The Grammys just happened, but this list really hasn’t anything to do with that. Honestly, I planned to have this list within the first week of the new year, considering that’s when I initially put it together. Constructing this list in some kinda order was easier said than done. But I’ll explain how my countdown works.
First of all, most of these albums can be found (or at one time used to be found) on Spotify, which is my streaming music player of choice. Except for my honorable mention and #11, everything else can be streamed on Spotify and found on Amazon, iTunes, Google, etc. Out of laziness, I’m not providing links BUT I will supply album covers and tracks to check out!
Second, I rated the albums based on how often I’d play them, how many songs on the album were skipped, and just generally how much I liked the overall piece altogether. Due to this being my list, I do have some bias towards some artists, some were late entries but based on who they were or how much I enjoyed their past music may have moved up the slots considerably. But enough disclaimer, let’s check out the list!
Honorable Mention: Thomas Frank White – Lost Soul
This is an album currently not found on Spotify, but is also a good friend of my and frequent guest on my podcast The Lost Dial… so it wouldn’t be fair to throw him in the top 10, but I couldn’t not include him either. One of the hardest working artists I know personally, putting Connecticut on the map, check out probably his biggest hit “Party All Night.” And I was nice enough to include a link to get the album if you click on the image.
25. Jay-Z – Magna Carta Holy Grail
If I’m completely honest, I’m not really that big of a Jay-Z fan, but this album had a few songs that I really enjoyed such as “BBC.” I could listen to the album itself a few times, but I’d get bored and skip half the songs. It was compared to Kanye’s Yeezus album, which I’ll tell you now isn’t on this list, but out of the 2 mega rap stars, I chose this one. And there are plenty of other mainstream rappers that released an album, but I chose this one because it’s the only one I came back to later, and included a few tracks on playlists I later created. Sorry Kendrick and J Cole. (Kanye’s saving grace was Bound 2… until the video came out.)
It’s pronounced “ah-nah-mah-na-goo-chee.” Thanks to The Nerdist Podcast for introducing me to this band. They use a song from the band as their intro music, don’t ask me the title right now. It’s not on this album, however I will point out and recommend the song “Prom Night” which happens to be the only track that has vocals. The album itself I’ve only listen to a few times, but I needed to include it because their band name is fun to say. Their musical style is that of what you would hear on a classic video game… and it’s awesome.
A very short album… 5 songs. I liked 4 out of the 5 songs, 3 out of the 4 are on “heavy rotation.” I found Max Frost on a TV commercial for Beats by Dre with the song “White Lies.” The other two songs of note “Nice and Slow” and “Glow Long.” I like this guy’s voice, his style and music, but I currently don’t know too much about him. I’m also currently being a lazy journalist and blogger. Hopefully he’ll come out with a full album soon.
While missing the clever cryptic song titles, it was nice to return to the return of FOB. I really enjoyed this album but I didn’t find myself compelled to return after a few weeks or months later. However, the song that made it into my working playlist was “Just One Yesterday” with special guest Foxes. Keep an eye out for her, supposedly coming out with a debut studio album later this year.
Not a band or singer many have heard of, I’m willing to bet. BUT this isn’t his first appearance on the Indoob. I got to see this guy perform at a NY pub a couple years ago while eating a not so delicious panini. Don’t let the sandwich distract you though, he’s a throwback to classic soul with a classic band sound. I admit it’s not my favorite album, it’s still worth your time to listen. My favorite song would be “Gold Mine.” Overall very upbeat and fun. Try not to tap a toe or two.
Probably one of my favorite gospel artists but recently tarnished due to his reality TV show Preachers of LA. I didn’t watch it. I didn’t want to. And then I later learned from people that did watch the show that I wouldn’t want to. I say all that to say that because of his “overexposure” I had lost interest in him and ultimately my opinion of him dropped a bit. I still like the album’s music, and a lot of the content in the songs is more relevant to his personal life and issues he had during the past couple years, which I learned on my own before the show came out. But there are also plenty of songs that aren’t necessarily personally specific to his life, and just good music, like the Sam Cooke inspired “Waiting (All Night)” and “Strong.”
Arguably Robin Thicke had one of the biggest summer smashes this year, but received little hardware to show for it (MTV, Grammys). It did receive flack for it’s fun if not Rated R music video overflowing with topless beauties. Aside from it’s mega hit single, a few other tracks to note are “Feel Good,” “Go Stupid 4 U,” and “Pressure” for no other reason than they are just awesome songs. Half the album is skippable to me, but that’s just me. I couldn’t help but compare him to the guy he also compared to, in a lesser sense… Mr. Timberlake. Both are married to actresses. Both have been “in the game” for most of their lives. If both these blue-eyed soul crooners ever joined forces… look out.
Is it just me or is Talib Kweli underrated? He’s always felt that way to me yet he is one of the most consistent artists I listen to. Not just in hip hop, but in music. Whether it’s a solo effort or a collaboration with another artist for an entire album, he puts out something every year. And it’s good music. Prisoner of Conscious was his album of 2013 and I’ll just say out of all the songs, “High Life” is the one I keep going back to, and if anything, I put on repeat for about an hour. Easily one of my favorite rappers. Probably your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper too.
I didn’t really know where I was going to put this album. My initial thoughts: this is the sequel to The Fame Monster. To me, that’s what it sounded most like. Or in other words, better than Born This Way but not as good as The Fame Monster. But there are still plenty of noteworthy songs I enjoyed and kept circling around. And a few that later grew on me, such as “Do What U Want” featuring R. Kelly. I think I’d just snatch the instrumentals if I could. Another song I liked was “Gypsy” because it was kinda fun, but also told a little bit of a story. Ultimately I always end up playing her older music if I’m ever in the mood for a Gaga song, but the handful on this album aren’t bad to add to an inevitable future “Best of…” list.
Alice Russell is new to me and I was introduced to her through an episode of NBC’s hit drama The Blacklist. By the way, as someone who doesn’t listen to the radio that much, I find new music from TV commercials, shows and movies… if not recommended through friends or other means. Anyway, the song featured was called “Citizens” and is still a highly recommended song to check out for it’s production value. The album in it’s entirety I can listen to without skipping and songs, however there are a few I would hit replay if it wasn’t too much of a bother to hit the replay button. You know how it is, sometimes your music player isn’t exactly in reach but if it is, you’ll make the effort. Another track to check out is “Heartbreaker.” But listen to the whole album.
I’m a latent Goodie Mob fan… meaning I really haven’t listened to too much of their music even though I’ve been an Outkast fan since forever ago and have been well aware of many members of the Dungeon Family, including CeeLo Green back when he was a “Closet Freak.” While one can analyze my fandom, I almost missed this album if it weren’t for a few tweets here and there. I once described to a friend that I’m massively picky and particular about rap/hip hop and I prefer substance over skills. I’m not prepared to explain further but what I love about Outkast extends to Goodie Mob. And since we haven’t had a proper Outkast album in some time (no offense to Big Boi), Goodie Mob have filled a void. Again, this is another album I barely skipped any songs, and if I skipped any… it’s only to get to the next track I really like and to anxious to wait. “I’m Set” became a favorite, with a pretty interesting video to go along with it. “Special Education” also has a fun video, but is a pretty awesome song.
To my understanding, this particular album is somewhat of a “deluxe” edition and mixes a few songs from her first album, such as her big hit “Lights” with her newest hit “Burn.” Personally, I’m tired of the former but love the latter. However, I found myself playing through the entire album while at work, never really knowing when the album has gone through a second time. Which is a good thing, I think. What I most like about Ellie is her voice. “Dead in the Water” is one that stands out for that reason. Or maybe because it’s so haunting? I find myself wanting to hear that song randomly at times. “Anything Can Happen” is another one. But new favorite would be “Tessellate” which is considered a bonus track. I can’t pinpoint why it’s a new favorite… it just is. I likes what I likes.
WDTDG was the last album I added to the list, and was actually the first album I heard this year. See, what had happened was I was following Mayer on Instagram and he kept talking about it, promoting it, but I never followed up as to when the album was released and totally missed it back in July or whenever. So all day New Year’s day I listened to the album about 4 times and picking out any good or bad songs. More good than bad. In fact I like the title track “Where Does This Door Go” and “Small Clone.” The handful of songs I didn’t care for, I don’t remember as I took them out of the playlist, but it was only one or two, which means overall it’s a really enjoyable album, as most of of Mayer Hawthornes albums often are. I also got to see him live, however it was back when How Do You Do came out, so none of the newer songs were played. Still, it’s all good and so is this.
I was never really an India.Arie fan. I really haven’t listened to her since when she first came out years ago. So how did this album find it’s way into my ears, on my list and into my heart? I honestly don’t remember. It might have been recommended via Sportify. But point is, I listened and thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the theme or concept of this album, which to be honest I don’t know if it’s on all her albums, but the main theme was genuine love. Every song was positive. Except for maybe “Strange Fruit.” But that’s a cover of a very powerful song. Too many songs on this album to point out, but here are a few: “Just Do You” which is very encouraging and good way to start a day, “Moved By You,” “One,” and maybe… possibly my favorite is “Thy Will Be Done” which my mother and I decided it was a gospel song and one we might possibly teach the church choir some day. It’s got a mellow raggae vibe to it, and of course, uplifting and empowering message.
Technically an EP, and also not really on Spotify anymore, this was one of my favorites last year. But due to it’s special issues, I didn’t want to include it in the top 10. But breaking news! Caught a Ghost is releasing a full album April 1st this year! So who is Caught a Ghost? Based on their website, a musical experiment of sorts mixing retro sounds of soul with the new electric sound of today. It’s easier heard than explained. But the song that caught my attention just got a brand new music video, called “Connected.” I first heard this song from a cat food commercial. I couldn’t tell you the brand, I don’t remember. Friskies probably. Anyway, you won’t find the song on Spotify, probably not until the album is released, but you can find a few of their other songs like “Time Go” and “Sleep At Night.”
This was a complete surprise entry for me, mostly because I had never really heard of them until I listened to an episode (again) of The Nerdist and they talked about what they wanted this album to be: which was enjoyable and accessible to all that listened to it. I’d say mission accomplished as I enjoyed practically every song and was really entertained by it. The surprise factor comes from them being around for quite some time, but having never heard of them. And then to be such a fan of their music afterwards. I haven’t gone in their back catalog yet, but in due time. I don’t the album is that long to begin with, but I don’t recall ever really skipping any tracks. Maybe one. But my top song is the first track “Closer” and I’d follow that up with “I’m Not Your Hero.” These are catchy upbeat songs that are mostly about relationships, but whether you’re in one or not, in a good or bad mood, it’s just good music. But I’m sure there are songs to relate to, as they were intended.
Last year there was a musical controversy regarding Bareilles’ “Brave” vs Katy Perry’s “Roar” and how similar they were to each other, both is melody and subject matter. “Brave” came out first but “Roar” maybe have come out louder. And in the end, I would think Sara wins, as her song had staying power, not to mention it’s Microsoft’s current theme song for it’s marketing campaign. But it’s also just my opinion Sara Bareilles is the better artist. No offense to Katy, Sara seems more real. But I’m going down a road I wanted to only point out, not travel on. Besides “Brave,” another favorite is “I Choose You.” And a song I’m not afraid to jam out to would be “Little Black Dress.” Like her previous albums, a steady mix of pop friendly songs, and ballads that you can tell are pretty near and dear to her and her artistry. Not the greatest songs to work to, but I let them play because I’d listen to her sing the phone book.
I hadn’t been paying too much attention to OneRepublic for quite some time but this album snuck it’s way into my regular playlists. I had a difficult time placing it on this list because it meets the criteria so well… I listen to the album ofte, I skip very little, the music is very good to work and drive to. It’s a well crafted album, I don’t know what else I can say. And songs from this album are everywhere: a number of commercials, films, TV shows… and I probably wouldn’t have known it was a OneRepublic song if I didn’t become so familiar with the album. Because honestly, if I wasn’t paying attention, they’d sound like any other band to me. But the more I listen, the more I can tell the difference. I have the same problem with R&B singers who sound too alike. Anyway, once again there are too many songs I enjoy… but “I Lived” feels like a good anthem and “Life in Color” is another song to either start the day or to play after a rainy day. Okay, as I look thru the tracklist, I could review each song, but I’m gonna move on.
My BBF and I were discussing Lecrae and she was completely shocked I was unaware of him all these years. Let me go back a bit… As I mentioned earlier, I’m picky with my hip hop music. I’m even pickier when it comes to Christian hip hop. Honestly, back in the day, it mostly sounded corny to me except for a few here and there. But thankfully the times have changed and there are good rappers with the Good Word such as Lecrae. I’m certain there are other good ones out there, I recently listened to Trip Lee, so I’m making my way around. Anyway, besides being excited to find a Christian rapper I liked, it was nice to find just another good rapper, and just all around good music. A few skipped songs due to lack of interest in them. Songs modeled for the club scene I can usually do without. But the songs I really liked are “Misconception Pt 2,” “Hands Up” and “Hang On.” I’ve since gone on to his earlier stuff but will revisit this album again very soon.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t too impressed by Janelle’s earlier works, which has nothing to do with her at all… I actually have yet to go back and revisit her past albums since playing this one repeatedly. If you don’t already know, all of her albums basically follow the story of an android heroine in the future. Each album is a chronological part of the story, and this album is parts, or “Suites” 4 and 5. I definitely enjoy the storytelling aspect of it, even if I don’t fully follow the story being told. I’m mostly hooked on the music and hearing Janelle sing… rap occasionally. Title track “Electric Lady” is a fun song with my favorite Knowels (yeah I said it), Solange. I also really liked “Victory” and “What An Experience.” As with most of the albums on the final 10, I like the album in it’s entirety but these tracks I might skip to or put on other playlists more than others.
I’m including parts 1 & 2 here for the simple fact there were a handful of songs on the 2nd part I enjoyed. But part 1 is by far the better half. Before this album, I wouldn’t have really considered myself a JT fan but he had definitely been impressing me with acting abilities and just overall entertainer skills. Let’s face it, he had an extraordinary year in 2013. I have fond memories of listening to this album on my way to work, normally before sunrise, and the melodies would put me in a good mood. “Pusher Love Girl,” “Strawberry Bubblegum” and “That Girl” being standouts… but I’m a big fan of “Mirrors.” “Suit & Tie” I’m not all that impressed with. But it fits the theme. And the album I believe is mostly about his wife, which is cool. I’m not so sure about the 2nd part. A few I liked were “Not A Bad Thing” (and it’s hidden track) and let’s put “Murder.” I only have 5 song from Part 2 that I kept. I couldn’t tell you why unless I listened to them, and I’m trying to keep these short. So for for broke and get the whole album if you can, but the Part 1 is the superior.
I can (and have) listen to him all day. I’ve listened and loved all of his albums except for one… only because I haven’t heard it yet. He is the only artist on this list, other than Thomas Frank White, that I’ve actually got to meet in person at an event. Cool guy. Anyway, once again, this is another album I would listen to straight through. Here, though, there would probably be only two songs I’ve picked out to be on other playlists: “Best I Ever Had” and “Leading Man.” For me, they are just high energy songs that get me going at work or put me in a good mood. And fun to sing along to in the car. These are important to me as I may have failed to mention with the previous albums. Nevertheless, all the songs are good songs to work and drive to, and just good songs in general. My bias might be coming into play here because I met the guy, but whatever.
Funny story about this sister trio. I had never heard of them until they were performing on SNL a few months ago, and when they did perform, I made jokes that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Out of curiosity I check them out and had been hooked ever since. They ultimately got the last laugh as I still find myself playing their album all day long. Between the style in their lyrics, voices, harmonies and melodies or whatever the stank it is, I can’t get enough. I started with “The Wire” and loved how rapidly they’d sing the lyrics. “Falling” has an awesome guitar solo. “Forever” and “Days Are Gone” also has some fun guitar work. Well, it’s more than just the guitars… it’s all the instruments. It’s like I said, the vocals, harmonies, lyrics… The other funny thing is I kept seeing the album cover, it Spotify also recommended to me, but I ignored it for the longest. Now, it probably gets my Heavy Rotation award for 2013. “Yeah but why is it #3?” I hear someone ask. Because it is. When constructing this list, I didn’t expect it to be this high… but that’s the way I feel about it.
I knew this would be a great album way before it was released. Did I think it’d be Album of the Year good? I honestly didn’t expect it to win, but I’m glad that it did. This album also has a SNL connection, because of a super short teaser shown during a commercial break that just showed “Daft Punk” and played the riff of “Get Lucky” followed by the album cover. 15 seconds. I and a few dozen other people that had been A.) awake and B.) knew who Daft Punk was got excited and started scouring the internets looking for more information and that video clip. Analyzing and speculation went into crazy mode until a “trailer” had been released at a music festival that showed who’d be on the album. Then it was just a matter of time before the album came out, and when it did, it did very well. “Get Lucky” being what many would call the song of the summer (maybe battling with “Blurred Lines”). Yet it surprised me that it took them showing up at the Grammys for people to realize who they were, if they still didn’t know. But they are notoriously camera shy, and maybe it’s for the better… Let the music speak for itself. And I think it does. Many other EDM artists have cited them as major influences to their own music, like another French duo named Justice. I found this album more enjoyable as an album in it’s entirety but if I had to pick a song that wasn’t “Get Lucky” I’d go with “Instant Crush.” Many of the songs I liked certain parts of the songs more than others. Perhaps the songs were crafted that way on purpose. “Touch” is such a song. But I’ll also point out “Beyond” and “Contact” for being a great way to end an album experience.
This was tough, I want you to know. Especially picking the top two. With all the music I listened to during the past year, which would be quite a lot, I think I came back to this album the most overall. Another concept album or sorts, all of these songs (except for a few on the deluxe version) are truly love songs. No break ups or trust issues here. As I told friends: only for the grown and sexy. A few of the songs even have a slight futuristic vibe to them, which obviously would make sense considering the album title and it’s theme. But is this his best album? as someone had previously asked me when I first heard it. I’m still not sure, but I’ll say no, for now. What I love about John Legend is how each album has it’s own distinct sound, or personality, if you will. Get Lifted was soulfully fresh, maybe kinda raw R&B. Once Again was a bit cleaned up and felt like it had went abroad. Evolver was more mature, for an older audience, one that had evolved, pun intended. And Love in the Future definitely has the vibe that it’s slightly ahead of it’s time, but also has a sense of intimacy. As it should, since if I’m not mistake, this album was written for his wife, fiance before the release. I’m excluding the Wake Up album since it was a collaboration. But the love definitely comes through if not the lyrics, then the melody. “All Of Me” seems to be a top choice right now. I’d pick it as a wedding song. And finally! A video where the artist includes his wife! (I know there are others out there, but I really liked this one.) “You & I (Nobody In The World)” would be another favorite. Half the album is my favorite. The other songs I’ll just listen to get to the favorites. “Made To Love” might be the top favorite due to those opening drums. I also really liked the video for that one too. But ultimately, this album puts me in a good, hopeful music. There’s love out there for everyone. Sure this album is pure romance, but still. I’ll be listening to this well into the future.
So after such a long list, what albums did you really like last year?