As we look back at 2013, a year that brought us an inordinate amount of quality music that will surely stand the test of time, we highlight five albums that stood out to us above all others throughout the calendar year. In partnership with Monster Headphones, we bring you “Next Impulse’s Top Five Albums of 2013.”


5. Mayer Hawthorne- Where Does This Door Go


If you could conceptualize the sweet love child of Neo-Soul, R&B, Motown, Hip-Hop, Pop and Funk, Where Does This Door Go is exactly what it would come out looking like. In Mayer Hawthorne’s third album, he takes a drastic departure from the sound of his first two albums, which were largely based around the distinctive structure of an old Motown sound. Where Does This Door Go brings to light a more refined and polished Hawthorne, both vocally and in style, in which he allows himself to tap into other genres by bringing in an impressive lineup of producers, including Pharrell Williams, to help with the creative process of branching out and implementing a refreshing new sound, while still keeping loyal to his Motown roots. Speaking on the innovative proceedings in constructing this specific project, Mayer’s satisfaction is evident as he professed to Rolling Stone “This is the album I always should have made. I truly did not give a f–k on this album. It was very freeing for me.” In always keeping with the theme of love and women at the forefront of his lyrics, Mayer has successfully created a masterpiece that is fitting for both a relaxed cocktail party, or a night of dancing fun with your significant other.

Favorite Tracks:  Wine Glass Woman, Her Favorite Song, The Stars Are Ours


4. Shad K- Flying Colours


Rwandan born and Toronto based hip-hop artist and emcee, Shad K, who we highlighted earlier this year, snuck on this list with a middle October release of his fourth full-length studio album, Flying Colours. Shad K, whose real name is Shadrach Kabango, is an acutely cultured and intelligent rapper with an unparalleled sense of self awareness and humility. He excels in using his music as a platform to showcase both his immense pride in his heritage and grasp of meaningful issues, whether it be social or world affairs. Shad also takes extensive time in each of his albums to display his lyrical skill and simple love for the art of flow-rapping, usually going on an impressive and extended freestyle-like route on at least one of his songs, which on this album is highlighted on the last track, Epilogue- Long Jawn. An artist that thrives off of the gratification from the connection he shares with his fans, Shad does an impeccable job of creating an avenue for his fans to relate to him through his subject matter, and on this specific release touches on the subjects of family, relationships, disconnect due to technology, along with the lighter themes of pop culture and sports. Increasingly maturing with each of his releases, Shad K converges all of the strengths of his past efforts into what ends up being the culmination of his musical capability on this album. A collection of thought-provoking songs with pristine production, that allows the listener to tap into their own personal strengths and weaknesses, Flying Colours is firmly entrenched  as one of the most important hip-hop albums of 2013.

Favorite Tracks: Ya’ll Know Me, Epilouge-Long Jawn, Stylin’, Remeber To Remember


3. Disclosure- Settle


Settle is the remedy to that terminal sickness deep inside of your body that tells you that you shouldn’t find the nearest dance floor and get busy on it. With their debut album, brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, while surprisingly young at the ages of 22 and 19, have successfully crafted a sound that pays the utmost homage to the house and dance music that was being born into the music industry, right around the same time that they were into the world. In a current music community that sees any type of sound with heavy bass and electronic influences easily get lumped in with the overly crowded dubstep and EDM movement, Disclosure finds themselves implanted far from that category, and instead flourish as innovators of a new-wave, pop-dance culture. Though Settle is profoundly rooted with the characteristics of that pop/house music, it also takes on the lively traits from that of trance, two-step, hip-hop and club. Settle, in its entirety, is both hypnotic and contagious, as the brothers meticulously select entrancing vocal features to dress their exuberant-pop, synth-laced tracks. An immensely inviting hour long collection of momentous and mesmerizing songs, Settle will resonate long after 2013 as one of the best dance albums of our generation.

Favorite Tracks: Latch, You & Me, White Noise


2. Chance The Rapper- Acid Rap


Displaying a full array of styles influenced by all of the Chicago pioneers of hip-hop that paved the way before him, twenty-year-old Chance The Rapper uses Acid Rap as a vehicle to take his listeners on a mind-bending and eccentric trip all the way from the unforgiving streets and poverty of Chicago, to the simple narrative and proceedings that a young twenty year old should be experiencing at that ripe age. In what plays out somewhat like a musical autobiography, Chancellor Bennett take us to immense extremes, with a handful of towering feel good songs backed by powerful organs, all the way to intricate tales of love, misguidance, and struggle. Implementing a vast assortment of genres into this project, Acid Rap has traces of everything from jazz, gospel, juke and soul, but all the while stays true to hip-hop, even using a sample on it’s most recent single, Everybody’s Something, from one of the greatest producers ever, J Dilla. In featuring some of hip-hop’s rising stars in Action Bronson, Ab-Soul and Childish Gambino, Acid Rap is culturally relevant to a rapidly increasing pocket of hip-hop fans. Chance’s seemingly effortless ability to transform his lyrics into a vividly painted picture of his surroundings, imperfections and hopeful outlook is what separates Acid Rap from a plethora of other successful hip-hop albums that arrived in 2013.

Favorite Tracks: Everybody’s Something, Acid Rain, Juice


1. Charles Bradley- Victim Of Love


Sixty-five years of hardship, love, pain and perseverance is intricately summed up in this forty-one minute collection of powerful and emotionally stricken soul music. Charles Bradley, who was highlighted by us earlier this year, is a walking dream come true, and is the main character in one of the best stories to ever transpire in the history of music. Releasing his first ever album, No Time For Dreaming, at sixty-two years old, Charles had spent his whole life battling poverty, and walking the tight rope of homelessness and near fatal sicknesses. Spending the majority of his adult life as a James Brown impersonator in small clubs throughout Brooklyn, he got his break in 2011 after signing on with Daptone Records and being granted an opportunity to create his own music. The story of determination that he carried, paired with the success of his first album, has landed him well-deserved and increasing popularity, along with the stage to perform on and continue his dream. A stage that he has been fighting for his whole life. While his first album was a raw collection of heartfelt tracks, Victim Of Love, not straying from that core sentiment, is crafted with a bit more precision and clarity. The production and vocals are clearly advanced from his initial effort, with The Menahan Street Band, a six-piece funk band from Brooklyn, perfectly combining with Charles to create a crisp and impassioned collection of soul music that is suitable for any occasion. The title to the album is fitting, as it is entrenched with themes of affection, heartbreak  and devotion. A special live performance that you must go out of your way to see, Charles Bradley is a man with a message of love for the people, and this album is a stainless illustration of that conviction.

Favorite Tracks: Let Love Stand A Chance, Strictly Reserved For You, You Put A Flame On It


Albums that just missed the top five:  James Blake- Overgrown, Daft Punk- Random Access Memories, J Cole- Born Sinner, ScienZe- Ella

This post was sponsored by Monster Headphones. To win a holiday prize pack that includes a pair of Monster MVP Carbon headphones, click HERE.