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The Best Albums of 2013, or why can't I get this damn thing out of my head?

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As 2013 comes to a close, I wanted to share with you a list of albums that burrowed their way into my brain, set their hooks, and would not let go. These are the albums I couldn't turn off (no matter how hard I tried). Read on to find out about each album, why I love it, and why you'll hate it (otherwise known as, "Why can't I get this damn thing out of my head?").

(Honorable Mention) Digital Summer - After Hours: Unplugged & Rewired

  • What It Is: Acoustic renditions of the band's songs, plus a few brand new tracks
  • Why I Love It: This is a great hard rock band, and they've been able to infuse these acoustic versions with all the fire and energy of the originals (check out my review of the album here)
  • Why You'll Hate It: The stripped-down nature of the songs puts the focus squarely on the catchy hooks you won't be able to stop singing, causing your co-workers to have you arrested for disrupting their boring lives

10. Get Scared - Everyone's Out To Get Me

  • What It Is: Snotty emo-screamo along the lines of earlier My Chemical Romance
  • Why I Love It: As a huge MCR fan, I couldn't help but be hooked within seconds to the driving music and infectious melodies
  • Why You'll Hate It: Because you're just not cool enough, or it got stuck in your CD player

9. New Years Day - Victim To Villain

  • What It Is: Haunting, theatrical, emo-inflected hard rock featuring razor-sharp guitars and the visceral vocals of Ashley Costello
  • Why I Love It: In a male-dominated genre, I love a female vocalist who can stand toe-to-toe with her male counterparts and often wipe the floor with them (à la Lzzy Hale of Halestorm), all while maintaining great melodies
  • Why You'll Hate It: You don't like girls, you don't like boys, you don't like anything that's not Pat Boone

8. Reggie And The Full Effect - No Country For Old Musicians

  • What It Is: That's really the question, isn't it?
  • Why I Love It: With songwriting chops for days and great melodic sense, James Dewees weaves bizarre tales across so many musical genres it makes my head spin
  • Why You'll Hate It: You have no sense of humor, and you don't understand why the monsters don't like Bruno Mars

7. B.o.B - Underground Luxury

  • What It Is: Hip-hop's pop prince reinventing himself as a bit more of a bad boy, while losing none of the hooks that made his prior work memorable
  • Why I Love It: Hooks for days, and a delivery I can't ignore; plus, bonus points for singer/songwriter Priscilla's vocals on the song, "John Doe," where she sounds like a cross between Rihanna and P!nk
  • Why You'll Hate It: The beats will have you bobbing your head so hard, your neck will hurt

6. Smile Empty Soul - Chemicals

  • What It Is: Barely-contained anger in musical form, with every track seething, writhing, and eventually exploding, all while finding a way to weave catchy melodies throughout
  • Why I Love It: This is absolutely the band's best work since their debut, and I can't help but roll the car windows down and blast this album
  • Why You'll Hate It: When you pull up next to me at the stoplight, both of us blaring this record with our windows rolled down, the dissonant mix of two different songs played at full volume will give you an unimagineable headache

5. Gavin DeGraw - Make A Move

  • What It Is: A rhythmic, bluesy slice of piano pop, with Gavin collaborating with other songwriters more than ever before
  • Why I Love It: I can't get enough of his captivating vocal style, delivery, and innumerable hooks
  • Why You'll Hate It: You don't like being unable to stop singing along

4. John Mayer - Paradise Valley

  • What It Is: A true artist and already-legendary guitarist becoming more introspective, while still delivering powerful songs that tell intriguing stories and bear repeated listens
  • Why I Love It: I'm continually amazed how this folksier version of John Mayer still manages to grab my ears and drag them willingly on a fascinating journey
  • Why You'll Hate It: There are two songs on the album with exactly the same name, and they're completely different...what's that all about?

3. Heaven's Basement - Filthy Empire

  • What It Is: In-your-face, speaker-melting rock n' roll from across the pond
  • Why I Love It: Raw, emotive riffs and vocals, plus choruses I want to scream and sing along with
  • Why You'll Hate It: You'll have to buy new speakers after each listen

2. The Winery Dogs - The Winery Dogs

  • What It Is: Three outstanding musicians who have created a slab of bluesy hard rock far greater than the sum of its parts
  • Why I Love It: It's rare that a "supergroup" can deliver a cohesive, engaging set of songs that move me with the energy of a brand new band, but Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan, and Mike Portnoy have succeeded in spades
  • Why You'll Hate It: With vocals that rival Chris Cornell and musicianship that's off the charts, you simply can't handle this much awesome

(tie) 1. Fall Out Boy - Save Rock And Roll

  • What It Is: A band, after a multi-year hiatus, that could have fallen flat on their collective face, instead reinvents themselves and delivers enormous hooks, top-notch vocals and musicianship, and an album stocked top-to-bottom with hits
  • Why I Love It: I'm amazed that this band is able to add yet another slice of musical goodness to their already-brilliant discography, and I find myself listening to this album over and over again
  • Why You'll Hate It: The band is named after a one-time character from the Simpsons television show and, well, you don't like television

(tie) 1. twenty one pilots - Vessel

  • What It Is: This Columbus, Ohio duo's second album traverses genres with ease, often within the same song, and I've previously described it as sounding like the result of putting Eminem, My Chemical Romance, and fun. in a blender
  • Why I Love It: Every time I listen I hear something different, every song is a fascinating composition, and the hooks are unforgettable
  • Why You'll Hate It: You only like music that fits in a nice tidy box to which you can ascribe a recognizable label, and this album blows that box up


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