This record took a little while to grow on me, but once it did I couldn't stop listening. It's a smooth, passionate and sexy R&B record that feels quintessentially New York. I recently was listening to it crossing the Queensboro bridge and it felt very fitting watching the lights of Manhattan fade into the warehouses of Queens.
9. Superchunk - I Hate Music
One of my favorite bands of all time, Superchunk's "I Hate Music" is their second release after reuniting in 2011. The record flawlessly continues their ramshackle pop punk of the 90's, but as Mac McCaughan's voice ages he finds new ways to sneak in beautiful and interesting melodies. Here's two videos, the first a low key acoustic set via NPR, and the second a very funny video for one of the rowdier songs they shot at one of my favorite venues, Shea Stadium.
8. Iceage - You're Nothing
The Danish post/punk, hardcore youths Iceage released "You're Nothing" which quietly surpassed their much buzzed about debut. The songs are short, fast and aggressive but not without the occasional not quite ballad on "Morals", and the not quite pop bounce of "Coalition" and title track "You're Nothing". Perfect for powering through the dirty sidewalk snow in the infinity long stretches of winter.
7. Mikal Cronin - MCII
This year Mikal Cronin was able to step out of his garage rock other half, Ty Segall's shadow with his own great stand out album. Cronin makes breezy, catchy pop rock songs that sound like if Brian Wilson was in his mid 20's and drinking a lot of beer in 2013 basement shows.
6. Perfect Pussy - I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling EP
Perfect Pussy is a band with a ridiculous name, and only four songs available via tape or download, but it's some of the most powerful 13 minutes of music I've heard in a long time. Either the most abrasive pop punk record or most melodic hardcore record of the year, the guitar melody soars over the shouted, cathartic vocals in perfectly compact songs. I recently had a bad falling out with a childhood friend over the phone and afterwards put on the opening track "I." I sunk in my chair absorbing the song's lyrics "I am full of light. I am full of joy. I am full of peace. I had a dream I forgave my enemies."
5. My Bloody Valentine - mbv
I remember the day after My Bloody Valentine's "mbv" was let loose onto the internet 22 years after the band's last historic release, "Loveless". My roommate popped his head in my door and joked that it was as if we were all being sent messages from aliens who wanted us to hear something all at once. It was bizarre to all of a sudden have this highly anticipated (an understatement) release fall into your lap after years of waiting, but it did not disappoint, nor did it surpass it's successors. It simply exists as it's own quivering, hazy, heavy piece of work that's at once soothing and discomforting, two things this band has always mastered together. I was fortunate enough to see them live this fall, and it was easily one of the best live performances I've seen. Their catalog from the early EP's up to this record all blending in seamlessly to make one cohesive load of sound.
4. Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap
Chicago's Chance the Rapper put out one of the most endearing hip hop album's in recent history with personal accounts of life in the middle of a city segregated vastly in terms of wealth and violence. With a slightly goofy and charming cadence, Chance raps about family, love, and losing friends who didn't have to go. The record is triumphant and heart breaking, "Good Ass Intro" is the ultimate leave work early on Friday anthem while "Lost" is the post breakup, "Why Am I still missing my ex?" nostalgia trip.
3. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
I was not a Vampire Weekend fan. I wasn't a hater, but I just couldn't listen to their first two records without stopping and putting on something else. So it was much to my surprise when the band released a black and white scenic New York video montage to the song "Step", that I had it on repeat. The record gracefully and calmly explores anxiety in pop songs both quiet and loud. So for someone who would've cringed at the lyrics "such a modest mouse" a year ago, I've come to like and respect Ezra Koenig's word choice as not just tongue in cheek, but also earnest, which are two of my favorite qualities in music.
2. Deafheaven - Sunbather
Deafheaven did something that most bands of their genre never do. They made a metal album succeed hugely among fans of general indie rock and sparked a conversation about what is metal, what is death metal, shoegaze, etc and does it even matter. As someone who's listened to metal and aggressive music for most of my life I didn't find what Deafheaven did on "Sunbather" to be something revolutionary. There are plenty of hardcore and metal bands that have made soaring, gorgeous music with screaming and blast beats; Deafheaven just did it better, and much better than anyone else. It's a gripping trip going through this record from start to finish, it's like a film score that reaches absurd heights and lows and somehow at the end feels, if somewhat anxiously, at peace.
1. Kanye West - Yeezus
Oh, Yeezus. What more is there to say about you that hasn't already been said? The harsh, metallic beats and production, the graphic sex and black power imagery, the Rising to the Gods. The croissants. Mr. West once again captured the public's imagination all year long with not only this record but it's PR campaign, interviews, having a baby, his famous girlfriend's boobs on a motorcycle, by essentially just being Yeezy. He's right when he says he's not just a rapper, and whether he'll be the next H&M is to be seen, but what's sure is he can make a fucking killer record that's brutal, that's funny, that's sincere, that's mean, that's honest. Every song pummels and boasts, asks- no, tells you to recognize who's not just a king, but a God. I think a telling thing about Kanye is my mother's look of surprise when I told her that not only did I see Kanye live, but that it was one of the most insane, and best productions of anything I'd ever seen. "I hate him, he's so obnoxious," she said. I asked if she'd ever heard his music to which she replied, "No." And that's exactly it, Kanye West isn't a musician as he is the Bad Guy of the 21st Century. Who else could travel arenas on a mountain, who's only onstage guests are 12 sexy disciples, an inexplicable wolf man, and Jesus Christ himself? It's Kanye, but that's all been said before. Though I'm sure he won't mind hearing it again.