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Hey everybody. A few quick details on how we put all this together: We compiled a small team of writers/editors out of the current and incoming executive staff at the station. Our weighted votes, along with the votes of 25 other WUOG staffers determined a definitive Top 50 list that we feel best represents the thoughts and views of the station. For this particular post we’ve disregarded local albums, though they’ll get their own respective “Best of 2013″ post in the upcoming week or so. We also made the decision to disregard station philosophy while compiling this list, so Billboard chart success has not excluded any deserving artists from making the cut. Below the jump are our top ten picks for the year accompanied by brief thoughts from members of our editorial team. At the bottom of the post you can see our entire top fifty list ranked in order of points garnered from the voting system. Have a happy new year and thanks for taking the time out of your day to check this out! – Nathan Kerce, blog/music director.

10. Settle – Disclosure

Disclosure’s Settle makes you dance and think about what you’ve accomplished so far in your short life. The young Lawrence brothers have taken over the UK and made some pretty major waves in the US as well and at least one of them is probably younger than you. They also have more friends than you. The myriad of guest vocalists (Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge and Jessie Ware among others) add variety to a collection of tracks that may otherwise blend together. This is pretty straightforward dance pop but progress isn’t the point. The clear goal of Settle is to make you get up and move. – JJ Posway

PS: What are you doing with your life?

9. The Bones of What You Believe – CHVRCHES

CHVRCHES climbed the charts this year due to their perfect blendof catchy sing-along-in-your-car pop music and complex synthpop. With Lauren Mayberry’s glossy vocals, The Bones of What You Believe, is the straightforward pop counterpart to the more experimental leans of Grimes and Purity Ring. “Gun” is a gleeful, unrelenting pop masterpiece and “Recover” seems almost carefully constructed to get stuck in your head. Even if the focus is on Lauren Mayberry’s bubbly voice, the technical intricacies of the synthesizers make it a cut above the vast number of synthpop acts saturating the music market. Mayberry’s voice is so sickly sweet that her belting out the occasional expletive comes as a bit of a shock. It’s clear her sweetness doesn’t equate to her being a pushover, she’s spoken out this year against the sexism and misogyny women in the public eye (particularly the music industry) often face. The album has moments of being a bit muddled and repetitive, but then a track like “Science/Visions” comes out of the blue,  capturing some of the complex and breathless drama of 80s synthpop. By focusing creating a solid pop album but not being afraid to veer into some experimental territory, CHVRCHES have captured everyone’s attention.  – Brett Bennett

8. Nothing Was the Same – Drake

If there is one thing we can be sure of after hearing Nothing Was the Same it’s that Drake is a confident man. Sure, his past albums had plenty of over the top boasts and “watch me steal your girl” empty threats but they were always tinged with if not dominated by a heavy sense of melancholy and loneliness. Take Care almost exclusively focused on the failure of past relationships and Drake’s regret towards the people he’s lost in his ascent to stardom. Nothing Was the Same is Drake finally realizing he is a multi-platinum superstar and that sitting around moping isn’t going to make him happy.  From killer 6 minute opener “Tuscan Leather” (in which Drake’s in-house producer 40 flips the same Whitney Houston sample four times) all the way to album closer “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” (in which Jay-Z drops perhaps the worst feature verse of his career) Drake is making power plays and cementing his status as the biggest pop-rap act on the planet earth. That’s not to say Drake never stops to reflect on things this time around. On “From Time” he covers his somewhat strained but improving relationship with his father and on album highlight “Too Much” he expresses frustration towards his family in how they’ve both treated his fame as well as his mother’s sickness. The fact that songs like those are sandwiched around the massive R&B crossover hit “Hold On, We’re Going Home” just shows how far Drake’s genre-splitting can take him. It’s the kind of range that appeals to people all over the world, the kind of range that lets you take over the billboard charts and the critic’s year-end lists at the same time. It may be lonely at the top but you might as well have some fun while you’re up there. – Nathan Kerce

7. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is probably one of the most thankful and positive rappers in the game right now. His exuberant lyrics and soulful big-band production break through current genre expectations like a ray of sunlight, lighting up a smile on the face of his fans of all ages. That probably sounds corny or whatever but really, listen to the dude’s music, it’s very happy-go-lucky. Chance is a little different from other current Chicago rappers coming up big in the mixtape scene. He is very strictly anti-violence, pro-love and though he is clearly heavy into drugs (just look at the title of the tape), it’s clear that he’s more into psychedelics rather than the hard stuff some of his fellow Chi-town artists brag about peddling.  Lyrically, Chance doesn’t cover the most difficult subject matter in the world but he has a penchant for catchy hooks and his pop-friendly (albeit really weird) high-pitched voice keeps this stuff banging in your head day and night. He’s also not afraid to get personal about his insecurities, so when songs like “Acid Rain” focus on a rare moment of Chance being down in the dumps, you really feel for him. Acid Rap is a mixtape designed to help people have a good time and most importantly feel good about themselves. Some people will hate on his voice, some people will hate on the pop production but it’s hard to hate on his good intentions.  – Nathan Kerce

6.  Shaking the Habitual – The Knife

Shaking the Habitual is a breathless, skittering, two disc, hour and a half album packaged in searing pink and teal. The Swedish brother and sister duo known as The Knife have always prided themselves on an unsettling obscurity, painting themselves more as a concept than anything else. Shaking the Habitual isn’t trying to please you or impress you, they aren’t even trying to break rules or push boundaries, any arbitrary restrictions were never on their radar in the first place. The album is dark, clawing, and somehow, unpretentious. It begins with “A Tooth for An Eye” a mix of electrofuzz, tribal drums and Bjork-ish vocals. It’s followed immediately by “Full of Fire” a dance track for jittery hyper-futuristic beings and the eight minute desperate warped drone of “A Cherry On Top.” The album continues from there, each song more dense and innovative than the last. Disc one ends with slow-burning 19 minute ambient track, as if to cool you down from the insanity you just experienced and get you ready for the second disc. There are political messages wedged in here somewhere, their leanings easiest summed up in the song title “A Fracking Fluid Injection” referencing an environmentally destroying process of gathering  oil and natural gas and the “let’s talk about gender baby, let’s talk about you and me” chant at the end of “Full of Fire.” Yet, for an album so bizarre it’s a surprisingly easy and enjoyable listen. – Brett Bennett

5. Reflektor – Arcade Fire

By the time Reflektor hit the shelves, the idea of the band as a monolithic, zeitgeist invading movement overshadowed the fact that Arcade Fire would indeed be putting out their fourth studio release into real-life actual stores. Their ad campaign so heavily saturated the market with hype propaganda that it felt weird to actually see the physical copies out in the wild.  Strip away all of this and you’re left with the prototypical Arcade Fire album, tinted by dance-oriented producer James Murphy. An album that slightly misses in a few places (“Flashbulb Eyes” and  “You Already Know”) but ultimately ends up delivering their superb brand of melancholic-tinged, anthemic indie rock. This is a stockpiled double LP that despite its flaws, is the album that most consistently has me coming back to listen again and again with old friends while basking in the indulgent musings of a band that can do no wrong in the studio.  – Will Guerin

4. mbv – My Bloody Valentine

Dropping back in early February, the sudden release of mbv saw the long awaited release of new recorded material from My Bloody Valentine. Given that many believed we’d never hear any recorded output again from MBV frontman Kevin Shields, it’s a miracle of sorts that the record even exists and it’s an even greater miracle that the record is near perfect. In tone and structure, it’s much different than Isn’t Anything and the canonized Loveless, but the conversation of whether mbv lives up to Loveless isn’t really a conversation worth having. Shields has always been a great songwriter and he sure as hell knows how to make a guitar sound amazing. The tones throughout mbv are wildly inventive and Belinda’s voice is as hypnotic as ever. From the wistful, mournful guitar of “she found now”, which pulls at the heart strings to the reflective interlude “is this and yes” and the boisterous “only tomorrow” mbv proves to be a fantastic record from start to finish. mbv provides those cherished moments of collapsing music within which you can feel the song losing control. It’s the type of stuff that, after having heard it, your ears will never hear music in the same way again. – Alec Livaditis

3. Sunbather – Deafheaven

Ok, here we go. Blackgaze itself isn’t new. The genre’s been shaped by artists like Have A Nice Life, Jesu and Alcest who combine elements of shoegaze and black metal but Deafheaven offer a brighter, more accessible, take on the style. Never mind the beauty, the enthralling overall atmosphere, the moving dynamic shifts and the songwriting prowess of Deafheaven though – the mainstream indie media likes Sunbather and that’s enough reason for some people to dismiss it. I’m not well-versed in black metal and I don’t claim to be, but as a blackgaze album, Sunbather is one of the year’s most notable releases. – JJ Posway

2. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

If you didn’t like Vampire Weekend’s first two albums, you’re not going to like this one. Their most fully realized LP yet, Modern Vampires of the City combines elements of the group’s previous two full-lengths with a wholly new sound characterized by heavier sonic experimentation and heavier themes. The usual heaps of harpsichord, hooks and allusions meet new pitch-shifted vocals, obsessive studio work (look it up) and accounts on religion, world-weariness, travel and falafel shop love. It’s all unmistakably Vampire Weekend though. Frontman Ezra Koenig has said that “if people could look at our three albums as a bildungsroman, I’d be O.K. with that.” Given that info, it’s hard not to see them that way. MVOTC feels like the definitive, mature statement that Vampire Weekend has been capable of all along. – JJ Posway

1. Yeezus – Kanye West

Yeezus is not a difficult album. There’s been a lot of talk about how Kanye is challenging listeners and how he now defies genre-classification because his beats are really loud and distorted. I disagree with all of this. Kanye is a rapper, Yeezus is a hip-hop album and it’s accessible to pretty much everyone who listens to new music regularly in 2013. It is also an amazing artistic statement with unique production and out-of-this world, separate concepts for each of its ten tracks. Abrasive noise punk and club-ready hip-hop are no longer separate entities. Yeezus has both (along with a few other genre tropes cherry-picked from R&B, soul and electro) of these things and still manages to be full of ear-worm beats and classic Kanye quotables. Only the most dyed-in-the-wool old-school hip-hop head would try to claim an album with songs like “New Slaves” and “Bound 2” wasn’t a rap album. Even the nasty, autotuned child support epic “Blood on the Leaves” is getting played on the radio and performed at the VMAs.  Kanye isn’t challenging you, he trusts you. Looking at how far ahead this album was in votes against all other competition on this list, it looks like his trust was not in vain. – Nathan Kerce

Yeezus is Kanye West’s most immersive work yet. The 41 minute blend of pop/rap/hip-hop/noise draws you in and leaves no room in your head for your own thoughts. When this album first came out I was listening to it three times a day, letting it completely consume me.  It’s different from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy but that was different from Graduation and that different from College Dropout, etc. Kanye is all about evolution and pulling in various influences, which explains why he appeals to so many people. Yeezus is on year end lists for indie rock websites and electronic music websites and websites that pride themselves on offbeat obscurity, everyone appreciates the intense mastery of Kanye West. Using producers like Daft Punk and TNGHT, among others, Kanye added a harsher, darker sound to accompany him at his most confident and most dripping with hubris. Kanye is never afraid to create something new, never afraid to let various types of music influence him and never afraid to simply proclaim “I am a god”. Yeezus is raw, intense, genre-defying and deserving of being Album of the Year. – Brett Bennett

Here we go again beating the dead horse: another salute to Yeezus atop the pedestal of 2013 releases. I doubt there is anything left to say and I don’t think anything needs to be said. I still don’t know where I want to draw the line that demarcates what part of Kanye West’s persona is an act and what is reality but I’m inclined to think it’s more posturing than truth; a character assuming a legendary position that dwarfs music and hip hop all together. I’ve given up trying to sift through my Facebook feed to classify which Kanye West stories are fact (YouTube lawsuit) or fiction (Nelson Mandela quote). The answer is irrelevant but it’s amazing to see a generation act as his mouthpiece, assimilating the characteristics of his pose and reproducing narratives as if writing for an archetypal figure. He’s the big bad wolf and he wouldn’t have it any other way.From my vantage point, it’s even unclear what’s more important to the average American, Kanye the man or Yeezus the album: A watershed work whose greatest achievement will probably come in the form of retrospective appreciation for an album that redefined the course of hip hop. Not perfect, nor overly ambitious in length but a soon to be classic that made a piece of red tape and lines like “And I know she like chocolate men, she got more niggas off than Cochran” culturally iconic. – Will Guerin

Yeezus is an important album, it’s just not one that I listened to a whole lot in 2013. Maybe it’s because I’ve always thought the guy is an asshole and a megalomaniac or maybe I was just busy listening to other stuff. Sure, I danced to “Bound 2” at lot of parties, and the WTF absurdism of its video brought me around to liking the guy a little bit more. The album’s great, and listening to it has compelled me to reevaluate the large discography of this crazy, fascinating pop star. – Alec Livaditis

I’m probably not going to say anything you haven’t heard about Yeezus. There’s so much to consider, and it’s all been documented to death. The innovative guerilla marketing campaign, introducing a noise element to pop music, the inevitable backlash (from people who are gonna need another few years to process this as well as people who claim he just copied Death Grips), the sheer spectacle of the Yeezus show and the incredible music itself. This is simply another potential classic in Kanye West’s impressive discography. – JJ Posway

WUOG’s Top 50 Albums of 2013:

50. Pure Heroine – Lorde
49. Chance of Rain – Laurel Halo
48. Days Are Gone – Haim
47. Walkin on a Pretty Daze – Kurt Vile
46. Whenever, If Ever – The World is a Beautiful Place & I am no Longer Afraid to Die
45. The Marriage of True Minds – Matmos
44. Dream River – Bill Callahan
43. Psychic – Darkside
42. Push the Sky Away –  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
41. Overgrown – James Blake
40. AM – Arctic Monkeys
39. Light Up Gold – Parquet Courts
38. Wondrous Bughouse – Youth Lagoon
37. Man Feelings – Cream Juice
36. Trouble Will Find Me – The National
35. The Man Who Died in his Boat – Grouper
34. Feast of Love – Pity Sex
33. Line the Clouds – Ashley Paul
32. Total Nite – Merchandise
31. Amygdala – DJ Koze
30. …Like Clockwork – Queens of the Stone Age
29. Pearl Mystic – Hookworms
28. Tomorrow’s Harvest – Boards of Canada
27. Miracle Mile – STRFKR
26. You’re Nothing – Iceage
25. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
24. Major Arcana – Speedy Ortiz
23. Pedestrian Verse – Frightened Rabbit
22. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels
21. Amok – Atoms for Peace
20. Loud City Song – Julia Holter
19. R Plus Seven – Oneohtrix Point Never
18. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic –  Foxygen
17. Anxiety – Autre Ne Veut
16. The 20/20 Experience Part 1 – Justin Timberlake
15. Cerulean Salt – Waxahatchee
14. Old – Danny Brown
13. The Electric Lady – Janelle Monáe
12. Silence Yourself – Savages
11. Government Plates – Death Grips
10. Settle – Disclosure
9. The Bones of What You Believe – CHVRCHES
8. Nothing Was the Same - Drake
7. Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
6. Shaking the Habitual – The Knife
5. Reflektor – Arcade Fire
4. mbv – My Bloody Valentine
3. Sunbather – Deafheaven
2. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
1. Yeezus – Kanye West

Banner Photo Credit – Sloane Mattadeen

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