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12.04.13 Top 5 Albums Of 2013 01.08.13 Top 5 Albums Of 2012

Top 5 Albums Of 2013

2013 was a hell of a year for music, replete with comebacks of classic acts and anticipated rrrfollow-ups to recent favorites. Here are the 5 albums that had the greatest impact on my year.

I participated in my first ever Nothing But Black Metal November this year, and after saturating myself with black metal for a month, Woe's consistent quality and distinctive take on the genre really stood out to me. Their music melds the energetic, riff-centric side of the genre with the atmospheric and progressive leanings of most of their prominent American peers, an approach that instantly reminded me of Wildernessking on their 2012 debut. Withdrawal sees the band honing the strengths they built on A Spell For the Death of Man and Quietly, Undramatically, as well as injecting some melodic hardcore flavor into their sound. Woe is quickly becoming a favorite and I'm glad this album is getting some attention.
4Bosnian Rainbows
Bosnian Rainbows

Having barely listened to The Mars Volta or any of Omar's efforts outside the band, I didn't know what to expect from Bosnian Rainbows. But their colorful approach to catchy, female-fronted post-punk piqued my interest and only grew on me as the year progressed. I caught their live performance at this year's Riot Fest, and as bizarre as Teri Gender Bender's stage antics came across, they lent something essential to the whole act (which was fantastic, either way). But ultimately the music is what will win you over: psychedelic and progressive tendencies meld with bleak alternative pop to create a consistently great debut.
3My Bloody Valentine
m b v

There's really nothing left to say about the 22 year dark period between this album and the genre-defining Loveless, but this unassuming sequel leaves no question that the taciturn kings of shoegaze are still unmatched in their field. The songs on m b v sound like a direct progression from Loveless, and everything about them, including the delicate (though occasionally baffling) song titles, is unmistakably My Bloody Valentine. Not everything works perfectly, but the sheer magnitude of the hits outweighs any slight miss.
2Chelsea Wolfe
Pain is Beauty

Apokalypsis is an album I hold in extremely high regard, and the quality of Unknown Rooms left no doubt in my mind that a proper follow-up album would be nothing short of incredible. On Pain is Beauty, Chelsea largely leaves behind the folky influences of her past efforts and follows her affinity for dim, ethereal compositions down the paths of darkwave and doomgaze. And it's amazing. Chelsea has always masterfully balanced suffocating gothic darkness with genuine tender warmth, and the stark electronics she incorporates into heavy guitar arrangements on this album lend a new breadth to her sound. Seeing her perform these songs live shortly after the release of the album only heightened my opinion of them--the volume and heaviness made it an intensely physical experience, perfectly integrated with a keen visual style and flawlessly accurate performance, and I have no choice but to rank it among my favorite concerts of all time.
1Justin Timberlake
The 20/20 Experience

This album was so far ahead of everything else this year for me that it was almost useless to put anything more on the list. On my very first listen to the iTunes stream, I was grinning from ear to ear for the full 70 minutes and getting chills at regular intervals. I listened to it again when I was done, twice. I've never experienced the "instant classic" feeling with a new release before, and I have to commend Justin for it. The soulful throwback tropes and long, dynamic song structures placed this album at the forefront of the modern progressive/alternative/whatever R&B movement this decade is experiencing, and the strong variety and immaculate quality of Timbaland's production on the album seat it firmly among similarly diverse contemporary pop greats like Kanye's MBDTF and Gaga's Fame Monster. This album is monolithic; every song is an expansive new way to celebrate falling in love with a fervent sincerity that itself feels like a throwback in guarded, cynical times. If Futuresex/Lovesounds left any question as to whether MJ's legacy had a successor, this year has cemented JT as a new generation's King of Pop. And as unnecessary and inevitably disappointing as 2 of 2 may have been, we'll always be able to look back at the first 20/20 Experience and say that Justin Timberlake and Timbaland made a masterpiece.
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