I’ve listened to a lot of music this year so far. It’s now about half over, so here’s a list of 15 albums that perhaps you should check out if you haven’t. If you have, that’s pretty cool. They’re in alphabetical order, because I don’t even have an ALBUM OF THE YEAR yet, so I’m giving them all fair shots. Here we go:
Hello. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? First time posting anything since January. I’ve been busy consuming music at an alarming pace so I can hopefully spit back out some worthy finds to keep for myself, along sharing them with everyone else. It’s the summer, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be writing about the stuff I’m constantly doing, right?
So here we have a song off of the new LP from Emma Ruth Rundle, formerly (or currently) in band Marriages and Red Sparowes, and it satisfies all of my wants and desires that Chelsea Wolfe’s previous album, “Pain Is Beauty,” filled last year. This track is a good signifier on what the rest of the album sounds like: dark, churning, smoldering emotion bubbling in a cauldron of Rundle’s, waiting to be served up to some unlucky sap who gets caught on the wrong side of her gaze.
It’s also dripping with some pretty nostalgic 90s guitar textures, along with a pretty awesome croon by Rundle in the chorus. I’m not too well-versed in that realm of female singer-songwriter, but it did remind me of the days that my mom would blast Indigo Girls in our house when we were cleaning – in the best way possible. Not to say that Rundle is like Indigo Girls, but more that she is able to evoke that kind of specific emotion through the timbre of her voice.
It’s a HUGE album, soundscape wise. Songs echo into a dark cavern; deep bass drum and gong hits don’t just reverberate, they disintegrate into darkness. Rundle’s voice acts as a siren to lead confused soldiers into the cavern, only to have them ensnared within the alluring blackness.
Some Heavy Ocean is out on Sargent House now!
If you’re a constant reader of this blog or you’re one my friends (you don’t even need to be a close friend!), you probably know that I am absolutely infatuated with Beck’s music. Besides his extremely lo-fi anti folk releases from the early 90s, I’ve loved every single one of his records and I think the progression of sound between each album is one of the most interesting in music. Going from slacker rock anthems on Mellow Gold and Odelay, to weirdo country jams on Mutations, to sex freakouts on Midnite Vultures, to one of the most quintessential breakup albums of all time Sea Change, then to indie rock coolness on Guero, Information and Modern Guilt, I’m so excited to see where Beck goes next.
This new album is described as a companion piece to Sea Change, as it has many of the same musicians that performed on Sea Change as well as recurring tones and themes. The newest track, Blue Moon, definitely reflects that as it is mostly acoustic instrumentals and mostly sad song material. It’s immaculately produced, with a bit of cello, mando, booming percussion and of course Beck’s signature croon. The dude’s 43, but he still sounds youthful. Definitely wiser, but still has some kick. Check out the song below.
Morning Phase is out February 25th
This is a more informal version of my usual favorite tracks list, since I feel like ranking individual tracks as just one person is a little too impersonal and lacking common sense. Especially if there were 100 tracks, or 102 like there were last year. There was a ton of good music coming out this year and there could have easily been more than 100 songs on this list, but I opted to go for quality rather than quantity. There are still 40 songs here, which is a lot, but they’ve survived the cuts from 100, down to 70, to you know, 40. 40 great songs that really changed my year and made me think about what I’m exactly listening to in the year 2013, as compared to other years.
These songs have helped illustrate moments within my life in 2013, have them be soundtracking some stray thoughts in moments of boredom or allowing me to be completely obsessed with them for several weeks, if not months. Songs like these always come each year, but I always feel as though it’s important to highlight them, as a way to present them with some sort of prestigious award in my own mind. Even though I’m done with school and other work related things for about a month, I’m going to try and write a small blurb for each song, because they deserve it.
The * next to the song name notes that it’s in the Top 10 songs out of this bunch. They are the ones that you MUST listen to. MUST. They also won silly awards.
- Anamanaguchi – Planet*
This song gets the “Unknown Nostalgia of 2013″ award. This is due to the fact that it sounds like the theme music for the end of a 8-bit video game that took about 60 hours worth of gameplay and beating a near-impossible boss to reach the dramatic finale, where the main character and rescued fair maiden or lad ride off into the pixelated sunset on magical dolphins. Just a thought.
- Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Putting this out as the first single from the prolific indie band was a smooth move; with James Murphy flexing his production glitz and David Bowie providing backup vocals, there was no way this track could lose.
- Ariel Pink & Jorge Albrecht – Hang On to Life
UNF. That chorus tho. A slippery, smarmy cut of pop goodness, served up the only way Ariel Pink knows how. The extra telephone dialogue at the midpoint in the song really brings it all home, though.
- Beach Fossils – Shallow
The guitar tone is so sharp and contains so much depth, and then the vocals, bass, and melody guitar line come in and add even more depth- creating layers upon layers of interlocking instrumentals that harken back to a similar sound to Diiv’s “Doused.” Coincidentally, they both have water-related song names.
- Beck – Defriended*
This song gets the “The Main Man” Award, because Beck is the main man. After putting out an album only accessible through sheet music (a unique, not pretentious, move), he sneaks this new track out taking plays from an Animal Collective/Radiohead playbook with heavily sequenced drums and disorienting reverb but keeps the thing quintessentially Beck, which is his specialty. This track is superb and if this were a ranked list, it’d probably be number one.
- Bibio – A Tout A L’heure
Probably the happiest, purest tones put forth in a Bibio song since his breakout hit “Lover’s Carvings,” this song squeezes the dopamine out of the crevices of the cerebral cortex with its groovy bassline, bright synth melody, and of course the warm acoustic guitar.
- Big Black Delta – Side of the Road
M83/Muse ripoff? Nah man, this is some thick, catchy electro pop. Like many songs in this list, the chorus really makes this song stand out among the other songs, especially with the super theatrical vocals and throbbing synth line in the back.
- Chelsea Wolfe – Sick*
This song gets the “Song I’ve Imagined My Own Death the Most To of 2013″ award, a much contested prize. I’ve written many paragraphs about this song, but I’ll try and keep it to a minimum. This song is massive, comprising of an orchestra, immense percussion, eerie synths, and two versions of Wolfe’s bellowing yet smoky vocals: one pitch shifted down and one normal pitch. The song embodies despair and has given many goosebumps. Wooooof.
- Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Lyrics have never been a strong suit of mine, but on songs like these it makes me want to pay attention to other songs with equally as quirky, loveable, and hilarious lyrics. The song is about Barnett’s allergic episode in 100˚F heat, and the lyrics let the story play out wonderfully, always one-upping the next quotable phrase.
- Crying – Bodega Run
Chiptune influenced pop punk sounds like it could be terrible, but this fuckin’ rules. The instrumentals are super basic and ultra catchy and the lyrics are impossible not to love. It’s basically a story of people going to a bodega and buying snacks. With lines like “Lil’ Debbie is giving me the eye, down the aisle,” and “but they don’t got them dank doritos or those jalapeño cheetos” there’s no way this song can lose.
- Daft Punk – Doin’ It Right (ft. Panda Bear)*
This song wins the award “Favorite Alarm Clock Song of 2013.” The only electronically based song on Daft Punk’s newest album turns out to be my favorite, even though choosing one is almost an impossible task. The grooves on this are immaculate and the layering of Panda Bear’s vocals with the robot vocals of the punks is perfection. This was my alarm clock song for the majority of the summer, too, so its gotten a serious amount of play from me.
- Deafheaven – Dreamhouse*
This song wins the “Probably My Girlfriend’s Least Favorite Song on This List” Award. Dare I say that this song is the perfect introduction to black metal, blackgaze, post metal, post rock, or shoegaze to someone who is unfamiliar? Potentially yes, but it’s the sheer emotion put through in these wretching vocals and the thunderous guitars that really punch this song through the roof. There’s a reason why it’s been embraced by metal and non-metal fans alike. Definitely in the Top 10 for me for this year. That simple guitar line around 2:30, tho.
- Dean Blunt – Demon
I read an about a listening party experience with Blunt’s album The Redeemer where the album was played at deafening volumes in a pitch black room where the listeners were situated. The experience was intense, but extremely satisfying. I tried it out for myself, and found the same results. The thundering percussion and sequenced cello is messily juxtaposed with unprompted sound effects of shattering glass and car horns while Blunt’s vocals chant over the chaotic instrumental really is disorienting but sum up the album brilliantly. Check the whole thing out if you can.
- Delorean – Unhold (ft. Caroline Polachek)
I crafted a theory the other day when I was listening to this song, which was the reason that I like this song as much is because I can picture my 8th grade self Dance Dance Revolution’ing to it. The ultimate praise. It has a catchy beat, slick bassline, and Caroline Polachek’s vocals are amazing as always.
- Diarrhea Planet – Lite Dream
This song definitely gets the award “The Song I Air-Guitared To Most of 2013.” The song is a straight up face ripper! Diarrhea Planet’s four guitarists really have a field day on this one, absolutely shredding the listener’s inhibitions throughout three melody changes, each becoming more radical than the last. Basically it will rock your entire world every single time.
2013 has been an absolute monster year for music: countless reunions, comebacks, surprises, a few letdowns, band beefs, new bands, and great music overall. The top albums I have this year aren’t real surprises to anyone who knows me. I’m pretty vocal about the music I dig. However there are some albums in here that surprised me on how much I liked them.
As for trends, there’s a metal leaning album in the Top 10, which is the first time that’s happened. There’s only four hip-hop albums on this list, which I feel is lower than the past two years. It’s pretty balanced with everything else. One album in there will be a surprise for those who actually personally know the artist, which I know there will be at least one person. Other than that, no real surprises, mostly all pretty well known releases on pretty well known indie labels.
If you’re not familiar with the album, you can click the album title and listen to a song! Hope you enjoy!
CBK Top 10 “Leftfield” Albums of 2013, or, 10 Albums of 2013 That Are Absolutely Worth Mentioning But Didn’t Fit Into Any Other ListsPosted in Music with tags albums, Best of 2013, Daniel Lopatin, electronic music, Laurel Halo, Left Field, media, Melt Yourself Down, music, Oneohtrix Point Never, Vaporwave, WHUS on December 9, 2013 by Combotrev
This is a new feature this year. With the broadening of my musical horizon, there were many albums that I came in contact with that I really liked a lot, but found that they didn’t really “fit” with the other albums on my Top 50 list. These records are usually the ones that align with musical styles that I’m not too well-versed in or they’re out there to such a degree that there’s no way to compare them to other albums that may have attracted more of a mainstream audience. When trying to put Oneohtrix Point Never’s album into my list, it didn’t make sense for it to be on the same list as say Anamanaguchi or Vampire Weekend. It just wouldn’t make sense.
There isn’t too much style discrepancy going on here, most of the albums here are pretty experimental or arty electronic music. Melt Banana and Melt Yourself Down satisfy the weird, foreign sounding album category, and then there’s the one, lone sludge metal album by CT punks Stone Titan. I really liked all these albums on here and hopefully they will enlighten some about alternatives to the alternative.
There were a lot of really good albums put out this year. I’m usually pretty on top of things coming at the moment, but after becoming Music Director at WHUS, I had the opportunity to get introduced to many albums from bands that I had never heard of before. This has probably been the most hectic year when it comes to music, so all of these albums in this list are still super good, not just in the first 50.
This list is made up of albums that were previously chillin’ in the exec lounge that is my Top 50 and recent new additions that were good enough to make some sort of list. They are ordered alphabetically, because they are all special little snowflakes.
- Aye Nako – Unleash Yourself
2013 was the year of many musical introductions for me, but most especially lo-fi pop punk that’s super popular in the tri-state area. This stuff is emotionally charged and catchy as hell, along with many other group’s sounds, but this one really got me more than others.
- Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
Know how people always say “oh man I was born in the wrong decade” bullshit? Well, here’s a legit time capsule that will take the listener on a one way trip to the 80s. Also it might persuade one to buy silk bed sheets.
- Buke & Gase – General Dome
Jagged and experimental to a whole new sense, this duo has made their own unique instruments and play to very unorthodox time signatures, figuring in unorthodox key changes at every quick turn. It’s a delight of an album that I feel was really overlooked this year.
- Dean Blunt – The Redeemer
I’d call this album experimental pop, but I feel like that wouldn’t do it justice. This album is a trip through a broken man’s mind, through illusions of grandeur, to a drunken stint, to a breakup. Of course, that’s not for sure, but that’s how I interpret it. It’s a jumbled mess of sounds and I’ve never heard anything quite like it that’s this beautiful.
- Diarrhea Planet – I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams
AW FUCK YEAH YOU READY TO RAWWWKK!??!? You better be, because this album will shred the faces off our your future children. Diarrhea Planet are a motley crew that feel like they are comprised of the kids who were bullied in high school along with the kids who bullied in high school. It’s straight up destructive, fun, blast your face off rock n roll. You can’t hate on that.
- Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Ultra-looped experimental electronic dudes rock out once again with intensity and weirdness on this album. The long song lengths allow for tracks to repeat, but also build off of other rhythms, melodies, and feelings, creating a wash of dense, rhythmic electronic music.
- Jon Hopkins – Immunity
This classically trained pianist doesn’t turn in his ivories when it’s his time to create danceable but also pensive electronic dance tracks. With glitchy melodies and emotive piano playing, this record hits all the right sweet spots.
- Kanye West – Yeezus
I honestly don’t get all the #1 rankings of this album this year. I’ve seen four different lists rank Yeezus #1, and I just don’t agree. Let me get this straight: the instrumentals are absolutely fantastic. The song ideas and structures are great. Everything about this record for the most part is great.
However, the low points almost outweigh the progress made with the moments I just mentioned. Some of the guest features are pretty lackluster (I’m lookin’ at you, autotuned Chief Keef) and the lyrics. Oh my. I’d get into a song, like “I’m In It,” until he says “eatin’ Asian pussy/all I need was sweet and sour sauce.” “Blood on the Leaves” is weighted down by “when ya popped your first mollyyyy” for me. I could pick out all the terrible puns I’d expect from a Childish Gambino album that are featured, but it would take too long.
The reason this is on here is because I found myself revisiting this album to hear the brilliant production and beats, only to be shooed away by the atrocious lyrics. If you have a rebuttal for this, I’d love to hear it.
- Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
Weirdo rocker dude from Australia finally put out the solo full length I’ve been asking for. Combining warped rock n roll songs a la Nick Cave, he also lays down some more heartfelt moments to help show the softer side of Callinan.
- M.I.A. – Matangi
Possibly my the most pleasant surprise of the year, the new M.I.A. loads on the correct amounts of fierce and fun without getting too political. The triad of MATANGI, Only 1 U, and Warriors is my jam, among the other jammers on this album.
- The Range – Nonfiction
A recent addition to the list, this album is a mish mosh of different styles of electronic music. Not sure if it’s totally dance-centric, but it combines recent types of electronic crazes like footwork and combines them with old classics like drum n bass & a bit of jungle. There’s also a bit of hip hop influence in there too, reminding me of a few Anticon releases.
- Sky Ferriera – Night Time, My Time
Definitely the most pop album on any list of mine this year, I was extremely pleased with how this album turned out. There are definitely some low points, but the high points on this album are electric. “You’re Not The One?” Are you kidding me? That song is gold.
- Slow Warm Death – Slow Warm Death
Ex-Snowing singer John Galm’s newest project is sort of a blues rock/emo/pop punk hybrid. Make sense? No? Yeah, but if you listen to it, you’ll believe it. It’s great to hear Galm singing again with a new band that sounds like they have a ton of promise for the future.
- Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
This album really grew on me as the year developed. At first I was uninterested in Toro Y Moi’s drift towards a more mainstream sound, but then realized that it’s chock full of delicious hooks and jazzy grooves. I can handle some of this pop, in this case.
- Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin
This album is more of the same in the extensive catalog of Thee Oh Sees, but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. This record is chock full of saucy grooves and nasty riffs. If you’re familiar with their stuff, you won’t be surprised.
- The Underachievers – Indigoism
Part of the Beast Coast movement in NYC, these two dudes are unfortunately the most overlooked group of the movement. This album is one of the best hip hop albums of the year, combining the spiritual nature of their message with the druggy, cloud rap beats. I hope they really blow up in 2014, they deserve it.
- Various Artists – After Dark 2
This compilation album from artists on Italians Do It Better is ultra smooth, glitzy, dark, sexy, and varied enough to make each tidbit interesting. Possibly the best record of the year to drive around to at night.
- Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Earlier this year, Waxahatchee’s previous full length American Weekend completely consumed my life, making me fully obsessed with Waxahatchee, Swearin’, and PS Eliot. The more polished feel to this album is a pleasant change and all the songs have the same emotional punch as the songs on the previous album.
- Weekend – Jinx
Since the 80s haven’t ended yet, why not enjoy some new wave/post punk rock from some dudes who can pull it off extraordinarily well. From the bass tone, to the vocals, jangly guitars and the reverb, this album could have come out in 1986 and the world would have been like “woah.”
- Yvette – Process
This album is the newest addition to the list, after seeing it on a few early Best of 2013 lists. At first I was put off due to its uncanny similarity to HEALTH and Liars, but after looking past this, I found this album to be quite an intense treat that might just blister your ears off.