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AwardsWatch’s Best Music of 2013 – Staff Picks

Awardswatch's Best Music of 2013

We are onto a new year and this is the time for looking forward, making new year resolutions and plans and promises to oneself. But this is also a time to look back and reflect and here at AW we have asked our regular contributors and staff members to share the music that connected with them the most and that they enjoyed the most.  In this two part series, first installment is about our staffs’ picks and next week we will post results of a poll conducted by our forum members (make sure you check back at that time to find out how does the collective taste of AW community looks like!)

We know, we know that lists don’t mean anything, ranking stuff is fruitless, an impossible endeavor, a fool’s errand but there is no denying that they are also so much fun! That is exactly why are we doing it here.

Click on each contributor’s name to see their picks, listen to their Song-picks and some quick thoughts behind their selections. Lastly, feel free to drop a line or so in the comment section or better yet, head over to the forums for a more detail discussion.

Haley Anne's...

Haley Anne's...

Top 10 Albums

Most of the albums I selected for my top ten list have one thing in common – they took huge risks, and surprised me greatly. My number-one selection, The National, made an album I, at first, didn’t want to listen to because of my aversion to indie music in general, but won me over with their subtle, powerful work. Every album has a similar story – Miley Cyrus making a bunch of club-bangers? Paramore even trying to make an album after their bands’ splintering in half? My favorite band, Fall Out Boy, doing fifteen minutes of pure punk? 2 Chainz making a top ten at all? But every one of these albums features their respective artists in peak form, not just replicating old successes. All of these albums are huge steps forward, and I applaud them. I’d like to note that Gin Wigmore also would be my pick for best live act I saw all year, for winning over a crowd of scene-emo kids at Warped Tour with little more than her voice. Girl needs to be famous yesterday.

The National
The National
  1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
  2. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz
  3. Fall Out Boy- Pax-Am Days
  4. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories
  5. Me Time 2 Chainz – B.O.A.T.S. II
  6. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
  7. Mavis Staples – One True Vine
  8. Paramore – Paramore
  9. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  10. Gin Wigmore – Gravel and Wine
Top 10 Songs

Whereas most of the albums I chose were united by one common theme of evolution, my singles are, admittedly, all over the place. “Black Skinhead” evokes what I think is the best representation of a fragmented 2013 – a musical powder keg that presents societal unease and anger perfectly. Other tracks like “Headlights”, “Just One Yesterday”, and “Touch” deal with the past, particularly the artists’ past works, and deliver stunning reevaluations of those pasts; “I’m Out” and “Nicotine” provide more depth to the popular “inspiration” song and dark dance song categories, respectively. “Shot At The Night” is a welcome throwback to Queen’s style of musicianship, while “Retrograde” takes sparseness to a whole new level. To round things out, two ballads, both devastating – “Take It On Faith” and “Wrecking Ball” – bring out the best in their female vocalists. My only regret is that I have twenty more tracks that could be on this list, all of them just as worthy as these. (What barely missed? “Outroduction” by 2 Chainz and “In Your Eyes” by Kate Boy.)

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1.  “Black Skinhead”, Kanye West
    Kanye West
    Kanye West
  2.  “Shot At The Night”, The Killers
  3. “Headlights”, Eminem feat. Nate Ruess
  4. “Just One Yesterday”, Fall Out Boy feat. Foxes
  5. “Touch”, Daft Punk feat. Paul Williams
  6. “Take It On Faith”, Natalie Maines
  7. “I’m Out”, Ciara feat. Nicki Minaj
  8. “Wrecking Ball”, Miley Cyrus
  9. “Retrograde”, James Blake
  10. “Nicotine”, Panic! At the Disco

David Long's...

David Long's...

Top 10 Albums

Sunbather is the most layered, beautiful, and dark album of the year, it paints a gloomy yet beautiful picture that is a bit hard to describe. The way Deafheaven is able to balance everything in this album is a marvel. As for Yeezus, there are no words left to say about this album. Go listen to it! Brandy Clark‘s is the rawest country debut of the year, and my favorite overall debut, comes from someone who’s actually been in the industry much longer than one would initially think. As a writer for artists like Miranda Lambert and The Band Perry, her collection of 12 Stories is like a compilation of sorts, the songs other artists turned down. I’m kind of not sure what to label Sky Ferreira’s sound. Post-grunge pop? Lo-fi indie? Either way, Ferreira’s debut is one of the best debuts in quite some time. Ferreira’s control and precision in her music is something to behold. I’ve never really cared for Arctic Monkeys particular brand of alternative rock, but here they dig more into their 70’s funk inspired jams and create one of the year’s best.

  1. Deafheaven – Sunabather
    Deafhaven's Sunbather
    Deafhaven’s Sunbather
  2. Kanye West – Yeezus
  3. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
  4. M.I.A. – Mantangi
  5. Beyoncé – Beyoncé
  6. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
  7. Paramore – Paramore
  8. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
  9. Daft Punk  – Random Access Memories
  10. Arctic Monkeys – AM
Top 10 Songs

I have written about Sleigh Bells and Beyoncé in my reviews here and here. Charli XCX is one of the most exciting things to happen to pop in quite some time. Her whole album is filled with deep, emotional, and complex pop tracks. Deafhaven‘s my favorite album of the year and also holds one of my favorite songs as well. “Dream House”, the nine minute long track is the happiest post-rock shoegazing black metal song ever. No seriously, it’s so darn happy. The atmosphere is built so quickly and immediately puts the listener in a dreamlike state. There are no artists quite like M.I.A, are there? “Double Bubble Trouble” is everything I love about her and her music. She combines about three or four different genres together to create 2013’s best jam.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Double Bubble Trouble”, M.I.A.
    M.I.A.
    M.I.A.
  2. “I Blame Myself”, Sky Ferreira
  3. Partition“, Beyoncé
  4. “Blood on the Leaves”, Kanye West
  5. “Dream House”, Deafhaven
  6. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, Drake
  7. “Still Into You”, Paramore
  8. “You (Ha Ha Ha)”, Charli XCX
  9. “Sing Like a Wire”, Sleigh Bells
  10. “Retrograde”, James Blake

Nick McIntyre's...

Nick McIntyre's...

Top 10 Albums

If 2006’s Silent Shout was The Knife’s audio version of a haunted house, then Shaking the Habitual is the slasher flick — a gory, scorched earth, no holds barred attack made up of feminism, gender, politics, Margaret Atwood song titles, and repurposed Salt-N-Pepa lyrics. Oh, and the nineteen minute long drone dropped right into the middle of the record. Few bands had loftier goals in 2013 than Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer, and none stuck the landing quite as well.

  1. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
    The Knife
    The Knife
  2. Burial-  Rival Dealer EP
  3. Disclosure – Settle
  4. Kanye West – Yeezus
  5. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
  6. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
  7. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
  8. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
  9. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
  10. M.I.A. – Matangi
Top 10 Songs

Sometimes it isn’t about deeper meaning. Sometimes it’s just about a really sleek guitar riff and refrain that practically demands you sing along. The rest of the songs I’ve selected as my personal favorites of 2013 certainly span a wide berth of styles and themes, but none hit that sweet spot that “Get Lucky” managed to hit. It’s that spot where you can shed any preconceptions about the band or the song or the meaning and simply enjoy those few minutes of sonic perfection.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Get Lucky”, Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
    Daft Punk
    Daft Punk
  2. “A Tooth for an Eye”, The Knife
  3. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, Drake
  4. “Latch”, Disclosure
  5. “Play by Play”, Autre Ne Veut
  6. “Blood on the Leaves”, Kanye West
  7. “Bring the Noize”, M.I.A.
  8. “Raging Lung”, The Knife
  9. “Childhood’s End”, Majical Cloudz
  10. “Ribs”, Lorde

Marc van de Klashorst's...

Marc van de Klashorst's...

Top 10 Albums

I’ll lay my cards on the table immediately: most of my time listening to music, which is not enough already (mostly at work), is wasted away on 22tracks, where I can spend hours in the more beat-oriented genres like deep house, techno, or electro. The only time I listen to actual pop music is in my car while commuting, or when I make the conscious choice to listen to, say, Lady Gaga because it’s all our forums talk about (one has to stay au courant, no?). I could probably fill my list of best ten tracks of the year with dance music only twelve people in the world have heard of, but that wouldn’t be a lot of fun, so it’s a mixture of both. Or actually of three things, because I also have four album tracks on it. That’s mainly because I think most stuff that reaches the charts is, at best, a fun distraction. No, I don’t like pop radio that much.

  1. Kanye West – Yeezus
    Kanye West's Yeezus
    Kanye West’s Yeezus
  2. Wende – Last Resistance
  3. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
  4. Valerie June – Pushing Against A Stone
  5. De Jeugd Van Tegenwoordig – Ja, natúúrlijk!
  6. M.I.A. – Matangi
  7. Hadewych Minis – Hadewych Minis
  8. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
  9. James Blake – Overgrown
  10. Beyoncé – Beyoncé

Top 10 Songs

Putting Top 10’s like these together is hard work, and it is especially for albums for me. I think that if I had to guess how many albums I’ve listened to this year, thirty would be an optimistic stab in the dark, so any Top 10 distilled from such a small sample should be taken with a grain of salt. I mainly pick up albums based on what the forums are raving, or if I happen to read a rave review elsewhere or see an unexpected performance that I like. I don’t keep track of who is going to release what and make it a point to listen to all new releases. I simply don’t have the time, because I think listening to an album requires the dedication to actively listen.  If in these lists Dutch artists seem overrepresented, that is purely coincidence. I’m not exactly partial to Dutch music, but this year happened to see a three excellent releases.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Need U (100%)”, Duke Dumont feat. AME
    Duke Dumont feat. A.M.E 's Need U (100%)
    Duke Dumont feat. A.M.E ‘s “Need U (100%)”
  2. “On Sight”, Kanye West
  3. Ask the Tree“, Wende
  4. “Networking”, The Knife
  5.  “In My Heart“, Alex Agore
  6. “Work Bitch”, Britney Spears
  7. “Q.U.E.E.N.”, Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu
  8. Chuck“, Hadewych Minis
  9. “Bring the Noize”,  M.I.A.
  10. Free Yourself“, Orazio Fantini

George Portades'...

George Portades'...

Top 10 Albums

While I became a fan of New Kids on the Block during their first reunion album a couple years ago, it wasn’t until this year’s “10” that I became a huge one. From the retro-sounding “Remix (I Like The)” to some rare solos by Jonathan Knight, this became my favorite albums of theirs to date. Following his post-Idol album, Lee DeWyze regrouped with an excellent folk/rock hybrid that suited his voice and lyrics. The pairing of Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones made for a wondrous covers album that harkened fond childhood memories and it has become one of my favorites to revisit. Chanté Moore‘s “Moore is More” is a post-divorce album that features her extraordinary whistle register, some up-tempos reminiscent of her “Exposed” era, and her classic style updated with today’s R&B market. OneRepublic, Jon McLaughlin and Ciara released very solid albums, of which I love every single track on them. Additionally, Avril Lavigne surprised me once again (like she did with “Goodbye Lullaby”) and delivered an effort that felt like a spellbinding journey. Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez’s album featured some really inventive classic throwbacks (“Drive By” “Don’t Come Around”) along with some beautiful vocals (“Plastic Roses”). Megan Hilty‘s debut showcased her exceptional Broadway vocals on various covers, but it’s on originals like “No Cure” where she really shined bright. It’s been a great year in music for me, however I do feel like I had anticipated more R&B albums to wow me than Pop ones.

  1. New Kids on the Block – 10
    New Kids on the Block's 10
    New Kids on the Block’s 10
  2. Lee DeWyze – Frames
  3. Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones – Foreverly
  4. Chanté Moore – Moore is More
  5. OneRepublic – Native
  6. Jon McLaughlin – Holding My Breath
  7. Ciara – Ciara
  8. Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne
  9. Jessica Sanchez  – Me, You & the Music
  10. Megan Hilty – It Happens All the Time
Top 10 Songs

If you’ve known me throughout the years, you would know that I’m a huge fan when it comes to Adina Howard. One of my earliest dreams growing up was to appear on MTV’s FANatic series and to be able to meet her. Her “Freak Like Me” single was the first cassette I ever bought, of which then I fell in love with her voice and the way her songs had such melodic lyrics/structure. I am still shocked that after being a fan for so many years, following her career from highs (her debut album era) to lows (shelving of her sophomore album, label problems), that I finally got to meet my idol this past summer at Long Beach Pride. It’s crazy. Like, what to do once you’ve met (and hung out with!) your idol? Meeting Adina Howard is a moment in my life that I’ll forever treasure, and I am eternally grateful for everyone (especially Adina and my family members) who helped make one of my lifelong dreams come true. And well, yes, here is my top 10 songs with Ms. Adina Howard Jordan at #1. The follow-ups are songs that have touched my life as well, from ones featuring infectious melodies (“Back Together” “The Wire” “Pumpin’ Blood”) to others with astounding vocals (“Oh!” “Tattooed Heart”) and others that are such exuberant fun (“Overdose” “Don’t Come Around”).

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Switch”, Adina Howard
    Adina Howard
    Adina Howard
  2. “Tattooed Heart”, Ariana Grande
  3. “Back Together”, Jesse McCartney
  4. “Pumpin’ Blood”, NONONO
  5. “Don’t Come Around”, Jessica Sanchez
  6. “Oh!”, Jon McLaughlin
  7. “Overdose”, Ciara
  8. “The Wire”, Haim
  9. “No Cure”, Megan Hilty
  10. “Here’s to Never Growing Up”, Avril Lavigne

Aldo Álvareztostado's...

Aldo Álvareztostado's...

Top 10 Albums

Leaving out many worthy fragments of albums that work mostly as a whole (MBV, Darkside, Fuck Buttons, even Sigur Rós), I start from the bottom: “Watch out for this” is Diplo’s finest, most addictive extravaganza yet. “Marshall Dear” is the epic climax of Savages compelling debut. Kanye West and Juan Cirerol deliver songs that reflect the deep identity of their people: the violent process of assimilation of black population in the culture of the US, and the stoic, nature-metaphor obsessed Mexican lyrics. “Zebra” is experimental music at its best.

The top 5 starts with “Get Lucky”, an instant classic, a proper equivalent to the majestic effect RAM had in this year’s music scenario. A pitch-perfect summer track and the anthem of 2013. And let’s accept it, a much more refined alternative than its chart rival, Blurred Lines. These New Puritans reached a new level of sophistication with “Organ Eternal”. Always dark, always ritual. “Hold on, we’re going home” is bound to become a R&B classic and culminates Drake’s impressive single repertory. There’s something in common between the two tracks that top the list. They both transport us to the finest moments of pop history, to the late 20th century’s optimistic mood and elegant vocals. Disclosure made the most out of London Grammar’s vocals to deliver a versatile, nineties-mood track suitable for both an Ibiza nightclub and a fine music hall. The top spot goes to Rhye’s “Open”. We hear the first words of the song -and the album- and the voice of Milosh has already trapped us. The sound is timeless, ethereal, androgynous. An eulogy to love, to the way it hypnotizes us, the way we don’t want it to end…

  1. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
    My Bloody Valentine's m b v
    My Bloody Valentine’s m b v
  2. Rhye: Woman
  3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  4. Darkside – Psychic
  5. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
  6. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
  7. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
  8. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
  9. Kanye West – Yeezus
  10. Disclosure – Settle
Top 10 Songs

As I wrote in my year inreview write-up last month, I find 2013 as an extraordinary year for music. If had to write about one album alone, I would certainly choose Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories: a true cultural miracle in the age of digital downloads and on-demand music platforms. An album paralyzed the world in a way not seen since the 80’s. A cultural phenomenon and an elegant homage to the french duo’s influences, yet not necessarily the best album of the year. I would give that honor to another comeback: My Bloody Valentine‘s MBV. A narcotic shoegaze odyssey by a band that never left despite the 22-year hiatus. Closely behind, two debuts: Rhye’Woman and Darkside‘s Psychic, both haunting and seductive. Back-in-shape Sigur Rós and The Knife follow. Also included, a couple of albums that reflect the health of modern rap: the first work by Chance the Rapper and the latest from ever-evolving Kanye West. Rounding the top 10, two promising British acts: Blood Orange and Disclosure. UK never misses.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Open”, Rhye
    Rhye's "Open"
    Rhye’s “Open”
  2. “Help me Lose My Mind”, Disclosure
  3. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, Drake
  4. “Organ Eternal”, These New Puritans
  5. “Get Lucky”, Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
  6. “Zebra”, Oneohtrix Point Never
  7. “New Slaves”, Kanye West
  8. Hablando de Daisy“, Juan Cirerol
  9. “Marshall Dear”, Savages
  10. “Watch Out For This (Bumaye)”, Major Lazer

Bryan Corser's...

Bryan Corser's...

Top 10 Albums

If you only paid attention to that last two weeks of music discussion, you might think that Beyoncé ‘s album was the only one released in 2013 and indeed, the album was stunning both in terms of the music and the impact it’s had on the way music is released. But 2013 had a wealth of other great albums, spanning a wide range of genres and styles. In fact, trying to narrow this list down to ten albums was painstakingly difficult. There were at least 20-25 albums that I seriously considered placing on my list. When albums like The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, Sleigh Bells’s Bitter Rivals, and Arctic Monkey’s AM are all left on the sidelines, you know it’s been a great year for music. Here are my top ten albums of 2013

  1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
    Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City
    Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City
  2.  Beyoncé – Beyoncé
  3.  Sky Ferreira – Night Time My Time
  4.  Kanye West – Yeezus
  5.  Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond
  6. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
  7. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
  8. Rhye – Woman
  9. M.I.A – Matangi
  10. Camera Obscura-  Desire Lines
Top 10 Songs

As I mentioned when discussing albums, 2013 has provided a wealth of terrific albums and that’s certainly just as true of individual songs. From the retro funky “Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monáe, the electro pop “Recover” by CHVRCHES, and the introspective yet epic “Afterlife” by Arcade Fire…yes it’s been a great year. And while there were plenty of songs that I considered placing on this list, my #1 was never in question. Most pop songs blame their problems on the world, on money, on society, the system, etc. How rare then for a singer to make a pop song (if it can even be labeled as such) that places the blame squarely on herself? Rare, but that’s exactly what Sky Ferreira did on the appropriately titled “I Blame Myself”. Aside from the refreshingly introspective lyrics it features pitch perfect production and her best vocal, all of which makes it my favorite song of the year

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “I Blame Myself”, Sky Ferreria
    Sky Ferreira
    Sky Ferreira
  2. “Ya Hey”, Vampire Weekend
  3. “Q.U.E.E.N”, Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu
  4. “Afterlife”, Arcade Fire
  5. “3 Days”, Rhye
  6. Partition“,  Beyoncé
  7. “Cri Di Coeur”, Camera Obscura
  8. “Recover, CHVRCHES
  9. “Golden Wake”, Mutual Benefit
  10. “Hold On We’re Going Home”, Drake

Shahab Yunus'...

Shahab Yunus'...

Top 10 Albums

More than half of my top 10 is based on either debut albums and LP releases or artists having an official release for the first time after being in a business  for awhile. Whether it is the sensual, and staggering debut by androgynous Rhye or the shimmery disco-dabka beats of the veteran Omar Souleyman or the assured youthful-ness of chamber-pop band San Fermin from Brooklyn. Also rounding this ‘newbie’ group are couple of artists which have kept their momentum by giving us remarkably coherent, authentic and mature material from the likes of Kurt Vile or notably from Moonface who bare-bones, a-piano-and-voice record is one of the most fascinating this year (and about which I wrote earlier.) Or unabashed, uber-catchy pop confection by Tegan and Sara. Given all the fears about vanishing artistic identity, corruption of the true meaning of ‘indie’ music and rising of a bland, manufactured monogenre, I think this was a pretty good year for new and risky but authentic artists and their music. Let us put aside all those concerns on a side for a moment and just relax and enjoy the music.

  1. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
    San Fermin
    San Fermin
  2. Rhye – Woman
  3. San Fermin – San Fermin
  4. Mutual Benefit – Love’s Crushing Diamond
  5. Kurt Vile – Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze
  6. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
  7. Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On
  8. Alice Smith – She
  9. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
  10. Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu
Top 10 Songs

Sky Ferreira‘s raw and confessional track connected with me the most this year which caught me unguarded and I simply cannot get enough of it. The combination of self-effacing melancholy and hard-edged, devil-may-care static sounding production creates a unique experience. Other tracks that remained stuck in my head were the cool and full of hope “C.L. Rosarian” and the no-holds barred expression of fantasy and pleasure “Partition” by Beyoncé . British electronic/dance duo Goldfrapp came back onto the scene once again with a loopy, slow-burning and minimilastically ethereal ‘Jo’ and the fierce punk girl band Savages’s unflinching anthem ‘She Will’.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “I Blame Myself”, Sky Ferreira
    Mutual Benefit's Jordan Lee
    Jordan Lee of Mutual Benefit
  2. “C.L. Rosarian”, Mutual Benefit
  3. “Bar”, San Fermin
  4. “Open”, Rhye
  5. “Love They Say”, Tegan and Sara
  6. “She Will”, Savages
  7. “Jo”, Goldfrapp
  8. “Night Still Comes”, Neko Case
  9. Partition“, Beyoncé
  10. “Black Roses”, Escondido

Jeffery Berg's...

Jeffery Berg's...

Top 10 Albums

My Top 10 Albums were pretty much set in stone until Beyoncé crashed the party in December. An ecstatic selection of songs accompanied by sleek and vibrant music videos, Beyoncé forever changed the pop landscape. I can’t help but think that my last year’s #1 album, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, is partly responsible for opening up a more raw, experimental vibe in mainstream R&B and Rap in 2013. Kanye’s Yeezus is a blazing, divisive set of tracks with its incongruous harmonies and samples and biting lyrics. If you’ve only listened to the singles and haven’t listened to Janelle Monáe‘s The Electric Lady in its entirety, you’re missing out on the masterful flow and skill in Monáe’s genre-hopping epic. Kacey Musgraves seemed to come out of nowhere to release this year’s freshest country album. A country-folk sound is also evident in Phosphorescent’s sweet, atmospheric folk rock record Muchacho. Dev Hynes proved his nimble Prince-like songwriting and singing skills on his Blood Orange‘s smooth and sophisticated Cupid Deluxe. Arguably the best rock album didn’t come from any young artists but vet David Bowie who hit hard with a LP of cutting lyrics and craftsmanship. Also proving their longevity, the Pet Shop Boys released another soulful and eclectic dance album. But towering above all in the dance genre were Disclosure and Daft Punk. The young brothers of Disclosure compiled an incredible mix of collaborations in house and garage. But for me it was most joyful to listen to and witness Daft Punk’s epic, varied, and sprawling record become an unlikely smash in 2013.

  1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
    David Bowie's The Next Day
    David Bowie’s The Next Day
  2. Disclosure – Settle
  3. Kanye West – Yeezus
  4. Beyoncé- Beyoncé
  5. David Bowie – The Next Day
  6. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
  7. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
  8. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
  9. Pet Shop Boys  Electric
  10. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Top 10 Songs

A lot of great dance records this year from Lindstrøm’s & Todd Terje’s shimmering, booty-shaking “Lanzarote” to the string-infected swirl of Pet Shop Boys’ “Love is a Bourgeois Construct.” Du Tonc‘s “Darkness,” with its thumping electro beat, is a defiant, mesmerizing track. Compuphonic’s “Sunset” is an awesome prep for getting you on the dance floor. One of my favorite recent artists Twin Shadow dropped “Old Love / New Love” with its aching lyrics and killer piano riff. But Daft Punk ruled all with the joyous, inescapable disco hit “Get Lucky,” which married Nile Rodgers’ rich guitar licks and Pharrell’s casual and sleek vocals. Miley Cyrus was completely an annoying entity in 2013 but ended up releasing a striking pop album; say what you will about her, “Wrecking Ball” is an undeniable barn burner. Rhye’s “Open” is the best song Sade never released. Phosphorescent’s aching “Song for Zula” recalls Johnny Cash and bonfire-lit make-outs. I love many songs off of Musgraves‘ debut but the opener “Silver Lining” was the one I played over and over in 2013; a wise and hopeful country tune for the yesteryear and for the future.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “Get Lucky” , Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
    George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow
    George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow
  2. “Love Is A Bourgeois Construct” , Pet Shop Boys
  3. “Silver Lining” , Kacey Musgraves
  4. “Darkness” , Du Tonc
  5. “Wrecking Ball” , Miley Cyrus
  6. “Old Love, New Love” , Twin Shadow
  7. “Song For Zula” , Phosphorescent
  8. “Lanzarote”, Lindstrom” & Todd Terje
  9. “Sunset”, Compuphonic
  10. “Open”, Rhye

Michael Ward's...

Michael Ward's...

Top 10 Albums

This year definitely proved that you can’t count your eggs before they hatch, with Beyoncé’s late entry. What’s really remarkable about her project, though, is not the details of its unorthodox release, but how intimate—not just personal, intimate—it feels, which is a real rarity when dealing with mainstream stars like Bey. Modern Vampires of the City is an album that feels refreshingly crisp, with the reverse of that being m b v’s nebulous, spectral guitar haze. Both albums are invigorating, but in very different ways. And both have that precious ability to make it feel as though your senses are somehow heightened. Jake Bugg makes a kind of music that doesn’t typically align with my taste, but his songwriting is incredibly sharp and his voice genuinely evocative and powerful. His self-titled album won me over in a big way. And, of course, there’s Miley, who you couldn’t escape this year. I have some definite issues with elements of her presentation, but I also realize we’re watching a young woman find herself after a very public childhood. At the end of the day, Bangerz is simply a good pop album, and the result of an idiosyncratic vision that the creators of the album chose to indulge, for better and for worse. Unfortunately I just didn’t have enough space to rep some of my favorite rap and hip hop projects this year. It was a big year for some perpetually underrepresented groups, like the queer rap scene, with Le1f, Cakes Da Killa, and Mykki Blanco all delivering ace albums.

  1. Beyoncé- Beyoncé
    After Dark 2
    After Dark 2
  2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
  3. Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
  4. Compilation by Italians Do It Better label – After Dark 2
  5. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  6. Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg
  7. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
  8. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
  9. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
  10. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz
Top 10 Songs

I’m a sucker for what you might call “arena pop” (a topic I wrote about earlier this year in reference to a song that would get a “Top Tracks of the Year Honorable Mention” from me: “Shot at the Night” by The Killers), and Beyoncé, without warning, delivered the most effortlessly awesome piece of arena pop in ages: “XO,” lead pop single off her self-titled album. With siren-like pulsing synths and big melodies fleshed out with simple, sincere lyrics that fluently speak the universal language that is pop, this song just feels like it glows, brighter and brighter, until you’re enveloped by its light at the end. It just feels good. Elsewhere, I was a sucker for Drake’s liquid cool “Hold On We’re Going Home,” and Glass Candy’s couple-year-old track, “Warm in the Winter,” sounds as new and effervescent as ever now that it’s seen “official” release as a single. Janelle Monáe roared back onto the scene with her winning collaboration with Erykah Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N,” and St. Vincent sets expectations high for her forthcoming album with its lead single, “Birth in Reverse,” which sees her guitar as queasy as ever, and yet at the same time spry and playful. It was a rough year for some of mainstream pop’s mainstays, but songs like “XO” and “Hold On” prove that real gems can still be found on Top 40 radio.

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. XO”, Beyoncé
    Monae' & Badu's  Q.U.E.E.N
    Monae’s & Badu’s “Q.U.E.E.N”
  2. “Hold On We’re Going Home”, Drake
  3. “Warm in the Winter”, Glass Candy
  4. “Science/Visions”, Chvrches
  5. “Diane Young”, Vampire Weekend
  6. “Broken”, Jake Bugg
  7. “Birth in Reverse”, St. Vincent
  8. “Q.U.E.E.N”, Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu
  9. “Afterlife”, Arcade Fire
  10. “You’re Not the One”, Sky Ferreira

Zac Nuccio's...

Zac Nuccio's...

Top 10 Albums

What an incredibly enjoyable year for music releases. Twenty thirteen delivered both significant, memorable albums from prized established acts and the arrival of debut LPs from artists we were beginning to think might never release an actual album (oh, and those few surprise albums we got this year, too). What makes this the most notable year for albums since 2010 is the overwhelming quality of the years top albums. I’m finding myself a lot more passionate for my personal albums this year than I have the past two. I wouldn’t find it strange if one considered a good sized amount of 2013 LPs to be that particular artists’ best work (see: Bitter RivalsAMBeyoncé, etc). As far as Pop is concerned, one only has to look to Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira, and Little Boots. Their 2013 releases should be enough for everyone to keep the faith. I will admit that ranking the following almost seems redundant, especially for the songs portion, but I digress.

  1. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time
    Arctic Monkeys' AM
    Arctic Monkeys’ AM
  2. Beyoncé, Beyoncé
  3. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  4. Sleigh Bells, Bitter Rivals
  5. Kanye West, Yeezus
  6. M.I.A., Matangi
  7. Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
  8. Arctic Monkeys, AM
  9. Little Boots, Nocturnes
  10. Jagwar Ma, Jagwar Ma
Top 10 Songs

Check out this list here on Spotify.

  1. “We Can’t Stop”, Miley Cyrus
    Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop"
    Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop”
  2. “Perfume”, Britney Spears
  3. “Black Skinhead”, Kanye West
  4. “Heavy Metal Heart”, Sky Ferreira
  5. “Lose Yourself To Dance”, Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams
  6. “Y.A.L.A.”, M.I.A.
  7. “Jealous”, Beyoncé
  8. “Tube Stops & Lonely Hearts”, Annie
  9. “Need U (100%), Duke Dumont feat. A.M.E.
  10. “Now I’m All Messed Up”, Tegan and Sara