Last week, I wrote about my favorite tracks of the year. That however, doesn't mean that all of them fell on my favorite albums of the year. Some artists surprised me, some really, really disappointed me. Anyway, here are my favorite musical projects of 2013.
5. Capital Cities - In a Tidal Wave of Mystery
After hearing Safe & Sound (a tune that anyone that's walked into a Forever 21 or some other trendy young adult store has no doubt heard), I thought I'd be getting into a catchy pop record. That would have been an understatement. I liked every track on here. My favorites aside from the aforementioned track are Origami, I Sold My Bed, But Not My Stereo, and Farrah Fawcett Hair, which features a rare appearance by one of my favorite rappers of all time, Andre 3000. As it says on that track, "You know it when you see it, you know it when it's there. Like Michael Jackson's Thriller. Like Farrah Fawcett's hair. It's good shit."
4. Childish Gambino - Because The Internet
Unlike many of his detractors, I've liked Childish since a co-worker put me onto him (on our way to the Kanye West/JAY Z Watch the Throne concert, no less). He eased me in with Camp, which I really dug, no matter what Pitchfork said. Hearing his music evolve since then has been really cool. His production is at it's best here, and although his lyrics can still come off corny at times ("girl why is you lyin'? Why you Mufasa?"), the corn is definitely outweighed by lines that beckon a smirk. The fact that it's built around an actual screenplay to give context is pretty impressive. My favorites here are Pink Toes, 3005, Shadows & Telegraph Ave.
3. Lorde - Pure Heroine
At 17 years old, Lorde took the music world by storm this year with Pure Heroine. Everyone has heard the lead single, Royals, but to be honest, it's not one of my favorite tracks here. I originally started listening to Pure Heroine in the car with my wife, spinning it because I figured she'd like it. After a full rotation, I couldn't pick out a bad track even if I tried. Tennis Court has to be my standout favorite. She's recently been overheard saying that she's going to change pop music. I can't help but trust her.
2. Mac Miller - Watching Movies With The Sound Off
Two years ago, Mac Miller was often relegated to a simple 'weed rapper' to most of the hip hop community (although I had been a fan since Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza off of the K.I.D.S. mixtape). Then, Macadelic dropped, showing people how much his lyrical content and production had matured. He also started producing jazz laced beats under the pseudonym of Larry Fisherman. People started seeing that Mac was serious. It was impossible for me to pick a favorite track from Watching Movies With The Sound Off. It really sounds like there's a bit for everyone here. Objects in the Mirror and REMember are probably my favorites. 2013 was clearly a huge win for Miller altogether - along with the praise that WMWTSO received, he was also on a huge single with Ariana Grande (My Way) and released a few mixtapes. Most of all, he turned a lot of haters into fans.
1. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
I've never been a huge Daft Punk fan. In the past, there were just a handful of their tracks that had grabbed me. Now, I've got a whole album of them. After hearing the instant classic, Get Lucky, I was hoping for an entire album featuring that slick, disco-revival sound, and I got it. On the opening track, Give Life Back to Music kicks in with a funky groove, easing you in until at about 1:30, when it layers in some guitar tracks that start the head bob...which doesn't stop until the record stops spinning. Lose Yourself to Dance, & Doin' It Right are other standouts, along with Touch, which may be the best thing they've ever produced. On one track, it feels as if they span decades of music in 8 minutes. Simply incredible. In the advertising/artwork, it appears that they were trying to make their "Thriller". It worked.
Runners Up: JAY Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail, Katy Perry - Prism, Kings of Leon - Mechanical Bull, Justin Timberlake - 20/20 Experience Part 1
Special shout out to Drake and his album, Nothing Was The Same. I dislike Drake as a rapper, but I have to say...he has such an ear for beats. The beats on every one of his major label releases have been nothing short of fantastic, and I think that if one of my favorite rappers (or someone who can handle even a little bit of lyrical creativity) went over some of this production, they would be amazing songs.
Another shout out to Pharrell, who was another big winner this year. In addition to being on two of the best songs from R.A.M., he was featured on another huge single this year in Blurred Lines (two platinum singles...in the same month) and had the key song on one of the best movies this year in Despicable Me 2 (Happy). I'd be surprised if he didn't pick up the 2013 Grammy for Producer of the Year (he was nominated for 7 awards).
Speaking of which, next up...the movies of 2013.