Friday, January 03, 2014

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2013: Top Ten

Every year, I use Last.fm to track what I listen to, and at the end of every year I list the albums I listened to most. They may not be the best albums, or even my favourite, but something made me listen to them more than any others. Yesterday I counted down the honourable mentions, so today's the top ten.

I've italicized albums that I'd consciously choose as my favourites. Consider them recommendations to listen to if you're using this as a way to find new music. Do what you want with my bloggy.

  • 10. Daft Punk- Random Access Memories: I found it strange how hyped this album was. Somehow, not doing anything for a while caused Daft Punk to suddenly be the band everyone was talking about. The talk stopped shortly after the album was finally released, but the hype wasn't for nothing; Random Access Memories is a decent balance of artsy bullshit and accessible horseshit.
  • 9. Tricky - False Idols: Tricky hasn't changed much. 1995's Maxinquaye and 2013's False Idols have a similar sound. Yet this type of trip-hop doesn't, to me, sound retro. I guess that makes it timeless. What a tricky trick.
  • 8. Anamanaguchi - Endless Fantasy: It took me like ten tries to write that name and I'm still not sure if I got it right. Anyway, this is another Kickstarter-backed album consisting of crazy-ass 8-bit video game inspired insanity. It's like Mega Man is jizzing in my ears.
  • 7. Lady Gaga - ARTPOP: What's with stylizing album titles with capital letters? There are like 5 of them on this list alone. STOP YELLING, MUSIC. Anyway, I'm still clapping for Applause, the first single off of ARTPOP. The rest of the album is an improvement over 2011's Born This Way, but still tainted by the bullshit of trying too hard ("I've overheard your theory, nostalgia's for geeks" ... what? Nobody has ever said that), but it's pleasant enough.
  • 6. CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe: I've been anticipating this album since I first heard Recover, an unironically 80s-influenced bit of synthy loveliness. The full album lives up to the promise of that single, and like I said before, I think fresh sounding albums like this are really what pop was about in 2013. There's an emotional honesty here that's missing in the faux-depth of ARTPOP or the calculated shock value of Bangerz. 
  • 5. Arctic Monkeys - AM: I always dismissed this band as another critically-acclaimed bore. But something changed with AM, with its fuzzy guitars and weepy lyrics. It scratches the same itch that the Black Keys do, except the Black Keys didn't put out an album in 2013, so I just let those monkeys go nuts and now I'm hardly itchy at all.
  • 4. Selena Gomez - Stars Dance: After seeing Gomez starring in Spring Breakers, all I can think of when I see her is James Franco creepily growling "spring breeeaaaak" over and over. Regardless, Stars Dance is one of my favourite straight-up pop albums of the year. The title track is a highlight, though I'm skeptical of her claim to be able to make stars dance. Stars are non-sentient balls of gas and do not respond to music. 
  • 3. White Lies - BIG TV: Probably the best of the "still doing the 80s voice" bands. The songs here stand out even aside from the retro atmosphere. It's cheesy, but a little cheese never hurt anyone. I particularly like blue cheese, even though it's basically rotten food. Seriously, blue cheese is like eating gunk from the garbage. Delicious, delicious garbage. Wait, what are we talking about? Oh yeah, music...
  • 2. Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob: This could have been a disaster, moving to a slick mainstream pop sound. However, what's always made Tegan and Sara special is their raw emotional core, and that remains intact even if it's surrounded by synths instead of guitars. It still feels weird to see them go from little Canadian folk duo to full-fledged pop stars hanging out with Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, but I can live with it if they keep making ditties that give my tear ducts a workout. 
  • 1. Haim - Days are Gone: Gosh damn I love this album. I don't even know why; it's mostly unremarkable pop songs, but they are just put together so perfectly. Haim's influences are from previous decades, but have a sincerity that makes their songs sound fresh in 2013. Once in a while, it's nice to listen to a bunch of actually-talented people doing good songs.

IT'S OVER. What did you listen to in 2013? Tell me in the comments.

If any of you are still out there, that is. Apparently I only blogged six times in 2013. I guess blogging is...well, not dead, but frail. Only useful for certain purposes. I'll still blog on the rare occasions when I have a thought that exceeds 140 characters though. Happy new year 'n shit.



Thursday, January 02, 2014

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2013: Honourable Mentions

Every year, I use Last.fm to track what I listen to, and at the end of every year I list the albums I listened to most. They may not be the best albums, or even my favourite, but something made me listen to them more than any others.

I've italicized albums that I'd consciously choose as my favourites. Give those a listen for sure.

Here are 2013 albums that made my top 50 but not the top 10:
  • Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus: I never really "got" Fuck Buttons until this album. What sounds like inaccessible noise at first slowly reveals itself to have layers of gooey goodness inside.
  • Black Sabbath - 13: Somehow, they've still got it.
  • Morcheeba - Head Up High: They've come a long way from 90s trip-hop roots (unlike Tricky, who we'll see later), but this is a nice little pop album.
  • Little Boots - Nocturnes: Little Boots' debut, Hands, is my 4th most listened-to album of all time. Nocturne isn't horrible, but feels bland in comparison.
  • Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience: Speaking of bland, Justin Timberlake managed to put out two albums full of music that seems more concerned with promoting how cool and sexy he is than it is with actual music. Fuck Justin Timberlake.
  • Britney Spears - Britney Jean: But Justin's ex is making pop that's exactly what it needs to be. The continued EDM influence is getting a bit old, but it still works.
  • Lindsey Stirling - Lindsey Stirling: Finally, a full album of sweet sweet violin and dance music mushed together.
  • Lorde - Pure Heroine: this:

  • Pretty Lights - A Color Map of the Sun: Everything they do sounds the same, but it never gets old.
  • Five Finger Death Punch - The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Two albums of pure angry cheese. 
  • The Weeknd - Kiss Land: It feels a bit less bold and more sleazy than his trio of amazing self-released albums, and, seriously? "Kiss Land"? But it's not a huge step backwards or anything, and well worth listening to.
  • Capital Cities - In a Tidal Wave of Mystery: One of the top entries in the "hipster bullshit" category.
  • Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP2: Better than anything he's done in a long time. It's not as shocking as it once was, but at least he's trying.
  • Amaranthe - The Nexus: Not sure how I stumbled on this Swedish metal/pop/electronic, but I fucking love it in all its corny glory.
  • Miley Cyrus - Bangerz: She played the shamelessly-attracting-attention game perfectly this year. Well done. And at least the music's not horrible.
  • Classified - Classified: Between this, Shad, and k-os, it was a good year for Canadian hip hop.
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito: Sacrilege was one of my favourite songs of the year. The rest of the album is decent too.
  • Avicii - TRUE: Successfully infuses dance music with a bunch of other influences. Nice. NICE.
  • Katy Perry - PRISM: This sounds like a more mature album for Katy Perry, but I'm not convinced that's a good thing. Most tracks are snooze-inducing, aside from a few mild attempts at spurting some explicit sex references onto them. In the war between Katy and Gaga, I think the real winners are the other pop artists on this list who are doing something different instead of bland "maturing." [Apologies to Kitty Glitter, who probably strongly disagrees due to his love for Katy Perry] 
  • Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor: More of the same, but that's okay. I'm just fine with Rob Zombie doing his thing as a musician and filmmaker without bothering to vary it.
  • k-os - BLack on BLonde: Yet another double album, with the nifty concept of jamming together a hip hop album and a rock album.
  • Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends: This was produced by Danger Mouse, and it seems that everything he touches ends up sounding like Danger Mouse. But other collaborations, like Broken Bells and Electric Guest, have ended up near the top of my charts in previous years. I thought this one would be higher too; it's one of my favourite albums of the year, with its cross-genre bundle of weirdness.
  • Skylar Grey - Don't Look Down: After fucking around with an endless list of other artists (Eminem, mostly notably), Skylar Grey finally released her own lovely album of dark pop.
  • The Limousines - Hush: Here's something you would't have heard 10 years ago: The Limousines used Kickstarter to fund this album and release it without the help of a label, then I streamed it more than most other albums this year.
  • The Neighbourhood - I Love You: Moody downtempo pop that I normally wouldn't be into, but it struck a (minor) chord with me for some reason.
  • Patterns - Dangerous Intentions: If you distilled the neon-coloured parts of the 80s into a sonic beam, it would sound like this. The aesthetic has crept into a lot of pop music this year (perhaps because of the popularity of the Drive soundtrack), but it's at its purest here. 
Come back tomorrow for the top ten.