Hi! Jess here, DJ for Kindered, Clark’s Christian radio station.  Today  I sat down with my lovely music-major cousin and we talked about our opinons on the best albums of 2013.
I’m going to disclaim right now that I’m not proclaiming that these are the ten definite best albums of 2013. They are, however, my favorite. And I have been blasting them through my record player and little Chevy truck since they were released, and that’s been the deciding factor for the list.
The list was loosely constructed based on what I have listened to most since their releases. From there, the top five albums were carefully scored, song by song, on a scale from 1 to 5, and then averaged and ranked. The bottom half were ranked mostly by ear and favor.
10. The 20/20 Experience Part II – Justin Timberlake
Here’s the thing about the 20/20 Experience- The whole set is good. It’s everything we’ve been waiting for. Part II has more consistently good songs to offer, while Part I has some of the stronger songs (Patrick and I have already discussed this). I honestly think that, given a few more listens, Part II will trump Part I for me. But this list is based on what I’ve listened to more, and Part I wins. I’m rambling now. Listen to Drink You Away. It’s different than the Justin you’re used to. Can I request a full album in this style?
Listen to: TKO, Murder, Drink You Away
09. Magpie and the Dandelion – The Avett Brothers
I’ve heard this referred to as Avett’s weakest album. Alright, fine. But it’s still so SO good. Avett’s songwriting abilities blow me away; the melodies, the harmonies, the simplicity and complexity and THE LIVE SHOWS I MEAN COME ON. This album could just be a stepping stone or a building block for the band to get to where they want to be commercially and musically, but I’m all about it. I’d listen to anything they had to play. “I was taught to keep an open ended life and never trap myself in nothing”. Yeah. Get in on this.
Listen to: Open Ended Life, Morning Song, Part From Me
08. The 20/20 Experience Part I – Justin Timberlake
This album is everything that today’s pop radio music should be. He’s on this whole other level (as far as lyrics, melodic lines and production are concerned) from the rest of the pack. This man is  leader of the pack. I feel so ridiculous saying that, but it’s true. Another point that needs to be addressed is the fact that he really hasn’t missed a beat. He still sounds like FutureSex/LoveSounds and even Justified, yet he’s keeping it current, as well. This album was the comeback of champions. Seven years away and he’s still got it. You can’t make this shit up.
Listen to: Mirrors (duh), Pusher Love Girl, That Girl
07. Cardboard Castles – Watsky
You can’t work at a record store (even for three months) and get away without a new ear for music. There were a few Watsky songs on constant rotation at the store, and we all got into the groove whenever one came on. I have never been a real fan of hip hop, probably just because I’ve never given it an proper listen or found an artist that I was overly fond of… until Watsky. He’s clever and on point. The way that he puts his words and rhymes together is mind boggling to me, and it has helped with my own lyric writing. I think this album might be my gateway album to hip hop. Only time will tell. These songs made me feel something that I haven’t felt with any other hip hop album. It’s worth a listen.
Listen to: Fireworks, Tiny Glowing Screens Part 1, Sloppy Seconds
06. The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
This is a perfect representation of the music that gets me the most. From the instrumentation to the thick, fat harmonies to the swell and wane that every single song has… It just makes my heart full. This album is perfect for road trips, perfect for lazy days, perfect for cleaning and cooking and just… life. It feels country and americana and just… it’s really beautiful. The video link is for their music video for Bleeding Out and evokes all kinds of emotion in me. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs of the year.
Listen to: Green Eyes and a Heart of Gold, You Never Need Nobody, Bleeding Out
05. Same Trailer Different Park – Kacey Musgraves
Average Song Score: 3.54
What a wonderful record for Country music in 2013. Not only for the women in country music, which everyone is giving her mad props for, but for country music as a whole. Kacey takes her writing style back to the way it was when country was REALLY country. She has unapologetically real and clever lyrics that tell stories about life without making it fairy tale or hard ass or ridiculous. She’s a real woman writing real stories with real catchy melodies and I love her for it. This is a huge step in the right direction- the direction to getting country music back to where it should be. It’s not trucks and daisy dukes and red solo cups and whiskey. It’s American expectations and working a dead end job and missing your ex and feeling like you’ve lost your way. If it’s more motivation to get you to listen to this album, Kacey Musgraves is a co-writer of Miranda Lambert’s Mama’s Broken Heart. I can’t say enough good things about this album. It’s for country fans, people who can’t stand country or country fans, teenagers.and everyone in between. It’s all wonderful. “Say what you think. Love who you love, ’cause you just get so many trips ’round the sun. Yeah, you only, you’ll only live once”.
Listen to: Stupid, Back on the Map
04. Last of the Great Pretenders – Matt Nathanson
Average Song Score: 3.72
The title of this record is very telling. Matt wrote this one like no album he’s ever written before. Where he would normally take things out, he left them in. Where he would usually layer elaborately, he left it simple. He wrote what he knew and what he saw in San Francisco, and it was all worth it. I’ll admit that this album took me a few listens to really appreciate, as I’m used to his styles of Some Mad Hope and Modern Love, but I’ve come to adore every song. It opens with Earthquake Weather, which has a killer suspension at 1:04 that makes me feel all kinds of feels. Annie’s Always Waiting includes the wonderful sultry-and-illusive-quotes-from-a-mysteriously-beautiful-girl lyrics that I have always loved about Matt songs (see Kiss Quick, Modern Love, To the Beat of Our Noisy Hearts, and Bare). And his infectiously catchy pop hooks shine through on Heart Starts, Kill the Lights, and Birthday Girl. If you’re looking for pop music with substance and a bit more of a singer-songwriter vibe, just trust me and listen to this album.
Listen to: Earthquake Weather, Heart Starts, Birthday Girl
03. Tape Deck Heart – Frank Turner
Average Song Score: 3.875.
 It is so beautifully written, and spares us of all fantasies about life as we know it (“You can’t just keep waltzing out of my life, leaving clothes on my bedroom floor, like nothing really matters and pain doesn’t hurt. You should mean more to me by now than just heartbreak in a short skirt”). It’s acoustic, and rock, and punk, and pop and happy and sad and brilliant in really just every single way. The first time that I listened to it was on my way to Toronto in Patrick’s passenger seat to see Sara Bareilles on her solo tour. The first listen was simply appreciation for the sound hitting my ears. The second, I read the lyric booklet as it played. The third was spent picking out lyrics and really letting them hit me. It was one of the greatest musical discoveries of the year, on one of the best musical days of my life (I met Sara that day). This album is genius.
Listen to: Plain Sailing Weather, Tell Tale Signs, Four Simple Words, Anymore
02. The Civil Wars – The Civil Wars
Average Song Score: 4.083
The Lone Bellow nearly knocked these guys out of the number five spot. But when it came down to it, I’ve listened to this album hundred of times this year, and I just can’t deny how much I love it. This album is perhaps the most bittersweet thing that happened to me this year (and I moved across the country four months ago!). As of right now, this is the last of new music that will come from John Paul White and Joy Williams. I don’t want to put all of the focus on the fact that the band seems to be on an indefinite hiatus, but it does show on the album. The songs are sadder and more raw than they were on Barton Hollow. It was also riskier, with two covers (Etta James’ Tell Mama and Smashing Pumpkin’s Disarm), a song completely in French (Sacred Heart), and a track completely recorded on an iPhone (D’Arline). But perhaps that is due to the fact that the two just can’t be in the same room, let alone write and track new songs together. It’s the album for stale relationships and the feeling you get when things get a little too heavy and a little too much to handle. It’s beautiful in a very melancholy way. Anyway, this is getting lengthy… Check the video and you’ll know what I mean.
Listen to: Same Old Same Old, Dust to Dust, Tell Mama
01. The Blessed Unrest – Sara Bareilles
Average Song Score: 4.125
You’re a fool if you didn’t see this coming. This album is a nominee for album of the year, and I couldn’t be prouder. She went through so many life changing things to get her to this point – She broke up with her long term boyfriend, split from her band of ten years, and moved from LA to New York – and wrote a record about it. The first track is Brave, the song that has a message that everyone- I seriously don’t give a shit who you are- has needed or will need to hear at some point. (Also the song that Katy Perry channeled into her last hitRoar, but we won’t get into that because I do really like the new her). Hercules deals with something of an identity crisis. “Make me a Hercules”, make me a warrior, a god… make me amazing. Manhattan is the most elegant and sophisticated break up song of the year, “I’ll tiptoe away so you won’t have to say you heard me leave”. Satellite Call lets you know that you are never ever alone, andCassiopeia is seriously a song about a constellation falling in love with another constellation from across the sky. I Choose You is FINALLY a true blue love song, and Eden talks about her life in Los Angeles and how everything changed and she finally decided to pack it up and go somewhere to make herself better. Now. Let’s talk about Islands. Upon listening, you’ll realize that she’s talking about becoming an island from the things that bring her down in order to move on. But to me, it’s a call out to a past, and current, version of herself,“Holding my breath until I know you’re alright because the water will only rise. When will you realize you must become an island?” The whole album is brilliant and I recommend it to anyoneHer sound and lyrics are everything that I wish my own could be, and I’m proud of this album like it is my own. I’ve rambled enough. Watch the video for Brave and then check out the rest of it.
Listen to: Brave, Manhattan, Islands
*If you like this album, check out her live record from the solo Brave Enough Tour: Live at the Variety Playhouse.I give tremendous props to anyone that took the time to read through this I love reading through everyone else’s lists so if you have ideas comment! I hope 2014 brings good fortune to all, but more importantly… I hope that it brings good music, too. 😉
Honorary Mentions:
Lady Antebellum – Golden’ (LOVE!)
Hummingbird – Local Natives
Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg
Days Are Gone – HAIM
The Marshall Mathers LP2 – Eminem
because the internet – Childish Gambino
Blake Shelton – Based on a True Story …
Pure Heroine – Lorde 
Luke Bryan – Crash My Party
Brad Paisley – Wheelhouse​

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