Saturday, December 14, 2013

Best in Music 2013

The following are my favorite songs and albums of 2013, another great year in music. For songs, I kept it to one song per artist to feature the most talent, and overall, it makes for one hell of a mixed CD if anyone's looking for some great tunes. I do tend to gravitate toward female singers, but there are some guys in there to mix it up. Enjoy!

10 Best Albums of 2013

1. "Water in a Whale" by Jillette Johnson - Jillette Johnson is an amazing talent.  She has a fantastic voice, which is showcased beautifully in songs like "Heathen," where she can really let it out.  But just as impressive as her powerful vocals is her songwriting.  She has very insightful, clever lyrics and composes stunning melodies.  And she's bold enough to have created a song such as "Cameron" for her debut album, about a transgendered person, bringing to question themes of identity.  Johnson shows a lot of different sides of herself in this CD, and even though it's her debut album, I can honestly say that I've enjoyed this more than any other CD this year.

Key Tracks: Flood the Ocean, Peter Pan, Basset Hound, Heathen, 17

2. "Back To Forever" by Lissie - Lissie blew people away with her debut album "Catching a Tiger," featuring "Record Collector," but she's really outdone herself with her new CD, "Back To Forever," in which she crafts a stunning album of fantastic rock tracks.  When you listen to this album, it feels like an instant classic, with Lissie belting out the choruses of songs like the fantastic "The Habit," daring you to sing along at the top of your lungs.  On the other hand, she can break your soul with heartfelt lyrics that speak of truth.  Lissie is on top of her game here.

Key Tracks: The Habit, Further Away (Romance Police), They All Want You, I Bet One You, Can't Take It Back

3. "Gravel & Wine" by Gin Wigmore - And speaking of great rock albums, Gin Wigmore has created a real winner in "Gravel & Wine," where she belts out her gravelly voice to classic-sounding tunes that speak of vices and strength.  This is an album that more people should know about, because I think Wigmore could find a real audience with her empowering rock songs that are just shockingly well-constructed.

Key Tracks: Black Sheep, Man Like That, Kill of the Night, Devil In Me

4. "Stars Dance" by Selena Gomez - This is a stunning pop album.  Great dance songs abound on this CD, while ballads showcase Gomez' surprisingly strong voice.  There isn't a song on here that isn't catchy, and most will be near impossible to get out of your head.

Key Tracks: Slow Down, Stars Dance, Come & Get It

5. "Modern Romantics" by Adaline - Adaline has created a sophisticated pop album here, with dark imagery and wonderfully unique sounds.  Many of the tracks are haunting, with thoughtful lyrics, while others will get you tapping your feet happily.  Great range is demonstrated here, and I'm excited to see what Adaline comes up with next, if she can manage to top this grade A album.

Key Tracks: Keep Me High, Lovers Collide, Stereo

6. "ARTPOP" by Lady Gaga - Lady Gaga is a true artist.  She's experimenting with the medium here, to varying levels of success, but what she ends up with is a unique record full of songs that are ten times more interesting than most anything you hear on the radio.  She uses some great sounds in songs like "ARTPOP" for futuristic beats, and even makes a great rap song in "Jewels N' Drugs."  She's trying to say something about art, pushing herself to grow in the process.  This is entertaining, and it's artpop.

Key Tracks: MANiCURE, Do What You Want (featuring R. Kelly), ARTPOP

7. "Black Bear" by Andrew Belle - Andrew Belle is a master of mood.  He uses his voice and a great layering of sounds that often build toward an epic finale, that just get under your skin and make you feel what he's trying to get across.  Sometimes I can't even tell what he's saying, but it doesn't really matter with the beautiful music he's making here.

Key Tracks: Pieces, Sister, The Enemy

8. "Arrows" by Polly Scattergood - Polly has a very distinct sound, ethereal and breathy.  It makes you feel like you're in a dream or Alice down the rabbit hole, lost in a beautiful fog.  Scattergood's lyrics can borderline cheesy sometimes, but her unique sound more than makes up for any shortcomings.

Key Tracks: Falling, Subsequently Lost, Silver Lining

9. "Bangerz" by Miley Cyrus - Publicity stunts aside, good girl gone bad Miley Cyrus knows how to craft an amazing pop album.  Her songs are catchy as hell, and she speaks to her audience with power anthems about independence and partying, as well as showing a more vulnerable side of herself when she sets aside the bass.

Key Tracks: We Can't Stop, Wrecking Ball, Someone Else

10. "Push Play EP" by Miriam Bryant - Miriam Bryant commands attention on her EP with a strong voice and a sound that's reminiscent of Adele.  She's not afraid to show off her range in dance songs with unique beats to moving soaring ballads.  This is definitely an artist to watch. 

Key Tracks: Finders Keepers, Push Play, Raised In Rain

Honorable Mentions
"The Bones of What You Believe" by CHVRCHES
"Wake Me Up" by Mattanja Joy Bradley
"Natalie Stovall and the Drive EP" by Natalie Stovall and the Drive
"Guilty Pleas EP" by Night Terrors of 1927
"Monochrome EP" by Parisa Louvel

30 Best Songs of 2013

1. "Recover" by CHVRCHES - The electronic beat of this song leads into a breathless chorus that's unforgettable.  It's hard as hell to get this song out of your head once you've heard it.  It's a great synthetic sound that sets a new standard, and is easily my favorite song of the year.
2. "Attracting Flies" by AlunaGeorge - Clever lyrics and a danceable sound make this a winner.  I love the unique sounds that give this song that extra flair, hitting the song at just the right moments.

3. "Sister" by Andrew Belle - This atmospheric single is a great showcase for Belle's crooning voice.  I love how it builds toward the end, where the song kind of comes to a head.

4. "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey - A haunting sound set to Lana's beautiful voice makes this a song hard to forget.  The strings and drums accent this song perfectly.

5. "Looking Around" by Kate Tucker & The Sons of Sweden - I've been waiting for a new song from this band for awhile, and they sure didn't disappoint.  The simple lyrics bring honest truths to the surface, with a beautiful melody that Kate Tucker croons through with her lovely voice.

6. "Hold On" by Lewis Watson - I love the organic sound of this single, and that sound like wooden blocks being struck that adds an extra interesting layer to the song.

7. "Wild Country" by Wake Owl - I love this folksy song.  It reminds me of Joey Ryan's sound that I fell in love with a few years back.  Great refrain.

8. "Man Like That" by Gin Wigmore - Wigmore belts out this rollicking song with enthusiasm with her smoky voice.  It sounds like a classic rock song, and Wigmore's attitude comes through loud and clear.

9. "Please" by Kate Turner - I love the strings in this song that add the perfect amount of pluck to this subtle performance.

10. "Stompa" by Serena Ryder - This anthem demands that you stomp your feet to it, and with its danceable melody, it's nearly impossible to ignore.

11. "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars - With a beat that makes you want to shake your hips, and an epic chorus, this was one of the biggest songs of the year, and for a good reason.

12. "Falling" by Polly Scattergood - I love Scattergood's breathy vocals, and they've never sounded better than they do on this song, coupled with a fantastic dream-like song.

13. "Samson" by V.V. Brown - V.V. Brown follows up her pop hit "Shark In the Water" with a strange, experimental album, but I kind of dig it.  "Samson" is very moody, with muffled lyrics, but it has a great sound, telling the story of Samson.

14. "Wings" by Birdy - This song feels bittersweet, a little forlorn and sad, but also hopeful.  It's beautiful and haunting.

15. "Forget Me Knots" by Heathers - This is a perfectly constructed song.  Great chorus, with a great build.

16. "When the Darkness Comes" by Colbie Caillat - There's something very classic about this song.  It's elegant, with beautiful strings and a lovely refrain that feels sort of epic.

17. Dark Horse by Katy Perry (featuring Juicy J.) - I really like how this song keeps building toward the chorus.  It's very intense, and a really unique sound for Perry.

18. "Out of My League" by Fitz & The Tantrums - This song definitely has an 80's vice, but that chorus is fresh and just awesome.

19. "Team" by Lorde - While "Royals" was everywhere this year, I prefer this song.  I love the odd opening, and the lyrics make me smile.

20. "All Night" by Icona Pop - A great dance song with throbbing bass, this is just a ton of fun.

21. "Slowly Freaking Out" by Skylar Grey - I love the industrial sounds in this unconventional song.  Despite the kind of ugly sounds, it's somehow very beautiful.

22. "17" by Jillette Johnson - This "B-side" song is a lovely song that seems to come straight from Johnson's diary, simple and elegant.

23. "Keep Me High" by Adaline - This moody song with haunting strings and dark lyrics is melodic and beautiful, very atmospheric.

24. "Love Me Again" by John Newman - This song is great.  John Newman really belts it out.  It's a little rough around the edges and rocking.

25. "The Star That Guides You Home" by Emma Stevens - This is a pretty simple song, but the chorus and guitar just work together to make the perfect little dittie.

26. "Cool Kids" by Echosmith - This is just a cool song that feels nostalgic.

27. "Forget You" by Cady Groves - Probably the best thing to ever come out of a "Smurfs" movie is this great pop song from Cady Groves.  Catchy, sugary bubblegum pop that just makes you happy.

28. "Fall Into You" by Night Terrors of 1927 - This sensitive, lovely song from the band Night Terrors of 1927 has a fantastic chorus with guys' voices rising in harmony, and has a vaguely 80's vibe that's somehow still modern.

29. "Without You" by Natalie Maines - The first solo outing from Natalie Maines, formerly of the Dixie Chicks, sees some great rock tracks, and this one stands out as the best of the bunch, with a great hook.

30. "Hot Damn" by Ivy Levan - This cheeky song from "The Dame" Ivy Levan is blunt and really fun.  Levan has adopted a persona as a performer that really works, and will probably attract a lot of fans.

Honorable Mentions
"Me & My Girls" by Fifth Harmony
"The Habit" by Lissie
"The Way It Used To Be" by Mike Posner
"Push Play" by Miriam Bryant
"Wear Me Out" by Skylar Grey

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