By Hilary Crisan
1. Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories”
French electronic duo Daft Punk threw out their electronic samplers in exchange for real instruments and guest vocals from a variety of backgrounds, including hip-hop wizard Pharrell Williams and The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas with “Random Access Memories.”
The album is an even mixture of ballads and dance songs. The track “Within” shows robot sensitivity while the track “Lose Yourself To Dance” makes the listener groove. “Touch,” the 8 minute and 15 second assortment of instruments and spacey sounds behind “Rainbow Connection” writer Paul Williams’ vocal, includes an interlude that could be put in a Western movie. Yet, despite changes, their electronic roots still remain in the song “Contact,” which features French friend DJ Falcon.
2. Pearl Jam, “Lightning Bolt”
Seattle grunge band Pearl Jam released their first album in five years after a long hiatus filled with solo tours and side projects in 2013. “Lightning Bolt” is the usual rockin’ sound with lyrics that show maturity and age. Frontman Eddie Vedder discusses the usual topics of politics and religion plus new ventures like love and family.
“Mind Your Manners,” the first single from the album, is a Ramones tribute that includes fast-paced drums, a shredding guitar solo and Eddie’s newly matured vocals. The album shows listeners that, despite 20 years in the business, Pearl Jam is nowhere near finished. “Sirens” and “Future Days” are the love anthems on this album, surprisingly touching for a band that previously released songs with specific political and environmental agendas.
3. The National, “Trouble Will Find Me”
Ohio native rockers The National injected 2013 with the beautifully somber “Trouble Will Find Me.” With lyrics such as “when I walk into a room/I do not light it up” sung in Matt Berninger’s deep vocals, The National’s album will either make listeners cry or allow listeners to slowly drift to sleep. The album is slow-paced yet chill-inducing, and assures audiences that The National are at the top of their indie-rock game.
4. Phoenix, “Bankrupt!”
French electro-pop group Phoenix gave 2013 their poppiest music with “Bankrupt!.” The opening song, “Entertainment,” starts the album off with energetic keyboard riffs despite lyrics proclaiming that frontman Thomas Mars would “rather be alone.”
Full of synthesizers, choruses that will be stuck in the listener’s head for months and track after track of music to jump around to, Phoenix provided the ultimate and most glamorous pop album of 2013.
5. Arctic Monkeys, “AM”
The Arctic Monkeys have developed cool new swagger with the release of “AM”, alongside Alex Turner’s transformation from shaggy-haired teenager to greaser badboy. Lyrical content of seduction, alcohol and drugs are not covered up by metaphors in this album, with song titles such as “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”
Despite its gritty rock’n’roll vibe, “AM” is still filled with catchy hooks and Turner’s Sheffield-accented baritone that rings throughout the band’s discography. The album is reminiscent of 1970s rock and a refreshing 2013 release.
6. David Bowie, “The Next Day”
David Bowie’s surprise release, “The Next Day,” brought back the king of androgyny, glamor and all-around weirdness in full force.
“The Next Day” returns to classic Bowie with songs such as “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” which could fit alongside his well-known classics. Bowie’s vocals have not aged, and he still sings of doomsdays in otherworldly tones. “The Next Day”, the album opener, is reminiscent of “Five Years,” with lyrics that hint at the end of times at an increasingly frantic pace.
7. Local Natives, “Hummingbird”
Local Natives’ new release, “Hummingbird” returned to the soft, distinctive vocals over beautifully orchestrated music that worked for their previous release, “Gorilla Manor.”
Despite similarities to its previous release, “Hummingbird” is a college student’s dream. Sophisticated lyrics and complicated melodies ring throughout this album, solidifying Local Natives’ place in college radio.
8. Vampire Weekend, “Modern Vampires Of The City”
Vampire Weekend’s usual boppy summer jams were abandoned in “Modern Vampires Of The City.” This album is softer in its tone and lyrics, with songs such as “Step”replacing songs about Cape Cod and sunshine.
Vampire Weekend still captivates audiences with surprisingly catchy choruses and Ezra Koenig’s distinctive vocals with their new album. Vampire Weekend allowed themselves to grow and flawlessly achieved change-a feat many bands can’t do.
9. Kanye West, “Yeezus”
Kanye West showed the media how to be controversial and conflicting to mainstream rap through his surprise release, “Yeezus.” The album samples more electronic music, and even features Daft Punk as producers, rather than the usual R&B sampled in rap music. Tracks such as “Blood On The Leaves” set this album apart from most popular music, showing Kanye’s purposeful clash with the radio with off beat music and lyrics so egotistical they become hilarious.
Despite West’s negative publicity, “Yeezus” reminds audiences why he’s so popular.
10. Sky Ferreira, “Night Time, My Time”
Sky Ferreira’s debut album “Night Time, My Time” is a rave gone bad. Sky’s deep voice singing “faster and faster” becoming more distorted as the music increases in volume in the opening song “Night Time, My Time” sets the tone as a lyrically dark album set to hyper electronic music. This sets her apart from other popular female vocalists such as Lady Gaga.