We Present To You… We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2013
It has been that time of the year again where several music blogs and magazines and entertainment websites all try to highlight their ‘Albums of the Year’ lists and we at We Plug Good Music are no different in that regard. However, where we do differ, is that this is the number one definite list of the Best Albums of 2013. This year, Niyi Okuboyejo from Post-Imperialism returns to compile our list of the best albums of the year with us, along with Seif Abdo from Hip-Hop Lovers and Ophiona Okumu from AfriPop Magazine. We have also called upon some of our frequent contributors June Findlay, Skye Baker, Jade Oyateru, Jojo Sainvilier, our associate editor Neefemi Oyedele and yours truly to put together this list so without wasting any more time, let’s get this countdown started.
50. Darkside – Psychic
Darkside is the collaborative project of electronic producer Nicolas Jaar and multi-instrumentalist/DJ Dave Harrington, and Darkside’s debut, Psychic is the most definitive testament thus far to the fact that these two were born to make music alongside one another. Where Jaar will supply a resonant kick and an airy snyth that floats over the mix, or some gentle keyboard work to accent the groove, Harrington will fill in the blanks with a subdued bassline and a twangy guitar to give these compositions a rock edge. The marriage between these two sounds is absolutely spectacular – there’s an eternally interesting dialogue happening here, and by the end of the album, you realize the possibilities are endless. Psychic is by far the most faithful example of musical collaboration in 2013.
49. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
2013 has been a year wherein Kanye West has gone industrial and Daft Punk made what is essentially a disco album, so I suppose it’s only fair that Arcade Fire would be allowed some elbow room where their sound is concerned. Here, former face of LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy helped flesh out the inherent Poppiness of Arcade Fire’s sound in producing, for the first of the two discs that make up Reflektor, something as odd as it is a complete blast: a dance record by Arcade Fire. From the lush new wave of “We Exist” to the glimmering synth Pop of “Flashbulb Eyes,” this is some of the most immediately enjoyable dance rock music of the year. The second disc – more sullen and somber – is varyingly effective as something of a cool-down period, if a tad uneven. Still, Reflektor makes for a rich holistic experience, and if nothing else, a veritable musical statement.
48. London Grammar – If You Wait
Breakthrough British trio London Grammar dissolved into a cutthroat UK music industry with Florence and the Machine-esque majesty and in superb fashion. Their debut album If You Wait is filled with lush slow electronic musical backdrops, which allow lead vocalist Hannah Reid to encompass the listener in a voice so ethereal and raw, yet so composed. This indie contribution is gentle yet powerful, showing that music does not have to be blaring and energetic, with this record, London Grammar highlight that sometimes it is good to applaud subtlety.
47. Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
With her debut album Pull My Hair Back released via Hyperdub and co-produced by Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and former school teacher Jessy Lanza demonstrates exactly how S&MR&B should sound like. Standout songs on this 9-track record jump out at you left, right and centre – from “Kathy Lee” to “5785021” to “Against The Wall” to “Keep Moving” – and throughout your listening experience, Jessy Lanza is as compelling and refreshingly radical as the musical backdrops, upon which she shines, are seductive and experimental, drawing influences from 80’s R&B, Chicago House and modern Pop music. One of the best debut offerings of the year without question!
46. Tanya Morgan – Rubber Souls
Tanya Morgan have done it again on their third studio album Rubber Souls, as if their ability to deliver excellent records was ever in doubt but since rapper Ilyas left the group in 2011, that ability has continued to be in question. Donwill & Von Pea respond wholeheartedly and come so correct on this “comeback” album, whether its via their lyrical dexterity, wordplay or trademark humour and 6th Sense’s production can only be described as perfectly crafted for Tanya Morgan. Sonically, this album is great and the duo sound the most cohesive that they’ve been since rapper Ilyas left. “Only One” is the anthem, so motivational.
45. Savages – Silence Yourself
The title of UK Post-Punk band Savages’ debut album is a self-fulfilling prophecy, because whether you like it or not, this album will shut you the hell up for 38 minutes. Silence Yourself is a record that’s smart enough to consolidate all the best things about the most canonically significant post-punk outfits – namely the moody atmospherics of Joy Division and the panicked urgency of Gang of Four – into a singular sound that’s brimming with unmistakable character. The production gives the record a purposefully modern sheen, and if vocalist Jenny Beth’s stunning vibrato doesn’t move you, then the density of the basslines, the sharply focused chaos of the riffage, the wound-coil tightness of the drumming, and the sheer energy sure as hell will.
44. The Weeknd – Kiss Land
Music is one of the most intimate things to experience and few artists of today have managed to make it as intimate as The Weeknd has done on Kiss Land. What makes his explicit tales of sex and drugs special isn’t only the articulation of his lines but the atmosphere with which he carries along his falsetto voice. The rhythm and the blues of the songs on Kiss Land travel beyond the realm of R&B to reach other genres such as Trip-Hop, as suggested by his multiple and elective samples. Grown out of two years of experience and touring since his first mixtape, Abel Tesfaye returned in 2013 with an exquisite debut album for the sake of our languishing moments.
43. Daughter – If You Leave
Back in March, we said If You Leave was one of the best albums you will hear in 2013 and we were not wrong. Daughter produced an album with such mesmerising and intricate music behind it and once you have listened to it, a ghostly imprint is left in the sense. Emotion seeps out of the drums, piano and haunting vocals, there is anguish and hope in equal measure all simply produced with quiet majesty. If You Leave is dark, raw, longing, moving, heart-wrenching, sad, honest, graceful, candid, misery epitomized, vulnerable, overwhelming, painful, devastating, powerful and emotive and captivating to say the very least, above all these however, it is a pretty amazing record!
42. Rhye – Woman
Elegant, provocative, unrelentingly intimate – Woman is an album to play for your woman. Rhye, the collaborative project of singer Milo Milosh and Quadron’s Robin Hannibal, have crafted an album that, even at its most upbeat and Pop-oriented, evokes a night-in with your significant other. The production, supplied by Hannibal, strikes the perfect chord between playful and sensual – lush arrangements give way to more poppy numbers, and the transitions are seamless. Milosh’s subtle, almost sighed contralto is the perfect compliment in both contexts; it’s a marriage that makes so much sense, it was practically inevitable. You know – sort of like you and your girl.
41. Bastille – Bad Blood
The English band fronted by Dan Smith have made an incredible contribution to music in 2013 with their debut offering Bad Blood. The interesting combination of lush keyboard arrangements, drums, an exquisite backing band of the lead-singer’s own harmonies plus his captivating storytelling lyrics create an eclectic mix of excitement, energy and utter awe. What is different to the other albums on this list is that every song is filled with its own unique intensity – there is no lapse for angst as Dan Smith’s passion ensures the electric vibe is present throughout the album, for the band and their listener.
Stay tuned for our Top 40 Albums of 2013! For #40 – #31 on our list, click HERE