The 20/20 Experience
The first – and finest – half of JT’s comeback opus is the challenging vision of an artist who, seeing new dimensions in sound and song structure, brought the album back.
2. Jake Bugg
Bloody special at just 19, this Brit inhabits his smashing debut with an old soul possessed by Buddy Holly, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. His haunting presence gives you the chills.
3. Janelle Monáe
The Electric Lady
Whether channeling Stevie Wonder and a young Michael Jackson or feeling the funk with Prince, this avant-R&B queen was music’s most electrifying woman in 2013.
4. The National
Trouble Will Find Me
After 2010’s High Violet, the mope-rockers make it back-to-back peaks, discovering heartbreaking beauty and catharsis in the darkness.
5. J. Cole
With his second album, Jay Z’s protégé won the 2013 battle against his mentor – and every other rapper – on the strength of his soulful beats and soul-baring lyrics.
6. Kanye West
After my initial review from a couple of spins, it’s a miracle this made my Top 10. But brilliance eventually shone through all the gloom and doom.
7. Laura Mvula
Sing to the Moon
Nothing else sounded like this Englishwoman’s debut in 2013. Conjuring up Nina Simone, Jill Scott and Björk, she makes magic of her own.
8. The Lone Bellow
The Lone Bellow
Taking the alt-folk movement to the heartland, digging into country and gospel along the way, this new Brooklyn trio hits rootsy pay dirt.
9. Pearl Jam
Striking hard and fast at times (“Mind Your Manners”), softly and slowly at others (“Future Days”), the ’90s rock gods capture lightning.
10. Brandy Clark
Behind the vivid, wicked storytelling of her debut, this sought-after song-writer edges client Kacey Musgraves for the year’s best country album.