2013 was quite the year in music. There was a song for everyone. We heard new albums by legends like David Bowie in “The Next Day” and Depeche Mode in “Delta Machine”. Pop music saw new albums from Lady Gaga, Drake and Justin Timberlake. While popular R&B lovers tuned in to music from 90s voices like R. Kelly and Brandy. The rap fans across the world were surprised by Jay-Z’s free album, and hipsters rushed to download new releases from Solange, Janelle Monae and Daft Punk. Even Paul McCartney released a new record! There were an endless amount of solid records this year, but only a few remained on repeat in my headphones. This is my year in music.
Disclosure – “Settle”
The beginning of the year was all about Disclosure who saved EDM with their signature garage house beats. The London natives became international DJs thanks to their high-energy production style that brought soul back to the electronic dance floors. Their danceable smooth tracks became a standout contrast to the popular noisy electronic music that has flooded radio over the past 2 years. “Voices” introduced us to the sweet voice of Sasha Keable, and I don’t think anyone missed Sam Smith’s voice in “Latch”. However, the best collaboration of the album featured Hannah Reid of London Grammar who appeared in the closing track “Help Me Lose My Mind”. Disclosure helped remind electronic fans that there is still like good EDM out there. The duo released a remix album just in time for Christmas. It features mixes by popular DJs including DJ Premier and Larry Heard. Disclosure is up for a Grammy this year for Best Dance/ Electronica Album and released the single, “Apollo” late this year.
Bonobo – “The North Borders”
When the spring rolled around I was no longer in the mood for electronic dance songs. Everything was beginning to sound the same. Every song had a familiar build up that lead to the same bass drop. To mellow out I listened to Bonobo’s “The North Borders” on repeat for weeks. As always the melodic composer and all around genius created a solid collection of downtempo beats with a group of fantastic voices that included Erykah Badu, Grey Reverend and Szjerdene. When I decided to take a much needed vacation I let Bonobo’s live tour guide me to my destination. I ended up in San Francisco at The Warfield on Market Street. It was my first time in California and during my first night there I danced stoned drunk to Bonobo and his live band playing a collection of hits and oldies. The show featured Erykah Badu as an opener who later joined the band for “Heaven For The Sinner” and her hit “Bag Lady”. Recently, I have been back on a Bonobo kick thanks to “Late Night Tales” a compilation album featuring a diverse mix of musical genres and voices.
Quadron – Avalanche
By late spring I was a total hipster again. I kept seeing news about a sophomore album from Danish duo Quadron on blogs everywhere. When I finally decided to give it a listen I was so disappointed I had not tuned in earlier. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from over playing their soulful pop tracks all spring and summer long. The pop duo first caught my attention with the track, “Better Off” which also made me realize I should have been listening to Kendrick Lamar in 2012. However, “Avalanche” was much more than one good single with the rapper who appeared on almost every hot track this year. It was sing-a-long tracks like “Hey Love” and “LFT” that really won me over. The upbeat rhythm combined with a strong female lead was a great way to kick off summer. Quadron is a producer-vocalist duo with Coco O as vocals and Robin Hannibal on the beats. We saw a similar duo in London’s AlunaGeorge, but Quadron proved to be the better choice as Coco O’s tone is hard to beat. In the end, Europe once again proved they produce the best pop music.
Mayer Hawthorne – “Where Does This Door Go?”
This summer while everyone was listening to Justin Timberlake I was dancing with Mayer Hawthorne. I drank a lot to this album under the sun and on bus rides back to my apartment. It was the perfect summertime sound. I don’t think I went out without listening to “Reach Out Richard”, “Crime” and “Wine Glass Woman”. The album features guest appearances by 2013’s producer of the year Pharrell Williams and Kendrick Lamar.
For the winter months I will be listening to Beyonce and I have NO SHAME. The singer released her fifth album without warning to fans on Friday, December 13. The visual album came with a music video for each song. Unlike her previous traditional R&B album, “BEYONCE” takes us on journey of experimental beat structures, interesting vocal arrangements and lots of sex. This may be her best album to date since the release of her first solo album in 2003. Once again Beyonce has thrown a curve ball to mainstream radio. The highlight of the album is “Ghost” a prelude to the dark dance track, “Haunted”. The lyrically impressive spoken word verses are paired with Bey’s signature high tone to create a dark robotic pitch. I would say it is a mix between Massive Attack and Janelle Monae. The track combines several genres together to make an exciting new sound in R&B music. Other notable songs are the two songs selected as singles, “XO” and “Drunk In Love” with husband Jay-Z.
Other notable albums:
Slow Knights – Cosmos
Bibio – Steve Wilkinson
Sigur Ros – Kveikur
Saint Records – Saint Heron
Robert Glasper Experience – Black Radio 2
James Blake – Overgrown
Bilal – A Love Surreal
Nightmares on Wax – Feelin’ Good
Gold Panda – Half of Where You Are
Marques Toliver – Land of CanAan
Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
Falty DL – Hardcourage
Sebastian Wijk – Under A Hole EP
Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return