The Weeknd - Kiss Land
First we have Kissland from Canadian crooner The Weeknd. In his previous albums (which can be found on the compilation Trilogy) The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) discussed his many exploits with drugs and sex. While those albums were amazing, I felt that he hit a rut by the time he released the third album in the compilation. Thankfully, Kiss Land proved me wrong. This album steers away from the drug and sex themes of his previous albums and instead gives us a more "traditional" R&B album that focuses on love, life on the road, and love lost because of life on the road. Simply put, The Weeknd is this generation's Maxwell.
Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience (Part 1)
The uproar over the fact that this album wasn't nominated for neither Record of the Year, Album of the Year, or Song Of The Year for the 2014 Grammys should prove how good this album is. Simply put, the organizers of the 2014 Grammy Awards failed...badly. However, I digress.
I have been waiting for this album since Justin released FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006. For a bit of perspective, I was still in college when that album was released. After that album, Justin set his sights on Hollywood and we all feared that this talented performer would never release another album. Fast forward to this year and Justin releases a cryptic video where he all but says that he will release an album. Needless to say, the expectations were very high for this album...and he delivered.
The 20/20 Experience is an album that you can listen to from front to back without skipping any song and you won't want to. The way one song seamlessly flows into another is a work of art. What Justin and his go to producer Timbaland created is nothing short of a masterpiece and you can be sure that this will be considered one of their best work.
Miley Cyrus - Bangerz
Surprised to see this album here? Believe me, I am too. I'm a firm believer that good music should get recognized as such, no matter who the artist is. In this case, that artist is Miley Cyrus. I think that the problem that Miley has is that her antics on stage distract people from her music. Think about it, when was the last time you had a conversation about Miley Cyrus where you didn't speak about her, but her music?
It's such a shame that Miley's antics take away from the music because the music is so damn good! As implied, Bangerz has several party songs but the album really shines when Miley steps away from the party and lets her voice show. Such songs are Adore You, Wrecking Ball, and Rooting for my Baby.
Phoenix - Bankrupt!
You can file this under Forgotten Albums. Phoenix released Bankrupt! in April but apparently, nobody noticed. This isn't new territory for the french band, however. In 2009, the band had a semi hit with their single 1901 but despite this, the band isn't really well known in the states. Hopefully my writing will bring them more attention because they deserve as much attention as they can get.
Bankrupt! is an essential feel good album. Often times nearing the edge of experimental, Phoenix made an infectious album that you can't help but bob your head to. Before you know it, you'll catch yourself singing one of the songs long after you finish listening to the album.
No song proves this more than Trying To Be Cool.
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
If anyone wants to learn how to announce an album, they take a lesson from Daft Punk. After being out of the music scene for about 8 years (we won't count the score that the duo did for the Tron: Legacy film), Daft Punk returned to the music scene in 2013. How did they announce their comeback? With a 15 second commercial spot during Saturday Night Live. The commercial was simple. The words Daft Punk appear on screen while a guitar riff played underneath it. You then saw the now iconic helmets before the commercial suddenly ended. The effect that this 15 second ad had on people is unbelievable. Blogs began speculating on the album and online users took this 15 seconds ad and turned it into a 3 minute "song". I'm sure that Daft Punk were pleased with the reaction.
After releasing several more ads, Daft Punk released Random Access Memories in May. However, this was a different Daft Punk. Instead of giving us the electronic sounds that we have grown to expect from them, the duo through a curve ball and gave us an album that was more funk driven than anything they have ever done. Upon listening to Random Access Memories, you get the feeling that the duo is rebelling against the robotic EDM sound that is so popular in music today (how's that for ironic). In fact, when asked to comment on the album, Giorgio Moroder (who contributed on the album) said "still dance, still electronic, but they gave that human touch back"
Beyoncé - Beyoncé
I know what you're thinking. How can an album that was released three days ago already be considered one of the best albums released this year? The short answer is that this album (self titled Beyoncé) is just that damn good.
You have to understand that I'm not a Beyoncé fan. Don't get me wrong, I respect her. I acknowledge everything she's done, either solo or with Destiny's Child (every incarnation). I know she's a phenomenal performer. Despite all of that, I just never really connected with her music. However, this past week I felt compelled to buy this album and I don't regret the purchase.
This album is twofold. First and foremost, it is about love. Self love, emotional love, sexual love and motherly love are all aspects that Beyoncé addresses. When she sings about these things you can almost feel the emotion in her voice. Secondly, and surprisingly, this album is about having a visual experience. Beyoncé calls this a visual album and with 17 music videos, it's hard to disagree. I'll say this, Beyoncè made us care about music videos in an age where music videos are damn near irrelevant. That's saying something.
The stand outs in the album are Haunted, Jealous, Superpower, Rocket, and the surprisingly sexual Partition. Partition will definitely have people talking negatively about her and Beyoncé, seeing this coming, put in this excerpt from a speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the song ***Flawless:
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much...We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.
How's that for addressing the naysayers?
So there you have it, these were my favorite albums of 2013. These were the albums that I spent most of the time either listening to, reading about, or analyzing. Now I turn it over to you reader, what was your favorite album(s) of 2013?