Without a doubt, 2013 was a fantastic year for new music. Almost everyone’s favorite artist (from Beyonce to Kanye to Daft Punk to Drake - to name a few) released a new album. We celebrate not only the mainstream few (named above), but additionally, an eclectic mix of honorable mentions (for good measure).
Honourable Mentions (In no particular order):
Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap
Baths – Obsidian
The Neighbourhood - I Love You
Dpat - In Bloom
Sango - North
The Child of Lov - The Child of Lov
Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety
Tyler, the Creator - Wolf
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Iamnobodi - Elevated
A$AP Rocky - Long Live A$AP
Majical Cloudz - Impersonator
Bonobo - The North Borders
Childish Gambino - Because The Internet
Jai Paul - The Demos
Killer Mike & EL-P - Run The Jewels
Deptford Goth - Life After Defo
A$AP Ferg - Trap Lord
King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
Lucki eck$ - Alternative Trap
Albums Of The Year:
10. Toro Y Moi - Anything in Return
Behind the veil of Toro Y Moi is Chazwick Bundick, a twenty-something who many associate with the rise of chillwave. Perhaps it is this chillwave affiliation that does Bundick a disservice, as his progression as an artist reveals someone with unique inspiration and defined goals. His latest work, Anything In Return, expands beyond chill wave and beyond his first two albums, as Chaz takes off the veil and lets his personality seep through.
Before Anything In Return was released, Bundick stated that it was his intention to make a more straightforward pop album. He aimed to steer away from his usual laid back, experimental style and more towards catchy Top 40 hits. To his credit, he has in a sense achieved this, with an album where not a single terrible track can be found. While thankfully not venturing into cliché, the album is Toro Y Moi’s most straightforward work yet. It is in this that Anything In Return finds an honest yet nostalgic identity. Continue reading the full review: Here
9. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
On his critically acclaimed sophomore album, Take Care, Drake proved his signature blend of rap and R&B as a formula for success and his work on the project resulted in numerous accolades — including a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
The Grammy was not only a symbol of how far Drake had come from his days as a child star on the set of Degrassi, but it also showed a shift in the overall hip-hop landscape. Someone who conveyed superior rapping and singing abilities, coupled with honest lyricism grounded in stories about his own life, was able to break boundaries in the genre - far removed from content about the hardships of growing up in ghetto America.
His latest album, Nothing Was the Same, is a view from the penthouse, an ode to having finally made it and a statement that he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Needless to say, the new album is also a musical departure from Take Care, as the slick R&B flavoured samples of Jon B. and Playa are largely dropped in favour of grittier Wu-Tang Clan beats that play an important role influencing the ‘90s hip-hop sound on certain tracks. Continue reading the full review: HERE
8. Lapalux - Nostalchic
Stuart Howard, better known by his alias Lapalux, is changing the way we listen to experimental electronic music. He seamlessly weaves together his niche genre, UK bass, with lush LA beats creating sounds previously left unheard. After signing to Brainfeeder, headed by Flying Lotus, he’s made waves in maximalistic music, focusing on raw sounds and real-life circumstances, connecting us listeners in a collective imaginative experience.
Over the course of the last year, Lapalux bestowed us with release after stunning release of EPs and remixes, finally giving us his debut album Nostalchic earlier this month. After the album dropped, Lapalux noted on his Facebook page that he wrote Nostalchic for listeners to make love to with each other. This mood became heavily evident within the first few tracks in the LP. Continue reading the full review: HERE
7. Rhye - Woman
Little more than a year ago, we were introduced to the enigmatic Rhye. With no knowledge of who was behind the veil, all we could do was listen in sheer curiosity to their ethereal lone track “Open”. The inception of the song draws you in to a beautifully rendered soundscape, as delicate violin strings and calming horns give way to tranquil simplicities. It revels in its finesse, its minimalist approach, finding evocation in its most subtle nuances. The fluid vocals drift along with distant yearning, imbuing a sense of desire and restraint upon the listener. It’s sexy yet despondent, never forceful but always suggestive of its emotions. Now, a year gone by, the veil has been cast aside, yet Rhye retains its mystery. Their debut album Woman embodies an expressive restraint, knowing what it wants to emote and how. The mystery of Rhye remains not by means of the physical presence behind it, but through the music itself.
Rhye is Los Angeles-based duo Robin Hannibal and Mike Milosh. With their identities no longer a point of contention and curiosity, the focus shifts instead towards the lush, soulful sounds comprising Woman. What Hannibal and Milosh have accomplished together is unadulterated pleasure, with the two melding their talents in perfect harmony. Continue reading the full review: HERE
6. Mount Kimbie - “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth”
Mount Kimbie are often considered defining artists in the, at times, confused and miasmic genre of post-dubstep. Some might say they are on the side of future garage. Most would file them under ‘electronic’ and ‘experimental’. In my humble opinion, a duo as technically intrepid as London-based Kai Campos and Dom Maker are aural explorers. For them, genre boundaries are permeable. This is evident on “Cold Spring Fault Less Youth”, their second album. “Crooks & Lovers”, their 2010 debut, garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim for its innovative sound and precise yet easygoing experimentation. Since the release of “Made To Stray” back in March, fans and critics alike have been looking forward to seeing where Mount Kimbie will take their sound next.
They certainly sound like an act in control of their own output. The fanfare at the beginning of “Home Recording”, the album’s first track, clearly indicates that this is more than a collection of tunes created between now and 2010. It’s a well thought out exhibition of sound and their own musical development, structured in a specific way to take us on a delicate and beautiful journey. To get the most out of the album, I would recommend that you grab your headphones – or at least a quiet room – and listen to it in full. Broadly speaking, one could separate the album into three categories: chilled out vocal tracks, party tracks and hard experimental tracks. “Home Recording” is a perfect example of the primary category, and acts as a showcase of the new ideas at play in the rest of the album. Fans of Mount Kimbie might be more familiar with the lovely laidback, textural electronica of previous releases, but this album takes a decidedly more engaging approach. Continue reading the full review: HERE
5. Kanye West - Yeezus
I’ve been struggling with this review for over two weeks. I’ve had discussion after discussion with friends and colleagues, analyzing the details of Yeezus ad-nauseum. The road behind me is littered with the bloody corpses of false starts and abandoned ideas. After some serious searching, I realized that I was trying to create a masterpiece of critical musical writing, sweeping and eloquent. I was trying to follow the all-encompassing model of grandeur Kanye West laid out in his magnum-opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy when I should have been looking right in front of myself and gone for the polar opposite, sleek and stripped-down approach West has employed on the dark, minimalist Yeezus.
Yeezus shares its skeletal form with West’s most divisive album, 808s & Heartbreak. But where that album was a desolate wasteland that found West pouring his heart out, Yeezus is an unrelentingly bleak record that finds West angrily amplifying his personality by lashing out at everyone.
West has proven time in and time out that he is a top-tier producer and Yeezus is no different. The sound of the album is one overflowing with aggression and rage, never letting up from the opening moments. Continue reading the full review: HERE
4. James Blake - Overgrown
James Blake has never been one to fear the unknown. On his 2011 self-titled debut, he saw the mortality of dubstep, understanding that it was a genre rife with limitations and a definite chance of fading away. For Blake, he saw this as an opportunity to explore the boundaries of dubstep-style production. It was a leap of faith. While other artists were going in the direction of assaulting, grandiose production, Blake took the style and minimized it. By removing the trivial bombastic exterior, he was able to emphasize the underlying beauty. What came of it was something wholly unique, a beautifully crafted exploration in unfamiliar territory. It felt foreign, yet it also felt assured and purposeful. Blake, it seems, finds comfort in this. With Overgrown, his sophomore album, he once again looks towards the unexplored. Embracing elements of R&B, hip-hop and pop, sounds once separate from the name James Blake have been thoughtfully interwoven amongst his post-dubstep sensibilities. This is how Blake thrives. Continue reading the full review: HERE
3. Disclosure - Settle
Disclosure’s formula is masterful. They might be young, they might be new, but these kids, these brothers from Surrey, have something huge. I guess that’s why they’re wanted on every festival line-up you can imagine these days. Get yourself a copy and take time to go through the album with a holistic approach. You will be stunned by the maturity if you aren’t too busy dancing or calling up your friend who’s (somehow) never heard of Disclosure. Continue reading the full review: Here
2. Pusha T - My Name Is My Name
Even after finding critical success with the release of his first official GOOD Music EP Fear of God II: Let Us Pray in 2011, Pusha T was still stuck in a transition period being less than two years removed from the last Clipse album Til the Casket Drops — the Virginia duo’s final project together before their current hiatus.
Despite having already paved a solo career for himself with GOOD Music, Pusha was still mostly being billed as member of Clipse rather than being recognized as the individual talent Kanye West believed him to be.
After Fear of God II dropped, Pusha still wasn’t getting much attention outside of Clipse diehards. Last year, he appeared on the GOOD Music compilation album Cruel Summer where the 36-year-old rap veteran was forced to share the spotlight with younger stars like Big Sean, Cyhi the Prynce and Kid Cudi.
Thanks in large part to the success of his second mixtape, Wraith of Caine, at the top of the year, Pusha’s position as one of the game’s finest lyricists was beginning to solidify. His album single “Numbers On The Boards” took him over the top and proved that a hip-hop song with a high level of word mastery could still attract a mainstream following.
Pusha has finally released his first full-length studio debut My Name Is My Name and the finished product is one of the most lyrically dense, furiously delivered and brilliantly produced pieces of hip-hop in recent years. Continue reading the full review: HERE
1. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
Cupid Deluxe dives into the vast mind of Dev Hynes who is an artist with almost too many ideas. At one moment the album is laid-back EDM pop to soft rock with sax balladry to ’90s New Jack Swing to hip-hop and chillwave. These juxtapositions of styles and Hyne’s deeply emotional lyrics leaves you guessing throughout the album and its direction.
Much like Coastal Grooves, this album contains tracks that are catchy, hypnotizing, and deep. Dev Hynes and his gang of collaborators (who include Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, Friends’ Samantha Urbani, Dirty Projectors’ David Longsteth, and Clams Casino) manage to take the sound to a whole other level - this album is full-blown and evolved.
No wonder Dev Hynes is one of the most sought after songwriters in the business.