If there’s one thing Spinning Platters does differently, and especially nerd-ish, it is our Album of the Year list. All the contributors get to nominate their favorite albums of the year (there were 53 nominees this year) then a grueling listening/voting process starts until we have it narrowed down to the top ten. While not everyone may agree with the final list (personally I think this list makes us look a little like crazy feminists) it is democratic and popular opinion that must rule. So without further ado, here is our top ten!
10. The Julie Ruin – Run Fast
I’m thrilled that “Run Fast” made the Top 10 because now I can correct all the errors in the album review I wrote. “Just My Kind” actually has to do with Kathleen Hanna’s struggles with alcoholism, so the track was clearly NOT a miss, and “Girls Like Us” was intended to make fun of a type of New York gal that apparently I find quite attractive. My bad. Anyway, if you listened to the late-’90s Julie Ruin (no “the”) record and loved it, you’ll like this one too. Also fun for Le Tigre and Bikini Kill fans. I’m glad I can hear it because my head’s not in the toilet. (Joel Edelman)
9. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe
When CHVRCHES released their undeniably catchy single “Recover”, it seemed too good to be true. Dripping with urgency and a desperate longing, paired with a bridge full of rising synths, it seemed impossible that the Scottish trio could sustain the track’s energy over a full length album. With their debut album, CHVRCHES not only matched “Recover”, but exceeded it. Every song on the album glows with a pessimism not often heard from a synthpop act. The songs seethe with rage and disappointment, bundled with an unflinchingly catchy melody. It’s virtually impossible for me to reach the end of the album without starting it over again. (Mitch Kocen)
8. Kate Nash – Girl Talk
Kate Nash’s “Girl Talk” is a pop menagerie from across the pond that caught me—curious yet uninitiated—completely by surprise. With rollicking earnest and cheeky spunk, the album moves from broody bad-girl leather punk to anthemic folk, firmly flying the “V” (palm inward) to the patriarchy without a hitch or hiccup. (I personally hope for a full fledge hip-hop project akin to the Blondiesque “Rap for Rejection” (So good.)) Girl Talk is Kate Nash, as she is and as she wants to be; such frankness should be commended, such catchiness should be caught. (O.J. Patterson)
7. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight the More I Love You…
The Worse Things Get… is a beautiful album that gives tough girl Neko Case a vulnerability not seen in previous work that you can hear in both her vocals and her lyrics. One of Cases’ strong points has always been her ability to create images and tell stories with her lyrics, often times from the perspective of others. The Worse Things Get… still has that element, but the aching loneliness captured seems to be her own.
Standout tracks are “Night Still Comes” and “Local Girl” which both do an excellent job at balancing the ambiguity of the lyrics while still leaving the listener with that quite sadness that permeates the album.
Her journey since her last album has brought her to a place where she draws from her own experiences more comfortably. The result is both cathartic and refreshing. (Caroline Hernandez)
6. Moshe Kasher – Live in Oakland
I can’t think of a better choice than Moshe Kasher for the first true comedy record to make our top ten list. I can only assume, if he is not a fellow Bay Area Music Nerd, then he is at least a Bay Area nerd of note, which makes me proud to have his Live in Oakland album on our list. On Live in Oakland Moshe Kasher does and amazing job of bringing you in to his world, making you feel at home, then leaves you laughing so hard you’re sore. Though he has a specific and particularly intellectual voice this album can cross genres and remind everyone what good comedy is all about; taking you that one step past your comfort zone and making it the most enjoyable experience you’ve ever had. (Marie Carney)
5. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
This second album, The Electric Lady, from Janelle Monae is a follow-up to her well-received first album, The Archandroid. Overall it brings much to the musical table with grand symphonic overtures, solid guitar riffs, and extraordinary lead vocals. I will admit that at one point, Ms. Monae’s voice reminded me of a young, sweet-sounding Michael Jackson. And I should mention, her voice is substantial and pure; auto-tune junkies need not apply. Several of the songs boast guest vocals from stellar artists like Prince, Erikah Badu, and Esperanza Spalding. The creativity from her first album carries over to this work with an innovative take on Ms. Monae as outlaw Cindi Mayweather, an android sent back in time to free the citizens of Metropolis. A symbol of hope and love, the narrative of Ms. Monae’s character is told through snippets between songs and, to me, is reminiscent of old school hip hop albums that were scattered with short stories. The songs, a fusion of soul, funk, rock, and R&B with a backing symphony and the guitar genius of Kellindo Parker, are brought together by the underlying themed stories. May the coming years bring us closer to this talented and intellectual lady through albums like this. (Michelle Viray)
4. Glasser – Interiors
The title of this album almost feels a bit shortchanging. On the one hand, it’s an intricately layered study of an electronic symphony of sounds woven in a perfect sound tapestry, but on the other hand it’s feels like the matured interpretations of Glasser’s warm dreams remembered over many nights of sleep. Either way, Cameron Mesirow’s second full length brings you into an experience from the coldest of ice caves and to the lushest of valleys in the midst of her distinctly spliced beats, layered melodies, and ethereal but grounded vocals on the back of a flying creature from one of those dreams. This San Francisco State alumni may have entitled the record Interiors, but the view she’s looking at from her apartment has a much more expansive exterior than most could possible imagine. (Raffi Youssoufian)
3. Bleached – Ride Your Heart
When Mika Miko called it quits in 2009 I was devastated, but I knew that there was a bona fide expiration date for their brand on juvenile punk rock. So when one of Mika Miko’s frontwomen, Jennifer Clavin, and bassist Jessica Clavin returned in 2013 with a new band, I was excited to see what they came up with. What we ended up with was 12 nearly perfect power pop tracks. Bleached is a much more grown up project that combines the grinding power of 70’s-era Misfits with the sugary harmonies of The Shangri-la’s. There are few records that will fill you with more joy than Bleached’s debut record. I may have already worn out the grooves in my copy. (Dakin Hardwick)
2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
When “Get Lucky,” a collaboration between Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, was released mid-April as the first single from Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, I was admittedly panicked. It had been eight years since the simplistic Human After All came out and the French electronic duo’s previous effort, the soundtrack for Disney’s remake of Tron, was largely forgettable. This single felt like a grasp for mainstream recognition and, thus, an omen: the group with the odd name that didn’t have any problem transcending boundaries of eccentricity seemed to have lost their touch. Or did they?
When Random Access Memories was released in its entirety, the same lead single that attracted more casual listeners and achieved worldwide acclaim was pushed to the middle of the album. It felt like an accessory rather than a core component to the overarching message of this masterpiece, best described in the name of leadoff track “Give Life Back to Music.” The other standouts that made this work their most personal and impactful yet came from iconic producer Giorgio Moroder talking about his foray into music and ignoring limitations, a collaboration with Julian Casablancas that was more memorable than anything The Strokes recorded these past few years, and “Touch” – inarguably the album’s apex that finds legendary movie composer Paul Williams navigating a dreamscape of melding genres and soundscapes.
Winding down, the duo combine Panda Bear’s laconic, boyish vocals with their robotic styling for a compelling contrast while the final track, “Contact,” has the blistering energy that would’ve made Tron a much more memorable soundtrack. It’s a journey worth exploring time and again as these robots subtly unveil their human hearts. (Kara Murphy)
1. Haim – Days Are Gone
L.A. sisters Haim have capped off a whirlwind year by taking home Spinning Platters album of the year nod. While it’s easy to forget that Days are Gone only came out in late September–due to the year-long hype leading up to the release–this album vaulted to the top of everyone’s playlists. Songs like “Wired” and “Falling” are as timeless as they are timely, and their innovation has allowed Haim to grace every major stage from SXSW to SNL. There is no question that Danielle, Este, and Alana Haim owned 2013 and look forward to continue rolling through 2014. (James King)
Want to listen to our top ten? Of course we have a playlist for you!