Well, 2013 is over and done with, but that doesn’t mean that we have to stop talking about it. Today we’re celebrating the best music of the last twelve months. Through the magic of Spotify, Deadshirt presents our favorite music tracks from this past year, curated by our own Julian Ames, featuring the best rock, electronic, pop, folk and more that 2013 has to offer.
And of course it wouldn’t be a year-end retrospective without some Top 5 lists! Here, two of our writers reflect on their favorite albums of 2013.
1. Kanye West – Yeezus
“He’ll give us what we need…it may not be what we want…”
When Kanye released his brisk and challenging follow-up to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, there was loads of hubbub clouding the music itself. The man whose last solo album was a gorgeous, maximalist apology letter to America decided to throw together a hurried, barely lyrical, dry rub ejaculation of an album, a self satisfied “fuck you” to anyone who expected a man who refers to himself as a God to be humble or reasonable in his decision making. Kanye basically locked up a bunch of trendsetting electro producers in his Parisian loft, with Rick Rubin and Daft Punk, and created the sound of pop cultural apocalypse, a race riot on the dancefloor of Hades. The massive tour that supported it soundly answered the important question on everyone’s minds: “Why didn’t Hype Williams and Alejandro Jodorowsky ever collaborate with John Milton and Jack Kirby to make the greatest hip hop spectacle ever concieved by human minds?”
It’s been six months since all your friends started tweeting “Hurry up with my damn croissants!” and now that the set dressing has been stricken away, we’re left with a powerful group of tracks whose brutal brevity belies their true staying power. From the stabbing, lightning synths of “On Sight” all the way through to the absurd, dark comedy of “Bound 2” Kanye takes what you want from him and replaces it with what he thinks you deserve, snatching the rattle from the baby’s grasp and handing him a scorpion painted all red with a Jordan Jumpman logo on it. The brash first half, shouting and primal screams electrified with a science fiction edge, give way to a more mournful and pleading Side B, best heard in the dark horse cut “Guilt Trip,” four minutes and three seconds of raw, uncut regret filtered through an Elysian prism. That he barely raps throughout the album, and that some of its best moments are punctuated by indecipherable warbling from Justin Vernon, seems like a sticking point, an easy criticism. In reality, its in those moments that the inescapable limits of words, barely functional knick knacks we hold onto, get in his way. Kanye seeks to express emotions and images so bright and so shrill, something as pithy as “words” can’t contain them. Those distorted screams and squelches are the sound of Kanye West transcending into supernova bursts of pure audio, and we get to take that ride with him. As Mr. West has been saying at his live shows, he named the album Yeezus because “Yeez Is Us.” His titular hook on “I Am A God” may seem boastful, but remember, he wrote it to be sung along by all of his fans.
Name another rapper trying to empower his audience to ascend beyond the heavens.
2. Rhye – Woman
Quadron producer Robin Hannibal and Mike Milosh teamed up for this enigmatic ode to Sade and Quiet Storm radio. There is not a smoother, more hypnotic piece of music this year than standout cut “The Fall.” It all feels like babymaking music designed for people who wish to conceive in the back row of a Marina Abramovic exhibit.
3. Kilo Kish – K+
Kilo’s low key art project, a short album about making an album, is ten ethereal and eclectic tracks, interspersed with meta skits of her presenting the songs to a collaborator during an informal listening session. That we all get to be in on the process, and enjoy some great production from Star Slinger, SBTRKT, Earl Sweatshirt and more is just a bonus.
4. Ciara – Ciara
I know King Beyonce just released a really big (and really, really good) album, but my Dance/R&B release of 2013 is Ciara’s sultry, confident and lean self titled album. Sexy in a sleek, relentlessly modern way, there’s not an ounce of fat on this slick, dreamy LP.
5. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City
I’ve never been the biggest Vampire Weekend fan, but this album is undeniable, a really strong collection of incredible songs that just stick with you. You give them less than an hour of your time, and they give you weeks and months and years worth of listens in return.
1. Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse
These Scottish rockers have a knack for writing dreary, depressing and highly personal songs and delivering them in the most uplifting ways. The album’s first single was “The Woodpile,” a big stadium-sized anthem about being completely helpless. Another one of my favorites, “Backyard Skulls,” a mid tempo rocker about the dark secrets everyone tries to keep buried. When, in the first line of an album the singer calls himself a dickhead, you know you’re dealing with some seriously dark wit. Emotional, personal, and self-deprecating lyrics are Frightened Rabbit’s bread and butter, and singer Scott Hutchinson delivers every line with such conviction that you have no choice but to emphasize with him. The musicianship is top notch as well and serves to emphasize the power of the lyrics. The band’s catchy tunes, interesting riffs and stick-splitting drums earned this record heavy rotation in my car and my record player, and their clever and effective lyricism raised Pedestrian Verse to the top of my favorite albums of the year list. (Read our full review.)
2. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
I’m such a sucker for new wave jams and Holy Ghost delivers them in spades. With a song that I think is about Miami, and another about going “back to New York City,” this album came out at just the right time in my life. (Read our full review.)
3. Savages – Silence Yourself
This album is pure badass post-punk harkening back to Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division. I am continually impressed with all the musicians as well as what the lead singer does with her voice. This album can be a bit abrasive and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it is for me. (Read our full review.)
4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Recently, I’ve been getting more and more into dancified music, (not EDM) and Reflektor gives me a bit of that while still sticking to what drew me to them in the first place. Plus the calypso feel of “Here Comes The Night Time” is infectious. (Read our full review.)
5. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe / Sky Ferriera, Night Time My Time
I couldn’t decide between these two as they both fill the same niche for me – female-lead pop albums with slick production and often times a heavy 80’s influence. Night Time skews a bit more rock while Bones is a bit more synth; both have irresistible hooks and both are incredible. (Read our full review of the new Chvrches.)
What’s that? We’re STILL not done talking about 2013? What’s the matter with us? Do we not know how the Internet works? Check back in tomorrow for our final word on the year that was.