WPGU 107.1′s Top 50 Albums of 2013: Staff Picks/Honorable Mentions

2013
Chance, The Rapper – Acid Rap
At the beginning of last year, Chicago-born Chance the Rapper (real name: Chance Bennett) had a few thousand followers on twitter; today, he has over 350,000. The word “rapid” doesn’t even begin to describe the ascent Chance has been a part of in 2013, and Acid Rap is the reason why. Blending elements of classic hip hop, soul, and seriousness, Acid Rap encapsulates the city of Chicago, and the joys and frustrations of its youth, all in one album. Chance’s rhymes are all over the place, ranging from monologues on gun violence to drinking kiwi Mistics (they’re delicious), and while this may seem scattered, it blends nicely showing wonderful maturation from the 20 year-old emcee. If you haven’t checked out Acid Rap yet, please do so now, before Chance has a million twitter followers. [Boswell Hutson]

California X – California X
California X is an album that was quietly released back in January, but that’s all that’s quiet about this album. Combining the riffing and distorted fuzz of Dinosaur Jr. with the energetic, fist-pumping rock of Japandroids, California X makes music that packs an enormous punch and makes for great driving music. Though they may wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, the band clearly has the talent and chemistry to make a truly great record. This is not that record, but it’s fun, loud and has an infectious energy that is impossible to deny. [Eric Holmes]

Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 3
Having been blown away by Stetson’s previous albums, I listened to this one with really high expectations, and he managed to meet most of them. The album is every bit as dark and intense as its predecessors, with occasionally bizarre musical rants. It continues the work of New History Warfare volumes 1 and 2 in providing track after track of post-apocalyptic gloom, but it is enchanting enough that the tone never grows old, and is just as compelling as Stetson’s work has always been. [Claire Schroeder]

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Earl released his second solo album at the end of this summer, right in time for classes to start. I was disappointed that he had to cancel his show at Bonnaroo in June, but the later success of his album did not come as a surprise. The collaboration, features and diversity in this album really made it stand out for me. The quality production was just a plus, well worth checking out if you haven’t. [Alleya Weibel]

Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s self-titled and first ever “visual” album was by the far the greatest Christmas surprise anyone could ever ask for. Keeping it completely hidden from the world, Beyoncé dropped the album out of nowhere in the middle of December, just in time to mess up everybody’s end of the year top albums list. This album is without a doubt one of the best pop albums of the year. It tours a whirlwind of funky jams, suggestive metaphors, emotional sets, and an all around empowerment because she’s Beyoncé and she can do just that. Without any singles, every song has potential for greatness. The album features tracks with Drake, Jay Z, Frank Ocean, and even her own two year old daughter Blue Ivy. And if a fourteen track album secretly created by the legendthe factary, goddess of a woman Beyoncé was not enough to knock you off your feet, this album is even accompanied by eighteen music videos. One for every song and then some. “XO” sounds like the next big hit, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she grabbed a few more singles off this wonderful bombshell of an album that she graced the world with. [Mandy Rodio]

MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
The Brooklyn-based duo, consisting of vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer Max Hershenow, released their debut album, Secondhand Rapture in May of this year. Following their EP, Candy Bar Creep Show, the young artists devoted time to a full-length album. MS MR’s music radiates a soulful and rock beat that also has a vintage and dark sound to it. “Hurricane”,” Head is Not a Home”, and “Think of You” are my leading songs from the album. Plus, “Bones” was used in one of the early Game of Thrones trailers, which helped them spark their career. I saw them perform this summer at Lollapolooza, and I fell in love with the two of them. I choose this album as my pick because I have been following them the past year, and I would like to see their popularity grow. Take a listen. They really rock the house. Fun Fact: They covered “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. [Elle Youpel]

Dawes – Stories Don’t End
Stories Don’t End might not be the kind of album that you love immediately, but you will gain respect for it when you listen to it a second time (which will probably lead to a third time). Meticulous song craft and instrumental changes at just the right moment keep your interest peaked throughout. What I like about Dawes, which I don’t find true with most other bands, is that I can’t really put my finger on where they draw their inspiration from. Certainly no one is totally original, but these guys have their own sound as far as I can tell. [Luke Ray]

Jason Isbell – Southeastern
Normally I’m not a fan of country music at all, but Jason Isbell is no normal country singer. Isbell (formerly of the Drive-By Truckers) cares little about drinking beer (he’s a recovering alcoholic), driving a pick-up truck (no mention of one on Southeastern) or generic overarching patriotism. Instead, Southeastern focuses on sobering, and at times emotionally devastating stories of loneliness, sobering up, and the death of loved ones. Isbell’s album transcends the genre it ascribes to, establishing him as one of the premier songwriters in music today. [Dylan Knox]

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