Year in Review: The Best & Most Disappointing Music Albums of 2013
Published: January 6, 2014 - 8:25am
I've come to the conclusion that 2013 is the year when pop music died thanks to Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Indie rock is the new norm, for some terrifying reason, as Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend became more common than The Black Keys. Rap is more contrived than ever thanks to Kanye West and Jay-Z's bloated egos and mediocre albums. And overall the music has suffered greatly because of it all making this past year far weaker in my eyes than 2012.
Before I run down what I feel are my favorite and most disappointing albums of the year I have to acknowledge the very worthy runner-ups. Although they didn't make the list: Filter, Blue October, The Lonely Island, Gemini Syndrome, Dropkick Murphys, Eminem, Hatebreed, Queens of The Stone Age, Snoop Lion, Dave Grohl's 'Sound City' collaborations and Trivium all released very solid albums this year and I recommend checking them all out.
Top 10 Albums of 2013
#10. Korn – The Paradigm Shift
I've accepted the fact that Korn will never release an album quite like those first three in the 90's. I've grown up and matured much like the band themselves so I'm OK with embracing something unique and interesting but still distinctively 'Korn'. This album is heavy, catchy, clever and quite a surprise effort that continues to build off their venture into dub-step rock not long ago.
Former guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch has returned to the fold and his presence is much appreciated as he truly rounds out the band's sound. 'Paradigm Shift' is Korn doing rock n' roll and doing it right.
#9. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
New York indie rockers Vampire Weekend have returned with their third record 'Modern Vampires of The City'. Not only is it likely their finest effort to date but it could very well be the hipster rock album that finally pushes all hipster culture to a level of commercial status above mainstream pop douchebags like Justin Bieber.
It's a very strange albeit clever record that's able to strike on all nerves. 'Diane Young' is one of the best songs of 2013 so far and 'Ya Hey' sounds like something Jim Henson would be proud of. Ezra Koenig's vocals are both high and low to great effect and even though the distortion is used in an almost blatant manor that could come off as annoying, it somehow works. It works in a way that actually elevates the material which surprises me because it really shouldn't work, let alone make the track better. - Read my full review HERE.
#8. Five Finger Death Punch – The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell Volume 2
It's hard releasing two albums so quickly together but metal troopers Five Finger Death Punch managed to pull off the double concept record in stride. Balancing both the heavy and melodic the boys have produced without a doubt the best fist pumping effort of the year.
While part 1 of this pair was really solid, the sequel is heavier, angrier and far more loaded with memorable tracks. Frontman Ivan Moody has cemented himself as one of the best metal singers on the planet with this outing, forever squashing that disparaging nu-metal label that the band once had.
#7. Paul McCartney – New
I proclaimed Paul McCartney's last studio album 'Kisses on the Bottom' the worst record of the year when it came out. I hated it. It was atrocious in every sense of the word because I just couldn't relate to those old sappy love songs. But Paul is back and he is back doing what he does best -- rock.
'New' is loaded with meaningful ballads and uplifting rock music that blows my mind when I realize that McCartney is in his 70's and still kicking this much ass. I'd like to think that his amazing 'Sound City' collaboration with Dave Grohl really influenced the vibe on 'New'.
#6. Kvelertak – Meir
By combining black metal with punk rock elements, Kvelertak have created some truly original heavy music. 'Meir' is loaded with the same formula that made their debut so memorable and then some. The record from start to finish sounds like the house-band for a pub that the Orcs in Lord of The Rings would hang out at in-between battles. You likely won't understand any of the lyrics unless you speak death metal Norwegian but as long as you're down with bands like Children of Bodom and Amon Amarth then you should be fine.
Kvelertak is a winner of two Spellemann Awards, which translate to Norway's version of a Grammy. The band snagged 'Best Newcomer' and 'Best Rock Band'. I love that Norway puts Kvelertak in their 'Rock' music category. That country scares the crap out of me. - Read my full review HERE.
#5. Black Sabbath – 13
Tony Iommi puts on a hell of a performance considering he was suffering from Cancer during the whole creation of '13'. Bassist Geezer Butler wrote every single lyric for the record and I'm all for the evil vibe that he's injected each and every song with. It's simultaneously classic 'Sabotage' era Sabbath while remaining relevant in terms of stellar production value.
They could have phoned it in and produced some weak tribute to themselves but instead they really tried to create something that absolutely holds up with the rest of their catalog in a big way. Rubin strikes again. - Read my full review HERE.
#4. The Bronx – IV
LA-Based hardcore punk pros The Bronx just unleashed their fourth studio album and whether you knew it or not -- don't ignore it now. These guys have continuously released stellar after stellar effort time and time again. Their newest offering may be their most well rounded yet and that's saying something...
Punk rock isn't dead and The Bronx are most certainly not the saviors of the genre by any means but they deserve to be recognized as one of warriors on the frontline to save us from the pop music oppression. - Read my full review HERE.
#3. Tech N9ne – Something Else
Underground hip hop phenom Tech N9ne has unloaded without a shadow of a doubt the best album of his long and storied career. While Kanye and Jay-Z were both dropping mediocre efforts and proclaiming to be the best rappers on the planet, Tech N9ne was in the trenches, firing on all cylinders with 'Something Else'.
He continues to get better with every release and not just on a technical level (because he rhymes with such speed and precision it's ridiculous). He embraces all genres of music and because of his willingness to experiment and collaborate, he always excels when it counts -- unleashing the best rap record of 2013.
#2. Hollywood Undead – Notes From The Underground
"Notes From The Underground' is Hollywood Undead's third studio effort and the band is more cohesive than ever, delivering what is without a doubt their catchiest album yet. Scratch that, it's their best album yet. 'Notes From The Underground' is exploding with an entertaining fury.
Let's get to the song 'Kill Everyone'. A year or two ago, this would have been a hit. Now… After all the recent mass killings, I will admit I was a little bit weary of a song that turns a killspree into a murder fantasy joyride but I won't let the psychopaths of this gun-riddled world ruin art for me. This song is great. It's catchy and dare I say one of the most fun tracks I've heard in years. - Read my full review HERE.
#1. Clutch – Earth Rocker
The mighty Clutch have unleashed their 10th studio album and the results are nothing less than astounding. 'Earth Rocker' is 100% rock n' roll fury and could very well be the band's best effort to date. Loaded with blues driven jams, the record is about as perfect as it can get these days.
It's hard to single out a favorite song on 'Earth Rocker' because once you start listening to the record, you'll wind up doing so from start to finish. 'Gone Cold' stands out because it's a slower jam and one of the coolest tracks Clutch have ever put out. 'Cyborg Bette' is heavy, fast and strange as hell but I find myself going back to it more than the rest as of late. You're best off sitting down and listening to 'Earth Rocker' from start to finish while staring at that amazing album cover. That's the best way to experience a masterpiece such as this. - Read my full review HERE.
The Most Disappointing Albums of 2013
#3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
It's hard to believe that electronic music pioneers Daft Punk have only released four studio albums. It's been eight years since 'Human After All' and the landscape of EDM has changed drastically since that era with the massive popularity of Dub-Step's rise to dominance. So what do those crazy French robots do to stay relevant? They travel back in time and make a disco record….
If you're like myself and enjoy the faster paced and more modern day Daft Punk sound which is most proudly on display in their recent live album 'Alive', then you'll be at odds with 'Random Access Memories'. It's a challenging record to focus on because of its drastic change in sound. - Read my full review HERE.
#2. Lady Gaga – Artpop
On the song 'G.U.Y' Gaga actually sings the following: "Touch me touch me, don't be sweet, love me love, please re-tweet". That's about the time I had to shake off a nervous meltdown, and simply recognize that pop music is dead. It happened in the month of November, 2013 -- the day pop died. I was a fan of Gaga's earlier work, I was even a fan of Gaga's earlier work on the same goddamn album! But when this all started to happen it felt like each track was ticking points off of my IQ through my headphones. I literally felt dumb and numb while listening to this bullshit. - Read my full review HERE.
#1. Katy Perry – Prism
'Prism' is convoluted, shallow and stupid. 'This is How We Do' might be the runner-up (Perry's 'Birthday is #1) for worst song of the year with these profound lyrics: "This is how we do, do do do do!" and mentions something about "straight stuntin". Once she gets to the shout out portion of the song there are lines like, "Shout out to all you kids buying bottle service with your rent money – REEEESPECT!" – I literally couldn't take it anymore. I don't know if this is meant to be some sort of social commentary or sarcastic jab but it doesn't sound like it. The Kardashian pop hop tripe that bloats 'Prism' makes me want to shove my head into an active microwave. - Read my full review HERE.
Keven Skinner hails from the Great White Wasteland that is Wainwright, Canada. An expert on all things Walking Dead related (he was even given a zombie cameo in the comic), he spends most of his time championing the glorious ascension of cable TV as the premiere entertainment medium.