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Old 12-22-2013, 10:51 AM  
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***2013 Edition of Reaper's Favorite Albums of the Year***

It's time of the year again. It's everyone's favorite holiday present. Etc.

As always, this is a list of my personal favorite albums of the year. It's not meant to be an objective "best-of" list, because while I listen to hundreds of new albums each year I still fall far short of listening to enough to feel comfortable making an objective claim. My usual genre tendencies towards metal and hip-hop are as present as ever. Hopefully you'll find some albums you will come to dig through this list.

I'll be posting it out over the next day. I'm doing 30 albums this year.

30. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
29. Rittz – The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant
28. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
27. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
26. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
25. Ces Cru - Constant Energy Struggles
24. DGM – Momentum
23. Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2
22. Kvelertak – Meir
21. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP
20. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
19. Mr. Mother****in eXquire – Kismet
18. Death Grips – Government Plates
17. ST 2 Lettaz – The G…Growth & Development
16. Ayreon – The Theory of Everything
15. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer, Different Park
14. Magic Circle – Magic Circle
13. Gorguts – Colored Sands
12. Beyonce – Beyonce
11. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
10. Haim – Days Are Gone
09. Pusha T – My Name Is My Name
08. Dessa – Parts of Speech
07. Danny Brown – Old
06. Deafheaven – Sunbather
05. El-P & Killer Mike – Run the Jewels
04. Jason Isbell – Southeastern
03. Rokia Traore – Beautiful Africa
02. Kanye West – Yeezus
01. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady

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Old 12-22-2013, 10:51 AM   #2
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30. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual


This is sort of like the colder, more electronic, more analytical version of Swans’ album from last year, The Seer. It’s really challenging. There’s essentially no song structure on most of the tracks, some of which are 20 minute long droning noise pieces. Lyrically, I guess there’s a bunch of critical and feminist theory, but I never really glean any of it when listening to the album. Sure, The Knife could have made their first album in like seven years more accessible. I’d probably prefer that. But I appreciate this wacky challenge. As much as I want to feel things when listening to music, the prog-loving part of me also loves it when music – not lyrics, but music – stimulates me intellectually as well. This album does that.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:53 AM   #3
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29. Rittz – The Life and Times of Jonny Valiant



Rittz is an Atlanta rapper who raps very quickly. His signature flow crams a bunch of words into each line, but the phrasing, pronunciation, and timing is perfect. He’s incredibly precise while also managing to come across as completely chill. His flow is the sound of lazily driving around the neighborhood, showing off the new aftermarket part you just put on your car. I have a soft spot for virtuosic rappers, and Rittz hits that spot for me while also evoking the laidback parts of Southern hip-hop.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:53 AM   #4
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28. The National – Trouble Will Find Me



I don’t like this album more than The National’s previous album, High Violet. In fact, I think this album is largely unnecessary. It shows very little, if any, artistic growth from their previous work. There’s no “Lemonworld” here. It’s more of the same. That said, The National are very good at doing what they do. I can’t deny that I listened to this album a whole lot more than the preceding sentences would have suggested. If you don’t know this band, I think this album would be a good starting point.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:54 AM   #5
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27. Arcade Fire – Reflektor



I freely admit: I don’t like Arcade Fire. Never have. Nonsense music. Bullshit music. Their first three albums anyway. This new one has been largely rejected by their core fans. That must be the reason why I find myself digging it. It’s a double album: not quite progressive in scope, but out-of-the-box enough to include some noise tracks for texture. The songs mostly operate on a disco-meets-island-rhythms trajectory. Danceability seems to have been the goal, even when the band wants to throw some fuzz and drone and choppy structure in the way to make sure it isn’t TOO danceable. In some ways, I think this is a timid album. Despite LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy as executive producer, the band doesn’t embrace the danciness to its fullest extent. I think my favorite moments lean towards the disco ones here. The title track is the best David Bowie song in the last 40 years; it’s incredible. I wish Bowie himself would have written it himself, for his new album, so I wouldn’t have to put a damn Arcade Fire album on my list.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:55 AM   #6
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26. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe



These pop songs are huge. Massive waves of synths that sound like a rainbow tsunami crashing into you, leaving behind a wake of beautification. These three Glasgow musicians studied the M83 playbook and figured out what Anthony Gonzales never did – that female vocals work better over these kinds of keyboard sounds than male vocals do. The vocals here soar as high as the synth melodies, but there is a slight chill that cuts the happiness. There’s a touch of wisdom here, as these songs have ambitions to swell with emotion. A wisdom that keeps the songs from becoming twee. This album is really awesome. If not for the three tracks where some dude in the band takes over lead vocals (and the songs slow down with him singing, for some reason) this would rank higher.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:56 AM   #7
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25. Ces Cru - Constant Energy Struggles



Ces Cru are an insanely technically proficient rap duo from Kansas City. Their previous album placed in my top 10 back in 2010. I love these guys. This album is their first on Strange Music, and it is conceived as an introduction to the label’s die-hard fans. I did not need to be introduced to Ces Cru. So lyrically, some of the content falls flat to my ears; you know, the typical sort of rap braggadocio. Some of the tracks have interesting lyrical turns, like “Wall-E” – a song about environmental concerns; obviously a subject that rap doesn’t cover very much. Mostly, I like this album for Ubiquitous & Godemis’ insane flows. This was a go-to album this year for when I wanted to listen to some impressive technical rapping but didn’t want to think about it too much.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:56 AM   #8
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24. DGM – Momentum



This Italian progressive metal band is basically ripping off Symphony X. Like, that’s all that DGM does: make Symphony X songs. Why is it on my list of favorite albums of the year? Because I ****ing love Symphony X. Hell, the first track on the album has Russell Allen (Symphony X’s vocalist) singing on it! The worship couldn’t be more blatant. But because of their worship DGM are meticulous students of progressive metal. They know how to write a prog metal song that hits all of my weak spots: technical chops from every musician, guitar riffs that are thick and dynamic, vocals that make me wish I could sing more than anything in the world. This kind of metal music makes me pump my fist, makes me want to sing along, and makes my brain work overtime trying to figure out the time signatures.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:57 AM   #9
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23. Action Bronson – Blue Chips 2



Action Bronson returns to his one true muse, producer Party Supplies, and puts out a collection of tracks that are hilarious and strangely dynamic. The key to making it all work is the samples. There’s lots of 80s and 90s radio staple songs being looped and rapped over. It creates this cloudy feeling of nostalgia, while Bronsolino cuts through with bars that are just as much self-aggrandizing as they are self-defeating. Sample lines: “I nutted in like three strokes/shit, now that’s no way to rep the East Coast” or “A young Zinedine Zidane/in Flushing Meadows Park, drinking Hennessey with Mom.” The track that best sums up this release is “Contemporary Man,” which almost frantically switches up the sampled beat as if someone is changing the dial on the radio & Action Bronson is on every station. This album is just fun, IDK.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:58 AM   #10
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22. Kvelertak – Meir



This album is also just fun. I loved Kvelertak’s first album – cannon blast of black metal and punk rock. This, their second album, is just as punk. But black metal slips to the background in favor of more classic rock guitars. Imagine if a local punk band did a collaboration with Thin Lizzy, and they all wore corpsepaint. That is Meir. It’s a nonstop blast of energy. This album will KILL at Egan’s (or whatever your local dive bar that books loud bands is).
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:58 AM   #11
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21. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP



It feels like forever ago that this album came out. I haven’t tired of it. “Goldie” is still amazing. “1 Train” still knocks. I even warmed up to the Skrillex-produced “Wild For the Night.” And I can’t forget about the Clams Casino-produced “LVL.” A$AP Rocky will never be confused for a great lyricist. He’s not a great rapper either, but he does just enough with his wordplay and changes his flow up just enough to make everything work. He’s got such charisma. He owns the beats he raps on, and the beats he picks are typically stellar. I may not care about anyone else in the A$AP Mob, but Rocky needs to keep on putting out material. He’s two for two on albums now. Great start to his career.
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Old 12-22-2013, 10:59 AM   #12
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20. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories



I hate country radio. My mom still listens, but even she finds more musical solace in the Nashville outsiders trying to make a name for themselves rather than the products of the machine. Usually, good songwriters have to settle for writing for other, less talented musicians. Brandy Clark was in that boat not too long ago, having written hits for Miranda Lambert and The Band Perry (their only good song, “Better Dig Two”). With this album, though, Clark gets to show that she has the chops to make it on her own. She’s got a classic country voice: expressive and delicately phrased. It works perfectly with her songwriting style, which is the classic storytelling kind. “Stripes” is about a woman who decides against murdering her cheating husband because she doesn’t look good in stripes or orange. “Pray to Jesus” is based around the sad-but-true? premise that in small town life, the only way to make a real change for the better is to “pray to Jesus or play the Lotto.” “What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” is perhaps the best country song about adultery that I can remember hearing. I wouldn’t hate country radio if there were more artists as honest and spare as Brandy Clark.
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Old 12-22-2013, 11:00 AM   #13
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19. Mr. Mother****in eXquire – Kismet



Mr. Mother****in eXquire has come a long way from his 2010 mixtape, Lost in Translation, which I adored. That was mostly party tracks or sort of depressed musings, spit over recycled Necro and El-P beats. Lyrically, he’s more confident in his abilities. Lyrically, he can do whatever he wants. He gets caught up in relationship troubles still. But there’s a maturity here, and an almost bleak acceptance that maybe is or isn’t maturity, that feels new and rare in hip-hop. This is a conscious rap album for people going through breakups. “Cherry Raindrops” and “Vanilla Rainbows” tread romantic ground in a mature, non-skeevy way that Drake could never do. “The Cauldron” and “Noble Drew Ali,” meanwhile, show off what eXquire can do as an emcee when he wants to straight kill a beat. The album’s focus dips on the second half –a common problem with rap albums for whatever reason – but this is well worth your time. I’ll ride for eXquire, whatever he puts out.
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Old 12-22-2013, 11:01 AM   #14
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18. Death Grips – Government Plates



Ah, Death Grips. They put out my #16 and #1 albums last year. Yes, in case you forgot, I thought and still do think that The Money Store is a better album (barely) than Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid…m.A.A.d. City. Their new album starts off as a natural progression from No Love Deep Web. It’s unrelentingly aggressive and paranoid. MC Ride doesn’t drop bars so much as he pleads to the voices inside his head. The samples sound invasive. If No Love Deep Web sounded like being under drone surveillance, then Government Plates sounds like the drones attacking you. For the first half anyway. Then it becomes looser, more spaced out. Death Grips start experimenting with texture in new ways, and I find the songcraft to drop off with it. I don’t need Death Grips to be high-energy all the time. But what separates a good album like Government Plates from an all-time classic like The Money Store is craft. Catchiness. An olive branch given towards pop sensibilities. This album lacks that olive branch, but it doesn’t lack for memorable material.
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Old 12-22-2013, 11:02 AM   #15
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17. ST 2 Lettaz – The G…Growth & Development



It’s moot now that G-Side have gotten back together, but this is ST’s full-length solo debut (there was a short 2012 EP). I don’t feel like typing up all of my positive feelings towards ST, Block Beattaz, and G-Side. You can read my 2011 list for those. This is ST 2 Lettaz – perhaps the most dynamic rapper in the south that isn’t a member of Outkast – rapping over Block Beattaz instrumentals. It’s lovely. “Ocean” features an absolutely epic layering of percussion and ‘whoop’ sounds and wind instruments over a sampled vocal hook from a Scandinavian singer. “Wasted Youth” is classic Block Beattaz, with a guest verse from Bentley that might be the realest talk put onto a record this year: “A wise man once said you only getting what’s given/my cousin’s in prison, so mother**** your aphorisms.” “Trillmatic” is this old-school 90’s throwback beat, with ST giving some of the best college football metaphor bars I’ve heard in a while: “I bleed Roll Tide red/houndstooth bedspread/and I’m still getting head from an Auburn Tiger/so strong, I pack an Iron Bowl.”
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