Phil Anselmo – Official Live: 101 Proof
There’s something nothing short of astonishing about listening to Anselmo live. His vocals are raw, shredded, pulsing with pure intensity and it feels impossible that he would be able to keep this up over the length of a concert, but he never loses a step on this album, pumping the crowd and the listener in an absolute frenzy with his insane vocals.
Beck – Hell Yes
On Hell Yes, Beck turns four of the songs from Guero over to a couple of dudes to remix and the result is brilliant. Beck’s never been particularly lauded as a vocalist, but I think he’s a master of phrasing and delivery, even if he doesn’t have the greatest range. The remixes leave Beck’s vocals right where they need to: central to the sound.
Julian Casablancas – Random Access Memories
Of all the guest vocals on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, most people pointed to Pharrel’s two contributions as being the best stuff on the album; great as those are, I think it’s Casablancas who delivers the best vocals on Instant Crush. It’s nothing short of brilliant. “I’ve listened to your problems/now listen tomine;” for his delivery of that line alone, he’d get on this list.
Drake – Nothing Was the Same
Drake is an artist that, for me at least, is constantly poised on the brink of greatness without ever quite crossing over into it. But no one can fault his abilities as a rapper. His songs require a wide range of emotions, more than most hip-hop artists have to deal with. And he manages to infuse his vocals with meaning, while also knowing his way around a snarl, a hook or just a plain old breakdown. Good stuff.
Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan
Another Side of Bob Dylan is a troubled album, but it finds Dylan at a transitional moment; the instruments are still acoustic, but he’s heading for rock with purpose. And his vocal performance here is nothing short of brilliant. He amps up from the folky vocals into a kind of reedy snarl on songs like Motorpsycho Nitemare, but he knows how to bring it back down to a simple and effective tone on songs like My Back Pages. Dylan’s one of the greatest vocalists of all time, certainly, even on his weaker albums.
BONUS: Worst Male Vocalist
Joseph Jones – J’ai Ete Au Bal (I Went to the Dance), Vol. 2
It was my mistake to decide to get into old-school Cajun music this year. There are certainly artists of note there and I found a fair amount of things to enjoy on two volume set I listened to. But there was more to dislike and Joseph Jones’ insanely bad vocals heads the list, I’d say. You can see how Dylan was influenced by this kind of discordant, abrasive singing, but Dylan made something powerful out of it. Jones just slurs drunkenly, screeches like a dying cat and steadfastly refuses to pick a key. Send this guy to the bayou.