2013: Melanie's Top 10

by Melanie Love

Personally, I was a little underwhelmed by 2013. The albums that I did like, I spun on repeat endlessly. But I was disappointed by major label releases from Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga. Here’s to an even better 2014!


Kanye West – Yeezus

Kanye has become the quintessential example of separating the artist from his music. As West’s persona became more outspoken and over-the-top in 2013, his music spoke for itself. Yeezus is a keen blend of the stripped-back, mechanical tone of 2008’s 808s & Heartbreak and the bombastic song structures of 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it still strikes out territory all its own. It’s at once cold and abrasive yet strangely resonant, an engaging statement throughout. For better or worse, there is no artist like Kanye West, and he knows it.

Standout tracks: the jarring, electric beats of “Black Skinhead,” the incongruous “Blood On The Leaves,” featuring an evocative Nina Simone sample, and the unselfconscious warmth of “Bound 2”


The Neighbourhood – I Love You.

Though they only formed in 2011, this California band has already created a distinctive aesthetic on their debut album. I Love You. is moody and ethereal throughout, a solid spin on indie rock. Amid the evocative instrumentation with its hazy swaths of guitar and tinges of electronica, lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford is persuasive in his vulnerability. Lead single “Sweater Weather” has garnered radio play, striking listeners with its charming, catchy chorus and the band’s knack for pacing, but the rest of I Love You. is immersive as well.

Standout tracks: the pleading vulnerability of “Stay Up,” twisted love song “Flawless”


Dessa – Parts Of Speech

She’s a poet, a rapper, and a songstress with a razor-sharp wit and unflinching clarity to both her writing and delivery. Her 2010 release, A Badly Broken Code, ranks as one of my favorite albums of all time, and her latest is another strong offering. Dessa finds incredible strength in her vulnerability, and this record is a softer tone than her previous, smoothing down some of the hip-hop in favor of warm harmonies and her endlessly expressive lyrics. My resolution for 2014 is to finally catch her in concert.

Standout tracks: the powerful energy of “Fighting Fish,” the stripped-bare cover of Springsteen’s “I’m Going Down,” and haunting “Annabelle”


Avicii – True

The debut from Swedish DJ Avicii, this record soared on the success of lead single “Wake Me Up,” which paired Aloe Blacc’s warm vocals with soaring production. No amount of radio play could dim the resonance of this track and its perfect blend of electronic soundscapes with acoustic guitar. But the rest of True was enjoyable as well, full of electric, boundless energy through collaborations with a variety of artists across as many genres, from country to pop to soul (as well as production from Nile Rodgers). 

Standout tracks: the sweet electronica of “You Make Me” (feat. Salem Al Fakir), the soul/country mashup of “Addicted To You,” jangling “Shame On Me”


Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

All that’s old is new again, and no track embodied the summer of 2013 more than “Get Lucky” (though I think Stephen Colbert had the best take on it when he out-punked Daft Punk with his legendary dance moves then the band didn’t show up to perform on The Colbert Report). But in a sea of EDM and flavorless pop, Daft Punk time-warped back to the ‘70s but managed to make it sound altogether brand new and vital, infusing synth-heavy backbeats with a warmth that was uncanny.

Standout tracks: the soulful “Lose Yourself To Dance,” the vocoder-drenched “Doin’ It Right,” and of course, the now legendary “Get Lucky”



On his solo debut, A$AP is as self-assured as a more seasoned artist, all confident, commanding delivery and a knack for solid collaborations that still allow him full contrl of the reins. Whether he’s pairing up with Skrillex on brain-blasting “Wild For The Night” or recruiting Kendrick Lamar on the engaging, string-laden “1 Train,” A$AP is altogether audacious and confident, a true artist.

Standout tracks: distinctive single “Goldie,” radio staple “Fuckin’ Problems” (feat. Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and 2 Chainz), “1 Train”



The White Panda – Bearly Legal

This dynamic duo are the masters of mash-ups, seamlessly integrating pop and electro-dance in a collection that’s as incredible live as it is soundtracking a party. Bearly Legal is their fifth full length, featuring blends of everyone from Red Hot Chili Peppers vs. Daft Punk (“Lose Yourself To Californication”), Justin Timberlake vs. Chic (“Good Suit & Tie Time”), and Kanye West vs. Led Zeppelin (“Whole Lotta High”). But rather than highlighting individual tracks, experience the album yourself as it’s meant to be: in one breathless, glorious stream of great music made even greater by this duo.


Arc & Stones – Arc & Stones EP

I was blown away by this eponymous EP from New York quartet Arc & Stones, which was a commanding entry into the city’s music scene with its mix of slow-burning balladry and raucous, stomping rock – all in five songs, no less. Each member of the band has got chops, and it’s everywhere from the engaging vocals to the electrifying guitars and the muscular drums. I’m excited to check these guys out live.

Standout tracks: the soaring, irrepressible “Let Me Down,” the cranked up to 11 “She’s Mine,” the catchy “Silence”



Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Though this record is somewhat inconsistent compared to Em’s previous, 2010’s stellar comeback Recovery, he’s still on top of his game in terms of delivery and creative vision. From the breakneck speed of “Rap God,” which finds Em flexing his prowess (“Why be a king when you can be a god?”) to the dark intimacy of “The Monster,” which finds him battling demons along a soaring Rihanna chorus, along with opener “Bad Guy,” the sequel to his legendary “Stan,” The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is transcendent for all its flaws.

Standout tracks: “Beautiful Pain” (feat. Sia), the confident swagger of “Survival”


Fitz And The Tantrums – More Than Just A Dream

There’s an operatic soul to Fitz And The Tantrums’ spin on indie pop, all bombast and joyous, unrestrained spark. Indeed, “Spark” is what drew me into the L.A. band’s world – it’s ridiculously catchy, stick-in-your-head pop. Surprisingly organic for being so theatric, this is an enjoyable disc that sounds like the band had just as much fun making it.

Standout tracks: laidback “6 AM,” jangly hit single “Out Of My League,” “Spark”

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