One of the absolute joys of heading up Idolator is getting to work with such a unique and gifted pool of talent, from the core staff of editors whose names you see on the site every day to our group of freelancers we turn to for extra support. On a weekly basis, the latter contribute everything from Voice and Glee recaps to album anniversary retrospectives to fun roundups like the 11 Best UK Boy Bands Of The Past 25 Years and the 5 Songs We Couldn’t Stop Dancing To This Past Summer. (Yes — actual, real lists that have happened!)
You may have already caught our editor and reader picks for 2013’s 10 Best Albums, but we decided to go a step further this year by also asking said freelancers to chime in with their own favorite albums from the past 12 months. Some of their choices mirrored our own (and our readers’), while others shined a light on records that, while maybe off the beaten path, were absolutely worthy of going back and giving a second listen to.
That’s the great thing about dealing with an eclectic group of music writers who are also music fans; everything is subjective, and multiple tastes almost always guarantee a solid variety.
Head below to see the albums some Idolator’s freelance contributors thought were worthy of being featured in this special year-end roundup.
Kanye West, Yeezus
Kanye West’s Yeezus
is a seething monster of artistic megalomania that made every other 2013 cookie-cutter hip-hop album with a rotating crew of shared producers seem quaint in comparison. West laid waste to the extravagant chipmunk soul and prog-hop of his back catalog with ruthlessly uncommercial musical influences from his home town — specifically Chicago house music and the city’s hip-hop drill scene — while ushering in a new generation of producers (Hudson Mohawke, Gesaffelstein, Arca, Travi$ Scott, among others) who pushed him in new, exciting directions. The firebreathing “New Slaves” probably gets best of show here, but “Blood On The Leaves,” with its seismic eruption of horns on the beat drop coupled with West’s most terrifying lyrics to date, leaves the deepest mark. — PATRICK BOWMAN
Laura Mvula, Sing to the Moon
Galloping arpeggio bells and toe-tapping handclaps kick off Laura Mvula’s upbeat single “Green Garden,” though if you listen closely, you’ll hear a bit of remorse and misgiving, too. The rest of Mvula’s debut album is just as dynamic, showcasing her chameleon-like vocals, switching from playful to matter-of-fact to gravelly to soaring with joy. Mvula’s lyrics hint at something a bit more stark than standard pop fare, which draws her comparisons with Nina Simone. With lines like “Our love is like the morning clouds / Like the morning dew / That goes away,” sung in devastatingly intense minor-key harmony, Mvula infuses today’s neo-soul movement with a remorse and heft that leaves you tasting joy and bittersweetness at the same time. — ALEXANDER CHO
Bastille, Bad Blood
What’s not to love about this band or their overdue debut? “Pompeii” was a smash single, “Things We Lost In The Fire” can go toe-to-toe with anything on the Alt charts right now and “Weight of Living” is one of the best hidden tracks of the year. Think of Bastille as the Brit version of Imagine Dragons, minus all those religious undertones. — JEFF KATZ
Ciara’s often introduced as the R&B heiress to a long-expired rap subgenre. So here she seizes control to show only and exactly who she is now: a singer who coos through her gleeful innuendos, a dancer well aware of how her body pivots to any beat, a woman who knows how to glance over her shoulder as she struts away (and knows when to walk
away, too). Or, as noted in the tracklist: Ciara, featuring Ciara. — CHRISTINA LEE
Happy Hollows, Amethyst
I first heard lead single “Endless” at the movies, which seems fitting since the atmospheric Amethyst
would beautifully round out the soundtrack to Twilight 8: Sparkle, Edward, Sparkle!
That’s a compliment — the dreamy darkness of tracks “Galaxies” and “Hawaii” evokes the soaring melancholy of The Sundays and Mazzy Star at their night-sky-gazing best. — JONATHAN RIGGS
Tegan And Sara, Heartthrob
There are so many reasons to love Heartthrob
: 1) It arrived in dreary January; 2) It’s the perfect album length of ten songs, without one filler track; 3) There’s an infectious ’80s pop joy sweeping over it, without ever being pastiche or retro; 4) They cover all the bases — first crush (“Closer”), sexual desire (“Drive Me Wild”) and the post traumatic stress of failed love (the pounding “Shock to Your System,”); 5) In the age of teen sleaze, “I’m Not Your Hero” is an anthem for smart kids: “I’m not their hero, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t brave.” Now, if they’d just pull a Rihanna and do it all over again next year. — STEPHEN SEARS
Haim, Days Are Gone
Days Are Gone
is my favorite album this year because it deftly transports the listener back to a time when pop-rock was just free flowing and without frills, especially with songs like “The Wire” and “Forever.” Sure the album leans a little toward the ’80s, and the girls themselves dress a bit ’90s. But those are two decades we all love (even though we may deny it). — EMILY TAN
Natalia Kills, Trouble
The attitude and angst burning through Natalia Kills’ sophomore effort doesn’t toy around with any kind of restraint, but make no mistake: this is not a pity party. Trouble
is completely infectious pop whose draw only gets stronger after repeated plays. There were bigger names with pop albums out this year, but this dark-haired debutante is truly the belle of her own damn ball, and that’s something you’ve really got to love…and respect. — MIKE WOOD
Get an eyeful of even more pop music coverage, from artist interviews to exclusive performances, on Idolator’s YouTube channel.