And it's time once again for my annual wrap-up of music I liked this year. Which is not easy for a guy who's perpetually stuck in the 1980's when it comes to what he listens to.
THE TWELVE BEST...
These are my favorite albums this year...
#1 English Electric by OMD
I pretty much love my top-three albums equally, so I had a tough time deciding which one would end up on top. After a lot of back-and-forth, I settled on English Electric because it had the highest play count on my iTunes (probably thanks to Night Café, which is a song I can't seem to get enough of). And while I don't think it's as great an album as their previous release, History of Modern, there's a lot to love here... even if I would just as soon skip over the experimental crap they sandwich between actual songs.
#2 Electric by Pet Shop Boys
Last year, Pet Shop Boy's Elysium took the top spot on my list despite the love/hate relationship I had with the album. This year was pretty much a repeat of last year, with half the album hooking me worse than a heroin habit, and the other half leaving me cold. Which got me thinking... if I took the half of Elysium I liked and added it to the half of Electric I liked, it would end up being one of the best Pet Shop Boys albums ever. As it is, both are merely "good" for the band... which means Electric is still better than 99% of the stuff that got released in 2013. Getting to ACTUALLY MEET NEIL AND CHRIS WHEN I WENT TO THEIR PHILADELPHIA SHOW was just the icing on the cake.
#3 Dynamics by Holy Ghost!
After falling in love with their self-titled debut, I fully expected to hate Holy Ghost!'s follow-up, because isn't that the way it always goes? Apparently not. Yet another heavy contender for my #1 spot, Dynamics is more 80's-inspired pop genius from a band who knows how to keep cranking out something new that feels as though it's been around for decades. Don't Look Down may very well be my favorite song of 2013. And I'm still mad at myself for not seeing them in concert yet.
#4 The Movement by Betty Who
And speaking of 80's-inspired pop genius... Betty Who came out of nowhere with an EP that I haven't stopped listening to since the minute I learned it existed. Her instant fame was mostly due to the use of Somebody Loves You in one of the best marriage proposals ever... but the three remaining songs are every bit as good (and an argument could be made that High Society is even better). Needles to say, I am anxiously awaiting Betty's first full-length album and an opportunity to see her live.
#5 In a Tidal Wave of Mystery by Capital Cities
This release could have made my list based on their smash single Safe and Sound all by itself. Fortunately, the album had more to offer, as it arrived jam-packed with enough addictive synth-pop dance tracks to choke a horse.
#6 Native by OneRepublic
I don't know what it is about OneRepublic, but there hasn't been an album out yet that I haven't played to death... and Native is no exception. Yes, it's more of the same, but I'll take it. Especially when it has such a hauntingly beautiful tune as Can't Stop.
#7 When The Night by St. Lucia
Jean-Philip Grobler, better known as the "band" St. Lucia is someone I discovered from a Victoria's Secret commercial, instantly falling in love with his breezy music and fresh sound...
His self-titled EP ended up being #4 on last year's list, and I ended up playing those six tracks many, many times. So you can imagine my excitement when his full album finally dropped in October, as I had been waiting an entire year for it to arrive. The result is more of the same of what I love about St. Lucia... even if a few tracks abandon his relaxed vibe and go a bit more frantic (the track Too Close comes dangerously close to being a mess). If I have one complaint, it's that I ended up paying for three songs I had already bought on the EP. But a quick listen to beautiful tracks like Elevate has me not caring quite as much as I probably should...
#8 Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
I was tempted to leave Random Access Memories off my list because it's on everybody else's list... but that's not exactly fair, is it? And while "the sound of Summer 2013"... Get Lucky... has been played to the point of nausea, there's plenty left on the album to keep you listening. And I do. Even though it's much more disco than 80's pop.
#9 Free Your Mind by Cut Copy
With each new album, I become a bigger fan of Cut Copy. Their last effort, Zonoscope, was a flawless album that I didn't even know existed until nearly a year after it had been released. I swore I wouldn't make the same mistake next time, and I didn't... I kept up with the band and bought Free Your Mind on day one. And love it. It's big pop fun that's interesting enough to keep me coming back.
#10 New by Paul McCartney
As a massive Beatles fan who fell in love with the band long after they had their run, I suppose it's no big surprise that I had a hard time getting into Wings, who was also done and gone by the time I was into McCartney. His solo projects didn't fare much better... until New, which is a fantastic album with all the hallmark signatures that makes Paul McCartney one of my favorite artists in music history.
#11 Palms by Carousel
Dreamy synth-pop magic that stays in almost constant rotation in my iTunes playlists. This was a discovery made off iTunes Radio, which is always a pleasant surprise.
#12 Delta Machine by Depeche Mode
Given that Depeche Mode is my favorite band of all time I'm pretty much obligated to put their latest effort on my list... even if I'm not sure it really belongs here. Probably because I didn't fall in love with any songs off of the album and am still trying to understand how things could have gone so terribly wrong (seriously, ENOUGH with the songs about angels, heaven, and redemption! Pick a new topic... ANY new topic). I did a write up on the Delta Machine tracks played on their latest tour (which I saw in Tampa), so if you want the gory details of my confusion, here you go.
CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR...
Volume 3 by She and Him
If I had the guts to deep-six Depeche Mode off my list, this is the album that would take their place. Just when you think you can't love Zooey Deschanel any more than you already do, THIS comes along...
This is Icona Pop by Icona Pop
Some addictive tracks here... but too many of them sound to much the same, which made it a tough pick for my list.
Prism by Katy Perry
Now, heaven only knows I love Katy Perry... her Teenage Dream was an explosion of bubble gum pop perfection... and her first single, Roar, off Prism sure grabbed ahold of me... yet the album just wasn't enough. Maybe it's because she's dating John Mayer now and I can't get the horror out of my head, I dunno.
Swings Both Ways by Robbie Williams.
And... color me shocked. I had -zero- confidence that Robbie could pull off a swing album, but he totally nails it. How he got the inspiration to even attempt this is a mystery, but I'm glad he did.
VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS 2013...
Metroland by OMD
I'm gonna love just about any animated music video... even if the song is shit. But this terrific video is what happens when the song is awesome. Equally amazing is OMD's animated video for Night Cafe (above).
Roar by Katy Perry
The video was so great that it made me love the song. Or maybe it was Katy Perry's outfit. At this point it's hard to tell.
Somebody Loves You by Betty Who, Spencer, and Home Depot
Okay, it's not her official video for the track... but it's hands-down my favorite music video of the year!
And now I'm going to sit back and hope that Pet Shop Boys will go three for three and give us another album and tour in 2014!