Thank you 2013. In no particular order.
Laura Mvula, Sing to the Moon – Notable tracks; “Like the Morning Dew” “Make Me Lovely” “She”
Perhaps as the name implies, this album feels fantastical and poetic. Mvula’s voice drips jazzily over beautiful, dreamlike orchestrations and yet, is still able to demonstrate power, strength and core. The lyrics retain poetry and strength without any heavy-handedness in nature. The core of this album, for me, is it’s honesty. Similar to an artist like Lauryn Hill, when I listen to Mvula, I feel like I am listening to something pleasurable for this particular artist. She is creating music, this specific music, for herself and we are lucky enough that she shares it. Sing to the Moon is a soulful dream with pleasant surprise, fresh ideas and interpretations.
Haim, Days are Gone – Notable tracks; “Falling” “Forever”
Haim is quintessential LA-hipster-pop. And yet, I’m buying it. There is something intrinsically “cool” about Haim’s indie-girl style, from the textured alto vocals to the layered folk-rock orchestrations. It reminds me of summer…or LA…which is always a bit of summer. Even in the depths of winter. 70 degrees and sunny.
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories – Notable tracks; “Instant Crush” ” Get Lucky” “Give Life Back to Music”
I was in NYC when this album came out and it was the perfect subway companion for the five weeks I spent living in the city. I could not stop listening to this album; it was intoxicating, in the best way possible. This album attains both an amazing momentum and a certain “cool” stillness, all at once. You cannot help but move to this album, you cannot help but dance. Rife with catchy lyrics, melodies, beats and electronica, it’s one of those albums that has the ability to cross genres and retain it’s integrity. Ideal listening: excellent headphones and a subway ride. I recommend the N or Q.
Rhye, Woman – Notable tracks; “Open” “The Fall”
If the above photo didn’t tip you off…Rhye’s Woman is one of the sexiest albums I’ve heard in a long time. Smooth and seductive in voice, melodies and lyrics, it is a love letter and a guilty pleasure, masculine and feminine, all at once. This album has all the elements of an intimate romance; attained, fulfilled, lost or forgotten. Simplistic in nature, but seductive in tone and content, Rhye manages to pull of an album that is perfectly balanced, crafted and beautifully executed. Ideal listening: the bedroom or in front of a warm fireplace, alone or in company.
Lucius, Wildewoman – Notable tracks; “Go Home” “Wildewoman”
Lucius’ Wildewoman album is where folk meets pop-rock, highlighted with beautiful harmonies and fearless belting in every tune. At times kitschy and seemingly singularly female, the album still remains catching and exciting with powerful and confident vocals from the kinetic lead singers. They make a strong argument that “blondes have more fun”…. in my books anyway.
Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob – Notable tracks; “Closer” “Goodbye Goodbye” “I Was a Fool”
I’ve been a Tegan and Sara fan since their debut album, they’ve always seemed to “do pop right,” for my taste. The 2013 album proves that they’ve had a pop make-over, combining the melodies and lyric qualities of the classic Tegan and Sara, but allowing the digital aspect of current pop to move them forward, staying relevant, hip and damn catchy. There is certainly an 80’s influence in this new digital pop age, but with more present honesty and layers. And of course, Tegan and Sara continue to prove that they will always know how to write addicting chorus.
James Blake, Overgrown – Notable tracks; “Retrograde” “Overgrown”
Just when you thought that this list was heavily female…the talented James Blake. This ethereal, dreamlike album attains qualities of jazz and R&B (true fusion), while playing with the electronic in sound and orchestration. Blake’s voice is surely a highlight of this album; beautiful and lyric with the rich tones of a baritone and a range beyond, Blake demonstrates an agility that allows him to move between sultry sounds and light falsetto with cohesive and effortless beauty. The lyrics are poetic and executed with great diversity throughout the album. Ideal listening: the headphones (once again) and a moment of stillness….allow yourself to be taken away.
Valerie June, Pushin’ Against the Stone – Notable tracks; “Workin’ Woman Blues”
My Memphis roommate introduced me to Valerie June and I’ve been impressed with, once again, an artist who fuses genres to create something that sounds truly original. June’s music carries elements of jazz, bluegrass, folk; she’s the best of “The South” and the future thereof, combined in one dreaded-beauty. Lyrics like “Lord, you know I’m ready for my, my sugar daddy” sound suddenly smarter with the infusion of jazz orchestration, while “The Hour” feels like a soul-bluegrass-folk hybrid. Confident, original and playful, June’s voice bridges on the sounds of Badu, Parton and Carter-Cash but remaining her own. This is an artist I would love to see live, the energy and heart of the album almost ensure an excellent live delivery. And she plays banjo.
David Bowie, The Next Day – Notable tracks; THE WHOLE DAMN ALBUM