Year's Best: Okayplayer's Top 13 albums of 2013
Year's Best: Okayplayer's Top 13 albums of 2013

Year's Best: Okayplayer's 13 Best Albums Of 2013

Year's Best: Okayplayer's Top 13 albums of 2013

The big day is almost here, children. The 12 days of Christmas are almost to the Lorde's-a-leaping part and you got about 6 days of shopping left until that blessed event we've all been waiting for: a day off. That also means the outlets that've been talking about "albums-of-the-year" since July are about talked out and even the latest of fashionably late albums have been turned in (looking at you Beyoncé...but we are still leaving a stocking our for D'Angelo! At this point, I would not be at all surprised if D physically comes down Questlove's chimney to turn this thing in on Christmas Eve.) And all that means it's time for grown folks to have a real conversation about the Best Albums Of The 2013. Without further ado we present Okayplayer's Top 13 LPs of 2013: an appropriately 13-ish last supper of Electric Ladies, Acid Rappers and Cartoon Cyborgs. We got reigning champs (Janelle, JT, M.I.A.) rising stars and fresh imports (Chance, Blood Orange, Disclosure) and prodigal prodigies (Omar, Amel Larrieux)--in fact the only thing they all have in common is that they brought the noise (and the melody) in 2013. Of course, as with last year there are some inclusions and omissions that will be controversial and doubtless some shade will be thrown. But, wanna make nog, you gotta break a few eggs. Let the debate begin and remember to enjoy the music, these are the year's best (and remember CDs and LPs make even more charming holiday gifts now that they're totally outmoded antiques! give the gift of physical objects).

>>>Click through for OKP's Top 13 LPs of 2013

1. Killer Mike x El-P -  Run The Jewels

Killer Mike & El-P--the respective psychos behind two of 2012's best albums (that's R.A.P. Music & Cancer 4Cure)--combined into a 2-headed, 4-armed terminator for their 2013 collaborative project Run The Jewels. A logical progression from their solo joints and previous collabos, Run The Jewels is quite simply a lethally concentrated dose of what you already loved about Killer Mike and El-P but spacier, spookier, more heavily influenced by Bun B, "Hard Times"-era Run DMC and Mantronik--yet also more minimal and aurally boundary-pushing, in an Alec Empire kind of way. If that sounds like an oddly appropriate companion piece to Kanye's unevenly brilliant Yeezus, it is. But Run The Jewels makes it clear that Killer & P are mad about some shit that's a hell of a lot more existential than being snubbed by Louis Vuitton. "Banana Clipper" and "Sea Legs" have been the single/standard bearers but "Get It" might be the purest hit on here and it's also a testament to standing your sonic ground; it would not sound out of place blending out of 2002's "B-Boy Document" (or Twin Hype's 1989 "Lyrical Rundown, as far as that goes) and yet it couldn't be a better soundtrack for 2013. -Eddie STATS

Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013 Disclosure - Settle

2. Disclosure – Settle

Brotherly duo Disclosure assumed the UK electro-throne this year. Their critically beloved debut Settle is a massive throwback to golden times in the UK– an homage to garage's glory days, drum & bass--and most gleaming-ly--the golden era of house music. This layered nostalgia resulted in arguably a new form of electronic music– one that has both chart-topping viability and warehouse credibility. Disclosure's rise, confluent with a renaissance in UK synth-pop, has above all focused attention on the underground. Breakout tune "Latch" officially marked the onset of Disclosure-mania (as well as the future rise to superstardom of wonder-crooner Sam Smith). Flash forward (yet still two months prior to the release of Settle) to a festival-closing slot at Coachella marked an official debut into fan-gal and guy stardom for the boys from Reigate, Surrey. Since then, on the heels of their club staple-stacked debut, the Lawrence brothers have become the goldendudes of Okayfuture-world. Accompanying the brothers' signature synthy bounce on Settle are bang-worthy vocals from a who's-who of UK electro-R&B royalty including first lady of synth-pop Jessie WareAlunaGeorgeJamie WoonSam Smith, and Eliza Doolittle. Without a doubt 2013 was only an introduction to the Disclosure brothers. Bigger things are in store for 2014. - Alyssa Klein

Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013: Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap

3. Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap

A lot of us slept on little Chance, but when Acid Rap appeared on the scene this year it was a  lot like hearing The College Dropout for the first time. The album is fresh, conscious-ish, fun, and...weird. In the same way that Kanye lifted the veil of wealth on the rap industry in All Falls Down, Chance flips the script of violence in Chicago in the poignant track Pusha Man by urging folks to ask, for once, if the young gun-wielding soldiers of the Southside aren't scared too. Aside from providing a musical space where both Action Bronson and Childish Gambino (who spits his best verse ever) make sense together, Acid Rap also brought us newcomer Noname Gypsy on what is arguably the best track on the album, Lost. This strange child of The Pharcyde (and no-doubt Kanye) came bearing mad gifts this year, a hope for the good old days when rap came with a side of squeals. - Allison Swank

4. MIA – Matangi

If M.I.A. has machete'd out a niche for herself as the eternal rebel of international pop--flipping the bird to the U.S. Government, the Super Bowl and major labels simultaneously--her 2013 album Matangi brought the emphasis on the ETERNAL part. As in divine, immortal, cyclical, transcendant. Don't think for a second she's ceased bunning out sexism, NSA or the fuckin' banks. Or banging so hard that her chain hits her chest. But with her newest opus Maya morphs more completely into her goddess avatar than ever before, a spirituality that lives as much in the sonic textures--orientalist halftones put through a speak n' spell, the 3/3 taal of South Indian gaana--of the album as its lyrics. In the peaks and valleys of this coherent, yet boldly experimental, album lies the club banger of the year (the Public Enemy-influenced "Bring The Noize") the bedouin trap anthem of the year ("Bad Girls") and the conceptual answer record of the year ("Y.A.L.A."). Then there's "Come Walk With Me"--which not only encapsulates perfectly the weirdness of living in the age of the social media singularity, but does so with the pure pop sensibility--think the Go-Gos or The Bangles--that's always been M.I.A.'s secret weapon. -Eddie STATS


5. Thundercat - Apocalypse

Thundercat's sophomore release is not to be messed with; the types of record that pulls the wooden banks out from under the enormous sandbox that is the urban contemporary musical landscape, broadening the already blurred lines of what we've come to expect from that dynamic and ill defined segment of musicianship that is now ruling the sandbox. With production at large handled by one of the other most forwarded minded musicians and producers in the sandbox; Flying Lotus. The album carries the dystopian narrative that JM began to propagate all those years back and takes it to the darker, more delicate and infinitely more complicated ends of the story. Staunch standouts include the driven and focused romance of "Heartbreaks + Setbacks", the nod to his fellow dystopian funkonaut "Lotus and The Jondy" and the elated, yet fuzzy party-stomper "Oh Sheit It's X." - Zo

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

6. Major Lazer – Free The Universe

Major Lazer's call to action to live freely is no mere album. Rather, it's a national anthem 14 tracks deep to a borderless republic devised by its Philly-rooted architect Diplo. The Switch-less manifestation of Major Lazer sees the Mad Decent mastermind alongside Trinidadian globetrotter Jillionaire and unofficial mayor of Miami’s Caribbean music scene Walshy Fire. A dance music encyclopedia curated by Diplo and co., Free The Universe is the official coming of a hybridized dancehall. Collab-wise, Free The Universe may be the year's greatest feat– at the very least in terms of its per capita of outside help. 27 featured artists grace a total of 14 tracks. Sheer number aside, the breadth of involvement is diverse to the point of mad genuisdom– ranging from dancehall legends to a Fugee and an indie prince and several princesses. Matchmaker Diplo chefs up unlikely pairs into natural-feeling concoctions–proving that in spite of his often controversial choices, there's a spot for him as premier of the musical U.N. Who else can say they united a Badda Badda Girl with her queen of electro dirty-talk counterpart this year? The massive undertaking brings together what seems like the whole of music– so when people the world round take off their shirts and wave them in the air like a helicopter, it's really a team effort. Peace, love, mayjah layzah. - Alyssa Klein

Earl Sweatshirt - Doris

7. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

Earl Sweatshirt went from enigmatic mascot of the Odd Future camp to a tangible force of nature--full of fiery potential that was realized most immediately with the release of Doris - his debut solo LP -- which delivered a sizable portion of tracks that not only verified his camp's abiding loyalty to the bombastic claims of greatness that littered the digital landscape during his absence, but also spoke to something greater.  Doris continued but did not inflate Odd Future's penchant for the grotesque.  Instead the project's arrival allowed Earl to take the spotlight with what would prove to be an assassin's pen game, a great grasp of lyrical subtlety, a complete disregard for barriers and an ear for production that bodes well for what's to come and continues to suggest that the oddest among us could indeed hold the keys to the future. - Karaslamb

Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013 - Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience

8. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience (Pt. 1)

Pop music doesn’t have to be boring, even if it does follow a formula. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland hammer that point home on Timberlake’s first of two 2013 releases, The 20/20 Experience. The duo bring back the 7-minute pop song concept they employed on 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and improve upon it, allowing most of the album’s 10 tracks the ability to stretch out and mutate as needed. Timberlake also smartly avoids the EDM trap (no pun intended) that many of his peers have fallen into, by letting his old school influences shine freely while clearly keeping his feet grounded in the present day. - Brainchild

(Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013 - Tyler, The Creator - Wolf

9. Tyler, The Creator - Wolf

"So you guys are into jazz?" asks Tyler, the Creator's 'Wolf' character in the intro track to his second label full-length of the same name. The question marks Tyler's thematic and musical change of direction in Wolf — one which sees the Odd Future ringleader shying away from the violent rhymes of Bastard (2009) & Goblin (2011) and delving further into emotional issues like the absence of his father and his grandmother's death. The beats, produced almost entirely by Tyler, swung hard in Okayplayer's direction, reflecting his jazz-obsession and the influence of affiliated groups like BADBADNOTGOOD and idols like Pharrell (who features on "IFHY"). Highlight moments include Tyler's monumental verse on "Rusty," the bouncing-synth beat "Jamba" and the Frank Ocean-featuring "Bimmer."  - Killa Kam

10. Omar – The Man

(Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013 - Omar - The Man

This year Omar seemingly emerged from the kitchen, covered in flour, after a decade or two and quietly dropped what might be one of the best r&b/soul albums of the past decade.  The UK singer's ownership of his own sound has made him instantly recognizable and internationally beloved precisely because his music is not easily digestible and it never, ever, ever disappoints.  It challenges you to develop a greater love for sound and a discerning ear for the deeper groove.  Omar drops records that dare you not to recognize his attention to detail.  With The Man, Omar brings all of that to the table and lays his life on the stave to invite listeners to experience his personal evolution as a man according to the tenets of biting honesty, unbridled funk and sonic ingenuity.  This project is brimming with absolute fire and a timeless sound that should afford it a place in the collections of any soul music lover worth his/her salt. - Karaslamb

(Year's Best: Okayplayer's top 13 LPs of 2013 JANELLE-MONAE - ELECTRIC LADY

11. Janelle Monáe – Electric Lady

Janelle's third record Electric Lady is one small step for R&B, and one monumental step for funkateers stateside and abroad. The Electric Lady is riddled with the forward-minded funkiness of Janelle's now-patented brand of uptempo heat. Those who have followed her progression through her releases understand that when you cop a JM album, you're getting ready to take in more than just music, but an entire dystopian sci-fi narrative. The roster of guests should stand to show exactly how compelling that narrative is, as it is no one-off. Rather, The Electric Lady is the third installment in the adventures of the funky android, and it seems the likes of Ms. Badu, Prince, Miguel, Solange and Esperanza Spalding all just want to be part of that tale. Its a dynamic one, taking you from dreary metropolitan scenes to the beaches of Rio in one fell swoop. EL also boasts the most continuity of any album she's put out, sticking to the narrative and really sucking the listener into this new jet-age world that Monáe seems to be living in. Many kudos to Monáe for making an album that progresses both the music and the experience of taking it in all in one release. Standouts include "Primetime" with Miguel, "The Electric Lady" with Solange and all of the overtures and interludes for making it one incredibly fluid body of work. - Zo

Amel Larrieux: Year's Best: Okayplayer's Top 13 albums of 2013

12. Amel Larrieux – Ice Cream Everyday

Amel Larrieux's fifth solo album Ice Cream Everyday  arrived with a minimum of advance fanfare and slipped into the world even more quietly than expected. But quiet as kept it has turned out to be her most satisfying album since 1999’s Infinite Possibilities and one of the few albums of the year that doesn’t offer much in the way of skippable material. Much like the treat of the title, Ice Cream doesn’t necessarily offer up anything groundbreaking or new but the classic flavors on songs like “Afraid”; “You Don’t See Me," and “Berries and Cream” dare you to not hit the rewind button. The album’s highlight comes in the form of the deliciously haunting “Danger,” a 2013 highlight (and a track we’d donate all sorts of body parts to hear Thom Yorke sing). -Brainchild


13. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe 

Dev Hynes' latest project Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe is one of those albums that's extremely hard not to like. While music heads may be familiar with Hynes' work producing for Solange or as Lightspeed Champion, the average person still hasn't heard much of him. As a music head you always try to share that excitement with your less geeky friends, playing obscure tracks for them in hopes that they'll feel that same passion you do. This album though is just that rare situation where these same friends actually just really like it - all of it. That's breaking new ground when an independent artist like Hynes, who often shies away from the spotlight, is as accessible as talented, being able to capture the greater masses' attention. It's about as close as this industry can get to a natural birth - something corporate radio, record companies and no amount of social media can really accomplish. Some highlights across this gem include "You're Not Good Enough" and--probably the standout track--"Chosen," which feels of an anthem perfect to end a gig on. There really just aren't too many flaws anywhere on this album, just the flaws and vulnerabilities depicted of young people in the face of that struggle between finding who you are and seeking acceptance with that; a notable theme of LGBT experience and a difficult theme to tackle--especially for an album this easy to listen to. -KEv

Honorable Mentions

Elvis Costello x The Roots - Wise Up, Ghost; Alice Smith – She; Ghostface Killah x Adrian Younge - 12 Reasons To Die; Robert Glasper– Black Radio 2; Sango – North; Dam-Funk x Snoopzilla – 7 Days Of Funk; Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go?; Rhye – Woman; The Internet - Feel Good.

Staff Picks:

Kanye West - Yeezus, DJ Rashad - Double Cup, James Blake – Overgrown; John Wizards - John Wizards; Lorde – Pure Heroine; Foreign Exchange – Love In Flying Colors; Ronnibal Harris - Ronnibal Harris.