Staff Picks: Best album of 2013

Human nature seems to dictate that we’re drawn to music. Why else would it play in the background of every TV commercial, every movie, every restaurant, every department store? Even the most cynical of us can occasionally find something to tickle that musical fancy. So no matter whether we listened to a few albums from 2013 or a few dozen, we all had our favorites.

In the year 2013, my favorite album by far would have to be OneRepublic’s Native. If you ever ride in my car, chances are that’s the CD I’ll be blasting, and no, you will not have the option to change it. Every song on the album is quality, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. “Counting Stars” is a soft spot for me because, yes, it is overplayed on the radio, but no matter how many times I hear it, I still love it. Other favorites of mine include “Feel Again,” “Au Revoir” (which kind of reminds me of a favorite from a few years ago, “Secrets,” with its slow smoothness), and “Something I Need,” which is probably my absolute, all-time favorite, ever. Now that 2013 is over, all I can do is listen to Native in my car while I hope and wish for OneRepublic concert tickets for my birthday. Fingers crossed. [Mackenzie Lee]

The release of The Head and the Heart’s album Let’s Be Still was probably the highlight of my year. The indie rock band has been one of my favorites for a while now and this album definitely did not let me down! Josiah Johnson’s voice always pulls at my heartstrings, especially in their single “Shake.” I shamelessly listened to that song on replay for about a week straight before the rest of the album came out! “Shake” and “Homecoming Heroes” are probably my favorites, but all of the songs are absolutely amazing. [Caroline Rogers]

Tegan and Sara have always held a special place in my heart – you may even go as far as to say they make my heart throb. Of all the great music this year, Tegan and Sara’s newest album definitely lived up to my expectations.  When searching for the perfect background tune for homework or just a low-key day, Heartthrob is my current album of choice. Some personal favorites include “Shock to Your System,” “Now I’m All Messed Up,” and “How Come You Don’t Want Me.”  Although hidden behind simple pop tunes, Heartthrob’s clean and clear understanding of heartbreak has made it, not only one of the best of the year, but one of my favorites period. [Tori Lafon]

Very rarely do I ever listen to full albums anymore, but there was one album that caught my attention this year. Bloom by the band Alpha Rev was released in June and I have been rocking out to it ever since. If you are familiar with Alpha Rev’s music then you will love Bloom. Alpha Rev stays true to their deep lyrics and rustic folkish sound that brings a thoughtful but fun vibe. [Litza Craig]

Comeback of the year? More like comeback of the century. Justin Timberlake released his album The 20/20 Experience in two parts during 2013, only building the suspense for avid fans like myself.  The first part was basically typical Justin Timberlake but twice as awesome with the well-known, party tracks such as “Suit & Tie” and “Mirrors.” My favorite, however, were the more unusual songs with risky percussion like “Don’t Hold the Wall.” A painfully long amount of time later, the second part was released with a darker sound and more serious themes.  Regardless of taste in music, this album has something you’ll enjoy. [Annie Smith]

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my favorite album of 2013 is One Direction’s Midnight Memories, but I honestly haven’t stopped listening to it since it leaked in November, and yes, I was up at one in the morning downloading the entire thing. My favorite song on the album has to be “Through the Dark,” which is driven by fast acoustic strumming. It seems like they’re taking baby steps toward a more folksy sound, and that’s super exciting for me. [Cameron Scott]

Miley Cyrus’s new album, Bangerz, is the complete opposite of her happy, teenage pop tunes she was previously known for. Bangerz is the one album this year I actually listened to in its entirety, and while it may not be the best album, it does have many high points such as the popular songs “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball.” Taking the risk of reinventing herself, Miley may have finally put her Hannah Montana days behind her. [Hannah McElroy]

I’m not a fan of what I guess you could call “real people music,” so naturally, the Frozen soundtrack was my favorite musical release of 2013. Songs like “Let it Go” and “In Summer” are so perfect and adorable it’s hard to not want to sing along whenever I hear them. It has a little bit of everything from I love from songs sung by a talking snowman to songs sung by princesses. [Zoey Line]

I habitually over-listen to music until I can no longer enjoy it, so I haven’t listened to this since the summer, but it was my go-to album when I wanted to roll down the windows and enjoy the sun. The Lone Bellow’s self-titled debut album has a bluesy, rock, folksy feel that will just make you feel happy. It’s a solid album for whenever you’re in a good mood and just want to make it even better. [Kelsey Kinzer]

I already listed my 10 favorite albums of 2013 in another article, so I’m picking an album that wound up outside my top ten but that I still love and that played a big role in my Year in Music. Wisconsin alt-rapper Milo kicked off last year with Things That Happen At Day/Things That Happen At Night, a New Years’ Day-released double-EP that serves as his official debut. It was the first of three 2013 releases for Milo, one that balances the wordsmith’s pop-culture-referencing whimsey and self-consciousness against a dreamy electronic backdrop. Besides being one of the year’s best hip-hop releases, TTHAD/TTHAN also led to a headlining tour for Milo, including a date in Knoxville. The show was booked, promoted, and opened by one of my best friends, and the night ended with my friends and I eating pizza with Milo and his friends/tourmates Safari Al and Riley Lake. There may have been better albums in 2013, but none led to as memorable an experience. [Jack H. Evans]

Just like most of the other hippie, flower-children across the globe, I’m obsessed with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Their new self-titled album was probably the highest point in 2013 for me (and millions of others). Practically every song leaks love and joy while maintaining the crew’s upbeat harmonies. Radiating positivity with every word he sings, Sharpe makes sure every frown is turned upside down. [Hailey Kraft]