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Music: Best Albums of 2013

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As we round out 2013, it is time again for one of our favorite features on the OLE MASON JAR blog…our picks for the 2013 Albums of the year! In preparation, we tasked the two biggest music enthusiasts we know, our music correspondent Mr. Taj Simpson and our CEO Mr. Bradley Rhyne, to each come up with a list of their top 5 albums.

Rules are simple: Album has to have been released in 2013

This was a year that saw some highly anticipated releases from mainstream artists (Kanye, Drake, JT) as well as highly anticipated releases from the most popular of the not so mainstream artists (Arcade Fire, The National, Vampire Weekend). Throw in some breakthrough performances by artists that had yet to be discovered before 2013, and let’s just say to narrow this list down was no easy feat.

Narrowing a list of albums down to a top 5 or 10 is always somewhat of a moving target. It likely would have been different a month ago, or maybe even an hour ago (hey Beyoncé, give us a heads up the next time you want to spring a release on us last minute!), and so goes the dilemma that is shared by all outlets that produce these sorts of things. Whilst 2012 was about a folk resurgence, 2013 seemed to be a year were synthesizers replaced guitars and electronic pop came to the forefront of the music scene. The emphasis was less on who was singing, but more on the melodies and rhythms produced (hello Avicii). Through it all though, 2013 was another great year in music.

Without further ado…the best albums of 2013!

Taj’s Top 5 Albums of 2013

  1. The Weeknd– Kiss Land

For me, the album that took the crown this year was “Kiss Land” by The Weeknd. Filled with lyrics of lust, mistrust, and moving on from the past (sort of); The Weeknd effortlessly lays it all out. The album’s dark approach to a heartbroken homebody entering the foreign world of fame is crafted flawlessly. “Kiss Land” is certainly not radio-friendly, but its ability to sell out venues like the O2 Arena in London (20,000 people) speaks for itself.

  1. Lorde – Pure Heroine

 Every now and then, a curve ball is thrown. “Pure Heroine” takes sounds from the pop world, the hip-hop world, and wraps it around the voice of an unknown 17 year-old from New Zealand. This album is masterfully produced. Using distinct trap drums, heavy bass lines, and vibrant key notes; this album is a classic from start to finish.

  1. Drake – Nothing Was The Same

 The album title, “Nothing Was The Same” not only speaks to whatever Drake is up to now, but hints to the album being completely different from his last two albums. With songs like “Hold, On We’re Going Home” and “Pound Cake” which features Jay Z and Ellie Goulding; Drake continues to push the bar on this album. He opens up about family issues, his daydream to be ‘that kid in the basement’ again, and of course relationship mishaps. It’s a different approach to what a hip-hop album should entail. And Drake somehow continues to get away with it.

  1. James Blake – Overgrown

 James Blake has one of the most underrated voices in music today. His album “Overgrown” is cold-blooded. He delivers a production layered with textures of ambient sound that will give you chills. James Blake is not only a brilliant vocalist, but also a remarkable producer. Known for his R&B/Dubstep sampling; this album goes for a more classical approach and does not disappoint.

  1. Kaskade – Atmosphere

Okay, “Atmosphere” made the list solely based on the mixes Kaskade released in support of the album. “Atmosphere” is the template for what Kaskade does best; mix and re-create. Kaskade provides us with an album that takes trance music and puts it right into mainstream. The release of this album not only placed Kaskade as the number one ranked DJ in the world, but lifted him as one of today’s top rock stars. Have a listen to the Atmosphere Mini Mix via Spotify.

Brad's Top 5 Albums of 2013

  1. Local Natives – Hummingbird

When you are putting together a list that ranks your top albums of the year, it is no easy task. To decide what were your absolute favorites and rank them, can almost become a chore (I know life is hard right?). That being said, for me to decide what my top album of the year was, it really came down to a couple simple factors. What album did I listen to the most, and what album was the most effortless to listen to? "Hummingbird" fits both of those factors, and for me was a go to almost every time I sat down and selected something to play (for say an hour or so worth of work). It wasn’t about listening to the lyrics and deciphering their true meaning, or the arrangement of how the album flowed in some Grammy-ish like standard, but rather simply that I could put the album on and listen to every song effortlessly without a second thought. Local Natives were a pleasure to listen to this year, and because of them, A LOT of OLE MASON JAR work got done with them playing in the background.

  1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Sometimes less is more, and so you would find the very definition of Vampire Weekend (unofficial dictionary of course). Basic drum set, catchy melody, piano, guitar chords and boy next door who isn’t the best singer yet owns it and uses it to his advantage. The great thing about Vampire Weekend is that they put all these simple things together, to create songs that are truly unique. Songs will often start out going one direction, only to change course several times before the song ends (songs within a song). These guys burst on to the scene in 2006 with a very original sound, and while they still have the same sound, listening to their music then vs now shows exactly how much they have really grown. (That’s what a Columbia University education will get you). That reminds me, they look like they would really appreciate some OLE MASON JAR, so we need to figure out how to get them in these threads!

  1. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Admittedly, this album likely lands on my list because A) they are one of my favorite bands and B) I got a chance to see them in concert this year (shameless picture plug from the concert below). That being said, while the album itself delivers and still contains that same Nationaly type of sound and feel, it doesn’t grow their sound as much as I would have hoped in anticipation. A great band now entering their middle ages (in band years), it will be interesting to see how they continue to stay at the top of their game. All things considered, this album has without a doubt continued to linger in my play list, and is always there as a place to escape if need be.

 

  1. Lorde – Pure Heroine

You know it is pretty interesting how a list of all the albums in 2013 can get narrowed down to the top 5 by one person living in Las Vegas, and one living in North Carolina, and we end up with an artist that appears on both of our lists. I am going to say it is a testament to how good this album really is. For me, this album is a perfect blend of what is really popular right now with electronic pop and DJ mixed collaborations getting major airplay, mixed with a unique voice that is rather refreshing to hear over the radio. Expect big things for this young lady. My pick for Best Solo Pop Performance at this years Grammy’s.

(video included in Taj's list)

  1. The Neighbourhood – I Love You.

Long before “Sweater Weather” started lacing the radio airwaves, I saw this up and coming band as an opening act for the opening act of a Passion Pit concert. The first thing I noticed was that the lead singer had a very likeable “it” factor, seeming like he owned the stage and deserved to be there as the act everyone came to see. I remember thinking right then and there that this band was destined for bigger and better things than to be the opening opening act of a small venue. Nine months later, their somewhat dark, unique and edgy sound and clever yet understandable lyrical story telling are getting mainstream attention.

There you have it folks, now lets get ready for a great 2014!

Best,

OLE MASON JAR

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For a real time look at what we are listening to at OLE MASON JAR, check out our Last.fm profile

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