Three Dudes Review Their 2013 Music Favorites


{Here, the Three Dudes – Colin Neagle, Liam Green and Jacob Roeschley – present their picks for the best (read: their favorite) music of 2013. Below, check out a Spotify playlist featuring songs represented in all of the categories listed, with the exception of the shit they legitimately hate, because it’s awful. As a bonus, you should listen to individual best-of playlists from each Dude, because they obviously have brilliant taste.}


COLIN:


Most disappointing album: A$AP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP
What exactly is a “disappointing” album? Is it just that it didn’t live up to my expectations? That doesn’t seem fair, especially considering I’m just some nerd who listens to Spotify at work. Who gives a shit if I was disappointed? I’m asking myself this because I originally had four or five albums listed in response to this.

One of these was Long.Live.A$AP. I distinctly remember being let-down when I first heard it. But in the context of its release – after almost a year of delays, in the shadow of the apparently mandatory 2 Chainz promotional effort “Fuckin’ Problems,” and far Rocky’s mixtape Live.Love.A$AP – it was a bummer. That tape is outstanding. Listen to “Trilla” and tell me if anything on Long.Live.A$AP lives up to it. Just kidding, you can’t.

But all I’m really doing by expressing my disappointment is criticizing him for making that great mixtape. If I expected his studio album to be less watered down than it was, that’s on me. If he were to read this (ha! imagine!) it’d just be a warning against making good music and raising expectations too high. It’s a good thing nobody gives a shit if I was disappointed.

Honorable mentions: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories; Earl Sweatshirt, Doris; Killer Mike and El-P (as Run The Jewels), Run The Jewels; Starfucker, Miracle Mile

Album that makes you wanna stab your ears: Phillip Phillips, “Gone, Gone, Gone”
This song made its way into every movie commercial and has been stuck in my head for the past six months, particularly the chorus where he’s like “FOR YOUuuu / FOR youUUUU.” Not only does that just play on a loop in my head, but it forces me to think about Vince Vaughn and Delivery Man or Ben Stiller being Walter Mitty. It just ruins my mood and has made me a generally grumpy person. I never knew Phillip Phillips would have such an impact on my life.

Most surprising album (in a good way) – Arctic Monkeys, AM
The Arctic Monkeys are probably my favorite band to come out in the last 10 years, and anytime I might doubt making that claim I listen to their first two albums again. They’re both nearly perfect,  made before all the band’s members could legally drink in the states.  But by the time AM was released, I thought they were washed up. I saw them perform a surprisingly underwhelming show in Baltimore about two years ago, where they largely performed songs from their even more underwhelming 2011 album Suck It And See. And this was just two years removed from another bummer, Humbug, after which we were all hoping they’d gotten it out of their system. It wasn’t clear if the Monkeys had just gone off the rails or if the music industry had just changed around them, but in the last few years it became obvious that something was wrong.

Whatever it was, they fixed it with AM, maintaining their riff-heavy blues/punk essence with standout tracks like “Do I Wanna Know?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?,” but getting a little more modern with tracks like “Arabella” and the standout “No. 1 Party Anthem.” The former boldly bites Black Sabbath, but does it tastefully. The latter sounds like something David Bowie would sing at prom, in a good way. It’s a consistent album that takes much-needed risks and restored my faith in one of my favorite bands.

Best album/album you would’ve bought if people still bought music – Danny Brown, Old      
This is my pick for two reasons. It was my favorite album of the year, hands down, and it’s the exact kind of album you should buy. It’s split into two sides, which is probably something the 32-year-old has wanted to do really badly for a really long time. The first of those sides is a tour through the rundown Detroit where Brown became the figure he is. He tells stories of selling crack, braiding hair for income, bundling up indoors to survive the torturously cold winter, getting jumped for his mother’s Wonderbread money, and showing off when he could afford to buy some Chinese food. If you don’t want to give this guy your money, you’re a monster.

This is doubly true when you hear the second half of the album. While everyone likes to hear the impassioned rundown neighborhood blues, it can get old. Case in point: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a great album, but it’s designed for a very specific mood. Danny Brown, on the other hand, is a fun guy who decided he’s going to enjoy his success. Hence the warped club bangers “Dip,” “Break It” and “Handstand.” And if you’re in the mood for something with energy and substance, there’s Side B’s first track, “Side B [Dope Song].” With a beat that sounds like a genius sample of Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin Down,” Danny Brown calls out the Jay Zs and French Montanas and Rick Rosses of the world for continuing to rap about their drug money when they haven’t had any in years, or possibly ever. This would be hypocrisy if the song wasn’t also Brown’s promise that he’s never going to make songs like that after this song. It’s about the way he makes this promise, clarifying that his propensity for creating dope songs means this can’t possibly be his last dope song, but will definitely be his last song about dope. The track represents everything about the album – using the opportunity to tell his story while also putting it behind him. It’s gutsy, smart, and funny, and it makes you want to dance like a fucking crazy person. Nobody else did anything like it this year.

Album you were listening to when you heard Nelson Mandela died: The Lonely Island, The Wack Album
{Ed. note: Colin provided no explanation for this.}

Song with the best Kendrick Lamar guest verse: Pusha T, “Nosetalgia”
This, I guess, even though Pusha T’s verse is better, but that beat is great.      

Album/song you loved that’s most likely to offend your parents – Kanye West, Yeezus
If I heard that my mother somehow listened to Yeezus, I’d sue Kanye West until he was penniless.

Album/song you wish was playing in the background as you battle the forces of evil (demons and shit) – Katy Perry, “Roar”  
Because I kill zombies with panache.

Honorable mention: GWAR!, Battle Maximus; Gesaffelstein, “Trans”  

Best early-morning album (hungover or not) – Yo La Tengo, Fade
This was one of the best albums of the year. Yo La Tengo has never put out anything less than great for almost 30 years. 2013 was no different. But of all the music I’m going to talk about from this year, Fade is the best for hangovers. It’s calm but not boring, and funky but not perky. It’s impossibly upbeat shoegaze that somehow still sounds modern. It should come with a complementary cup of dark roast coffee and sense of self-worth. You just feel better about everything, yourself included, while listening to it. It’s the musical equivalent of waking up without a hangover on the first warm sunny day in March. It’s a very important album to have.

Honorable mention: Toro Y Moi, Anything In Return; James Blake, Overgrown; Heidecker & Wood, Some Things Never Stay the Same

Album/song that is your absolute guiltiest possible pleasure: Drake, “Hold On, We’re Going Home”      
I’ve mocked and slandered Drake so many times that I risk being a complete hypocrite even listening to “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” But it’s just that good. It’s Drake without any of the fake-tough act or nasally vocals that usually turn me off to his music. I honestly didn’t believe it was him when I first heard it on the radio and Shazam told me so. It wasn’t enough to get me to change my mind about Drake, but it’s almost enough to get me to change my settings on Spotify so people don’t know how often I listen to it.

Album you thought you liked but ended up hating by year’s end – Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
I’ve been calling this the Anchorman 2 of pop music. “Get Lucky” is an undeniable hit, a crossover success that works at both frat parties and family Christmas parties (topical!). And nobody let us forget about it. The pre-release hype for this album was unavoidable, and it was easy to get caught up. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is somehow better than “Get Lucky,” and got everybody all sorts of excited for the album. “Give Life Back to Music” sounds exactly how Daft Punk should intro an album, and “Giorgio by Moroder” is just a monster of a song. These four were enough to convince me that the hype had matched the reality at the time. But aside from those songs, it’s just not that good. Features from Julian Casablancas and Panda Bear were both letdowns. It was hard to tell whether Daft Punk wanted to do a modern take on their own music, or a commentary on retro dance music. The result was a hodgepodge of forgettable tunes and grooves that too often went nowhere.

Album you keep forgetting you actually like – Fitz and the Tantrums, More Than Just a Dream
I chose this for one reason – their previous album is just so good that I forget to listen to their 2013 stuff. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good.   Fitz and the Tantrums kept doing what they’re good at – quirky indie pop that you can’t help but dance to. It’s catchy but good. The only criticism anyone could have about it is that it doesn’t really take any chances, using a musical formula that’s bound to appeal to almost everybody in some capacity. But that’s a strength, not a weakness, and if you’re the kind of person who’s going to nitpick about something like that, I don’t want to listen to music with you. It’s just downright enjoyable. This is “dance respectfully with a quirky girl with bangs during a midday set at an outdoor festival” music. A good way to tell if someone’s dead is to play “Tell Me What Ya Here For.” If they don’t dance, call an ambulance.

Honorable mention: Cults, Static; Diarrhea Planet, I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams; Ghostface Killah, Twelve Reasons to Die  

Late-release album/song that makes you glad we waited so long to make this list: A$AP Nast ft. Method Man, “Trillmatic”
This song is a time machine set to 1997 when you were sitting in your room with a portable CD player nine tracks into your first listen of Nas or Wu-Tang and feeling really cool about yourself because of it. This was intentional, and you can tell in the video, with Method Man and A$AP standing in front of housing projects rapping directly into the camera, which was the only way you could make a rap video in the 90s.

I’d also like to mention because the internet by Childish Gambino. I don’t know much about the conceptual aspect of it, which appears to be a lightning rod for white guy thinkpieces and Twitter debates. But it has some really strong tracks, and shows some great progression in terms of building an entire song. As a whole, the album tails off at the end, but the first 11 are good listening. {Ed. note: We’ll say this bit counts for Colin’s “thing he liked that few others did,” a category used later by the other Two Dudes.}

Honorable mention: The Vaccines, I Wish I was a Girl  

LIAM:

Album I bought or would’ve bought if people still bought albums (aka best album): Kanye West, Yeezus
I actually bought this. Also, I dropped at least 1,000 words in a 3,500+ word piece regarding my feelings on and fanatical devotion to this record, so I’ll be succinct. As ‘Ye said, “rap’s the new rock and roll,” and in 30/40 years we (and hopefully the kids) will talk about Yeezus the way boomers and neo-hippies talk about Revolver and Pet Sounds or how hipsters deify Loveless and Daydream Nation.

Most disappointing: Arcade Fire, Reflektor
What an overstuffed, insufferably pretentious record, by a band that was once only overstuffed. The Suburbs smoothed the descent into an overemphasis on “big statement” songs and self-consciousness *Liam pauses to gag*, and Reflektor took the full-on dive. (Side note: I’m curious about the critics who called this “funky” or highlighted how they made a dancefloor album. Have they heard what “funky” or “danceable” music sounds like? My runner-up for the disappointment booby prize, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, is, if nothing else, extremely funky.)

Album/song that makes me want to stab my ears: Pitbull feat. Ke$ha, “Timber”
This was almost gonna be “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, which I’ve thrown at least 500 to 1,000 words of bile at this year. Then I heard “Timber.” There are no words vitriolic or bilious enough to sum up how bad this shit it. And it makes me so mad, because I LOVE Ke$ha – Warrior is one of the only front-to-back good modern pop records in the last few years. But “Timber” is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard in my life. That is not hyperbole. Before writing this I spent the past few days with a stomach virus, and “Timber” practically made it come back. *Liam vomits profusely* HOW DID YOU FAIL ME, KE$HA????

Most surprising album: Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Not since The Eminem Show has our boy Marshall put out a truly great record, and MMLP2 isn’t it either, but it’s damn close. Barring chump moves like the Rihanna radio anthem and “Stronger Than I Was,” it’s shockingly mature in the right ways and gleefully offensive in all the wrong (read: right) ones.

Song with the best Kendrick Lamar guest verse: Pusha T, “Nosetalgia”
This nails Kendrick’s truest skill, the reason why he’s entitled to stunt with the “Control” verse: it’s not his shit-talking, it’s storytelling – storytelling richer and more affecting than I find a lot of literature to be: “I still smell crime, my little brother cryin’/smokers repeatedly buyin’ my Sega Genesis, either that or my auntie was stealin’ it/hit the pipe and start feelin’ it … Quantum physics could never show you the world I was in, when I was 10/Back when nine ounces had got you 10/And nine times outta 10, niggas don’t pay attention/And when there’s tension in the air, nines come with extensions.” Damn.

Album/song I want playing in the background while battling the forces of evil (demons and shit): Forest Swords, Engravings
Jake turned me on to this album of sonically rich, abstract instrumental hip-hop (sort of) reminiscent of Clams Casino. Obvious runner-up in this category is Yeezus.

What I was listening to when Nelson Mandela died: Sleigh Bells, Bitter Rivals
Despite being convinced it had been Still Goin’ In (Reloaded) by Rich Homie Quan, careful cross-referencing of my Spotify history and Gchats on Dec. 5 revealed it to be Sleigh Bells. There’s something both really odd and kinda fitting about that, with emphasis on the odd.

Album/song I loved that’s most likely to offend my parents: Danny Brown, Old and R. Kelly, Black Panties
My mom and dad are pretty weird/open-minded for two boomers who are 60 and 71, respectively (look at who they birthed), but their Offend-o-Meter would go off pretty quickly for “Marry the Pussy,” “Show Ya Pussy” or anything from the second half of Old.

Guiltiest possible pleasure: Miley Cyrus, Bangerz
While “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” and “#GETITRIGHT” don’t need me to defend them, I found myself listening to Bangerz all the way through way too many times – including the bona-fide dumb songs like “4×4” and “Do My Thang.”

Something I liked that very few other people did: My Chemical Romance, Conventional Weapons
This series of 10 unreleased tracks proved – much too late – that this band was far, far more musically savvy, emotionally resonant and blessed with murderously effective rock chops than many bands referred to as “rock” (indie, mainstream or in-between) from the past 10 years, to say nothing of the substance-less label known as “emo.”

Song/album I thought I liked but ended up hating: Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell, “Blurred Lines”
My opinion of this has dropped pretty far from my initial enthusiasm. I’m whatever about it now, although it sorta still is the jam when properly deployed.

Early morning/hangover album: Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
In addition to being one of my five favorite records of 2013 and a huge surprise to a former VW skeptic, this is an excellent album for soundtracking your waking routine.

Late-release favorite: Beyoncé, Beyoncé
This category was solely invented, I think, to talk about either Burial’s Rival Dealer or Queen Bey, and if forced to choose between the two, I’m going with Beyoncé.

Album/song I forget that I like: Wavves’ Afraid of Heights and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience
Both are excellent records within shouting distance of great, but they came out in March so I don’t listen to them as often as they deserve.  (As for the latter, it’s the only version of 20/20 I choose to acknowledge. Don’t tell me ’bout no 2 of 2.)

JAKE:

Album I bought or would’ve bought if people still bought albums (aka Best Album) – Parquet Courts, Light Up Gold
I actually bought two albums this year – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen and Corsicana Lemonade by White Denim. Foxygen I bought because I really liked the song “San Francisco” but I couldn’t figure out how to use an iTunes gift card, so I bought the whole album with real money. I bought White Denim because I want to give them real money. That said, my favorite album was probably Light Up Gold by Parquet Courts.

Runner-ups: Still Corners, Strange Pleasures; The National, Trouble Will Find Me; Autre Ne Veut, Anxiety; Dawn Richard, Goldenheart

Most disappointing album – Porcelain Raft, Permanent Signal
This hurts, because Strange Weekend was one of favorites last year, and Porcelain Raft put out some very solid EPs in the years prior. Dream pop, or whatever terrible name this genre is called, always flirts with being too boring, and Permanent Signal seems to succumb to the ennui. Hopefully this is just a sophomore slump, but I’m wondering if there just isn’t much left to do with this style of music other than dubstep remixes.

Album/song that makes me want to stab my ears – Jay Z, Magna Carta…Holy Grail
This is a close race between Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Jay Z’s Magna Carta…Holy Grail. I’m going to give it to MCHG, which was a holy piece of shit. I gave it a few tries, but I always lose it at the beginning of “F.U.T.W.” when Jay Z says, “Let me be great.” Why is it my responsibility to let him be great? Jay, by all means, be great. No one’s stopping you but yourself.

Album I was listening to when Nelson Mandela died – Laurel Halo, Chance of Rain
OK then. Not that it’s a bad album, but I think I listened to it once the entire year, just happened to be at a historic moment. Of course, I’m sure I was listening to something more interesting one of the half-dozen times Mandela’s death was misreported. Let’s pretend I was listening to Wu-tang.

Most surprising album – Deerhunter, Monomania
For years, I’ve tried to fall in line and give frontman Bradford Cox the admiration that every other “hipster” seems to think he deserves. But there’s always been something about Deerhunter that just makes it unlistenable (same goes for Cox’s side project, Atlas Sound). The music always sounds kinda masturbatory, like the self-indulgent vision of one man, and if you don’t like it you don’t get it. And maybe that’s the case. Regardless, Monomania actually feels like of a team effort, and it sounds like Cox and company have finally decided to work on their musicianship–without sacrificing their sound or going disco. I guess what I really mean is, it’s about goddamn time they figured out how to structure songs.

Song with the best Kendrick Lamar guest verse – Schoolboy Q, “Collard Greens”
I’m going to catch flak for this, but I do not ride or die with Kendrick Lamar guest verses. I feel he has a tendency to derail tracks, forcing them to conform to his will rather than adhering to the natural flow of the song. He does this on “Control.”. He does it on “Nosetalgia” (Sorry, Liam). And for all his talent, it can be jarring. But dude’s dropped a shitload of guest verses this year, and the large majority are good. K. Dot feels most at home on “Collard Greens,” on which he’s able to show off his versatility, changing flows (and languages) several times, without ever feeling like he’s hijacking the song. While other tracks may show off his technical skill better, this one demonstrates that he can co-exist with another artist without necessarily making it a Kendrick Lamar track. It doesn’t hurt that the other artist here is Schoolboy Q, who has one of the best voices (timbre-wise) in hip-hop and is responsible for my favorite hip-hop song of the year for two years straight now (last year’s “Hands on the Wheel” may be the best track of all time).

Album/song I want playing in the background while battling the forces of evil (demons and shit) – Anamanaguchi, Endless Fantasy
When battling the forces of evil, the right music is often influenced by your weapon of choice (or convenience). Like, if you’re using a broadsword, you probably want to go with something metal, like Pantera (you might also use a whiskey bottle in this instance). An axe (conventional) or a large knife would call for something like Forest Swords, while a laser gun would be appropriate if you were listening to Skrillex. In my hypothetical scenario, I’m battling the forces of evil with whatever’s within reach, which at the moment is a keyboard, several pillows, a toolbox and my dog. It’s going to be messy and spastic. I’m going to need equally crazy-frantic music in order to drive these demons back to whence they came, so I’m going with Anamanaguchi.

Song I loved that’s most likely to offend my parents – Kanye West, “New Slaves”
OK, so the real answer here is any song off the new R. Kelly album. But in the interest of not being too obvious, I’m going with “New Slaves,” mainly because I wonder what my mom’s reaction would be to the line “Came on her Hampton blouse / And in her Hampton mouth.” God, there was so much potential for Freudian slip in typing that sentence.

Best early-morning album (hungover or not) – The National, Trouble Will Find Me
This is also a contender for Most Surprising Album, but I think Trouble Will Find Me by The National is a better fit here. I’ve always managed to avoid this band–mainly because I find Super Serious Indie Rock tiresome–but Liam made a compelling case and I’m glad I listened. It’s haunting and moody, for sure, but it’s also got some levity (at least, I assume the line “I was a white girl in a crowd of white girls in the park” is supposed to be at least kind of funny). Most importantly, it’s a good album to drink coffee to.

Guiltiest possible pleasure – Selena Gomez, “Come and Get It”
If I were honest, this would’ve been my top song of the year. But I’m a fucking liar and can’t bring myself to admit it. So it got bumped to, like, No. 8. Is it musically complex? No. Are the lyrics cheesy as hell? Yes. Is it an example of cultural appropriation? Probably. But this song is just so damn catchy through and through. It’s got a great beat that practically demands white-person dance moves. Plus, it’s the perfect song to lose your voice to when driving alone, and that’s important for any pop song that manages to be both terrible and wonderful at the same time.

Something I liked that very few other people did – Xenio Rubinos, Magic Trix
To be fair, most the reviews I read of this album were very positive. However, it didn’t seem to get much publicity, which is a shame because it’s got some great tracks. The album has a quasi-world music feel to it (probably just because it’s multi-lingual; also, why are genre names so terrible?), blended with off-the-wall beats, in-your-face riffs (which apparently are played on a keyboard), and some-other-hyphenated-quality vocals from singer-songwriter Xenio Rubinos that really bring the room together. It’s an odd one, for sure, but I recommend checking out “Hair Receding,” “Ultima” and “Help.”

Song/album I thought I liked but ended up hating – Foxygen, We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
It’s amazing how much a shitty live show can affect your opinion of an album. “Hate” is definitely too strong of a word, but this album quickly fell from grace after I saw these guys play Brighton Music Hall in May. The riff between bandmates was well-publicized, which may have something to do with their complete lack of onstage chemistry. But that notwithstanding, this album doesn’t hold up after more than a couple listens. “San Francisco” and “No Destruction” are still catchy as hell, but everything else feels like it’s trying too hard to be interesting, which, as a result, makes it forgettable. That said, this band is new and fairly young. Assuming they stick around, maybe they’ll turn this drama into something positive, go all Fleetwood Mac on us and release a new Rumours.

Late-discovery that makes me glad we waited so long to make this list – Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Contrary to what Liam said, this category was created so I could include Black Panties by R. Kelly in my end-of-year review. But let’s be real, Beyoncé deserves a spot on here. That she pulled off such an amazing marketing stunt (or lack thereof) is remarkable. Then, bonus points for the album actually being a delight. Plus, I get to feel better about myself for choosing an record that actually celebrates women rather than solely focusing on the pussy.

Album/song I forget that I like: – Dawn Richard, Goldenheart
It’s not so much that I forget I like this album, it’s that I forget how much I like it. When putting together a favorite-songs-of-the-year list (aka 69 Chillest Songs of 2013), I found myself considering four tracks from it – more than any other 2013 record. Richard (who you may remember from Making the Band 3…no, me neither) has amazing range and incredible diversity, which is only made better by the production quality from Andrew “Druski” Scott (who you may remember from…I’m sure he’s worked on something else). How do you even categorize this album? It’s sort of R&B, sort of EDM, kinda straight pop. Yet it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to break any new ground. It’s just doing a solid job of whatever the hell it’s doing. (Easter egg: Go to the discography section of Richard’s Wikipedia page and click the link for Blackheart. This is why Wikipedia is the best.)

{We hope you liked our picks. See you in 2014, lovers and haters. Colin, Liam and Jake can all be reached via Twitter, at @colinneagle, @liamchgreen and @jroeschley, respectively, or in the comments section, as always.}

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