Staff List: Our Top Albums of 2013

Jon Howard’s Top 10 Albums of 2013

 

4e6c6fb21. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

After eight long years without a studio album (not counting the arguably perfect live/remix album Alive 2007 or the Tron Legacy soundtrack), Daft Punk made a triumphant return this year with Random Access Memories. The duo eschewed house styling in favor of 1970s-centric genres such as progressive, disco, and funk. While this change of genre alienated a few long-time fans, the overwhelming response was positive, and Daft Punk helped solidify the return of disco in popular music. It is unlikely that any other album released this year will have such a massive influence on music for years to come, and for this I declare Random Access Memories my top album of 2013.

packshot2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Lamenting the sheer complexity of modern life, Vampire Weekend’s third studio album is a brilliant display of the band’s raw talent as musicians, and offers some of Ezra Koenig’s most thought-provoking lyrics to date.

 
 
 
 

Arctic_Monkeys_AM_cover3. Arctic Monkeys – AM

Pulling off some great experimentation without straying too far from their roots, Arctic Monkeys have created one of the decade’s heaviest, most satisfying records in rock music.

 
 
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Album Review: Drake – Nothing Was the Same

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Drake

 

Nothing Was the Same

 

OVO Sound, Republic Records, September 24 2013

 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Ben Simpson

There is a large collection of artists that don’t think Aubrey Drake Graham deserves the recognition he has received. Common referred to him as “soft”. DMX, Li’l Kim, and Chris Brown had much more explicit ways to describe the 26-year-old Canadian rapper. But despite the hate, Drake finds himself right back at the top after his latest release Nothing Was the Same. “This is nothing for the radio, but they’ll still play it though/Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go.” Just like the words above, taken off of the opening track “Tuscan Leather“, Drake can make an album virtually without any sing-along hooks and still somehow find his way into millions of homes, cars, and smartphones. In a year where Kanye’s Yeezus weirded us out, and Jay-Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail talked down to us, Drake once again squeezed his way to the top of the heap with his most marketable asset: relating to his audience. Coming from a middle-class television-star life, his background is nothing like Jay-Z’s drug-slinging street years,  yet Drake shares the issues of the majority. He wants to be successful (clearly he has achieved that with the millions of record sales), he works hard (Drake famously hates vacations), and he just wants to be loved (as evident by the bazillion songs about women). Parents aren’t scared off by him, heck even Ellen has had him on her show plenty of times. “Degenerates, but even Ellen loves our s***” as “Tuscan Leather” puts it. But there is a dark side to Drake, and it seems to come out in this album. 2011’s Take Care was the type of album you would party to, his debut album Thank Me Later in 2010 was a typical self-hyping introduction album, but Nothing Was the Same is something else entirely.

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Album Review: MGMT – MGMT

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MGMT

 

MGMT (self-titled)

 

Columbia, September 17 2013

 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

After taking the radio by storm in early 2008 with their inarguably catchy synthpop singles “Time to Pretend”, “Electric Feel”, and “Kids”, MGMT faced a tough decision.  Should they produce more radio-friendly synthpop and be lumped in with such bands as Passion Pit and Phoenix, or develop the more experimental, psychedelic sound found elsewhere on their debut album Oracular Spectacular.  Their sophomore album Congratulations was confirmation that the band had chosen the latter route, and as a result was and still is extremely polarizing among the band’s fanbase.  Now with the release of their third, self-titled album, MGMT has all but confirmed that they are strictly a psychedelic act now.  If you fell in love with MGMT for their radio singles, turn around now.  This album has nothing to offer you.  If you fell in love with the psychedelic surf rock of Congratulations, however, then MGMT will certainly not disappoint.

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Album Review: Arctic Monkeys – AM

Arctic_Monkeys_AM_cover

 
 
 
 

Arctic Monkeys

 

AM

 

Domino, September 10 2013

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

With four number one albums in the United Kingdom and a rapidly growing fanbase across the pond here in the United States, Arctic Monkeys are under more pressure than ever to continue delivering fresh, well written music with their latest album, simply titled AM. While Arctic Monkeys have always tweaked their musical style between releases, AM often feels like a fair bit more of a departure from their previous work than we’ve become accustomed to. Lead singer Alex Turner has stated in many interviews that AM would draw influence from hip hop, in particular Dr. Dre and Outkast. While the music on the album is still very distinctly Arctic Monkeys, the band’s experimentation with hip hop becomes very clear through Matt Helder’s drumming, such as on the heavy pounding opening track and lead single “Do I Wanna Know?”

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Album Review: Tyler, the Creator – Wolf

tyler-wolf-cover

 
 
 
 

Tyler, the Creator

 

Wolf

 

Odd Future, April 2 2013

 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

Tyler, the Creator has always been known for his shock-value lyrics, dark themes, and tight production, and with 2011’s Goblin all three of these elements reached their apex. Tyler had long stated that his next planned album Wolf would move away from the violent themes of Bastard and Goblin and be far mellower album.  In fact, ‘mellow’ would probably be the best way to sum the album up as a whole in one word.  The harsh beats and violent lyrics of previous tracks like “Yonkers” and “Tron Cat” are all but absent on Wolf, appearing only in a few tracks over the album’s 70 minute span. Rather, Wolf hides Tyler’s deeply rooted issues behind a mask of smooth, Summery music.

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Album Review: The Strokes – Comedown Machine

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The Strokes

 

Comedown Machine

 

RCA Records, March 26 2013

 
 
 
 
 
 

Reviewed by Greg Grunzel (DJ Baby Duck)

One thing is for certain: Jules loves the 80’s. Proverbial kings of the 00’s garage rock revival scene, The Strokes’ latest effort Comedown Machine bleeds 80’s more than Eddie Murphy’s bright red leather Delirious jumpsuit (humorous side note: the minimalist album art coincidentally is the same color). They are proud to announce it, too, by naming the almost-title-track 80’s Comedown Machine, a slow, dreamy croon along the lines of Call Me Back and Ask Me Anything from the previous two releases. The very Aha-esque One Way Trigger epitomizes the new sound and takes it to the extreme. Highlights (and potential future singles) include the danceable Welcome to Japan, and the currently-stuck-in-my-head Happy Ending. They even get weird and throw in the slow, sounds-like-its-played-through-a-trasistor-radio, almost-bossa nova Call it Fate, Call it Karma to close the album. To sum it up, if you’re a fan of The Strokes and even slightly enjoyed 80’s new wave (a la Talking Heads) like I am/did, there isn’t a skippable track on here. But if you’re looking for Is This It, this isn’t it.

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Album Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

Justin_Timberlake_album

 

 

Justin Timberlake

 

The 20/20 Experience

 

RCA Records, March 15 2013

 

 

 

 

 

By Ishaba Haque

 

After a 7 year break from music, Justin Timberlake has made his comeback. And what a comeback it is. Timberlake’s sophomore album, Grammy winning, FutureSex/LoveSounds created quite the impact back in 2006. It revolutionized pop music and created a new eccentric sound of music that still resonates with people. His number one single “SexyBack” did exactly what the title suggests. It brought sexy back and it brought JT back.

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Album Review: Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

Foxygen-21st-Century

 

Foxygen

 

We Are the 21st Century 

Ambassadors of Peace and Magic

 

Jagjaguwar, January 22 2013

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Jon Howard

 

Less than a month into the new year (happy Apocalypse, by the way) and we have already been given a record that will either act as a prelude to an entire year of incredible music or will be the one album that has raised the bar so high and so early in the year that the remainder of 2013’s music will just pale in comparison to it.  Foxygen’s new album We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic is a charmingly bizarre trip through the best musical styles of the 1960s and 1970s, dabbling in psychedelic rock, folk rock, Motown, glam rock, and more.

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