It is hard to decide what is the best album or song of the year; it is entirely subjective.
Some of you may agree, some of you may not, but these are my picks for the best of the year. For instance, “Get Lucky” is nowhere on my best songs, and you may think I’m out of my mind. Like any review, this is opinion, so feel free to check them out for yourself!
BY Nick Dye, Music Writer
Top 10 Albums
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of The City
Modern Vampires of The City is a perfect album, lyrically and musically. MVOTC should really have been called When Prepsters Talk To God: the album is an endless debate of the existence of any kind of god and the reality of adulthood as a 20-something. The impressive thing is that Vampire Weekend takes their established twee ska-reggae style and doesn’t just make another “A-Punk” or “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” but progresses it and works with more orchestral sound similar to that of Grizzly Bear. Every member of the band impressively can be heard on each song playing his part with precision and perfection.
2. Kanye West – Yeezus
‘Ye does what he does time in and time out, taking the rap game and turning it on its ear by collaborating with experimental producers like Hudson Mohawke, Gesafflestein, and Travi$ Scott, as well as established giants like Daft Punk and Rick Rubin. Kanye does the same thing on Yeezus that he did with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: take everything that worked from all his past works and mash them together, but also incorporating something bizarre and new to it. Its brilliance is that it’s not perfect: it’s glitchy and it’s angry and it never takes its foot off the gas.
3. Justin Timberlake – 20/20 Experience, Pt. 1
Since Michael Jackson’s death, we have seen a sort of rebirth of R&B and Pop with the rise of The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and Miguel – and now with Justin Timberlake. We didn’t realize that we had been asking for The 20/20 Experience, but then we got more than we wanted. Timberlake decides to go backwards and sing old-fashioned blue-eyed soul along with his production partner Timberland. Most of the songs are over six minutes and feel as if they’re two songs with noticeable rises and falls. If only he didn’t go for the throwaway Pt. 2.
4. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Similar to Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire decided to address the perils of our times. With overpowering connectivity, Reflektor works beautifully as a double album, the first half being dance filled with producer James Murphy’s touch and the second half being tragic and orchestral. There are songs called “Here Comes The Night Time” on each half; the first sounds like a slogan for Bud Light, the second the title of a murder mystery. It is truly a tragicomic album filled with both joy and despair.
5. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Doris is possibly the most angsty rap album ever made. Earl Sweatshirt isn’t creating an image of expensive clothes, beautiful women, and drug dealing, but instead being himself, a confused, bored, lost teenager. His issues relate universally to everyong, unlike the fear of gangs or the struggles of poverty you hear in Kendrick Lamar or A$AP Rocky. His affect is dreary and uninterested as if he doesn’t want to be rapping, and he is often not the first voice you hear on the song. The production is very low-key and mellow unlike the bombastic beats that flood hip-hop. Doris is incredibly Earl’s own.
6. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Top-40 radio made it hard to love this one after a while. “Get Lucky,” which entered our consciousness as a brilliant song became overplayed became to becoming the immediate, obvious entrant to any party playlist as the 2013 version of “I Gotta Feeling.” However, there is much more to Random Access Memories than the hit single. The album is a testament to the perfectionism Daft Punk puts into their work of crafting the sound on each song by the finest details. Daft Punk went out to make the album that inspired them to make music.
7. HAIM – Days Are Gone
This group of sisters from California made the best pop rock albums of the year. Days Are Gone really strikes the HAIM sisters as strong women with many of the songs confronting a type of deal-breaker or break-up. There’s a lot of energy put into this album, which you can hear on “Falling” and “The Wire.” There’s a lot of reminiscence of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. The sisters can also really play. Guitarist Danielle can shred, bassist Este has Tumblrs devoted to her intense “bass face,” and the youngest, Alana, is pretty cute on keyboards and guitar.
8.Danny Brown – Old
Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.a.a.d city rebirthed rap storytelling. Danny Brown follows Kendrick’s lead by rapping about growing up poor in Detroit, which lead him to become a crack dealer and then a rapper. The title Old refers to the fact that this is not the old, ludicrous Danny Brown who made XXX. This is an insightful, nostalgic, and sad Danny. Like Reflektor, there are two halves (or sides) to the album. Side A is the story of young Danny; side B is the current Danny who is having the time of his life.
9. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
I admit I was late to hop on the Chance bandwagon. I gave it a chance (no pun intended) when it came out back in the spring, but the rapper’s nasally, whiney voice threw me off. Then again, Kendrick’s squeaky voice bothered people at first, and look how he’s doing. When I gave it a second chance (again, no pun intended), I was thoroughly impressed. Like Earl, Chance is able to transcend typical rap material and be more universal, which really showed why people like him so much. He nostalgically raps about Nickelodeon orange VHS tapes and his family on “Cocoa Butter Kisses,” and he’s universally romantic on “Everybody’s Something.” The spiral of emotions and soul makes me want to call Acid Rap the 2013 version of Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
10. Disclosure – Settle
These two UK brothers made the best EDM album of the year. Like Daft Punk, Disclosure is looking both forwards and backwards. Settle invokes old school house sounds that are also a breath of fresh air into the dance music scene. The Lawrence brothers are not just spinning turntables and pressing buttons, but mixing in live instrumentation. The wide array of English vocalists, such as Sam Smith and London Grammar, on the album switches up the style frequently. The album starts off with a heavy J. Dilla influence on “When A Fire Starts to Burn” and then finds itself in the territory of SBTRKT and Burial. Settle is worth a spin for anyone tired of Avicii and Skrillex.
Top 20 Songs
1. Earl Sweatshirt – Sunday (featuring Frank Ocean)
2. Kanye West – Send It Up (featuring King L)
3. Vampire Weekend – Hannah Hunt
4. Arcade Fire – Afterlife
5. Justin Timberlake – That Girl
6. Kanye West – Black Skinhead
7. Daft Punk – Lose Yourself to Dance
8. Disclosure – Help Me Lose My Mind (featuring London Grammar)
9. Phoenix – Trying to Be Cool
10. Drake – Hold On We’re Going Home (featuring Majid Jordan)
11. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
12. Toro Y Moi – Rose Quartz
13. CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share
14. Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines (featuring Pharrell & T.I.)
15. A$AP Ferg – Shabba (featuring A$AP Rocky)
16. HAIM – Falling
17. Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself
18. Local Natives – Breakers
19. ScHoolboy Q – Collared Greens (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
20. Drake – Worst Behavior