Wednesday, December 18, 2013


I can't believe this is the fifth year end countdown I have done on this blog! Here we are again, the end of another year of music. What a year it's been. We learned a lot about hype, humility and coming in just under the wire to blow 'em all away, didn't we? I wouldn't say that this year was a particularly strong one for albums. There were plenty of singles that hit, but not all of those artists were able to deliver on the one-hit hype. These albums, in my estimation, were the most enjoyable front to back. I could sit and listen to them and they evoked a mood or a curiosity with each track. These artists were able to transcend in some ways the "just get a hit on the radio" vibe that artists are mostly after these days. They have that something extra special. Without further ado, here are my picks for the top 10 albums of 2013.

10. Electric - Pet Shop Boys - Seminal electronic group Pet Shop Boys came back this year with a brand new album, Electric and it's a damn shame that everyone was going gaga over Daft Punk (even though I really like their album too) because Electric is a much more diverse, fun set. Plenty of club tracks, like the opener Axis, along with some classic Pet Shop Boys melodies, like the delicious Thursday. The Boys were back with a vengeance and the whole album pulses with the perfect blend of what we've always loved of PSB and what is yet to come.

09. Britney Jean - Britney Spears - Hyped as Britney Spears' most personal album to date, on THAT it did not deliver.  Alien and Perfume are two of her loveliest songs she's ever recorded and Work Bitch and Tik Tik Boom are sassy Brit-Brit at it's most catchy. How much of Britney is actually invested in her music is not clear anymore, but the old girl (and her production team) can still push out an album full of pop gems. Keep 'em coming, Britney. Unless you're done. Then stop. What Britney Jean does deliver on is pop hit after pop hit and a little more personality.

08. Closer to the Truth - Cher - I mean, C'MON!! It's fucking Cher, people! Cher came back after about a 12 year absence. Her last album of original music was 2001's Living Proof. Closer to Truth finds Cher in full voice and as Cher as ever. Woman's World was just the tip of the anthem-berg. Take It Like a Man and My Love are glorious in their clubbiness and should be playing everywhere anyone is doing anything. This bitch is even going on tour again. AND I'M SEEING HER!! Closer to the Truth is a real return to pop form and as welcome a return as there has ever been.

07. Overgrown - James Blake - James Blake's second full solo album is smooth, sexy, experimental, electronic, sensuous and thoughtful. That voice, those loops and beats. James takes it a step further with Overgrown after his auspicious debut two years ago with self-titled debut. Retrograde is perhaps the most mesmerizing song of the year and the whole album will hypnotize you with its quasi-futuristic sense of musicality. This 25 year old musician has many years in the spotlight ahead of him and he is pioneering something very special.

06. Prism - Katy Perry - Prism is a hodgepodge of musical tastes. It wants to draw in the biggest possible audience and I think it succeeds in its quest. There are dance anthems aplenty, sweet ballads, introspective, if not cliched, heartfelt songs. Katy is coming off of one of the most successful albums of the past decade in terms of singles, and I don't think this is going to surpass Teenage Dream, to be honest. I do think that there are many, many songs to be pulled off this album as singles and eventually they will get to them. Legendary Lovers, International Smile and Spiritual have radio hit written all over them. Roar was an undeniable success, so Katy still has it in her.

05. Pure Heroine - Lorde - The 16 year old from New Zealand hit the scene with weird dancing and deep lyrics that go beyond her years and won over the world. You can't swing a dick without hitting someone listening toRoyals. Trust me. I've tried. Ouch. The album as a whole is quite impressive in its diversity and ability to keep the listener surprised and intrigued. Tennis Court is one of the catchiest songs I heard all year and Buzzcut Season is sweet, simple and soft. Pretty much every song leaves its mark right from the first listen. It'll have you going back for repeat listening for sure. Not just a singles artist, that Lorde. I'd say it's a pretty good start.

04. Bangerz - Miley Cyrus - GIRL!! This album is good, y'all! It's a little bit country, it's a little bit hip hop, it's all Miley. We Can't Stop and Wrecking Ball are crazy good and absolute chart gold and third single, Adore, is going to take us to a new place with it's soft balladry. There is literally no limit to the amount of singles they might pull off of this mo'fo'. #GETITRIGHT, FU, My Darlin', Rooting for My Baby are all single worthy. So forget the twerking and the tongue wagging and listen tot he music. The girl can deliver a song. Bangerz places Miley in the big leagues of pop music and she almost took it over this year. Now can she keep it going?

03. Tales of Us - Goldfrapp - Ethereal, mystical, soft, breathy, sexy and smooth are all words to describe Goldfrapp and their album Tales of Us. A concept album of sorts, each song weaves a tale of a person going through various things in their life from being born in the wrong body, having an elicit affair or simply wandering through life. Goldfrapp take this sound from the 80s glam of Head First (my #1 album three years ago) and back to their amazing 2008 album Seventh Tree but this time a little darker and little less folksy. The opening of Jo with its flourish of strings, the guitar galloping through Drew, the tribal stomps of Thea and the march of the album closer Clay take you on an unforgettable journey through time and space. Goldfrapp can paint a picture with their music like no one else.

02. ARTPOP - Lady Gaga - Lady Gaga was hyped and hyped and hyped until she oversaturated the market before the release of ARTPOP and it may have turned some away from her newest offering. That is a shame because ARTPOP actually takes Gaga back to the simpler times when she was writing for the sake of the beat and the fun than for a cause. Not to say I didn't love Born This Way (my #1 pick two years ago), but ARTPOP is a lot more fun in many ways with is tongue-in-cheek subjects and fun lyrics. The title track is one of the most stunning and simple pieces I think Gaga has ever done and Applause is pure anthemic fun. Venus, Do What U Want, G.U.Y. all deserve their time in the spotlight. If she can get people to start paying attention to the music again, Gaga has still got a lot to show us.

01. Beyoncé - Beyoncé - Well, she did it. Beyoncé released a surprise album and absolutely crushed every bitch on the block. This album is everything Beyoncé is; sassy, smart, classy, sexy, and fresh. It's also things Bey usually isn't: open, real, warm and experimental. There are things we've never heard her do like the crunchingly swaggy Partition and gangster of ***Flawless. There is also pure pop candy in the form of the ode to cunnilingus Blow and the best love anthem I've heard in years XO. We have our usual, stunning Beyoncé ballads here as well with Pretty Hurts and the haunting Heaven, but we also have her very own Thriller in the heavenly Haunted. (See what I did there?) The sky is the limit and Beyoncé is reaching for it. The whole disc is packed full of perfection, including the accompanying videos, and we have a big couple of year ahead of us with this album. It's definitely earned it's position atop this years album picks. Destined to be a classic.

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