Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 20 Musical Happenings of 2013

I came very close to not doing a list this year but in all good conscious, I determined that I really needs to.  It's something that I enjoy doing and it's a way that I go through the previous year and reliving things that were really amazing.  This year had a lot of media buzz around different artists and some of it was good and some not so good.  You'll find that this list is missing GaGa's Artpop and Beyonce's surprise album and that's by design.  There are other mainstream media outlets that are going to cover those and for all intent and purpose, I didn't like Artpop. It wasn't an impressive album and therefore, it didn't rate for me.  There are a ton of new artists in this list and some music trends and news so it, like my other year end articles, is a bit of the whole of the music industry and how if affected my life this year.

20.  Britney Spears - Britney Jean
I  wanted to include this album because I think it's one of Britney's strongest in a while.  I am a huge fan and always will be.  There are tracks on the album that are very vulnerable and there are tracks that are poppy and fun.  All in all it's an excellent addition to this list and I can't wait to hear more from Brit in 2014.

19.  Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady
Again, I wanted to steer away from mainstream releases, but I cannot let this countdown go by with out mentioning this album.  What this woman can do is amazing and I think she is well underrated.  I wish she had a much larger following because she is a tried and true artist to the core.

18. London Grammar - If You Wait
One of my favorite new artists this year.  19 year old Hannah Reid exploded with more soul than you would have expected from this young woman.  This album was an emotional revelation and it was mostly due to the depth and sheer expanse of Hannah's voice.  It's well worth picking up and supporting an amazing group.  I chose a live recording to show the power of her voice.

17. K-Pop's International Explosion
Everyone was talking about K-Pop this year and the popularity of the headlining groups only grew and grew thanks to Psy, BigBang and Girls Generation.  I think these 3 artists are emissaries to the rest of the world to show the diversity of the music scene in Korea.

16.  Johnny Stimson
While other artists were all over the place, Johnny was laser focused on taking part in creating some of the funkiest 70s inspired sounds this year.  Whether it be Human Man, Daddy's Money or Here We Go Again; Johnny created music that has the whole of his fanbase sitting patiently waiting on a new album.

15. Steve Grand
Doesn't matter if he was actually the first "out Country artist" or not, there's no denying that Steve Grand made a huge splash with his wholesome good looks and his lyrics about love and reveling in being young.  He put a mainstream positive face on the gay music scene and I find that totally acceptable.

14.  Miley Cyrus
Another artist that had the media by the short hairs this year was Miley.  While the majority of her publicity was built on shock value, what it did was get people talking about her and then once you actually stopped gawking and judging for a minute, you got to see that she is a pretty amazing artist.  Doesn't matter what you think of her, the fact is Wrecking Ball will tear at your heartstrings when you get past the video.

13.  Missing Andy
One of my most favorite bands that no one in the United States knows about hail from Essex and have released not one but two albums and an EP this year.  Guerrilla Invasion 1 and 2 are everything that you could possibly want out of a rock group.  The albums are built precisely and flow so easily from start to finish.  There aren't many middle of the road tracks, they are all amazing on their own merits.

12. Jillette Johnson - Whiskey and Frosting
Aside from being two of my most favorite things ever, Whiskey and Frosting is one of the coolest albums to be released this year.  I had the utter pleasure of seeing Jillette perform this year and was mesmerized by just her voice an a piano, then to hear these same songs with full production....blown away couldn't begin to explain how I was feeling.

11.  Highway Superstar - Take My Time
Israeli producer Alex Karlinsky released this amazing gem of Retro New Wave this side of 1989.  I can't say enough good about this album because it is just crazy good.  There is a perfect balance of 80s nostalgia and modern production that simply takes you back to a dance club in the 80s.  It amazes me how artists today are capable of creating amazing works like this.

10. Lorde - Pure Heroine
I started jumping up and down for Lorde back in June and promising people that she was going to be HUGE.  I wasn't wrong and I still stand by my initial opinions regarding this New Zealand phenomenon.  She, hopefully, has a long successful career in front of her.

9.  Matt Alber - "Matt Alber with Strings Attached: The Cello Street Quartet Sessions"
Matt took a handful of tracks and the crazy idea to rearrange them with a piano and a cello quartet.  What they created was simply gorgeous.  It's not often that an artist is simply that successful in breathing new life into already amazing songs.

8.  Retro New Wave or Future Pop
Artists from all over the globe came together this year to bring back the best of the 1980s.  From bubblegum to darkwave and everything in between, there was a producer creating music that sounds identical to beats and samples and rhythms created probably a decade or two before they were even born.  This genre is new and fresh for young listeners and generates so much nostalgia to older listeners that it's really perfect.  New fans of old music are made and new artists build larger fan bases.

7. Eric Himan - Gracefully
Another artist that I think wasn't as big as they should have been is Eric Himan.  With his blue eyed soul and distinctive voice, this man released one of the best albums this year.  Each song came from a place of heartfelt emotion that illustrated some portion of the human condition expertly.  This album was simply gorgeous.

6.  Eli Leib - Young Love
In simplest terms, an amazing rock and roll love song.  Eli is one of the best vocalists I've found this year and I am glad that I did.  The video is super cute and fun and captures the essence of the song amazingly.  Nothing but pure happiness in lyrical format.

5.  Matt Zarley Kickstarter
Another independent artist found success with crowdsourcing and we will get a fantastic album that will showcase not only his amazing voice but the many aspects of love and romance and what we all want deep down inside.  I can't wait until this album is released because Matt is one of my favorite artists.

4.  Slow Knights - Cosmos
Simply perfect.  This album has so much working in it's favor that it should have just been massive.  A huge collaboration between some of the industry's hardest working vocalists, The New Power Generation and Del Marquis created by far one of the most realized albums of the year.

3.  Bright Light Bright Light - Make Me Believe in Hope: Blueprints Version
Take one of the best albums of 2012 and strip it down to it's bare bones.  Remove anything that could provide a distraction and just focus in on the words, the melody and the meaning and you have one of the most awe inspiring releases this year.  BLBL reinvented this album and gave it even more emotional depth and it's stunning.  Oh yeah, some of the songs became duets with amazing artists which elevated the songs even higher.

2.  Father Tiger
No other band stole so much of my time than Father Tiger.  I think I listened to their albums for a month straight.  No deviation, no other artists.  Just Father Tiger.  As indie pop artists, they operated outside the rules of traditional pop music and created art that encapsulated their creative vision with no compromise.  Whether you're listening to one of their covers or one of their original tracks, they have a song that will fit any situation you may be facing.

1.  Delta Rae - Chasing Twisters EP
Three new tracks.  That's all it takes.  This group is everything.  They have the intensity and the fervor to propel them into the stratosphere.  Not only did I get to see them in concert back in March which was nothing short of mind blowing, but they gave us 3 new tracks so shortly after releasing their debut album.  They are what the music industry is all about.  If you find yourself at a Delta Rae show, you will look around and see someone that's never heard them before being transformed because their music has that power.  It can take something as final as death and put a spin on it so that the finality doesn't sting as much and that is power.  They have easily cemented themselves into my life and they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

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