Year In Review: Top 10+2 Albums of 2013

Each of my top 10+2 albums of 2013 had at least one song in the Top 100+2 Songs countdown. Drake’s masterful Nothing Was The Same shocked me with its subtlety and seductiveness, despite my apprehension to like it. The two songs I threw into the mix from him, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (No. 13) and “Too much” featuring Sampha (No. 76) illustrated his music’s vulnerable sexiness. There were certainly other examples of this that could have very easily snuck into the fold.My favourite album of the year, …Like Clockwork from the ever-impressive Queens of the Stone Age could only muster two songs as well. While the entire album was full of highly potent tracks with many highlights and utterly compelling consistency, I still only felt obliged to include “My God Is The Sun” (No. 31) and the suffocating “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory”, which fell into the top 10 at number seven.Only Arcade Fire outdid them in sheer productivity when it came to holding two high-ranking songs. Arcade Fire’s outstanding Reflektor had the song of the same name at number six and “Afterlife” at number 22. James Murphy’s (LCD Soundsystem) influence as producer has not steered them into murky waters and has only distinguished the band as one of the greatest active rock bands with an eye for experimentation.Those who know me understand that soul and R ’n’ B are my first loves, so it is no surprise that Janelle Monae, Justin Timberlake, Drake and even cross-over artists Haim have managed to squeeze into the top 10+2 albums. Minus JT, who had “Mirrors” at number 16, each of these artists had two songs in the countdown.Haim, a group of sisters from California had an outrageously successful year. Their debut album Days Are Gone seemed to follow the formula for success in 2013: nostalgia, groggy memories and a desire for love, though uncertainty on how to react when it suddenly comes to us.Justin Timberlake may have smudged his perfect record of 2013 with the second part of The 20/20 Experience, which has left an indelible ambiguity in my mind. The first part of the album, however, nears pop perfection. While “Suit And Tie”, “Pusher Love Girl” and “Strawberry Bubblegum” all had elements of this perfection, it was “Mirrors” that summed up why this guy has a reputation stronger than the average fluffy pop star.Janelle Monae’s album just needs to be listened to once for you to lavish your praise on her. One of the hottest acts in the world currently, her highly original material does not concentrate its time on one sound for more than a song or two. Like JT, any number of her songs could have reached the top 100+2, including the brilliant collaborations with Solange and Erykah Badu, but in the end it was the perfect combination of Miguel and Monae that made my heart sing the most on “Prime Time”. “Victory” also came in at number 70.Australian artists The Drones and Cloud Control both released excellent albums this year. For The Drones it was their fifth album, for Cloud Control this was their sophomore release. Clearly they are in different phases of their career, but both seem to have crafted their ideal sound. The Drones are gruff, cynical and reckless, while Cloud Control is idealistic and oceanic-like with wonderful harmonies. Cloud Control’s “Dojo Rising” (No. 32) and “Promises” (No. 12) were worthy additions to the top 100+2 list. Their gritty blues-rock feels inspired by The Animals and early Van Morrison. More about my top-ranking song from The Drones can be found here.Just missing out on spots in the top album list was The National who had the solitary song “Graceless” at number 19; James Blake with “Retrograde” and “Overgrown” at numbers 51 and 71 respectively; and CHVRCHES with “Gun” and “Night Sky” at numbers 74 and 91. James Blake is one of the darlings of post-dubstep and — minus the dalliance with The Boss and Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) on lead guitar — sits as my number one live show for the year.  And the Top 10+2 Albums for 2013 are…1. …Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age2. AM, Arctic Monkeys
3. The 20/20 Experience Part I, Justin Timberlake4. Once I was An Eagle, Laura Marling5. The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae6. Reflektor, Arcade Fire 
7. I See Seaweed, The Drones8. Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
9. If You Wait, London Grammar 
10. Days Are Gone, Haim
11. Dream Cave, Cloud Control 
12. Nothing Was The Same, Drake This is an edited work derived from a blog post by William Balme and has been republished here with his William Balme

December 18th 2013
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