2013 was another interesting year for music. A host of veteran artists came back with new music this year; some with new and different projects, and some returning after a brief hiatus. While mainstream rock music continues to fade out of the collective musical consciousness in lieu of EDM wizards like Daft Punk (and their less-innovative, genre-bandwagon-riding competitors) and Hip Hop re-treads, there were still a number of notable LP releases over the past 12 months. The Strokes quietly released their fifth album, and Jay-Z loudly released his latest which arrived with massive download glitches. The Flaming Lips released a new album as well as an EP of original material written for the film Ender's Game. Trent Reznor finally released the debut album from his side project, How To Destroy Angels, and Maynard Keenan of Tool was very busy with Puscifer, his own side project, this year, releasing an EP, an album of remixes, and a live DVD. With respect to these strong releases, the 10 best albums of the year brought a little something more to the party.
The third album from this electro-phsych-rock duo was their most daring and experimental yet, running from one sound, genre, emotion, and tempo to the next with no regard for the uninitiated. The 10 songs include five that are a bit more accessible and five spacey experiments. College radio hits like "Alien Days" and "Your Life is a Lie" complement the journeys into the varying styles of the less- structured tracks. The CD release of the album also included a code to download "The Optimizer," essentially an album-length, computer animated music video that adds an additional psychedelic layer to the experience.
After a lengthy 10 year break from performing, and a 6 year break from recording, this alt-rock super group returned with a strange little album that mixes dark, moody tones with country twang and punk noise and intensity. The band features former members of Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, The Jesus Lizard, and Helmet, so they certainly know their way around a loud rock record. "Stone Letter" and "Southpaw" are the higher energy stand-outs, but there is a balance of quiet and loud over the course of the album. After all, any time is a good time to enjoy the insane creativity of Mike Patton.
8. The Lonely Island-The Wack Album
The third installment of music and selected videos from this creative comedy trio is not quite as solid or consistent as their first two records, but it has enough fast-moving bits to entertain people of all attention spans. As with the group's other albums, the bonus DVD is really the best part, as these tracks are enjoyed more with a visual accompaniment, but most of the tracks have a laugh in them somewhere, regardless. The long list of guest stars includes Robyn, Pharrell Williams, Adam Levine, Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Billie Joe Armstrong, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, T-Pain, and Too $hort. All the comedy aside, most of these beats could easily be hits for any top-selling rapper, yet these wack MCs take the opportunity to satirize hip hop and pop culture in their own ridiculous way.
7. Eminem-The Marshall Mathers LP 2
The long-awaited follow up to Eminem's 2010 smash, Recovery, takes the guise of a sequel to his 2000 breakthrough album, and there are plenty of references to old songs throughout, but this is really the beginning of a new era for the ace Detroit MC. As per usual, Eminem's lyrics switch from comical, to thought-provoking, to unnecessarily offensive, sometimes all within the same line, but the top-notch production from legends Rick Rubin and Dr. Dre, along with Mathers himself, creates a dense collection of heavy beats and a vast amount of variety over the course of the lengthy 80-minute album. Also, like many of his previous releases, this album's lead singles aren't the best tracks by far. While the throwback Beastie Boys referencing "Berzerk" plays well on TV and radio, the real thrills here are the multi-part opener "Bad Guy," the hilarious Joe Walsh re-work, "So Far...," and the phenomenal "Rap God," which is arguably the most blazing hip hop track of the year, or maybe the last few.
6. Atoms For Peace-Amok
The latest alternative rock super-group released their debut LP this year, though it was recorded a few years ago at the end of their first American tour. Vocalist Thom Yorke, also of Radiohead, leads a tight and proficient crew that also includes Flea, of Red Hot Chili Peppers, on bass and producer/multi-instrumentalist Nigel Godrich through nine innovative and varying tracks, similar in format to Yorke's solo LP, The Eraser, but with more depth. The sounds of the songs vary from thumping bass swells over hypnotic loops to bright stabs on the guitar against the blips and bleeps of the keyboards and computers. With each passing year, it gets harder to create something that sounds truly unique and original in a sea of waste and pop cliché. Atoms For Peace have a sound that is all their own.
**THE LIST CONTINUES HERE**