Hi everyone! Welcome to 2014! My name is Matthew, and I’m a friend of John’s. We’ve known each other for over a half dozen years now; we met playing basketball, actually. Anyhow, he’s invited me to be a part of this blog in 2014, so I said yes! I’ll be covering a lot of different topics this year, and I want to use this opportunity to branch out in my writing. I run a blog of my own that’s devoted entirely to gaming, and you can check it out at myopinionasagamer.wordpress.com. Naturally, I’ll be spewing out some gamer-gab on The Ramble, but I’ll also be posting book reviews, album reviews, and I’d like to contemplate a little religion on here. Fear not, I’m not going to look at you from an “I know more than you because I go to church, etc.” standpoint; I’m as messed up and lost as you are; I’ll probably be asking more questions than I answer.
In any case, I’ve decided to make my first post about music! I wanted to do a top 10 list of my favorite albums, but I noticed there was a little clutter in the list. There were a couple albums that I liked, but they haven’t really stuck with me or impacted me greatly. Conversely, if I chopped the list down to 5, I would have lost a couple meaningful, amazing albums, and I couldn’t afford to do that. 7 was the happy number where all the necessary albums were there, and I was OK making the 3 cuts I needed to from my top 10. Without further ado, here are my top 10 albums of 2013 in no particular order!
A Messenger: Colton Dixon (Christian Pop/Rock)
I’ve followed Colton Dixon since his audition on American Idol; I was a big fan, and I wanted him to win over all the other competitors. That didn’t happen, of course, but his debut album is surely a strong one. It lacks a little diversity, and a couple tracks feel similar to one another, but overall, I love this album. “Noise” is a great song with meaningful lyrics and upbeat, powerful instrumentals. On the other hand, “Let Them See You” is basically my life’s cry in song form; “let them see you in me, let them hear you when I speak.” What I love about Colton in this album is that he doesn’t act like he knows it all. “Scars” reminds us that we all make mistakes, but that we can learn from them and become better people. “Love Has Come For Me” contains a similar message; although we are dirty people that mess up constantly, God’s love has redeemed us. I love the realization that famous people who you might think are perfect are truly the same as the rest of us.
All in all, this album is a great one. With upbeat songs for happiness, songs containing food for thought, and a sound that is a happy medium between pop and somewhat harder rock, I would recommend this album to Christians and non-Christians alike. If you’re searching for something in your life, maybe this will help.
Talking Dreams: Echosmith (Alternative Rock)
Imagine what you would get if you mixed Paramore, fun., OneRepublic, and tossed in just a tiny splash (very tiny) of Taylor Swift. That’s Echosmith. This largely unknown band had one of the strongest releases of 2013 for me. Consisting of 3 brothers and a sister, Echosmith has an interesting sound that blends pop with alternative music and actually has decent lyrics to boot. Their songs are upbeat, yet they’re strangely soothing at the same time. I love that because these musicians are younger, they relate to teens like me. “Cool Kids” describes the issues we uncool kids face as we try to fit in with the other guys, but it just doesn’t work. “Tell Her You Love Her” is basically a dating advice song from a girl telling guys what you should say to a girl to make her feel special and wanted.
The songs are happy, light, fun, energetic, and overall, I would recommend this album more than any other on this list. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s my favorite, but it’s definitely more accessible to others; it doesn’t explore Christian themes, for those of you who aren’t into that, but it’s not an extreme, bizarre genre of music (dubstep, screamo, techno/EDM etc.) that requires a certain fondness or acquired taste. Pretty much anyone can jump in and enjoy this album, so I highly recommend that everyone gives these great songs a listen. I truly hope their next album sells well, gets publicity, and launches them to the stardom they deserve. And in case you were wondering, yes, they did perform on Teen Nick’s New Year’s Eve show, billed as their “Artist To Watch,” and they are one of MTV’s 4 Artists To Watch in 2014. I’ll definitely be watching them, and I’ll be proud to say I went to a concert and got their autographs before they were famous. Too hipster?
Everfound: Everfound (Christian Pop/Rock)
This self-titled album from four Russian brothers is a great one. Their diversity is amazing, as they can sing upbeat songs or slow ones, heavy rock ones or techno ones. One thing about them that doesn’t change, however, is that every song is meaningful; the lyrics are forceful, and they have made me contemplate my faith more than any other album I’ve ever listened to. Nikita’s (lead singer) vocals drive his point home better than any artist I’ve heard yet.
I make it a point to memorize every song on an album I thoroughly enjoy, and I feel like the lyrics have stuck with me better from Everfound than from any other album this year. It’s not that the lyrics are cheap, generic, or overused; it’s something different. They’re just powerful and stick with you. For example, “What Love Means” really helped me realize exactly what Jesus did to save us; it really helped me see how important his death, burial, and resurrection were and still continue to be. “Hurt” is sung from Jesus’ point of view, and he basically says “even though I’m Jesus, I’ve been bruised, accused, and hurt; I know what you’re going through, and I feel your pain.” I mean, I know Jesus knows everything, but this song really reinforced that; he was fully human at one point and struggled with the EXACT SAME THINGS we do. This album is extremely powerful and blew me away; that’s all I can say.
Random Access Memories: Daft Punk (Electronic)
I had never listened to or even heard of Daft Punk before this album, but I definitely took note when I noticed all the hype surrounding this album. Random Access Memories (RAM) is about way more than just “Get Lucky,” the song we didn’t hear the end of last summer. It’s more of a musical journey through space and time. Clocking in at a gigantic hour and fourteen minutes, (a full 13 minutes longer than the next longest on this list, which is a lot in musical terms) RAM never gets boring. Even with a handful of fully or nearly fully instrumental songs, each of the 13 tracks on RAM instantly captured my attention and captivated me. This album is less about the lyrics (even in the songs that have them) and more about the unexplainable way the music as a whole makes you feel. It all comes together to create an emotional, breathtaking experience.
This album must be listened to fully in one sitting to capture the full scope of its majesty, and it must be done in the foreground; RAM can’t just be running as background music as you read through Facebook. The intensity of this album is amazing, and it’s like nothing else I’ve ever listened to. It infuses sounds of the future with sounds of disco and the 70’s and 80’s, creating a trippy time machine of sound. By far, my favorite song of the album (and my favorite instrumental song of all time) is “Contact.” If you don’t listen to the entire album, at least promise me that you’ll pull this song up on Youtube, crank the volume, close your eyes, and listen to this masterpiece. With no words aside from the spoken intro, this song tells a story like no other; I’ll go light on spoilers, but you’ll become an astronaut hurtling through space toward your imminent death… too many spoilers? Oh well. In any case, Random Access Memories is an amazing, revolutionary, interesting album, and I’ve been forever changed by it.
Rise: Skillet (Christian Rock)
Rise is the much anticipated follow-up to Skillet’s 2009 release, Awake. This album is not just more of the same; Skillet has found an incredible way to reinvent themselves with a new sound while retaining the Skillet vibe. I can listen to Awake and Rise and know without any doubts that I’m definitely listening to Skillet in both albums, but the two both have distinct sounds which separate them from one another.
Rise contains a wide variety of songs. Upbeat, guitar-heavy tracks like “Rise,” “Madness In Me,” and “Freakshow,” all serve as head-banging songs, but none lose their religious importance. More low-key songs like “American Noise,” “Not Gonna Die,” and “Fire and Fury” all are powerful lyrically, but they’re never slow, boring, or quiet. Skillet has a unique way of toning down a track without losing the musical elements that make them who they are; guitar riffs, impactful vocals, lyrics with a message, and an infectious beat and rhythm. All in all, I love Rise, and I’ll gladly be playing this frequently in 2014 and beyond.
In Real Life: Tryhardninja (Every Genre Ever)
This album is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I could listen to it endlessly. I’m a nerd, and this album is all about nerdiness; every song is about video games, and many, many musical genres are represented here. We have metal, rap, a slow, acoustic love song, a techno/club songs, pop, and rock songs on this album. About half the album is about Minecraft, but Call of Duty, Mario Kart, and the importance of a good gamertag each have their own songs. Each track features great vocals, awesome instrumentals, and I love the genre diversity in the album; it appeals to all, and I’m able to enjoy every song even if I don’t typically like the genre.
In Real Life explores topics that have been explored in other songs, but applies a coat of “nerd” to them, making them much easier to relate to. For example, “That Girl Is Crafty” is a love song, but explores love in the world of Minecraft. “In Real Life,” the title track, is all about how much easier life would be if we had jetpacks and Mario mushrooms, for example. “Get Off My Block” and “C.O.D. Freestyle” are basically smack talk songs about being better than everyone else, but through the filters of Minecraft and Call of Duty respectively. In the end, any gamer should give In Real Life a listen, and non-gamers might want to explore it as well; maybe you’ll enjoy it.
Royal Tailor: Royal Tailor (Christian Pop/Rock)
For my final album of the list, a great band called Royal Tailor takes the cake. With their sophomore, self-titled album, RT solidified (in my mind, at least) their place in the Christian music scene. Their sound is like a blend of Michael Jackson, Maroon 5, and Bruno Mars, and they’re very original. The songs on this album are either pop, rock, or light techno, but each song is very different from the rest. “Got That Fire” is a blazing hard rock song, but “You Are My Rescue” is a much slower, lighter song. “Fight For Freedom” is basically a rally cry, yet “Ready Set Go” is a total dance track featuring EDM artists Capital Kings.
Royal Tailor sets themselves apart from other Christian artists because although they’re still singing about God, they have a lot of fun in their music and they don’t let the stereotype of what Christian artists should be affect them. They’re definitely not your conventional Christian band, and I like that about them. Not to mention the fact that their live shows are as high energy as the studio tracks. All in all, Royal Tailor is a great album (and band) and I recommend it to anyone, Christian or non-Christian, although non-Christians may find it a bit less accessible than Colton Dixon’s “A Messenger” and definitely less so than Skillet’s “Rise.”
Well, there you have it; my top 7 albums of 2013! I hope to see a lot of great music in 2014, and I hope you all have enjoyed this article. Give The Ramble a follow if you want to see more from us, and hit the like button if you’ve enjoyed the article. See you next time!