but in reality, it not only represented Daft Punk’s knack for creating buzz about what they do, but also revealed that Daft Punk are not only computer-savvy beatmakers, but real musicians, as is shown by the overwhelming amount of live instrumentation on this album. They’re also huge music nerds; Nile Rogers, Giorgio Moroder and Paul Williams are names that have been legendary in the music business for decades, but are only recently known to the present-day audience, thanks to the fanboy-esque pursuit of collaboration by Daft Punk. Everything old is new again, and in this case, if we learn just how music used to be created and how it directly contributes to how it’s made now, is that really so bad?
3. Disclosure – Settle
It’s not often that you hear an album that starts with great advice AND an earworm of a beat (When a Fire Starts to Burn), then goes on to explore different aspects of deep House, great vocalists and a great remix of an already great song – we might enjoy Disclosure’s remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running” more than the original. Have we also mentioned that we’ve almost exhausted our iPod replaying “Tenderly”? Settle is that cool kid at school that everyone wants to be friends with, but with the difference that it wants to get comfortable with you, too — and that’s why we will continue to love this album.
A few years down the line, 2013 may very well be remembered as the year that electronic dance music broke through – nay, dominated mainstream Pop in the Western World. Between producers like Zedd and Calvin Harris making rounds on Top 40 radio as the pop collaborators du jour, and bubblegum Pop becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish from EDM, it’s inescapable. There’s a lot to be said, then, for the fact that two young brothers from Surrey were able to cull together the roots of these ubiquitous sounds, often at their most skeletal, and come out on the other side with something that’s as beautifully textured and meticulously produced as it is immediately accessible and club-ready. That “something” is Settle, and make no mistake: it’s nothing short of a minor miracle.
2. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience I
Ok so 20/20 made it on this list because lets face it, since Justin went solo he hasn’t done a damn thing wrong, it’s as simple and awkward as that!!! He takes his time coming back, he’s not rushing out to keep up with the fast moving trends of the music world. He just makes music. Personally we think Justin Timberlake should be a type of music; he has soul, R&B, Funk, and this other sound that you automatically associate with JT instantly. We like Justin because he always just does Justin and it’s always original. He’s not the best vocally but stays bringing out better albums than those who are. He takes the best of what he has talent wise and births blueprints every time!
1. James Blake – Overgrown
Overgrown is the moment in which James Blake eveolved past the Post-Dubstep sound. Way back in the prehistoric days of 2011, London crooner James Blake released his self-titled debut, an album tapestried of such inventive sounds that critics and fans alike were more or less forced into branding it with the ridiculous label “post-dubstep.” It was a flat-out tremendous record. A lot’s changed since then, and this year, Blake returned with his sophomore outing, Overgrown. With this album, it seems that Blake is just as comfortable churning out vaguely poppier tunes — with more pronounced Gospel, R&B and ambient influences, and marked by the same air of moodiness — as he is innovating. By the way: still tremendous.
Slow and seductive are two words which describe James Blake’s electronic infusions. The combination of such a new untested form of music and a timeless control over vocals most at home in a Jazz setting create an exciting form of music that is so intriguing to listen yet works perfectly. One of the best tracks on the album is “Retrograde” which is effortless and laidback which induces an almost meditatory state in the listener.
Special THANKS to Jojo Sainvilier, June Findlay, Skye Baker, Jade Oyateru, our associate editor Neefemi Oyedele and a selection of music connoisseurs, Niyi Okuboyejo from Post-Imperialism, Ophiona Okumu from AfriPop Magazine and Hip-Hop Lovers’ Seif Abdo – for putting this list together with us. Happy New Year!