20 Best Albums of 2013: 5-1

written December 2013 by Sunset Fam


Album Picks: 20 – 16 | 15 – 11 | 10 – 6 | 5 – 1

(continued) Best Albums of 2013


5. Childish Gambino, Because the Internet

(Glassnote, Island Records, December 2013)

Nobody is amazed by anything that is not magic. But magic does not exist, except for a brief period after a trick where we are made to believe it exists. So how are you supposed to make an amazing album? Set it up like a magic trick. To be completely unoriginal and quote The Prestige, “every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts.” First, the magician shows you something ordinary: Donald Glover’s rap alter ego Childish Gambino, the story at the end of Camp, roscoe’s wetsuit, leaving Community for his own show on FX, “Centipede,” “Yaphet Kotto,” Clapping for the Wrong Reasons, the hotel Instagram notes, the depressing interviews, the same outfit, the album title, the album leak, the script, etc. In the second act, he takes something ordinary and makes it do something extraordinary: roscoe’s wetsuit becomes a popular meme for no apparent reason, people add Gambino to suicide hotlines, speculate his insanity, start connecting the script and album, etc. Then in the last act called “The Prestige,” he brings the ordinary something back to life. Here, we realize he may have been acting as a character the entire time and has created a fully functioning world on this album that exists IRL and URL with real Twitter accounts, sections of his website, and real-life counterparts to the characters (i.e. Chance the Rapper as “Marcus” and Jhené Aiko as “Naomi”). Because the Internet is about living in a generation unable to tell fantasy from reality and feeling lost because of it. It is about a boy who knows everything–except how to deal with his own emotions. And the fact that by the end of it all, we have to ask the question, “Who is the biggest troll?” makes it a brilliant and worthwhile expose of the grand illusions of our time. – Arjun

I could’ve stayed where I was and have a life you’d be proud of / But I’d rather chase things never thought of – “Life: The Biggest Troll (Andrew Auernheimer)”

Favorite Songs: Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information), The Worst Guys, Shadows, Pink Toes (ft. Jhené Aiko), The Party


4. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

(XL Recordings, May 2013)

Sometime last May, I stood at the opening of the Columbia River Gorge and watched thousands of people dance around me as the sun fell behind the hills. Strangers took hands with strangers and made human tunnels for other strangers to dance through. I ran through one of them and joined the end of the line. Everyone was smiling. It was all weird and disorienting, but I kinda wanted to live in this magical world forever. Although, admittedly, I was not entirely sober, this wasn’t a drug-induced hallucination. I was at my first Vampire Weekend show. The fact that their upbeat, playful style inspires scenes like this shouldn’t be surprising by now. These guys have built their career on catchy choruses, upbeat drum rhythms, and sparkly guitars riffs. You can find all of that on Modern Vampires of the City. What you might find surprising on this record however, is a maturity we hadn’t yet seen from this band. As I danced around like an idiot last May, surprisingly deep self-reflective lyrics about mortality, self-realization, and other “grown-up” issues joined the catchy hooks I had come to the show expecting. Vampire Weekend has figured out how to make substantial meaningful art inside an incredibly enjoyable, catchy package. Modern Vampires of the City will be one of those albums I’ll play as a 75-year-old man to get all sentimental about my youth. For now though, it is one of my favorite (and most-listened-to) albums of the year. – Eric

Wisdom’s a gift but you’d trade it for youth / Age is an honor – it’s still not the truth – “Step”

Favorite Song: Step


3. Kanye West, Yeezus

(Roc-A-Fella, Def Jam, June 2013)

Almost any critic can agree that every Kanye West album is genre-bending in some way. For example College Dropout melded soul samples into hip-hop. Late Registration brought live orchestration into hip-hop. Graduation shipped Euro-club, Japanese synths, and stadium-ready electronics from overseas and brought them into a hip-hop context. 808s & Heartbreak embraced autotune, minimalist song structure, and tribal percussion (and can be argued to be more pop than hip-hop). MBDTF somehow combined all of these concepts into an extravagant, maximalist hip-hop event. Yeezus has brought acid house, punk rock, and dancehall into this glorious hellhole. But maybe that is just Kanye West being the intrepid experimenter we have grown to expect; that by no means automatically means it is good. You’re right. What makes it good is the damn purity of the solution. Yeezus is art in the purest form, crafted in a cave apart from society’s formulaic, robotic tendencies and with zero fucks given as to who it could offend or influence. It starts with horns on acid and ends with a Martin reference. It is dead ass funny in its most devastatingly serious moments. For all intents and purposes, this is Kanye’s “rock” album. The difference is he doesn’t have to tell you that. He’s opening a discussion about the blurred lines between rap and rock and how he’s the man in the middle of it all. – Arjun

Uh, I’m finna start a new movement, being lead by the drums – “I’m In It”

Favorite Song: I’m In It, New Slaves, Bound 2

New Chance The Rapper!

2. Chance The Rapper, Acid Rap

(Self-Released, April 2013)

2013 was really Chance The Rapper’s year; we just happened to be alive for it, too. The Chicago MC absolutely FORCED his way into the scene with the release of Acid Rap, and he brought all of us along for the ride. It’s hard to write about Acid Rap, and Chance in general, without repeating something already said, so I’m going to keep it nice and short. Acid Rap brings us into the mind and life of a 20-year-old kid raised in the not-so-great part of one of the not-so-great (no offense, Chi) cities in our country, and in a time of Chief Keef and Lil Durk and the ever-expanding drill scene, it provides a stark and nuanced contrast to the bang-bang-skeet-skeet vibe given off from Chance’s aforementioned fellow Chi-Towners. And it’s damn fun to listen to. – Andy

Her pussy love me / Her heart like ‘Fuck it’ – “Lost”

Favorite Songs: Lost, Pusha Man, Cocoa Butter Kisses



1. Lorde, Pure Heroine

(Universal, September 2013)

If Chance owned 2013, then Lorde is the one that sold it to him. The 17-year-old Kiwi phenom had, without a doubt, the biggest song of the year with the infectiously catchy “Royals,” and her debut Pure Heroine provides more of the same. Lorde continues her railing against materiality while also lamenting growing up and the reality of being a real person. And to think that she wrote the vast majority of this album when she was 14? From front to back, Pure Heroine delivers awesome, poppy tunes that will have you singing 40 minutes later without even realizing it, and that’s why it is our #1 album of 2013. – Andy

You’re the only friend I need / Sharing beds like little kids / We’ll laugh until our ribs get tired / But that will never be enough – “Ribs”

Favorite Songs: Ribs, Tennis Court 

Album Picks: 20 – 16 | 15 – 11 | 10 – 6 | 5 – 1

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