2013 was not an amazing year for music. I heard a lot of good albums, but not a lot of great albums. A number of my favorite artists put out some work I found rather underwhelming. There were a handful of records that stood out though, not just as the best music of the year, but as some of the best music of the past few years.
Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe
The majority of electronica/indie rock bands (or whatever genre you would like to assign to this style of music) like to make long experimental songs that rely on layers more than melodies. Chvrches decided to take the sound elements of an electronica indie rock band and make incredibly energized pop songs out of them.
Kanye West – Yeesuz
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Kanye’s talent. After the sprawling masterpiece of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy he releases an album that’s ambitious in a different way. The sound is still experimental but it’s more focused. It’s relentless and angry and impossible to ignore. He’s improving as a rapper and his wordplay is still top-notch. He may have made another classic of the genre.
Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lorde’s style sounds so fresh. She’s taken the genre-bending of M.I.A. And Lana Del Rey to what feels like their logical conclusion. Her songs are instantly catchy pop singles, but her lyrics flow like a great rapper. The entire album is up to the high quality of ubiquitous single “Royals.” This is one of the most dynamic debuts of the past few years.
She & Him – Volume 3
She & Him’s sound has hardly changed at all since Volume One. They’re still a boy-girl singer-songwriter duo that sound equal parts blue-eyed soul, Patsy Cline, and accessible folk. What’s surprising is in that in their third volume every song is still a finely crafted gem.
Tegan and Sara – Hearththrob
I used to think of Tegan and Sara as a not-that-interesting indie folk outfit. I think their earlier work is a little self-consciously “difficult.” But this album is a revelation. They have changed their sound to a mixture of modern power pop and ’80s new wave and it is amazing. Every single song is a blast to sing along to and they have written some of the most interesting love songs and heartbreak lyrics I have ever heard.
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
B.o.B. – Underground Luxury
Beyonce – Beyonce
The Dismemberment Plan – Uncanney Valley
The Head and the Heart – Let’s Be Still
Jimmy Eat World – Damage
Katy Perry – Prism
Kid Cudi – Indicud
Selena Gomez – Stars Dance
The Sounds – Weekend