The Best Albums of 2013

By William Hoffman | | @Wilbur_Hoffman

It’s that time of year once again where we try and assign numerical value to an artistic art form as if all genres of music from jazz to gangster rap are capable of being compared in this way. OK, that’s a cynical view, but really these lists are just good fun. So here are my picks for favorite albums of 2013. I tried to balance personal preference with an objective view of skill, but if you disagree the great thing about music is that you

10. Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park — This cute and innocent country chick came seemingly out of nowhere this year, taking the CMA’s by storm with her fun and quirky lyrics that have far more depth than your average pick-up-truck country song.  Songs like “Merry Go ’Round” and “Silver Lining” show a sophistication in song writing we haven’t seen from the genre in a while and she has a long career to continue and improve from here. Not to mention she had a great performance at Ohio University this year.can go off and listen to your own preferences.

9. Head And The Heart: Let’s Be Still — Combining a wide range of instrumentation and versatile songwriting, this band was able to wade through an oversaturated genre that could have well buried them this year. Let’s Be Still is one of the more energetic Americana albums in 2013 and has a lot to say about a society that never seems to slow down and look around. And the best part is that they are able to convey that message by appealing to a modern sensibility and without coming off as pretentious.

8. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories — Disco never died, and no group proves that concept more than Daft Punk. “Get Lucky” is the dance tune of the summer but the whole album is filled with dance gems such as “Give Life Back To Music” and “Lose Yourself To Dance.” And the group’s nine minute epic tribute to European disco tech Giorgio Moroder is masterfully crafted down to every beat and instrumental solo.

7. Kings Of Leon: Mechanical Bull — I never thought Kings of Leon could make a comeback but this album did it for me. It’s a straight no nonsense rock record that tickles my fancy for both killer guitar and bass licks as well as full epic songs that sound more like an orchestra than a four-piece rock group. Songs such as “Don’t Matter” and “Rock City” provide that classic rock feel to the album while “Wait For Me” and “Tonight” give it the 2000’s grandiose epic feel. It’s just a good easy listen from beginning to end with some seriously tasty riffs.

6. Elvis Costello and The Roots: Wise Up Ghost — I really don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite like Wise Up Ghost. It’s definitely hip-hop influenced with ?uestlove behind the kit but Costello’s vocals and general oddball nature just brings a beautifully strange twist to this album. Each song is a new adventure and experimentation with samples hip-hop beats and vocal rhythms from beginning to end. This collaboration proved that music can be interesting and experimental without following the industrial, noisy and depressing trend that has permeated the greater part of critically acclaimed albums this year.

5. Arctic Monkeys: AM — I wasn’t a big fan of the group before this year’s release as a lot of their work tinged on the punk side for me. But this album is nothing but fantastic gritty blues rock. They seem to have really found an American audience with this album in part due to what I perceive as a Black Keys influence. “Arabella” is the finest track off the album bringing me back to the days I would rock out to riffy Led Zeppelin blues in my room. Even as I write this now I can’t help but air drum to the powerful and technical fills or head bang to the infectious energy they are able to bring forward on this record.

4. Iron & Wine: Ghost On Ghost — For people who may know Samuel Beam as the slow and melodic singer songwriter this album may come as a bit of a twist. The best way to describe it is Jazz Folk and it combines beautiful voices and song writing with some far more complicated rhythms, keys and sonic elements than the genre is used to. The bass and drums are locked in for an incredibly infectious and melodic rhythm section and Beam’s voice is just a majestic as ever. This may be one of the most overlooked albums of the year that could really attract a different audience to the group for one of Beam’s finest works to date.

3. Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 — In a year of record all-star rap releases Eminem comes on top. Eminem proves that no one can touch his technical ability or his lyrical rhyming skill on this massive 21 song, 1 hour and 42 minute LP. Nearly every song from start to finish is new and original from the last with massive verses that consistently show of Eminem’s ability. Not to mention some damn catchy beats and choruses. This one also floats to the top because of Eminem’s brutal honesty with his fans both in interviews and lyrically.

2. Queens of the Stone Age: …Like Clockwork — This album takes you deep into Josh Homme’s depression and near death experience back in 2010 with its grinding bass, driving drums and sonic ethos. The whole record is a stoner rock fan’s dream. Jon Theodore, former drummer for Mars Volta, really makes the album pop with complicated and bright drum fills and Homme is at the top of his game here. The group needed to push through some big struggles and to continue playing together and they’ve done just that for one of if not their best album ever.

1. Dawes: Stories Don’t End— This may be a radical choice for No. 1 but I think it’s well deserved. Dawes has been blowing me away for years with their ability to craft a story through metaphor and simile and this album is the best yet. The band has really found their stride and have a winning formula for crafting musical lines to support the always stellar lyrics. Songwriter and frontman Simon Dawes might be one of the finest lyricists of this generation — a statement backed by the fact that the group opened for Bob Dylan on a number of dates earlier this year. Stories Don’t End also appeals to a modern post adolescence phase. His words resonate to a generation of 20-somethings searching for love, purpose and meaning in this world. And it sounds like Dawes may still be searching for the same as well.


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