Downloadable Delights: Ten Essential Albums From March 2013
April 4th, 2013 9:57am EDT
In the digital age of music, it's easy to miss some of the best releases of any given month because it seems like these days, so much music comes out at the same time. With that in mind, here are the ten albums from March 2013 that you may have missed or ignored that should be obtained, as they were the best releases of the month.
10. "The Next Day" David Bowie
David Bowie took 10 years off after releasing "Reality" in 2003, and it felt like 10 years too long. "The Next Day" contains his best songwriting since the Berlin era in the early 80's, with stand out tracks like the incredibly catchy "Valentine's Day," the rocker "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," and the masterful "Dancing Out in Space." Nothing tops "Where Are We Now?," the beautiful, nostalgic, and insightful ballad that easily stands as one of the best tracks of his career, and let's not forget that this is the man responsible for masterpieces like "Heroes" and "Life on Mars." "The Next Day" shows that although Bowie may be older, he hasn't lost touch.
9. "Music For Cars" The 1975
Technically, "Music For Cars" is an EP and not a full album, but that matters little because what it lacks in length it makes up for in quality. "Chocolate" is easily the best pop song of this year, featuring an infectious guitar riff and lyrics that just beg to be sung along with despite the fact that the chocolate they're referring to in the song is a code for a drug. "Heads. Cars. Bending" features pitch bended vocals, chopped rhythms, and is completely haunting yet intoxicating. "Me" is an atmospheric ballad that brings the EP to a perfect close and shows that The 1975 are a band to watch in the future, because they can only get bigger from here. Luckily enough, they are hard at work on a full length album, which should be coming out later this year.
8. "Between Places" Young Dreams
When Fun. decided to go commercial on their last release (unfortunately), there was a gap left in the indie world that needed filling. Thankfully, Young Dreams have filled that gap perfectly, releasing an album filled with Afro pop guitar riffs, amazing harmonies (Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys would be quite proud of this record), and some great pop writing that also challenges the listener in many ways. There's not a song on here that stands out as being a great single ("Fog of War" comes close though) but despite this the album still manages to be catchy and fun to listen to, and it reveals itself through multiple listens. The true genius of this record is how sustainable it is through repeated listeners, and as a result is highly recommendable. It's nice to see that big harmonies and catchy riffs still have a place in the indie world.
7. "Relativity 3" - Lemaitre
Lemaitre occupy the perfect middle ground between electronic duos Daft Punk and Royksopp. At any moment, they can fill songs with a plethora of irresistible funk riffs that beg to be played at any dance party, and at the next they can craft a loungy, laid back number like "Cut to Black." The EP may only be four songs, but in such a short span Lemaitre cover a massive amount of ground. "Fiction" is easily the catchiest track here, and yet it's also filled with many break downs that make the delivery on the choruses of the song that much stronger. If you're looking for masterful dance pop music, look now farther.
6. "Afraid of Heights" Waaves
"Afraid of Heights" sounds a lot like the lost Weezer album that should have come between "The Blue Album" and "Pinkerton." It's filled to the brim with fast paced, punchy punk pop, and with lyrics about the alienation of young adult life and drug usage. It harkens back to a time when punk rock was king, before it was commercialized and sanitized in the early 2000's, and for that reason it's worth listening to alone. I doubt that there's a punk rock revival on the horizon, but if there is, Waaves is already way ahead of the curve.
5. "The North Borders" Bonobo
Atmosphere is an essential feature of any ambient electronic release, and Simon Greene, the man behind Bonobo, has that in droves. Tracks like "Cirrus" and "Jets" are filled to the brim with layers of noise, but there are never any build ups or break downs. Instead, the tracks are wonderfully imaginative and moody, and they seem to flow endlessly. Honestly, any one of these songs could probably be placed on repeat and it wouldn't be until the fourth or fifth time around that one would notice that it had been the same track all along. There are many ambient hip hop producers out there, but few have mastered the genre like Greene.
4. "Woman" Rhye
Soul music is under appreciated these days, so it was nice to hear an album that harkens back to the heyday of artists like Sade. The album is filled with effortless beats and gorgeous singing, and it's loungy atmosphere provides both perfect background music and yet reveals more intricacies upon repeated listening.
3. "Muchacho" Phosphorescent
It's hard to think of a more moving and well written song from this year than "Song For Zula," the highlight from Phosphorescent's latest release. The track references Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" while describing a broken man who does not know how to cope with the idea of love. The rest of the album is strong, but "Zula" is easily the trump card of the whole record, and an early contender for the best song of the year.
2. "Amygdala" DJ Koze
Electronic music has expanded in scope and popularity recently in such a way that has made it hard to separate who the true innovators and artists are and who the ones who are trying to cash in on it's popularity are. DJ Koze proves on this record that he is clearly an artist, and has created a masterpiece in the process, a record that is filled with so much personality, so much vision, and so much ambition that it trumps everything else in the genre. It's not easy listening by any means, but it's worth the effort.
1. "The 20/20 Experience" Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake certainly took a long break from music, but his return was nothing short of triumphant. "The 20/20 Experience" is easily his most consistent and best album to date, and despite the long running time of most of the tracks, it manages to be consistently excellent. "Suit and Tie" is both retro and futuristic, "Mirrors" is sprawling in length yet incredibly focused, "Strawberry Bubblegum" features a killer lounge outro, and "Pusher Love Girl" is the best opening track on any album in recent memory, and these moments are just a few of the highlights on a superbly crafted pop masterpiece. If J.T. decides to take ten years off from music after this (although it appears that he won't, as the second half of this record sounds like it's on it's way later this year), then he can leave knowing that he created the best album he possibly could.
Related: Bonobo, David Bowie, DJ Koze, Justin Timberlake, Lemaitre, Phosphorescent, Rhye, The 1975, Young Dreams, Starpulse Exclusives, Music, Rock Music, R & B, Punk Music, Country, Pop, Indie Music, Power Pop, Alternative, Top 10 Lists
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