Boxx couldn’t let the year end without taking a look back at music’s high notes. From our favorite albums and music videos to the breakthroughs and comebacks we didn’t see coming, our critics have assembled a yearbook of Top 10 lists. Today, we list our favorite 10 Albums of 2013 (in no particular order). Check back tomorrow for our final post: a 2014 preview.
Beyoncé – Beyoncé (Columbia)
Barely digested since her awesome surprise release that almost broke the Internet, it’s still clear that this album was intended to be monumental. Not just because B managed to pull off a full-length record under the radar of critics and fans as well as create a visual component for every song, but because she went brave. “Drunk in Love” is raw and “Flawless” bangs, and Beyoncé surprised the hell out of everyone by being even better than she already was. Cameos by Frank Ocean, Drake and Jay-Z didn’t hurt, either. Check out our track-by-track assessment here.
Seasons of Your Day – Mazzy Star (Rhymes of an Hour)
If it was possible to freeze time, Mazzy Star did just that, returning after a seventeen-year hiatus with another dreamy and atmospheric album. Opening track “In The Kingdom” signals that the band’s signature sound is still consummately shoegazey, with Hope Sandoval’s powerful vocal whisper intertwining with Dave Roback’s slippery guitar and a church organ—powerful in the way “Halah” was when we first met Mazzy Star in 1990 with She Hangs Brightly.
Dreams in the Rat House – Shannon and the Clams (Hardly Art)
Shannon Shaw may never get the critical acclaim she deserves for having one of the best voices in the current, overwhelming wash of garage rock, but she also probably doesn’t care much. She and the Clams are still trudging along anyway, making yet another awesome retro-pop album wiggling with the weirdness that has been missing since The Cramps created it—see “Hey Willie,” “Rat House” and “Heads or Tails” for excellent examples.
Matangi – M.I.A. (N.E.E.T.)
More than a genre bender, M.I.A. is best at being a genre-expander. Matangi is another entry in the singer and MC’s growing catalog of outsider art that is slowly (but thankfully and surely) penetrating the mainstream. “My words are my armor / You’re about to meet your karma,” M.I.A. chants on the record’s title track, a statement that could exemplify her relationship to the larger, critical world.
Coming Apart – Body/Head (Matador)
Kim Gordon is an artist that seems impossibly perfect, everything she creates handed over to her audience with the understanding that there will be no flaws or disappointments. That could be a heavy legacy to shoulder, but Gordon is a pro with decades of experience and Coming Apart is another component to that larger body of work. “Abstract” is a platform of noise built to showcase Gordon’s voice and “Actress” pushes her vocals to a new, distorted level. We were all sad that Sonic Youth disbanded, but more than happy to see Gordon back with a killer new project.
The Courtneys – The Courtneys (Hockey Dad Records)
In a Donnas-esque approach, all three members of The Courtneys go by, well, Courtney. But the similarities end there, and what Classic Courtney, Crazy Courtney and Cute Courtney make together is pure post-punk magic. “90210” is a really good track out of an album full of great ones, its jangly yet razor sharp bass lines competing with a trio of poppy, perfect vocals. This record is solemn and sunny at the same time, like a bubble gum take on Joy Division.
Fade Away – Best Coast (Jewel City)
Bethany Costentino found her voice on Fade Away. Opener “This Lonely Morning” set the tone, a sorrow in her hooks and a realness in her lyrics that comes across like an introspective Lesley Gore. Best Coast did what they do best and made another catchy, lovesick, heartbreaking record—but this time, Cosentino put on no airs.
The Electric Lady – Janelle Monáe (Wonderland Arts Society/Bad Boy)
The genre-bending queen kills it on her own, but Janelle Monáe went toe-to-toe vocally with the likes of Prince and Erykah Badu, and the result was a thought-provoking, danceable album. Monáe flexed her ability to be a throwback artist with a contemporary vibe, and as she always does, rocked The Electric Lady with a sense of history and humor.
Paramore – Paramore (Fueled By Ramen)
From the opening track “Fast in My Car,” Hayley Williams states her place in the pop world: She’s a vocal powerhouse who can lyrically level with her audience. The record as a whole feels and sounds unabashedly ’80s in an anthemic and stadium-sized way, but steers clear of being contrived or too polished. Paramore continues to show that they are willing to grow and change, and this fourth release explores the possibility that inter-band strife can sometimes lead to really good things.
Sock it To Me – Colleen Green (Hardly Art)
Milo Goes To Compton proved that lo-fi bedroom pop isn’t something to be brushed off, and Sock It To Me was a continuation of that notion, just better. Colleen Green made a record about being in love, and it was the best. A shy rock star who balanced out a world of Internet music egos, the Oakland lady of weed and drum machine beats made a record out of a really adorable diary, full of songs about socially confusing situations, dreams and bold adoration.
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