Some say that the album is dead thanks to the usual excuses: complaints about filler and lackluster quality, the down trend of sales in the single heavy market we’re currently trapped in and fewer and fewer artists getting signed to major labels. To that I say, nonsense! Plenty of awesome albums came out this year chock full of great songs from both commercially successful acts and independent DIY musicians. From pop to rock to dance and everything in-between, I’ve ranked 20 of my favorites from the year that was.
For this survey, dozens of albums were considered, both those released this year and those released last year that I heard for the first time this year. (I did not compile any sort of albums year-end list in 2012.) About 30-35 made the shortlist, then that was eventually crammed down to the 20 you’re about to see over the next two days.
Just missing the chart:
25. The Band Perry – Pioneer
24. Barenaked Ladies – Grinning Streak
23. New Politics – A Bad Girl In Harlem
22. Jessie Ware – Devotion
21. John Newman – Tribute
Let’s check off the first ten on the list and let you in on what ranks between 20-11 for 2013:
20. TEGAN & SARA – Heartthrob
Sisters Tegan and Sara Quin have had their share of musical ups and downs in the past 15 years; this year featured a change of sound into the pop world rather than their usual indie rock fare with the help of producer Greg Kurstin. The effort was both a critical and commercial success, including the hit “Closer” and the solid followup single, “I Was A Fool”.
19. MICHAEL BUBLÉ – To Be Loved
The Canadian crooner delivered another good effort, becoming his latest #1 album on the Billboard 200. Leadoff single “It’s A Beautiful Day”, adult contemporary speak for a four letter word followed by a “you”, topped my survey for four weeks, while remakes of “Somethin’ Stupid” (with Reese Witherspoon) and “Who’s Lovin’ You” were keeping it smooth.
18. TOM ODELL – Long Way Down
Odell just turned 23 in November, and a what year 2013 was for him. His first album debuted at #1 went Gold in his native U.K., with third release “Another Love” becoming a top ten record on the Singles Chart. It also ascended into the top 20 on my survey. From the mellow “Grow Old With Me” and title track to the rockier “Hold Me”, it’s a great start for the singer.
17. KATY PERRY – PRISM (PGTC Review)
This year, Perry came back with a bang, or should I say a “Roar”, and filled the pop charts once again with joyous jams. While the first half of the album shines with a ton of potential radio-ready tracks like “Birthday” and “International Smile”, it falls off significantly in the second half, leading to an uneven album. It’s no Teenage Dream, but it’s no nightmare either.
16. HANSON – Anthem
Long after the days of the 1997 pop anthem “Mmmbop”, the Oklahoma trio are still cranking out great music in 2013 on what could be their best album yet. Lead single “Get The Girl Back” rose to #11 on my chart, their biggest hit in nine years. Mixing elements of rock and soul with their nice nostalgic touch, tracks like “Fired Up” and “You Can’t Stop Us” shine on.
15. HAIM – Days Are Gone
You saw them appear on Saturday Night Live in November and a few months prior to that, their first album debuted in the top ten on the Billboard 200. The brilliantly constructed ode to fun 80’s pop is felt throughout the entire effort, especially on the first few songs like “Forever”, “The Wire” and “Don’t Save Me”. Do save a place for this on your 2013 list, however.
14. WALK OFF THE EARTH – R.E.V.O.
Their YouTube videos rank them highly in the viral community, and earlier this year, the quintet released their first album through Columbia Records. The Canadian band managed to put a pair of singles into my top ten this year: “Red Hands” (#5) and “Gang Of Rhythm” (#10). Mixing flavors of pop, reggae and ska, their breezy sound is as sunny as a summer day.
13. FIVE FOR FIGHTING – Bookmarks (PGTC Review)
48-year-old John Ondrasik took his time when recording his new album, and for the most part, the end product was satisfactory. Produced by longtime collaborator Gregg Wattenberg, the set captures great moments, including single “What If” and the soaring “Heaven Knows”, but also has its share of odd sequences and cheesy lyrics. It’s still worth a read.
12. SARA BAREILLES – The Blessed Unrest (PGTC Review)
Probably the most surprising nomination for a GRAMMY Award for Album Of The Year as announced last week, Bareilles’s third major label LP on Epic Records is a collection pleasant pop tunes mixed with a pinch of experimental choices. While it falls short of her previous albums, songs like “Chasing The Sun” and “I Choose You” are lovely selections.
11. ONEREPUBLIC – Native
The band who said it’s too late to apologize doesn’t have to be sorry for this. Delayed until March, Native was their most critically successful album yet, and they’ll be “Counting Stars” for a while. While single “If I Lose Myself” is their highest ranked song on my Top 100 of 2013, I’m also a fan of “Burning Bridges” and “I Lived”, which haven’t seen a wide release.
Look out for my top ten albums of 2013 coming tomorrow on the blog. Until then, if you’re liking any of my choices so far, comment below or find PGTC on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the “Get Social!” tab.