I mostly bought singles the past few years, but I decided in 2013 to concentrate on albums. Lucky me, it was a great year for them. Here are my top 15. Mainly, I chose based on lyrics or how much fun I had listening.
1. Waxahatchee - Cerulean Salt
This is totally an album the 18-year-old version of me would have loved, would have found very important and made for me alone. That it somehow made me feel all those things at 30, too, is a neat little trick. I love the lyrics, and I love her voice. The CD rarely left my car stereo.
2. Jason Isabel - Southeastern
Another one chosen for lyrics. He has a great voice, but it was the stories that kept me replaying.
3. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
I've liked this band well enough on past albums, but this one is so much better crafted. I love all the meditations on religion, the freaky drops and leaps lead singer Ezra Koenig takes with his voice. Some of the songs made me dance; others made me ache. There was a song for all seasons, and I played the hell out of it.
4. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
This is just my kind of sound -- groovy, vaguely retro r&b. Individual songs don't stand out as much, but I'm always in the mood to hear the whole.
5. Disclosure - Settle
For me, this is a great collection of songs. The different guest singers leaves a slightly disjointed feel to me, but the songs are just so good.
6. Janelle Monae - Electric Lady
She can rap and sing and wield a story and a hook. She put on a mean concert, too.
7. Kanye West - Yeezus
So unlike anything anyone else is doing. It's the album I most admire of the year, but I'm rating here on personal listening habits.
8. Neko Case - The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight
Reviewers seem to think this is her most perfect album, but sadly, it's my least favorite. It's the first album of hers I've ever skipped songs. But even at half-mast, she's still better than most everyone else to me. And there are a few stand-outs here.
9. Drake - Nothing Was The Same
I had a similar reaction here: I love his earlier albums so much more, but this one also has such great moments (including my favorite song of the year). He blazes his own trails.
10. Ciara - Ciara
So very catchy.
11. Justin Timberlake - 20/20 Experience
He is not a great lyricist, but the first disc of this project (I refuse to acknowledge the dreadful second) is so fun. How he made seven-minute songs catchy and instant-replayable I don't know. But these songs soundtracked my spring.
12. Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap
I have never heard anyone use words the way he does. Taffier than taffy, springier than a rubber band. This guy has skill. And hooks.
13. J. Cole - Born Sinner
I love his storytelling.
14. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
This album made me a fan again after the snoozefest of The Suburbs. It's crazy with its genre-mixing, but I like the songs.
15. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
Another solid double from The National. I like their sound and their weird sentences.