2013 Top Ten Albums
1. The Weeknd – Kissland – I seriously love this dude. This has nothing to do with how I listen to him but he is the greatest example of a dude looking NOTHING like what he sounds. He looks like black Kool-Aid Man but then sings like a dark Michael Jackson (mood not a skin tone joke…). His brooding lush but hunting feel draws me into such a mood where I feel almost wolfish. Like I am confined to wandering dark alleys but then feel as if I am constantly dodging raindrops. I love it. “The Professional” and “Wanderlust” are incredible examples of this sound. There are some misses here too but considering the expectations I went into, I am extremely happy with this album.
2. Polica – Shulamith – Back in 2011 Polica’s debut album, “Give You the Ghost,” carried me through a very sad period. Their sound felt very ethereal and disconnected almost tragic. I still listen to that album but it, happily, doesn’t feel the same to me anymore. My concern was that whatever they did next was going to sound like that and I wouldn’t find myself as connected to or loving it. “Shulamtih” is a wonderful next step in Polica’s sound. This album possesses the same layered rhythms and space age vocals as before but now has some fire and aggressiveness to it in places. Perfect match to my mood and feel for 2013. Love “Very Cruel” and “Vegas” show that off perfectly. Also love “Tiff,” “I Need $,” and “Smug.”
3. Pusha T – My Name is My Name – I have never been a huge fan of the Clipse. Their albums, while critically adored, would always lose my interest as their beats seemed really boring. Like DJ Premier the Clipse would take maybe three or four seconds of a sample and then just play it over and over for a whole song with no other hooks or beats or mixing anything up. Drove me crazy. So when I saw that Pusha T , one half of the Clipse, was dropping his own album I didn’t even check it out. It was not until I read the 10th review of the album singing its praises that I decided to give it a listen – so glad I did! While the album is filled with guest spots, which when done wrong can be a little distracting, it is rock solid. Pharell, Rick Ross, The Dream, Future and Chris Brown to name a few. Songs I like: “Numbers on the Board,” “Pain,” and “Sweet Surrender.”
4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me – I have been a fan of The National for a long time. Matt Berniger’s voice kicks my a**. I say this over and over again but the deep melancholy sound reverberates through my conscious and then lays over my thoughts like the morning frost. In my silly fantastical moments I envision myself sounding just like him if I was ever a singer. Hundreds of car rides throughout 2013 involved me singing lines from “I Need My Girl” and “This Is the Last Time.” Other big ones for me are “Humiliation” and “Fireproof.” While not my favorite of theirs it was a considerable step up from their last album. Sh*t, who am I kidding, they could put out an album of Berniger singing a Taco Bell menu and I’d still put it in my top ten (“Seven laaaayer burrrritttttto…”).
5. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels – Might be one of my favorite hip-hop albums ever. Killer Mike’s delivery and flow remind me of a smarter young Ice Cube (his “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” is still an all time favorite). He has force, flow and grit. And then you add El-P’s beats and occasional lyrics? Reeeeeediculous. Beautiful big loud bold collaboration. Big hits for me, “DDFH,” “Sea Legs,” “Banana Clip,” and “Job Well Done.” On top of all of this – the album was a free download. Number one in my book.
6. Jason Isbell – Southeastern – Haunting and lovely. While not nearly that huge of a fan of the Drive By Truckers, I do absolutely love the solo endeavors of their two lead singers. Patterson Hood’s effort from 2012 made it onto my top ten list and Jason Isbell does here. “Cover Me Up” and “Live Oak” stand out to me – but the whole album is made for a long drive alone in Eastern Washington or the high prairie of central Oregon.
7. J Cole – Born Sinner – Like Kendrick Lamar we have another fresh strong young mc. Love J Cole’s flow, bounce, lyrics and humor. Insightful, fun, poignant. Favorites are “Trouble,” “Runaway,” “Chaining Day,” and “Rich Niggaz.” I’m excited to see what this kid does going forward.
8. Foals – Holy Fire – To be honest, even if the rest of the album was complete garbage it would still land on the top ten list because of one song: “Late Night.” It is a flawless song. There are essentially three parts to it, 1) the quiet fragile opening, 2) then the beat drops as “I’m the last cowboy in this town” is sung and the song gets driving along with urgency, power and haunting regret, then 3) the song dips and twists again to an incredibly funky almost 70’s style guitar picking. There are two videos associated with the song. The original one is a bizarre story of love, sex, birth and death – sit tight as you watch it. A second version was filmed in the wee hours of night at a closed Paris library – very very cool. The rest of the album has some other gems like “Everytime” and “Milk & Black Spiders” but I wouldn’t blame you if you get stuck listening to just “Late Night.” It’s worth it.
9. Kanye West – Yeezus – I say this all the time about Kanye. Can’t stand the dude but dig his music and how he goes about it. I get that this sounds really hokey but I appreciate that Kanye continually tries to push his music and advance the art of hip hop. It doesn’t always succeed but I give him a lot of credit for the work he puts into it. Here, he takes big bold stabs with Yeezus. For me, “Blood on the Leaves” is genius. His meshing of his angst (“We coulda been somebody!”), hurt, anger, resentment all to Nina Simone’s sample kicked my ass all year. I might have listened to that song more than all other songs this past year (except for “Late Night” by Foals). “I am a God,” “Black Skinhead” and “Bound 2” are also good.
10. Drake – Nothing Was the Same – I tend to like Drake more than most of my friends. He has been accused of being too wimpy or a whiner but I appreciate that element. This album is thus the same as his past stuff. Some songs bounce, some are more subdued, some good, some bad. Nothing too great but consistent. Songs I like: “Own It,” “Pound Cake” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
11. Rhye – Woman – Ass kicking album. Haunting and beautiful and fragile and sexy. Ridiculously seductive songs like “Open,” “The Fall” and “Shed Some Blood.” Great mood music. Dig it.