I know, I know, I know. For whatever reason, being a nurse has turned me into a bad blogger; honestly, I deal with so much at work, that I don’t really want to deal with doing much on my days off other than just relax. That being said, I have wanted to write this post for nearly 5 months now, and goddammit, I am going to do it. I made a promise to the few of you that still read this old blog, and I promised myself. There were some AMAZING albums released last year, and I wouldn’t feel right not sharing my love for them, like I’ve been doing for several years. So… while this may be late, and it may be way overdue, at least it’s here now… finally.
Just like in 2011, there were two albums that I simply could not get enough of, and honestly those two were so far and above everything else; with one exception… each other! It should be no secret at this point that I LOVE LOVE LOVE both Sara Bareilles and City and Colour; they are both two of my most favorite artists, and last year, they both released amazing albums within about a month of one another.
1. (tie) Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
Sara’s incredible third full length album did not disappoint. Seeing her live just before this album was released was a real treat; and it turned out to be the show that was recorded for the live album release later that year (the one that I was featured as a photographer on, nonetheless!). She only sang a few new songs, but man, they really built up my expectations for the new release; and per usual, I was not disappointed. Sara has this quality that I think a lot of artists wish they had; she can capture her thoughts, feelings, disappointments, triumphs, frustrations, and most of all, love all within a song. She can transform a thought into a feeling, and turn that feeling into a beautiful piece of music that makes you feel what she wanted you to feel; it takes you right to where she is in that moment. I love that the first song she released from this album, the penultimate Brave, was an ode to her dear gay friend, in hopes that she could help him be brave, and he could come out to his family. This is such a supportive anthem that I really resonate with, and one that is miles beyond a simply catchy chorus and beat. Sara has crafted another beautiful album without a single misstep, and it is apparently getting her more and more attention; it was, after all, nominated for album of the year at the Grammy’s. While she didn’t win, I definitely thought it was the best one of the bunch, and I am appreciative of her talent that she continues to share with us. Song Highlights: Brave, Manhattan, Satellite Call, Islands, December.
1. (tie) City and Colour – The Hurry and The Harm
Just like Sara, City and Colour is an artist that once I heard him for the first time, I knew I was hooked on something amazing. Dallas Green, aka City and Colour, is definitely an old soul. He is so evocative in his song writing, and so prolific in his musicality, that there is no doubt in my mind that he has been through a few life times; even if only through hardship, love, and loss during this one. He writes music that is so emotion-filled, and beautiful, that I honestly get choked up during many of his songs. He weaves this imagery that makes me feel his music, and makes it an experience, rather than just listening to something catchy or beautiful. There are song that he has on this album, just like on his previous three, that I turn on, turn up, close my eyes, and just feel. When he released the first song from the album, Of Space and Time, I was elated. I was not only in love with this amazing track, but I was once again blown away at how someone could be this talented; he continues to up the game at each turn. The entire album followed suit, and while it is a bit more “polished” than his first albums, I think the raw nature of his craft is front and center. Dallas, please keep making such amazing and beautiful music; I know there are many fans like myself will follow you to the end of time. Song Highlights: Of Space and Time, Harder Than Stone, Two Coins, Take Care, Ladies and Gentlemen.
3. Haim – Days Are Gone
These three rock-n-roll sisters came out of nowhere. I first heard The Wire on a video show, and I loved it. After that, I checked out the album, and I was blown away; who are these ladies, and where did this amazing album come from? According to many sources, these girls loved Fleetwood Mac growing up, and that style influenced their musical style. While I only hear subtleties, I think these ladies have created a truly incredible debut. Very rarely do you come across a new group that is this incredibly talented, and able to turn out a practically flawless debut album. This is one album that I listened to over and over again, because each song is incredible, and not like anything else I heard this year. Seeing them live a few weeks ago was the icing on the cake; they are INCREDIBLE live, and totally slayed the concert. I hope this is a start of a long and illustrious career for this talented trio. Song Highlights: The Wire, Honey & I, Go Slow, If I Could Change Your Mind, Forever, Falling.
4. Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob
I’ve really liked these twin sisters for quite some time, but never so much as I do since this album came out. Embracing a bit more of an electronic sound, added to their tried and true acoustic, guitar driven sound from the start, they tried something different and completely succeeded. In my honest opinion, they have never been stronger, both in their “new” sound as well as lyrically, I have no doubt that they have attracted many new fans with this album. Much more polished, and cohesive, Heartthrob is definitely my favorite Tegan and Sara album thus far. I found myself loving more songs that ever before, and the album in and of it self is cohesive, solid, and very well made. Not saying that haven’t been this strong in the past, as these ladies are incredibly talented; they just have come into something different, and in my opinion, more developed and polished than ever before. Seeing them live recently also made me appreciate their new album even more; they are incredible live, and this show was better than the one I had seen years ago. Song Highlights: Closer, Now I’m All Messed Up, Shock to Your System, I Was a Fool.
5. Lady GaGa – ARTPOP
What can I say? It’s Lady GaGa. I have loved her since the first time I heard Just Dance, which was a good 8 months or so before her debut dropped, and since that time, she has gone from a pop diva to a full-fledged pop phenomenon. While many critics agreed that this was a “weak” album for the superstar, especially when compared to her near-flawless previous releases, I think that this album is merely a minor misstep in an otherwise flawless career thus far. GaGa is hugely talented, and that goes without saying; those that don’t like her can’t deny her level of talent is through the roof, and with this album, she reinvented herself yet again. This time, however, it didn’t blow everyone away like it had before. HOWEVER, I feel like this album is a well-rounded, very strong effort from a massively talented artist. With Applause, the first single off of her new album, GaGa released, what I think, is one of her strongest singles to date; but for whatever reason, I didn’t resonate as strongly as previous efforts. The album release was considered somewhat of a “flop”, because it didn’t blow her previous effort out of the water, but I think that GaGa had insurmountable odds to overcome, and as opposed to trying to best herself, she put her best foot forward, and made a record that she felt comfortable with and loved. It is clear that her passion is still front and center, and while there are a few missteps on the album, this is more GaGa gold that fans can enjoy like before. Song Highlights: Applause, Sexxx Dreams, Venus, Gypsy, Dope, Do What U Want.
6. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz
This album fits squarely in the column of, “I really shouldn’t like this, but… it’s just so… dammit, it’s just so darn good!!”, AKA, what most people would label as guilty pleasures. That being said, I would say that nothing should be a guilty pleasure; if you like something, for whatever reason, just enjoy it! This album was so much better than I was expecting, that I was honestly a little blown away by it. Not only is Miley an extremely talented singer (trust me, she slayed live), but her choices on this album show that not only does she know how to pick a hit, but her choice of producers to work with shows the potential making of a star; after all, you’re only as strong as the music you put out. Remember when Britney was seemingly unstoppable? It was largely because of who she was working with, and I can definitely say that Miley has taken note, and is doing something spot on with her “new” career. With this album, and honestly, with one “stripped down” video for Wrecking Ball, she left her purely innocent pop past as Hannah Montana squarely in the past. Couple that with an infamous racy performance at the MTV music awards, and Miley had transformed herself into the most talked about woman in the room. The attention is well deserved, as this is an incredible pop album, and while it isn’t her debut, it might as well be. I’m not ashamed to say that I love the “new” Miley Cyrus, and if she keeps making albums this strong, she’s got a very long career ahead of her for sure. Song Higlights: Wrecking Ball, Adore You, We Don’t Stop, Drive, #GETITRIGHT, Maybe You’re Right.
7. London Grammar – If You Wait
The first time I heard their sleepy hit Strong, I knew I had stumbled onto something incredible. When they released their album, shortly thereafter, I found myself entranced and hypnotized by Hannah Reid’s haunting vocals, which are beautifully paired with saccharine, wispy harmonies and delicate beats. While the album leans towards possibly being a bit monotonous (and I don’t mean this in a negative way… more cohesive), in that a lot of the songs blend so seamlessly together, and nothing stands out as strongly as well, Strong, the album is beautiful, and there is nary a misstep to be found on it. Definitely a great chill out album, reminiscent of, and I have to believe, playing tribute to, gorgeous music from trip-hop artists like Portishead from the past. This is one band that I would love to see play live, as I am sure they are incredible. I love discovering music like this, especially when bands this incredibly talented come out of pretty much nowhere. This is truly an excellent debut, indeed. Song Highlights: Strong, Stay Awake, Hey Now, Wasting My Young Years.
8. Hayden – Us Alone
I’ve loved Hayden for quite some time, and his latest sleepy-rock album is another fantastic addition to an ever-increasingly magnificent music cannon. Hayden is like a very fine wine, he only gets better with each subsequent release. While this is a short album at only 8 songs, he packed in some truly beautiful songs about love and loss, a subject he seems to know all too well. Hayden’s tenderness always shines in his music, and this is another heartfelt album that more people should be listening to. Song Highlights: Almost Everything, Oh Memory, Just Give Me a Name, Motel, Rainy Saturday.
9. One Direction – Midnight Memories (Deluxe Edition)
These lads were a hot point of contention for me at first; they are sort of responsible for the break up of Westlife, my favorite boy band of all time. Once I got past my heartbreak on losing Westlife, I couldn’t help but fall deeply for these guys and their ridiculously catchy pop. This is an album that is far better than it should be; there really isn’t anything on here that’s bad. This being their third album, I can tell that those that are not firmly in the 1D camp need to either wise up or get out of the way; they aren’t going anywhere for a while. After seeing them on SNL, I saw the star power they possess, and their live shows are probably a big reason why their popularity has continued to soar. They are the new incarnation of the boyband, and they are really doing it really, really well. This is another fantastic pop album chock full of singles; which begs the question, why haven’t more singles been released?! Here’s hoping that will be remedied in the coming months; there is enough material on this album to spawn many more hits. Song Highlights: Through the Dark, Best Song Ever, Strong, Story of My Life, Don’t Forget Where You Belong, Little White Lies, Better Than Words.
10. Rosi Golan – Fortuna
This may be an EP, but it is filled with such amazing songs, so I felt compelled to include it in the best albums of 2013 for that very reason. I have loved Rosi Golan ever since I heard her amazing duet with William Fitzsimmons, Hazy. Her voice is hauntingly beautiful, and on this gorgeous EP, she has given fans a beautiful mini-album full of some of her best work. Unfortunately, I discovered her previous album, Lead Balloon many months after its release, and it missed my best of 2011 as a result. Fortunately, I saw this immediately on its release, and was able to give a little love to Rosi this year, as it is so well deserved. This is one of those artists that is so incredibly talented, but for some reason, tends to fly just under the radar. If you still haven’t heard of her yet, this is your notice; check out Rosi Golan and this incredible release. This is a gorgeous record, and as with her previous work, it has me excited for what she puts out next. Song Highlights: Curtain Call, Give Up The Ghost, Your Forgiveness, Churchyard Sleep.
11. Leslie Hall – Songs In The Key Of Gold
With Songs, Mother Gem released a delicious remix album of her hits, along with a couple of new songs (four to be exact!!) to keep the party moving. I was fortunate enough to see her perform this amazing album live earlier this year, and I had such an amazing time (I always do at her shows!!). This is a best of/greatest hits album with the dance knob turned way up, and the lycra extra tight; Titus Jones remixed all of these songs, and made already danceable fun tracks into the ultimate dance party. I always joke that if I could see Leslie perform about once every month, I would never be sad or worry again. I honestly wish it were an option, because this is always the highlight of my week when a Leslie show is on the books. Thanks for another fabulous album, Mother Gem; it is gem-fantabulous!! New Songs: Neon Blood, #1 Cat In America, Happy Birthday, Of Course You Where Glasses.
The Postal Service – 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition – a pivotal, influential album gets a remastered re-release; still perfection 10 years later.
30 Seconds To Mars – Love Lust Faith + Dreams – another great 30 seconds album.
Beyonce – Beyonce – secret release, some great singles that I can’t get enough of, some stuff I didn’t love.
CHVRCHES – The Mother We Share – I should have liked this more than I did, even though I really, really did like it.
Ciara – Ciara – a few good songs, mostly, I’m Out and Body Party.
Dawes – Stores Don’t End – great stories tellers, love, love, love, Most People.
Shane Filan – You and Me – so much potential, so much repetition.
Goldfrapp – Tales Of Us – I just didn’t get into this one, shame as I love Goldfrapp.
Selena Gomez – Stars Dance – great guilty pleasure; some real bangers on here.
The Great Gatsby Soundtrack – excellent movie, GREAT soundtrack.
Icona Pop – This is… Icona Pop – love these two; some missteps pull down the album.
Jessie J – Alive – amazing singer, great pop starlet, just not as dynamic as her debut.
Little Mix – DNA (US Deluxe Edition) – this is pop, dammit! If it weren’t for the nose dive on the back end of the album, it may have been in the best of list above…
Lorde – Pure Heroine – loved it, just very, very, very overplayed.
Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady – super talented, super talented, super talented.
MSMR – Secondhand Rapture – some great singles, didn’t get into all of it, unfortunately.
Olly Murs – Right Place, Right Time – honestly, it just missed the best list…
Kate Nash – Girl Talk – a lot darker, a lot more punk, a lot less catchy and fun.
The National – Trouble Will Find Me – another fantastic and amazing album from super talented guys.
Tom Odell – Long Way Down – good stuff, just didn’t take me by storm.
The Paper Kites – States – opened for City and Colour; love finding a new, great band.
Silver Bells – Bitter Rivals – a bit tamer than their debut, but still pretty darn good.
Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City – always count on them for a great album.
The Wanted – Word of Mouth – not going to lie; a little disappointed given their previous work.
Jessie Ware – Devotion – pretty good, just didn’t blow me away.
Katy Perry – Prism – potential… wasted (Dark Horse is brilliant, though).
The Saturdays – Living For The Weekend – I think they were a little rushed; at least it seems like things were thrown together for this; definitely not as strong as their previous albums. Some AMAZING singles, though.
Britney Spears – Britney Jean – her “most personal”, yet her weakest album to date, with the weakest lead single of her career; very disappointed (Perfume is incredible, though).