We Present To You… We Plug Good Music’s Best Albums of 2013
All three of our previously published instalments of our Best Albums of 2013 list excellently highlighted the best albums of 2013 from #50 to #21 and you can revisit them all HERE, HERE & HERE while we continue our countdown from #20 to #11 below.
20. J. Cole – Born Sinner
Three years after Sideline Story, J. Cole offers us his “often difficult” sophomore album Born Sinner opening it up by saying “it’s way darker this time” and it’s true, he has taken a grittier approach. His confidence is flaunted in your ears as with the first track “Villuminati”. He no longer needs to prove himself; this album is about sustaining himself as a new school Hip-Hop legend. Sure J. Cole’s Born Sinner has done tremendously well and he will have a few more major commercial successes in his career, but this record is music to listen, absorb and reflect on. This is a man talking about what he wants right now, his convictions and his dilemmas – switching from bravado to vulnerability; emotions that we all go through on a daily basis, with such fluidity, honesty and dexterity.
19. Quadron – Avalanche
Danish duo Quadron quietly dropped one of the best R&B albums this year in Avalanche. The vibe of this album is magical. Coco’s range has developed even more since the first album, and the songs on Avalanche are just phenomenal. If you want a modern day twist on 80’s Soul that Quadron are able to achieve without any faults whatsoever, then you need Avalanche. This album is Soul through and through with a polished finish, with producer Robin Hannibal experimenting with more varied sounds than on their debut album, leading to a very varied and more enjoyable listener experience for audiences – whether it’s making you sing along or making you slow down and relax with it, Avalanche is worth having and adding to your ‘Best of 2013″ playlist.
18. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
“Learning them digits and simultaneously dispelling one-trick-pony myths – isn’t he?” This is a question that Earl Sweatshirt snarkily asks on Doris highlight “Hive”. The answer is yes – he is. Prior to his return to the U.S. from a stint at a Samoan youth camp in 2012, the young Odd Future upstart was something of an enigma, the only testaments to his immense talent being a self-released 2010 debut and a handful of sporadic appearances on early Odd Future material. Doris is a far cry from his early pre-Samoa work, especially so with regards to the macabre stylings of his first record, Earl (an album featuring a song titled “epaR,” which couldn’t be more on the nose) – it’s an incredibly cohesive opus which sees Earl tackling a vast array of themes, from his strained relationship (or lack thereof) with his parents to long-distance romance and everything in between. It’s safe to say that Mr. Sweatshirt has shattered any semblance of a one-trick-pony myth.
17. Pusha T – My Name Is Not My Name
GRIMEY. I don’t think I’ve used that term to describe any type of music lately, save for the track from the long-ago-released Violator Vol. 1. From the jump on My Name Is My Name, you know that Pusha T is a very, very hungry man who’s been waiting for his moment in the spotlight for a long, long time. And we as listeners are all the better for it. It takes quite a bit of lyricism and delivery to fill simple beats (Numbers on the Boards, S.N.I.T.C.H), and complex ones (40 Acres), not to mention being able to support an onslaught of great production. This album is a manifesto which states “I’m HERE. And I’m here to stay”. I, for one, certainly hope he does — Hip-Hop will be all the better for it.
16. Danny Brown – Old
Never has the cut-and-dry dichotomy of Danny Brown – rap artiste, molly enthusiast, couture tastemaker – been more evident than on Old, and therein lies both the album’s greatest strength, and perhaps its most significant weakness as well. Building on a concept first explored on his last record, XXX, Old features two “sides”, quite like an actual album: Side A is introverted, brooding, self-aware, hyper-personal; whereas Side B is largely presided over by the nasally-voiced anti-hero we all know and love. Ultimately, it somehow works, which speaks volumes of an album featuring both a song titled “Clean Up,” wherein Danny relays tales of being too whacked out of his mind in a motel bathroom to pick up his daughter’s phone calls, and later, “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” which is… aptly-titled, if anything. Danny Brown is top 5 right now!
15. Burna Boy – L.I.F.E
Every year for the past three years, Afrobeats music has had that one staple album that fans and critics alike will tell you defined the genre. In 2011, it was Wizkid’s debut album Superstar which not only was met with critical acclaim by the genre’s tastemakers, it was also lauded by Afrobeats audiences across the world. 2012 saw Davido surpass all opposition to deliver the most popular album of the year in that genre. It may not have been the best body of work to come out that year but it will be the album that 2012 is remembered for. In 2013, that accolade goes to Burna Boy courtesy of his enthralling debut album L.I.F.E (Leaving An Impact For Eternity). The fact is that Burna Boy is an amazing artist and he has proven so by translating and extending four strong singles to one very excellent album, which could easily stand as a solid double album if he wanted and you know how terribly hard it is to deliver a solid double album.
14. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
Before the emergence of his sophomore album Cupid Deluxe, Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange had already been writing and producing for some of your biggest Pop stars including The Chemical Brothers, Florence and the Machine, Basement Jaxx and Solange Knowles and he brings that Pop excellence to his own record for the first time. Drawing on an expansive array of 90’s R&B, chillwave, House, Funky Slap Bass, Indie and Jazz among otherd, while retaining his Pop sensibilities, this record sees Hynes effectively playing the songwriter, singer, producer, guitarist, bassist and drummer all in one, with his guest features like Samantha Urbani, Adam Bainbridge and Caroline Polachek playing their starring roles to glorious effect. Cupid Deluxe is devoid of any pretense, its ideas are unadulterated, it is authentic and one of the best records of 2013.
13. James Arthur – James Arthur
James Arthur made fans out of us ever since his first audition on X-Factor! He came on strong with a ridiculous amount of talent so naturally we expected big things from his debut album and we were not disappointed. The self-titled album was everything we would anticipate, all the songs selected for the album have amazing production and overall the album is fresh sounding. As opposed to every other X-Factor hopeful, there is a rough angry edge which often lands James Arthur in trouble but also lends towards giving his music depth and meaning. His cracked soul bleeds through the lyrics which are bound by bandages such as the simple guitar arrangements and solemn drum patterns. The album is infused with many different genres including Jazz, Grime and R&B leading to an eruption of exhilarating passion – just like the complex rough diamond himself.
12. Kanye West – Yeezus
When considered canonically, Yeezus is a difficult record to contextualize. Less than a year removed from the release of the relatively straightforward Cruel Summer, and hardly akin to the streamlined, lofty grandeur of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or the inwardly-focused, sulking sounds of 808’s and Heartbreaks, Yeezus’ sonics are jagged and inherently broken: an attack on the senses. If the album’s execution of its ostensible objective – to simultaneously piss anyone and everyone off (pay especially close attention to the musical interlude from the opener, “On Sight”) – is any indication, though, then it’s an astounding success.
11. John Legend – Love In The Future
Yes to John Legend for making a superb album in 2013. Titled Love In The Future, this album ticks all the right boxes for plushness, passion and sensuality! Whether it has something to do with Kanye West being co-executive producer alongside Dave Tozer or because this is his first solo studio album in five years, Love In The Future is fresh, polished, nuanced and it all comes together rather gloriously. John Legend has always been able to deliver no doubt and this album is just as good as his first solo album Get Lifted. The absolute icing on the cake has to be “We Loved It” featuring Seal, never would I have thought of putting their voices together in a million years but what an unexpected treat it turned out to be.
Our Top 10 Albums of 2013 UP NEXT!