15. Danny Brown-Old
Danny Brown’s only been making it big since he hit 30 with his free album XXX. His name is now everywhere after that emotional cry for help. He’s clearly thankful for this newly found fame as he is always cheerful and laughing in interviews. On Old he sometimes paints a different picture, where he seriously places himself away from the eccentric image made of him (except for the odd time where he wishes to have fun for a bit). The production is much less identifiable than before, with an album Brown himself wanted to be his “Kid A”. There’s no question that Danny Brown has matured here. Like XXX, though, there is an underlining theme here that is more prevalent than you’d think. XXX was full of fun but ended up being a depressing note of giving up to the world. Old, in return, is a sign that you cannot take the fun out of a fun person despite how serious they may be. He hits hard in any style, anyways. This often surreal album is a dive into Brown’s brain, and it’s nice to see what he is really thinking when he dons his signature smile.
14. Janelle Monáe-The Electric Lady
It’s about time this terrific singer released a new album. Janelle Monáe, arguably one of the singing greats of our time, has been building upon her Metropolis concept albums for a while now, which are riddled with android imagery and the search for one’s inner spirits. The Electric Lady is this search having taken a step back to one’s roots. You will hear clear examples of R&B, gospel, funk, and many more. The merging of old styles and the future is a clever blend as always. It’s Code depicts one that fears opening up to another. Victory is the initial stepping out of one’s house to experience the sunny outdoors. We Were Rock & Roll reminisces with past sensory experiences. Basically, androids, to Janelle Monáe, are fixated on the concepts of human experiences. Her lyrics may be full of wonder, but the music itself is never afraid to step outside of its own comfort zones, and you are left with a pleasant blend of styles packed into one groovy experience. Janelle Monáe should be proud that her album about mechanic creations is so alive.
13. The Knife-Shaking the Habitual
The Swedish brother and sister duo known as The Knife kind of disappeared for many years after their opus Silent Shout. Their entry back into the music world is a heavy barge in that couldn’t care less about how they are perceived. Being weirder than ever, their new album Shaking the Habitual is a double album full of some of the most challenging songs of the year. Old Dreams Waiting to be Realized sounds just like that, as it lingers on and on for just over nineteen minutes. Crake is much shorter at fifty five seconds but is arguably harder to sit through. Not all of the songs here have the dark pop standards that their earlier work had, although some do. So why is such a weird album a credible one? It evokes a self awareness. It explores the human psyche without a second thought. When you make it through the initially difficult tracks (that end up becoming noise and ambient lullabies you wish to revisit), you are rewarded with danceable tunes that are also quite strange (but you’ll be used to it by then). Shaking the Habitual takes chances and will give back to those who show it the patience it deserves.
Matangi’s rallying music will have people on their feet either dancing or protesting. M.I.A.’s voice sounds like a message that is being forced to be heard through an occasionally failing system as her voice splits and repeats in a rhythmic way. The beats are as pounding as her messages, as M.I.A. dictates “gangsters, bangers, we’re putting them in a trance”; She’s after music fans and the politically aware at the same time. She revolts against the political crises of the world, and she rebels against pop music itself (as per usual) with her unity of many kinds of world music styles. Her voice has always sounded youthful, and it sounds as innocent as ever here. That’s when you’ll realize that M.I.A. is as serious as the next person, yet her kid like tendencies shine through her expansive imagination. Her rants are now fun, and even celebratory. They are rarely cynical and are mostly empowering. M.I.A. and Matangi are to be heard, if it’s through her statements on the world or through her bombastic songs.
11. Boards of Canada-Tomorrow’s Harvest
2013 was a big year for space related topics. The government shutdown in the USA caused NASA to almost be wiped out entirely which caused an outcry in the world. Astronaut Chris Hadfield shrunk not just the world but the solar system when he connected all of us with his everyday floating life on the International Space Station. The movie Gravity furthermore interested people with the effects of being weightless in space whilst being very accurate with how physics work in zero gravity. Now seems to be the appropriate time for electronic veterans Boards of Canada to release their spaciest album yet. Tomorrow’s Harvest is laced with the odd mission control voiceover (or vocal samples that may as well be from ground control). The music is as retro as it is futuristic as it mimics the science fiction mentalities we had back in the 60’s, where futuristic sounds are of a certain synthetic timbre. This brings the album down to earth, as it seems like a capable album and not one that jumps too far ahead. It also makes it more relaxing as it feels more humanistic. As Boards of Canada reflect on the visions of the future from yesterday in a year where society became more attached to what really is going on out there, Tomorrow’s Harvest is actually the music of today and will most likely be heard again and again for the years to come.