Posted by Milkman (16791 posts) -

Lists. I love 'em. You love 'em. I have 'em. You have 'em. I try to summarize my thoughts on music every year around this time for a few reasons. For one, I really like music but I also do it because it's difficult. I find expressing why a song or album is great to be really hard sometimes. Saying why something sounds good to you is a very personal and interesting thing. So, I challenge myself and try to tell others (and mostly myself) every year WHY I liked the music I did. This whole thing was written in one go at around 4 in the morning and was a struggle at times so forgive me if I ramble or don't make much sense at times but here's my list.

Top 10 Songs of 2013

10. Earl Sweatshirt - Hive

The hype surrounding Earl Sweatshirt's hotly anticipated debut album reached near astronomical heights this year. On top of the internet's general fascination with the now 19 year old rapper after his return from Samoan exile, Earl released three jaw dropping singles before the album's release, all of which could easily be featured on this. It may have ended up hurting "Doris" when all was said and done because those three tracks ("Hive", "Chum" and "Whoa") may very well be the best three tracks on the album. Regardless of all that, the standout among a trio of standout tracks is "Hive", featuring some of the best lines spit by any MC the entire year. Earl's second verse in particular is maybe the most on-point he's ever been. And the whole thing is topped off by a star making verse by frequent Odd Future contributor Vince Staples, who threatens to steal the entire show.

9. M.I.A. - Come Walk With Me

Between getting sued by the NFL and having her previously laughed at government surveliance conspiracy theories become a reality, M.I.A. had a real interesting, "told ya so" kind of year. The first half of "Come Walk With Me" is everything the haters...well, hated about M.I.A. It's an obnoxious (though incredibly catchy) and obvious sing-a-long lamentation about government outreach and invasion of privacy. And everything explodes into a insane, pounding club beat. The whole song is much more powerful middle finger than any Super Bowl performance.

8. Janelle Monae - Q.U.E.E.N.

2013's verse of the year isn't from a rapper. "Q.U.E.E.N." plays out like a pretty typical Janelle Monae song for most of its 5 plus minute runtime, meaning it's a great, funky pop song. However, near the end of the song, Monae feels like her message isn't completely clear so she decides to take a new approach. The result is a jaw dropping verse that tackles both race and gender issues head on, pulling zero punches and calling people of all wakes to creed. "Be the change you want to see" is not a original statement but it has never been delivered so definitively.

7. Rustie - Slasherr

Oh, the mighty power of the drop. We wait for it. We brace ourselves for it. But we always end up never quite ready for it. The drop most likely to have you spasming out in front of your computer screen comes from UK producer Rustie, who had himself a pretty damn good year and branched out into some interesting directions. (More on that later.) "Slasherr" is a pure club, dance track through and through but there is a lushness to the sound that only Rustie can produce. It's a track designed to make you dance but that doesn't mean there aren't layers to peel back here, if you're into that kind of thing. And even if you're not, that drop is still so good.

6. Majical Cloudz - Childhood's End

And now for something completely different. First things first, yeah, Majical Cloudz is a goddamn terrible band name. It's just the worst. But this song is really, really good so bear with me. The mission statement of Cloudz (ugh) is to do as much as possible with as little as possible. They make very minimal, sparse music and "Childhood's End" is the perfect example of that. The synthesized backing track sounds like something out of Mass Effect and the ambiguous, subtle lyrics can take any number of meanings. This is not feel good music. It's downright haunting and it's only enhanced by one of the most genuinely upsetting music videos of the year. Like the song, it never makes clear why you should be upset but sometimes letting you feel in the blanks is even more frightening.

5. Neko Case - Man

Neko Case has been doing this for a long time now. But her most arresting and powerful statement yet may have come nearly 20 years into her career. "I'm a man." To Neko Case, being a man isn't a matter of biology. It's a state of mind. She's more of a man than you'll ever be and she is not ashamed of that for one second. It's one of most declarative "I am who I am" songs I have ever heard and an inspiring sentiment no matter what gender you happen to be.

4. Sophie - Bipp

You may have heard the term "bubblegum pop" before. Well, "Bipp" is pure distilled sugar straight to the brain. Seriously, you may need to go to the dentist after listening to this. But like anything that's bad for you, it's delicious and dangerously habit forming. By far the catchiest song of 2013, there is no way that "Bipp", love it or hate it, won't be bouncing around in your head for hours to come to. Just make sure to floss afterwards.

3. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

Arcade Fire, James Murphy and David Bowie all got in a room and made a great song. Who would have guessed it? "Epic" is one of many words ruined by the internet but there's really no other way to say it, this song is epic. There's just a ridiculous amount of stuff going on here. Arcade Fire have never really done "small." They have always been the band with the biggest aspirations and "Reflektor" may be one of their biggest accomplishments to date. There's a near countless amount of things to like here but my personal favorite is around the time Bowie enters the song and the horns kick in. God, those horns.

2. Kanye West - Blood on the Leaves

Let's be honest, not many people can get away with "Blood on the Leaves" Combining Nina Simone with a TNGHT beat should be straight blasphemy and to some people, it was. Using a song about the oppression of an entire race of people and rapping lines like "when you tried your first molly" over it? It's downright insulting. But as he almost always does, Kanye makes it works. He knows exactly what he's doing and he does it, like he does everything, with such a brazen cockiness that you can't help but respect in some weird, twisted way.

1. A$AP Ferg - Shabba (Remix)

Ridiculous. Absurd. Preposterous. These are all words that I could use to describe the remix to A$AP Ferg's "Shabba" but none of them even begin to do it justice. Where do you even begin with this thing? This is a song just made up of incredible moments. There's Shabba Ranks, the man himself, getting things started, Ferg's Yeezus impression, when Ferg just starts barking at the end of his verse, Migos topping off their incredible year with a pair of great verses. But my personal preference has to be Busta Rhymes' impression of an air horn. Just ridiculous.

Top Albums of 2013

10. Speedy Ortiz - Major Arcana

Honest to god rock bands are pretty hard to find nowadays. But Speedy Ortiz may be one of the purest and best of a dying breed. There's something almost quirky about a band with just a guitar, a bass, some drums and a voice. Major Arcana transports you back to the 90s when that was all that mattered and proves that front woman Sadie Dupuis would have taken her rightful place among the grunge greats of the era. It's simple music that anyone can enjoy and sometimes that all you need.

9. Drake - Nothing Was the Same

A lot of people have a lot of strong opinions about Drake. It's probably safe to call him the most polarizing member of Degrassi at this point. A lot of people seem to have a problem with his "started from the bottom" mantra, which is fair. The idea that Aubrey Graham started from the bottom is pretty ridiculous, to be fair. But Drake is a kind of ridiculous guy. Underneath it all, the dude is just a giant dork. He's not very self-aware, he's not really cut out for the cut throat rap world. So when he yelps about how "muthafuckas never loved us", you kind of laugh and nod but at the same time, it's kind of refreshing. There's nothing ironic about Drake. Take it or leave it, he is who he is. And while it's definitely fun to see show that other side on songs like "Worst Behavior", he is at his best when he embraces the real him. A sappy, sentimental, dork. Perhaps the best example of this comes on "Hold On, We're Going Home", a perfect sticky sweet pop song that's hard not to sing along to and harder still to hate. Even the music video is so corny and ridiculous but it's clear that Drake either doesn't care or doesn't even notice.

8. DJ Koze - Amygdala

DJ Koze, out of Germany, isn't exactly a new face in the techno/house scene. He's been producing remixes an singles for years but think of Amygdala as his coming out party. This isn't the pulse pounding techno you're expecting. It's restrained, understated and most of all, beautiful music. Koze brings in a cavalcade of other musicians to help him out, including Caribou and Matthew Dear but his real power lies his uncanny ability to blend these other artists seamlessly into his tracks making them part of the beat, not featured on it.

7. Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap

With the explosion of popularity rappers like Chief Keef, the Chicago rap scene goes hand in hand with violence but Chance the Rapper is different. He's a breath of fresh air to a city that desperately needed one. But he doesn't just differ in subject matter of his Chicago brethren. Chance abandons the trap beats for a much more 90s influenced production, clearly influenced by early Kanye, A Tribe Called Quest, among others. Chance laments the memory of the lives the violence of Chicago has taken throughout Acid Rap but it's also a record full of just fun tracks. It's a rap record about positivity and love, which is becoming rarer and rarer.

6. Danny Brown - Old

Compared to most of other rappers releasing their debut commercial album in 2013, Danny Brown is downright ancient. Largely unknown until 2011 when he released XXX, Danny Brown is 32 years old and just now hitting his stride. Like XXX and Danny Brown himself, Old is dual sided. Side A is filled with introspective tales from the Detroit hood where Danny grew up while side B erupts into a flurry of druggy club tracks. Danny Brown is a complex character and "Old" is a perfect self-reflection. He's a smart dude with a fantastic ear for all kinds of music, which evident by the perfect beat selection throughout the album. Listening to Old is like walking through a hip hop museum taking in the influences and production that got the genre to where it is today.

5. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

Like most people reading this right now, I miss Ryan Davis. Everyone has got their own ways of remembering Ryan. Going back and watching old videos and podcasts doesn't really work for me, personally. The best way for me has been Random Access Memories. I don't know of a single piece of media that more showcases the spirit of Ryan Davis than this album. That's obviously a very personal reason for the album being on this list but it's also just a great record in its own right. Random Access Memories is both a nostalgic love letter to the past as well as an ode to the future. The album wears its influences on its sleeve. Hell, most of time they just cut through the whole "influences" part and feature them on the record itself. It's luxury that many artists don't have but it's one that Daft Punk thankfully doesn't pass up on.

4. CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

The bands of the future are going to look a lot like CHVRCHES. A bunch of dudes (in this case, two dudes and a girl) with synthesizers instead of guitars but if they're all even half as good as The Bones of What You Believe then we're in good shape. It's the best pop album of the year but it's more than just mindless superficial shallow pop music. The Bones of What You Believe is an emotional and personal record. It's an ambitious album that aims high and reaches its goals in seemingly effortless fashion.

3. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels

Killer Mike and El-P individually released two of the best rap albums of the year in 2012. It only makes sense that the two would come together and release one of the best rap albums of 2013. Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and El-P's Cancer 4 Cure were very rich with themes and cynical messages about race, government and just about everything in between. As Run the Jewels, they say fuck that. The duo are in full blown scorched earth mode, eradicating everyone and everything in their path. And the whole time they barely seem to break a sweat.

2. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt

It's hard to imagine a person who listens to Cerulean Salt and doesn't hear something that strikes a cord. It's a record that so incredibly truthful and real that it can sometimes feel like Katie Crutchfield is plucking these songs right from your own life. There's not a whole lot to the music on Cerulean Salt. A lot of the songs are just Crutchfield and a guitar, sometimes with a backing drum track but the emotional honesty behind every song elevates the album to one of the best of the year.

1. Kanye West - Yeezus

Yep. I racked my brain real hard. I really did. I tried to figure out if there was any album this year that I could put at this number 1 spot instead of Yeezus but putting anything else in this spot just seemed disingenuous. There's no album that I went back to more this year than Yeezus. It may not be the best rap album of the year. It may not have the best lyrics or flow but no other album this year could top the visceral experience of the 40 wild minutes in Kanye West's insane mind. It's an unrelenting, pounding, no holds barred assault on your senses. Say what you will about Kanye (and many have) but no one can say that the guy doesn't have a vision and he's intent on sticking to it and accepting no compromises. They say you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Well, last I checked Kanye is still breathing so that can only mean one thing.

#1 Posted by ThePickle (4182 posts) -

Great list. The Remix of Shabba is a fine choice for SOTY. It makes the original look pretty tame, which is not an easy feat.

#2 Posted by guanophobic (305 posts) -

I just came to say you've got an awesome taste in music.
Opened my eyes up to some artist/groups I'd never discover on my own.

  • Rustie - Slasherr
  • Sophie - Bipp
  • Danny Brown - Old
  • CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

Were all awesome, thanks!

My own favorites of 2013 were a few pics from Hospital Record's podcast:

A hip hop record recommended on twitter by Avalanche Studios founder Christer Sundberg

This year's "summer jam" in Sweden:

Got this hooked on my mind since the premiere of Despicable Me 2 (if don't miss out on the 24h of happy)

On to more 4/4 beats:

Got to discover a whole lot of awesome 80's inspired music (neo-disco?), right around when Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon was released (stuff not released this year).

GTA V was also an eye opener:

#3 Posted by Demoskinos (14830 posts) -

I was actually really let down by Earl's album. None of the tracks seemed all that fun to me. Sure, no arguement that the kid can spit tricky wordplay probably better than most these days but none of the tracks really had anything for me beyond just that.

Yeezus in first place ain't a bad choice although I just never found myself going back to it as much as I did with MBDTF.

#4 Edited by FancySoapsMan (5827 posts) -

Fuck yeah, you're the first person on these forums I've seen mention Chvrches.

Gun is probably my favorite song of the year. Good stuff.

#5 Posted by Molenator85 (224 posts) -

Love the list man. I was with you on everything, but after seeing Shabba (Remix) for number one I knew you were speaking my language.

Any list with a Run the Jewels and Acid Rap appearance is a fine list indeed.

#6 Posted by Roomrunner (828 posts) -

woo lists!

I put my fave songs in a mixtape here

------------------------------------------

here's my top ten albums

10. Streetlight Manifesto - The Hands That Thieve

This album has a real "us vs the world" story behind it. Not in the songs, bit its actual history. Their own record label did everything they could to make sure it wouldn't be released, and if it did, the band wouldn't make a dime off it. They've always been a hard sell to music fans due to their 90's punk-ska roots. Truth is Tomas Kalnoky is an amazing songwriter, and has a very tight group of musicians backing him up.

Best song - "The Three of Us"

9. Camera Obscura - Desire Lines

Another band that's never gotten its due. Camera Obscura is always pushed under the shadow of their fellow twee pop countrymen, Belle & Sebastien. I've always found Camera Obscura to be a lot more personality and focus in their work. Tracyanne Campbell's voice alone is heartbreaking, and even when writing a pop song, she always manages see the clouds through the silver lining.

Best song - "New Year's Resolution"

8. Mike Jones - Plays Well With Others

I'm sort of a Penn Jillette fan, so I admit, it was his shilling of this album that convinced me to try it. I'm not clever enough to critique jazz, so I'm only going to say I enjoy this album a lot, especially during this Christmas season. I've also become accustomed to throwing it on for Rouge Legacy sessions.

A good song - "I'm Old Fashioned"

7. Bad Religion - True North

This album is the real sequel to No Control fans have been waiting for. Short, simple, and sharp punk rock songs.

Best song - "In Their Hearts is Right"

6. Man or Astro-Man? - Defcon 54321

If you don't know who Man or Astro-Man? is, change that right now! This is their first album in over ten years with just the right amount of nostalgic surf-riffs balanced with some cool Sonic Youth like grunge experimentation.

Best song - "Defcon 5"

5. capsule - CAPS LOCK

Once a cuddly Shibuya-kei act, capsule is most known today for their electro-disco house music (which has been less hit than miss, IMO). After switching record labels, capsule seems to have shifted gears again, into weird art-pop. Most fans seem to be annoyed by the change, but I think it's the freshest and most relevant thing capsule has ever done.

Best song - "CONTROL"

4. !!! - THR!!!ER

This is the best album by and already great disco band. It flows very well, doesn't lean on any hooks or gimmicks, and doesn't have a single dull moment.

Best song - "One Girl/One Boy"

3. the telephones - Laugh,Cry,Sing.… And Dance!!!

More disco? Sure why not. If you have no shame, the telephones is the most fun you can have with music all year. Colorful, ridiculous, over the top, and most of all proudly stupid top to bottom. This is the most Giant Bomb of any album I was into this year.

Pretty much the best thing you'll ever see - a music video for "Keep Your Disco"

2. Laura Stevenson - Wheel

Before, this Long Islander doing country music just felt like something sweet and different. Now, after listening to Wheel, I'm convinced Laura Stevenson should be a very big thing. She creates some incredibly moving songs here, with huge swells of a rich sound, and her voice somehow soaring over it all. Had to catch my breath after quite a few songs on this, and I'm not even a country music fan.

Best song - "Eleonora"

1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of The City

I feel bad about this pick; almost like it's too safe and easy. But I have to give credit, this is the Vampire Weekend I always had in my head, fully realized. POSH AS FUCK. This isn't Harvard on spring break (s/t album) or the Hamptons beach house (Contra), this is the big ballroom gala. Beautiful production, and I also really enjoy the subtle (seemingly pointless) religious undertone in the songwriting. They've finally nailed down experimentation well in songs like "Diane Young" and "Ya Hey"

Best song - "Step"

#7 Edited by Red (5995 posts) -

Hey, that's a pretty good list! I was honestly a bit underwhelmed as a whole by this year in music. Nothing I've listened to this year really sticks out to me as a great record I'll be revisiting for years to come. Still some good albums, though. I couldn't rank a top ten, but here are some of my favorites from the year:

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City: I really hate liking Vampire Weekend, but they're really, really good, and this album is probably their best yet, with some really catchy singles that don't sacrifice intellectual depth for a broader appeal.

The National - Trouble Will Find Me: A comeback from the occasionally dull High Violet, Trouble Will Find Me is driving, catchy, and approachable, but still cultivates a great dourness. It's not groundbreaking for the band, but still a worthy entry to their catalog and indie pop in general.

The Dodos - Carrier: I remember hearing some negative reactions to this when it came out, but it has definitely grown on me. The Dodos take a sobering turn, trading odes to stupidity like their debut's "Fools" for some poignant meditations on life and death.

Swearin' - Surfing Strange: I won't pretend this is a landmark album of any kind, but it's the exact kind of simultaneously careless and smart indie rock that I adore. Instrumentally and tonally varied throughout, yet still a cohesive whole, this is probably the album I've listened to the most over the year.

Fat History Month - Bad History Month: Similar to Swearin's album from this year, Bad History Month isn't especially original, but it's an exceptionally well-done and engaging entry into my favorite style of music.

King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon: Somehow singing with a voice that is simultaneously apathetic, soulful, youthful, and jaded, King Krule puts out an impressively singular and unique debut album.

Beach Fossils - Clash the Truth: Having grown out of the reverb-slathered wave they originally rode, Beach Fossils give an instrumentally dense and gripping album, throwing in a slight post-punk edge to give their music an intensity where their past releases relaxed.

Grouper - The Man Who Died in the Boat: Just a great, haunting little bit of ambient folk music.

The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Whenever, If Ever: I normally don't like emo music, but TWIABPAIANLATD transcend the whininess of their genre and the pretentiousness of their name with a post-rock sense of grandeur that gives actual weight to the emotive vocals.

Jon Hopkins - Immunity: An ambient/electronic record that alternates between being danceable and just plain beautiful.

Have liked so far but need to listen to more to get a definitive opinion on: Disclosure - Settle, Deafheaven - Sunbather, Tim Hecker - Virgins, Savages - Silence Yourself, Majical Cloudz - Impersonator, Haim - Days Are Gone, My Bloody Valentine - mbv, Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt.

And hey, while I'm at it, my favorite of the year, also in no particular order:

Mas Ysa - Why, Haim - The Wire, Deafheaven - Dream House, Disclosure - Latch, Hop Along - Sister Cities, The National - Graceless, King Krule - Easy Easy, Fat History Month - Bald History Month, My Bloody Valentine - she found now, Vampire Weekend - Step, Arcade Fire - Afterlife, Swearin - Watered Down, Daft Punk - Get Lucky.

#8 Edited by jlev880 (204 posts) -

I haven't really ordered my favorite albums, or narrowed them down to ten but here they are:

  • The Safety Fire - Mouth of Swords
  • Protest the Hero - Volition
  • The Ocean - Pelegial
  • Deafheaven - Sunbather
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer
  • TesseracT - Altered State
  • Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
  • Disclosure - Settle
  • Red Fang - Whales and Leeches
  • East of the Wall - Redaction Artifacts
  • Melt-Banana - Fetch
  • August Burns Red - Rescue and Restore
  • Intronaut - Habitual Levitations
  • Scale the Summit - The Migration
  • Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
  • Kendrick Lamar - good kid m.A.A.d city

My favorite tracks of the year as well:

  • The Safety Fire - Beware the Leopard (Jagwar)
  • Protest the Hero - Mist
  • The Ocean - Hadoplagic II: Let Them Believe
  • Queens of the Stone Age - If I Had a Tail
  • Red Fang - Blood Like Cream
  • Doomriders - New Pyramids
  • Kanye West - Bound 2
  • Kendrick Lamar - Compton
  • August Burns Red - Spirit Breaker
  • The Knife - A Tooth for an Eye
  • Melt-Banana - Zero
  • Intronaut - Milk Leg
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - Nothing's Funny
  • East of the Wall - Obfuscator Dye
  • Scale the Summit - The Traveler
  • Daft Punk - Contact
  • Deafheaven - Sunbather
  • TesseracT - Nocturne
  • Disclosure - White Noise
  • Arcade Fire - Reflektor
  • Cold War Kids - Lost that Easy

Also list of my favorite albums I discovered this year but did not come out this year:

  • Death Grips - The Money Store
  • The Contortionist - Intrinsic
  • Sikth - The Trees are Dead & Dried Out Wait for Something Wild
  • The Safety Fire - Grind the Ocean
  • Future Islands - On the Water
  • Future Islands - In Evening Air
  • Deafheaven - Roads to Judah
  • Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang Clan - 36 Chambers
#9 Edited by Milkman (16791 posts) -

@demoskinos: Yeah, "fun" doesn't really seem to be high on Earl's list of priorities. The album can be a slog to get through at times because it all moves so slowly but there's a bunch of really great tracks on there.

@thepickle: @red: @molenator85: @fancysoapsman: Thanks!

@guanophobic: Thanks! Really, having other people find new music because of this list is the best possible result.

#10 Posted by TheVeteran13 (1209 posts) -

Some of this may not have come out in 2013 and there not all albums per say but it's new to me!

Superheroes Anonymous Vol. 1,2 and 3 - Adventure Club - 3 super awesome mixes and combine some hits you know and some great stuff you probably never heard of. You can download all of them for free on Soundcloud. https://soundcloud.com/adventureclub/superheroes-anonymous-vol-1

Endless Fantasy - Anamanaguchi - Anamanaguchis kickstarter album, it's pretty great.

All Hail Bright Futures - And So I Watch You From Afar - An instrumental band from Irelands' third album, full of great tracks, The Stay Golden makes me happy every time I hear it.

Everblack - The Black Dahlia Murder - I was worried that it would be different without Shannon Lucas behind the kit but they delivered another kickass album.

Sunbather - Deafheaven - There has been a lot of talk about this album and it is well deserved, I'm super pumped to see these guys live in February. The title track is my favorite off this one.

One of Us is The Killer - The Dillinger Escape Plan - Holy fuck is Prancer one hell of an opener.

Outrun - Kavinsky - I learned about Kavinsky from the movie Drive like I assume most people did and his debut album does not disappoint. The whole album sounds like an 80's action movie.

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels - The best rap album of the year.

The Hands That Thieve - Streetlight Manifesto - An great album that had a rocky release due to record label shenanigans but a worthy successor to Somewhere in the Between.

Any album or mix that Monstercat released this year they're all pretty fantastic.


#11 Edited by xaLieNxGrEyx (2605 posts) -

That is all