Every year, towards the end of the year, Complex looks back on all the albums they’ve listened to over the past twelve months.


Only then do they start to form an opinion about the overall strength of the musical bounty: whether is been a “good year” or a “bad year.” During the year, it never feels like things are going well. You hear some records and think, “Well, that was pretty cool.” And then there’s plenty of that you don’t care much about, so many songs that don’t grab you. There’s always a ton of new music out. (Too much, it seems like, trying to keep up with it all.) But there’s never a ton of great music out. But that’s the thing about greatness, it builds over time.

So with 2013 coming to a close, they’re starting to realize what a really great year for music it’s been. There’ve been a been a lot of particularly strong albums this year. There were highly anticipated albums by artists like Drake, Kanye West, and J. Cole that lived up to the hype, there were the unexpected delights of Haim and Young Thug and A$AP Ferg, and worthy entries into established catalogs by acts like Eminem and Queens of the Stone Age. All that and oh so much more.

6. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Label: Aftermath, Shady, Interscope

This is the album Eminem fans have been waiting on for nearly a decade. Ever since 2004′s Encore, Eminem hasn’t been himself. First he was on drugs, then he was flushing them out. Though all of his albums featured distinct charms and highlights, it never felt like the same old Marshall. But the sequel to his magnum opus is as close to a return to form that any fan could reasonably hope for.

Em has his mojo back, and it feels good to hear him on a rampage again. In some ways he hasn’t matured at all (as evidenced by a strange preponderance of silly homophobia.) Yet in other ways, he has. He finally forgives his mother, something that seemed inconceivable years ago. The rest of the time, he’s spewing rhymes that are so damn complicated that even when we read the lyrics we can’t keep up. Some of the credit for the album’s creative success must go to Rick Rubin, who’s been helping to revitalize acts for several years now. It’s not clear what, exactly, Rubin told Em that got him back in his zone, but whatever it was, it worked.

Take a look back with them with The 50 Best Albums of 2013.