Top Albums of 2013
BackgroundSpotify is pretty amazing - not the free version (I think I still prefer Pandora radio for that) - it has to be the paid version to really get the full effect. It has figuratively opened my mind to music that I never before would have considered (and some I will continue to deride). Although I still tend to stay within the confines of classic rock mixed with more modern indie and alternative rock, I have certainly explored and expanded more this past year than before. The biggest undertaking I accomplished was listening to each of the 500 albums listed in the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (the May 2012 updated list, many, but not all are available on Spotify). Although I don't have an exact count, I have listened to well over 600 albums this year. When I think about it, I don't know how many albums I listened to before this year, but it couldn't have been a ton more than that.
I decided to rank my favorite albums of 2013, and when I say rank, I mean it has to involve some form of measurement. I find it very difficult to make "top-x lists," and am often very critical of such lists. One thing that drives me crazy is when radio stations have marathons over some holiday weekend of the "top 100 songs of all time, as voted by you, the listener!" When it is actually "We let you, the listener, go to our website and pick 5 songs from our catalog (I'm not sure who actually does this, but it couldn't possibly be representative of the actual listening audience, or am I wrong?), which is limited to 'classic' rock of the 60s, 70s, and maybe 80s." You then end up with weird things like Boz Scaggs' "Lido Shuffle" being ranked higher than Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way."
While I can't promise that I won't have infuriating choices, I can at least be upfront about the rules I am playing by. Rules which are: I am limiting my list to the top albums of 2013 that I personally have listened to at least twice (with one exception). There are a couple albums that in doing my research for 2013 that I decided to give a listen to, but they left imprints on my ears too late in the game to be included. That's really about it, If I don't discuss an album from 2013 that should be on this list, you can safely assume I simply haven't come across it yet.
Creating the listI started by listing all the albums I could remember having listened to over the past year, and followed it up by looking up albums released in 2013 (A quick side note - Buckethead released released 33 albums in 2013! ...and I didn't listen to a single one). After compiling the list I had about 20 albums that I had listened to extensively, which doesn't seem like a ton. I probably am not really qualified to write a "top list of" like you would read on a reputable website, but we can carry on understanding the shortcomings of the rules I set.
Now that I have a list, I need to find the appropriate order. It is tempting to create some model involving metrics like number of times I listened to each album, number of sales, chart ranking, twitter mentions, Metacritic rankings, etc. Creating such a model really wouldn't get at the heart of what I really want to accomplish. While music preference is very much a personal subjective matter, I can certainly objectively say that I'd rather listen to one album over another. Of course my preference might change over time, and others will certainly have their own opinions, I hope to give a snapshot of what I connected with this past year, and what I think others might appreciate.
After compiling my list, in order to calculate rankings I first randomly ordered the albums and then created a grid with a row and corresponding column for each album. I then compared each row album to each column album and asked myself "which album would I rather listen to?" Of course if I am in a mood to dance I might choose something different than when I am feeling a bit existential, so I try to imagine that I'm in a neutral mood, and haven't listened to either album recently. Here's my grid:
ResultsOrdering the data by rank results in the following ranking. We'll go with the top 10 (even if it is an arbitrary number - why not top 8 or 11? I suppose its important to support the metric system)
Two quick notes
- I only listened to Yeezus once and included it so that every album I do like would get at least one vote. I listened to some of Kanye's other albums that are on the RS's 500 Greatest Albums, and I just didn't get them. This album in my estimation probably ranks much higher than College Dropout, but Late Registration is more listenable.
- I guess I'm not entirely consistent, as evidenced by the several ties. For example, I have AM over both Comedown Machine and Modern Vampires of the City, both of which are over Evil Friends; yet I put Evil Friends over AM:
- Paul McCartney - New perhaps his best effort since Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, but his worst named album since Kisses on the Bottom
- Deerhunter - Monomania Would have made it higher on the list if I had heard the album earlier
- Elvis Costello and The Roots - Wise Up Ghost Wasn't a fan, I really didn't like a lot of Costello's stuff in the RS's 500 either.
- Many other, I'm sure
The other not top 10ers
- Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action The lead single might be the weakest song on the album, otherwise it is what I've come to expect from a Franz Ferdinand effort
- Daft Punk - Random Access Memories This was just a great album, just happens to be outside of what I usually listen to
- New Politics - A Bad Girl in Harlem Fun album with some very catchy tunes
- David Bowie - The Next Day I can't say enough about Bowie. Its no Station to Station, but a great listen
- Deafhaven - Sunbather This was a pretty great album for a style I don't listen to as much. Very beautiful amongst the metal. This one is definitely worth a listen
- Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt The ukulele touch on some songs is nice - I enjoyed Vedder's ukulele solo album. I haven't really listened to Pearl Jam much into the aughts
- Phoenix - Bankrupt! Some nice tracks and still interesting
- Dream Theater - Dream Theater Its always a good idea to wait 12 albums before releasing an eponymous album. I really loved Octavarium and Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory, but haven't been as impressed with their other albums
My Top 10
10. The Flaming Lips - The Terror
9. My Bloody Valentine - m b v
8. Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
7. Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
6. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
5. Cage the Elephant - Melophobia
4. Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends
3. The Strokes - Comedown Machine
2. Arctic Monkeys - AM
1. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
If nothing else, it is certainly worthwhile to seek out new music. I do hope that there is something on this list that others haven't considered before that they will discover and enjoy.