Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 20 of 2013: 10-1

Well, this is exciting. Are you excited? I'm excited.

Get excited.

Shabba! This album would be nothing without Ferg's character. The opening lines are the perfect illustration of this, "We at the All-Star game right now. Eyes closed. Swish. And you still in the D-league doin, uh, layup drills. You feel me?" I laugh every time I hear him say "swish". The effortlessness and casual way he approaches big-ballin is downright endearing. Also, this album bangs.

Twigs is great and all, but Arca makes this record. His smooth, sexy, gritty beats are front and center throughout the entire album's duration. I can only hope that Twigs' debut full length will be solely produced by Arca, as these two are a perfect match.

With every release, Death Grips never sound the same, but they always sound like Death Grips. Government Plates is full of EDM samples that work really well alongside MC Ride's paranoid ramblings. The greatest song on here is "Two Heavens" with a crazy vocal sample comprising the beat. It also includes a great hook ("I'm on my way YEAH") that has been missing since The Money Store's hook-palooza. Is the album worth cancelling shows on its fans? Since I didn't buy tickets: yes. 

Virgins is addictive. The sounds on here are so organic and so unique, I can't help but hit repeat when the album is over. It's excellent for relaxing, working, driving, or testing out your new headphones. Virgins  is a modern symphony suited for a concert hall and would do very well performed live. Definitely check this one out if you are into droney repetition or piano concertos. 

Kanye brought Death Grips' sound to the masses with this record, and the results are awesome. He also solicited the help of producer-of-the-moment Arca. I don't know how much Arca helped, but regardless, the quality of the beats on here are top notch. The lyrics... well Kanye's never been my favorite lyricist. There is something admirable though in his declaration that he is a god and my thinking "Well, he does sound pretty convincing..."

Arca, Arca, Arca. This guy is on a hell of a roll, and his best output all year was released for free. The beats on here are downright insane. I dare you to listen to this and not make a stank face. Go on. Get stanky. &&&&& also includes a closing track so peaceful and yet so bass heavy, it's an excellent contrast as a song and to the rest of the album. 

OPN did it to me again. I heard this album, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. I tried to move on, but the album kept coming back to me. There is always this mysterious magnetism in his music, and before I know it, it's my fourth favorite album of the year. I still can not stand "Inside World" or "Problem Areas", but even if I skip those two, the other songs contain enough mini-songs/suites/whatever that the album stands well on its own despite these two. Who knows where OPN will go next, he is the most exciting musician out at the moment.

I can't explain why I like this album so much. It's pretty straight-forward, sultry, nu-R&B with an excellent (male) vocalist, but it's just that. But it has worked it's way into my heart in a way that I really connect with, and it's one of those albums I can put on whenever and immediately get into the mood and feel of the album within the first few notes. It's also an album that I think nearly anyone could enjoy, so be sure to check it out if you haven't already!

The Knife are back, and better than ever. Their constant evolution is a fascinating one, and they really nailed this album. The sounds on here reverberate within my brain and create a really psychedelic experience, and no matter where I am, I can't sit still while listening (makes for a dangerous driving experience). I really hope we don't have to wait another 7 years for their next album, but I am sure if we do, it'll be even more batshit insane and unique than anything else they've done.

Yes, I realize I have the same #1 album as Pitchfork. Yes, that fact embarrasses me a little. But let me explain. When I first heard Shaking the Habitual, I didn't think anything would be able to top it. Even after hearing Modern Vampires of the City, I had The Knife just edging out the new contender. As the year went on, Shaking... continued to impress me and never felt old, but Vampire Weekend and I were forming a connection that was hard to shake. I enjoy this album on more than a cerebral level, it has become much more than that. The songs on Modern Vampires... are instantly catchy, but there is something about these pop songs that feel important in a classic kind of way. When an album like this comes along, it's a surprise when a publication doesn't give it the top spot. I look forward to the day when Vampire Weekend's latest is not referred to as a "modern classic" and instead recognized alongside the "greats" such as The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless


Well, there was 2013 in the mind of Kyle. Think I'm full of shit? Let me know in the comments. Agree 100% with my selections like the sheeple you are? Let me know that as well. Thanks for reading, and here's looking forward to 2014! I hear The Avalanches are putting out an album finally! Right? ...right?


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top 20 of 2013: 20-11

Ba bada baaa!

I now present "Some guy on the internet's top 20 list." In total, I'd like to say I am pretty impressed with 2013. Last year, I had stronger connections to my top 2 albums, but this year, I have a solid 11 albums that could have been in the #1 spot.

So, without further ado, here is 20-11.

Extremely spastic at times and hypnotic at others, this album is anything but boring. Even more entertaining is Danny's persona off-album, where he gives surprisingly insightful interviews about Greek Tragedies, 60s pop rock, and Kathy Griffin.

I don't think you'll be seeing Rival Dealer on many end-of-year lists. That's not because this record isn't good, it's because it was released a week ago. This is the second year in a row where Burial has blessed the world with a release late in the year. His music is so suited for cold winter nights that it only makes sense. This album is interesting in its message to young people who feel alienated for one reason or another (specifically trans-gender). It'd be cool if Burial's music has an effect on someone out there that is more than just "wub wub this bassss wub".

In 2013, I got into metal a little bit. The vast majority still irritates me, but Inter Arma really nailed my exact preferences with this album. It's heavy, plodding, atmospheric, and the singer's (yeller's?) voice is never corny, always menacing. 

Fire! Orchestra is a collection of 20+ avant-garde and free jazz musicians who have crafted an hour of foreboding jazz unlike anything I've heard before. This album has two tracks with two "suites" within them each, and this album would have easily been in my top 5 had the fourth and final suite not been 100% free jazz. It's too cacophonous and random for my tastes, but the three preceding suites are excellent. If Swans went to hell and the only instruments available were saxophones and horns, and they hired a banshee as their singer, the end product might have been Exit!

The Drones are a gritty alt-rock band from Australia who sound like they just don't give a damn. The singer has an iconic voice, but you are half expecting him to say "fuck it I'm done" midway through every song. The riffs on here are excellent, and the songs are long, but it's the singer that really makes this album what it is.

So, we didn't get an Azealia Banks album this year, but we did get the next best thing: Cakes da Killa. This guy is just terrible. I'm certain Key & Peele were thinking of Cakes when they made this sketch. But I'll be damned if his beats are not the greatest thing I've heard in hip-hop all year. (Alright second greatest, we'll get to that later.) Also, Cake's parody of Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You" in the song above is pretty fantastic.

Glaciers is the perfect record to listen to on the way home from work after a stressful day. It's impossible not to listen to this album at full volume and get lost in the dense beats on this record. Track IV isn't anything special, but aside from that it's a near flawless album.

2013 was full of surprises, and Kurt Vile was one of them. I listened to this album only because I was bored one day, and the first track is so great that it could carry me through the album on its own power if needed, but the rest of the songs on here are just as solid. Maybe Kurt is filling a void in my life since college-Kyle was really into Ryan Adams, but post-college-Kyle really appreciates the similarities to Destroyer's Kaputt

The title of this album gets the award for "indie band trying too hard to be cute", but that try-hard cuteness really works well when carried over into the music itself. Everyone I show this album to seems to think this band is really sad-sounding, so I guess that's why most bands in this genre are sad... the shoegazing guitars and whisper-sung vocals really lend to a sad atmosphere. But I heard nothing but sugar coated, dimple-cheeked pop songs when listening to Candy Claws. No matter what you heard, I'd say they are definitely worth a listen.

Laurel Halo's follow-up to Quarantine came at the perfect time for me this year. I was desperately craving a pulsing, minimal techno album to get me through the late fall, and Laurel Halo surprised me with Chance of Rain. I hope that this album proves that Quarantine was a departure from her true sound, because the thought of Laurel Halo adding vocals to a Chance of Rain-style techno album is really exciting to me. Looking forward to more output from Ms. Halo. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Best of 2013: Best Albums I Heard for the First Time This Year Even Though They Were Not Released This Year

Every year, there are albums that dominate my listening habits for a year, but don't get the proper recognition they deserve since a) they don't show up on any end of year lists, and more importantly b) no one is talking about "that cool new band" Talking Heads in 2013.

Here is a list of albums I either missed out on or wasn't old enough to appreciate when they first came out.

And really, Talking Heads' entire discography. This band really wowed me this year. I had always known they were good, but I'd always assumed they were good in a "you had to be there in the 80s" kind of way. But Talking Heads sound as fresh and exciting as any band I listened to this year. This live album is an excellent introduction to their entire discography, and even at 2 and a half hours, it never gets stale.

I tried pretty hard to get into Boris this year. I didn't really get into most of their stuff, but this album is really in a class of its own. "Feedbacker, Part 2" is an excellent piece in itself, but the rest of the songs on here are really great too. The consistency on this album is something that is missing from other Boris releases.

And really, Swans' entire discography. I began listening to Swans at the tail end of 2012, but I did not attempt their early live album until I knew I was ready. This album is as shocking and abrasive as the title suggests. It represents Swans in its most crystalline form, their entire aesthetic boiled down into an hour and 15 minutes. If you are just getting into Swans, I recommend checking out The Seer or Children of God first. Unless you hate yourself. Then go for Public Castration is a Good Idea today!

2013 will go down as the year I became that guy no one likes who likes jazz. I blogged about my frustrations with jazz earlier this year, but it turns out I wasn't listening to the right stuff. When I think of jazz, I immediately go to the late 50's/early 60's period where hard bop was king. While I like some elements from this era, it's the late 60's on into the 70s where jazz gets really interesting. Incorporating funk and electronic elements into his music, Herbie Hancock created the greatest template for hip-hop I have heard. The solos are soulful, the beats are nasty, and the synth lines psychadelic. Great intro to jazz for hip hop heads.

During my investigations throughout jazz's history, I discovered a 70s avant-garde jazz composer who made spaced out, noisy, free jazz. Not really my cup of tea, but I figured I'd check out his early 50's masterpiece, Jazz in Silhouette before I wrote him off. This album has all the class you want from a 50s jazz record, but with the excitement and controlled soloing you expect from a Mingus record. After further investigation, I found that Sun Ra is defined only by his eclectic releases and eccentricity. He will put out a chilled out jazz lounge album one month, and the next release a drug-fueled avant-garde album where someone bangs on a drum for an hour. This album along with Lanquidity and Sleeping Beauty form a Holy Trinity of Sun Ra albums that can satisfy any mood. 

What the hell guys? Why had I not heard this album until November of this year? It's a gritty, smelly, catchy pop rock album that I absolutely fell in love with. It's also a great substitute for Women, who broke up last year. After further investigation I found out WU LYF also broke up last year. Why? Why can't grungy pop rock bands stay together?! WHY?!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Best of 2013: Best/Worst Album Covers

It's the year 2013. Kids these days listen to their music on their flam-flams and jib-jabs and no one cares about album art anymore. Well I care, dammit. When listening on my preferred flim-flam, I always ensure I can see the album art on the screen because I really think a lot of thought should go into designing album art. It can add to the album's "umph" or mystique, and it can even convince me one way or the other whether I should check an album out.

So, here is my tribute to the best album covers in 2013. Well, that comes later. First, let's all ridicule these awful ones first.

Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Not only does this look awful, it ruins a string of studio albums released by Daft Punk that all centered on the same visual theme. Why they decided to take the same approach 3rd graders might take when designing their first album art ("It's an album by me and my best friend so we put both our faces on it!") is beyond me. 

My Bloody Valentine - mbv
Loveless: A lush, sensual, dense record that reflects it's album art perfectly. 
mbv: A boring, disappointing mess that reflects it's album art perfectly.

Laurel Halo - Chance of Rain

The Knife - Shaking the Habitual
So deep, bro.

Now, the good stuff. In no particular order:

Rhye - Woman
When I say "no particular order", I meant other than Woman by Rhye. This is a gorgeous album cover that embodies the music within like no other album this year.

JAY Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury

Tim Hecker - Virgins

Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap

Deafheaven - Sunbather

The Drones - I See Seaweed

Candy Claws - Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time

HAIM - Days are Gone

FKA Twigs - EP2

Best of 2013

Ah, the music drought that is late November through January. Haven't been posting at all lately, but there really hasn't been much going on. The upside of the winter drought is it gives me a chance to review the albums I loved this year and formulate every blogger's favorite thing in the world: LISTS! Why else would we listen to music if not to force everything into a handy, argument inspiring, "fuck you creativity", ranked list?

Over the next week, I'll be posting my Best-Of Lists, so be sure to check back periodically (aka every-damn-day) to see why my music taste is better than yours.

"Jimmy, it's Christmas. Come spend time with the family!"
"But, Mom! I disagree with this blogger on the internet!!!"

I'll be updating the links below as they come:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Death Grips - Government Plates

Just when I had given up hope that Death Grips would release an album this year, BANG. Death Grips releases their new album for free on their website. This was one of those "music events" where everyone on the internet is listening to and talking about the same album at the same time, which rarely happens nowadays.

Bah. Internet. Back in my day, I had to walk two miles uphill to get to 
the record store only to find that the album was sold out!

Whether or not Death Grips was trying to bring the world together through noisy hip hop, I can't be certain. But I am absolutely certain that this album is astonishing. When Death Grips released the track "Birds" about a month ago, I was pretty impressed how Death Grips seems to constantly changing their sound while sounding like nothing but themselves. This album is full of strange samples, off-kilter beats, and bonkers atmospherics that are unlike anything I've ever heard... except for Death Grips.

If I were to give you an idea of what to expect, it sounds like they melted "Lord of the Game" and "5D" together and created an albums worth of variations on that feel. I also hear parts that remind me of the Hotline Miami soundtrack. The tracks I listed above are both from Exmilitary, and I feel this album is the closest cousin to that album in their growing discography.

The first track on the album has one of the greatest track titles in the history of music: "You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat". If you don't love the track already, give it a listen. This track is the most familiar sounding and makes for an excellent hype-as-fuck opener. But what makes this track so next-level to me is the snare roll crammed into the middle of the main bass riff. It takes it from groovy "hellz yeah" to "GET HYPE-AS-FUCK" in a millisecond.

One of my favorite elements on this album is the heavy use of vocal sampling. They have used this technique on all their releases, but on Government Plates, it has been turned up to an extreme level. The album also has a heavier EDM presence than on other Death Grips records. Put everything together and you have an insane, endlessly entertaining "I don't know what to do with my hands" album.

Do I dance? Do I play it cool? Do I punch the woman next to me?

Get noided, yall.