One caveat though: I’m not saying these are the BEST albums of the year. I pretty much ignore entire genres (such as folk, which can go folk itself as far as I’m concerned) so I can’t claim this is a thorough survey of the musical firmament. These are the ones that I LIKE the best.
1. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
The colossal Pharell Williams fronted ‘Get Lucky’ was already the undisputed Song of 2013 by May, so how could the subsequent album possibly live up to its flagship hit? Turns out it could. Daft Punk’s diverse modern day disco homage is end-to-end irresistible and feelgood (somehow without ever sounding like a throwback).
Best track: ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’, the other discotastic one on which Pharell guests
2. Yeezus by Kanye West
Sex-obsessed, schizophrenic and infuriatingly short, Yeezy’s sixth album proper is a typically angry and all caps locked affair. But it’s also laced with some of the hookiest pop hooks around. I listened to nothing else all summer.
Best track: ‘Bound 2‘ is the song that will get stuck in your head. Just don’t ever watch the grimace-inducing Kim Kardashian-centric video, because that will too.
3. Beyoncé by Beyoncé
Arriving fanfareless and too late to make many end of year lists, Beyonce’s surprise fifth album is almost as sex-obsessed and schizophrenic as Yeezus. But with plenty of the 14 tracks clocking in over the five-minute mark it’s mercifully much longer. It looks like Queen B learnt her lesson after 2011’s mediocre 4. This time round she’s drafted in a fleet of scorching hot producers and songwriters. The sizzling output is a testament as much to her talent as her taste in collaborators.
Best track: the extra-long filthy trappy ditty that features her husband Jay Z, ‘Drunk in Love’.
4. True Romance by Charli XCX
The now 21-year-old who wrote Icona Pop’s painfully youthful 2012 anthem ‘I Love It’ released an altogether more grown-up solo record this year, one that riffed on sex (‘Grins’), drugs (‘Take My Hand’) and heartache (everywhere). It’s pop, but it’s dark, dirty and compelling.
Best track: the luschiously catchy ‘You’re the One’.
5. Magna Carter Holy Grail by Jay Z
Initially overlooked when it was released during the Summer of Yeezus, it turned out Jay ‘no more hypen’ Z’s latest was a bit of a grower. Skip the lacklustre Justin Timberlake collaboration title track and there’s plenty of slick hip-hop to get into, plus way better guest stars.
Best track: ‘Part II (On the Run)’, the follow-up to 03 Bonnie and Clyde, again featuring Mrs Carter, is better than its predecessor.
6. This is…Icona Pop by Icona Pop
The Swedish duo behind one of 2012’s most enduring earworms, ‘I Love It’ (yep that again), delivered an album full of similarly synthy anthems.
Best track: one of the album’s few downbeat numbers, ‘Light Me Up’, is still a rousing singalong.
7. Ciara by Ciara
Arguably even more sex-obsessed than Yeezus and Beyonce combined, Ciara somehow manages to be less explicit than either. How? That’ll be thanks to sexy metaphors stretched to breaking point on the likes of Sophomore (‘I give a little lesson in sex education…’ Ciara sings) and Read My Lips (‘If you like a lot of heat better come up in my kitchen baby’). Then there’s DUI, which is basically about giving someone a handjob in a moving vehicle. Lyrically, it’s severely lacking, but as a shimmery, poppy RnB albums go, it’s a winner.
Best track: ‘Read My Lips’, if you can get past the cringey kitchen-based lyrics, is sugary sweet hip-pop fun.
8. Britney Jean by Britney Spears
I got really excited about this album initially because the first three tracks are glistening pop gems (the third, ‘Perfume’, is written by Scandi hit machine Sia, which explains a lot). The rest is passable, and it’s been critically slated, so I probably shouldn’t admit how much I like this album.
Best track: ‘Perfume’, which may or may not contain submilinal messages to get you to buy a Spears branded fragrance.
9. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
I got really excited about this album, but then I listed to it and discovered the first half is turgid, boring and a steep decline from Arcade Fire’s usual sterling indie rock standard. It still boggles my mind that Reflektor got a 9.2 rating on Pitchfork, but it really warms up in the latter half.
Best track: ‘Here Comes the Night Time II’, which heralds the half-way turning point.
10. The Bones of What You Believe by Chvrches
I wanted to rate this more highly, but there’s something less than uplifting about this debut from the Scottish synthwielders. Still, it’s a fine example of melancholy-tinged electropop.
Best track: ‘Recover’.
What do you reckon to my top ten? Any glaring omissions in your opinion? I have to admit I haven’t been keeping up with hip-hop releases as diligently as in previous years, so my new years musical resolution is to check out the likes of Pusha T, Chance the Rapper and Danny Brown, all of whom have cropped up in a lot of annual best of lists.