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Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 6-5

6. G-Dragon - Coup D'etat

K-Pop’s top MC returned with an album full of interesting sounds, futuristic beats and strong pop choruses. It’s GD’s most international album yet, even including spots by Missy Elliott and Sy Ferreria. Its diversity of sound is both its greatest pleasure and biggest detraction. At times it barely holds together as an album, but the highlights are so impressive that it’s hard to care about such quibbles. Like Miley’s album, it’s ballsy and fresh--two prerequisites for a lasting music career.

5. Studio Killers - Studio Killers

The lead-up to this album release was nearly unbearable. Studio Killers had been offering us all-too-infrequent teasers for years. They were so amazing that I declared this the album of the year before even hearing it. While it didn’t quite reach that peak, there’s no denying the strength of every single song on here. Nobody did breezy electro pop better in 2013, and it’ll probably be awhile before someone does. So often in this genre, you get the sense that artists favor production over songwriting, but I think that, even if you were to strip everything back, each track would still stand out on melody and lyrics alone.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 15-11

15. Avicii - Wake Me Up

The EDM track of the year, easily. Represents an amazing new hybrid of dance, country and soul that enthralled everybody, n every country, this year.

14. Shinee - Why So Serious?

I love it when K-Pop goes rock, and the electric guitars and goofy ad-libs made this the Shinee single to beat in 2013.

13. Martin Rolinski - On The Run

More of this, Martin! I'm here for the fist pumping chorus and skyscraping beats. A total anthem.

12. Studio Killers - Jenny 

Four singles in, Studio Killers released what may be their highlight. Whip-smart lyrics married to a laidback, funky electronic beat

11. Robin - Boom Kah 

Robin Packalen came back in a big way with this track. It shouldn't be good, but somehow he always manages to take the best of the current pop landscape and make it into something incredibly joyous.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 8-7

8. Tegan And Sara - Heartthrob

I love a pop makeover, particularly when an artist sticks with it for more than a few songs. This year, Tegan and Sara went from indie darlings to bona fide pop stars. Not only that, but their brand of sparkly, shiny music reached back deep into the 80’s for inspiration. It’s pop music that somehow seems smarter and more important than most of the stuff you hear on the radio. That could make for a dreary “artistic statement” type album, but luckily the girls never forget the power of a good hook.

7. Miley Cyrus - Bangerz

No pop star was more controversial or ubiquitous this year. Miley reinvented everything about herself and delivered a left-field experimental pop album in the process. The big hits are also the definite standouts, but it’s fascinating to listen to some of the less direct stuff that makes up most of the album. It’s personal pop without ever getting too personal. It’s also one of the grimier sounding mainstream releases of the year. Not everything works as well as it could, but she clearly swung for the rafters and that’s a thrilling thing to listen to.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 20-16

20. Anton Ewald - Beggin'

The big breakthrough of this year's Melodifestivalen. Some have called it out as not having much in the way of melody, but I've always defended it as the massive pop song it is.

19. Haloo Helsinki! - Huuda! (Shout!)

An unexpected gem from Finland. That sledgehammer beat made this a rock band to really pay attention to, no matter what language they sing in.

18. Girls' Generation - I Got A Boy

K-Pop's most intriguing experiment of 2013. A single whose structure is so complicated and multi-faceted that it nearly becomes its own album medley.

17. Shinee - Dream Girl 

The single that kicked off Shinee's extraordinary 2013 run. Pure, vibrant pop with a chorus so big it echoes from the rooftops.

16. Ola - Maybe 

Ola's always been a favorite, but this is when he started making music that really registered beyond pure pop. It's just huge.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Top 20 Albums Of 2013: 10-9

10. Robin - Boom Kah

Non-English albums can be tricky, especially when they have literally no lyrics in my native language (well, besides “boom,” which isn't actually very meaningful). I've found, though, that sometimes I prefer glossy, hook-and-production-based pop in another language. It doesn't really matter what the kid’s saying when the music is this good. Despite not initially being on the bandwagon, Finland’s Robin Packalen has continued to impress me with each album. This is expertly written and produced Euro-pop at its finest, and if the language barrier is putting you off, I’d ask you to give it a try anyway, because if you don’t you’re really missing out on some of the year’s best pop.

9. Icona Pop - This Is...

Sometimes it seems like albums are years in the making. In this case, this isn't even Icona Pop's first version of this album (though most of the songs from last year have been replaced, so it pretty much counts as a new record). This strategy actually benefited this release, as it's just stuffed with singles. More than that, though, even the album tracks sound like they could be hits. I've heard people complain that the album is too samey, but that's exactly what I like about it. There’s a consistent sound and quality throughout, and it doesn't sound like any other album out there this year.

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Top 50 Singles Of 2013: 25-21

25. Austin Mahone - What About Love

In a year where 90's nostalgia truly blossomed, nothing evoked the Max Martin produced boybands of yesteryear better than this.

24. Ulrik Munther - San Francisco Says Hello

A particularly melancholy, lovelorn ballad from this Swedish star, but with a singalong chorus to die for.

23. Roberto Bellarosa - Love Kills

My favorite Eurovision track of the year, and it came from Belgium, a country that barely registers with me musically. Mammoth hook.

22. Miley Cyrus - Wrecking Ball 

The inescapable ballad that cemented Cyrus as an enormous, A-level pop star worldwide. The rare song that screams "#1 hit" from the very first listen.

21. Natalia Kills - Saturday Night 

The song that made me truly stand up and notice Natalia Kills. Personal, provocative and delivered with such heart that it's impossible to ignore.

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