• Rob Harvilla's Best 25 Albums of 2013

    Rob Harvilla's 25 Best Albums of 2013

    To finish out the year, we'll be offering the top 25 albums from various SPIN staffers. Today, Deputy Editor Rob Harvilla.This is my very first Kanye West No. 1. I'd quite enjoyed that streak in a perverse sort of way, but I enjoyed Yeezus in a really perverse way, the "operatic hostility in the face of impending fatherhood" vibe a lovely soundtrack to the strains and delights of moving one's own young/growing family across the country. From there country women (Ashley, Caitlin, Kacey, Neko, and Brandy) tend to dominate this thing, amid the usual dilettante gymnastics (Jon Hopkins, K. Michelle); established biases (QOTSA, AF, Waxahatchee in temperament at least, plus Neko again); and pop dramatics (there are several songs better than "Royals" on the Lorde record, and very few songs better than anything on the Tegan & Sara record).

  • SPIN's 20 Best Country Albums of 2013

    SPIN's 20 Best Country Albums of 2013

    Pretty great year! More jackasses than old farts here, it's true, but the all-female Top 5 makes up for it, if that's something you're into.

  • Brandy Clark

    Brandy Clark: A Pitch-Black Country Songwriter Finds the Joy in Small-Town Pain

    Who: Brandy Clark is a 10-plus-year veteran of the Nashville songwriting salt mines, with recent credits on wryly bleak jams from Reba McEntire ("The Day She Got Divorced"), the Band Perry ("Better Dig Two"), Nashville star Hayden Panetierre ("Boys and Buses"), and Miranda Lambert (deranged 2013 CMA's Song of the Year nominee "Mama's Broken Heart"). But this is her year, both in and out of the spotlight — first as a key co-writer on Kacey Musgraves' taboo-flaunting March full-length Same Trailer Different Park, and now on her very own solo debut, 12 Stories, which revels luxuriously in her love for dark humor. "I feel like life is a dark comedy, so that's what I try to put into my music," Clark explains, cheerfully.

  • Kellie Pickler

    Kellie Pickler Gets Famous, Eric Church Goes Metal, and Much More from SPIN Country

    ALBUM OF THE MONTHKellie Pickler, The Woman I Am (Black River Entertainment)Full disclosure: I teared up when Kellie Pickler won Dancing with the Stars back in May, and I don't even watch Dancing With the Stars, but if you're so tough, you tell me how to respond to the Super-Emo Tree Falling Silently in the Spangly-Ass Forest action at 3:30. And thus concluded a delightfully postmodern career arc: From Lifetime-movie-grade rocky childhood to Sonic waitress (try the Chili Cheese Tots) to memorable American Idol cast-off (sixth place, season five, survived "Bohemian Rhapsody") to lower-tier country-pop-slinger ("Red High Heels," sure) to throwback-minded critical champion (last year's astoundingly sassified third album 100 Proof) to DWTS glory to burgeoning Ellen-esque cultural phenomenon (here they are discussing Kellie's new cancer-survivor-solidarity hairstyle) to…slightly hig

  • Katy Perry performs

    Katy Perry Grows Up and Bums Us Out on Her Shrewd, Tepid 'Prism'

    The best part of Miley: The Movement, MTV's recent trolling-from-the-title-on-down backstage doc, is when Britney Spears shows up to lay down some hot tracks and submit to some world-class diva-on-diva undermining. Ms. Cyrus kisses the ring, but makes clear it's a rather grandmotherly ring: "Eight-year-old me would be pissing my pants right now." Got it. And soon came the 2013 VMAs: the bears, the twerking, the tongue, the typhoon of moral panic, now with a younger, hungrier, marginally more self-aware "strategic hot mess" at its center. Britney's hanging in there, God bless her, but the snake generally has a longer, healthier career than the salacious lady wearing it.Katy Perry, long past her "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" point, is readying an exit strategy.

  • Pearl Jam's 'Lightning Bolt' Brings Just Enough Thunder

    Pearl Jam's 'Lightning Bolt' Brings Just Enough Thunder

    It is silly and reductive to think this way, but still: Pearl Jam's debut album, Ten, is older today than the Who's Tommy was the year Ten came out. That's "22 years old" and "1991," respectively. You are old; they are older. "Alternative" long ago became classic rock, but our boys are singular in having survived that harrowing transition intact — no lineup-culling tragedies, no spectacular implosions, no indefinite hiatuses, no embarrassing debacles, unless Eddie Vedder releasing a full album of ukulele songs counts. They're still alive [20-minute guitar solo]. They are also eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Do not bet against them.While you wait, behold the first new PJ record in four years — the longest they ever go between studio adventures.

  • Luke Bryan, whose shirt does probably not say, 'DERP'

    Luke Bryan's Goofy Charm, Tyler Farr's Truck-Nuts Rage, and More New Hits in SPIN Country

    ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Luke Bryan, Crash My Party (Capitol)Luke Bryan sings about his truck so often you start to worry he's living out of it.

  • Ciara / Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage

    Ciara, 'Ciara' (Epic)

    Heartfelt congratulations to Ciara, first of all, for releasing an album in 2013, period. A Herculean feat (OK, Athenian, to pick a less mansplaining-prone deity) in a record-biz-death-throes era that mercilessly delays and shelves and terrorizes everyone from Big Boi to Missy Elliott to Mariah Carey to all other club-friendly personages with the misfortune to not be Rihanna. Just ask, say, Ashanti, if you can find her, which dollars to donuts you cannot.Heartfelt congratulations to Ciara, furthermore, for being pretty rad!

  • U2 Zooropa album 20th anniversary

    U2's 'Zooropa' Almost Killed Their Career 20 Years Ago Today

    You know you've made it as a Serious Rock Band when an entire years-long phase of your career is so problematic that you spend a subsequent entire, years-long phase of your career apologizing for it. So let's begin at the end, shall we, with U2's apology, which we can date to a February 2002 Time magazine cover story with the headline (brace yourself) "Can Bono Save the World?" (It wasn’t a sarcastic question, by the way — this was post-9/11, and thus post-irony.)With that, their staggering comeback was complete: 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, a massive back-to-grandiose-basics success; a triumphant 100-plus-date tour, culminating with their 2002 Super Bowl halftime set — unafraid to play the 9/11 card, down to the backdrop crawl of the victims' names and Bono's climactic American-flag-as-jacket-liner reveal — which was a genuinely moving and cathartic career peak.

  • Lou Reed, Kanye West, Yeezus review, health problems

    Lou Reed Likens Kanye West's 'Yeezus' to Farting in Priceless Album Review

    You may think you're all tapped out, Kanye West think piece-wise, but c'mon, it's Lou Reed! The Talkhouse this morning brings us a sprawling, fantastic Yeezus review from the man himself, who name-drops everyone from Axl Rose to Marlon Brando to Delmore Schwartz, and holds forth on everything from the record's first abrasive synth blast ("It's like farting") to the album's resemblance to Reed's own universe-antagonizing classic Metal Machine Music ("I have never thought of music as a challenge"). A ton of deep insights and killer one-liners here — try "He could kill Taylor Swift and it would all be over," for starters.

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