Monday, December 23, 2013

The 25 Best Albums of 2013

While compiling this list I was tempted to put Beyoncé first even though I have not listened to the whole thing yet because even though it may not have the best collection of songs, Beyoncé won the year. While everyone else was trying to come up with a new way to market an album, Beyonce just went, “how quaint Katy Perry and your gold plated semi truck, I am dropping my album in the middle of the night on Thursday without any promotion and sell twice as many records.”

When I compiled this list last year, I was having problems because nothing seemed worthy of number one or even top ten for that matter. I chalked it up to listening music almost exclusively on shuffle. Basically when an album is released I would listen to it five to ten time, then the best songs go into shuffle never to be heard in its entirety again. So my New Year’s Resolution was to listen to at least one full album a day. And that worked, to a point, I am more content with this year’s list than last.

But Beyoncé really showed what is really hurting my enjoyment of albums: over-promotion. Much like no movies live up to the hype of their trailers anymore, the incisive promotion is so over the top by the time you hear it will inevitable be a letdown. The best songs were probably already released as promos and really all that is left if filler. And the promotion cycle has increased so much they last almost as long as presidential campaigns. Just this year, Drake released his first single in early February for an album that was not released until late September.

Granted some could argue that Beyoncé did not completely avoid marketing for this album considering she dropped a couple songs just prior to Super Bowl performance that were met with a resounding yawn. So instead of throwing more songs at the wall hoping something would stick, she finished the album on her terms and let everyone dissect it at once as a whole work of art, not parceled out over a couple months. And therein lies the problem with the current promotion cycle, by the time album is released, everyone has already downloaded the best song or two song that were pre-released as singles and have already moved on to the next big album that just dropped their new single. And in an era of diminishing album sales, Beyoncé was the first to figure out how to get people to buy your album, stop teasing and just give it to them. And it worked brilliantly. Just look at her first week sales which like every other artist were receding:

Dangerously in Love (2003): 317,000
B’Day (2006): 541,000
I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008): 482,000
4 (2011): 310,000
Beyoncé (2013): 617,000

And keep in mind Beyoncé was only available on iTunes and not physically, and that is only three days worth of sales instead of the usual six. Now the question is will this become the norm? Probably not, you have to be a global superstar like Beyoncé to pull this off and looking at next year, the only artists who may be releasing albums that could pull a stunt like this off could be U2, Taylor Swift (though she is the rare artists who's numbers are going up with each album), and Shakira (except she has already announced the date of her first single so she really cannot drop her album out of nowhere now). I do not think people will flock to iTunes to get that new Colbie Caillat album if dropped out of nowhere. Hopefully record companies do look at this and at least shorten the pre-album promotional period to a month or less.

So yeah, Beyoncé is not on this list, but the album just won the year because I spent over a page talking about it on my Best Albums of 2013 and I barely listened to it (my two word review: it’s alright; that only furthers the reason for a shorter promotion period, get the people to buy it before they realize it is only just okay; just imagine her first sales week if the album dropped a month or two after Bow Down was released; my guess it would have been lower than 4). So without further ado, here are the best albums of the year that I actually listen to all the way through (my original reviews are under each album for those that I did review while the album title goes to Amazon and the artist will take you to their iTunes page):

1. The Civil Wars - The Civil Wars
I Don’t Want to Fight but I’ll Fight For You if I Have To

2. Same Trailer Different Park - Kacey Musgraves
Woke up on the Wrong Side of Rock Bottom

3. Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XV

4. Pure Heroine - Lorde
I’m Kinda Over Being Told to Throw My Hands in the Air

5. Days Are Gone - Haim
Nothings Gonna Wake Me Now Cause Im a Slave to the Sound

6. If You Leave - Daughter

7. From Here to Now to You - Jack Johnson
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVII

8. The Electric Lady - Janelle Monáe
I am Sharper than a Razor, Eyes Made of Lasers

9. The Marshall Mathers LP2 - Eminem
Lets Take it Back to Straight Hip-Hop and Start it from Scratch

10. The Stand-In - Caitlin Rose

11. Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song - Amos Lee

12. Lightning Bolt - Pearl Jam
Everybody’s Thinking That They’ll All Be Delivered Save it in a Box Like Lost and Found

13. Paradise Valley - John Mayer
A Little Bit of Summer Is What the Whole Year’s All About

14. Magpie and the Dandelion - The Avett Brothers
Let Me See Your Skeleton Well Before Your Life Is Done

15. Where Does This Door Go - Mayer Hawthorne
When the Music's on She Can Do No Wrong

16. Mechanical Bull - Kings of Leon
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVIII

17. The Bones of What You Believe - Chvrches

18. In Rolling Waves - The Naked and Famous
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVII

19. Like a Rose - Ashley Monroe

20. Wise Up Ghost - Elvis Costello and The Roots
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XVII

21. AM - Arctic Monkeys

22. Girl Talk - Kate Nash
Words Are Only in My Mouth

23. Don't Look Down - Skylar Grey
Someone’s Gonna Get Hurt and it’s not Gonna Be Me

24. Annie Up - Pistol Annies
Musings from the Back 9: Music Edition XIV

25. The Blessed Unrest - Sara Bareilles
Say What You Wanna Say and Let the Words Fall Out

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