We really like music. It is in our ears constantly- on the bus, at our houses, in the club and as we fall asleep. And by we, I don’t just mean the writers who contributed to this list. I mean everybody. What fun would the world be without a soundtrack? Regardless of your thoughts and feelings about Kanye West or Lorde, at least we can all sit in agreement that music brings people together and makes us all feel good.
The 20 albums on this list are what made us (and this time I mean those who write this list) feel good. We danced, we cried, and in the making of this list, we argued to the soundtrack of these albums. There is hardly a single common point between these albums except maybe the massive play count they garnered in our music libraries. Some of the writers for Arbitrary Analysis even strongly dislike albums on this list, while others have gushed about them all year. As you will read in the following list, however, when one of us likes something, we love it. Happy New Years ❤
20 | Daft Punk | Random Access Memories
So how does the world’s most celebrated electronic artist successfully make a return after a seven-year recess? They don’t. It seems like the disappointed reaction to this album must have been inevitable, considering how much hate it got, despite how good it actually turned out to be. But maybe I just was never a big enough fan of their old stuff in the first place.
What Random Access Memories does is take Daft Punk’s incredible style and production and supplement a variety of personalities to enhance the experience. Nobody was listening to “One More Time” saying to themselves: “this is good, but if they could only get that guy from Animal Collective in there…” But it is impossible to deny the benefit some of these cameos add to their sound.
Is the whole album consistent? No. Is it a little overlong? Sure. But at its best, the album is creating some of the best songs to come out this year. The absurd hype-train that was “Get Lucky” has led some people to flip-flop on its standing. Screw the apprehension, that song is the best dance track to be released in years. It’s groovy, captivating, and demonstrates that brilliant balance between Daft Punk’s style and the one’s incorporated by their featured artists.
Random Access Memories is a delight to listen to. It’s expansive and its got soul. When Daft Punk hits their mark we’re dealing with some fabulous soundscapes, and I think that’s something we can all appreciate.
19 | Danny Brown | Old
“Like Lieutenant Dan, I’m rollin’/ Back to back, I keep on smoking”
“Hotel rooms crushing pills and menus/Daughter sending me messages saying ‘Daddy I miss you’/But in this condition I don’t think she need to see me”
– “Clean Up”
This, to me, exemplifies the unique dichotomy in the persona of Danny Brown. Brown, to borrow a fitting cliché, burst onto the scene in 2010 with The Hybrid, and even more so a year later with XXX. He is a rapper that is not averse from dropping a few dick jokes, and many of his lines are brilliantly clever (like the Lt. Dan one above). But he is more than capable of an emotional gut punch, because he is a man wracked by depression, anxiety, loneliness and a cavalcade of acknowledged vices, and he isn’t afraid to contextualize everything around this lifestyle.
It’s a long album, 19 songs, and split into Side A and Side B. A is more about Brown’s nightmares, and B is more crowd-pleasing (to put it simply). His trademark vocal tone barks across unparalleled party starters like “Dip”, but becomes more subdued at times. There is no enigma in rap quite as strange or original as Brown, but he’s more concerned with being remembered. “So I’m breaking day sniffing Adderall, writing,” he shares on “Float On”, “and not for the money, for the life after dying.” Brown is desperate to leave his mark, and he’s well on his way. – Jake
18 | My Bloody Valentine | mbv
Very early into the year, I started proudly claiming 2013 would be remembered as ‘the year of the comeback’. Now, this wasn’t in anyway an original claim, and I’ve had arguments with friends over what exactly a ‘comeback’ is, but basically a whole lot of artists seemed to be reuniting and releasing new albums in 2013 for better or for worse. mbv, the third album from My Blood Valentine and their first since 1991’s masterpiece Loveless, stands above and beyond any of the other ‘comebacks’ of 2013. Did anyone actually think this would come out? Did anyone actually think it could be this good?
What works best about mbv is just how natural it feels. It’s as if frontman Kevin Shields never took the time off, the shoegaze genre was just as hip as it was in the early 90’s, and Belinda Butcher’s dreamy reverbed vocals were as fresh as ever. The blaring guitar that blasts through “Only Tomorrow” is a perfect use of their sound, and “New You“ already feels like an absolute classic. Still, they are experimenting and shifting the shoegaze genre in noisier (the helicopter sounds of “Wonder 2”) and even more dreamy (the essentially ambient “Is This and Yes”) ways than ever before.
mbv is like a visit from an old friend who’s somehow just as cool, if not cooler, than you remembered. They may have taken their sweet old time, but it’s like My Bloody Valentine had never really left. – Keith
17 | Jai Paul | Leaked Demos
Jai Paul’s leaked demos shouldn’t be on this list. They shouldn’t be on your computer. Jai Paul didn’t want you to hear them. They are incomplete songs, some may be throwaways, and they were only leaked because somebody allegedly stole them and uploaded them to bandcamp, and yet it is one of the most compelling releases of the year. The songs sound like sketches, sure, but these are detailed sketches that require no refining to be works of art.
I could go on about how this album is indicative of our times and how album format no longer matters, but there’s a thousand think-pieces on that readily available from your favourite music publication. The actual content is what matters over the legend of the album’s release, because it is simply brilliant. Jai Paul’s vocal strength and range are undeniable despite the relatively sloppy mixing, and his chopped up Funkadelic-inspired guitar riffs are fantastically polished for a set of demos. Skittering drums and bizarre samples (Harry Potter? Gossip Girl? Ravi Shankar?) fill in the necessary gaps, creating a consistently energetic and upbeat atmosphere throughout the playtime. Maybe the demos are hinting at a fully-formed release to come, but even if they don’t, it’s hard to feel dissatisfied with what we have. – Ben
16 | Baths | Obsidian
Will Wiesenfeld, better known as Baths, is an open person. His Twitter feed is decidedly unfiltered, sharing many personal details and late-night thoughts (and buying habits). His music follows suit, and far more so on his sophomore album, Obsidian, than on his excellent debut, Cerulean. These are deeply personal songs, covering an emotional palette that more often than not skews toward the melodramatically dark.
A lot of Obsidian is about death, and there are several direct references to suicide (“Phaedra, it is you that made me want to kill myself”). Wiesenfeld was in a bad place when writing this album, and the darkness creeps throughout each song. His vocals, which are intimate and wavering, are the focus here, rather than the footnote they were on Cerulean. His lyrics are homoerotic, candid and gut-wrenching, achingly exclusive yet identifiable. Wiesenfeld calls us to glare at his darkness, and we’re forced to feel our own. – Jake
15 | Beyonce | Beyonce
Other artists could do what Beyonce does, like drop a 14-song album in the middle of December exclusively on iTunes with a video for each song and without any prior warning, hype or single, but none would look as good doing it. When Beyonce does this, it is an event. Many were asleep when the album hit, but I watched as every tweet, status update, and Tumblr post was about Beyonce (most of them in adulation). It was a fervor similar to what Daft Punk created over months with their comeback, and she accomplished it in one night.
Even more impressive was that the music and the videos all delivered handily, as forward-thinking and next-level as the album’s surprise release. This album is simultaneously Beyonce’s most personal, most experimental, and most overtly sexual. “Haunted” is a glorious thing, with brilliant production and a loop of Beyonce saying “around” that is one of my favourite moments in music this year. “***Flawless” gives us the immortal line, “I woke up like this – flawless”, and also cleverly reapplies the criticism the opening (as “Bow Down”) received earlier this year by inserting an excerpt of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discussing feminism. On this album, Beyonce does whatever she wants (as a grown woman is wont to do). She has her cake and eats it by stressing how hard even she has to work to look like this and accomplish all this, and yet she looks so effortless doing it. – Jake
14 | Autre Ne Veut | Anxiety
In some senses, Autre Ne Veut’s performance on his latest album, Anxiety, felt like the aural equivalent of losing one’s virginity. Emotionally unchained and clumsy, sure, but something about it just feels as though it’s right. Any and all falterings present on Anxiety are greatly overshadowed by pure determination and feeling.
The album begins with “Play By Play,” a song that undoubtedly hooks you into the album with its slowly rising intensity, although the best (and most intense) moments on the release come further into the listen.
Take highlight “Counting” for example. The track’s squeaking, hardly functional saxophone seems to encapsulate the ethos of Autre Ne Veut: Take what you have (a fantastic voice) and drench it with emotion until it’s soaked, keep pushing and pushing until you’re reaching the limits of what’s possible. Fuck what your art-school dropout vocal coach taught you, emotion is all you need. Squeal, scream and writhe on the floor of the recording studio and then leave. In and out.
Once the album fully gets into its groove, things flow naturally. Every song has a verse-chorus-verse, rise-and-fall pattern to it, but never does this formula get tiring because what is happening on those tracks is so focused and committed, even addicting. As closer “World War” washes over you, the calm of the moment feels monumental. You’ve just experienced an album. You’ve been gripped and thrown around, but it’s all for the better. Do it again. – Ben
13 | These New Puritans | Field of Reeds
The Talk Talk comparisons were inevitable. These New Puritans had always briefly experimented with classical instrumentation in pop structures, but finally with their third album Field of Reeds, These New Puritans stop dipping their toes in the pool and jump head first into the deep-end.
Field of Reeds is a guided tour of our own existence. Frontman, Jack Barnett, is telling us some kind of story, but it’s not made apparent what about. He’s going on about something that has to do with spirals, islands, swimming, and of course casually touches on the meaning of everything in the world including ourselves.
The moments of silence are as stunning as the loud climaxes of the tracks. Barnett and his group present both everything and nothing in our lives all at once. As the terrifying vocals of the children’s choir say in “Spiral”, “You want to seek the light, you want to get it right? Cause I’ve got nothing that I want to say.” It’s all a search for meaning, as Barnett hesitantly sings on centerpiece, “V (Island Song)”, where he sings with (somehow) both confidence and hesitation, “I am the reasons. Not the questions. Not the answers. The air.”
One of the most stunning works of post-rock in years, Field of Reeds touches on old classics for inspiration, but becomes its own entity in a lost, yet completely articulated, search for both everything and nothing. – Keith
12 | Julianna Barwick | Nepenthe
In Greek mythology nepenthe is a drug of forgetfulness, alleviating all sorrow and anguish. When listening to Julianna Barwick’s second album, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate title. The album operates like a sedative, tapping into your nervous system. Its constant tranquility is nothing short of magical.
The album can certainly be described as ambient, but Barwick’s vocals bring such humanity to the genre. At the same time, those vocals have an otherworldliness to them; emotional, yet distant, giving truth to that Grecian claim. The sound is reminiscent of Sigur Ros, without any of the pretension.
Julianna Barwick’s debut release was completely built on the sound of her voice. With Nepenthe she builds on this by adding instrumentals, creating a much more full and rich sound. Barwick manipulates and layers her voice, making it another instrument in the production’s orchestra. I don’t use that last word lightly either, this is the stuff of grand concert halls.
Listening to Nepenthe is a beautiful experience. Playing it on your iPod while walking has the ability to transform your environment into a dreamlike landscape. That’s no simple feat; few albums can absorb the mind and spirit like this. Considering the doldrums of everyday life, perhaps a drink of nepenthe is something we could all use. – Duncan
11 | Chance the Rapper | Acid Rap
Despite being named after a hallucigenic, Acid Rap is one of the most lucid releases of the year. The mixtape is a dense listen, as frantic and enlightened as the mind of an 18-year-old stoner/truant/rapper can be. Chance The Rapper (as he says himself, please say “The Rapper”) writes his raps in a stream-of-consciousness style, not only mentioning parties and trips, but conflicted relationships with parents and mixed feelings about gang violence. Through all this he manages to sound fresh, and not even a little bit cheesy as many rappers do when addressing such topics. A lot of his effect is in his brutal honesty, his complex worldview, and the fact that he wrote much of the tape while in high school.
Chance The Rapper’s wordy lyrics are only bolstered by his incredible instrumentals. In an age where drill and trap tendencies are monopolizing Chicago’s rap scene, everything on Acid Rap feels deep and lush. The mixtape’s live instrumentation and slow-burning beats pull influence from soul and funk, picking up where Kanye West’s early instrumentals left off with an added after-school band practice aesthetic.
As a whole what makes Acid Rap stand out is energy. The tape felt tailored for summer nights full of parties, and summer days spent road tripping to the next one. Chance The Rapper sounds happy, and when he doesn’t, he can speak of mistakes and missing his mom without making himself sound disingenuous. The tape is a look into the diverse talents of an individual who may come to be one of the most important figures in new-school rap. – Ben
10 | Disclosure | Settle
For a long time, I wasn’t sold on this album. The debut album from young UK dance duo Disclosure, Settle, blew up in England and received (mostly) critical acclaim across publications, but I would be the first to point out the low points and long running time as faults. It wasn’t until recently when my friends joked, “What is this album? You play it literally every day.” Settle becomes a part of you. Suddenly the album wasn’t too long, it felt far too short. Every song felt like a hit single and only continued to become more engrained into my everyday activities.
Settle is all about love, and similarly, it becomes even better when you loose yourself into it. For a dance album, I never found myself dancing while listening, simply nodding my head and feeling enamoured with it warm synths. From the huge “Latch” begging to give into love, the wobbling “F For You” and its infatuated narration, the beautiful closing moments of “Help Me Loose My Mind” begging for devotion, or the most emotional and powerfully positive “Defeated No More”, the entire album is like a pep talk from a friend to ask out that person you’ve been absolutely infatuated with.
Settle does the exact opposite of what its name would suggest, it doesn’t simply Settle it strives to find the love of our lives, the beauty in all the world around us, and it strives for perfection. It’s like a spontaneous combustion baby. – Keith
9 | Chvrches | The Bones of What You Believe
My favourite genre of music, outside of simply synthpop, would be night drive music. This is music that seems to have been recorded with night drives in mind, songs that fit the unique and otherworldly atmosphere of a night drive immaculately. M83, The Cure, Grimes and Chromatics (who, fittingly, have an album called Night Drive) are all excellent examples. Lorde and Sky Ferreira put out albums this year that would fit well, also. Chvrches are a band that I can listen to anytime, but this album is particularly well-suited to night drives. The synth flourishes, Lauren Mayberry’s soaring and infectiously accented vocals, relentless hooks rendering any song a potential single. I can’t think of a more exhilarating moment this year than when I was driving fast down an empty road at night, windows down, the thrilling release two minutes into “Tether” hitting me like the bursting of a bubble of gum.
But the shiny neon exterior isn’t all Chvrches are concerned with. What really works for me about the band’s music is the intimacy. They are earnestly giving us deeply heart-on-the-sleeve, impassioned details about love and intimacy and the dissolution of these things, and it all results in a smorgasbord of cathartic synthpop releases. Every song emits a powerful emotional response from me (the highlights being “Recover”, “We Sink” and “Night Sky”), because it all sounds so sincere and so real. An appeal to the heart, perfect for a night drive. – Jake
8 | Arca | &&&&&
&&&&& is the Cthulhu of beat tapes. Incomprehensibly massive and primal, dripping of ooze, summoned by some mysterious force, it throws its weight around for almost half an hour and then fades away. Do we even want to know what it is or where it came from? Maybe some repressed bit of our psyche does. Or maybe last.fm does.
Arca is the chosen stage name of Alejandro Ghersi. Ghersi makes beats for Kanye West and FKA Twigs. &&&&& is his mixtape that he released this year.
For its entirety, the mixtape hosts a dark and echoing atmosphere, leaving the most basic elements of rap beats to scrap amongst themselves as the sounds of the conflict bounce and reverberate in the abyss. Drum hits and synths refuse to play along to the beat, and samples warp out of tune as they emerge. Every moment of quiet inevitably gives way to a beat infinitely more menacing than the one before. It is easy after hearing the tape to understand Arca’s direct input into tracks on Yeezus such as “Send It Up” and “I’m In It” although &&&&& as a whole never feels more than a distant cousin. Instead the beats stay in their own half-world, not begging to be rapped over, but commanding your attention nonetheless. – Ben
7 | Arcade Fire | Reflektor
Sprawling, ambitious, and reflexive, Arcade Fire’s fourth album, Reflektor, is a change of pace for the Canadian indie-rockers, yet feels like the exact change they needed. With production help from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy*, Reflektor was hyped as Arcade Fire’s “dance/disco” album, but calling this just disco is selling it short.
As the opening title track suggest, the album is all about reflections, as Arcade Fire spend the album reflecting various genres and exploring the power of music itself. The track “Reflektor” is a lengthy dance rock jam which has already become an indie anthem. “Joan of Arc” begins with jolting punk rock before becoming stadium rock chants, while “Normal Person” feels like its simultaneous mocking and perfecting rock music as as singer Win Butler asks, “Do you like rock n roll music? Cause I don’t know if I do.” “Here Comes the Night” feels like an equal mix of African funk drumming and the Under The Sea sequence of The Little Mermaid. Basically, this album goes all over the place musically, but still feels cohesive as an exploration of the power of music.
Besides how brave the album is musically, it’s also Arcade Fire’s most consistent since their debut Funeral, with its second disc stealing the show with the streak of “It’s Never Over”, “Porno”, and “Afterlife.
Reflektor is a big giant mess, but the pieces all fit together beautifully, making it one of the most daring and rewarding releases of the year. – Keith
* Sidenote/Warning: I’m a huge James Murphy fanboy.
6 | Drake | Nothing Was The Same
Back in 2011, in something of a throwaway line off of the bonus track “The Motto”, Drake coined the term “YOLO.” Everybody declared their hatred towards the ridiculous phrase, but you would be hard pressed to find a person who never proclaimed it in alleged irony. This is the embodiment of Drake as an artist. For better or for worse, he is so unapologetically himself that it is impossible to deny his impact.
Drake’s last album Take Care was a magnum opus of sentimentalized passion and anguish. It was flooded with fantastic tracks, and was an absolute pleasure to absorb. With all that expressed pain came a dilemma though: it was a tad cumbersome. It appears that Drake realized this, coming back with a much leaner and focused album. Perhaps not as consistent as his last effort, Nothing Was the Same sees him putting out songs that outdo anything that’s come before them.
Drake’s lyrics and delivery are both on point, and 40’s production is as good as anything else in the genre. The biggest treat of this album is “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” which not only solidifies Drake as a phenomenal R&B artist, but is also one of the best songs you’ll find in any genre this year. Realizing the promise to Hip-Hop Kanye put forth with 808s & Heartbreak, Drizzy has proven that there is plenty of room for the undisputed “softest rapper in the game.” – Duncan
5 | Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
Looking at the rest of the top five, our list is dominated with albums that are trying to push the boundaries of their genre, or music as a whole. Modern Vampires of the City doesn’t do that. Nor was Vampire Weekend trying to do that. They have planted themselves firmly inside the box, but they explore each and every inch of it.
This album is an absolute celebration of music. It’s not breaking down any barriers, but it’s the best thing to happen in indie music this year, and the best album Vampire Weekend has ever produced. The music is dynamic and brimming with vitality, making it impossible not to sing along.
When discussing this album, I mistakenly referred to it as the “feel good album of the year.” This was a miscalculation, overlooking its exceptional complexity. The album is full of life, overflowing with energy and passion. But emotion should not be confused for happiness. There is an extensive range of feeling here, and it is so easy to immerse yourself in it.
Ezra Koenig has always been an interesting singer, and that doesn’t change, but he’s proven himself to be an impeccable songwriter as well. Tackling a diversity of themes, there is a surprising level of depth here in a genre that simply never demanded it before.
There is a feeling of growth and development from Vampire Weekend’s previous material. If this album is representative of where they are heading in the future, we have plenty to look forward to. – Duncan
4 | The Knife | Shaking the Habitual
Following up, a full seven years later, on a widely respected and acclaimed hit electronic album with a challenging, politically-motivated feminist manifesto is perhaps a little bold. But then, it would have been underwhelming had a band like The Knife returned with anything less uncompromising than Shaking the Habitual. The Swedish duo have been busy in the interim (Karin Dreijer Andersson put out a solo album as Fever Ray in 2009, and both heavily contributed to the opera Tomorrow, In a Year in 2010), but Shaking the Habitual is their welcome (if polarizing) return.
This album is far more interested in transmitting a political ideology than their dance-fused masterpiece, Silent Shout. Working through themes surrounding feminism, queer theory, environmentalism and other topics, The Knife has strong messages, and only the most fearless music could possibly accompany them. Accessibility is the last priority when there are so many sounds to manipulate into something that seems out of control, but remains compelling and maybe a little uncomfortable. Andersson’s androgynous vocals serve a less obtuse purpose in this mess of ideas, all the shouts and screeches and noises cohering into a distinct intellectualization of their themes. Unwisely dismissed by some for a lack of hooks and apparent inscrutability, The Knife invited us to look a little more closely, and they did so aggressively enough that we had no choice but to listen. – Jake
3 | Oneohtrix Point Never | R+7
R+7, in spite of being one of my favourite albums of 2013, was nearly impossible to talk about. Many of the reviews of the album spent more time talking about Daniel Lopatin’s influences, the album cover, and other details that are relevant but not essential. It is just truly hard to give somebody who hasn’t heard the album a concrete reason as to why it is so captivating, and maybe that is the inherent appeal of it, like some kind of critical Ouroboros.
Put simply, R+7 is an electronic album. The music itself is comprised of various outdated samples and synthesizers that sound cheesy or unexciting because of how familiar they are to us. Garageband synth presets, fake choirs et al. The material is draped over the exoskeleton of various electronic music forms such as house, drone and IDM that gives it newfound appeal. It really is more than the sum of its parts, the end result being a series of slowly rising, complex compositions that are breathtaking to listen to.
I really did mean that part about R+7 being breathtaking. The first time I heard “Still Life” I felt like the city bus I was on was going to take off a la Magic School Bus or something. I was enchanted, and this is the kind of music that gives me faith that electronic music has so much capacity to tug at emotions in unexpected ways. – Ben
2 | Deafheaven | Sunbather
“Accessibility” is a dirty word in the music community. In an attempt to escape the perceived drivel of the Top 40, listeners struggle to find sounds that are pushing the boundaries of the medium. But there is something to be said about music that breaks down the barriers of entry, finding middle ground across genre divisions. Sunbather is an album that accomplishes just this.
Deafheaven builds upon their Black Metal origins with the striking appropriation of Post-Rock and Shoegaze, creating a sound that is absolutely absorbing. The production draws you in through these more subdued instrumentals, but ultimately transcends the achievements of its foundational influences.
Black Metal fans can call foul, claiming Sunbather’s genre colonization has caused it to lose its identity, but there is a reason why this album has been able to breakout of a typically niche genre. Not through compromising its virtues, but expanding their possibilities. That gorgeous pink cover does not represent a swan song, but rather a musical manifest destiny.
Sunbather is an emotional powerhouse. Wailing guitars drown into slow sorrowful misery. The album is spiritual and dynamic, with constant development that refuses to retread its past strides. George Clark’s tormented vocals transform the poignant lyrics into more of a feeling than language. There is a quality of sincerity here that escapes metal’s alienating theatricality.
As you turn the album on, all the contextual noise is extinguished by the beauty of the experience. Its existence was unanticipated: Sunbather is the true sleeper hit of 2013. – Duncan
1 | Kanye West | Yeezus
2013 was the year of Yeezus. From the performances on Saturday Night Live, the city wide projections of “New Slaves”, the outrageous “Bound 2” video, the seemingly doomed but daring Yeezus Tour, and one of the strangest musical beefs of the year followed by one of the most honest interviews with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, West was on fire in 2013. However, nothing eclipsed what was most important, the album itself.
Kanye West’s 2010 critical darling, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, opened with the question, “Can we get much higher?” Well, apparently we can’t. In between screams on the relentless “Black Skinhead”, West fiercely claims, “Follow me up, cause this shit bout to go down.” Dark Fantasy featured five interchangeable covers, Yeezus doesn’t need a single traditional cover. West went from orchestrated maximalism to experimental minimalism. As West said during his interview with Zane Lowe, he can do perfect, he’s done perfect, but now it’s time to destroy it.
The album begins with a harsh noisy acid influenced synth line and never stops beating down hip-hop expectations from there. Each song is a statement and journey of its own, both challenging hip-hop norms while delving deeper into West’s own twisted psyche. West is angry, as he passionately and violently berates our culture in “New Slaves”. “Blood on the Leaves” becomes an antithesis of “Runaway”, where the latter has West admitting to his own faults, the former has West pushing the blame onto everyone around him. Yeezus is the darkest parts of us all.
But, at the end of the day, the album tells us exactly why its here in its very first track.
“He’ll give us what we need / It may not be what we want.”
1 | Kanye West | Yeezus
2 | Oneohtrix Point Never | R+7
3 | Arca | &&&&&
4 | The Knife | Shaking The Habitual
5 | Chance the Rapper | Acid Rap
6 | Jai Paul | Jai Paul Leaked Demos
7 | Autre Ne Veut | Anxiety
8 | Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
9 | Tim Hecker | Virgins
10 | Denzel Curry | Nostalgic 64
I think that I would describe most of what I liked this year as “colourful.” It was nice to see artists expanding their creative horizons through healthy experimentation while still working with a musical palette I recognised and enjoyed. I’m emoji-prayer-handsing that Panda Bear and Kanye West deliver in a similar way in 2014.
1 | Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
2 | Kanye West | Yeezus
3 | Deafheaven | Sunbather
4 | Drake | Nothing Was The Same
5 | Julianna Barwick | Nepenthe
6 | Arcade Fire | Reflektor
7 | Oneohtrix Point Never | R+7
8 | Daft Punk | Random Access Memories
9 | These New Puritans | Field of Reeds
10 | A$AP Rocky | LongLiveA$AP
To be honest, I do not listen to nearly as much music as the other contributors to this list, so please take any overarching statements with a grain of salt. 2013 was the first time that I made an effort to listen to a lot of the music out there. I don’t think I could’ve picked a better year to do so. This year had so many phenomenal things, across all genres. To all the nostalgic defeatists, I say, “maybe music isn’t dead. Maybe we all just forgot what it fucking sounded like.”
1 | Chvrches | The Bones of What You Believe
2 | Baths | Obsidian
3 | Kanye West | Yeezus
4 | The Knife | Shaking the Habitual
5 | Sky Ferreira | Night Time, My Time
6 | Lorde | Pure Heroine
7 | Pure Bathing Culture | Moon Tides
8 | Beyonce | Beyonce
9 | Majical Cloudz | Impersonator
10 | Haim | Days Are Gone
The more music I listen to, the more I look for intimacy and sincerity. There’s a place for music that doesn’t engage with these things, and I love some of it, but I return more often to music I can find these qualities in, and there was a lot of it this year. For me, that comes in many different ways, but Chvrches worked in those areas and hit me in a way unlike anything else. Most of the albums here went down similar paths, emotionally direct like Baths or Majical Cloudz, and I hold them all closely for that reason.
1 | Kanye West | Yeezus
2 | Disclosure | Settle
3 | Oneohtrix Point Never | R+7
4 | My Bloody Valentine | mbv
5 | These New Puritans | Field of Reeds
6 | Deafheaven | Sunbather
7 | William Basinski | Nocturnes
8 | Drake | Nothing Was The Same
9 | Julianna Barwick | Nepenthe
10 | Julia Holter | Loud City Song
For my part-time job this summer I was allowed to listen to my iPod during work hours, which made this one of the most fun years of music for me, allowing for a lot of discoveries and re-listens. What made 2013 really special though was how much I enjoyed all the blockbuster albums (Kanye West, Disclosure, Arcade Fire, The Knife) while still finding a bunch of little guys to champion (These New Puritans, William Basinski, Collen, Sean McCann). A great mix of releases this year, and what was probably my favourite year of the 2010’s so far.