Why I Put a Band Called Chumped Ahead of Yeezus for the Best Album of 2013
Who are you guys and what have you done to Kanye West?
If you have a lot of music critic buddies, you've probably noticed that they're just now getting back to their usual neurotic selves. That's because they're finally done with year-end lists. Going from genre to genre can be especially difficult -- how does an up-and-coming pop punk band that wrote a nearly perfect EP stack up against the behemoth that is Yeezus?
My submission to Pazz & Jop (the long-running year-end Village Voice survey of thousands of music critics nationwide) is the result of rolling my eyes every time Miley Cyrus' shenanigans were mentioned. The female musicians who kicked ass this year didn't twerk with a teddy bear -- though Janelle Monáe gets a pass for mentioning twerking in "Q.U.E.E.N." -- these gals wrote albums full of emotion and soul.
My number one pick is a little strange. My year-end list is full of critically acclaimed albums -- Modern Vampires of the City, Yeezus, M B V, etc. -- but chances are the majority of you are sitting there scratching your heads wondering who the fuck Chumped is.
Giving an EP the number one slot is ballsy -- even more so since the accolade went to a band from a city I've never been to (Brooklyn) with fewer than 1,000 likes on Facebook. This is all the more reason to check out Chumped.
Chumped is simply a female-fronted pop punk band that wrote a very catchy and honest record about relationships gone awry. Twenty-thirteen was a fantastic year for female-fronted punk bands -- excluding Worriers, Swearin', and Waxahatchee from my top 10 list was a tough call. As much as I loved those records, Chumped captured these sentiments perfectly in 22 minutes. They didn't need to release a full-length record; these six songs full of pop punk splendor were enough to catch our attention and leave us eager to see what Chumpted does next.
Writing year-end lists puts critics in an interesting position of juggling their favorite releases of the year and what was the "best," which is why Chumped and Vampire Weekend are ranked separately but are tied for first place. Vampire Weekend's third record is their best work yet. Contra and their self-titled album are similar enough to blend together, but Modern Vampires of the City shows the band's growth through songs that have a bit more depth. The afrobeat influences are still there, but there is more substance than previous works like "Horchata."
My Bloody Valentine deserves the comeback nod of the year, as most of us assumed MBV was never going to happen. Remarkably, the band's third full-length album is the perfect follow up to the acclaimed Loveless.
Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Kanye West is talented. Yeezus was a bit of a leap after the magnificent My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but repeated listens showed that 'Ye still triumphs with a stripped down production -- just don't make him wait for his damn croissants. Yeezus was a grower; if you think you didn't like it, I encourage you to give "Black Skinhead" another listen.
Between The New Pornographers and her solo work, I'm convinced that Neko Case can do no wrong. The Worse Things Get is full of emotion, from a Nico cover to a stunning a capella song about verbal abuse she overheard in Honolulu.
Arctic Monkeys relied on a big production for the fantastic AM, which balances out the band's garage rock influences with soul and R&B. While Alex Turner excels as a rocker who thinks you'd look pretty good on the dance floor, his longing shines through on tracks like "I Wanna Be Yours," an answer to the opening track about potential unrequited love. AM is a well-constructed narrative.Lorde
is the coolest teenager on this list, serving up 10 tracks of pop bliss. She succeeds where Icona Pop fails -- the album is cheeky at times ("You can be the class clown, I'll be the beauty queen"), but like Chumped, this 17-year-old monarch has a promising career ahead of her.
I saw Elway open for Masked Intruder a few months ago. They immediately caught my attention because the vocal style sounds a bit like Lawrence Arms' Brendan Kelly. The so-called "orgcore" genre has been imitated time and time again, but Elway's efforts are genuine and full of heart.
I can't help but wonder how much of Caves' fanbase came from Dan Ozzi. The Vice writer recently wrote a piece about how girls in punk are killing it right now. The bands listed immediately caught my attention -- these are the same groups that flirted with my top 10 -- then I came across this little UK band that I had never heard of. Betterment is one of the best melodic punk records to come out in years. Caves' sound helps fill the void that bands like Lifetime left behind due to limited touring.
The Bones of What You Believe is the album I wish Phantogram had made this year. Synthpop is all the rage right now, which isn't a bad thing, but drum machines are starting to get played out. CHVRCHES sounds a bit like Robyn fronting Crystal Castles for a great debut album.
Critics try their best to be definitive, but this process is inherently subjective -- feel free to roll your eyes about some inclusions or complain about omissions. This is my personal top 10 list, not a definitive best-of-the-best list -- for that, you'll have to check out the rest of the Pazz & Jop Poll.
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