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.
- Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
What a beauty this album is. I mean, really- if you’ve taken the time to listen to this thing, have you ever heard anything else like it? In my opinion, (and let’s be honest, all of the content on this blog is my opinion), this is the musical representation of the psychological mind of the average digital native living in the world today. The internet has begun to take over our natural senses, causing us to yearn for immediate gratification at all times, which easily found through the internet. Before the invention of written text, there was the ability of limitless memory; before audio recording, there was written speech; before video recording, there was audio recording; and now there is the internet, comprising all of these outlets into one, glorious haven of communication, media, and entertainment.At this moment, you probably have a few tabs open in your browser, each containing a separate world of occasional distractions to keep your mind away from the daily doubts and stress. Or perhaps each tab contains the world where you have work to be done: emails to respond to, papers to write, group members to relay information back and forth to, or notes to go over for final exams. Maybe you’re even reading this article while listening to music or maybe the TV is on in the background. There is almost nowhere in the world you can go to escape the grip of technology and media. Life now has become overrun with mindless distraction and entertainment, because that is the new paradigm.
Trust me, this has to do with the music. The reason I feel as though it’s the perfect representation of the new paradigm is due to its glitchy nature and ability to call upon certain sounds that make up the mental framework of early analog computer sound effects.” Take the song “Americans” for example. The song could be going on a pretty good riff of warping electronic music, gathering steam until all of the sudden, the climax falls short with a quick blip in the system, shifting the entire song’s stream of consciousness onto a whole new musical theme. Musical moments like on “He She” and “Zebra” emphasize the quickness of it all, how the brain can jump all over the spectrum and fool us into thinking we can multitask, but in actuality we cannot, only leaving us overloaded and more stressed than before. There are moments of almost divine clarity here as well, put forth through digitally angelic synth textures and barely obsolete computer-generated noises, harkening some beautiful moment where one has discovered some website or game fulfilling their deepest desires of the unknown consciousness.
The concept that defines the desire to treat computers and internet characters as real people is called the media equation, which has been scientifically proven to be an actual phenomenon. People have no problem attributing human characteristics to things that actually don’t exist or are inanimate objects. Take someone yelling at a video game for being unfair, being upset when a character dies in a cartoon, or making SIRI say silly things. These are all instances of us interacting with inanimate objects; putting feeling into them as though they are able to receive it. The music on this album is the soundtrack to the processes of the brain making connections with fictional characters and cutting off all ties to the outside world, leaving only digital friendships left in a dark, husk of a mind.
Some of this rambling might sound a bit too grandiose for just an album, but I feel as though Daniel Lopatin, Oneohtrix Point Never, is writing some of the most thought-provoking and forward thinking music of our time. It would be basically unfair to place this into my Top 50, because it does not belong with other traditional forms of music. This could be in an art exhibit, for all I know. Also, it’s really satisfying to walk around on campus listening to this at really high volumes. It makes everything look like a promo video for the university from the 90s. Goodness. Now take a look at all the rest of these albums, cause they’re all really good.
- Laurel Halo – Chance of Rain
This summer I had a bit of an obsession period with Laurel Halo’s music. I had liked her 2012 album, Quarantine, quite a lot, but it was when I came in contact with her 2011 EP King Felix that I truly began losing my mind over Laurel Halo’s music, particularly her vocals.However, like her “Behind the Green Door” EP from earlier this year, this album followed in the pattern of removing her unique vocals to create more room for experimental edge that let her machines do the talking. It’s full of jazzy percussion juxtaposed with harsh, bass-laden synth textures and swathes of bleary, colorful rhythms, all interwoven together to make a beautiful patchwork of wires, sounds, emotions, and maybe even dreams. The album is bookended by two classical sounding pieces featuring Halo on piano, sounding like they’re keeping the world within the meat of the album canon to itself, so that you might be able to revisit this mystical world, but not take it with you.
- Melt Yourself Down – Melt Yourself Down
Oh my goodness grooves. So many grooves that you might lose your mind. So many grooves that you might be transported to another alternate universe wherein Bootsy Collins is President, Manu Dibango is Secretary of State, and James Brown is Secretary of Agriculture. This huge collective of musicians take some of the gnarliest, psychedelic funk and weaves tons of different flavors of world music, afropop, Middle Eastern grooves, Latin American instrumentation, and lights the whole thing on fire on some party island where thousands are dancing until the sun comes up. It’s one of the most fun times I’ve had listening to an album so far this year, but couldn’t find a place for it in my Top 50. Check this one out for sure.
- Huerco S. – Colonial Patterns
With short samples looped over and over, some would probably find Colonial Patterns to be downright annoying and not worth any time whatsoever. However, I beg to differ. This album is full of muted, static-y loops that Huerco S warps into some kind of form of techno. It’s very disjointed, like a rusty machine starting up after a long time of dormancy. Then on some tracks the roots of the techno genre shine through and one could barely make out the images of basement raves going on through the hazy windows of the warehouse. The thing is also crawling with Oneohtrix Point Never-like soundbites, which is fitting since this is put out on Oneoh’s record label, Software. Overall, it’s a smoky, subtle dance record that might surprise you if you listen hard enough.
- Ultrademon – Seapunk
Some people say that Ultrademon is the king of the seapunk music movement. I wouldn’t doubt that claim, since he named his debut album Seapunk. The album starts off with a potential interview or video blog talking about seapunk, titled “Chatroom with Enya,” talking about the stereotypical labels of seapunk musicians and those who identify with that style. It’s a fitting introduction to those who are unfamiliar, since the instrumental gets right into classic seapunk. Just like the introduction stated, the beats get into classic rave culture, but also adding futuristic elements into it as well. But honestly, I could listen to the song “The Bayou” over and over. It’s crazy.
- ECO VIRTUAL – Virtual
At the end of 2012, a new style of electronic music called “Vaporwave” began picking up massive amounts of popularity on the internet. This music was categorized by being very slow, most of them containing chopped & screwed cuts of 80s & 90s pop/RnB ballads, along with synth textures much like those in infomercials of the 90s. This music takes the abandoned future dreams of the consumerist 1990s and parodies them by making them so obvious and ugly, but at the same time strangely beautiful. This album is a bit different than the bunch, in that it’s much more accessible due to the familiar chord progressions and smooooooothness. In actuality, this is mostly just slowed down Sade songs, but they sure do sound good. Also they sound like the music that plays while the weather radar segment on the Weather Channel, which is awesome.
- Stone Titan – Scratch N Sniff
One of the few metal albums on my year end lists, this is the only one on the “leftfield” list. As opposed to the other two albums that will show up on my Top 50, this one is a little bit more rough around the edges. With song titles like “I Wish I Was Fucking Dead” and “Miles Away From Sober,” it’s pretty obvious on what you’re getting into. This is a gross, sludgy, heavy, album that rips bloody chunks off of farm animals in the middle of the night. This is a man on the verge of suicide living in a hellhole of an apartment with dead animals scattered around the living room. These guys are also really cool and good friends with one of my friends at the radio station, so that’s a plus.
- Melt Banana – Fetch
This is the first album from the legendary Japanese noise rock group in a few years, but not for a good reason. The group had the album done in 2011, but because of the tsunami and earthquake in the same year, the group had to postpone the releasing of the album for obvious reasons. This album is a whirlwind of abrasive noise juxtaposed with cutesy female vocals and moments of pure serenity. It also makes me feel super nerdy listening to it, because for the most part it’s a Japanese woman singing over caffeine-blood instrumentals. It’s really enjoyable for those who can look past that, but it makes me a bit self conscious to listen to it walking around campus.
- The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Perhaps the first “dark ambient” release I really ever got into is practically required to be on a leftfield list. I have no idea what other dark ambient albums are like, so how can I compare this to anything? Anyways, this album is intense. This is like Tim Hecker dark on steroids. This darkness is so serious, someone made a Twitter account @WOAH_HaxanCloak, just making jokes about what listening to The Haxan Cloak does to you. Imagine being thrown into a pit after trekking through a hazardous cave with only a flickering flashlight. This pit is rumored to be bottomless, but no one knows for sure. During the time of eternal descent, internal demons come to tear apart your inner psyche until nothing is left, just an empty husk ultimately falling with the other remnants of victims of @WOAH_HaxanCloak.
- Maxmillion Dunbar – House of Woo
Maxmillion Dunbar’s newest record, and my first of his to listen to, is one that not only emanates emotion, it erupts with emotion. This isn’t average psychedelic influenced house music, this is equal parts invigorating and chill, calling upon legendary disco grooves of yore along with the mystical future of footwork and 2-step bass music. So many good vibes that come along with this album, too bad more of my friends are into this music.