Miley Cyrus at the MTV Video Music Awards; Kanye’s beef with Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Kimmel, and … everyone else; the death of Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed; Justin Bieber dubbing Anne Frank as a Belieber — music’s role in 2013 was for the headlines. Artists laid down all their cards, letting loose, constantly outshining each other. But after the nominations for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards were released, audiences found that just because an artist was dominating headlines, they weren’t guaranteed to dominate the show.
With the Grammys airing this Sunday, there’s been plenty of talk about who was left out for Record of the Year, whether an artist that’s been around four years can be classified as a “new artist” and who was left out all together (Miley Cyrus).
Regardless, there were some memorable albums in 2013 that have only made anticipation for 2014 even more unbearable.
In my opinion, 2013 was the year of outstanding rap, hip-hop and R&B.
Newcomers like Odd Future’s Earl Sweatshirt and self-represented Chance the Rapper set high standards early in the year with the albums “Doris” and “Acid Rain,” which played on youth and the controversial side of growing up in a world where, as Chance puts it, it’s “easier to find a gun than it is to find a f—ing parking spot.” He’s been dubbed the freshest thing to blow out of the “Windy City” since Kanye.
Rising stars Drake and Kendrick Lamar dominated the charts, reinforcing their potential to cement rap and hip-hop for mainstream audiences.
Masterminds Kanye and Jay-Z took some time from engagements and parenthood to release solo albums “Yeezus” and “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” each reinforcing why they are the kings of the game. As a devoted follower of the Cult of Kanye, I have to applaud Mr. West on the controversial rant/tantrum that is Yeezus.
But while these bad boys thought 2013 was completely in their grasps, Queen Bey turned the whole music world upside down with the surprise release of her self-titled visual album, which included 14 songs and 17 videos. The visual album took the gold for best musical moment of 2013 in my book, especially since it managed to avoid a premature leak, which is unheard of nowadays. Addressing the struggles of feminine sexuality, standards of beauty and gender roles, Beyonce touches on everything it means to be a modern feminist.
Outside of rap, hip-hop and R&B, electronic duo Daft Punk returned to put today’s pop music in its place during the summer of 2013. Their fourth studio album, “Random Access Memories,” which pays homage to the ‘70s and ‘80s, is my contender against Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” for Album of the Year.
Oxford’s beloved record store, End of All Music, ranked its favorite albums of the year.
“There was one record that kept getting played in the store since its release that we feel is probably our favorite of the year–Phosphorescent’s ‘Muchacho.’ So we’ll call that our #1,” the record store’s blog stated.
Matthew Houck’s one-man indie rock act soothes the soul with profound words and relaxing Bob Dylan-like melodies that are evident in every song on “Muchacho.”
Other indie rock favorites for the year include Bill Callahan’s “Dream River,” Kurt Vile’s “Walking on a Pretty Daze” and “Wyoming” by the Mississippi-based trio, Water Liars.
“The second LP from Water Liars turned out to be one of our best-selling records since opening our doors in March of 2012,” said David Swider, co-owner of End of All Music. “We’ve played ‘Wyoming’ on the store turntable probably hundreds of times and usually someone buys it when they hear it. It’s that kind of record.”
Excitement is only building with Water Liars’ self-titled new album set to release Feb. 4. The album’s first released track, “I Want Blood,” is gritty, soulful rock and if it’s any indication of what the rest of the album will be, I can only imagine the local release party to be nothing shy of a damn good time.
The new year is kicking off with a lot of momentum, especially with the February release of Beck’s new album, “Morning Phase,” already rumored to be one of the best albums of the year. Throwing it back to his California roots, this album has all the original band members from his album “Sea Change.”
Tiny powerhouse Angel Olsen has a new album, “Burn Your Fire for No Witnesses,” set to release also in February. She set Lamar Lounge ablaze when she was in Oxford early this past December with her powerhouse indie-folk vocals.
As for releases further into the year, bombshell Lana Del Rey has released the title of her 2014 album, “Ultra-Violence,” but other than that, her voluptuous lips are sealed.
Genre-confused, yet all-time favorite TV on the Radio has ditched record label Interscope and has been working on new material since the death of their bassist, Gerard Smith, in 2011, but there is no news of whether this album is coming in 2014 or 2015.
Much like 2013, 2014 is going to be full of Pharrell Williams turning everything he touches to gold. He’s working with Major Lazer, Pusha T and Mac Miller, while finding time to release a solo album that Williams says is supposed to be suave – which is what he does best.
As much as we’re hoping for a “Watch The Throne 2” to drop in 2014, there’s no word yet. But Kanye has confirmed that he’s making another LP composed of eight songs. “Cruel Summer 2”?
Last but not least, summer of 2014 is expected to see the release of Frank Ocean’s new album. After arguably releasing the best album of 2012 with “channel ORANGE,” Ocean’s next album has a lot of expectations to meet.
Overall 2013 gave us many controversial headlines and questionable chart toppers, and it also introduced some new contenders for the future. However, it’s looking like 2013’s highlights will be nothing in comparison to what 2014 has in store.
— Emily Crawford