2013: Favorite Music, Part 2

Boy, there’s always too much music to digest and never enough time. Let me know if your favorite slipped by me. I am always excited to hear more great music. These are my favorite albums, not the BEST albums of 2013. I don’t know enough about music to make that kind of a statement. Pitchfork does, I guess.

Presented in alphabetical order, here are my favorite albums from this past calendar year.

The 20/20 Experience – Justin Timberlake


As most others have noted, part 1 of the two-parted 20/20 Experience holds together better as a stand-alone work. Are these songs twice as long as they should be? Most of them, yes. Is Jay Z’s verse on Suit and Tie sub-par? At least. But the classy(ish) charm JT brings to his post-FutureSex/LoveSounds sound is more delightful than monotonous. And as far as best pre-album hype marketing techniques go, JT’s week-long stint on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon trumps Kanye West’s and Arcade Fire’s strange building projections and Jay Z’s  pseudo-platinum deal with Samsung. Notable Tracks: Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl, Spaceship Coupe

Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper


I don’t have to do drugs because Chance the Rapper has done all of them. He’ll tell you about it on Acid Rap, a mixtape dropped in the first half of 2013. The rapper has the kookiest personality in the Chicago scene and his vocal fills (nya nya nya nya nya nya) somehow feel carefully constructed rather than time-fillers and could perhaps replace Kanye’s HEH! or  or 2 Chainz’s TWO CHAAAAAAINZ. Chance (don’t forget the rapper) the Rapper has lots of fun and let’s us into his world. Notable Tracks: Pusha Man ; Cocoa Butter Kisses ; Everybody’s Something

All That I Hold Dear – Homeboy Sandman


The world of underground hip-hip is fun and exciting because the genre hosts MCs who lean more toward the poetic rather than the profane. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but often the former is dropped for the latter in major label hip hop. Homeboy Sandman (I know, right?) dropped two EPs this year and All That I Hold Dear is the stronger of the two. Sandman hits the classic topics without falling into the pitfalls other artists find so easily now: He defends his own talents without performing the Kendrick Lamar “Control” list-off-my-peers-and-diss-all-at-once blanket verse, and he delves into his personal emotional battles without getting overly self-indulgent in melancholy like Childish Gambino or even Hopsin. This stuff is short, fun, and catchy. Notable Tracks: King Kong Got Nothing On Me, Musician, Relapse

Beta Love – Ra Ra Riot


Ra Ra Riot has been slipping by me for a long time. I probably would have been a fan back when The Rhumb Line was released in 2008 back when bands like Spoon and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were filling up iPod Nanos across the western world. But alas, the world has too much music and it was only until 2013 that I finally got to hear Ra Ra Riot (and only because they released Beta Love so early in the year). Here, the band keeps the tempo up, the mood poppy, and the singing high. I just wish the mixing was a little better, it still seems kind of off. Whatever. Notable Tracks: Dance With Me; Beta Love; Angel, Please ; When I Dream

Excavation – The Haxan Cloak

haxan cloak

This is what the nightmares of Autobots sound like. Notable Tracks: Excavation (Part 1) ; Mara ; Miste


Heroes For Sale wins for most time spent in my CD player in my car. It also wins for being the only album I have ever pre-ordered. Ever. Mineo’s debut album hits highs early and often and only give up in the last couple tracks. Christian Hip Hop only seems to maintain life through Reach Records, which is terribly sad, but also convenient if you struggle to find and CHH worthwhile (we all do). This record beats the other big Reach release this year, Derek Minor’s Minorville, in both lyrical content and production. Mineo’s lyrics trump the production save for Gavvi’s You Will, which left my mouth hanging open the first time I heard it. Thanks Reach Records! Notable Tracks: Ayo! ; You Will ; Cocky

Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

vampire weekend

Vampire Weekend keep doing what they do well: being pretentious and relatable simultaneously. I’m not going to pretend I understand whatever Ezra is singing about and if I do find out all of his references in this new LP, he’ll have another lengthy set of obscure references in the next release. The guitar loses its tremolo strumming and moves into a more groovy style (I mean, as groovy as you can get with a harpsichord). Also, Steve Bushemi is related to the bassist, Chris Baio? Notable Tracks: Diane Young, Step, Ya Hey

Pure Heroine – Lorde


New Zealand teenager Ella Yelich O-Connor has a bed time still. She gets grounded from using her smart phone. As Lorde, she is a worldwide sensation. An Avril Levine on Ritalin stuck inside the chilliest computer game ever, a robo-Lana Del Rey, Ingrid Michaelson getting cozy with a drum machine….All of Pure Heroine must be listened to laying down on soft carpet staring at the popcorn ceiling while cooler kids go out at night dancing to electric music with way more wubs. Notable Tracks: Royals, 400 lux, The Love Club

We The Common – Thao and The Get Down Stay Down

we the common

Thao and The Get Down Stay Down win for coolest name in 2013. This debut (wow, there’s a lot of debuts on this list. Huh) delivers the sunshine with sing-along melodies, fun drum patterns, and the most indy-sounding female indy voice you’ve heard since tUnE-yArDs. Notable Tracks: We The Common (for Valerie Boldon) ; City ; Holy Roller