Part Two is on of this special year-end survey! From pop to rock to dance and everything in-between, I’ve ranked 20 of my favorite albums from 2013 and we’ve just hit the midway point in the countdown.
For this chart, 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 that continues on today.
Of note, I own all ten albums on CD and seven of the ten, including the entire top six positions, on vinyl. Sometimes you have to get physical with these things.
Here they are, my top ten favorite albums of the past year:
10. KELLY CLARKSON – Wrapped In Red
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring… except for Santa, who was sleighed by the richness of the best holiday release in years. The former American Idol winner is totally in her element on this set, and radio and retail have followed accordingly with a recent Platinum certification for it. If you get a chance, check out the adorable NBC special Kelly Clarkson’s Cautionary Christmas Music Tale. It’ll get you in the holiday spirit.
Top Tracks: “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Please Come Home For Christmas”, “Underneath The Tree”
09. DAFT PUNK – Random Access Memories
Who knew two robots from France could deliver one of this year’s biggest albums? Well, they’re not actually robots, but Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have been dressing up for years. The dance album of the year gave the two far more coverage than at any other point in their career, including a #1 on the Billboard 200. Singles “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself To Dance” (both with Pharrell Williams) hit my chart and will be appearing on my year-end survey.
Top Tracks: “Get Lucky” (featuring Pharrell Williams), “Giorgio By Moroder”, “Give Life Back To Music”
08. ONE DIRECTION – Midnight Memories (PGTC Review)
Their songs are all over the radio and television and if you weren’t bopping along to the latest from the quintet, then you’re in de-Niall. Their third studio album was an overwhelming success and helped the guys evolve from the boy band sound into their own. Kudos to writers like Ed Drewett and Jamie Scott and producers Julian Benetta and John Ryan on a well-crafted effort. Growing on their solid pop base into the realms of folk and hard rock, there’s something for everyone.
Top Tracks: “Midnight Memories”, “Story Of My Life”, “Through The Dark”
07. THE 1975 – The 1975
Here’s another act from England who have been playing together for over a decade, but 2013 became their breakout year. Besides the two instant singles, “Chocolate” and “Girls”, I’ll admit that the band’s album took some extra time to grow on me, but when I came around to it, something just clicked. A glistening collection of indie rock and bright 80’s pop, the hooks are big and the sound is tight. It’s a brilliant debut LP, but one that won’t get nearly as much attention as it should.
Top Tracks: “Girls”, “Heart Out”, “She Way Out”
06. GROUPLOVE – Spreading Rumours (PGTC Review)
I’d been anticipating this album since May when I posted this article about the group’s new material coming, which attracted their manager, Nicky Berger, and now we’re only Twitter amigos, people. (Not that that counts for much in the real world, but he’s a good guy.) It’s fortunate as well that the band’s album is a great listen, much stronger than their debut release and a bit more dance and pop-driven. You’ll be seeing single “Ways To Go” in a good spot on my Top 100 of 2013.
Top Tracks: “Raspberry”, “Shark Attack”, “Ways To Go”
05. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – The 20/20 Experience, Part 1 (PGTC Review)
The myth of Timberlake ever releasing an album again carried on for years, but during the year, he finally issued not one, but two albums within the same calendar year. He sure spoiled us, huh? Sort of. While the second half of the The 20/20 Experience had its fine moments, it was a disappointment when compared to Part 1. With shades of Al Green, Michael Jackson and Prince, his homage to the heart of 1970’s and 80’s R&B brought him back to the top spot in a gigantic way.
Top Tracks: “Let The Groove Get In”, “Mirrors”, “Pusher Love Girl”, “Tunnel Vision”
04. FITZ & THE TANTRUMS – More Than Just A Dream
The six piece act originally from Los Angeles already had history on my chart when they went to #1 for a week with “MoneyGrabber” in 2011. While their debut album focused on the more traditional elements of jazz and soul, More Than Just A Dream twisted them up into a new wave and indie pop sound that gave them a new energy and focus. It’s also helped them commercially, giving the band their first #1 on Alternative radio, “Out Of My League”. It was a Dream turned reality.
Top Tracks: “6AM”, “Fools Gold”, “Out Of My League”, “The Walker”
03. BASTILLE – Bad Blood
If you’re a fan of the dramatic yet elegant side of pop, this group’s the right one for you. Though their first two singles underperformed, Virgin Records issued “Pompeii” in February 2013 and the rest was history, or rather, history in the making. Not only did it hit #2 in the United Kingdom, but it also topped my personal chart for two weeks. It’s just one of the highlights on this collection, marked by the haunting but beautiful voice of leader Dan Smith and the group’s powerful productions. It’s a little Tears For Fears, a little Twin Peaks and a whole lot of greatness. Try to break free from its grip.
Top Tracks: “Daniel In The Dan”, “Flaws”, “Icarus”, “Laura Palmer” and “Pompeii” (and “Of The Night” on the rerelease, All This Bad Blood)
02. PASSENGER – All The Little Lights
29-year-old singer-songwriter Mike Rosenberg has been all over my blog and my chart for the past nine months, so I guess it’s no surprise that you’ll see him three times on my Top 100 of 2013. Though this album originally came out in August of last year, I didn’t hear it for the first time until April of this year, and let’s be honest, the list wouldn’t be complete without it. The twelve songs on All The Little Lights are wonderfully crafted and run the spectrum from mellow pop to country and bluesy rock, paired with Rosenberg’s witty lyrics and dry, in-the-moment accounts of his surroundings. Sometimes it comes off as depressing, and other times, there’s some good fun in it, but in the end, it’s a very fulfilling album to listen to.
Top Tracks: “Holes”, “I Hate (Live)”, “Let Her Go”, “Life’s For The Living”, “The Wrong Direction”, “Things That Stop You Dreaming”
01. MAYER HAWTHORNE – Where Does This Door Go? (PGTC Review)
In 2011, a pair of singles from Hawthorne’s How Do You Do album, “No Strings” and “The Walk”, popped up in my music collection, but were short-lived blips on the radar. Although it wasn’t much, it did give me some familiarity leading into this record, which captured my attention almost instantaneously. Where Does This Door Go? is literally jam after jam, influenced by legends like Boz Scaggs, Daryl Hall and John Oates, Steely Dan and more. Quite frankly, it’s a genius release, so crisp and so inspired than anything else I heard this year. There’s a soul to the music and a swagger to the singer, which makes the experience all the more delightful. With a clear direction matched with a sizzling set of tracks, Hawthorne has more than earned the #1 spot on my albums list for 2013. I guess where know now where the door went to.
Top Tracks: “Back Seat Lover”, “Crime”, “Her Favorite Song”, “Reach Out Richard”, “The Innocent”, “The Stars Are Ours” (but really, the whole album!)
Agree with my picks? Totally disagree? Did I miss something on my list? Sound off! Comment below or find PGTC on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the “Get Social!” tab. See you for the Top 100 of 2013 beginning on Sunday!