Album Reviews

Favorite 12 Albums of 2013

2013 seems like it flew by faster than previous years, but that doesn’t mean it was any less exciting. There was no shortage of great concerts to attend or new artists to discover, and  this was definitely one of my most random music years, but I don’t mind being random 🙂

From unforgettable award show performances to unexpected album releases, the artists gracing my iPod kept my foot tapping, stereo blasting, and provided some entertaining Facebook debates. One of those debate being who had the best album of 2013, which was met with some colorful answers– some expected, some not, but nonetheless I appreciated the input! So here it is, MY list of top albums for the year.

MileyCyrusBangerzMiley Cyrus Bangerz

Oh Miley, where do I begin with you? Well, if you weren’t sure whether or not Miley would grow out of being that Disney darling we all knew and loved, she delivered your answer via strippers and twerking. It’s a far cry from “Party in the USA”, but you have to admit, it was a GENIUS marketing strategy to pull everything she did this year and hats off to her for coming out on top…of a wrecking ball…naked. It wasn’t all twerking teddy bears and Molly-popping though; she has a killer set of pipes on her. She shows off some range in “FU,” and seeing her perform “Wrecking Ball” live at Jingle Ball this year was pleasantly surprising, and it gave me 3 minutes to relax and pick my jaw up off the floor after she performed “We Can’t Stop” (the video is on my Facebook page) with a 7-foot-tall stripper dressed as a Christmas tree. Yes, the wild antics are the polar opposite sweet Hannah Montana, but it wouldn’t be the new Miley unless people were talking. The album speaks for itself—it’s great!

Daft Punk Random Access MemoriesDaftPunk

It’s about damn time mainstream caught on to what French-duo Daft Punk has been doing for more than 15 years! Daft Punk has a handful of other singles you’ve most likely heard before, but just weren’t aware it was them. They’ve worn masks during performances and had an electronic disco-funk sound since day one, but it wasn’t until this year that they finally got some well-deserved international attention. There’s no doubt in my mind “Get Lucky” was this year’s summer anthem because we couldn’t get enough of it and it was covered by a bunch of other artists on tour. I enjoyed taking a stroll down memory lane this week and listening to their music dating back to when I was in middle school, and with this album it’s safe to say Daft Punk’s career shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Beyonce  Beyoncé Beyoncé

Remember that time the music industry was rocked to the core and Beyoncé redefined what it means to be a game-changer? With a sold-out world tour, which I was fortunate enough to see in Miami, it’s surprising she was able to pull it off AND find the time to record numerous music videos too. The album just dropped a few weeks ago, so admittedly I haven’t had a chance for it to really soak in yet, but I’m loving what I hear so far with “XO” and “Drunk in Love” featuring her hubby, Jay-Z. It took us a minute to realize what happened when Queen Bey dropped her self-titled album with ZERO promos, but thank God she did.

One Republic Native1RNative

This was the album I was most looking forward to this year. I had the pleasure of interviewing One Republic at Y100’s Jingle Ball in 2012, and we chatted about Native a bit. The band said fans could expect better songs, and although I didn’t think that was possible, they were right. “Feel Again” was the first track released and found decent success, but their latest single “Counting Stars” is definitely the breakout hit and I’m not mad about it. I’m big on meaningful lyrics, and this album is packed full of them, especially “Preacher.” Ryan Tedder is responsible for some of the biggest hits of the decade, so it’s great to see that passion for songwriting extends far beyond other artist’s singing his songs.

KatyPerryPrismKaty Perry Prism

It was difficult to choose between this album and Lady Gaga’s latest, but I had to give it to Katy. She KILLED it this year and I think really surprised people with this record. It’s genuinely just a great pop album with a few twists, and I was happy with the direction she took. Obviously “Roar” was a monster hit, but hearing the message behind “Unconditionally” and the new elements she tried with “Dark Horse” sealed it for me. I was ecstatic that this album covers such a wide spectrum, and it’s great to see her a bit more grown up without all the lollipops and rainbows of her previous releases. There’s no doubt she has an incredible voice, but who would have expected Katy Perry and Juicy J of all people to collaborate and end up with a bit of a hip-hop/R&B track?

30 Seconds to Mars LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS 30STM

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome Jared Leto’s voice is and what I felt meeting him and being on stage during their performance at The Big Ticket. (Go to my Facebook page to watch the video!) I’ve been a fan since high school and always felt their lyrics resonated differently with me than other bands. They’ve always had a rock sound and including a good bit of screaming vocals in the beginning, but they steered clear of that and allowed Jared’s voice to compliment the progressive rock sound with his powerful range and a softness instead of battling it in a way. Even though it’s a new direction for the band, it works so well and still gives them a very distinct sound. The buzz around this latest release was intensified due in large part to a documentary the band put together surrounding the details of a major lawsuit with Virgin Records. I won’t go into much detail, but it’s a really interesting piece of work that any music fan should take the time to watch and hopefully gain a better understanding of just how twisted the business side of music can be. Their legal woes resulted in a burst of creativity and new music, so I’m happy and thankful to have another album to obsess over.

MacklemoreRyanLewisMacklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist

So technically this record came out in 2012, but there’s no doubt this duo EXPLODED in 2013. I thought “Thrift Shop” was one of the most ridiculous songs I’ve ever heard because, well let’s be honest, two guys screwing around in a thrift store rapping about Grandpa’s style and broken keyboards is silly, but it was an earworm with that memorable saxophone melody and SO. FREAKING. CATCHY! I’m sure some people thought they would end up a one-hit wonder, but their follow-up singles “Can’t Hold Us,” “White Walls,” and the LGBT anthem “Same Love” proved that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are capable are far more than I originally came them credit for. I wasn’t at all surprised it received Grammy nominations for both the best rap album and album of the year because it really is a great rap album. Plus, I appreciate songs that send out positive messages without being laced with “colorful” language to say the least.

Lorde Pure Heroine Lorde

I was surprised listening to this album because Lorde is only 16-years-old, yet she sings about topics that are far beyond anything I was concerned with at her age—RESPECT for being a positive voice of the younger generation. The girl has a hell of a voice, which sounds so uniquely effortless and compliments the cool, laid-back vibe of singles like “Royals” and “Team.” Although she attacks mainstream pop and has strong feminists views, I hope she takes advantage of her newfound success and uses the platform wisely. She’s definitely the breakout artist of 2013, and it’s about time we get someone who isn’t so cookie-cutter and for lack of a better word, peculiar.

RobinThickeRobin Thicke Blurred Lines

I realize most people probably had no idea who Robin Thicke was before this year because his VMA performance with that Miley chick is pretty unforgettable and definitely made me cringe, but those two knew EXACTLY what they were doing and it resulted in them both being two of the most talked about artists of the year. Not only is Robin Thicke very attractive (you can see the picture here) with a falsetto that makes me weak, but I think people don’t realize he’s actually a great musician too. Whether or not you liked this album, I highly recommend checking out his older material because there really is a difference between what we heard this year compared to what he put out in 2007. However, his music isn’t exactly kid-friendly because, well, it’s all about sex, but it’s still great R&B music and hopefully people appreciate it in one way or another 😉

Fall Out Boy Save Rock and Roll FOB

Judge me all you want for this one, but I have “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” to thank for that extra boost of energy during some epic cardio sessions this year and I haven’t heard any complaints about the results. My friends and I easily debate the quality of music these days, and while I won’t specifically mention any artists who really should just rip up their record contracts and disappear, the title of this album is actually appropriate. After taking a few years off, I’m happy to see they didn’t stray too far from those signature guitar rifts and emo-pop lyrics. Patrick Stump really does have a great voice, but thankfully it doesn’t overpower the musicality of the album. If there’s one thing you have to respect about Fall Out Boy, it’s their awesome play on words, and although this album doesn’t feature song titles as witty as past releases, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a great piece of work.

THE 20/20 EXPERIENCE ALBUM COVER AND TRACK LIST REVEALED!Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience

So this one probably comes as no surprise, but there’s no doubt 2013 got off to a solid start thanks to Justin Timberlake. It was his first album in SEVEN years and let’s face it, “Suit & Tie” was the jam for a while. Obviously he and Jay-Z have a beautiful thing going because they dominated the charts this year. The theme of romance and 😉 metaphors are apparent throughout, but this isn’t exactly the pop-R&B music album some may have expected. I’m a huge fan of horn arrangements incorporated into any record, so I was pleasantly surprised with the direction he took this album in by both sticking to what’s worked for him in the past along with mixing in some old school soul influences. As if the album and sold-out tour wasn’t enough to solidify Timberlake’s comeback, go back and watch his performance from this year’s Grammy Awards. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see more out of him.

Twenty-One Pilots Vessel 21PilotsVessel

Anyone who saw Twenty-One Pilots at The Big Ticket the past two years will attest to how talented they are, and if they disagree with me then we must have been a different shows. Their blend of hip-hop and indie rock with an electro twist is so unique, and although it sounds like an odd mix, it totally works. Once I downloaded “Holding On To You,” I was hooked and bought the entire album without hesitation. The balance of manic rhymes and pop vocals would convince some that vocalist Tyler Joseph has multiple personalities, but that is what makes this band special. Some artists are predictable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because at least you know what to expect from them, but Twenty-One Pilots is definitely NOT predictable. Aside from an awesome album, I’ve seen this entertaining duo perform twice and I’m beyond impressed with their showmanship. There is nothing they won’t climb much to the dismay of venue security, and crowd interaction is a must to keep the energy level at a solid 10 for the whole set. I mean, how many bands have you seen crowd surf on a platform while they play drums? If there was one album on this list everyone needs to invest in, it’s definitely this one.

DISCLAIMER:
These are in no particular order.
Honestly, ranking them was stressing me out too much.
Why not top 13 of 2013?
Well, my OCD couldn’t get past the odd number
or having something that wasn’t a multiple of four,
which is a different blog and another day.
Eight didn’t seem like enough
and 16 felt like too much, so 12 it is!
Discuss.

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