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The Year in Music by DJ PK

3:00 PM PST on January 10, 2014

BANKS of Los Angeles, part of the best of 2013.

London-born, LA-based DJ PK has a long-running series of CDs (and tapes before that) of "best of" for every year which include tracklists and sometimes liner notes. Here's his overview of what happened in Music in 2013, helpfully broken into several categories.

Legal downloads were always a small particle of sand in the desert of pirating but in 2013 even they were down for the 1st time since the launch of iTunes. Why pay for or even torrent a song when it's available anytime, anywhere through Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube, Slacker, Rdio and Pandora? With the world of music your feet (or in your ear buds) what made you laugh, cry, love, hate or just jump up and down for 2013? Here’s my review of the best music of 2013.

The evolution of R&B
R&B made big strides in 2013. Up-and-coming R&B starlets Banks, Kelela, and FKA Twigs plus Cassie and Jessy Lanza all produced post-Timbaland, post-Neptunes style R&B with electronically tinged distortions and moody, scratchy constructs building on the sonic foundations laid out by Frank Ocean and the Weeknd in 2012. Talking of Weeknd, Autre Nu Vert out-Weeknded Weeknd this year with a sleek, synth pop influenced R&B album. Not to say innovators ignored traditional R&B tropes in 2013 with both Janelle Monae and Valerie June producing rich, expansive, yet quite traditional albums during the year and Laura Mvula mixing jazz, classical and African beats in an excellent debut. Expect big things from Banks, Twigs, and my favorite Mapei, in 2014,

Check out:
Banks - London (EP)
Cassie - RockaByeBaby
Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady
Jessy Lanza - Pull My Hair Back
Kelela - CUT 4 ME
Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon
Mapei - Don't Wait (Single)
Valerie - June Pushin' Against a Stone

Do guitar bands still matter?
One of the least popular musical styles of 2013, even indie darlings Arcade Fire did not have a top 20 hit. But don’t despair oh lovers of analogue music. One of the highest quality albums of the year was produced by Vampire Weekend and muscular Britrockers Artic Monkeys released one of their best records since their early days. The former brimming with modern invention, the latter backwards looking - before Oasis - almost to the classic rock era. The altar of punk rock remained brimming with the stunning debut by Savages and gods of shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine finally released their very delayed, highly anticipated follow-up to their 1991 Loveless album. Also enjoyed the obscure lyrics and taut radiant melodies of Welsh rockers Los Campesinos!, the vocally pioneering These New Puritans and the highly personal, angry album by John Grant.

Check out:
Arctic Monkeys - AM
John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts
Los Campesinos! - No Blues
My Bloody Valentine - M B V
Savages - Silence Yourself
These New Puritans - Field of Reeds
Vampire Weekend -Modern Vampires of the City

EDM beyond the mega Producer/DJ
The most significant Dance album of the year was released by Daft Punk but their attempt to steer EDM toward a more organic, real instrument, disco-jam fell on deaf ears as the barely-out-of-high-school duo Disclosure cranked out the best pop/dance tunes of the year with conventional, smooth, bright sounds. Innovation came in the form of the ghostly, dissonant sounds of Burial (electronica but really danceable), the warped tunes of Jon Hopkins and the juke ‘n bass of Machinedrum. No shortage of bangers this year, with honorable mentions for Martin Garrix, Midland, Breach, Paul Woodford, the ever reliable Todd Terje. Also enjoyed the chill-out sound of Bonobo, techno comeback kid, Daniel Avery and psychedelic effects laden sound of Jagwar Ma.

Check Out:
Bonobo - The North Borders
Burial - Rival Dealer (EP)
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Daniel Avery - Drone Logic
Disclosure - Settle
Jagwar Ma – Howlin’
Jon Hopkins –Immunity
Machinedrum - Vapor City
Todd Terje - Strandbar (single)

Going back you our female roots?
In a year in which an entertaining and genuinely witty film about folk music hit the silver screen(Inside Llewyn Davis), the folk and country music output thus year was classy, stylish and dominated by women. Top of the pile was the intelligent and confident Laura Marling, closely followed by visceral but melodic Cate Le Bon and the musically traditional but lyrically radical (for country music) Kacey Musgraves. The two men that make my list are the Nike Drakesque Sam Amidon and the trad-folk Martin Simpson who both produced albums of austere beauty and purity.

Laura Marling - Once I Was an Eagle
Martin Simpson - Vagrant Stanzas
Kacey Musgraves - Same Trailer Different Park
Cate Le Bon - Mug Museum
Sam Amidon - Bright Sunny South

Many peoples album of the year was Yeezus by Kanye West. I give him big props for experimenting sonically but his lyrics seem lazy and one-dimensional. My favorite rap album of the year was by unshakably confident Chance The Rapper. We also finally got the much-delayed new albums by M.I.A. and Angel Haze (both worth the wait). Daring albums by Danny Brown and the hard hitting Run The Jewels rounded out a good (but not great) year for Hip/Hop. Add the 90s stylized Australian rapper Remi for something different. Finally, judging from his single, Schoolboy Q’s album in 2014 could be an early contender for the 2014 list.

Check out:
Angel Haze – Dirty Gold
Danny Brown - Old
Chance The Rapper - Acid Rap
Remi - F.Y.G ACT:1
Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels
Schoolboy Q - Collard Greens (single)
Kanye West - Yeezus

Best of the Rest
Good year for indie pop, with the hyper-melodic electro synth pop album by CVRCHES , the emotionally captivating Daughter, 80s inspired Haim and Blood Orange (whose Dev Hyne produced both Solange and Sky Fereira), the haunting London Grammar and the sensual gender busting sound of Rhye. But one of my favorite albums of the year was James Blake’s Overgrown. Blake is a genre buster – a singer/songwriter who does not strum a guitar but twiddles knobs. A more compelling combination of voice, sound and beat was not heard in 2013.

Check out:
Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe
CHVRCHES - The Bones Of What You Believe
Daughter - If You Leave
Haim - Days Are Gone
James Blake - Overgrown
London Grammar - If You Wait
Rhye - Woman

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