Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 10-1

10. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe

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. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 30-11

Oops, I did it again. I miscounted and you get two number 30's this year.

(See what I did there, with the 'Oops, I did it again?' It's a song.)

30.5 Woe - Withdrawal

30. Action Bronson/Party Supplies - Blue Chips 2

29. The So So Glo's - Blowout

28. Heaven's Gate - Transmuting

27. Andrew Cedermark - Home Life

26. Mouth of the Architect - Dawning

25. Happy Jawbone Family Band - Tastes the Broom/Happy Jawbone Family Band

24. Swearin' - Surfing Strange

23. Majical Cloudz - Impersonator

22. Bill Callahan - Dream River

21. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories

20. Disclosure - Settle

19. Mutual Benefit - Love's Crushing Diamond

18. Courtney Barnett - The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

17. The Men - New Moon

16. Chastity Belt - No Regerts

Oops. A tie for number 15...

15. Deerhunter - Monomania

15. Milk Music - Cruise Your Illusion

14. El-P and Killer Mike - Run the Jewels 

13. Touche Amore - Is Survived By

12. Aye Nako -Unleash Yourself

11. Radiator Hospital - Something Wild

Monday, December 16, 2013

Top 50 Albums of 2013: 50-31

I don't know why I do this. It feels crazy, all year long it feels crazy. I'm not a music critic, I just enjoy music, so why for the third year in a row am I agonizing over quantifying the thing I enjoy most in life? I guess because, although making this list takes up way more head space than it should (that could be used for, you know, writing) it's something fun. And it's nice to go back through the year and find what I thought made most of an impact, what did something new, and mostly what I enjoyed and spent the most time listening to. So here, without further ado is my top 50 albums of 2013, this year with youtubes to listen to tracks and watch music videos!

50. Drake - Nothing Was the Same

49. Alex Calder - Time

48. Kvelertak - Meir

47. Earl Sweatshirt - Doris

46. Fidlar - Fidlar

45. Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister

44. Kurt Vile - Wakin On a Pretty Daze

43. Gun Outfit - Hard Coming Down

42. CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe

41. KEN Mode - Entrench

40. Widowspeak - Almanac/The Swamps EP

39. Modern Life is War - Fever Hunting

38. Haim - Days Are Gone

37. Windhand - Soma

36. Julia Holter - Loud City Song

35. Charli XCX - True Romance

34. Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic

33. Pissed Jeans - Honeys

32. Forest Swords - Engravings

31. California X - California X