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2013 in Review: Day 12 – Album of the Year

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Nah Youn-sun

[The 2013 in Review Series]

0. Prelude – Best Album Art
1. Introduction
2. R&B and Soul
3. Rock and Alternative
4. Rap and Hip-hop
5. Dance and Electronic
6. Pop, Ballad and Folk
7. Jazz, Crossover and Other
8. Best Collaborative Work
9. Rookie of the Year
10. Song of the Year
11. Artist of the Year
12. Album of the Year
13. Staff Picks
14. Miscellanea and Loose Ends
15. Concluding Remarks

With Album of the Year, we conclude the “my awards” portion of this series – for the next three days we will shift over to other staff members’ picks and non-award discussions. There was stiff competition as always, and my top two picks will likely not be reciprocated elsewhere. (At the top, that is.) Still, I think there are strong arguments to be made for these albums, as well as for the eight albums that round out the top 10.

As mentioned before, the Album of the Year and its runner-up were purposefully not included anywhere else on the series. Also, honorable-mention picks are ranked for this category.

Album of the Year 2013

Nah Youn-sun - Lento

Nah Youn-sun – Lento (read our review)

It was the only album that I gave five stars to this year, and that’s the least I can say about Lento. This eighth album is Nah at the peak of her creative power. The album’s deliberate and careful portrayal of the finest grains of emotion is a major triumph, enabled both by Nah’s masterful performance as well as the brooding poetry that she sings. But there are moments when the album chooses to simply blow the listener away with dazzling sound – there lies the even more amazing portions of Lento, where Nah’s grounded voice sometimes becomes immeasurably sorrowful or angry or bewitched and guitar and contrabass work into unstoppable fury or tense suspension. My prior opinion on Nah’s accomplishment stands: “She burns with passion, celebrates in fashion, laments with aridity, and evokes with acidity… it’s one of the most forceful, deliberate vocal performances in the history of Korean jazz.”

Runner-up Album of the Year 2013

Yi Sung-yol - V

Yi Sung-yol – V (read our review)

Six months later, I’m pretty sure I still don’t fully understand V. That’s fine. Six months later, the album is still just as feverishly anxious, tightly wound, and sometimes hauntingly beautiful. It’s inaccessible in the sense that the lyrics are not much help in linguistically understanding the album (vocals in general are used almost like instruments here), and that the arrangement is so foreign, but these things also make V an involved experience. The emotional response that Yi Sung-yol’s unfettered, live sounds evoke are powerful and hard to find elsewhere. Is V an experiment? Yes. Is it too self-indulgent? You could argue that, although I’d disagree. Despite that, is V still persuasive? Oh, you bet.

Honorable Mentions (ranked)

Yaya - Cruel Picture

3. Yaya – 잔혹영화 (Cruel Picture)

(Best Jazz and Crossover Album)

Sunwoo Jungah - It's Okay, Dear

4. Sunwoo Jungah – It’s Okay, Dear

(Best Pop, Ballad and Folk Album)

Fromm - Arrival

5. Fromm – Arrival

(Runner-up Pop, Ballad and Folk Album)

Zion.T - Red Light

6. Zion.T – Red Light (read our review)

(Best R&B and Soul Album)

Jinbo - Fantasy

7. Jinbo – Fantasy (read our review)

(Runner-up R&B and Soul Album)

Vassline - Black Silence

8. Vassline – Black Silence

(Best Rock and Alternative Album)

F(x) - Pink Tape

9. F(x) – Pink Tape (read our review)

(Best Dance and Electronic Album)

Heo So-young - That's All

10. Heo So-young – That’s All

(Runner-up Jazz and Crossover Album)

Source: Photos – Daum Music

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