The Truth About Music: Play It Loud

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Play It Loud's Top 10 Albums of 2013 (10-6)

10. Run The Jewels by El-P And Killer Mike: Killer Mike has spent his whole career being the best rapper who never even considered courting the radio. On Run The Jewels (a deliberate jab at Watch The Throne), producer El-P steps to the mic and shares lyrical duties with Mike. For 10 blistering tracks the duo just shut up and rap, no chorus’, no radio grabs, just hip-hop. Run The Jewels may not touch the top ten selling hip-hop albums of the year, but everyone on that list owns a copy.

Key Track:Run The Jewels” sets the stage for the rest of the album. An intense blast of lyrical gymnastics with no chorus or bridge to catch your breath, you stop trying to keep up about 30 seconds in and just enjoy the ride.

Key Lyric: “I write for the writers that write for the liars that impress you and your parents”

Devils Advocate: You either love hip-hop or have no interest in listening to this album, there is no middle ground.

9. Night Time, My Time by Sky Ferreira: There were several artists who were labeled as “indie” pop acts this year, and while Sky Ferreira was the best among them, the title is meaningless. There is nothing indie about Sky, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that she released a great collection of power pop songs, a genre than has largely disappeared from the radio in the past few years.  If nothing else, Ferreira and her contemporaries being labeled as indie is an indication of just how desperately mainstream radio needs a dose of rock n roll, and she was more than happy to deliver.

Key Track: The bold, instant gratification of ”24 Hours.” While her voice has garnered comparisons to Katy Perry, “24 Hours” is a reminder that Ferreira is lightyears ahead of her more famous fore bearer. This is just a classic pop ballad, one that will hopefully push her more commercially successful piers to step their game up.

Key Lyric: “I just want you to realize I blame myself for my reputation.”

Devils Advocate: The album does lag a bit in the back third, also this is pure power pop, if you are looking for grand insight or complex composition, keep looking.

8. Acid Rap by Chance The Rapper: Perhaps the most misleading name of 2013, Chance is a damn good rapper, but he’s also so much more. Influenced by so many source he almost demands to be called original, Chance blends elements of Hip-Hop, EDM, Funk and Soul into a delirious cocktail of something new. An achingly personal anecdote one moment might be followed by an in-joke you are just close enough to understanding the next. Chance told many different stories on Acid Rap, and they were all worth hearing.

Key Track: The epic two part, 7 minute “Pusha Man.” Starting out as a joyous boast over a chopped and screwed beat, the song shifts down halfway through and Chance speaks about how good weather makes him nervous, as murders become more common. It’s a sobering reminder of the Chicago neighborhood Chance comes from.

Key Lyric: “Everybody’s dying in the Summer, so pray to God for a little more Spring.”

Devils Advocate: His voice has an intense nasally quality to it that is probably a deal breaker for some.

7. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk: Far and away the consensus album of 2013, it’s easy to forget what a risk this album was initially. A throwback to the late 70’s hey-day of the studio producer, Daft Punk crafted an album of low key digital disco. Hardly a slam dunk proposition, the robots enlisted some A-list collaborators, rewrote the marketing paradigm and shifted the musical landscape in their own direction.

Key Track: It will now, always and forever be “Get Lucky.” The Song that made the whole thing possible, “Get Lucky” is pure nirvana. 40 years from now this will be played at as many weddings as it was this past summer.

Key Lyric:”Once you free your mind about a concept of harmony and of music being correct, you can do whatever you want.”

Devils Advocate: It’s ridiculous to even say this about an album written by “robots,” but it lacks a personal touch.  This is by design, but it’s there all the same.

6. Reflektor by Arcade Fire: Despite having won Grammy Album Of The Year, there was a sense that Arcade Fire were in tough spot. They had mastered the formula they’d been using since Funeral, but where to go from here? To answer that question, the band went to Haiti to pick up some new rhythms. They then came back to New York and used the power of James Murphy’s gear to rewrite their sound into someone wonderful and new. A perfect blend of their signature sound with the dance punk percussion and energy of classic DFA, Reflektor proved these veterans still have a whole lot left to say.

Key Track: The perfect representation of the album as a whole, “Afterlife“ builds a slinky disco beat around Regine’s hypnotic coo’s, while Win Butler laments the fragility of life. Arcade Fire have a history of great penultimate album tracks, and “Afterlife” may be the greatest of them all.

Key Lyric: “Do you like rock n roll music? Cause I don’t know if I do.”

Devils Advocate: Reflektor is still undoubtably an Arcade Fire album, but the bands full embrace of dance punk may alienate some former fans.

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