So, without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite new releases of 2013. What were yours?
1. Justin Timberlake - "The 20/20 Experience Vol. 1 & 2" (RCA)
JT is the consummate entertainer. He sings, he dances, he acts, he cracks us up on SNL. His long awaited return to music, released in two lengthy volumes several months apart did not disappoint, filled with groovy dance tracks and horn-laden soul jams with his killer band, the Tennessee Kids. Fave track: "Drink You Away"
2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - "The Heist" (Macklemore LLC)
This is the freshest-sounding hip-hop album in what seems like forever. No disrespect to the veterans who put out big releases this year, but "The Heist" (released in late 2012) doesn't sound like anything else out there right now. With a terrific blend of Macklemore's gravely raps, killer beats, smooth melodies and gorgeous guest vocals (I could not love Mary Lambert's voice more), it's easy to see why it's one of the top-selling albums of the year. "Same Love" even became an anthem for the gay-rights movement. Fave Track: "Make the Money"
3. Lorde - "Pure Heroine" (Universal)
Speaking of fresh -- this 16-year-old singer-songwriter (a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O'Connor) from New Zealand busted onto the pop scene out of nowhere with chart-topper "Royals," but the smash single is just one of ten infectious tunes on her extremely solid first album. Did I mention she's 16? Sultry, downbeat grooves entrance as Lorde's well-beyond-her-years vocal styling sucks you farther in. Fave Track: "400 Lux"
4. Eminem - "The Marshall Mathers LP2" (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope)
Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers -- whatever you call him, he's still the reigning Rap God. Always offensive and utterly controversial, he returns with his best effort in years, harkening back to the old-school sound that made him famous and killing it with the fastest flow on the planet and some big-time guest appearances. "Berzerk" and "Love Game" (feat. Kendrick Lamar) are just plain fun, "Desperation" rocks heavy and "Headlights" gets emotional. Fave Track: "Headlights" (feat. Nate Ruess)
5. Tedeschi Trucks Band - "Made Up Mind" (Masterworks)
Husband and wife musical dynamos Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks and company give a tremendous follow-up to their Grammy-winning debut album "Revelator" with "Made Up Mind." Tedeschi has a voice straight from heaven and Trucks is one of the greatest slide guitar players of all time. Every song on this outstanding record is filled with heart and soul. Fave Track: "Misunderstood"
6. Paul McCartney - "New" (Hear Music)
The former Beatle is 71 years old and his new album, aptly titled "New," is actually really good. Macca reminds his long-time fans why we've always loved him. He's a great songwriter and "New" is full of solid tunes, both catchy and deep. "Alligator" is decidedly Beatles-esque. There's just no arguing with a living legend. Fave track: "Queenie Eye"
7. Pearl Jam - "Lightning Bolt" (Monkeywrench/Republic)
It's hard to believe that Pearl Jam is more than 20 years old; but it's not hard to believe that they still rock. "Lightning Bolt" is one of the best rock albums of the year, highlighting Pearl Jam's legendary sound, ranging from its hard grunge roots ("Mind Your Manners") to more mature ballad rock ("Sirens"). The band is as tight as ever and Vedder's voice has only gotten deeper and richer with age. Fave Track: "Sirens"
8. Michael Franti & Spearhead - "All People" (Capitol)
Filled with Franti's signature sound and inspiring, uplifting and thought-provoking lyrics, "All People" is a statement on humanity and a pleasure to listen to from start to finish. The fact that Franti walks his talk makes his messages of love and tolerance all the more meaningful and personal. This is music to feed your soul. Fave Track: "I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)"
9. Various Artists - "Inside Llewyn Davis: Original Soundtrack" (Nonesuch)
The Cohen Brothers once again strike gold collaborating with legendary producer T. Bone Burnett (and associate producer Marcus Mumford) on this superb soundtrack of traditional and new folk tunes for their highly anticipated new film. Lead actor/singer Oscar Isaac takes center stage, Justin Timberlake (also in the cast) appears on two tracks, and Marcus Mumford joins the mix as well as Punch Brothers. Even Bob Dylan is included with a previously unreleased studio version of "Farewell." Fave Track: "Green, Green Rocky Road"
10. David Bowie - "The Next Day" (ISO/Columbia)
Another rock legend returned this year with his first new material in a decade to the delight of fans and critics alike. At 66, the Thin White Duke once again reminds us that age isn't a factor when it comes to rock royalty. "The Next Day" echoes the best of Bowie past while bringing the best of Bowie present. Fave Track: "Valentine's Day"