The 50 (+1) Best Albums of 2013


Kanye West-20131126-42

Ranking the very best albums of any year is incredibly difficult; there are always misses.  2013 was filled with some triumphant musical moments, though not all of their parent albums were necessarily ‘worthy’ of being considered the best of the year. Because of various factors, this list has its surprises and like any album reviewed, its triumphs and flaws.  One thing’s for sure – the top ten to fifteen albums are pretty close to the cream of the crop from my perspective.  Here are the 50 (+1) best albums of 2013!

1

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

XL

51Tqebc+IZL._SL500_AA280_The Ivy Leaguers outdo themselves on this eclectic, alt-rock tour de force. Stacked from start to finish, Ezra Koenig and company deliver sharp wordplay and highly liberal thinking.

Recommended Spins: “Obvious Bicycle”; “Unbelievers”; “Diane Young”; “Finger Back”; “Worship You”; “Ya Hey”

Seals The Deal:  “Obvious Bicycle”

2

Kanye West

Yeezus

Def Jam

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_Give credit to Mr. West where credit is due – previously Yeezus probably wouldn’t have landed in the top five, let alone the top two.  But as with certain wines and cheeses (Swiss namely), there is an aging process to provide a delicious and satisfying taste.  The same could be said of West über-ambitious Yeezus – or something similar that is!

Recommended Spins: “Black Skinhead”; “I Am A God”; “New Slaves”; “Blood on the Leaves”; “Bound 2” featuring Charlie Wilson

Seals The Deal: “Blood on the Leaves” 

3

Janelle Monae

The Electric Lady

Bad Boy

51q3xK+M7zL._SL500_AA280_Don’t put the fork in R&B music just yet – Janelle Monae delivers the year’s most intriguing R&B album that brilliantly encompasses numerous styles and keeps things both classic and progressive. One of a kind, all should bow down to JM.

Recommended Spins: “Give Them What They Love” featuring Prince; “Q.U.E.E.N.” featuring Erykah Badu; “Primetime” featuring Miguel; “Dance Apocalyptic”; “Dorothy Dandridge Eyes”

Seals The Deal: “Prime Time” featuring Miguel

4

Daft Punk

Random Access Memories

Columbia

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_The best, and arguably most exciting electronic album of 2013, is shockingly less futuristic compared to its colleagues, drawing back to old-school pop, disco, and soul. Throwback it is, Random Access Memories is one of the year’s finest albums regardless of genre, and stands a solid shot of winning the Grammy for album of the year.

Recommended Spins: “Give Life Back to Music”; “Giorgio By Moroder”; “Lose Yourself to Dance” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Touch” featuring Paul Williams; “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Fragments of Time”

Seals The Deal: “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams

5

John Legend

Love in the Future

Columbia

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_John Legend redeems himself big time on his fourth studio album Love in the Future following a somewhat disappointing effort in 2008’s Evolver.  While there are some more contemporary ideas here, Love in the Future is more about Legend flexing his soulful muscles, a niche he perfectly fits.

Recommended Spins: “In The Beginning”; “Who Do We Think You Are?” featuring Rick Ross; “Made To Love”; “All of Me”; “Stay The Night”; “Tomorrow”

Seals The Deal: “Who Do We Think We Are?” featuring Rick Ross 

6

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite

Get Up!

Stax 

51dp0nxPTmL._SL500_AA280_Blues albums rarely rack up huge accolades on a ‘big stage’, but Get Up! is that incredibly worthy exception.  Soulful and consistent through and through, Get Up! Easily ranks highly among the year’s gems.

Recommended Spins: “We Can’t End This Way”; “I Ride At Dawn”; “Get Up”

Seals The Deal: “We Can’t End This Way”

7

Black Sabbath

13

Republic 

510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_More than just the agnostics, atheists, and secularists will be pleasantly surprised with Black Sabbath’s most important album in years. Why is album 13 so important? It reunites the whole Black Sabbath crew (save for the drummer) for the first time 35 years!  Dark and foreboding, yet ‘sinfully’ appealing, 13 is quite the epic heavy-/black-metal album.

Recommended Spins: “End of The Beginning”; “God Is Dead?”; “Zeitgeist”;  “Live Forever”; “Dear Father”

Seals The Deal: “God Is Dead?”

8

Drake

Nothing Was The Same

Republic 

41E34dng69L._SL500_AA280_Drake didn’t necessarily ‘step his game up’ on Nothing Was The Same – he just continued to flex his emo-/ alt-rap muscles like the pro that he is.  NTWS is filled with gems, all completely different from one another.  One thing’s for sure, he may have “Started On The Bottom”, but Drake is on top of the game by all means.

Recommended Spins: “Tuscan Leather”; “Started From The Bottom”; “Wu-Tang Forever”; “From Time”; “Hold On, We’re Going Home”; “305 To My City” featuring Detail

Seals The Deal: “Wu-Tang Forever” 

9

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Columbia

31-q26oFwyL._SL500_AA280_Beyoncé shocked the world with her surprise fifth studio album, Beyoncé.  Even so, that’s not the reason ‘Yoncé makes this list.  Ultimately, the R&B chanteuse delivers a sharp, risqué fifth effort that separates itself from the rest of her discography and many of the other releases from 2013.  Both shocking and alluring, Bey does her thang.

Recommended Spins: “Pretty Hurts”; “Haunted”; “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z;  “Blow”; “Rocket”

Seals The Deal: “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay-Z

10

Arcade Fire

Reflektor

Merge

51wzw69ySAL._SL500_AA280_Few might’ve expected for Arcade Fire to follow-up their album of the year winning effort The Suburbs with an album like Reflektor  (I didn’t).  However, as all-over-the-place as Reflektor is, there are plenty of moments for alt-rock fans to cheer about.  Danceable, conceptual, and ultimately incredibly unique, Reflektor cracks the top ten best of the year, easily.

Recommended Spins: “Reflektor”; “We Exist”; “Here Comes the Night Time”;  “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)”; “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus)”; “Porno”

Seals The Deal: “Reflektor”

11

Eminem

The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Aftermath

91C6DnbKH1L._SL1500_Eminem delivers a superb album in The Marshall Mathers LP 2.  Perhaps the thrill of the epic “Rap God” caused this guy to slightly overrate MMLP2, but it’s still a pleasure to listen to.  Eminem doesn’t reinvent himself by any means, but executes at a high level.

Recommended Spins: “So Much Better”; “Survival”; “Berzerk”; “Rap God”; “The Monster” featuring Rihanna; “Love Game”; “Headlights”

Seals The Deal: “Rap God”

12

Queens of the Stone Age

…Like Clockwork

Matador

41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_Need an album that rocked ‘hard as a rock’ in 2013 – Queens of the Stone Age’s epic …Like Clockwork is your album!  Consistent from start to finish, Josh Homme and company take you on an exhilarating ride you won’t regret whether it’s imagining what it’d be like to have a “tail” (LOL) or those truly soft, no good “fairweather friends.”

Recommended Spins: “Keep Your Eyes Peeled”; “I Sat By The Ocean”; “If I Had A Tail”; “My God Is The Sun”; “Fairweather Friends”

Seals the Deal: “If I Had A Tail”

13

Pusha T.

My Name Is My Name

Def Jam

41a14hs1zXL._SL500_AA280_Arguably the most underrated rap album to make this list, Pusha T’s My Name Is My Name finds its MC keeping it ‘one hunna’ by all means.  Among its best moments are “Who I Am”, where Pusha T doesn’t wish to change for anybody as well as the valedictory “Nosetalgia”, where an assisting Kendrick Lamar states “…every verse is a brick”, and ain’t never lied!

Recommended Spins:  “Numbers On The Boards”; “Sweet Serenade” featuring Christ Brown; “Hold On” featuring Rick Ross; “Who I Am” featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean; “Nosetalgia” featuring Kendrick Lamar; “S.N.I.T.C.H.” featuring Pharrell Williams

Seals The Deal: “Who I Am” featuring 2 Chainz & Big Sean

14

J. Cole

Born Sinner

Def Jam

71eGk5WvO4L._SL1500_The argument could be made that J. Cole had the most accessible album of the three hip-hop releases that dropped on June 18 (the other two being Kanye West and Mac Miller).  Well-rounded, Born Sinner benefits from its focus and consistent tie to its concept of being a ‘sinner’.  J. Cole delivers, big time; perhaps Born Sinner could have even been ranked higher.

Recommended Spins: “Land of the Snakes”; “Power Trip” featuring Miguel; “Trouble”; “Rich N***az”; “Forbidden Fruit” featuring Kendrick Lamar; “Let Nas Down

Seals The Deal: “Power Trip” featuring Miguel

15

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

Push The Sky Away

Bad Seed Ltd

51ZLeGJAAgL._SL500_AA280_It’s not always the biggest, most commercially successful albums that sit atop the ‘best’ of the year when it’s all said and done.  Veteran Nick Cave delivers nothing short of an awesome alternative singer/songwriter affair in Push The Sky Away, driven by standouts like haunting single “We No Who ‘U ‘R”.  Them Bad Seeds – well – they’re not so bad!

Recommended Spins: “We No Who ‘U ‘ R”; “Water’s Edge”; “Jubilee Street”; “Finishing Jubilee Street”; “Higgs Boson Blues”

Seals The Deal: “We No Who ‘U ‘R”

16

James Blake

Overgrown

Republic 

41TqOSqi0WL._SL500_AA280_James Blake didn’t win the prestigious Mercury Prize for nothin’ – Overgrown has the goods to easily justify its win.  A much more sound album than James Blake was, and the year’s second best electronic effort (behind Random Access Memories), Overgrown could’ve easily ranked higher.

Recommended Spins: “Overgrown”; Take A Fall For Me” featuring RZA; “Retrograde”; “DLM”

Seals The Deal: “Retrograde”

17

Lorde

Pure Heroine

Republic

41XAtgtU1xL._SL500_AA280_Apparently, sometimes having teenage swagger isn’t a bad thing.  No, not Justin Bieber in this case, but rather, Kiwi teen Lorde who delivered one of the year’s most intriguing, catchy singles in “Royals”.  “Royals” wasn’t the sole attraction of Pure Heroine, an album that relies more on Lorde’s capable voice as opposed to illustrious production work.  Never overproduced and always compelling to listen to, Pure Heroine easily sits among the cream of the crop.

Recommended Spins: “Tennis Court”; “400 Lux”; “Royals”; “Glory and Gore”

Seals The Deal: “Royals”

18

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Made Up Mind

Sony Masterworks

41-PUo3AtUL._SL500_AA280_Made Up Mind is among the year’s best blues albums, second only to Ben Harper’s valedictory Get Up!  Susan Tedeschi – well, she’s certainly got mad pipes and mad soul.  The grit she shows on the title track and its follow-up, “Do I Look Worried”, is undeniably delicious.

Recommended Spins: “Made Up Mind”; “Do I Look Worried”; “It’s So Heavy”; “The Storm”

Seals The Deal: “Made Up Mind”

19

Wale

The Gifted

Atlantic

61sWlux1WKL._SL500_AA280_Wale had a great year in his own right – however with releases by Kanye West and J. Cole released just the week previously, Wale found himself a bit underrated.  Regardless, The Gifted is a superb album. While it sports an awesome ‘booty’ album with “Clappers”, Wale is at his best when he uses his ‘gift’ of words – “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)” being a prime example.

Recommended Spins: “The Curse of The Gifted”; “LoveHate Thing” featuring Sam Dew; “Heaven’s Afternoon” featuring Meek Mill;  “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”; “Clappers” featuring Juicy J & Nicki Minaj; “Bad” featuring Tiara Thomas

Seals The Deal: “Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece)”

20

Justin Timberlake

The 20/20 Experience

RCA 

61yONCH4jQLJustin Timberlake’s comeback album is a hard one to rank.  On the one hand, he made a valiant comeback and delivered some undeniably delicious hits.  On the other hand, when the awe of Timberlake’s return is taken out of the equation, there are some flaws that keep The 20/20 Experience from ranking higher.

Recommended Spins: “Pusher Lover Girl”; “Suit & Tie” featuring Jay-Z; “That Girl”; “Mirrors”

Seals The Deal: “Mirrors”

21

The Flaming Lips

The Terror

Warner Bros.

81Qlez0CBOL._SL1500_Perhaps Panic! At The Disco’s most recent album title best describes The Flaming Lips overall:  “Too weird to live, too rare too die!”  Ultimately, after years and years of incredibly unique, forward-thinking music, The Flaming Lips continue to both allure and shock.  The Terror is no different, hence, easily lands on this best of list.

Recommended Spins: “Be Free, A Way”; “You Lust” featuring Phantogram; “The Terror”; “Butterfly, How Long It Takes To Die”

Seals The Deal: “You Lust” featuring Phantogram

22

David Bowie

The Next Day

Columbia 

41iAL-zyeoL._SL500_AA280_After a lengthy hiatus, the audience rarely knows what to expect from a veteran artist.  Sometimes comebacks are triumphant, while at other times, they suck…  David Bowie ends up on the triumphant end of things, delivering a fine album after an 11-year absence.  Vocally, Bowie sounds as if 11-years absolutely nothin’.

Recommended Spins: “The Next Day”; “Dirty Boys”; “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”; “Where Are We Now?”; “I’d Rather Be High”; “How Does The Grass Grow”

Seals The Deal:  “Where Are We Now?”

23

Charles Bradley

Victim of Love

Dap

51UODLZcCTL._SL500_AA280_The ‘Screaming Eagle of Soul’ may not be a household name (and probably never will), but 65-year old Charles Bradley delivered a soulful tour de force with Victim of Love.  Younger R&B artists could stand to take a page out of Bradley’s chivalrous nature on standout “Strictly Reserved For You”.

Recommended Spins: “Strictly Reserved For You”; “Victim of Love”; “Confusion”

Seals The Deal: “Strictly Reserved For You”

 

24

Mavis Staples

One True Vine

Anti

51fqkurDW+L._SL500_AA280_A ranking filled with veteran artists spanning numerous genres, Mavis Staples shined on her so-called ‘Americana’ album, One True Vine.  Comprising of some superb covers and notable Jeff Tweedy leftovers/originals, One True Vine is truly captivating.  Oh and did I fail to mention that Mavis is 74?

Recommended Spins: “Holy Ghost”; “Every Step”; “Can You Get To That”; “I Like The Things About Me”

Seals The Deal: “Every Step”

25

Elton John

The Diving Board

Capitol 

51zyslCFevL._SL500_AA280_The veteran pop/rock musician has still got it, after a storied career.  Elton John doesn’t reinvent the wheel on The Diving Board, but he does flex.  Flex on brother, flex on – “Take This Dirty Water”!

Recommended Spins: “Oceans Away”; “A Town Called Jubilee”; “Home Again”; “Take This Dirty Water”; “Mexican Vacation (Kids In The Candlelight)”

Seals The Deal: “Take This Dirty Water”

26

The National

Trouble Will Find Me

4AD 

41pNHSnGAYL._SL500_AA280_Trouble, could be described as miserable – BUT at least it’s ‘miserably’ good!  Front man Matt Berninger seems to be going through all sorts of god-awful things and emotions stating “I should live in salt for leaving you behind” (“I Should Live In Salt”) while later confirming “…I have faith, but don’t believe it / it’s not there enough to leave it…” (“Don’t Swallow the Cap”). The National may be incredibly depressed, but they deliver quite a punch with Trouble Will Find Me 

Recommended Spins: “Demons”; “Don’t Swallow the Cap”; “Fireproof”; “Humiliation”; “Pink Rabbits”

Seals The Deal: “Don’t Swallow the Cap” 

27

Jake Bugg

Jake Bugg

Mercury 

51w8AyuAncL._SL500_AA280_Jake Bugg released his sophomore album, Shangri La in the fall of 2013, but it couldn’t match the magic of his self-titled debut.  Jake Bugg may have been overhyped as the successor to Bob Dylan’s work, but it does show a fine retro-minded Brit who hearkens back to rock and roll’s simpler, more organic days.

Recommended Spins: “Lightening Bolt”; “Two Fingers”; “Taste It”; “Seen It All”; “Broken”

Seals The Deal: “Two Fingers”

28

Fantasia

Side Effects of You

RCA 

51R6Qpg7HKL._SL500_AA280_Despite possessing one of the most distinctive voices in the game, Fantasia career and personal life have had some very public ups and downs.  On the sound Side Effects of You, Fantasia channels the good and the bad on one of her best albums.  On the diva anthem “Without Me”, ‘Tasia, Kelly Rowland, and Missy Elliott deliver a capable song that women everywhere can appreciate and men can secretly nod their heads too, even if they’re in the ‘doghouse’.

Recommended Spins: “Supernatural” featuring Big K.R.I.T.; “Ain’t All Bad”; “Without Me” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott; “Change Your Mind”; “Lose To Win”; “End of Me”

Seals The Deal: “Without You” featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

29

Bilal

A Love Surreal

eOne 

518G2jOk81L._SL500_AA280_Bilal has been captivating alt-soul fans’ hearts years before Frank Ocean, Miguel, or The Weeknd came along.  He continues to shine on his fine A Love Surreal, where his vocals remain powerful and soulful. Eclectic and consistent, A Love Surreal is easily one of the year’s top R&B efforts.  Perhaps best of all, it keeps neo-soul, a practically dead sub-style of R&B, alive (even if on life support).

Recommended Spins: “Westside Girl”; “Back To Love”; “Winning Hand”; “Slipping Away”; “Butterfly”

Seals The Deal: “Winning Hand” 

30

Childish Gambino

Because The Internet

Glassnote

81eBx+PAZAL._SL1406_A late 2013 release, Childish Gambino delivered capably and convincingly with his sophomore effort, Because the Internet.  A conceptual affair accompanied by a website sporting a 75-page script for clarification (WOW!), Because the Internet is easily, additionally, one of the most ambitious albums of the year.  Did I mentioned CG can rap too? LOL.  

Recommended Spins: “Crawl”; “The Worst Guys”; “Sweatpants”; “3005”; “Zealots of Stockholm”; “Pink Toes”

Seals The Deal: “The Worst Guys”

31

José James

No Beginning, No End

Blue Note 

412OsY-eNgL._SL500_AA280_Distinctly voiced jazz/soul singer José James joins a list of incredibly underrated, super talented artists.  His January Blue Note release, No Beginning, No End, was nothing short of a critical smash, consistent throughout its course. James is as refined as any jazz musician, but allows for his sensual, soulful side to shine on tracks like “It’s All Over My Body.”  His best moment, however, comes courtesy of  the groovy “Trouble”.

Recommended Spins: “It’s All Over My Body”; “Trouble”; “Vanguard”

Seals The Deal: “Trouble”

32

Chrisette Michele

Better

Def Jam

51v0nrvYiuL._SL500_AA280_Chrisette Michele could be R&B’s most underrated female.  For the classy R&B singer, commercial success has only been so-so, despite been rock-solid where consistency is concerned.  Better is a sensational and eclectic R&B effort showing  Michele’s range as an artist.  Nothing is better here than promo single “A Couple of Forevers”, which was easily among the year’s best.

Recommended Spins: “A Couple of Forevers”; “Let Me Win”;  “Love Won’t Leave Me Out”; “Visual Love”; “Charades” featuring 2 Chainz

Seals The Deal: “A Couple of Forevers”

33

Alice Smith

She

Rainwater

Alice Smith's She easily ranks among 2013's best albums.

Underrated and under-appreciated, Alice Smith is an exceptional, gifted musician by all means.  On She, Smith delivers magnificent vocals coupled with top-notch songwriting and production.  Among her most triumphant moments is a fierce cover of Cee-Lo Green’s “Fool For You”, which she makes her own.  She is that exceptional few are aware, but shouldn’t be sleeping on.

Recommended Spins: “Cabaret”; “Another Love”; “Loyalty”; “Fool For You”; “Be Easy”

Seals The Deal: “Fool For You”

34

Danny Brown

Old

Fool’s Gold

51Sz35Wx2KL._SY300_One eccentric, idiosyncratic personality, yet brilliant, Danny Brown is definitely ‘one of a kind’.  Old highlights his musical eclecticism and his brash, ‘gives no effs’ delivery.  Unapologetic he may be, Brown can definitely spit.

Recommended Spins: “The Return”; “Wonderbread”; “Dope Fiend Rental”; “Torture”; “Clean Up”; “Dip”; “Float On”

Seals The Deal: “Torture”

35

A$AP Rocky

Long. Live. A$AP

RCA 

61HAw5GBMiL._SL500_AA280_Perhaps the biggest “F**kin’ Problems” A$AP Rocky’s Long. Live A$AP faced, was being released way back in January 2013.  Perhaps Long. Live. A$AP lost some of its swagger with more notable releases bowing, but it certainly banged back in the early, cold winter months.  A$AP Rocky shows great potential, if nothing more on Long. Live. A$AP.

Recommended Spins: “Long Live A$AP”; “Goldie”; “F**kin’ Problems” featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar; “Wild For the Night” featuring Skrillex; “Suddenly”; “I Come Apart” featuring Florence Welch

Seals The Deal: “F**kin’ Problems” featuring 2 Chainz, Drake & Kendrick Lamar

36

The Courtney John Project

Future

The Courtney John Project's debut album, Future.

‘Rootstronic’ collective The Courtney John Project delivered one of the more exciting, creative efforts of 2013, blending reggae, Euro-electronica, and self-described “100% provocative”. Refreshing, vibrant, and progressive, album Future is a project more people should be aware of and embrace.  Its crowning achievement – “Black Cinderella” all the way!

Recommended Spins: “Black Cinderella”, “Give You Love”, “Very Special”, “Rain Like Gold”

Seals The Deal: “Black Cinderella”

37

Tyler, The Creator

Wolf

XL 

51o5Jne9dNL._SL500_AA280_Tyler, The Creator is himself on Wolf – if you heard his previous raw, unapologetic efforts Bastard or the more readily available Goblin, you’ll catch my drift.  Ultimately, Tyler, The Creator has a lot to offer on Wolf, as long as folks doesn’t allow themselves to get too offended by the MC’s ongoing trash talk.

Recommended Spins: “Cowboy”; “Answer”; “Domo23”; “IFHY” featuring Pharrell Williams; “Trashwang”

Seals The Deal: “Cowboy”

38

A$AP Ferg

Trap Lord

RCA

51II1ezPeFL._SL500_AA280_A$AP Ferg didn’t do too much “work” on the commercial front, but the album shines nonetheless.  Ferg definitely has a cool, somewhat idiosyncratic style about his delivery, which helps make Trap Lord incredibly enjoyable. Overrated? Perhaps, but I’ve enjoyed Trap Lord since its debut back in August.

Recommended Spins: “Shabba”; “Lord”; “4:02”; “Work (Remix)”; “Murda Something”; “F**k Out My Face”

Seals The Deal: “Shabba”

39

Depeche Mode

Delta Machine

Columbia

510OT-HaYDL._SL500_AA280_Perhaps Depeche Mode are past the point of ‘wowing’ anyone with their albums, but Delta Machine is yet another well-produced, enjoyable addition to a loaded discography.

Recommended Tracks: “Welcome To My World”; “Angel”; “Heaven”; “Slow”; “Should Be Higher”; “Goodbye”

Seals The Deal: “Angel”

40

Arctic Monkeys

AM

Domino

41Akr-xptRL._SL500_AA280_The Arctic Monkeys’ most recent was a late addition, but a worthwhile one.  After a triumphant debut effort years back, and several albums in between, The Arctic Monkeys deliver on AM.  Likely had this album graced my playlist before – oh December 26, it would’ve been much higher on this list.

Recommended Spins: “Do I Wanna Know?”; “R U Mine?”; “No. 1 Party Anthem”; “Knee Socks”; “I Wanna Be Yours”

Seals The Deal: “Do I Wanna Know?”

 41

Ariana Grande

Yours Truly

Republic 

41VAP7icdZL._SL500_AA280_Considerably talented newcomer Ariana Grande cements herself as Mariah Carey’s successor on her fine debut Yours Truly, which debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard 200.  Sporting a prodigious voice with miraculous technical abilities and range, Grande has a promising career ahead of her.

Recommended Spins: “Honeymoon Avenue”; “Baby I” featuring Big Sean; “Right There”; “You’ll Never Know”; “The Way” featuring Mac Miller; “Almost is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes

Seals The Deal: “The Way” featuring Mac Miller

42

Mac Miller

Watching Movies With The Sound Off

Rostrum

71RRhm-GL3L._SL1336_On the oddly titled Watching Movies With The Sound Off, Mac Miller steps up his game.  Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of humorous lyrics… and inappropriate, misogynistic ones as well… (“When I die bet she f**k my hologram…”)

Recommended Spins: “S.D.S.”; “Bird Calls”; “Gees” featuring Schoolboy Q; “Goosebumpz”; “Okay” featuring Tyler The Creator

Seals The Deal: “Goosebumpz”

43

Panic! At The Disco

Too Weird To Live, To Rare To Die

Fueled By Ramen 

51G8dsUg+pL._SL500_AA280_Panic! At the Disco have been unable to recapture the success of their best known hit “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”, but on Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die, the band has no reason whatsoever to hang their ‘weird’ or ‘rare’ heads down.  A thoughtful, creative affair sporting multiple stylistic influences, Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die shines.

Recommended Spins:  “This Is Gospel”; “Miss Jackson”; “Nicotine”; “Girls/Girls/Boys”; “Collar Full”

Seals The Deal: “Miss Jackson”

44

Valerie June

Pushin’ Against A Stone

Concord

51xeVX1xXHL._SL500_AA280_Valerie June is yet another new comer that graces this best of list thanks to a great amount of potential and an eclectic blend of folk, country, blues, and soul.  Comfortable in her southern shoes, June remains on autopilot throughout the course of Pushin’ Against A Stone.  It doesn’t hurt to have the tremendous presence of Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys) in your corner, right?

Recommended Spins: “Workin’ Woman Blues”; “Somebody To Love”; “The Hour”; “Wanna Be On Your Mind”; “Pushin’ Against The Stone”

Seals The Deal: “Pushin’ Against A Stone”

45

Robin Thicke

Blurred Lines

Interscope

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_For Robin Thicke, it was a career transformative year.  “Blurred Lines” was the gift single that kept giving (and perhaps taking), making the former neo-soul singer relevant within pop circles.  “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the only shining moment, as Thicke kept his silky, smooth pipes going strong on thoughtful ballad, “For The Rest Of My Life” and collaborated with, you guessed it, Kendrick Lamar.

Recommended Spins: “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I.; “Take It Easy On Me”;  “Give It 2 U” featuring Kendrick Lamar; “Feel Good”; “For The Rest of My Life”

Seals The Deal: “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams & T.I

46

Cornell Campbell Meets Soothsayers

Nothing Can Stop Us

Strut

61C7Cg69MKL._SL500_AA280_Motivational, meaningful, and incredibly consistent, Nothing Can Stop Us is the real deal. Filled with top-notch arrangements and exceptional material, Nothing Can Stop Us is quite a musical treat. Transcending its reggae stylistic label, Cornell Campbell meets Soothsayers shows magnificent musicianship.

Recommended Spins: “Nothing Can Stop Us”; “Conqueror”; “With You My Heart Belongs”; “WeWant To Be Free”; “There’s A Fire”

Seals The Deal: “Nothing Can Stop Us”

47

Paramore

Paramore

Reprise

417HasAPa8L._SL500_AA280_Throughout its duration, Paramore is quite a compelling effort, finding the new-look Paramore not missing a beat (or the Farro Brothers). There are no misses on this album with the only real rub being its lengthy duration. The production is exceptional and Hayley Williams’s vocals always impress with feistiness, assertiveness, and nuance.

Recommended Picks:  “Grow Up”; “Daydreaming”; “Ain’t It Fun”; “Last Hope”; “Hate To See Your Heart Break”

Seals The Deal: “Ain’t It Fun” 

48

John Mayer

Paradise Valley

Columbia

51jVAdn45ZL._SL500_AA280_Paradise Valley is a solid album overall.  It’s doesn’t always show itself incredibly overt or alluring with ‘in your face’ material, but Mayer sounds refined vocally and always delivers with his prodigious guitar skill.

Recommended Spins: “Wildfire”; “Paper Doll”; “Who You Love” featuring Katy Perry; “I Will Be Found (Lost At Sea)”

Seals The Deal: “Wildfire” 

49

Celine Dion

Loved Me Back To Life

Columbia 

61F+u7vUrlLLoved Me Back To Life isn’t Celine Dion’s best career album, but it is certainly the prodigious vocalist’s best in years.

Recommended Spins: “Loved Me Back To Life”; “Incredible” featuring Ne-Yo; “Water And A Flame”

Seals the Deal: “Incredible” featuring Ne-Yo

50

Lady Gaga

ARTPOP

Interscope 

81LFx7SM8AL._SL1400_It could be argued that Lady Gaga had an ‘off year’ by the gargantuan standards she’s set.  That said, ARTPOP won’t be running up the boards to supplant the multitude of albums on this list, but it definitely still has its moments.  “Do What U Want” definitely shines.

Recommended Spins: “G.U.Y.”; “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly; “ARTPOP”; “Dope”; “Applause”

Seals The Deal: “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly

 

51

Miley Cyrus

Bangerz

RCA

51PXgWbbyILMiley Cyrus has had quite the year and an equally as ‘all-over-the-place’ album to match.  Don’t call Bangerz a classic – it isn’t – but it has some surprising moments that even the most hard-nosed critic and Miley skeptic can’t even deny.  Hope I don’t lose my credibility with this one…

Recommended Spins: “We Can’t Stop”; “4×4”; “Wrecking Ball”; “Get It Right”

Seals The Deal: “We Can’t Stop”

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