By Ryan Asselin
Best Album: The Wonder Years, The Greatest Generation
Dare I say the best band in the genre today? The Greatest Generation perfectly demonstrates the maturity and growth of The Wonder Years. With a vast history of songs riddled with anxiety and depression, The Greatest Generation allows singer and lyricist Dan Campbell to finally accept himself for who he is, proposing that we shouldn’t settle when we can work to be the greatest generation. “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral,” the final song on the album, accepts all of life’s shit and provides an optimistic view from the gutter.
Most Enjoyable Album: The Front Bottoms, Talon of the Hawk
Simplistic and catchy, Talon of the Hawk is the perfect summer album. The band consists of lead singer Brian Sella on guitar and Matt Uychich on drums, giving a genuine, high-intensity jam feel, especially in their acoustic performances. With Talon of the Hawk, The Front Bottoms became one of my favorite bands of 2013. The band opened for Brand New before setting off on a tour of their own to start 2014.
Best Mixtape: Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
“What’s good, good? And what’s good, evil?” Chance the Rapper poses this question on “Everybody’s Something,” the sixth song on Acid Rap, which as a whole explores the questions raised through experimentation with drugs. A trip in itself, the listener gets lost in Chance the Rapper’s unique voice and mesmerizing beats. Listeners grow while the album plays. Acid Rap contains featured verses from Action Bronson, Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Vic Mensa and Twista, to name a few.
Best Rap Album: Kid Cudi, Indicud
Kid Cudi takes complete control over the music he wants to release. Through rapping, singing, songwriting and producing, Cudi once again takes listeners on a trip of relatable misery and self-loathing. Depression has had a clear influence on Kid Cudi and his music: “Diagnosed my damn self, these damn pills ain’t working fam,” he raps, referring to the antidepressants he had to stop taking because he couldn’t deal with the side effects. The influence of depression is most evident through the recurring theme of immortality in his music. Although he admits that his short sobriety stint has finished and he’s now back to the grocery list of drugs that he once needed removed from his life, Kid Cudi has accepted his demons and is working towards getting better. Cudi has gone through a lot, but he is in a better place, feeling invincible. His demons will no longer run his daily life; he is immortal.
Most Intriguing: Mac Miller
Last year, we learned that Mac Miller is a true musician. Releasing a rap album (Watching Movies With the Sound Off), a dark mixtape under a pseudonym (Delusional Thomas), a live album with a band (Live from Space) and an album of beats (Run on Sentences, Vol.1), Miller kept fans satisfied all year with his versatility. Through matured lyrics, Watching Movies With the Sound Off separated Miller from being classified as just a party rapper. WMWTSO is an album full of hits. On Delusional Thomas, a darker mixtape, Miller raps in a high-pitched computer edited voice, introducing listeners to his demons. A codeine addiction got the best of Miller earlier in the year; he is now clean. 2013 was capped off with Miller’s release of his live album Live from Space. Miller shows his genius as he performs his songs in a different style from his original recordings and backed by a live band. Miller’s live performances are second to none. If the set list were better arranged, Live from Space would be a contender for Album of the Year.
Most Promising: Lil Dicky
2013 was a huge year for the Jewish college graduate now known as Lil Dicky. Landing on the music scene through joke songs with well-directed YouTube videos, LD gained a quiet following. The videos kept coming, and Lil Dicky eventually released So Hard, his mixtape. Understanding what his fans want, LD kept his name in the heads of his fans by releasing a new song or a new video every week. With incredible flow and skill for writing, Lil Dicky has revealed his potential as one of the best rappers in the game, not just a joke rapper. Last year, he released a few serious songs, like “Make Belief” and “Russell Westbrook on a Farm.” Give LD a listen and get lost in his flow; he is guaranteed to be huge in 2014.