To finish out the year, we'll be offering the top 25 albums from various SPIN staffers. Today, Editor-at-Large Charles Aaron (transmitting live from Durham, N.C.).
In the Year Fuckery Broke in pop music, there was grotesque desperation galore. (Even hot flicks like American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street basically wallowed in the sordid FTW kicks of depraved hucksterism.) Still, there was also plenty of beauty, wit, intrigue, and majesty to be found. And if my fellow entertainment-media blowhards were honest with themselves, they'd admit that, for the first time in ages, music was actually more interesting and compelling than TV (oh, God forbid!). So let's celebrate by not talking about DIY plantation-folkie Ani DiFranco ever again and cranking "***Flawless" while we get low with our partially employed asses.
Charles Aaron's 25 Best Albums of 2013
1. Beyoncé – Beyoncé (Parkwood/Columbia)
An eyejammie that hurts so pretty.
2. Rokia Traoré – Beautiful Africa (Nonesuch)
A collabo with PJ Harvey partner John Parish, which tells you something but not everything about her exquisite, searing music.
3. Kvelertak – Meir (Roadrunner/Sony)
Best metal/hard-rock molotov since Appetite for Destruction.
4. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories (Slate Creek)
Her songs tell better stories than all y'all's songs.
5. Kelela – Cut 4 Me (Fade to Mind)
Allowing myself to sink into this vexed R&B etherea of #BrandyDeepAlbumCuts was one of the year's most therapeutic indulgences.
6. Ka – The Night's Gambit (Iron Works)
Like a human masstransiscope, 'cept in black and white.
7. DJ Rashad – I Don't Give a Fuck EP (Hyperdub)
Urban beat-planning that dramatizes the moment when the void gets up in your face and concludes: "You ain't shit."
8. Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish)
The My Bloody Valentine album everybody wanted.
9. Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation)
This meditative avant-jazz howl could be an alternate soundtrack to 12 Years a Slave. Frightening and cathartic.
10. Burial – Rival Dealer (Hyperdub)
A more harrowing, empathetic autopsy of the human condition than Breaking Bad, from the most gifted showrunner in the biz.
11. Caitlin Rose – The Stand-In (ATO)
Reminding us that the crucial question in country music is terribly, terribly simple: "Who's gonna take me home?"
12. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (XL)
The Randy Newman of fair-trade coffee comes into his own.
13. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name (G.O.O.D./Def Jam)
Once you lock into its ice-grill twitch, MNIMN will do you to death.
14. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze (Matador)
Wrapping yourself up in one of his frayed Fender blankets is the cure.
15. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You (Anti-)
Neko's a hard case – at this point, you'd have to be delusional to step to her. But apparently some shmucks still wanna try, so she warns, "Welcome to this dirty business," soon followed by a song where she clarifies that she's "the man" and then advises, "Get the fuck away from me." Um, okay.
16. Young Thug – 1017 Thug (Brick Squad Monopoly)
His emotion-gargling, screech-owl flow uncannily startles you afresh again and again.
17. M.I.A. – Matangi (N.E.E.T./Interscope)
Not as terroristic as /\/\ /\ Y /\, but still dig it.
18. Rich Homie Quan – I Promise I Will Never Stop Going In (T.I.G.)
Homie Wept. Homie Rapped. Get the Fuck Out His Face. Blah Blah Blah. Make That Money.
19. Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana (Carpark)
Frontlady Sadie D's do-ya-feel-lucky-punk? songwriting rattles you with a rush of sly lyrics and knotty guitars.
20. Power Trip – Manifest Decimation (Southern Lord)
Fucked Up are Godspell by comparison.
21. Mikal Cronin – MCII (Merge)
Cali garage-pop composed with the artful care of a Mills College grad geek.
22. Kevin Gates – The Luca Brasi Story (Breadwinners Association)
Amoral street grit fraught with a relentless heartbleed, as if the walls of your room were covered in pulsing red tissue.
23. Seven Davis Jr. – One EP (Must Have)
The young L.A.-based producer/singer/instrumentalist has a seductive urgency in his beats and voice that almost leaves you trembling. He's Right Here, Right Now, Givin' It All to You. And when he rolls "unconditionaaaawwl" around in his mouth, it's real.
24. Kanye West – Yeezus (Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam)
"I watched with glee, while your kings and queens fought for ten decades, for the gods they made. I shouted out, 'Who killed Kanye?' When, after all, it was you and me."
25. Superchunk – I Hate Music (Merge)
My feelings precisely.