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Friday, December 20, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 12-11

12. EXO - XOXO

I was a huge supporter of this Korean/Chinese band’s debut EP last year, and I was initially disappointed with the full album because I felt it lacked the dramatic bombast that I’d loved from them in the past. One reissue later and I realized that, once I let my expectations go, this was an excellent, soulful K-Pop album in its own right. Even so, I’m looking to see them back in my top ten once they rekindle a little bit of the magic found on last year’s EP.

11. Katy Perry - Prism

This is a tough one. I really wanted to be able to put it higher, because it is a good collection of expensive pop songs, but I wish it wasn’t so safe. Had she taken a risk and done something a little off kilter, I might regard this more as a pleasant pop album. That being said, “safe” Katy Perry is still miles above most pop stars, and I did love that melody was key throughout the album, even at the expense of risk-taking. I went off Roar pretty quickly, but the album’s latter half of midterm 90’s-esque jams, is surprisingly effective.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 30-26

30. Loreen - We Got The Power

She'll likely never be able to touch Euphoria again, but she was able to bottle some of that magic for this powerful follow-up.

29. Girls' Generation - Love & Girls

The sugariest rush of bubblegum on my countdown this year (yes, even more than Crayon Pop). You're either going to love it or hate it.

28. Henry - Trap

Debut solo single from Canadian-born K-Pop star. That piano refrain is enough to get it on the countdown. The melody and performance puts it in the top 30.

27. The Fooo - Freestyler 

An unexpected cover for the young group, who managed to make the song bigger, louder and fresher than the original.

26. Hedley - Anything 

Blazing comeback from one of my favorite Canadian rock bands. This is an enormous worldwide crossover hit that hasn't found that deserved success... yet.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 14-13

14. Diana Vickers - Music To Make Boys Cry

File this under “albums that should have been WAY more successful than they actually were.” I liked a few tracks from Vickers’ debut album a couple years ago, but the fact that she worked with production team Xenomania on this entire album guarantees that it’s chock-full of sophisticated, melodic 80’s-influenced pop. It’s the kind of album that works better as a whole than in parts, hence the fact that none of its singles made my top 50 list, even though I’m so enthusiastic about the album.

13. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines

Most people will laud Blurred Lines, the single, as one of the best of the year, but I’m here to testify for the album. I’ve always wanted to like Thicke more than I do. His very first, underrated album showed heaps of promise, with its modern disco soul sound and uptempo tracks, but after that he devolved into a career of drippy slow jams. Now finally, the tempo is back! There’s a lot more to this album if you look past the one, inescapable single. It definitely sound tracked my summer.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 35-31

35. Crayon Pop - Bar Bar Bar

In the wake of Gangnam Style, this was the next big novelty hit from Korea. And it couldn't have been catchier.

34. The Vamps - Can We Dance

Could've been released back in '06/'07 when the indie rock craze was all the rage in the UK. Would love more of this sound in the future.

33. EXO - Growl

This was the Korean boyband well and truly arriving. After an amazing 2012, this funky r&b stomper cemented their place as one of the biggest bands in Asia.

32. 2NE1 - Falling In Love 

In a year that saw far too few releases from these girls, their first comeback wormed its way into my head and became a Summer staple.

31. Robin - Haluan Sun Palaavan (I Want You To Return) 

The sound of this Finnish teen popstar maturing. A striking wintertime ballad that transcends the language barrier with a shot of emotion.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 16-15

16. Ulrik Munther - Rooftop

I’m still waiting for the album from this guy that will boost him into my top ten of the year. There’s so much potential. I love his vocals and the fact that he writes all of his own stuff (with co writers/producers, of course). An album full of Tell The World I’m Here style tracks would have been something really, really special. As it is, this is still a very solid piece of pop rock that shows growth and maturity without becoming a complete bore.

15. Robbie Williams -Swings Both Ways

When I first heard about a second swing album from Robbie Williams, I prepared myself to be bored by it. Not that I didn’t like his first standards collection, but swing just isn’t my favorite genre and a little goes a long way. Instead of being bored, though, I soon discovered that this is an incredibly fun collection with--best of all--a mini reunion between Robbie and songwriting partner Guy Chambers. The originals are outstanding, and I hope it’s the beginning of a rekindled partnership between the two.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 40-36

40. One Direction - Kiss You

Their best single from an album filled with tracks that should have been singles. Sometimes all you want is a well-executed piece of radio pop fluff.

39. The Preatures - Is This How You Feel

Undeniably funky track from Down Under. Takes the best of early 80's Prince, performed by a band that sounds very little like him.

38. Darin - Check You Out

Darin's hookiest original song this year, which should have been the single to launch the somewhat bungled promotion for his latest album.

37. Emblem 3 - Chloe (You're The One I Want) 

A surprise summer hit for me, these guys found a sound that hearkened back to the best of late 90's/early 00's sunny radio rock.

36. Ben Ivory - The Righteous Ones 

A statement of intent if there ever was one, tied into an aggressive, smart dance track that deserved more recognition than it got.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 18-17

18. Britney Spears - Britney Jean

It’s amazing that, after all these years, I can still feature a Britney Spears album on my countdown. While she’s never reached the artistic highs of some other pop divas, she’s remained remarkably consistent in delivering high wattage sugar rushes. Sure, I guess you could call this album more “personal,” but it’s the big pop moments that really stand out for me. And the best part is that instead of hitting you immediately and quickly wearing out their welcome, I found that the album was actually a grower.

17. Hedley - Wild Life

Canada’s best (only?) Idol-spawned rock band came back this year with a bid for the pop charts, offering a grab bag of expertly delivered sounds of the moment, from neo-disco to folk to plain old pop punk. It’s not always original, but it’s certainly never boring. More than anything, though, it’s a blast to hear an established, tight band like this loosening up and playing around with some new sounds.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 45-41

45. The Fooo - Fridays Are Forever

Throwback to Ace Of Base-style 90's dance pop, delivered by the world's most promising new boy band.

44. Alexander Rybak - 5 To 7 Years

Not a "single" in the strictest definition, but I couldn't leave this melodramatic chest pumper off of my list this year.

43. Getty Domein - Dance With The Devil

A calypso blend of 2013 dance production and tribal hooks. I always say I want more African-hued pop music. This definitely fits the bill.

42. A Great Big World - This Is The New Year 

Their big Christina Aguilera duet is proving to be their breakthrough, but I much prefer this anthemic slice of piano pop.

41. Behrang Miri - Jalla Dansa Sawa 

A Euro pop hybrid that became the real surprise of this year's Melodifestivalen. It just feels like summer.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 20-19

20. Haim - Days Go By

A pleasant flashback to pieces of the 70's, 80's and 90's, where music wasn't as overproduced and didn't have to have a frantic EDM beat behind it (not that those two things are bad). What we get instead is excellent songwriting, ballsy vocals and some of the sunniest summertime pop heard in a few years. Front-loaded by the excellent singles, the album-only tracks aren't too bad either.

19. The Limousines - Hush

Probably my favorite album cover on the list, the songs themselves were a nice surprise too. The tracklist could do with a little pruning, but there are enough dreamy 80's inspired highlights here to warrant a place on the countdown. I feel like this album was overlooked this year, and I'd love to see that changed because--while the songs might not draw attention to themselves initially--it's a solid pop album for those that like their catchy hooks to be a little more indie-oriented.

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