Adventures In 2013: Top 25 Albums + EPs [#10 - 1]
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
...and here we are at the finish line! Like I always do, I want to take this space right here to thank each and everyone who read, commented, agreed, disagreed, or followed me throughout yet another year of Audio Diva-ism. This year wasn't the easiest to be a reader of this blog as I was in and out in longer gaps of time than I would've liked. So much so, that I didn't even get a chance to acknowledge this blog celebrated its fifth 'blog birthday' --- a true accomplishment for me as someone who always starts at 'Chapter One' and can never get to 'Chapter Two'! To be real with you guys, Audio Diva's future is a little fuzzy at current as new opportunities, creative ventures, and life changes impede on my loyalty to this space, but no need to fret just yet as Audio Diva will be back in session for 2014....just keep your eyes and ears un-gunked for any changes or announcements. So as the hours of 2013 wind down, I hope you enjoyed this year's adventures, and don't forget to share your favorites of the year in the comments as I'd love to know what everyone's 2013 was like in terms of music :)
Onward to my top 10 albums/EPs of 2013, and onward to a brand new year!
Marie Dahlstrom may not be a familiar name to the casual soul music listener, but she hails from the Scandinavian lands that birthed such notables and favorites like Quadron, Phillip Oswsu, Nanna B., and Kissey Asplund, that have her surrounded in good company and will make her an unknown no longer. Whatever is going on in that region is special and notice needs to be taken especially towards Dahlstrom, who became one of my favorite new acts to emerge this year. For Gloom, her third EP (and second release of the year) she crafts an intimate and arresting portrait of heartbreak and salvation, evoking shades of Promise-era Sade and continuing on her crusade to make some of the most intelligent jazz-soul around. [Review]
Notable Tracks: Floating, What's It Gonna Be, My Everything
9. Settle - Disclosure
In the thicket of this year's popular EDM assault, not only did disco seem to wedge in, but '90s House continued to be the alternative for those in search of a good groove. Leading the pack of such producers reaching back the 1990s are the Lawrence brothers aka Disclosure. Gathering together a conclave of talent (AlunaGeorge, Sam Smith, Jessie Ware, and Jamie Woon) Disclosure form a sprawling dance record that delivers what has been promised from spirited singles like "White Noise" and "When A Fire Starts To Burn". Yet what is so keen about this album is how accessible everything is, its dance music for those who really aren't into it, yet appeases those who go wild over it. Everybody wins. With all the swirling beats and blips, of course Settle might be better experienced with a couple of glow sticks and a little nip of narcotics, but really you don't need all it, as you can get a high just from plugging this one in and turning it up at high decibels.
Notable Tracks: White Noise, Latch, When A Fire Starts To Burn, F For You, Voices, January, Confess To Me
Hotly anticipated, but still cool to the core, the UK duo of AlunaGeorge charmed the skinny jeans off of everyone with their streamlined '90s R&B homages on first introductions, "You Know You Like It" and "Just A Touch". Now with a fully realized effort, the duo put a sensual and atmospheric spin on the golden era of R&B and teen pop all while managing to be style and substance. While the magic of newness is a bit lost as a majority of the tracks here were dropped throughout 2012, but there is still a lot to enjoy and covet here as their cheeky lyrical quips and Aluna's cooing plop us in a time machine back to days of TLC, SWV, and Body Language-era Kylie Minogue.
Notable Tracks: Attracting Flies, Your Drums Your Love, Just A Touch, Outlines, Friends To Lovers, Kaleidoscope Love, Bad Idea
Honesty is something that comes a dime a dozen these days, which is why it's impressive when any music artist comes along and pours out their heart on the page called their album. Yuna has made an album that I know I will return to for its sheer grace as she pretty much brushes herself out of a relationship and begins her search of self. Hit home this album did for me, and . As the lyrical content is poetic justice, the sounds, harbored pointedly by Quadron's Robin Hannibal and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, aid to Yuna delivering her best album yet. [Review]
Notable Tracks: Falling, Escape, I Want You Back, Mountains, Rescue, Lovely Intermission
The pleasant surprise album of this year. I just kinda dove into this album without not really knowing what to expect and discovered a lush little detour into Latin-Jazz and '70s funk fusion that is compact and pure. Its super dee duper '70s with all the Fender Rhodes and flutes that it's a little unreal that it was made in the 21st Century, but it is. Such variance is here with elastic funk like "Look Of The State" and Minnie Riperton styled hypnotics on single, "How Does It Feel" being notably nostalgic, but are freshly cut. As I mentioned before, Satellite Love is bold and sweet, and defies gravity. [Review]
Notable Tracks: How Does It Feel, Real, Look Of The State, Lockdown, We Can't, Uphill, Forgive My Soul
Gosh, this is f*cking FUN. So Tegan and Sara, the wonder twins from Canada got their weepy hipster fans up in a tizzy because they added zesty synths and ramped up the BPM to their usual music formula of catchy pop hooks. Really, this is a great look for them as Heartthrob doesn't shy away from the ‘throbby-ness’ and shines a light on why we've lost sight on what actually is Pop music in the mainstream these days. We are in a dire rut of settling when you have manufactured jokes like Miley Virus making headway and this album is floating around just waiting to be a classic. Okay, the lyrics aren't the best, but “Closer” is a fantastic pop song in every sense of the word as is "I Was A Fool" being full of alluring melody and tenderness. Heartthrob also supports my theory as to why we need to get back to 10-track albums, because it bulls-eye's right to the point with consistent and polished cuts that make this play like a greatest hits album, and not just be an album that takes Tegan and Sara into new exciting terrain. [Listen][Review]
Notable Tracks: Closer, I Was A Fool, Goodbye Goodbye, Love They Say, Drove Me Wild
If you have never heard ArchAndroid at all, this album is one of the best (if not the best) of the year, but I've heard ArchAndroid, and unfortunately Electric Lady pales just a dab in comparison. Still Monae is always doing something that has her leaping out of the conformity box to making her a valedictorian to her peers. Her lovable kookiness is slightly toned down here as Monae is obviously gunning for a glossier mainstream appeal, yet its forgivable as the guest list is spectacular (Erykah Badu! Miguel! Esperanza Spalding! Solange! Mutha f*cking PRINCE!) and Monae still packs sass whether she's preaching and teaching the babies on self-esteem ("Q.U.E.E.N.") or squeezing in some good ol' sexy times ("Primetime"). The highlights for me are when Steve Wonder embodies her for sweating perm workouts like "Ghetto Woman" and the gorgeous "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes". Yet, overall her capturing the spirit and strife of the Obama-era youth in album format will speak volumes later on down the line when people will finally give Monae her props for being an envelope pusher.
Notable Tracks: Dorothy Dandridge Eyes, Ghetto Woman, What An Experience, Q.U.E.E.N., Electric Lady, Givin' 'Em What They Love, Can't Live Without Your Love, We Were Rock N' Roll
After much speculation of if Alice Smith had been a casualty of her abstractness with the mainstream not knowing what to do with her, she surprised everyone and roared back anew this year. We shouldn't have doubted her as her hibernation bred an exquisite follow-up to her critical darling debut, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me. With SHE Smith coasts through womanhood, romance, and heartbreak, waxing the truth poetic throughout and sounding even better than we last heard her. Her eclectic style is also still in motion as she zips from lounged-out R&B, Reggae-tinged soul, to whipping her hair to do thrash rock a la femme. [Review]
Notable Tracks: Be Easy, She, Shot, Another Love, Fool For You
This has everything I want in a pop album. It’s got hooks for days. It wears its influences as cufflinks and not a whole sleeve. It has songs that I remember after the first spin. And it is just perfection from start to finish. The sisters Haim pretty much ignored the Buzzfeed list of what it means to be a pop star these days as they went with the best instrument --- their heart. Days Are Gone is music without the artist’s ego getting in the way (a common problem this year), and as a bonus it's also not an EDM club over the head as Haim are girls with guitars and pens in hand. Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon, Heart, and even TLC would be pleased to know that these Cali girls were listening, adapting, and adjusting to create Pop music for a brand new generation. [Review]
Notable Tracks: The Wire, Falling, If I Could Change Your Mind, Forever, Go Slow, Honey & I
Mr. Robin Hannibal and Ms. Coco O. have done it again. Making the leap from their Scandinavian homeland to the red, white, and blue shores was a necessity as their talent is just too deep to be under lock and key. As quiet as their major label debut was, I'd rather they quietly tread in order to not lose sight of what made them so special when they emerged in back in 2009. They expertly ware off pressure to adopt what all the cool kids are doing, as they stick to the plush Jazz laced Soul that is their signature formula, but as a bonus, delicately add in new influences and ideals to spice things up a bit. They plug 'the-only rapper-worth-a-damn-these-days' Kendrick Lamar into the fold to add some profile, but Quadron exploring Michael Jackson-esque sounds with a tender hand and coming out of their serene shells by edging into controlled up-tempos (see "Hey Love" and "Favorite Star") is the real reason to pay close attention. [Review]
Notable Tracks: Favorite Star, It's Gonna Get You, LFT, Better Off, Neverland, Sea Salt, Hey Love