January 8, 2014

My top 3 of 2013

There are plenty of lists that try to argue for the best albums of the year, but I want to take a different approach. I'm going to go over the 3 albums I liked most, and listened to most. I don't feel like agonizing past these, so this let's me agonize over which songs to link to.

The Bones Of What You Believe

Just a great freshman album from a new synthpop band. I've always been a sucker for girl-fronted pop bands, and this is no exception. The songs create a lot of different tempos and moods. Some make you want to dance in a dark room with repetitive lights and noises-

Some sexy puns, and bitterness. I couldn't be happier.

The band isn't a one trick pony, though. Other songs have a kind of desperation and evoke empathy and emotion that you wouldn't normally get out of an electric pop band:

I know a song hits a certain chord with me when I get goosebumps. The song doesn't hide the fact that it's a long metaphor for life, and how we can all begin to slip under sometimes. There's a darkness, but also an optimism that breaks through around 1:25, when the tempo changes. This pattern repeats itself, with the brightness lasting longer each time, until it rounds out the song.

Here's their first single, The Mother We Share.

This song captures their sound pretty well- an upbeat sound, with a sensitivity in the lyrics. It's hard to pay attention to both, but the end sound is great either way. You can listen to this album on repeat, and hear a lot of different styles and moods. I tend to listen to albums on repeat for days or weeks, so they have to have the depth to stand up to this kind of obsessiveness.


You've probably heard Fuckin' Problems, but if you haven't, here's a treat:

Why do I like A$AP Rocky so much? The guy isn't afraid to allude to other artists. To collaborate with other artists. This song features 3 of the hottest artists out- Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, and Drake. 3 great verses, wrapped in a great hook. A good way to break into the mainstream is when you're working with the most popular guys in the game. He also collaborates with Skrillex, Santigold, and Florence Welch (Florence and the Machine), showing he will work with the best, regardless of their genre.

Songs like PMW (All I Really Need) show he can allude to Lil Wayne, but still bring his own interpretation and sound to this song. Schoolboy Q drops a verse, and alludes to his own song (Hands On The Wheel- where Rocky is featured), furthering the intertextuality of Rocky and what he brings.

It isn't just about having other artists help you out. Even on his own, he's great-  rounds out with strong solo songs like Goldie-

It's hard to really pinpoint what I like so much about his album. I talk a lot about sound, and the sound of songs. I used to think I liked lyrics, but the more I listen to music, the more I've discovered that I am really obsessed with tone and harmony. A different pitch in the hook, a little high-pitched play at 2:10. He ends both verses with the same lines, but the pace and tone that is set in the beginning portion of each verse carries over into the ending lines, producing two very different sound setups. I like this kind of variety and experimentation, especially when there is so much attention to pitch and a wide range of chords.

He even does a pretty decent sexy song. Can't blame him- why not?


Everyone's heard Royals, but if you haven't, you can listen to a little with some Rick Ross.

Lorde, another freshman artist (god, there have been a lot of new breakout artists these past 2 years), sings about never being a royal (though she's the queen bee this year with the most popular song of 2013). Rick Ross juxtaposes the opulence that Lorde fantasizes about- singing about dead presidents and his dirty boots muddying up his new Rolls Royce.

Another of my favorite songs that really showcases her overall style is Team-

You may say that this song cheats- it has clapping and a female pop artist surrounded by synthetic instrumentation. Right before the 30 second mark, her voice is manipulated, deepeend, and dropped off- providing the backdrop to lay a beat and some group clapping. You hear the maturity in her voice. The classic introduction period where she builds up the sound backdrop. Lorde has talked about having to focus so much on her voice, and you can tell the focus of the song is on the quality of her voice and the soundscape she can create. It's nice to hear this organic sounding, but also well manipulated, mature voice against the synthetic pop beats she sings against.

She does it again on A World Alone-

This time, she completely shifts gears around 1:20. A long introduction? When I first heard this song, I thought it would be a simple, maybe even somber song. Ah, but then she oohs and starts talking more personally. Kicking bad habits, some we can all relate to. Then you get catchy hook with an upbeat tempo, and lulled into a false sense of security again. Every time you hear the oohs, you know the catchy hook will be coming back soon, and you really anticipate and want to hear it. It's a poppy hook that people will sing along to on the radio, but also has some smart layering and lots of originality.

I'm excited to see what 2014 brings us. What were you 3 favorite albums of the year?

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