Well, it’s December. Sure, that means it’s the Holiday season, but it’s also – for better and for worse – “Best of…List Season” where countless websites release their respective picks for Top 10, 20, 30, 50 or 100 albums of 2013. While Revive has never been one to follow trends, we have also compiled our own list (See our Top 5 Songs of 2013). However, our list only consists of five albums, making the criteria much steeper. Considering the overabundance of amazing LPs that have dropped over the past 12 months, this was no easy task by any stretch of the imagination. To give some perspective, if our list were to be any longer, these albums would be on it:
Kendrick Scott Oracle’s Conviction; Gregory Porter’s Liquid Spirit; Mark de Clive-Lowe’s Take The Space Trane; Mayer Hawthorne’s Where Does This Door Go; Terrace Martin’s 3 Chord Fold; Alice Smith’s She; Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio 2; Quadron’s Avalanche; Terrance Blanchard’s Magnetic; Elvis Costello & the Roots’ Wise Up Ghost; Wayne Shorter’s Without a Net; Salaam Remi’s One: In the Chamber; Snarky Puppy’s Family Dinner, Vol. 1; Earth, Wind and Fire’s Now, Then and Forever; The Internet’s Feel Good; The Foreign Exchange’s Love in Flying Colors; Bilal’s A Love Surreal; NEXT Collective’s Cover Art; Omar’s The Man; Thundercat’s Apocalypse; Adrian Younge Presents Ghostface Killah’s 12 Reasons to Die; Charles Bradley’s Victim of Love; The Stepkids’ Troubador.
So, after such a stellar list of competitors, you can believe us when we say that we did not come to this task lightly. So, without further delay, here are Revive Music’s picks for the top five albums of 2013:
5. Derrick Hodge’s Live Today (Blue Note Records; August 6)
Aside from him playing alongside the likes of Terrance Blanchard, Jill Scott, Maxwell, and Common, Derrick Hodge is also an accomplished composer for both artists and film. It wasn’t until he teamed up with Robert Glasper that he got the attention he deserved— attention that drove out the anticipation for his solo debut. Not only does Live Today not disappoint, but it raises the bar for all improvisation-based musicians. “Message of Hope”, “Anthem in 7” and “The Real” are instantly memorable statements that illuminate Hodge’s mastery of instrumental restraint and give optimal attention to the composition as a whole. With guests like Glasper, Chris Dave, Common, and Alan Hampton on board, Live Today is the kind of record that leads you to believe that all of Hodge’s succeeding records will be challenging classics because he certainly has shown he has the ability.
4. Zo! – ManMade (+FE Music; May 21)
The Foreign Exchange has carved out a great piece of the rock for themselves that continues to grow with each project from their expanding camp of collaborators. Chief among them is Zo!, Nicolay’s and Phonte’s keyboardist and key production collaborator. His debut Sun Storm was a gorgeous extension of +FE, only with his own brushstrokes of soul. His follow-up, ManMade, is nothing short of an amazing record. With Phonte co-captaining much of the ship in co-production and vocals (lead and backgrounds), this album is a cohesive work of inspired song craft. ManMade has songs that make you dance (“We Are On the Move” with Eric Roberson), get you hot (”Body Rock” with Sy Smith) and make you praise the Lord (title track with Phonte).
3. Chris “Daddy” Dave – Chris Dave and the Drumhedz Mixtape (Glow 365; January 11)
Ok, Chris Dave is the best drummer on Earth. Let’s just get that out of the way. Whether touring with Mint Condition or playing on Grammy-winning albums by Maxwell or Adele, Dave has brought his singular tsunami of rhythm to quality music. After more Grammy success with Robert Glasper’s Black Radio, Dave took the leap we’ve all been waiting for— recording with his own band, The Drumhedz. Composed of himself, bassist Pino Pallidino, guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, and a host of others, their free mixtape turned many heads, thanks mainly to Dilla covers like “Cosmic Slop” and “Welcome to Detroit.” But with original joints like the afrobeat monster “Africa…I Freak Her” and appearances from Casey Benjamin and Stokley Williams, Dave has folks screaming for a proper album.
2. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady (Wondaland Music; September 10)
Monae took music by surprise with her black and white wardrobe, James Brown stage musings, and exuberant vocal styles. Her Grammy-nominated LP The ArchAndroid helped her gain powerful allies in the likes of Stevie Wonder and Prince. The follow-up, The Electric Lady, upped the ante with guest spots from Prince, Esperanza Spalding, Miguel, and Solange Knowles. Where The ArchAndroid saw her make own sound, Electric Lady finds her mastering many different sounds. The title track is an instant Go-Go club banger. “Victorious” is the best song Lauryn Hill never recorded. “Can’t Live Without Your Love” harkens back to Minnie Riperton. And the Rotary Connection and “Code” is the closest you will ever get to hearing Michael Jackson sing a Sylvers song. With 20 tracks, not one note is out of place or unwanted.
1. Jose James – No Beginning No End (Blue Note; January 22)
This album dropped in January and every record that’s dropped since has yet to measure up. The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Minnesota vocalist with the “Ginlevet baritone” made his Blue Note Records debut with an album that combines the textures of A Tribe Called Quest, the slow-rolling rhythms of Dilla, and the carefree approach of a Johnny Hartman. With co-production by bassist Pino Pallidino and mixing by Russell Elevado, it’s easy to make the D’Angelo comparisons, especially with songs like “It’s All Over Your Body” and “Trouble,” but it’s much more complex and multifaceted underneath. His duet with Emily King, “Heaven On the Ground,” may be the best song of the year, and the Leon Ware-inspired “Bird of Space” is as hypnotic a track as it comes.
Purchase Albums from our Top 5 List