• Albums of 2013 (15 - 1 and Epilogue Extravaganza)

    29. Dez. 2013, 10:53

    Albums of 2013















    [Editor's Note:] Hailey and Jesse are REQUIRED to link this document on their last.fm pages to their social network accounts.

    If they haven't by midnight on December 29 (they've pulled this shit in the past) you NEED to email me (smashley@mailinator.com) and let me know. It's not private so I won't be able to reply but at least I'll see it.

    Thanks!










    15 – 1




















    15
    Steven Wilson -
    The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories)



    Alan Parsons served as the engineer on this album, making this yet another Alan Parsons Project (Jesse unsuccessfully tries to stiffle his laughter).

    But on a serious note: this album will kick your butt continuously for over an hour and you will thank it for the privilege. It is beyond brilliant. This is like America meets Frank Zappa (and maybe a bit of Led thrown in there, but not a dumb amount).

    If you've heard of/like Porcupine Tree, none of this should be any real surprise to you. The entire album is a cheap rehash of 1970s prog rock but it does it so well and with such competency that it's hard not to at least give it some credit. Okay, plenty of credit.

    The song structures are stronger than anything else that'll be released this year. That's not even up for debate. The instrumentation is absolutely wonderful. It is incredibly varied but still adhering to some pre-established tenets without becoming trite or tired. And for a 2013 album to be over an hour long and not be called tired or dragging is quite noteworthy.

    It's really nice to get an album that claims to be 'progressive' (you know, asside from the fact that it regresses into an established sound, but whatever) and not have it become a total circle-jerk. It could have been nothing but an hour of dumb, improv guitar solos (trust me, it usually is) but there are some really genuine moments here. The harmonies are wonderful and pop up just enough to leave you satisfied but hoping for more.

    It really does a nice job of exploring the entire prog-rock spectrum. I know that's a weird sentence for millennials to read, considering the entirety of their prog-rock knowledge comes from Muse and trying to tune their guitars without a tuner (usually in the middle of a gif, rite guyz?), but it's true: there are bits and pieces from everything in here.

    If you're one of those dumb "REMEMBER REAL MUSIC!?!?!?!?!" idiots, you'll love it. If you're not, it's still pretty fantastic.

    Plus the basslines on this make me giggle like a little girl.













    14
    Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe


    Whoa whoa whoa, hang on a second.

    Guys, I don't think you get it. The chick from Chairlift makes her voice sound like a saxophone. This is important.

    Coastal Grooves was easily one of the absolute best albums of 2011 and it's getting better every day, it will likely end up as one of the most significant of the 2010s.

    But this? This? Did he just go and make an album that tops his last one? And it's a sophomore effort (technically, shut up)? Is that even scientifically possible? Well I don't know about all that but, in case you hadn't figured it out by now, this is going to be a positive review.

    He has this very 'adult contemporary meets what is this?' vibe to his work and it's just getting stronger and more prominent with every release. Even though this record was built around more collaboration than the last one it still retains the distinct Blood Orange sound. The vocals are soulful, the synths are pregnant, and the drums are so crispy you should be paying extra.

    It's nice how it sounds like the 1980s meets the 1990s, but not being overtly-nostalgic with the atmosphere at all. I think it's rather dull and dumb to worship and idealize a time other than the present and this record is a prime example why: the past is meant to be learned from, not emulated. There's no legitimate reason to go back and, with an LP like this, why would you want to?

    Is this a better disco album than the last Daft Punk record? Kind of. The 'aft 'unk record is inherently more cohesive, so it gets the nod, but this certainly captures a certain soul more comprehensively.

    The instrumentation and general song structure almost feels like a step up from his last album for sure. It has a weird 'tropical' feel to it sometimes that actually works and doesn't delve into a Jimmy Buffett suckfest. It embraces an 'urban' atmosphere, without going into full-on 'weren't black people in the 1990s just the best?' mode. There aren't any generalizations being made here, and that's really refreshing for an LP that takes very distinct sounds like this and mashes them together.

    I think the individual tracks on Coastal Grooves were better but this is the better album overall. It has a super consistent sound that compounds upon itself (ugh, why are you still letting me type) and builds into a very strong experience overall. I'd obviously recommend pickin' it up an' spinnin' it er'ryday but you should probably pick up Coastal Grooves first, as it's a teeny bit more accessible.

    But let's be honest, it really doesn't get much better than this. It's a prime piece of evidence in the argument that people who say 'there is no good music these days' should be locked in a box and thrown off of a galleon.
















    13
    The Knife - Shaking the Habitual


    If you were ever under the impression that our business model was unrealistically anti-commercial, look at The Knife's, it's more than practical.

    For an album to be an hour and thirty six minutes and actually be good, each and every song needs to be phenomenal. And while I wouldn't call this objectively phenomenal, it's pretty flippin' good.

    It's like Scandinavian electro-punk, which isn't all too prominent. Most of the instrumentation relies solely on very generic drum loops, which is a terrible idea on paper but somehow actually works in execution.

    Lyrically, if you have a functioning brain and speak English, it's not difficult to decipher what political, moral, ethical, and psychological issues they're trying to address here. Whether or not you agree with it is irrelevant, as it always should be. The opinions expressed on Shaking the Habitual should have zero influence on your additude towards the work itself, similar to the situation you might find yourself in when partaking in a bit of Richard Wagner.

    Personally, I support dissonance with an enthusiasm only rivaled by European football fans, so this is all precisely my cup of tea and I've gone back for refills more often than I can remember. It's not this century's Le Sacre Du Printemps but it's a heck of a start.

    It's hard to willingly recommend this record to people, but that's not a statement of malice. It is easily one of the most wonderful albums of the year and will probably score highly on our end of the year list but it's far too specific of a sound to endorse to an audience with listeners of all ilks.

    But make no mistake: it's an incredible album. It may not be for everyone but it certainly wouldn't hurt to check it out. I'm not going to say it's mind-blowingly innovative but you can't call it cliche.


















    12
    Bonobo - The North Borders


    Bonobo tends to be pretty good, The North Borders continues the streak.

    It is by no means groundbreaking or challenging, but it doesn't need to be. It's not dancey and derivative either, so it's not like your brain is going to trickle out your ear after listening to it either.

    The samples are sort of lazy and the drum work is a little subpar but those are about the only two faults it possesses. Even the near-hour total duration doesn't hold it back, in this case it allows it some breathing room. Note to the kids at home: don't try that, it's not as simple as you'd think.

    There are a few chord progressions here that you won't struggle to think of at least fifty other instances that are basically identical. This would be an extreme fault if they weren't objectively superior to most of the chord structures people like to run into the ground. Again, kids, don't try emulating this. It never turns out this well.

    It's a really great atmospheric record. Put it on while you're doing something else and it really blossoms into its own. Normally, you should be put to death for giving anything other than full attention to an album on your first listen, but this one is exempt from the standard procedures yet again in that regard.

    It's not really possible to say where this sits in his discography, it's just another solid release. Ch-ch-check it out, any of his records really.



















    11
    Wayne Shorter Quartet -
    Without a Net



    Hailey's pretty fond of Shorter so I usually try to check up on him every once in a while, which in this case proves to be a worthy habit.

    First off, this is an hour and seventeen minutes. That would be a serious problem if it wasn't as cripplingly lovely as it is. Seriously homie, this is the next level.

    Orbits is a sonic epitomization of everything I love about music. It's not smooth an unchallenging elevator jazz music. It has a super simple melody that just gets ravaged on all sides by all of the instrumentation. It genuinely excites and warms my heart.

    It's a fun approach to jazz, it has more than enough structure but tons of improvisation too. I know what jazz is, I'm just telling you that it's more of an amplified approach to the standard formula.

    The audience interaction on this is phenomenal as well. I love the lady, not yelling, but just simply saying, "Yeah" after Myrrh. The audience actually manages to provide a bit of an atmosphere that would be lost in the studio. I imagine they could do all this in one take in the vacuum of a studio (I mean, come on, it's jazz) but I am so glad they took it out and let people's reactions bleed onto the recordings.

    But really, when it all comes down to it, Pegasus is something very special. At a little over twenty three minutes long, it's basically a small symphony and a very good one at that. It has absolutely wonderful, contributing, and conflicting movements. It is a delightful ride that you never want to end. It's quality can be summed up in words heard from the audience, "Oh my God!"

    Many people are calling this a 'postmodern' album but I'm not sure what they're trying to say by that, except that they don't really have a grasp of the English language. If anything, if anything, it's slightly modernist. Heck, I'm pretty sure the entire concept of jazz is irrevocably locked into modernism. It's not a 'let's see what happens' record, it's a 'hang on tight' record.

    But seriously, listen to this for the audience reactions. It's so awesome, a wonderful marriage of music and emotion. I will probably still be listening to this record when I'm older and more wrinkly than I am now.
























    10
    Hiss Golden Messenger - Haw


    You have no idea how much it means to get an intelligent folk release like this. I literally cried listening to this. Finally, finally, it's more than a couple of idiots with overalls or flannel-wearing millennials with acoustic guitars.

    Finally. Between this, Fleet Foxes, and a small handful of other disciples of competence, we get actual modern folk.

    This is what I've been talking about. This is what it's supposed to be. Oh it's just so relieving. I finally have another modern release to push on you knuckle-dragging Mumford & Sons fans. It's not Iron And Wine fondling a guitar and whispering literal nothings, it's a release that abides by and improves the tenants of folk music.

    The composition is flippin' perfect and the song structure is invigorating. The prose and general lyrical content is nothing less than necessary. Even the almost overwrought Christian overtones suite it. This is what it's supposed to be.

    None of this 'image' crap, none of this harmless and homologated approach to affecting an audience. This is music that respects your intelligence, a principle that is not utilized by ninety nine point nine billion percent of modern folk and country artists.

    I can not put into words what this means. This is it. This is it. None of this Trampled by Turtles crap, we're actually getting something done here. This is important, this is substantial, this perpetuates it's own existence. This, this, is folk music.

    This is music that takes on the mountain, and wins. This is clever enough to survive on its own and smart enough not to trust those who can't. This is an incredibly valuable and honorable soldier in the war against deplorable pseudo-genres being propped up by despicable musicians that are comfortable with complacency.

    Albums like this aren't just the reason I care about music, it's why I continue to care about living. This music is good enough to support a continued existence. Find the nearest idiot in their twenties (shouldn't be hard to find, they all dress the same) and shove this album between their teeth. This is important music, spread this.



























    9
    David Bowie - The Next Day


    Whoa, it's Duncan Jones' father!

    I was going to use the picture of little me wearing my Station to Station shirt but I figured that'd be too self-indulgent (and rather embarrassing due to the context).

    Most people like David Bowie so much that they listen to his music all the time. I like David Bowie so much that I listen to Tin Machine non-ironically.

    Skipping any sort of gradual escalation: David Bowie is not only the reason I'm in a band, David Bowie is the reason I'm in my band.

    Different band names for every release? “Because Bowie.” Different personas for every release? “Because Bowie.” Different style/genre work for every release? “Because Bowie.” My voice blowing out of key any time I get excited? "Because Bowie."

    “Because Bowie” became our de facto justification to Jason whenever our intentions were questioned (though all among other, more passive-aggressive reasons, mind you).

    I have and always maintain that David Bowie is the most culturally significant popular musical artist of the twentieth century. The Beatles can shove it.

    It's to the point where, though I believe that musical preferences are largely irrelevant in a relationship, I could never marry a girl that can't name the best Bowie album (there is only one correct answer).

    With all this in mind, let's break down The Next Day.

    I have every single Bowie release and I may be in the minority in saying that even his worst work is still interesting and challenging enough to be called great. His work in the 1980s - 2002 period is much better than what his new peers were releasing, as it was still almost impossible to predict his next move, all the while still remaining good.

    This is clearly Bowie's best album in quite some time, maybe since Never Let Me Down.

    The Stars (Are Out Tonight) is a true indicator of both this album's quality and Bowie's competency as a songwriter. This song makes me all emotional, as it is exactly like listening to Bowie with Jason and Hailey when I was a little guy. There's a brutal simplicity to the composition while his voices jaggedly slices in and out, creating a very real and exciting dynamic.

    To be perfectly honest, this is a difficult review to write. I've written multiple reviews for every single Bowie album and his discography, and an album of this quality demands a certain amount of elaboration that I've already given.

    The atmosphere is perfect. Bowie's voice has maintained a higher quality than should be humanly possible. The instrumentation takes most of the best aspects of his back-catalogue, both emphasizing and toning these elements down to achieve a very respectable effect.

    One thing I can't get over is how cool the instrumentation is. It's hardly complex at all but totally compliments the vocals and lyrics. It's a masterclass of songwriting. If only other artists realized that this is simple music, not the chord-rock they're spewing out.

    Comparing it to the entirety of his discography, it certainly is one of his better albums. Best? Not by a long shot. Worst? Never. It is much better than an 'average' Bowie album as well.

    Personally, I find it refreshing that there aren't any blatant singles on the record. There's not much worse in this world than a millennial walking around with a Aladdin Sane t-shirt on with only six Bowie songs on their iPod.

    Then you have songs like Valentine's Day, where I'm genuinely excited for some media outlet to completely miss the mark and play it on February 14th without thinking anything of it. Bowie, as a lyricist, has never been less than perfect and this album perpetuates that notion. Clever, clever little man.

    There's nothing really left to say. Bowie, for anyone with half a brain, has always been synonymous with quality and this album brings the average rating of his work up a little more.

    Welcome back, don't be so eager to leave us again. We love you and that is a fact, we love you and that is that.



































    8
    Phoenix - Bankrupt!


    Hey twerps. It's been a few months, might as kickstart the comeback with this one.

    I think Alphabetical is a largely underrated record. It's not overtly poppy and the vocal work (at least in terms of mixing) is great.

    I think in the large scope of pop-culture, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is going to be the most well-known and 'best' album Phoenix is ever responsible for, and that's not very fair.

    I've been listening to the band's work since Alphabetical and I found them to be a decent little outfit years before they did WAP. United is a fun little eclectic album as well. It's Never Been Like That marked a point of maturity in the band that I'm not sure they really needed.

    So let's start the discourse regarding this album. How does Bankrupt! stack up against 2009's Album of the Year? That remains to be unseen, at least for a while longer.

    Entertainment is a prime example of what is wrong and right with this album. Is it good? Undoubtably. Does it make any sense? Not in the least. What purpose does the Asian-ish chromatic percussion serve? None. It's wasted sound, there's no reason for it to be there. The Blood Orange remix is infinitely better, and calling a rework better than the original work is very dangerous to an album's credibility.

    Look, I get it, they're playing with Korean soap-opera motifs. Heck, I even admire them for not taking the super easy way out and playing with k-pop techniques. They deserve to be flogged for going with a 'WHOA-OH-OH-OOAAAA' bridge though.

    But, at the end of it all, Phoenix have yet again proved that they are a phenomenal pop band. Mars crooning "I'd rather be alone" over the super jumpy drum track is probably one of my favorite musical moments of the year thus far (admittedly I am behind a bit, sorry)(actually, no I'm not you buncha dweebs).

    I remember being very excited when they hinted that they wanted their next album to be more experimental than the others. This isn't the most radical release I've ever heard, but it is pretty bold for a poppy record. I've always been a big advocate of drummachines in an otherwise conventional band setup and Phoenix have very nicely incorporated and improved the technology into their sound since WAP.

    It actually makes me smile because in many ways it sounds like more like an advancement from United than a follow up to any of their other works. It has that sort of adult-contemporary rock-pop vibe to it. It's a nice, radio-friendly sound that also happens to be a bit rougher around the edges than its watered-down contemporaries.

    It's a rough call, critiquing this album. The melodies are far from unpredictable but it's not like they're strumming the same three chords over and over. Trying to Be Cool is a notable example of this battle between nice and not new. It's a neat little song but it really sounds like it would have had a better home on It's Never Been Like That.

    Regarding cohesiveness, this is right up there with WAP as an album with a great tracklisting and flow. It's not a simple collection of singles, the material becomes full of wrinkles when put into the same setting. And we all know that wrinkles add character, something Phoenix hasn't ever lacked significantly.

    And boy howdy does the title track rock my flippin' socks off. Absolutely wonderful, people should get married to that song. Ultimately for me, and perhaps you, none of the other material on this album lives up to the pure euphoria that is that song. It's fine though, such was the case with WAP and Love Like a Sunset.

    But in all seriousness: I've been listening to Phoenix since about 2004 and they just released an album with a song that could be called one of their best. Their mellow efforts still prove to be the most worthwhile, but the agressive ones are closing the gap.

    You can debate whether or not they've always had it, but it's certain that they never lost it. They usually misstep a bit, but only because they can't decide whether to skip or sprint. A great effort from one of today's better bands.

    I will probably continue to give Mars crap for occasionally lip-syncing when performing live though. No need for that, mannnnnnnnnnnnnnn.





















    7
    James Blake - Overgrown


    While it's true that I've personally warmed up to Blake since James Blake, I still stand by my review. While that album certainly mastered subtlety, it was a long way off of substance. Did he fix the faults and give us a decent sophomore effort? To say the least, absolutely.

    This is what Thom Yorke thought they were doing on The King of Limbs. It's super minimal but completely extravagant. The melody is allocated to the bass, in ways that can only be described as clever and resourceful. It is dangerously close to what songwriting should be.

    Everything about this record just screams competency. The production is a billion times better, it is superior lyrically, and the compositional work is leagues ahead of the standard. This is supposed to be the 'norm'.

    In a genre blend as simple as his (post-step/neo-soul) it is amazing at how 'different' these songs sound, all while being even more cohesive than what should be possible. If this is what soul albums have become, sign me up.

    But really, what's more than impressive is that it's only been about two years since his last album. Not only is that a pretty good turnaround, to improve a billion-fold in only a matter of months is remarkable. As in: worthy of remark.

    It's a bit frustrating to hear people shrug off all modern music as being inferior to 'classics', 'oldies', and 'real' music when artists and records like this. Retrograde alone is an instant classic, and its brothers and sisters don't lag far behind.

    I'm not going to go out on a limb here and predict our Album of the Year, but I wouldn't be surprised if Overgrown pulls some serious punches and lands near the summit.





























    6
    M.I.A. - Matangi


    Remember back when the NFL, who are totally accepting of endorsing violence, drugs, alcohol, and sex to a young audience, fined this lady for displaying her middle finger? Yeah, good times. Have fun with your country, you morons.

    Mathangi Arulpragasam is one of the artists that keep modern music healthy. She is very unique, well-intentioned, and innovative, in a world where having even one of those attributes is rare. She takes 'ethnic' music and puts not only a Western spin on it but an original one. As long as she's taking this approach, she'll be making albums worth listening to (not that if she stops she won't, mind you).

    This album is just further proof that she's making better 'beats' than most hip-hop artists these days. You don't even need to go father than the title track to see this, though I would recommend exploring the entire record at least a dozen times a day. She really exploits a wonderful relationship between rhythm and song structure in a way that very few have even attempted. I'd encourage you to applaud but not too loudly, you're going to want to listen to this.

    An LP like this is usually what happens when good graphic designers make good music, there's multiple facets to it that simply don't blossom on other standard releases by artists that want to decorate their comfort zone. There are some very adventurous moments here, it's an ambitious record, and it hardly falters. It's going to be very hard to criticize an album that attempts to blaze its own trail and actually appears to be succeeding in doing so.

    It is an absolutely stellar album and there isn't a 'best' track on it, that's a very good indicator of quality and cohesion. The atmosphere that it creates and compounds is impeccable. Each song has a different emotional tone but they are perfectly paired and entwined in each other. Just listen to Warriors and Come Walk with Me back-to-back, like they are on the tracklist. I'm telling you, it's like finding faults in architecture. I can do it, but it'd detract from the fact that any missteps this record makes are incredibly endearing and add a whole lot of charm.

    More than most albums released this year, it feels like an album made by humans, for humans. Everything is skewed and stretched and contorted to illicit an emotional reaction out of the listener, with no regard to adhering to structure. Which is exactly what music is supposed to be, providing the futility of order through emotion. She knows what she's doing and thank God for that.

    Is it a little long, total duration-wise? Maybe, but that's a stretch (hence the italics). Every song is necessary and none of them overstay their welcome or feel rushed or unfinished. Everything is vital and everyone can find something to enjoy in the LP. I wouldn't go as far as calling the total length of the album an issue at all. In fact, I'd venture as far as proclaiming it the most efficient release of the year by far. It's fifty-seven minutes long and each one is completely necessary and worth investing in. Yeah, I know, we're in very unexplored territory here.

    Even the lyrics, which little white teenage girls could totally worship are really, really good. She is incredibly sarcastic and satirical in relating modern first world technology to basic tenets of Hinduism. More so than dumb hip-hop artists relating everything to their Jesus pieces, there is actually conviction and intrigue produced when she smashes shallowness with spirituality. None of the songs are about one thing and one thing only, and that is very refreshing, to hear someone who understand the lyrical content is entirely dependent on perspective relative to perception.

    I'm not going to call it 'perfect' but it is incredibly difficult not to be completely enamored by every aspect of this album. It is brutally distinct, stands on it's own, and throws some killer punches every chance it gets, with most of them not only connecting but shattering your glass jaw.

    I won't call it faultless but I will call it a triumph. You know, another one for Ms. Arulpragasam.



    Not just a round of applause, a standing ovation.

































    5
    Death Grips - Government Plates




    “Genre: Rock & Roll”



    lol



    If you don't consider Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" to be a nice bedtime story, this record probably isn't for you.

    We are getting dangerously close to that point where society finally admits that just because dissonance sounds unpleasant doesn't mean it actually is. It happened in the 1910s and 1970s and holy crap it looks like it might happen again. Welcome to the party, leave your comfort zone at home.

    Death Grips is just the best, I mean they really are.

    Yet again they have completely changed their sound and yet again it is completely unique and competent.

    They continue to mix rock, rap, punk, hip-hop, and general electro in the most original and truly experimental ways to such an extent that it'd be a blatantly lie to even suggest that they aren't profoundly and culturally relevant.

    People thought that Yeezus was ripping off of Death Grips (even though anyone with half a brain knows it isn't) and how do they respond? With this, an incredibly powerful record that proves that the trio is simply in an entirely different realm. I would love to be pointed in the direction of someone making better music, objectively, than Death Grips.

    The production is immaculate, with fistfuls of grit and grime smashing into beautiful pockets of a synth-punk fusion. It is so ugly and abrasive that it just gleams. There is truth to rubbing dirt in an open wound and Government Plates is it.

    Each song is very distinct while all standing on each other's shoulders to assemble some incredibly awesome Power Rangers-like super-mech. They each take turns skewing and contorting the entire atmosphere of the record in an insanely astute way.

    The instrumentation and composition is sublime, it simply can't be beat. None of it feels even half of a fraction of a percent contrived. The shifts and changes in the composition are dictated by the songs' needs, not the artist's ego. It is ever so refreshing to actually hear someone who actually knows what they're doing.

    And Stefen is still a fantastic lyricist and obviously passionate singer. This record won't silence those that complain that they can't understand what he's saying, but that would kind of defeat the point. If the songs preach paranoia, anxiety, and anger then why should he be toning it down at all? If it's supposed to sound beautiful make it beautiful and if it's supposed to sound anxious make it sound anxious. It's just reeking of competence.

    Death Grips are cranking out music so fast and at such a consistent quality while still varying their atmospheres that I don't know how anyone can live with being anything but fiercely proud of them. I think I'm going to cry, this is like watching a child grow up and get offered a scholarship while they're in diapers. They are just so far ahead of not only where they should be but everyone else.

    I wouldn't call this their best record but it doesn't trot too far behind. Trust me, they've got four unfathomable horses in their stable now and it's a photo-finish every time you try to rank them. Some bands try to raise the bar for every release, and it usually results in a spectacular crash and burn when they inevitably fail. Death Grips has never changed the quality of their release, instead opting for a change in sound and this is what will secure their legacy. The discography isn't bulletproof, it's indestructible.

    Though this is raising the stakes for each release. They need to keep hitting these marks over and over again. It'll be tough but they're so far removed from standard methodologies that I think they just might be able to pull it off.

    And they gave it away for free, just like the last one. I swear to God, you certainly don't have to like Death Grips but you better respect the crap out of them. They are self-producing and giving away the best albums of the 2010s, that deserves at least a brief head-nod of respect.

    Think about this: Death Grips are simultaneously releasing the best modern punk and hip-hop, with seriously notable rock and electro contributions, all in the same records. They are mashing genres into each other so hard that you can hear the collision a few miles away, and they're so responsible while doing it that they wear seatbelts. It's a disgusting, post-industrial tar pit but it's the best spa in the world, bring a towel.

    It's not going to win over any new fans but it goes above and beyond proving its worth while still leaving you hooked and wanting more. A fantastic record, easily one of the best of the year.



    [Author's Note:] I'm kind of mad that this is the highest we've ever ranked a Death Grips album but that's just a testament to how sucky 2013 was. Seriously. This is the 'worst' Death Grips album, it should be in the 20s or 30s on a normal year. What a disgrace.

    But you really should listen to Death Grips, dawg.







































    4
    Daughn Gibson - Me Moan


    I'm not going to lie: I just got back from camping, so the mere concept of listening to music through headphones is kind of blowing my mind. It's like my brain is the music.

    But seriously, what is this? It makes absolutely no sense and I love it.

    Is this his natural singing voice? It's blowing my flippin' mind.

    The song structures are just spectacular. Simply astounding. This guy get it. How is this not a bigger deal? The entire record makes me smile so hard my cheeks hurt.

    This is making my head spin. How is it possible to do everything so correctly? It's super original while be incredibly familiar, this is it, right here, this is the golden ratio.

    This record is the one David Lynch thinks he's making. It's eery and dark with such a bubbly atmosphere and poppy approach, this is why people are supposed to listen to music. New feelings, new emotions, new approaches. This has it all. It's flippin' weird, man.

    Alternative-country is definitely the most applicable genre you can attach to this. It's a fitting score for that episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes on his vision quest. It's so much fun and it's so unsettling and it's just so necessary. I mean come on, there's flippin' bagpipes on this!

    Personally, I'm probably going to have to call this one of my favorite releases of the year. I don't know if it's the best though. It's somewhat try hard, not exactly one hundred percent sincere. And it's not that it gets repetitive, it just has a vibe that I'm not sure you're going to want to expose yourself to for forty-five minutes. I mean, if it was me, I'd spend the money and go climb in a dark hole and listen to this until my ears bled, but that's just me. It's not exactly easy listening but it is insanely catchy.

    Honestly, the guy is mixing glitch-sampling with dark country music, and it's not even my birthday.

    And the lyrics aren't even bad, why do I even have to listen to other things this year?

    Get it. Go out and get it. Download it. Don't even think about it. Get a copy for your grandma. Your neighbor. The Mexican selling oranges at the intersection. Don't avoid eye contact this time, no, hand him a CD-R and whisper, "Para usteddddddd". He'll be confused at first, but you're doing good with each copy of this you distribute.





































    3
    Daft Punk -
    Random Access Memories



    Well, I suppose this is it.

    Let's get the standard crap out of the way before focusing on the release specifically.

    I was first introduced to Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo through the notion of them collaborating with Todd Edwards. Back when I was a wee lad, I was constantly listening to Steal Your Heart at the time and wanted to get my hands on any and all 'sample-rock' as I called it.

    Jason mentioned that he (Edwards) was working with Daft Punk. I didn't know who that was. Being the man that he is, this came across as sacrilege and he quickly gave me a copy of Homework. As suddenly as he had bestowed it upon me, I fell in love. This was not my first encounter with house music (I was listening to Edwards, remember) but it certainly was my best.

    I then asked him for their new album. This is somewhat significant because this technically counts as my 'first' album. Previously, Jason would give Hailey and I a little bit of everything. I did not pay for Discovery but it was the first work by an artist that I asked for myself. When people ask what the first album I ever owned was, I say Discovery, because it was.

    I almost blew our cover with my review of Human After All, as the only person on the face of the planet that seems to understand that the title and purposefully anti-polished studio sound might not be coincidental.

    If I may speak for Hailey and I, I'll go out on a limb and say that one of our largest initial musical inspirations was probably Daft Punk. Anonymity? Daft Punk. Live show emphasis? Daft Punk. Convection-based electronics? Daft Punk. Okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch. But know this, aside from the band, Sexy Defects wouldn't exist without the inspirations of three entities: DJ Shadow, Boards of Canada, and Daft Punk.

    Now let's analyze some social implications before we get to the music itself. I know, I know...but we have to get through the thick stuff before pillow fights can be had.

    First, and most notably, Daft Punk forswore the use of samples on this album. A very interesting choice, given their back-catalogue, but it is understandable that they would want to take conventions and spin them on their head. What is not understandable is the completely pretentious, arrogant, and all-around self-entitled approach they are taking to express this new direction.

    They've spent the past few months criticizing electronic musicians for being lazy and banal with their composition, condemning electronic sampling and repetitive song structure.

    Pot, Kettle. Kettle, Pot.

    Daft Punk used to epitomize the notion that electronic music and sampling had artistic merit, now they're advocating for exactly the opposite ideology. They have regressed from spearheads of one age to knuckledraggers from a lesser.

    They used to be the one musical outfit that one could look to as a positive contributor to the idea that recycling, remixing, and remaking have some measure of artist merit (not that I stand behind that message 100%). Now they have basically adopted the arguments of their critics and let it permeate into their composition.

    Will it affect their musical impact? We'll get to that in a second, we're almost there.

    On the other side of the coin, Daft Punk are almost objectively correct in completely reversing their stance on artistic creation, as they have truly created a monster and that moster is called 'Modern Pop Music'.

    I can not tell you how many times throughout my life I have had to point out to someone that using a vocoder is not the same as using autotune. Sure, it's a novice mistake, but they doesn't mean the party in question has any innocence after accusing an artist of vocal forgery.

    I'm pretty sure One More Time ruined modern electronic music in the best possible way. 'If it sounds like a robot, it sounds cool'. Millions of records were sold in the last decade with that mentality. That's Daft Punk's fault and I think they realize it.

    What function will Daft Punk's fourth LP serve? Let's find out, now.

    It is a very reassuring start to the album, just looking at the tracklist. It's nice to see that they remember their club roots, trying to make sure they match quantity with quality.

    You know what? Let's do a track-by-track review, those are always handy.

    Give Life Back To The Music is probably the best way this album could open. The human-like vocoder effect provides an amazing bit of foreshadowing/subtext to the themes of the entire work. And the instrumentation isn't super poppy or happy, it's got this nice 'We NEED to party' vibe to it. Again, a very good and subtle way to subvert expectations and preconceived notions away from the rest of the album.

    When I first heard the opening of The Game of Love I had a literal and audible "Awwwwwww yeeaaaaaaaaahhhhh" moment. This is what I signed up for. I don't rank Daft Punk albums against each other but this song, at the very least, indicates that it may be a Discovery-caliber release. This is some modern Something About Us stuff right here.

    Giorgio by Moroder is an interesting little risk. Don't get me wrong, having Giorgio Moroder narrate the history of his career and the philosophy of music is super nice, it's just a little risky to put before the instrumental. It's an okay song, it's a little dry and repetitive (in a bad way) but at least it takes some interesting turns every once in a while. Don't lie to yourself: it's a fun and nice song but it certainly isn't going to end up as your most listened to track from the record. It's not self-indulgent by any means but it does lack a specific point.

    Within really should take you by surprise though. Piano? On a Daft Punk song? It may cushion the shock if you remember that a piano is just an acoustic synth. The track has a really fun vocal melody on the chorus but I'm not sure I understand what they're going for with the rest of it. The vocoder isn't really working here and the lyrics aren't simple enough for them to get away with the message being sent here. But again, that chorus is wonderful. More of a missed opportunity than anything here.

    I quite like The Strokes so I was looking forward to Instant Crush (feat. Julian Casablancas) and there is absolutely no disappointment detected in this sector. Hearing his angst crooning through a slight digital effect is such a cool combination. Most of the instrumentation leaves something to be desired. But again, this is what I signed up for, the slow headbangers.

    Lose Yourself to Dance (feat. Pharrell Williams) very quickly reminds you that this is an impeccably produced album if nothing else. This is a wonderful track in the vein of what Daft Punk are trying to do: modern disco without simply resorting to rehashes. Disco is mostly devoid of both thought and genuine emotion, it's nice to see someone reestablish one of those ideals, occasionally both, on each track. It certainly feels very Kavinsky-esque while still maintaining that nice Niles Rodgers feel. There's only one thing to be said.

    Touch (feat. Paul Williams) is a great example of this weird 'neu-nostalgia' vibe that emanates from most of the music here. It's very Close Encounters of the Third Kind-ish before delving into a weird orchestral-funk vibe. It does lack cohesion though, it's hard to argue against that. It's oh so fun, rest assured, but don't put too much mental stock in it. I love the choir towards the end though.

    I'm at a little bit of a loss at how to analyze Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams), seeing as how I (much like millions of others) listened to it a few hundred times before the album was released. I do indeed love this mix much more than the single/radio-edit one, not that this opinion should be exclusive to less than everyone. I was still bobbing and bouncing my head and shoulders listening to it, which is a great sign for replay-ability. They took away the chance for a flippin' synthesizer solo, which is super annoying, but whatever.

    Not going to lie: Beyond makes me want to make a Pokemon film and have Daft Punk score it. Again, what I signed up for: this. I'm noticing a trend here, almost like the songs with features are the most fun but the songs without featured artists are the best. Weird, maybe it has something to do with who's name is on the cover. This is top-notch stuff. This is progression from the Discovery-style of music, neu-disco refined. Ah yeah, this is where it's at.

    And just listen to the semi-experimentalism on Motherboard. It's groovy and comfortable all while being restless and hard to pin down, it's an absolute delight. Like some of the others, it loses its way about halfway through but it's not like it's torture to listen to.

    To be fair, not trying to abuse the phrase, but Fragments of Time (feat. Todd Edwards) is literally what I signed up for, though I probably shouldn't have. Not that anyone should be upset with unmet expectations, but I want my flippin' sample-rock if you're putting Edwards on a track. Yeah, this is nice, but it's not what it should have been. And yes, I'm arrogant enough to say that. This is an audible abortion. It's nice to hear the Digital Love vocoder back in action again though.

    Panda Bear certainly made up for Fragments of Time's transgressions with Doin' It Right (feat. Panda Bear). Holy balls, this is what a song is supposed to be. This is perfection. Holy crap, skip the bullcrap and just start pairing Daft Punk with Animal Collective every few years, you literally can't lose. Possibly the 'unarguable best song of the album', no question.

    Contact is Daft Punk featuring NASA. Vocals from the Apollo 17 mission are played over super snazzy 1980s synth-rock track. To be honest, it's a bit of a dumb excuse to just play the drums along a synthesizer loop for a while but it really does evolve into a 2001-like wormhole around the three minute mark. And the last minute will probably leave render you a brain-dead vegetable, in the best possible way.

    So you listen to it once (probably fifty times) before asking yourself: where does this leave us? Well, let's break it down.

    First of all, who ever played and mastered the drums for this album is a hero to our species. They're just incredible. It's not a matter of technical ability but they sound so crisp without being overbearing.

    In relation to their discography, it does a more than acceptable job at holding its own.

    Lyrically, it's par for the course for Daft Punk. No impossibly deep philosophical theories but just some very simple ideas. Like little kittens playing with yarn, you can't help but appreciate them for what they are.

    Composition wise, it's not near Discovery but it is indeed leaps and bounds ahead of Human After All, squeaking out ahead of Homework for sure.

    Instrumentally, it's pretty flippin' nice. It's a house record played with standard and mostly convectional instruments. It's not the most original idea in the world, but it is a very fresh take on it.

    My only problem with the album doesn't have to do with the music, it deals more with the relentless hype machine the band perpetuated and the stupid populace that bought into it. Look, I'm not bragging because this would be a stupid thing to brag about, but I probably love Daft Punk at least a billion times more than you. Even then, I wasn't sold on this album's advertising campaign for a second.

    Daft Punk was never going to be a savior of modern music and free us from the chains of dumb pop. Because, at the end of the day, they're Daft Punk, it's not like they're the most wildly experimental band that's ever existed. They are pop.

    I know I can preach this until I lose my voice (or fingers) but please stop not only participating in hype but even believing in it. You people hear about a new album or film or anything and you build it up in your heads to be something that it will never be. Then it is released, doesn't match your preconceived expectations to cater to your needs exclusively, and you have the gall to criticize it.

    People are getting so upset at negative reviews for this album, that's a terrible two way street. If people are giving the album terrible reviews, they've obviously fallen victim to hype. If people give a crap about someone hating an album they like, they've obviously fallen victim to hype. It's so stupid and you people do it every five minutes and I mean that literally. It was not fifteen minutes after Random Access Memories leaked that people already moved on to hyping the next Kanye West album.

    Again, I know this plea is all for naught, but I'd still prefer to say that I stood on one side of the fence.

    Some years produce a record that is objectively better than all of the other music released that year. This is not that record, but it certainly is a contender.

    When you break it all down: I am an incredibly jadded and bored music reviewer and I couldn't wipe a big, dumb grin from my face for seventy-five minutes listening to this in addition to the following months thinking about it.

    But be careful, I wasn't paying attention when I was listening to it and now I'm pregnant.



    [Author's Note:] Here's a fun game you can play with your friends. The amount of excitement (either positive or negative) that someone has is conversely proportional to how long they've been listening to Daft Punk.

    Example: If someone says “This is the greatest musical experience that has ever been brought to human consciousness” or “This album is worse for humanity than every genocide ever committed”, they've probably been listening to Daft Punk since TRON: Legacy.

    Whereas anyone shrugging, “Eh, it sounds like a Daft Punk album, I like it” has probably been listening since Darlin'.

    This is going to sound really elitist but I really miss the days when meeting another Daft Punk fan actually meant something. The fanbase very quickly transformed into a Radiohead-like following with nearly zero credibility. I don't know, wallow in whatever you want.


    [Author's Note:] Also, to anyone thinking this album is entirely original, I dare you to listen to an Air album.














































    2
    Boards of Canada -
    Tomorrow's Harvest



    One of the very first songs I used to teach Hailey how to sing was Aquarius. One of the very first cover songs we ever did a guitar+French horn+synthesizer rendition for was Dayvan Cowboy. At the very, very first Sexy Defects show I wore a shirt that said 'Bored of Canada'. So yeah, I'm familiar with their work.

    When I was younger I used to listen to Corsair all the flippin' time and that's probably the root cause of any brutal anti-socialness I posses. Most super hardcore drug addicts' brains turn into mayonaise after continued substance abuse, the same has probably occurred with my consciousness after listening to far too much Scottish electronica during my mentally formative years.

    We're about to get extraordinarily pretentious, don't say I didn't warn you.

    Boards of Canada may be one of only entities to ever exist that actually produce art that can be classified as objectively superior. Most music is bound by the health of the civilization or culture that it spawned from, whereas Boards of Canada exist on a basis borderline irrelevant to the rest of the planet. Due to the nature of the genre they occupy in combination with their approach to field sampling and unobtrusive synth work, they are almost entirely original.

    It's important that we remember all this. It's never just standard electronic music, it's never just standard music. Whether or not it's a truly seminal record that they put out, it is always worth something. By their nature, it would be very difficult for them to 'sell out' and cheapen the value of their compositions. It's always very pure and viciously effective, like a brick of coke, but whether or not we've received another primo supply of neuron warpers from our Scottish brothers can only be assessed on a case by case basis.

    Let's take the plunge again, stick out your tongue and county to sixtyten.














    Orange! Yeah, that's right.



    I am going to cry so hard the day Boards of Canada stop making music.

    They're just the best, I swear. On paper they are nothing more than a dumb, one-trick pony but in execution they're a cloud of winged horses, working like locusts to destroy the very notion of whatever works beneath them.

    First off, the cohesion is dumb. BoC albums are supposed to flow like one big song, this has very pointless fades and hard cuts. Nuh-uh, doesn't work. We are very lucky that the tracks are deliriously wonderful to make up for the lack of teamwork going on in the tracklist.

    But holy mother of God, these songs. A league of their own, entirely. No one touches Boards of Canada and they have yet again proved that they don't know how to fail. It's incredibly pointless to rank their albums, as they're all far too similar and different from one another, but this certainly is among their best work.

    It is unnervingly simple. It is hopelessly and magically simple. It is perpetually effective.

    The synth work on this is so 1970s while being so VHS decayed, it's an impossible tightrope that they manage to walk. The percussion work on this may be their best, in terms of production. I don't even know what to believe anymore. It's well-produced, well-mixed, well-performed. Not a blemish in sight.

    Atmospherically, it's better than perfect, as per usual. It provides a better mood than most of their other work, though it certainly lacks the immediacy of Music Has the Right to Children or Geogaddi. Seriously, they make better albums than most filmmakers make films. There's a very deliberate attention to the context of the partaker, and that's so rare to get that kind of competency out of an artist.

    You get music like this an you turn into a bit of an evangelist. Seriously kiddos, these are some tasty treats. Hop in the van and I'll give you so more. Go ahead and get your parents, they need to hear this too.

    Top notch, homerun, wonderful. It's not their best work (then again, what is?) but it is absolutely up to standards only they seem to be able to meet.



    [Editor's Note:] It took me a week to cut this review down enough to fit on last.fm. He went on for at least twenty pages and it was all really great but there was no way the coding would work unless I either placed it as it's own feature or cut out 90% of it. Sorry I went with option B (we don't have enough time for option A) but you probably know where to find the full review anyway.


















































































    1
    Kanye West - Yeezus




    [Editor's Note:] Hahaha...yep. This will be fun!

    Let's just say that back when Kanye took the microphone from Taylor Swift and everyone was freaking out, J+H did an entire show of Kanye covers, wearing shirts that said "Mothers Against Kanye West". So yeah...this isn't the first time they've gotten up on the soapbox.

    Mentioning anything about Kanye is absolutely the easiest way to get Hailey or Jesse to launch into angry tirade, so their reviews were a bitch to edit. On one hand, they made very good points that make me proud of them as human beings. On the other, they were incredibly offensive and mean spirited about it. So, I edited a lot out of both of them.

    Please don't think of this as censorship, it's not. Jesse's review was somewhere in the range of eighty pages and just be honest with yourself: not everyone is going to read all that. They're going to scan it and notice that his language becomes more hateful. That becomes a public relations nightmare because it would be very easy to pull quotes from his review and use them in a negative way with no context of the original intention.

    I know this sounds really silly, but it's not. Both of them wrote probably the most angry reviews of their careers (how fitting). It's not that I'm worried about them offending people, I'm worried about the last.fm versions of this, because those are almost context-less. People from last.fm either know Hailey and Jesse personally or not at all, that's a bad situation. These aren't people that have listened to Ones and Zeros and understand that J+H are an authority on hip-hop.

    (Seriously, if you haven't heard Ones and Zeros, you should probably find it and listen to it to see why Jesse and Hailey are a reliable voice on hip-hop/rap. "PUT YOU UNDER THE WEATHER, WITH YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUDS/SHE'S GOT INFRA-RED LIPSTICK (PLEASURE), JUST IN CASE YOU MISSED IT/NO CROWNS ALLOWED IN PRORATION/NOBODY CALLED AND THEY ASKED FOR YOU!/YOU MARKED THAT A MUTILATION? CUTE! CUTE! CUTE!" hahaha)

    Jesse went through an incredibly-detailed breakdown of hip-hop, from its roots, through backpackers (the original ones), the ringtone era, and up to today. Hailey broke down advancements in composition and rhythmic structures that hip-hop has given the world. But they both believe in 'objective art' so they are very intolerant of anyone who doesn't at least appreciate a work of art even if they have to disregard their personal opinion.

    So here is Jesse's very abridged review. I tried to eliminate as much as I could (for space sake) while still keeping his main point intact. If it's not enough, I'm really sorry, but it's not like you can't fine the entire original document on the internet (HINT HINT WINK WINK).

    And last.fm readers, one more thing, don't assume Hailey and Jesse have a Kanye West bias. They don't, trust me. In fact, this is the first time they have ever named one of his albums as the best of the year.






    "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." -Mark Twain, because all you little piss-ants just love quotes






    All rise, court is in session.

    The United States of America vs Kim Kardashian's boyfran.

    The Defense, in short form:

    Who is the best character in Star Wars? Darth Vader. What is Star Wars about? Darth Vader.

    The Defense, in long form:

    Booooooooo Raaaaaaadley, come out and play!



    Any track that isn't outrageously and upsettingly ostentatious pushes this record to an entirely higher tier than any other album released this year, based on sheer artistic merit alone.



    If you do not know who this man is (don't reverse Google search it, you little immoral dolts), I don't want you reading my review. Because you are objectively too ignorant to reason with regarding Kanye West. I'm not joking. Stop now. You are so completely far out of your element that I don't want you embarrassing the both of us.

    And also, for white people who like to pretend like they know anything about music just because they like to listen to it, here's a little required reading.

    As long as music is being written, recorded, and released, the idea of music having a subjective value to a specific individual will always be a credible ideology. But if we are to agree to that, we are to also agree that West is objectively one of the single most talented musicians of any era he has inhabited.

    Let me kneel down and get the kids up to speed: you don't have to like what he does, but you belong in time-out if you honestly think he's anything less than culturally significant.

    You people are beyond insufferable. You can't have it both ways. You can't like Doctor Who and hate Kanye West. You need to step back and think about that for a second, because it's absolutely ridiculous. There is something clinically wrong with you. All of you. I'm sitting here defending West, so there's definitely something wrong with me, but it's nothing compared to the condition you people are suffering from (though you do see to be enjoying it, I bet the high horse offers a pretty nice view, instagram it for me).

    This is it, this is the last time I even bother explaining to anyone why launching an ad hominem attack on West is an incredibly juvenile and idiotic thing to do. Yeah, we know he's confrontational and brash, but that has nothing to do with his music you dumb idiots. I swear to God, I've been saying the same thing about West records for almost ten years now and you people still think that your opinions are valid simply because you have them.

    I, like anyone, am not perfect. One of my many flaws is that I'm a little too judgmental of people. I forget that everyone has their specialties in life and it is impossible to be adequately versed in any and every context-minded situation life could throw at you.

    This has gotten me in more than a few...let's call them 'disagreements', regarding Kanye West. If one admits a prejudice but refuses to change or better themselves, they are ignorant. That's a fact. I may be ignorant in ways I'm unaware of, but not regarding music and not regarding Kanye West. So, if I offend you at any point in any review, but more specifically this review, just know that I am incredibly uncomfortable with self-expression unless I am brutally competent in the field/subject of the discussion. So there's just a chance that I might know what I'm talking about in this instance.

    Now that we got that out of the way, pop a squat in your booster seat, young blood.

    I genuinely feel like people that take a breath to denounce West or devote a single braincell to thinking negatively about him (in an artistic or personal sense) need to exiled to an island north of Siberia. There was a point in time where a negative opinion of West could be tolerated and accepted, but we are so far beyond that point. I don't care about him as a human, he's an artist. 'Person' and 'art' are two different words because they have two different definitions.

    Have you ever produced music before? I have and, contrary to the beliefs of every twentysomething sticking their thumbs up their butts and feeling entitled to express opinions about a world they know nothing about, it is incredibly difficult (at least it should be, otherwise you're just contributing to the deafening blandness). It is incredibly similar to painting a painting, or filming a film. There's a thousand more teary nights and months of self-loathing than meets the eye/ear.

    We have a serious problem with Generation Y, and I should know as I'm a member. I think the Baby Boomers are arguably the worst human beings that have ever walked the earth, but Gen Y is certainly going to try to contend with their levels of despicableness when they get the chance.

    Without the Internet my band wouldn't exist. As intriguing a concept as that is, I would give up everything we've ever done in a heartbeat if it meant even denting the entitlement that Generation Y has wrapped around themselves like a chastity belt of sorts with the advent of instantaneous mass-communication brought forth by the digital age.

    Everyone thinks that everyone gives a total crap about anything they could ever say. Think about that sentence for a second, as teenage as it sounds it's not even the least bit exaggerated.

    Somewhere, some blonde-headed twenty-whatever-year-old is chewing gum, texting her boyfriend, chatting on Facebook, and listening to this album while watching television. And then goes on any stupid social networking site, expresses her opinion on Yeezus, and thinks that anyone cares at all. And it gets worse: people actually do.

    Now don't think you're above this. Change the hair color, gender, add or take away a few aspects of the multitasking, and this is you. Whether you're jacking off over a Neutral Milk Hotel album and climaxing with a "Hold me Arcade Fire!", rubbing baby oil all over yourself with Mumford & Sons playing on your car stereo while shouting, "Adele is my spirit animal!", surgically replacing your nipples with record needles to play Frank Zappa albums in your basement while whispering, "Nobody puts The Beatles in the corner", or anything in between...this is you.

    I swear, I've tried to play this every way I can. Politely, professionally, scientifically, none of it works. People still don't understand that subjectivity doesn't inherently exclude objectivity.

    Would you argue with a chef about food? No, because you're not a chef. That's their area of expertise. You can't say "this specifically sucks for everyone" because that's not true. "I don't like it, I don't care for it," that's all you can say with any certainty without actually taking the initiative to learn about the respective outlet yourself. But remember, objectivity exists, you little idiots. All humans can drink water, no humans can drink potassium cyanide.

    This is why I absolutely can not tolerate anyone on the planet using the word 'taste' outside of describing what goes in your subjective mouth. The words "You have great taste in-" should get be responded to with an instant spot on death row. Too many stupid idiots, perpetuated by the cyber megaphone given to Generation Y, seem to confuse the word 'taste' with 'preference' in the same way that no one under the age of eight hundred seems to understand what 'irony' actually means.

    I've cancelled friendships over misuse of 'taste' and 'preference'. Saying the words "You have great taste in-" is arguably the most self-righteous thing a human being could have the gall to utter. You would never say that unless someone else admitted to having preferences exactly akin to yours. You are effectively climbing up on your own pedestal, calling your own 'taste' 'great'.

    Let me put this in a more realistic context. You're at a party, talking to a [insert whatever gender you're sexually attracted to here] and they start naming off interests that you happen to share. If you actually say, "You have great taste" you are subtextually saying, "Does my huge/tight, throbbing ego excite your genitals? Because if it does, let's go have self-righteous intercourse and in a few months we can pretend we're both confused to discover how utterly vapid our entire existences are. And then we'll blame each other." Man, relationships are hard.

    I've really missed the mark about tying in this whole 'Generation Y'ers are self-entitled dolts' message to this new Kanye West album (which I'll get around to, you know, actually reviewing here in a second).

    This is an opinion that actually exists in the world. I'm at the point in my life where I don't trust anyone about anything, because why should I? No one has any idea what they're talking about and yet they still maintain some mystical quota of opinions-per-minute.

    Honestly, I don't know a single thing about cooking a soufflé. Nothing at all. Which is why I don't talk about cooking a soufflé. But see, it goes further than that. I should be reprimanded and denounced if I shared an opinion on cooking a soufflé, because I have absolutely no credibility. And credibility is a requisite for discussion and perspective, without any you have none. See, that's what Gen Y doesn't realize: you can throw a fit all you want, but credibility literally can not be an entitlement, its entire existence is based on experiential acquisition.

    The point is that first world citizens live like kings, no matter how many stupid protests and fits they want to throw. This has robbed them of any and all context of how the world actually works. This is mostly the fault of their parents' perverse attraction to the immorality of postmodernism, but that's a dissertation for another day and an older audience (no offense intended).

    People are beginning to see art as just a process and not a product. I'm in a band, we do albums, and it takes somewhere around six years to get it done. An hour or more to listen to, six years of my life to make. And this isn't for lack of time to make the record, no, this is quality control. I don't want to hear crap so I don't make crap. People don't just fart out paintings, films, records. And if they do, the quality usually reflects that.

    Let's do this, let's all take a second to remember that buildings are art. Architecture is an art. It doesn't take five seconds to build a building. It takes a good cathedral at least a few centuries to be built. Yet it takes you fat Americans half a millisecond to take a snapshot on your crappy zillion-pixel camera what generations spent their entire lives to complete just to turn around and fart out, "Hwuares tha neares Starbuks?"

    This is not to say that work on something is indicative of its quality. Daft Punk just released their first album in eight years. Do you honestly think, with your fully-functional(?) human brain, that they spent every millisecond of the time between their last album and now working on their new record? And even if they did, why would that make it inherently good?

    But people, young people, just don't seem to have any concept of what art even is. Everything is just this 'super-instant-everyone-needs-to-hear-my-immediate-and-undeveloped-opinion-about-a-work-in-a-medium-I-have-no-grasp-of' mentality.

    Remember when you actually had to think about things and then decide about whether or not you'd actually verbally tell someone something? Pfffttttt, nostalgia, I know, but that's one process that we need to engineer back into the public consciousness.

    People ask me crap like, "What do you think about Kanye West?" and I just go all tunnel-vision and concentrate with every fiber of my being. "Okay, I need to be able to say this with a whiff of brevity but not let conciseness get in the way of competency" I think to myself before carefully and deliberately expressing my stance only to be met with, "I hate him, he's crazy and a jerk."

    And it...it just...it just begs the question, "Why do I even exist?"

    Seriously.

    We coddle everyone's opinion on everything and it has just forced the average value of existence to naught. People will be 'polite' and 'accept' your 'opinion' no matter how much work you put into it, so what's the point? Nothing has any flippin' weight anymore. The scale is broken, this must mean that all of you are correct about everything all of the time.

    I wrote a Mumford & Sons review last year and I got as many criticisms as compliments. That's what an opinion is. I took time to actually formulate a thought on something I have been given an authority on and took the measures to properly insure I was accurately expressing myself. People were caught off-guard, both positively and negatively. I got nasty personal emails and awards for it. That's what life is supposed to be, doing actually things that actually move people.

    I do this crap each and every time Kanye West releases an album. I have written, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered, released, arranged, and performed music so maybe I have a slightly different perspective than most (certainly not all). But I am just so sick and tired of doing this, like there's some sort of incompetence labeled onto me because I defend some guy who is outspoken in an unorthodox manner.

    I remember performing stuff before [LP1] and people backstage asking me what albums I was liking at the moment. I'd say Late Registration and get all this, "Really? Hmm, guilty pleasure?" from all the guitards with their six-string-sixties fantasies. I can't even articulate the intense emotion sprung from Hailey when put in the same scenario. We were already dealing with issues of agism at the time (not to mention being hopped up with the amplified hormones and adrenaline that accompany a live performance in your early teens) so these debates usually ended with me saying very brash things that weren't always the most appropriate words for the moment. I haven't gotten much better (she took the much more rational approach of saying 'screw everyone' and refusing to talk to anyone, smart lady).

    The fact is that Kanye West is the best modern music producer, bar none. Not a debate. Get your Steve Albinis and Brian Enos out of here. There's a reason why every single release he's ever put his name on is sonically impeccable, he knows his way around a studio. He's worked with a flippin' orchestra before, ya buncha kooks. Do you know who Jon Brion is? Yeah, that's what I thought.

    Lyrically, he's certainly not the best but certainly a clever little guy and you'd be an idiot stuck in a pseudo-innocent world to deny it. But in his sampling he brings incredible dialectics and thematics to his work that you, again, must be criminally idiotic to deny.

    And ego-wise, you people are idiots. It should not matter, at all, what an artist does outside of their work. Artists are not their work and you idiots need to start realizing that. Back when we did [LP2], I had to be Scott. Jesse, ME, had to be Scott. SCOTT. Now, to the people who know who Scott is, do he and Jesse have anything in common? AT ALL? Exactly. Scott is the anti-thesis of everything I am, because I don't suck up the farts that instruct me that artists have to be exactly like their art.

    You like this? Yeah? You do? Yeah, sorry, that means you're an anti-semite because you can't separate an artist from their work, ergo you can't separate the creator from the partaker. If the creator is their work, than anyone admiring it must also share their attributes tenfold.

    Listening to Edward Droste doesn't make me anti/pro-gay. Listening to What's Going On doesn't make you anti/pro-war. The art you enjoy should have zero impact on your personal beliefs and if it does I want you out of my country because you are prime evidence that propaganda is effective, corrupting the entire concept of politics more than it already is.

    Buuuuuuuuuuuut, while we are on the subject of artists' personal actions, there's not much that Kanye has done that shouldn't be condoned.

    Calling Bush a racist for an inadequate response to a hurricane that predominantly affected lower-class African-Americans? Hardly out of line when this is the rebuttal.

    Jumping on stage to tell an incredibly mediocre musician that her work isn't universally accepted, especially over more qualified candidates? Be honest, do you even remember the video that beat Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)? No, because you're not a stupid preteen girl that can't recognize a cultural impact when she sees one.

    Oh, wait, what's that? He had a kid with Kim Kardashian? Interesting. Uh, quick question: what was the last book you read? Oh, no reason, I'm just really at a loss as to how big of an uneducated waste of skin you have to be to care about something as trivial as pop-culture relationships.

    And his kid's name is a thousand times better than your little brat's. Again, what paint are you huffing to make you care about such idiotic things that don't concern you in the slightest? I might name my first kid after the noise a double-blown diffuser on a Formula 1 car makes, big flippin' deal. Oh but what about the kid, won't they get bullied, I feel so sorry for them. Piss off, if the name of a child causes other kids to pick on them, that's not my kid's fault, it's yours. You're the sucky parent, not me. West's going to give that little chick a better life than any parent who gives a crap about names is going to give theirs. (I realize this has nothing to do with anything, lasso me back next time please)

    Look, I understand that people don't react well to honesty. Kanye means what he says (when he actually manages to say something coherent) and takes unpopular approaches at expressing his opinions. I get it. But here's the thing, I don't have to agree with something to condone it. I know, it's a super advanced concept to wrap your head around. Once you graduate from fifth grade you might learn that the world is a little bigger than black and white answers to everything.

    You people that like Death Cab for Cutie should be ashamed of yourselves. Remember when they pulled that whole 'awareness campaign' for 'anti-autotune', like they're even remotely competent musicians? That's something worth getting pissed off about, musicians with pea-sized comprehension trying to dilute the medium with some delusional sense of purity.

    The problem is one of pop-culture. I don't really support affirmative action but have you ever noticed that everyone is white? No, I'm not talking about general demographics, obviously the majority of the country is white. But just look at popular culture for a millisecond, everyone is white. Okay? Remember that.

    What is currently the most dominant form of cinema? Super hero movies. Squeaky clean white people with PG-13 problems that find resolution at every turn. They're polite and smart and articulate and witty. Okay? Remember that.

    What is the most dominant sub-culture at the moment? Nerds. Big Bang Theory, big glasses, intelligent internet debates, pseudo-literature, dapper dressing. Forget the fact that West helped popularize this about five years ago, he's different now. Okay? Remember that.

    What is largest current wave of music hitting the most listeners? Indie-folk. Falsely-earnest, wooden instruments, harmonies. Young, white kids in their twenties. Humility is a virtue, even if you have to fake it, right? Okay? Remember that.

    Now enter: Kanye West.

    Black guy who doesn't sugarcoat his words, trying to bring an avant-garde approach to trashy fashion. An anti-hero who doesn't seek validation through the normal avenues, who is very easy to fluster into an incomprehensible rant due to unrefined social skills. His music is largely synthetic and, as of now, he is more concerned with pushing the boundaries by giving melodies to what would otherwise be considered 'unlistenable'. All on purpose. Everything he does, on purpose. And he refuses to apologize for it.

    Tell me, when did he even stand a chance? This entire situation was doomed from the start.



    Let me tell you a little story. Pretend this is from Pixar, right?



    Kanye West grew up with a single mother, a university Professor of Literature. She had a history of being arrested for Civil Rights protests, as a child.

    He began writing poetry at five years old.

    He began rapping in third grade.

    He and his mother spent a year abroad in China.

    The only foreigner in his class, he was forced to learn the language through his mother's home-schooling as he was bullied by his classmates and teachers in school for being unable to communicate.

    Through an administrative error, he was placed back in third grade when he had already passed fourth grade. He would remain two years behind his intended grade level throughout his scholastic career, causing him to become bored and act out.

    He spent his childhood designing games on his computer.

    His passion for music came from composing music for his games.

    He saved up and bought his own sampler from mowing lawns.

    He began selling his compositions to other artists while still in school.

    He got all A's and B's in high school.

    He attended art school on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue a career in music.

    He ghost-produced many artists' records, not having his name on the final product or receiving credit.

    He was eventually signed to produce for Roc-A-Fella Records. He is almost single-handedly responsible for reigniting JAY Z's career. If you're a young white kid, he's responsible for all the best Jay Z songs you've ever heard.

    He was repeatedly denied recording contracts because he didn't fit the gangster image that hip-hop had at the time. Along the fact that he wore pink sweaters and backpacks full of Motown CDs to and from the studio.

    He began dating Alexis Phifer, eventually proposing to her.

    He was in a near-fatal car crash. Despite the fact that, because of extensive reconstructive surgery, he had his jaw wired shut, he recorded Through the Wire to symbolize his dedication to his career.

    He was signed to make his first album and pushed the release date back three times, building the scope and scale of the record on every song.

    His mother began working as his manager.

    He was told that he'd never get an album with such prominent gospel and Christian themes to sell but it not only charted, Jesus Walks was played in constant rotation in dance clubs for months.

    As citizens of the United States wondered why FEMA wasn't assisting Hurricane Katrina victims imediately after the storm, West proclaimed that President George Bush "doesn't care about black people" and pointed out the hypocrisy of the media coverage, " If you see a black family, it says they're looting. See a white family, it says they're looking for food."

    His moved to chamber orchestra and string quartet sounds on his second album, producing the only successfully selling album of the autumn of 2005.

    A feud eventually developed between West and 50 Cent, both representing different public personification of modern hip-hop. This came to a head when both Jackson's and West's newest albums were scheduled to be released on September 11, 2007.

    Designed with stadium rock and classic rock chord progression in mind, West's third album paved the way for mainstream use of electronica elements in music. It shattered sales records and bested the numbers put up by Jackson's album in regards to both sales and critical acclaim. It proved to be a moment in time mainstream hip-hop where turned on its head, killing the 'gangsta' persona required to sell records.

    A few months later, West's mother died from complications arisen during a reductive cosmetic surgery procedure, which he had paid for. Welcome to the watershed.

    West broke up with his long-time fiancee.

    West released his fourth album, a soul record that juxtaposed synthetic drum machines and traditional African drums. Subject matter ranged from grieving from his mother's death to angst from his failed relationship. Reviews were initially mixed but sales rose as did critical reception.

    He began dating model Amber Rose.

    He was arrested for breaking a paparazzi camera.

    He was arrested for a scuffle with another paparazzi member months later.

    While she was accepting an award at the VMAs, an intoxicated West took the microphone from Taylor Swift and proclaimed that she didn't deserve the award. This particular gesture generated an immense amount of controversy, despite the fact that he'd done it a few times before and certainly wasn't the first to do so. For most of the world, West did not exist before this point.

    He broke up with his girlfriend.

    He retreated to Hawaii to quietly record his fifth album, employing mixers in shifts so that he could stay in the studio for up to twenty four hours at a time. Using a dream team of artists and producers, he released the record to unrivaled praise and adoration, eclipsing his previous transgressions in the eyes of many.

    He began dating socialite Kim Kardashian.

    In 2012, he released a short film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

    His daughter was born.

    With an emphasis on minimalism and experimentalism, he released his sixth album with little promotion, though it became his sixth consecutive number one debut, earning both rave and condemning reviews from critics.

    He scuffles with a paparazzi photographer once again.

    He becomes engaged to his girlfriend.

    He has won a total of twenty-one Grammys in nine years, become the eighth most decorated artist in the history of the organization (not that this is something to celebrate, but it is always an excellent counterpoint for the soccer moms).

    He is one of the top selling artists of the twenty-first century and one of the few to have equal critical and fan reception.



    That's all very basic information that even the most thick-headed peasant could learn, let's tie it together in the most respectful way possible.


    Kanye West is a very intelligent man but lacks basic social skills. This does not detract from his intellect or excuse his lack of tact.

    He was raised in a manner very similar to an Army brat: constantly leaving any friends he could be connect to for most of his formative years. Couple this with the fact of the language and race barrier he was forced to overcome for simple interaction with children his own age and you have a pretty simple formula for social anxiety.

    He exists in a world that praises extroverts and exercises in a industry where only that system of interaction can function. As an obvious introvert, he is constantly uncomfortable in the medium that requires a spotlight.

    His ability to excel in poetry, programming, sampling, and fashion indicate a high intellect in those fields, along with his grade point average and college record. These are all the ingredients for prodigy, but due to his lack of social skills and basic contrary beliefs, this wasn't allowed to be. And thus, contempt is born.

    He was constantly told by every single person around him, outside of his medium, that he wasn't good enough and wasn't going to succeed. Except for his mother, who remained the only constant means of support and moral base for him.

    Through every setback, including the literal restriction of speech in the form of his jaw being wired shut, he kept a form of blind faith exclusive to radicalized zealots and actually succeeded. This turned him into his own worst enemy, his strength is his flaw: he wasn't allowed to succede so he began to force the issue. And it worked, teaching him to take what he wants, regardless public reception. His sensibilities were validated and justified. This led to a feelings he'd never felt before: self-esteem, confidence.

    At this point, any wall becomes a speed-bump, for better or worse. He changes the 'look' of hip-hop, the general atmosphere, and the entire genre's attitude in just a few years.

    And then his mother dies, and he goes berserk.

    The only person to ever truly support him, his moral compass, his foundation, and the only source of checks and balances, suddenly disappears. Every single aspect of his personality bounces to every end of the spectrum. He looses all self-confidence but his ego grows a billion times larger than normal. He wants it all and he wants to destroy everything.

    Everyone goes through grief, but not everyone is enabled and antagonized by billions of people, with their every move under a microscope.

    As his mother represented the only real reality he had ever known, he simply rejects any that don't fill that void. And none are ever going to fill that void.

    He breaks up with the girl who hates the spotlight just as much as he does. He begins dating a girl known for excess and with a dangerous appeal. He acts out. It bites him in the butt.

    He dumps the dangerous girl and throws everything he has into an album. It works.

    He finds a girl that's just as villainized as he is, filling some of his inner voids (as he fills some of her's, right guyz, lol sex jokes so funny such a slut I'm so cool with my witty humor I need to go post this on reddit). This puts him in the spotlight in a way he's not accustomed to, as he's making headlines without actually acting out.

    He responds by removing himself completely from his music and creating something of pure emotion. ANGER. LOVE. FRUSTRATION. COMPASSION. He calls it Yeezus.

    Suburban white people call him crazy and egotistical for comparing himself to God, because reporting in the twenty-first-century is completely devoid of all context.

    West preaches that he wants to be Jesus. Suburban white people call this sacrilegious, despite the fact that the literal definition of Christian is 'Christ-like'.

    It's an issue of intolerance of contrary methods of social interaction.

    And racism.

    And religious persecution.

    And anti-intellectualism.

    And a complete lack of empathy on the part of the American public.

    And the whole thing is just exactly why super hero movies suck. The world is not a black and white place.

    There is a problem with the world and that problem is Nazism. Nazis=bad, right? Sure. But the problem is that there isn't a black and white definition to the word 'Nazi'.

    Was every single German in the 1940s a Nazi? No. But have you every watched a WWII film?

    "YEAH, 'MURICA, KILL THE GERMANS-I MEAN-KILL THE NAZIS."

    It happens because it's easier, faster, and more acceptable but that doesn't make it right: white-washing. Every single thing in modern culture is 'us vs them'. I'm not going to point any fingers, but this might have been a national overreaction to a certain tragedy where "If you're not with us, you're against us" was actually deemed a civilized train of thought.

    This is it people, this is everyone in the world slowly clashing over the debate as to whether cowboy movies in the 1930s were actually a good thing.

    And it's not even racial, it's just a matter of generalizing.

    WHY is it cowboys vs indians? And WHY is the cowboy always wearing the white hat?

    Sure, a ton of people snapped out of their pathetic little fantasy world after Vietnam, but it didn't stop them from raising generations that fall for the same schlock.

    This is it people, look at Kanye West right now. He lost his mind after his mother died and he makes incredible music, but that's irrelevant. He is our Forrest Gump, he is the catalyst.

    Why will we never solve racism? Kanye West.

    Why are we always going to be intolerant of the opinions of others? Kanye West.

    Why haven't we evolved past the 'hunter/gatherer, protect the herd' mentality? Kanye West.

    He doesn't represent man's disdain for change, he's a product of it. He is the personification and embodiment of everything wrong with everyone. And this isn't something to persecute him for, no, he's just the one holding up the mirror up for you. Whether or not what you see is right or just, don't kill the messenger.

    He is, by far, one of the the most polarizing figures in modern history. And he's not even politically significant. Let that sink in. Everyone who denounces him says he'll be forgotten in a few years. Will he? He got almost two dozen Grammys last decade, who's to say he won't go for it again? And even if he doesn't (which he shouldn't), who's to say that his work isn't going to be remembered even more fondly as time passes? I'm telling you, go listen to The College Dropout. It sounds better every day, as do most of them if we're being honest (except Graduation, if we're being honest).

    And have you ever noticed that he's a hip-hop artist, yet has also rattled the cage of two presidents? Yeah, let's all keep thinking that his fifteen minutes of fame are almost up when he currently has a monopoly on manufacturing the clocks culture is measured by.

    I'll say it, and I'm not even close to the first to say it: Kanye West is a genius. If you disagree, you seriously need to do your homework and read about anyone else ever called a genius. They tend to be absolutely nuts. They tend to have rationality removed from their brain as a way to cope with insane talent. Kanye's a genius, I don't want to hear otherwise.

    I think I'm done. I think I've contextualized the situation as much as I need to. Oh wait, just remembered something.

    I really don't want to hear any crap about him (objectively) as an artist after the way this album was released. West has become even more anti-celebrity and anti-music industry with this album and he needs to be given some respect for that.

    Your favorite artist promotes and whores out the press for their newest release, whether or not your stupid butt wants to admit it. They benefit from interviews, commercials, advertisements, and all that other crap and it's become so commonplace that you don't even view it as the despicable act that it is. They devote time and attention to centering themselves in others' attention and that should be enough to make any sane being vomit.

    People act like all these music industry profit tricks are for their benefit, or just 'how things should be'. Everybody's getting pissed on and putting on their water wings, it's infuriating. This isn't how things are in a rational and sensible universe, you Earthlings are not only drinking the Kool-Aid, it's coursing through your corporate-emblazoned veins.

    Trust me, you think this doesn't apply to you, it does. You think your 'indie' bands and love of Radiohead save you. They don't. This isn't some liberal 'anti-corporation' crap, it's not. This is some 'anti-money' crap. You stupid idiots, for the last thousand years, have forgotten that money makes art and you're a traitor against your race for even attempting to reverse the order.

    And have you ever noticed how defenders of REAL music never really pick up on the fact that Kanye is the most prolific crate-digger of his generation, maybe even ever? I'm willing to bet that in some sort of music trivia competition, West would best anyone that listens exclusively to rock music. Seriously, I listen to a metric butt-load of music, of all eras and genres, and can easily admit that Kanye is ridiculously well-versed in music history. Some, maybe even the majority, of his samples are from insanely overlooked and dismissed records, making him an incredibly ethical musician as well.

    Oh, you see that? Yeah, all the classic rock fans just read that and started leaking brain-fluid. Somebody get a napkin, hurry, before they start arguing that he doesn't play any REAL instruments. You know, again. Uh-oh, they're pretending like they know what auto-tune is, hurry!

    Here's a fun game you can play with your friends who suck their own farts. Kanye West isn't REAL music, right? Because he doesn't write his own lyrics or play an instrument, you know, like that Frank Sinatra guy, right? Dang, I forgot that he actually does write his own stuff and does play instruments. Well crap...oh but Kanye sometimes uses autotune, right? Cool, so how about you hop up on daddy's lap for a second and tell me what autotune is. Because people who complain about autotune totally know a lot about music, yessiree.

    And one last note, please piss off with this whole 'how can Jesse like Kanye West?!?!' thing. It's getting really old. J+H wouldn't be where it is today or what it is today without West. Back when I was teaching Hailey and Charlie how to sing, our first proper cover was of Spaceship. I did the Marvin Gaye sample and West's verse and choruses, Hailey did the GLC verse (beginning the ironic tradition of giving her the 'low' register), Charlie did the Consequence verse, and we all harmonized on the "Heaven knows" background vocals and other points of emphasis. If there's a God, and there's a Heaven, then I look forward to reliving that memory as it's one of my most dear.

    Okay, I'm done. I'm spent. You know me (spoilers).

    Whew boy, sorry about that, I need a glass of water. I haven't gotten that worked up since the last Death Grips debate. Speaking of which, let's review this before your butts get numb.

    Kanye used to be really into spinning an interesting twist onto neo-soul but starting on Graduation he began jumping into a bit more experimental territory, and I'm glad he did.

    Let's break out the track-by-track review, this one has earned it.

    On Sight really is pretty terrible. It's got this pseudo-experimental approach to it that sounds more like distortion for the sake of distortion than any sort of artistic statement. The child choir interruption is great but doesn't save the lyrics or general composition. What an absolutely horrid first impression. Though, as we learn, it's not to be trusted.

    Black Skinhead is one of the best songs Kanye West has ever made. The percussion is insanely simple but works incredibly well on several levels, proving that, at the very least, West isn't capable of inefficiency. The song structure is rather simple as well, but not in any sort of detrimental way. All of the little atmospherics really add to the experience in a not-so-subtle way, which is actually to its advantage in this case. Though, it must be said, the three hundred Spartans were, quite obviously, Greek, not Roman. Not a huge issue though, moving on.

    Tracks like I Am a God are the main reason that Yeezus isn't his best album. It's just so pretentious and stupid. Don't get me wrong, I understand the message (I love Jesus so much that I want to be more like him) but the entire track is just so unnecessary. It has this quasi-acid house feel to it that doesn't display any competency at all. And, of course, this will be the track that Yahoo! posts to let their users debate about, "Hey, listen to my thinly-veiled racism disguised as music criticism." The five seconds of Justin Vernon doesn't save this one, why would it?

    Bassline of the year is awarded to New Slaves, another one of the best songs West has ever been responsible for. It's chaotic and harmonious at the same time, the percussion is understated, and the atmosphere can't be beat. His message, lyrically, is a noble one as well. It's very 'anti-hip-hop', expressed somewhat eloquently. Then the super harsh transition to the auto-tuned-up-the-butt, semi-soul ballad is just perfect and sets the perfect tone for the entire record.

    Hold My Liquor is a tricky little one indeed. Overall, the song isn't really doing much. But, the problem is, that it's actually a pretty decent little track. It loses a majority of anything it has going for it in the second half but boy are those first two-thirds something nice. For Yeezus to be Kanye West's best album, this would have to be the worst song on the album, and it's not. It doesn't really have an overarching statement either which, on this album specifically, means it isn't entirely necessary.

    I'm in It is just quintessential Kanye West. It's so ridiculous and slapsticky while still maintaining this aura of professionalism that it almost single handedly makes the entire album shine. It's like four songs in one with some amazing little transitional elements thrown in to separate it from the other tracks. Vernon really, really shines on this one as well. If you were to take only his segment and repackage it as a radio-single, it'd do rather well. But again, this is just fantastic. It's all very clever and efficient. The lyrics? Eh, they're pretty stupid. It's this new 'everything must be sexual' brand of West, while still maintaining some sort of humorous slant mind you, that just doesn't work well at all. But again, if you need proof that West can produce the balls out of any track with completely unorthodox song structure, look no further.

    Blood on the Leaves is one of two songs that sound like a mix of every style West has ever dabbled in. I am very very familiar with Strange Fruit. I took a history of rock and roll class back in high school and we had to do a fake radio show assignment where we turned in a playlist of old big-band and jazz songs and I was graded down because I very cheekily nestled Strange Fruit into the setlist between two cheery songs. Then, you know, Tom stuff obviously. So I'm not quite sure why West didn't go with the original Holiday rendition for his sample but this works very well nonetheless. It sounds very much like The College Dropout meets 808s & Heartbreak meets My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and marks a very definite progression in West's sound. This right here, this is why West has cultural relevance. Goosebumps while headbanging.

    It's really hard for me to discuss Guilt Trip without some personal bias bleeding into the discussion, because I really flippin' like it a lot. It is nowhere near the best track on the album but it is insanely well done. It feels very Cruel Summer-y (which isn't a real album, by the way) with the super-pitch-altered lead vocal sample, bombastic drums, and shoehorned strings. It has two very distinct halves that work rather well together. Again, another solid, solid song.

    Send It Up is decent-at-best. It helps strengthen the overall tone and atmosphere of the record but doesn't really contribute anything unique to speak of. It's another weird 'not built for the club or deep introspection' type of song that doesn't really hold the album back but certainly does nothing to move it forward.

    Bound 2, however, holy crap. This is some straight up College Dropout goodness here. It's almost like a sequel to Gold Digger, with Charlie Wilson straight up killing his part. It's a testament to his production abilities that the very repetitive sample doesn't get old, it actually gets even better as it goes on. It's an absolutely wonderful conclusion to the record.

    This, his most experimental album yet, hits more than a few exceptional highs but not without the occasional flounder. It provides for an interesting tracklist when On Sight, an abysmal effort, is placed right next to Black Skinhead, one of the best songs of the entire year.

    Also, regarding the album's 'sound', it's not Death Grips-esque. It's not. It draws from the entire concept of dub and is heavily reliant on acid house. Not that this is an issue, but just because a bunch of white fifteen-year-olds read Pitchfork and think that any sort of abrasive hip-hop must be attributed to an Mc Ride influence doesn't make it true.

    I understand what West was trying to do with this album, but I'm not sure it worked. I get the whole 'pure expression' aspect he was going for, but the overall song structure has suffered as a result. It's not necessarily broken but it does begin to retroactively undo some of the energy harnessed in the moments proceeding it.

    The whole 'anti-consumerism' aspect of it provides a neat clash though, there's some honest confrontation here and it should be appreciated in a world where 'drama' is artificially manufactured. Kanye's never really been contrived, so it's nice to see the trend continuing. Contradictory? Sure, but it's a fun conflict to encourage.

    It doesn't utilize the huge, grandiose approach taken on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so we definitely can't mark him down for being repetitive. The features are nice though with collaborations from Daft Punk, Mike Dean, RZA, Justin Vernon, and Kid Cudi providing yet another diverse record in West's discography.

    There is a serious issue with this though, and I'm not being a conservative baby here, but the subject matter in West's songs have taken an immediate nose-dive since MBDTF. Every song is just jam-packed with sex and not in a clever or original way. He's not taking an interesting approach to social commentary like on Gold Digger, he's just thinking of clever ways to add 'pussy' to every other line. He's still the most innocent offender but it's getting worse.

    I don't know, I feel like the songs that he's started to be responsible for aren't built to maintain relevance like they used to. The College Dropout could be released tomorrow and would still be an incredibly original and culturally significant album. Yeezus, while one of this year's best albums by far, feels like a slight drop in competency. It's all really good but there's hardly any strong cohesion that we've come to expect from him.

    But, make no mistake, it is an incredible album and West has extended his bulletproof discography even further.

    Deny it as much as you want, but the man already has a cultural legacy. Your kids are going to know and probably respect him, long after he's done making music. I know, I know, it's a travesty and all that, just try to keep it down so the rest of us can enjoy.

    His message on this album is contradictory, lacking any sort of elegance or enunciation, he's beginning to suffer from an extreme form of cognitive dissonance, and his sense of entitlement is ballooning incredibly fast...but his intentions are completely pure and honest, making him the easiest modern artist to respect and acknowledge.

    "I just think-"

    *takes another picture of self*

    "-that Kanye West-"

    *changes profile picture again*

    "-is so self-"

    *likes own picture*

    "-centered."

    *likes comments complimenting appearance*

    "Seriously, he has such an ego."

    *goes to bed, warm with enlightenment*












    Please send check or money order to "Democracy and Mob Rule definitely aren't totally the same thing", 14834 Subjectivism Is Great Avenue, P.O. Box: Your Mom's Butt.

    Standard rates apply.







    Ask your doctor if being a complete idiot is right for you.


























    [Author's Note] I don't feel that Kanye West is immune from criticism though, far from it, that's not my point. This is easily his second-worst album, easily. But there's a huge difference between a negative thought about him consisting of “I think the production on his sixth album was a bit rushed” and “He's just such a big meanie.”

    People that want to criticize Kanye need to grow up and find more substantial things to find fault with him. Ego doesn't matter, public actions don't matter, criticize the art. Trust me, Yeezus is a perfect setup to pointing out some objective faults.

    But, come on, like we aren't going to give album of the year to the album that put this kind of soul on the same disc as this kind of anger, combined them, and actually made it work?

    (I swear to God if you don't respect the crap out of those flippin' dogs barking in sync to the percussion, what do you even want art to be?)




    [Author's Note:] And as someone who makes films and jokes, I've lost all hope in humanity. Is it any wonder the world didn't understand the satire of the Bound 2 music video when memes are an actual source of joy for the majority of them?

    It's genuinely depressing. I have a really hard time approaching comedy and filmmaking and art in general after seeing the general reaction to both Yeezus and the Bound 2 video. It's really not hard to see what they're doing, I thought it was incredibly obvious and very creative/necessary, but no one (relatively) picked up on it.

    You people deserve the crappy culture you complain about. You can say that you don't 'get it' but stop insisting it isn't there. Trust me, it's soaked in it.

    KANYE WEST ISN'T REAL MUSIC, ONLY CLASSIC ROCK IS REAL MUSIC.


    KANYE WEST DOESN'T KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT MUSIC AS I DO, RAP IS ALL JUST NOISE ANYWAY.


    ALL RAP MUSIC AFTER THE 1990S IS CRAP MUSIC.


    KANYE WEST IS OUT OF CONTROL, HIS EGO IS DISGUSTING AND HE HAS NO CONCEPT OF REALITY AND DEFINITELY DOESN'T PUT ON AN EXAGERATED PERSONA WHEN I WATCH VIDEOS OF HIS INTERVIEWS THAT ARE OBVIOUSLY NOT TAKEN TOTALLY OUT OF CONTEXT. HE SHOULD DIE.



    He lacks tact and that will be his eventual downfall, like countless emperors and generals before him, but it's just ignorant to disregard the territory West has objectively conquered.

    His mind moves a lot faster than his mouth, he's not very articulate. He's no orator (on purpose, at least). But I'm not going to sit here and pretend like the instances where he remains on-point and brevitous aren't some of the best musical moments of any given year.

    Or we could just boil the public reaction down to, “When I don't understand what someone is saying it means THE'YRE the stupid one” and end it there. In fact, let's.




    [Hailey and Jesse Note:] We're not saying that all critics have a credible opinion on music, but it is AMAZING how everyone can look at West landing pretty consistently in the top five of all these end-of-the-year charts and go, “Wow, everyone EXCEPT ME is so wrong! WOW, music journalism is so dead!” He really did earn the 'acclaim', stop with the whining already.

    And for you five year olds out there: no, as always, we did not put him at the top of the list just because everyone else did. Our album rankings are submitted about a week and a half before most other lists are published. This album has been at the top of the list since it came out and we were REALLY hoping that something else would top it, because although there's no problem saying it's better than everything else this year, it's certainly not 'Album of the Year' material. This thing would land at maybe the teens or twenties of any other year but it just comes down to the fact this was simply a terrible year for music.

    We didn't really want to give this 2013's top spot, because it is severely flawed and it's just another minor way to enable and condone West's exaggerated public persona, but it'd be very dishonest to act like this wasn't the most impressive release of the year.

    So yeah, the best album of the year is an album that wouldn't be any higher than maybe the 20s or 30s on any other year's list. And you wonder why we're so pissed off.

    And don't even send us one flippin' email. What do you want us to do? Really, what do you want from us? You want a Debussy or Xenakis discography review at the top spot? You want us to hold your hand and walk you through parallel harmonies or Kolmogorov extensions? We've been doing this for sixteen years, you think we're just going to put Yeezus at the top for 'fun' or because we don't have any idea what we're doing? Because you're all totally listening to Shabazz Palaces and Henry Cowell all the time, right? Anyone listening to Soap&Skin? Exactly. You people have done nothing but contradict yourselves for almost two decade now and we're done. We're throwing in the towel. No, we're not surrendering, we're gathering ingredients to waterboard your butts.

    Art is objective, preference is subjective. Get over it. Grow up. Stop burning down the proverbial Library of Alexandria every time someone says something you don't like or, HEAVEN FORBID, pushes you outside your comfort zone. Just because you don't agree with something doesn't make you right and doesn't make the issue a matter of opinion.




    [Editor's Note:] Jesse won a Critic of the Year honor and a grant for this review alone (I didn't want to say that up front and ruin your first impression). I cut out huge chunks of it for the last.fm version, I hope it retained some of the full edition's impact.

    He donated the grant funds before I could even ask him what he was going to do with the money :)

    If you can, I strongly suggest you read an essay he wrote this year ('Regardless of the Self: The Art of Ego') about the irrelevancy of ego in art. It's a really interesting read and puts pretty much everything in context, it's a good partner to this review.













    Our Year
    In Review


    Fan art courtesy of Kayla B (thanks!)



    We can escape the fray/ 
    of this torrid soiree/ 
    for we caught all the carpe/ 
    from the bay of today.

    If sabers unsheathe/ 
    we will stub our toes/ 
    on their front teeth/ 
    when it comes to blows.

    Take from the young/
    and give to the meek/
    always biting their tongue/
    as it lives in their cheek.

    There's no use whining/
    as neurons fire no more/
    revealing the silver lining/
    of this black hole.


    -My favorite words from the best singer/worst dancer ever, circa 2005




    Well hello there! It was a rather sparse year for J+H, though that's not to say it was boring. Oh hell no. In November, they performed the [Synth Soul Planets EP] show to about six thousand people in Commerce City, Colorado. It was really fucking awesome and you should have been there.

    They also, um, hmm, how do I say this? Well, in July, they, uh...

    Let's just put it this way.



    That's right, as of today, I am proud to confirm that J+H is responsible for [LP4], released to the world on July 9, 2013 A.D.



    And now, A TREAT! Last.fm readers, you are not going to fucking believe this, but I actually got you access to the 2013 Junket! It's heavily modified and edited but it's still got a ton of great info and behind the scenes goodness (kind of haha).

    Have you ever wanted to learn more about everything J+H has ever released? Ever wonder just how pissed off the world was getting that we were restricting [LP4] downloads? Want to hear the Sexy Defects show or a J+H soundcheck? Then this is the junket for you!

    Here's a quick taste of some of the [LP4] reviews contained inside, just so you know I'm not basing the junket on the worst album ever hahaha



    (This is the first album of theirs that I've been PR manager for so I'm proud as fuck of them, so you bet your ass I'm posting this shit on a public site hahaha)



    The first, from a fellow artist (I can't say which, but you would easily recognize them, they're a household name):

    The Conquestial Collective strike again! We're so proud of all of you! From smashing guitars and microphones to...smashing oboes and grand pianos, there's never been a band better at giving the world a well-deserved musical middle-finger. We love the new album and can't wait for the show! Hugs and kisses from your friends in [redacted]! P.S. Please produce our next album? Please? xoxoxoxoxo Next, exerprts from a few from various publications' reviews:

    First interview I ever saw of them, with bin bags on their heads. Didn't know what to think of them. That was a decade ago. They're two of the best there's ever been, this new one's more proof of that. Still don't know what to think of them.Mark my words: the key change/meter shift/tonal transition at 3:52 on [LP4 – Track 2] will put this group in the history books, whenever they decide to reveal themselves of course.For the uninitiated: imagine if Ofra Haza, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and John Coltrane started a band. That's a fraction of what J+H is and what they've done with [LP4]. They're the nerdiest people in existence but they know exactly what they're doing and it's NEVER been done before. They mean a lot to people outside of just being a great band, they're breaking barriers and generating a zeitgeist all their own, completely regardless of what expectations are piled on them.If they aren't the dominant figureheads of their generation I don't know who is. [LP1] redefined the idea of an album. [LP2] redefined what it is to be a musician. [LP3] redefined music in general. [LP4] redefines art as a whole. They're indestructible. I remember listening to Track 8 in my first car and it blew my mind just as hard as MSD does today listening with a family of my own in the car. Never faltering, in a league of their own, I don't care how you say it: the kids are still untouchable, now more than ever.The future has been claimed: with [LP4], J+H have clearly proven that their wondrous rise to artistic paragon is not linear but exponential. A collage of the infuriating and the inspiring: more so than any other, it shall prove to be imperishable.My very first exposure was seeing the Fashion Police State music video and it seriously changed my life. I found it on a foreign torrent site and watched it at least a hundred times the first week. It's a few minutes of someone in high heels doing tricks on a skateboard and then spending a little time at the end smashing the skateboard. It was so simple but I had never seen or heard anything like it. The same can be said for [LP4]. J+H have gotten me through some very rough times and this new one is enough to get me through anything.Whoever they may be, they have succeeded in creating the greatest musical work in at least a century. They have invented an entirely new mode, macrophonicism, with music that is as advancing as it is addictive. A very daring and irreverent record indeed.I first met Hailey and Jesse when I was about nineteen after a show (a few thousand people singing along to “where the boys act like girls and the girls act like MEN!” remains one of my most fond memories) and their personalities haven't really changed. Both are still very quiet and nice but you wouldn't know that seeing them live. She turns into an absolute force of nature and he turns into an agent of pure chaos. But then you meet them backstage or at a party somewhere and they are like two big teddybears, blushing whenever you admit your admiration for them and vehemently denying your praise. [LP4] is bold, brave, and beautiful and that's why I know it's their's.Ten years ago she told the world that "rhythm and harmony are the same thing." Ten years ago he told the world "under no circumstance should people be given what they want." For the last decade, from humble garage rock beginnings to leading an international symphonic orchestra, they have not only firmly placed their stamp on music history but with [LP4] they have essentially broken the barrier and produced one of humanity's defining works of art. And the best part? If they ever heard me say that, they'd probably scoff and tell me to "piss off.”Jesse and Hailey remain the greatest collaboration in the field of music. With [LP4] they are now simply eclipsing everyone of not only contemporary status but historical. There has never been a entity as innovative or uncompromising as they while still somehow, at the heart, making incredibly accessible music.The moment when he soothes us with "a writhe, wriggle, and STRAAAAAAAAAIN" before she and the drum and horn sections explode into a thousand bits is all the proof the world will ever need that J+H sit atop the pinnacle of organized sound.The piece is very novelistic actually, with the relentless lyrical prose and leitmotif-esque nature of the arrangements, the listener feels as if they are part of an intense escape from the predictability and traditional essence of music itself. There is some incredibly unorthodox and dangerous work with scales and general tonality present throughout but it not only proves its worth, it actively begins tearing into your confidence in other pieces you may have encountered previously.(...) but this is of no surprise to those informed of their existence, correct? They always been extraordinarily deceptive with the simplicity of the lyrics and extremely moving with the tact of the instruments, [LP4] magnifies this sentiment.

    Any example will work, but let's dig up 2008's [redacted] in the interest of time. There is a song on it that uses the word “pickaninny”, which is a term for a derogatory caricature of an African-American baby. This is spun into a relationship with the chess definition of pickaninny, which describes certain movements of black pawns. This is fitted, quite amazingly, to a parable about brown shirt fascists during the Jewish riots in November 1938. This is mirrored and filtered through a what is essentially solipsist argument relating to what can be described as absolute reality. But if you were to ask my son, who loves listening to this song in the car on the way to grade school, he would tell you that it's about ants eating other bugs. And my husband, who also has a PhD as well, thinks it's a love song to the Enlightenment. And they're both right. The lyrics are very specific and detailed, but bound to no one specific interpretation. It is a metaphor plus an allegory multiplied by personification. All in a little over two hundred and fifty words!

    And the actual music itself is so powerfully profound. The drum machine is set to a very unconventional 9/4 before slowly increasing to a 13/4 (not counting the numerous but brief meter shifts throughout). Her french horn provides a more commanding bassline than any guitar could. The horn is then cut up into pieces with a controller as the guitar slices through, providing a positively heavenly melody. As the song concludes, we are taken away by the sounds of the piano, as some broken chords fight amongst themselves. With the captivating beauty of his voice along with the perfection of their harmonies, there simply is no reason not to be completely taken by this song.

    Remember, I'm speaking of a song that's five years old now, they've only gone skyward since. [LP4] is an unrivaled masterwork.
    Some begin playing music out of boredom, some for a desire for fame, some for sex, and some for the lifestyle. But J+H was born from spite, and that has made all the difference. They have transformed art into a sport, and they remain undefeated. Our God in heaven, Hailey be thy name. Let Jesse come, and do what must be done. For you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten [LP4], so that whoever listens to it shall not despair, being free of internal strife. Amen.And my favorite two, about the performance in November:

    Watching him finish with small, desperate scream and then jump to the big ass tribal drum like a coked-up spidermonkey and bang on it with maracas while she breaks into a brief, speed-of-light solo before lifting her guitar above her head and proceeding to smash it into pieces like it owes her money really makes you think "Hmmmm, I say, I rather do struggle to think of a somewhere else I'd rather be." And that was only the end of the fourth song, little did we know that they'd continue to up the ante, in typical J+H fashion. 10/10 would attend again.If there were ever proof that Hailey should be doing the music for his movies, its the brilliantly nuanced transition from Terra to Mars. And if there were ever proof that Jesse should be modeling for her clothing lines, it's that fucking t-rex dance he does hahahaha
    And the last one is something I'm very proud of. They won another lifetime achievement award but this one was the first one I actually accepted on their behalf (it will be a cold day in hell when Jesse or Hailey actually show up to accept an award anymore hahahah). The ceremony took place in Vienna and I would like to share a little piece of what the man who presented the award said about J+H:

    There is a notable picture of the girl cleaning the mud off of her shoe with a small golden statue, so I'm sure this honor will fall on deaf ears but it's important that we remain on the right side of history and acknowledge J and H's importance to music. Everyone has a favorite lyric from their music and I would like to share mine. It deals with the turmoil of leadership, but from the point of view of the oppressed subjects, showing that not all situations are as simple as they appear for either party:

    “The grass is always greener on the other side, as it's watered with the wharfing blood of the idealist's tide, it's high time we washed the light out of each other's eyes, and cast out our pride, along with the guide. For he's no captain of mine, his bones in the hemoglobin brine, should forge a fine wine, if you'll pardon one's opine, sharpen up and get with the tines, it's a mutiny and it's all mine.”

    They could have very easily just have sung, "Heavy is the head that wears the crown" but that would not have been good enough. Or, in their case, original enough. It's not the story of typical rebellion or revolution, they have very clearly taken a contrary and otherwise obscure argument to the entire concept of tyranny vs anarchy. I'll give you a hint: they aren't using the word 'opine' as a verb. To attempt such a maneuver of language is not only a glimpse through the window of genius, but to do so over three chords simultaneously contradicting and complimenting each other proves that the young American organization exists in a phylum all their own, because just as they say, “Being human isn't good enough.” It has been a long time coming but now that they are finally eligible it is my honor and pleasure, on behalf of the International [redacted] Federation, to award J+H the [redacted] Award For Lifetime Achievement.



    So click the picture or link below and enjoy the juicy goodness that is the 2013 J+H Junket!



    NOTE: You will need software capable of reading .flac flies in order to listen to any of the audio. Jesse and Hailey have a very strict 'only lossless' policy so that's the only format I'm allowed to include.

    And NOTE: Unlike last year, both Hailey and Jesse have authorized this information to be made public. Neither proofread it (hahaha, imagine either of them actually reading what people think about them) but I had to submit a super-thorough spreadsheet of everything included. And I received written permission from Jason, Hailey, and Jesse to let last.fm users download a modified version so let's hurry before they change their minds!





    2013 J+H Junket (690 MB)






    And we're done now! That's the end of the list, thanks for reading! Instead of having it end really abruptly before the playlist link down there, I'm going to share two quick Hailey and Jesse quotes that I think are relevant to both the end of their music journalism careers and the revelation that they created [LP4].



    Jesse (as Scott), 2008 - “Failure is irrelevant when the results are self-evident.”

    Hailey, 2011 - “We're a band, not something important. Reverence is just an antiquated excuse for people to worship themselves through others. There's no honor in what we do, stop pretending like this is noble.”



    And, following tradition, here's the latest picture of Hailey or Jesse (depending on which last.fm page you're reading this from in this case). If it's Hailey, it's some pictures I took of her when we were in New York for a few days this fall. If it's Jesse, it's some pictures I took of him after the [Synth Soul Planets EP] show for a school project.

    J, circa 2013


    Thank you very much for reading. It took me many hours to edit, code, and put all this together and if you've read up to this point it means it was all worthwhile. I hope you follow us to the junket but if you don't: thanks for reading, it really means a lot to me!



    -Ashley ♥
    Public Relations Manager for J+H




    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (30 - 16 and Anticipated Releases)

    26. Dez. 2013, 7:45

    Albums of 2013




















    30 – 16











    30
    Tera Melos - X'ed Out


    This might be Tera Melos' best work yet. Do you even understand how incredible that might be?

    Let me paintcha a pictcha here. I listen to Melody 8 all the time. All the time. Working out, studying, writing, all the time. I didn't think it could get any better. WIthin five seconds of listening to Weird Circles, the damage was done. I can't go back. This, this right here, is their best work.

    A great band's greatest work, doesn't happen nearly often enough. I don't even think it's come close to happening this year, until now.

    It's more poppy without even being poppy, it's amazing. The harmonies aren't completely screwed up. The instrumentation still has that sharp, math-rock blade to it. The drum-work and production is absolutely nuts. This is what albums are supposed to be.

    Every song is completely necessary while still maintaining their own identities. They all have totally different structures and tonal shifts while still pumping out the same atmosphere.

    No, we're not even going to do this. Let me tell you, this thing isn't objectively perfect, but it is beyond objectively good. If there's a problem with this album, the listener brought in in themselves. This crap is way too competent to ever find an unarguable flaw in.

    Done. We're done. End of review. Don't even care. Go get this. In fact, maybe even buy it. Yeah, with money. Go to their bandcamp (getcha own link ya brats) and pick this up. It's like eight bucks. Listen to this. I don't even give a crap if you like this, doesn't matter. This is what albums are supposed to be.










    29
    Forest Swords - Engravings


    If this is 2013's answer to John Talabot's ƒin, we're in good shape.

    It's always nice when a dark/ambient musician actually knows something about melody, it makes for both an interesting and fun experience. Combined with the nice sense of rhythm they all are basically required to have, it hardly ever produces a bad record. Maybe not the most original, but never really worse than 'better than average'.

    This does some interesting things with horns and 'ethnic' instrumentation. Holy crap I hate using that word. The only super accurate frame of reference I have to compare it to is Talabot's last LP. Where that was more African in nature, this takes inspiration from the Middle East, but not going as far as to incorporate India as well. It's nice and, above all, not cliche.

    Just watch any film that even alludes to the Middle East, it's the exact same sound bite of an Arabian woman singing. This doesn't stoop to that, it actually incorporates some (minor) instrumentation from the region that you don't hear often enough. It's cool, thanks for not wasting all of our time with something we've heard before.

    Some of the song-structure utilizes a certainly 'glitchy-ness' to it, but it comes across as lazy production more than anything. Like Onward, I mean come on, at least try to make it work. This flaw doesn't pop up often but it certainly derails what the album has going for it.

    I think that if this cat collaborated with a proficient electric guitar player, he'd have something pretty special on his hands. He already takes advantage of the whole 'red versus blue' approach to composition and it works really well, but someone just laying down some insane counter-melody would be awesome. Oh man, like a saxophonist! Or a harpist! You better be taking notes, young man.

    This is pretty great. If he can make his next LP even better than this one, he'll have a real winner on his hands.










    28
    Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety


    This guy knows how structure a song like nobody's business. Holy crap, the choruses actually mean something when they arrive. Start clapping folks, it gets better.

    This is like baroque pop, it's amazing. This is what the 2010s is supposed to sound like, there's convention all over this but it's being twisted and skewed at every available opportunity. I don't even care if the choral and brass aspects are synthesized, the principal constantly bleeds through.

    There are about a hundred thousand ways that this could have been ruined but every cylinder just bangs away at a steady pace from start to finish at speeds that shame and embarrass. It doesn't bring anything new to the table but it combines what already exists to such an extent that he's about to break the genres he's bending. Wholly original.

    People act like Justin Timberlake is some great talent. This is the record he dreams of making, the one that everyone thinks he's already released. Nah man, this is where it's at. Add a vocoder over this and you could ween people off of Daft Punk's last LP.

    Song structure? Bulletproof. Instrumentation? Immaculate. Atmospheric? Thoroughly on form. Thematic value? Not even the least bit intelligence-insulting. We got a golden ticket here, people.

    It's by no means a life-shattering work that will define its era, but it is fantastic and should be given credit for that.










    27
    The Weeknd - Kiss Land


    Hey guys, I'm just going to establish my career on the basis of keeping my identity largely hidden from the public eye for artistic purposes. But, but, when my career gains some traction I'll probably just cash in. Yeah, exactly, just like everyone else.

    I give him a hard time but Tesfaye is actually a pretty decent musician. Personally, I enjoy his work (for the most part) and don't look down on those that do. If neo-R&B has to be one thing, I hope it's The Weeknd-esque.

    This is technically his first LP, the trilogy of mixtapes were, well, mixtapes. So did he save something special for his debut, a little juice in the reserves? I think so.

    It's a much more mature approach than his mixtapes. Don't get me wrong, his previous work is totally fine, but this is less bombastic and slightly more subdued. It's nice. He's a good producer too, but that's not really news to anyone.

    The subject matter is actually fine too, and I'll tell you why. It's very typical and cliche in regards to some sort of modern urbanization of morals but it's all approached with this weirdly subtle or unconscious twinge of regret. There are sides and shades to it, the actions might not be valorous but there is a conscious analysis or thought behind them. Yes, it might be a blatantly debaucherous affair, but it's acknowledged as being so, not dressed up as "we're young and life is fun". This guy is singing about sex and love, but you know he's also aware of Syria (or at least his lyrical narrative alludes to some for of alter-intelligence)(just humor me here)(because it's kind of hilarious to even think about).

    Instrumentally, I be diggin' this right here. The guy knows what he's doing. It's not trite or uninspired, it has a very genuine curvature to it. It adapts to the themes and lyrical content in a way that couldn't be called contrived. Rare, I know, especially for this genre. The song structure is completely acceptable, the instrumentation is varied enough to provide contrast but similar enough to ensure continuity.

    The 'required' Drake cameo dulls some of the impact the lead single offers, but I understand that you can't really have a Weeknd release without a Drake feature (though I dream of a world otherwise, believe me.

    Pick it up kiddos, for what it is it doesn't get much better.










    26
    Chelsea Wolfe - Pain Is Beauty


    Wolfe always has some worthwhile song structure, check this out for that aspect alone.

    'Doom-fok' is a very interesting genre and I really hope it starts to take off, though Wolfe is going to need to put out something much better than this if we're talking about kick-starting an entire genre. We don't have to be talking about that though, as this is largely good enough to stand on its own any day of the week.

    I has a very 1996-meets-2009 approach to it, which is fun! Her vocals are thoroughly inspired by contemporary standards but the compositions appears to be from a world that hadn't received Homogenic yet, which isn't always a bad thing.

    The percussion, entirely synthetic, is actually pretty effective as well, rare for a neo-digital release. This positive attribute bleeds into the other aspects of composition to such an extensive degree that this might even be her best work to date, and it's not like she was ever slacking off before.

    The dichotomies of it all really set this apart from most other records. Every song is a 'fast' song, every song is a 'slow' song. Every song is 'conventional', every song is 'experimental'. Every song is 'good', every song is 'great'.

    It is slightly repetative, in more of an atmosphere-building way. If I'm being honest, eh, sure, pick it up. It's pretty cool. She tends to release good work and this is arguably her best but it's still not quite as good as her potential alludes to.










    25
    Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus


    This is certainly most diggable.

    It's like dance music that doesn't totally suck. It like whittling Aphex Twin down for the kids, which, as it turns out, isn't the worst idea. This is like industrial-pop, which sounds absolutely wonderful.

    This is definitely a headphone album though (then again, aren't they all). You're not doing yourself much good if you just listen to this in the car or on a crappy stereo in your dad's garage. Seeing them live would be a suitable substitute, but then you actually have to be around other people. Gross.

    It's nice when a record like this isn't repetitive. This could have very easily just been a 'un-tss-un-tss-un-tss-un-tss' album but they opted for some interesting song structure instead, thank goodness. It's nice to actually hear some progression in electronic composition (not genre progression, but you take what you can get).

    And the instrumentation is nice too. The bass actually adds to the other stems, as opposed to bearing the full weight of the composition. Because we all know what that sounds like. A nice, simple little melody with little intricacies thrown underneath it. It definitely works.

    This is a hard one not to recommend. It doesn't take many risks but completely accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is highly admirable. One of the better albums of 2013 for sure, I guess the entire year hasn't been a waste after all.










    24
    Yuck - Glow & Behold


    This is very good, but it's not the kind of good you want. And trust me, you're completely entitled to think that way, for once.

    Here's the thing. Everyone likes their self-titled debut album. Everybody. It's a not a discussion point, it's self-evident. But, like before, here's the thing: that Yuck was fronted by Daniel Blumberg, who left the band to go focus on Hebronix. Which he's entitled to do, obviously, but retrospect won't shine very brightly on that.

    This is a great album, it's great. But it needs a very special and very rare kick-in-the-pants, the kind that, let's be honest, their debut was notable for.

    This has a flippin' awesome alt-gaze feel to it and it is insanely competent with the structures it builds...but...it needs...a kick...in...the pants.

    Sure, the tempos are up there and it feels really rock-y, but they're capable of some straight up nasty grit and gravel in their production that is sorely missed. Really, you should never fault an artist for trying something new or doing whatever they want in general (provided there's some valid artistic intent behind it) but Yuck had something really unique that still no one else has been able to replicate quite so well. It wasn't insanely original but boy was it well done.

    That's what separates this from me covering my agape mouth with my hands, "Oh no, this is too good" and me merely doing a Robert Deniro nod and muttering, "Great stuff, great stuff."

    This is a textbook example of doing everything right but failing to ignite the spark. Well, to be fair, the spark is ignited but that wick just won't light. They keep trying, rather honorably and respectably, but it just misses that reckless flammability that any great work has.

    It's almost a bit too nostalgia-y, but not overtly so. It's not as far as 'YEAH, THE LATE 1980S TO EARLY 1990S WERE THE BEST' but it certainly looks fondly upon the era. If it were another band, they'd probably ham it up and

    Yuck is still one of the best modern bands and this is a phenomenal effort for not only a band that lost their frontman but one making a sophomore LP. Holy crap, I'd applaud if I wasn't already saluting. Eager for round three.










    23
    Melorman - Waves


    You can probably guess what kind of music this is by simply looking at the cover. Thank goodness it's actually quite good, as in: really good.

    It's all very sparse and peaceful but in a very dynamic and engaging way. Some of it is really basic and generic while still maintaining a really interesting and worthwhile atmosphere. It's never boring, and that's really reassuring to the future of this subgenre.

    Albums of this nature usually lack an arc of sorts but this actually has a really cohesive and well-done flow to it, the tracklist meanders and snakes through some interesting moments, at its own pace of course.

    I swear to God though, I don't want to hear any of these tracks in some dumb indie-romantic comedy. They're very vulnerable compositions, which is great, but this means that they're ripe to be exploited. Don't get me wrong, they're fantastic atmospheric pieces and would fit many films just fine but it is a very fine line between 'appropriate accompaniment' and 'sentimental bullcrap'.

    It gets a bit repetitive with the drum work in certain sections though. When you're working with similar string and horn patters it makes a record cohesive but recycling percussion tends to just cause the songs to run over each other as opposed to bleeding into one another.

    What little you can hear of the female vocals is nice and really adds to the experience in a very un-cliche way, which is always nice. Normally one would just throw Rihanna wailing over some beats and call it a day, so it's nice to hear something a bit different and certainly more genuine.

    It's pretty nice, pick it up and listen to it while you study or ready. It's pleasant, in regards to ethos more than pathos, which is rare.










    22
    Willis Earl Beal - Nobody Knows


    This is so good it's infuriating.

    Beal gives me significant hope for the future. He is an exceptional lyricist, fantastic composer, and wonderful singer beyond belief. This is his first effort with clean production and he somehow managed to translate the charm from his lo-fi recordings to a deeper, more meaningful sound.

    The instrumentation is simply splendid, it's not too sparse to the point where you'd consider it a missed opportunity but it's not so overbearing that you'd think this was his first time in the studio. It's just enough, enough to leave you wanting more. Thumbs up, finally, people understand.

    The atmosphere on this is absolutely marvolous, because he obviously put some actual effort into what he wanted the final result to sound like instead of just 'seeing what happens'. Without getting incredibly stuffy and insufferable, it's very neo-gothic, which is incredibly intriguing when paired with soul. Seriously, this is top-tear stuff right here.

    The song structure makes me cry. I need to hug this man. He's doing the right things, all of the right things. They aren't right because I like them, they're right because they're objectively advancing a craft. This is what music is supposed to be. It doesn't need to sound like this but it needs to do what this does, or at least do something as well as this album does its thing.

    I can't say it any other way: bravo. Bravo. I sit here and complain and throw hissy fits all year, every year, because modern (1950-present) artists have no idea what they're doing. But every once in a while, three times a year maybe, we get someone who does. And it just makes life worth living, it really does. There's an actual point to this planet, we're getting somewhere.

    Occasionally, it becomes repetitious, but it's not ever cliche so we can look past that, slightly. The average tempo is pretty low, which is fine, but a few 'bang-tisk-bang-tisk-bang-tisk-bang-tisk-bang-tisk-shoo-do-do-do-do-do-do-do' tracks would be nice (those are scientific terms, people). But the man carries enough emotion to get any old heart pumpin'.

    This is great, fantastic, and all-around wonderful. I want to hear him get mad now. He's obviously crazy and intelligent, we just need that missile of frustration to explode on the next album and then the triumvirate will be complete. And it'll be over, he'll be the best. Electric, go electric. It's genuinely exciting to think about the possibilities! Whatever it is, he needs to do his own thing again and catch us off-guard, again. And the best part? It's totally possible!

    Look at this! An optimistic review! That's how good this is! For the love of it all, PICK THIS UP AND LISTEN TO IT!










    21
    Classixx - Hanging Gardens


    This guys can literally remix the crap out of a song, it's nice to finally get an album with their own name on it.

    Now in the incredibly decrepit world of modern EDM, you get really terrible music and pretty decent music. This, thankfully, is the latter. Groundbreaking? No, but at least it's good. That's what I tell myself, at least it's good. A bunch of idiots could be dancing to worse.

    Heck, the collaboraters on this aren't even insultingly stupid. Then again, almost anything Active Child touches is gold anyway. But really, EDM albums tend to have the most stupid combinations on them, it's refreshing to actually get one with respectable artists.

    The sign that an electronic album is good is if you can listen to it by yourself in a brightly lit room while doing mundane crap. My life is an epitomization of bright, mundane crap so this gets a passing mark. It has all these really funky basslines and genuine choruses, I think this is what people wanted the new Daft Punk LP to be, for better or worse.

    The whole nu-disco thing that seems to be happening now is still pretty adorable, but this is one of the better uses of the nu genre. Even the transitions between tracks are good. Which means they aren't focused on single tracks, which is good.

    This is pretty good and not even repetitive. They really put some time in on their composition, it's nice to hear. Then again, they've been active for years now so it's obvious that they actually put some effort into their debut. The "do you like bass-do you-do you like bass" is stupid but that's about the only defect.

    Good job guys, you did it. Now do it again in three years but better. Welcome to music.










    20
    Oneohtrix Point Never -
    R Plus Seven



    Oneohtrix Point Never is just the besssssssst...

    And really, it's about time the guy got signed to Warp, he's been shaping up to become one of the best electronic musicians of our time. This, his label debut, proves to be yet another fantastic piece of ammo in his already-lethal discography.

    The guy is just so snarky with his samples and it is nothing less than the freshest breath of air. He's self-aware to such a degree that everything is genuine.

    Seriously, if you aren't a student in the school of thought dictating that electronic musicians are the best contemporary composers, what are you even doing with your life? Honestly, it is so far past an objective reality at this point, it's self-evident.

    Post-modernism is the worst thing that's happened to the modern world and this album proves that point exactly. In a world of collages, it's a Pollock.

    This is what song structure is supposed to be. It's completely ignoring the last seventy or eighty years of 'rules' laid down to achieve listener impact and slides between movements when the song illustrates a necessity to do so. Welcome to music.

    Personally, I think I prefer Replica but this is the objectively superior album. It displays massive growth, competence, and command of form. Other artists need to take note, this is how massive the leap between your albums should be. Familiar, but an entirely different world.

    It's just brilliant, that's all there is to say. Honestly, I feel like I'm reviewing a symphonic composition from 1908. It's all over the place and it actually works, very well mind you. Someone knows exactly what they're doing and we should thank him for taking the time to do it.

    This is all really humorous to me. You're sitting there and you want me to write out all the great aspects of this album when, in reality, every aspect is great. It'd be a redundant waste of time to take your hands and assist you in dissecting this record when it's still alive. That's right, there isn't a fatal flaw. No need for an autopsy, because it's perfectly healthy.

    Really, listen to it, I don't care. It is absolutely not an accessible album by any stretch of the imagination, but that's certainly not a fault.

    For realsies though, this album makes me smile like a little kid eating pop rocks. It is just a ludicrous amount of fun.



    [Author's Note:] Every year we have to point out which records are our favorite of the past twelve months to prove that we don't have a subjective bias in naming the best albums objectively. And this is mine.

    This album is one of the most beautiful girls I've ever met. She isn't a perfect 10, knock-out, bombshell, but what fun would that be? She knows her way around the 'hood and can recite the Dewey Decimal System by heart. When she smiles it makes me smile and when she falls to tears I try to catch her through my own.

    She isn't the best album but she is her own album, and that's why I love her.











    19
    Rhye - Woman


    Yeah, this is going to make the cut.

    It's effectively neo-soul with an amazing electronic twist to it. But the worst thing of all is that it is impossibly competent. Yep, watch me not stop talking about it for the next few months.

    The song structure is wonderful, along with the general, minimal-esque composition and instrumentation. This is how horns are supposed to be done. They all weave in and around the vocals, double-helix style, both strengthening and punctuating the entire work. These guys know what they're doing.

    Vocally, it doesn't very a whole lot but it certainly excels at what it successfully attempts. The lyrics aren't as cringy as most releases in the genre tend to be, perhaps the slight ambiguity in meaning allow for this. I think contralto-based tones are somewhat underrrated and overlooked as well, so this thing is just checking off boxes in all the columns.

    Daft Punk need to listen to Last Dance. There's no Niles Rodgers, sure, but they captured something that the new DP LP may have slightly lacked: soul. Disco's all fine and good but it's just chart music if it doesn't have soul.

    This is really good for just a duo of artists. The bass is wonderful, guitarwork is great, synthwork is super fine, and the harmonies are great. This is one of very few releases this year that not only does nothing objectively wrong, but a few things objectively right.

    And it's only like thirty five minutes, nobody's time is getting wasted here. It'd be so cliche but throwing more random saxophone in here every so often would be amazing. But they went with strings instead, which is an original artistic choice, which we can do anything but fault them for. Applauding would be a good start actually.

    Somehow, despite of all the traits it displays on paper, it is one of the least pretentious albums of the year. Nothing is implied, they actually work to get a concept solidified before they move onto the next song. That is incredibly refreshing in this day and age of 'we'll just do it and see what happens'.

    This is technically a collaboration album, which makes it all the more impressive. I'm glad it happened this way, they actually lived up to the stupid hype that everyone put on them. You got lucky this time kids, that doesn't often happen.

    The percussion is pretty cool too, considering it's largely nonexistent. A ballsy choice (kiddies need the beats to know how they're supposed to feel). But it totally paid off.

    This is nice, get this for your boyfriend/girlfriend/drug dealer and you're going to be receiving some mad brownie points yo.










    18
    AlunaGeorge - Body Music


    This is the best, when a debut album is legitimately good. Totally untainted, how fantastic.

    It's like R&B meets trip-hop, and you know what? That's probably one of the most necessary genre combos in recent memory. Not only is it a good genre clash, it's effective.

    I'm really tired of typing the word 'competence' but 2013 has been lacking a great deal of it. Not this record though, it is incredibly self-aware. The production is nice and simple, matching the composition. She is a lovely vocalist and he is a super producer. This record basically has it all.

    It's so nice to hear a pop album that wants nothing to do with pop. The songs are catchy, but for the right reasons. You know, legitimately valuable melodies and all that. None of these tracks are ever going to be anyone's guilty pleasures, there is nothing that the listener should feel ashamed about. The songs are genuine and effective, which is rare for production this glossy.

    This one doesn't even get any faults or suggestions. It's not a "HO-LEE-CRAP" album but it is so far superior to not only what it should have been on paper but the average album in general. It's hardly pretentious at all, it feels like an honest effort from some honest artists. Worth more than a few spins.










    17
    Laura Mvula - Sing to the Moon


    Are you pieces of crap listening to this? This lady knows exactly what she's talking about.

    "Tried to write the perfect song for you/
    then I realized it didn't belong to me/
    it didn't belong to me."


    She just completely described what's wrong with every piece of crap songwriter we've had to review this year. This is a fantastic album, I like this girl. This is a debut album. What's the point in anyone else even making music this year? This girl has it figured out.

    This is like the Radiohead of peppy soul-jazz. It's absolutely lovely and incredibly heavy. The song structure is phenomenal. The lyrics are simple and not patronizing. The instrumentation makes me want to cry, because somebody finally gets it. They finally get it.

    This thing is all over the map in the best possible way. It is eclectic and eccentric but completely reigned in and very self-aware. And it's only fifty flippin' minutes. I swear to God, all you piece of crap musicians, what are you doing with your life if you haven't heard this album?

    This is what music is supposed to be. This is like mixing Steve Reich with Marvin Gaye. I'm not going to lie, I teared up when I first heard Green Garden. There really hasn't been much music this year that's worth more than the plastic case it's shipped in, it's just means so much to get an album this good this late in the year. I didn't think it was going to happen, I'll be honest.

    It's all so simple. Brutally simple, but it is so genuine and sincere it what it does. It's not even the least bit complacent. It carves out it's own place in the musical landscape, you can tell it really isn't content with resting on the shoulders of giants.

    Each song has such a radically different approach and structure and mood, but they all chip in and provide such a fulfilling atmosphere. This is what music is supposed to be. We can all debate over whether we like it or not, but not over its worth. It's not a conversation: this album matters.

    Again, don't get me wrong, it is brashly simple. Very basic. But, unlike everything else out there, it's not saying, "Let's just mess around and see what happens". I can imagine that she had this sound pretty much solidified in her head and wouldn't settle for anything else. It's wonderful.

    The the simple progression of the composition is enough to get excited about. The songs don't end how they start, with the middle resembling neither. Yet they all provide the same atmosphere. It's crazy and I love it. The girl's got a degree in composition and it shows.

    Lyrically, it is just barely good enough. It's not poetry to be writ to the very annals of space and time, but it does a more than adequate job of providing purpose to her vocals and supporting the thematic principals the album proposes. And those thematic principals are far from average, at least in the way they are presented. Some very tricky songwriting going on here, but it's not deceptive. A round of applause is due for that alone, not being lied to, no matter how much comfort it gives us, pretending like an artist is saying more than they are.

    I mean honestly, who produced this thing? It's wonderful. It's like a Disney album with a kick in the pants. It's quiet and loud and zany and somber and where did my pants go. I'm telling you, this is getting a check in every box. Heck, I need to draw some new boxes for this to check. It's nuts. I swear to God, if there was a flute or a french horn on this I'd never listen to anything else.

    Yeah, this is going to rank high come December, as it should. This is no masterpiece but it kicks the living crap out of everything else released this year. If this is what neo-soul sounds like in the 2010s, sign me up.










    16
    Volcano Choir - Repave


    Huge fan of indie music, huge fan. I've been listening to Boney Bear forever.

    To be fair, Justin Vernon has nothing less than a golden touch when it comes to collaborating. This is hands-down, much better than their debut effort. It doesn't quite hit Bon Iver levels of competency, but it's nothing to shake off.

    It's always nice when you get a mostly-acoustic album that actually has something interesting to say. This is done through unconventional song structures and eclectic instrumentation, and it does it rather well. The song durations stretch and pull the emotional effect but not so far as to break it, which is flippin' rare in this day and age of Wonderwallers.

    Not to discredit Collections of Colonies of Bees, but it's just really nice to hear Vernon's voice over something more aggressive than Bon Iver, Bon Iver but not as outlandish as his Kanye West collaborations. The songs all feel like they're beating the same horse but at least it's drinking.

    This is the record you should give to those high school kids that want to start a band. The compositions are really simple but they're not contrived at all. Sure, some of the assets are more than recycled but it's a mostly noble effort, so it's due some credit.

    I'm really excited to hear these songs on every other bullcrap 'indie' film trailer next year.





    Anticipated Releases




    There's a TON of incredible music coming out next year!

    But it's your lucky day, because we already have the inside scoop on EVERY single album coming out next year!

    That's right, all twenty five of them!


























    Hip-Hop Album That Exists Only To Make Money


    I'm only capable of understanding what is immediately evident to me so I'm going to copy what I think rappers are doing and pass it off for no other reason than to get as much 'pussy' (that's rap for 'vagina', whatever that means) as I can.

    I do not care in the slightest that I am perpetuating a radically inaccurate stereotype and passing it off as a genre. I am the reason white people think it's funny to say that rap music should have a 'c' in front of it. My bible is Fight for Your Right because I lack the mental capacity required to understand satire.

    Hip-hop is a raceless genre but I am dragging the Civil Rights Movement back at least a hundred years and loving every minute of it.











    Hip-Hop Album That Shamelessly Glorifies The Past


    I debate other people about what 'hip-hop' music actually is. You know, real hip-hop: black people in the nineties, but only the ones I've heard of. Hip-hop is supposed to be about gangsters, like 2Pac (who definitely wasn't an arts student). Hip-hop is supposed to be about the struggle. The struggle of the streets. The struggle of grammar. The struggle of holding onto a grudge about issues that were rectified before I was even born.

    If I don't recognize what drum-machine they're using, it's not hip-hop. If they don't wear the right clothes, it's not hip-hop. If they use any form of eloquence or a higher rhyming structure that I'm not used to, it's not hip-hop. If they do anything other than what has been done before, it's not hip-hop.

    You're not hip-hop, I'm hip-hop.












    Terrible Electronic Dance Album



    I am most likely in my twenties and have no recollection of even learning that decades before this one existed. I have no idea what rave culture was. Or disco. Or pretty much a ten year period everyone keeps calling 'the eighties'. Whatever.

    It's all about feeling good. We're alive. We're young. We have hormones. We have yet to realize that we're not going to get any smarter. We have lives. We don't really understand the concept that art is supposed to have a progression. Whatever man, if it feels good you need to do it. And nothing beats live music. This is our life. Our time. Parents just don't understand (I don't either but I can't let them know that).

    Party. Night life. Status update, tag your friends. Tell people where I am.

    People care about me and I get to vote.










    Minimalist Drivel


    No one really understands me. I'm mysterious and deep and mysterious. Mystical even. Otherworldly. Yeah, I like that, that'll be my band name. No, artist name, 'band' implies that I have to collaborate with other people.

    I've got some crappy software on my five thousand dollar computer my step-dad bought me to get closer to me but he just doesn't understand me: I'm an artist. None of the girls at school like me (well there is this one, but she's ugly). I'm so misunderstood.

    But I am an artist, I will perservere (or however you spell it). I'm going to press random keys on the keyboard that my mom got at Walmart because SHE'S A STUPID IDIOT AND DIDN'T GO TO GUITAR CENTER. But it's okay. I'll play these random keys really slowly. And really far apart, so no one can tell it has no melodic value whatsoever. But I need something for the spaces between. Oh, I know, I'll record the sound of the vent in the floor and play that under the keys.

    Oh yeah, this is great. Genius even. Too bad my bandcamp doesn't have any downloads. They just can't see my genius.

    Wait, one download. Wow, I'm actually happy, I can't believe...oh it's just my step-dad. Stupid idiot.












    Derivative 'Experimental' Album



    I took a picture of the ocean with instagram. It's kind of HD, so you know it's new but it's kind of crappy too, so you know it's unconventional.

    This is a collection of sounds that are not from this world. I am an experimental musician, which means that I play the same two dissonant chords for ten minutes. No one has explained modernism to me yet, so this is all really new to me (which by default makes me think it's new for you) and new always means experimental.

    I can't read sheet music but neither can Thom Yorke. I'm not exactly aware of the fact of just how much music I haven't listened to, but I know that the little I've heard sounds nothing like what I've done on this EP.

    What? No dude, there's only six. lol what a noob, there's no such thing as a 'seventh' cord. Get on the short bus dude. Why would they only put six outlets on the surge protecter then? Exactly.










    World-Music Album


    My music career wasn't really going anywhere until I saw a movie about Africa. I had an epiphany and it saved my life (music is my life).

    I can't really sing, but it's okay because neither can African people. No one in the whole country can. I don't know what a scale is, unless we're weighing organic fruit, so I really don't believe that they're actually playing music to a different set of tones. I'm just going to make it sound exotic.

    I think I'm English, but probably American. Either way, this is my way of making up for slavery. I'll take western song structures and just sort of jam 'foreign' elements into it. Young white girls majoring in english or literature or the arts will love it because it will give them an artificial sense of cultural awareness.

    I make music that is just as accurate as popular films, which is probably where it'll end up.










    The Exact Same World-Music Album Sung in a Language Other than English


    Well this is clearly something special. I've been writing about music for over forty years and have never heard anything as remarkable as this. It is honest, unforgiving, and hauntingly beautiful.

    I've had this column in the arts section of a prominent newpaper for the last fifteen years and have never reviewed anything from my own country that was as good as this. Because this is from another country, you see. It's brilliant for that reason. It is simply amazing, and hauntingly beautiful.

    All the suburban moms and failed thirty-year-old musicians must listen to this. I have been listening to music since I was just an ejaculate flying through the air in jazz club in the fifties. This will win every award imaginable. All of the awards. I will personally invent meaningless awards, along with my other friends in the press, to bloat this album's importance. It deserves it, an album this hauntingly beautiful.










    Radio-Pop Trash Album Fueled Solely By The Top Selling Song Of The Summer


    You can't deny it, it's catchy! It's a good song! It is!

    As soon as I heard it in the car on the way to work I was like, "Wow, so music isn't dead. Faith in humanity restored!" I downloaded it from iTunes that night and just jammed out all night! Dance like nobodies watching!

    I was out with the girls the next week and it came on the radio and we freaked out! FREAKED. OUT. It's all our favorite song! We just jammed all the way to the beach, didn't even care about all the hot guys looking at us like were crazy!

    My boyfriend, well EX-boyfriend now, doesn't like it though. He was wearing his stupid 'happy department or joy division' shirt or whatever and made some stupid idiot snide remark about Call Me Maybe filling the exact same cultural void that Blurred Lines does. What a stupid idiot, those songs came out LAST year. And they don't sound ANYTHING alike. So I dumped him. Well, technically, he jumped out of the car while it was moving, but I dumped HIM.

    Girl powerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!










    Radio-Pop Trash That People Refuse To Accept Is Trash


    Now hear me out. I normally listen to good music, like Arcade Fire and Death Cab for Cutie, on Spotify™ obviously. I understand complex music and have a wide range of taste. I was in band back in high school. I have good taste, and no I'm not talking about what I get off the McDonalds™ Dollar Menu™ before catching a show at the Pepsi™ Center™.

    This is actually good, don't let the glossy production fool you. The composition is mind-numbingly simple and contrived, but it's a new album and I have no attention span or memory whatsoever. This'll knock your socks right out of your Converse™. The hooks are catchy, the beats absolutely pop (especially if you're wearing your Beats by Dre™ like you should), and the music just takes you to a new world, just like United Airlines™.

    And despite the fact that I love American Idol™, this isn't like that. They really can sing on this, a whole new level of vocals. Forget the fact that it sounds exactly like everything else that's ever been released, which I usually listen to on my iPod™ Shuffle™, they have an amazing voice. The instrumentation sounds super good too. I'm tricked into thinking it's acoustic when it's actually heavily produced in a studio, owned by Sony™, and synthesized through crappy computers (brought to you by Dell™).

    Honestly, and I can't even believe I'm saying it (I'm going to lose all my Starbucks™ Indie Cred™): I really think that this album is going to take home a Grammy Award™. Yeah. Maybe even an Academy Award™ for Best Original Song™. Probably a Tony™ too. And those are how you know something is good. I mean, how else would you. Music theory? What, you mean like a guess?

    It's an amazing album and truly restores my faith in humanity, I definitely recommend it. Hop in your new Chevy™ Volt™ after you Google™ the location of the nearest Walmart™ SuperCenter™ and pick this up. It really is good, you can take my unbiased word for it.










    Crappy Indie Rock Album


    Nah man, none of that corporate garbage for us. I've heard over twelve albums in my life, I know, pick your jaw up off the floor, so you know I'm pretty knowledgeable. Well guess what, I have a band of my own and they say we're pretty good. Pretty great actually. Perfect even, that's what they say, about us.

    There are literally (LITERALLY) five hundred other albums released this year that sound exactly like ours, which sounds exactly like the five hundred released last year. But whatever man, it's all about expressing yourself.

    We're not like all those other bands though, now that you mention it. I mean we have a guitar, voice, bass, and drum, yeah, but the person playing our bass is a girl. That isn't like most bands, it means she has a vagina. Yeah, I saw it once. I think. I'm still a little confused as to how it works, but those are what I got into this for.

    But really, the only thing I understand less than a vagina is song structure, because what's to understand? Intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus, outro. None of that crap you hear on the radio.

    Yeah man, this is our time. Our era. A unique life, off the trail or whatever that Frost guy said. You should check out our Bandcamp, we're selling our new EP for $30 on there. You can get it cheaper at the show though. Oh, yeah, we'll be down at that crappy bar nobody likes. Yeah, you should come check it out, we'll even let you help us set up, or whatever.










    Lo-fi Ignorance


    Indie rock is for the plebeians. I am far too introverted for it as well. My name is Theodore and I play lo-fi songs on my father's guitar. It is made of oak. Lo-fi stands for low fidelity, which means a gross amount of grain and me whispering as quietly as I can into the microphone like I'm trying to cox a small mammal out of a culvert.

    I have determined that I posses above-average intelligence, but I wouldn't call myself a genius. You can though. I use larger-than-average vocabulary to make up for the fact that I have little to no diversity in my thematic elements or general atmosphere.

    I will mostly likely have two or twenty of my expressions (I don't use the word 'songs' as it implies a brutal recording industry mentality that I keep my children (another word for my expressions) sheltered from) featured in a small independent feature, or 'indie' feature. This will raise my profile much, much higher than it should be, due to the fact that the magic of the composition matching the visual image is due more credit to the director or editor of the film than to me.

    But hey, at least it insures me a twenty year career of touring and putting out the exact same album every two years. Also, please don't ask me to play the song that was featured in that Sundance™-winning film, I'm not a sellout.








    'Hardcore' Album with a Misconception of What 'Hardcore' Actually Is


    Everyone knows that taking something to the extreme can only be a good thing. Honestly, if Beethoven came back today, he would totally be into thrash and hardcore way more than the Beibers or the Spears or the Kardashians. What we are doing here has merit.

    See, I don't know if you caught this, but we're playing really loudly. That makes it good. But we're also playing really complex music, and that means it's better too. And lyrically, I'm alluding to works of fiction that already exist, as opposed to building a narrative or perspective of my own. Dude, I know, welcome to hardcore.

    That's the thing you have to realize about all this, there really is a lot going on under the surface. We use a double bass pedal, try to contain your sexual urges please. There is literally no point to worrying about any compositional, thematic, or cultural relevance to our work because we use a double bass pedal. Let me just say this again: double bass pedal.

    We're brave and adventurous and we spend every day of our lives drinking to cope with the fact that we make music for little girls. Other people don't like us just because we're too raw, man. We're too much for them, yeah, that's it.










    Person Who Really Shouldn't Have Made an Album


    I am clearly good at something in this world, martini please, that's why you know my name. And that's why you'll listen to my album. But the most fascinating part is that music isn't my native medium. But how hard can plowing two different fields be? Probably not patronizing to the artists in either medium at all.

    I'll call up my assistant, have her bring over some instruments. Call up my stylist, get me looking pretty. Call up a photographer or two and get some pics of me brooding in a cliche-looking studio somewhere, probably throw it up on Instagram™ for some of that Starbucks™ Indie-Cred™. Bada-bing, done, I make music now.

    I'll get really upset in interviews if someone wants to ask me something else about my career that doesn't pertain to my new hobby serious life commitment. I'm probably just romanticizing a juvenile idea of what being an artist in this capacity is, but whatever, it's not patronizing at all. Where is that martini?














    Overhyped Nonsense


    We are an army. This isn't a band, it's a movement. It's a revolution. This is important, and we can only thank God (the artist) that we were born into the epoch it occurs in.

    The next album, their third in five years (what a work ethic), will be the single greatest work of art ever brought to this world AND dimension. It will be the greatest work they have ever given us, simultaneously being exactly like their last record while also being nothing like it at all.

    It will be as good as it sounds in my head. I've already mapped out my reaction to this album. I will be live-tweeting, streaming, and podcasting my reactions and uploading them to the forums, my input will be etched into the columns of libraries built in their honor just years from now.

    The reckoning has come, this September on iTunes™.










    Soul Album That Squanders Its Potential


    A lot of people don't know this, but Marvin Gaye was an artist that couldn't stop innovating. He changed the game and bent genres with every new record. We honor his legacy today by recycling everything he already did.

    Singing falsetto over a piano? Is there any other way? Get me basses, upright ones. And horns. What? I don't know the names of any horns, I thought they were just called horns. And some babes on backing vocals. And make sure that every time I do a little hip move, they do it too. It's important, the whole thing falls apart without it.

    Regarding subject matter, Gaye was usually dealing with some heavy stuff like war, and sin, and nature. So what would be the equivalent in the twenty-first century? Probably gettin' dat pussssssaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy!












    Another Cancer-of-the-Earth Folk Album


    There is nothing more important to me than lyrics. Nothing. I can put up with a song if it has bad instrumentation but lyrical content and subject matter is paramount. This is why I listen to modern folk.

    The problem with older folk music is that they don't just say what they mean. They dance around the subject and meander too much. They aren't explicit. This is where modern folk has improved the genre. Love, God, these are hard themes to put into words, but I'm glad there is a wave of honorable musicians that are brave enough to tackle these subjects.

    Old folk doesn't say anything. It's all just an excuse to use adverbs. Modern folk takes a stand. It says something about the world we live in today. It says very specific things, never vague, about complex issues and concepts we all interact with on a daily basis.

    The musicians are clean, polite. They are respectable, with honor. The kind of people you could take home to your parents and not offend them. You can marry them, live out a dream with a white picket fence around that nice gray house. How life is supposed to be. They will literally never offend you, in any sense of the word. There is only one sense (to any word), I know because I understand the literature that is modern folk lyrics.

    They play their music with passion, that's the most important thing. This is REAL music. They play those three wonderful chords with so much energy, you simply must see them live. And the time signatures, oh it gives me chills, I even cried at how well the poetry of the lyrics syncs up with such complex drum patterns.

    It just makes me feel something. Not my brain, heavens no, something in my heart. Or my soul. God must exist. He has to. This music could never sound this good if God didn't exist. Forget the fact that it's comprised of nothing but familiar sounds that I've grown comfortable with because of the geographical location of my birth, this is proof of God. It is. Classical music is okay for studying or movies, but new folk music is for intelligent people.

    And the adorable outfits they wear, oh mercy.











    Band that Should Have Stopped a Decade Ago


    Yeah, okay, the last four albums weren't quite as good as that third one, but they weren't bad. No, they were still amazing actually, just not AS amazing. But this one, I know they've got something up their sleeve.

    Look, there's behind the scenes videos! And a special edition of the album! With bonus tracks! Dude, why would they do any of this if it wasn't a good album? You can only buy the special edition at Target™ but it has a different cover!

    Did you even go to Vevo™ to check out the single? It's good. It sounds kind of pop-ish but I like it. I've been a fan since the good old days, and I like it. You know, they're just artists having fun. It's nice, I'm happy for them! And I'm always game for some more songs from them, no matter what the quality! It's not like it affects the quality of their discography or anything!










    Comeback Album


    This better sound exactly like how they did when they broke up, otherwise they sold out. No, wait, this better sound new and different otherwise they sold out. No, wait...both of those better happen, otherwise they sold out.

    No man, you don't get it. I LOVED this band in high school. I macked on like thirty chicks senior year in my mustang to their first album. I played the second one for at least a month straight when I finally graduated. This third one better remind me of what life was like when I was younger.

    I just don't even think you can grasp the importance of nostalgia man. It's a good thing. Why else would the French come up with it? Only good thing they ever came up with. Dude, if this isn't a good album, I'm going to log onto my ex-wife's Amazon account and give this a one star. I'm serious. Okay, probably a two, just because I love the dudes, but not a three. I have principals, UNLIKE THE PRESIDENT.










    Dumb Film Score


    This is genius. This is absolutely mindblowing. The movie was amazing and this score matches it. The action, the adventure, it's all here, in the music. I won't admit how much the sappy romantic tracks expose my void existence, but this is easily the best movie music of all time.

    I've been watching films for a very long time, four years, longer than most people. I can't stand Hollywood and only love the classics. Fight Club, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises, you name it and I love it. I literally spent all the money I earned one summer seeing Inception twice every day for three months. I'm still not sure I understand it, it's that good.

    This is phenomenal. The strings are like, so emotional. But then the horn and drums come in and it's like, whoa, this is serious now. It's going down. But then the electronic things are like telling you, "Welcome, to the future, is NOW." And it's like, at least in the top ten best twists ever.

    But the music man. It's could not be less repetitive and generic. Just like movie trailer structure. But it just has all the elements there that tell me how to feel, just like I'm accustomed to feeling.

    It even reuses most of the same melodies and rhythms from the artist's other scores! Wow, genius!










    Stupid Nostalgic Rock Album


    Uh, let me know if I'm in the minority here, but does anyone else remember REAL music? Like with REAL instruments? We do, that's why we made this album. We want to keep the spirit of REAL music alive, despite all the opposition from the radio and internet (check out our Bandcamp for more).

    Our influences remain pure, none of this electronic rubbish or pop drivel. We're inspired by a ton of different artists like The Beatles, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. We even play guitars that are the same colors as theirs. And our drummer is just as good.

    They are the only band that ever made innovative music ever and the world has truly been in a cultural dark age since that despicable man acted so violently towards John, a man who never acted despicable or violent at all.

    We like to think that by playing music that is similar to what's already been conceived we're doing the world a favor. We do occasionally put our own spin on it, but not too much as to taint the holy blessing that is classic rock. We are making important music and it's important for us to regift what The Beatles and St. Cobain gave us.










    Out Of Touch Album By Twenty-Year-Olds/Fifty-Year-Olds



    We make most music these days and, despite the large generational gap, we're competing for the title of 'Most Incompetent'. Here's hoping we win, don't want to break the streak, especially since we're ahead!

    The only real requirement to make music is knowing how to play instruments and sing in key. That's literally all. Practice guitar for a few years, sing in the shower, upload your Garageband-quality tracks to bandcamp. Welcome to music.

    It's important for us to state our views on music and society in interviews and our music because we have such a firm grasp on music and how the world works. The nature of man too, can't forget that. We get kind of forgetful around here, like sometimes we don't remember that the penalty of not tuning or adjusting your levels before a show is death by quartering.

    You can like us on Facebook and follow us on whatever other social media sites happen to be relevant, that's where we post updates on the EP that still hasn't come out and probably won't because we spend so much time jacking off to our own media presence. But hey, that's one of the perks of being a musician!

















    Competent Folk Album


    There was a six month period in my life where I lived under a bridge under 32nd Street. My girlfriend stuck with me at the time, and we were happy together. Homeless but happy. I spent a lot of my time trying to provide what I could for her, because I'm a decent human being. I usually ate a little of the meals I could find for her before presenting them to her, because I am a complicated and three dimensional person. Just a bite though, enough to convince her not to offer me any of the meal. It was for her, I was merely the vessel. It wasn't for me.

    She got cold at night so I would wrap her up in the blanket (we had one) and I would take my acoustic guitar and try to sing her to sleep. The city noise was quieter at night but still a bit too atonal for her to find slumber. I could hear her stomach and she was pale, her face matching the snow on the frozen creek. I could see veins in her face. I tried to play her nice things but two of my strings were broken, forcing me to pay more attention to what I was singing than how I was singing. I had no choice but to try thinking of things that would make her happy or drift off to sleep. It was hard at first but I think we both got the hang of it.

    During the day I would play at the intersection of 34th and Dover while she slept in the blanket by the creek. 34th Street isn't on the main drag so there isn't as much traffic but it's closer to the business and arts districts so I figured I'd meet people both rich in wealth and personality, maybe they'd impart a bit of value of sorts into my life. But I met a man there today, he heard me playing, and wants me to record something at his studio. I told him that I'm not much of a musician and I need food more than a hobby. He offered me his loft on the North side of town.

    I was so excited. The blisters on my fingertips stung in the cold winter wind as I ran back to 32nd Street to tell her. We did it, we found a place, we count, we matter. I came back to the creek and I was alone. She was still and not in a way that any good news or slightly nibbled scraps would change. I watched a man about my age put her in a bag.

    Today is my second day in the loft and I'm struggling to grow comfortable in the warmth of a bed. There is food in the refrigerator and I can eat when I please. I don't like the choice, the hunt is gone. The purpose for the hunt is gone. I don't have a reason for much of anything any more. The loft is high above the steamy sewer covers, so high I can hardly see them from here. They look like nostrils, slowly breathing as the city sleeps. It reminds me of the warmth that'd come from placing my finger under her nose as she slept, making sure she was still alive. A lot of good that did.

    James, the man who gave me the loft and a chance to spare, left a machine here for me to record on. The first night I didn't touch it. It stared at me, one triangle eye and the other a red circle. The beast. Tonight though, I think I can tame it. The beast. With the words I tried to save her with. Maybe someone will listen. It's not for them though.










    Incredible Electronic Album That No One Listens To


    I learned how to read sheet music for the piano before I could walk. I was accepted into a prestigious music academy in Brussels before I started middle school. During my six years there on the campus I was exposed to a variety of genres and styles. My family was not a wealthy one, but the scholarships I won for my compositional work provided for my lodging and education, with some spare funding left for me to buy my first synthesizer.

    By the time I was seventeen I had a small corner in my room for my bed with the rest of the space being claimed by a collection of synths, drum machines, compressors, and controllers. The dean was constantly harassing me to get good grades, he said I was the best he'd ever seen in his lifetime. But I just couldn't tear myself away from the quiet hum and dim lights of my machinery. The piano is the source of a nearly limitless amount of tones, but these electronics are capable of birthing infinity into a reality.

    For my graduate's thesis I abandoned my piano, it wasn't capable of producing a heterophony to the standards I was willing to accept. I couldn't elaborate or expand on the timbre to the degree required to sustain a dynamic enough structure or support the countermelody in the fashion I had come to expect. The faculty weren't pleased at first but I graduated at the top of my class with too many honors to count.

    I was called the next musical genius. I was called an abomination. I went on talk shows. People threw paint on my car. I breathed new life into my medium. I ruined my medium. I became both the light and the dark. I made a difference, the difference being the fact that my album wasn't there, and then one day it was. And it changed things, for better and worse.

    I eagerly awaited the reactions of my countrymen. I flew back to the states with the hopes that I could tour the nation, maybe to earn a few dollars to record the next album. But I was not met with praise, or condemnation. No, it was far worse. They were indifferent.

    I wasn't the most handsome. I wasn't very talkative either. People said I wasn't really a real musician, I didn't play real instruments. Others said they couldn't dance to my works. My lyrics were simple, yes, but not simple enough. They said I was using auto-tune, I'm not even very sure what that is exactly.

    I don't think anyone heard my album. In America, where it counts. I spent my entire life making music, studying music, understanding music. To a mathematic and concrete degree. I understand exactly what it is that others say is wrong with my music, but I'm not sure why anyone would want to listen to what they suggest I do. It's not a matter of whether or not it's been done before, it's that they already have plenty of it. I tried to bring something new to the world.

    Sorry. Sorry for failing. It's my fault. Sorry to have bothered you.












    Promising Debut Album That No One Listens To, Ending a Career Before It Starts


    I've always really loved music but I just didn't like what was around me. I spent most of my time in high school in the band room playing the instruments in there. Over the years I learned how to play the drums and the guitar and the clarinet and now I'm trying the piano. I cried for a year when the guy I had a crush on asked me to go to prom with him but I had to tell him no because I can't handle big group events. I hope he understood, but I know he didn't. I haven't met one who does.

    I live by the beach but don't go out there as much as I would like to. There's always a lot of people out there when I want to play my guitar but I don't like playing in front of people. Well, I play at the coffee shop I work at sometimes but that's different. I put up posters and flyers for those and people come to see me. I don't like being the center of attention but performing is different, I feel appreciated. Accepted. It's a rare feeling, but I enjoy earning it.

    I worked on my first album for about six or seven years. It's really personal but you don't have to know me to like it. I've always had a lot of songs that I've written but I wanted to wait until I had about forty minutes of really good things before I made an album. I wanted people to feel something. I don't get to feel anything that often and I'd like to give anyone in the same boat a chance to escape that.

    Music isn't particularly fun to me, it's just something I do. I'd really like to do it for a living, but I'm not sure I could write enough good material as fast as people would want me to. I don't like to rush my work, I think it makes it stronger. I like to make sure it's good before people hear it, I want it to matter to them. It's more important that it matters to them than to me.

    I dropped my album off by the record label at the corner of the street. I just thought it was worth a shot. A few days later I got a call from the manager. He was crying. We signed a contract. He wanted me to do promotional work for the album but I wasn't comfortable with what they wanted me to wear. I didn't want to be on the cover of the album either. He said we wouldn't need to advertise something this good like that anyway. Which made me feel good. Appreciated. Like I mattered.

    The first week's sales weren't good. Critics gave it really good reviews though. I was getting emails all day, every day, for interview requests. I usually did most of them over the phone. They kept calling me the 'best blank since blank' and everything. It was all a bit much to be honest.

    The next few weeks, sales started to slip. This was around the time that publications were naming their choices for the best album of the year. I was on most of the lists. But still, the sales dropped.

    It became insulting when people on the internet commented on my pages and songs that I was a 'discovery' they made. Just something that was found. Somehow, they thought, that because I didn't put myself out there, that I didn't exist. I wasn't on the radio and I wasn't in the public view, so I didn't exist. I guess I forgot that people don't really take things into their own hands, they wait for you to be plopped into theirs.

    The other day a few publications named my album, my only album, the one that came out eight years ago, the best album of the decade. They said that the world was dumb for not listening to it when they could. They wanted to know when I was making the next one. It was confusing when they were depressed when I said I was done with music.

    Just because no one listened doesn't mean it wasn't good. I wasn't appreciated but don't make me into a sob story. It's not my loss.
















    Original Album That Advances The Artform


    I am the bane of Hailey and Jesse's existence.

    I am real. I exist. I really do. But the problem is that I exist in a universe that is truly delusional enough to determine artistic merit by subjective value alone.

    I am the unstoppable force that pushes you from your comfort zone, I am the immovable object that you smash into when you think you've painted me into a corner. I am much more than you're ever going to be able to handle.

    I am an endangered species. My extinction didn't begin last year, not last decade, or even last generation. My birthrate slowed to a trickle with the advent of post-modernism. World War II killed a great many, but art was the greatest loss of all.

    I am the truth that you slowly realize as you grow older and more aware: there is nothing classic about classic rock. It's a farce. Your entire culture is built on a ruse. You've sold yourselves what you've fooled yourselves into being. The cyclical nature of the rise and fall of empires will only be expedited until you finally cast aside emotion from logic: I exist.

    I am proof that democracy has no predetermined and inherent worth. Giving everyone an instrument was a wonderful notion, allowing them to record and distribute the sounds they make will prove to be my downfall. I cut you some slack, I loosened the chains, and you hanged yourselves with it.

    I am rare. There are usually about three of me released every year, in a sea of no less than two thousand records per year. Objectively, I will stand the test of time because I innovate in an un-emulatable way but this is all for naught because the world I was born into continues to propagate the notion that sound waves (an identifiable science) and geographical culture (an identifiable science) are subjective concepts. It takes a deeply irrational being to make art, but even they can't compete with the disturbed brain functionality of those that consume it.

    I am present, Hailey and Jesse have reviewed more than a handful of me. But they've never given me the top spot on their dumb list. And that's because I'm not easy. They can't endorse something that isn't one-size-fits-all. They can't take a stand and say "This is objectively superior to everything else released this year and it's a non-negotiable fact" because they believe in being 'polite' and 'non-confrontational'. Because people are unable to remove the artist from the art, the self from the situation. That's why I'm never at the top of the list, remember?

    I am not the best album of 1997, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 1998, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 1999, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2000, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2001, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2002, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2003, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2004, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2005, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2006, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2007, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2008, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2009, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2010, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2011, even though I was on the list.

    I am not the best album of 2012, even though I was on the list.

    I am certain that you assume that Hailey and Jesse would get tired of reviewing hundreds of albums every year, only to receive two or three of me at a time. Despite these odds, they continue to enjoy digging through the new releases every year in search of me, no matter how seldom my fruits appear. Because I am the reward, I make it all worthwhile. No matter how many surround me, my existence feeds their happiness to continue searching for me the next year.

    I am not the best album of 2013, and I wasn't on the list. Because I didn't exist.

    I am sorry, but not as much as they are.









    Dear All Eyeballs with the Misfortune of Finding Themselves Led Here,




    In 1997, Jason began posting our thoughts on both contemporary and culturally significant music releases on his website. For the last sixteen years, literally over seventy five percent of our lives, we've been blessed to have an outlet of expression and public interest regarding our thoughts on the audible works that humanity has produced thus far. As of today, we are dissolving that outlet, regardless of public interest.

    It should be of no surprise to anyone with two working cerebral hemispheres (with a few connections between we would assume) that the quality of our written music critiques has not only stagnated but taken a sharp decline in quality in the last five years. This is an objective fact, personal preference is completely irrelevant as it is biased and clouded by a preconceived 'authorial intent'. We have resorted to merely churning out the standard responses to every work released, regardless of real worth. Don't let the fact that most of the works of 2013 were standard at best interfere with this point, that's 'coincidental'.

    The truth of the matter is that we are both now of an age where we can not devote the same amount of time to analyzing records that we once could. We have both immersed ourselves in other creative outlets that not only take up more of our time but that we prioritize over merely dissecting others' work. Not to say that it isn't healthy to disassemble the building blocks that other creative-types attempt to assemble, but it is and always will be more important to discover what you are capable of building and work to complete a competent structure of your own, in as many outlets as possible so as not to grow complacent.

    Our work reviewing albums has begun to poison our souls and, in turn, the minds we bring to assemble works of our own. There are far too many releases a year (at least ninety percent of them) that are objectively inadequate and it is indulgent and delusional to attempt to believe otherwise. Throughout the years we have become less accommodating in our criticism of other artists and it has begun to leave ashy imprints on our bones, poisoning our personalities. Being unkind is not something that comes natural to either of us and has truly worn us down to broken husks, we don't expect our exodus from critical journalism to save us. Though we may be exiting a cruel and fiery chasm in a pitiful attempt at perseverance, we will always carry lungs black with ineloquence and our failure to convey the ideals of objective art into the written word. Our only hope is that those foolish enough to hold us dear in even the slightest capacity can overlook our brash customs that we have so savagely installed into our beings.

    This decision doesn't have a precedent. This isn't like in 2011 when we cut ourselves from full to part time. This isn't like 2009 when we retired from reviewing live music. This is it, we're done.

    It's impossible to state just how liberating this is for us, with no intention of self-indulgence. We actually get to listen to music that we want to, when we want to. If we want to listen to some Penderecki, we can. If we want to listen to some Marvin Gaye, we can. We don't have to wait and shoehorn a discography review into our schedules just to listen to what we personally like. A dearth of free time has suddenly evaporated into a very exciting era where we get to join our peers in indulging in the art we actually enjoy instead of punching the tired timecard in a factory of critical analysis.

    Unfortunately (for us), all of the other creative endeavors that our music journalism careers spawned into being will remain active until at 2016 at the latest, it is only our most senior and lasting entity (reviewing music) that is being oh-so-rightfully snuffed.

    We would like to thank the representatives from the record companies, labels, publishers, and distributors that worked with us since our inception, your cooperation was paramount in allowing us to tell our readers that most of the works you represented sucked. Specifically, we would like to thank a former executive from Warner Bros. Records for understanding what 'anonymous' means and passing the memo onto his friends, our average yearly output would have been minuscule without your understanding. In a very weird way, we would like to thank our detractors from the years 2001 to 2003, without you calling us "pretentious little shitheads" (your words, keep in mind) we probably wouldn't have ever actually pressed 'record' on that Roland BOSS BR-532 all those years ago (though it remains to be seen if that was actually a good decision). And most of all, we'd love to thank our enablers, the readers. Without you, there simply would have been no reason for writing. Thank you for giving us that first purpose, not all are so lucky to find one in all their lives.

    Now that it's over (it feels so amazing to even type that), let this be the final addendum, an epilogue, to our entire attempt at critiquing the art of sound. Objective art exists, as the years fall this is going to become increasingly obvious, especially as society becomes more introspective though the process of cataloging and archiving itself digitally. Personal preference to art remains true but subjective, proving it to be an inadequate system of measurement to abide by. The West are going to love their scales and the East are going to love theirs, both critiquing the others' attempt at organizing sound into 'pleasurable' tones. But again, there is an objective and inherent worth that all art possesses and the more mature the partaker and creator the more able they will become at identifying such value. There is a reason why 'Musical Work A' is truly superior to 'Musical Work B', whether or not the partaker prefers to indulge in one or the other is irrelevant. There are albums that we both personally love that are objectively inferior and albums we personally hate that are objectively superior. We realized this when we were seven or eight years old, anyone with even the slightest semblance of discipline can do the same with a bit of honest self-reflection. The day that humanity as a whole can accept the brutal truth that enjoyment of art is not indicative of worth and that time is not the sole criteria by which the cultural impact of a work can be judged will be a bright one indeed.

    We once heard a man say, "It's all here, none of it mine/ Now I've heard it all, but wasn't really listening." Maybe we've only just understood.

    Let the record show that we reviewed 6,427 contemporary albums, plus the countless records from discography reviews and those released before our time, from 1997 to 2013. And maybe six of them were good.

    From David Bowie's 'The Deram Anthology 1966-1968' to ProletR's 'Feeding the Lions EP'...what a heartbreaking waste of the short visit to the planet we've been given.

    This isn't 'until we meet again', this is farewell.

    We want to be nice.

    It's worth it.



    Yours in perpetuity-





    Hailey and Jesse


    November 20, 2013



    [Editor's Note:] I need to put on my PR hat for a moment and say some things, before any blatantly false rumors start.

    1. This does not mean that J+H is dissolving. That's set for 2016-2017, after their performance of the fifth album.

    2. There are many factors that I believe contributed to their decision to make 2013 their last year of music journalism:

    A. Both are on record since 2004 at the earliest as at least mentioning that they'd like to stop reviewing music. This is most likely due to wanting more time to devote to the band.

    B. Since 2009, they have let contracts expire without renewing them, most notably their live music ones.

    C. In 2011, their friends and families became aware of their music journalism, though only in a small scale. Jason has admitted that this was allowed because it gave them a way to force an exit strategy from their remaining contracts.

    D. 2013 was the first year, in the history of their reviews, that neither Jesse nor Hailey felt satisfied enough with any of the albums on their year end list. This lack of quality probably spurred them to finally call it quits.

    E. In July of 2013, both Hailey and Jesse commented on the disdain they had for their general demeanor and frame of mind. Both refused to see a psychiatrist and spent months in a noticeable depression, not rising out of it until a week before penning the letter above (I had to 'babysit' them this summer to make sure neither did anything irrational or dangerous). This is not an uncommon cycle for them to go through every third July (hopefully you're clear on my insinuations) but it mostly likely heavily motivated their decision.

    3. As of the time of writing this (December 26, 2013 for the last.fm versions), Hailey and Jesse are both physically and mentally healthy, so there is absolutely no reason that their well-being should be an issue of concern for anyone. And trust me, if it ever is, it's my fucking job to make sure you don't find out.

    On a personal note, I really do agree with their choice to quit. They are literally the two most optimistic, charitable, and kind-hearted people I know but their reviews have taken a very dark turn as music has become more 'objective' to them. I think they view this enterprise as a poison and I wouldn't go that far, because their writings have brought insight, entertainment, joy, and financial gain to those that otherwise wouldn't have any, but I must agree that they are not as fun to be around when they have to meet their quotas.

    So yeah, last.fm readers, I guess just wait until Sunday for your last edition and know that it will be the very last edition. Also, I'll have a surprise for you, which shouldn't be all that surprising hahaha.




    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (45 - 31 and In Memoriam)

    24. Dez. 2013, 10:36

    Albums of 2013




















    45 – 31











    45
    Kurt Vile -
    Wakin On A Pretty Daze



    Kurt Vile is perfect music for anyone you know who happens to be between the ages of eight and eighty-eight. With this album, his fifth, he has clearly proven that he is not to be trifled with in regards to song structure. The album is over one hour and ten minutes long, with the average song length probably reaching over six minutes, yet the entire experience flies by faster than the average pop pre-chorus.

    His guitarwork remains unobtrusive and humble, bouncing around all of the other instrumental work and only contributing when the composition begins to sag. It is an extremely competent record.

    It is a bit more experimental than Smoke Ring for My Halo, though maybe not as competent as that album. But the adventurism being displayed here is certainly admirable. Vile knows his strengths and is taking a stab at his weaknesses here, and it works for the most part.

    These aren't his strongest melodies but the song lengths somehow defy this fault and almost make up for it. They're very good atmospheric pieces, though not great background tracks. It's all very interesting but not in an intriguing way.

    Though it's not like Vile has lost his golden touch, any acoustic-equipped musician would kill to have their name on even the smallest excerpt of this material. The songs drag a bit, yes, but it's more of a duller shine as opposed to a non-existant one.

    You're not going to get a better bang for your buck than Smoke Ring for My Halo, but this is a good addition to any music collection.










    44
    Laurel Halo -
    Behind The Green Door



    Ah, my girl, my girl, come, come, sit down, it's been too long.

    At this point, with at least three solid releases in as many years, it's hard to conceive of a world where Halo isn't one of the most competent musicians on the planet. Everything she puts her hands on ends up not only radically different from her previous works but also, and most importantly, good.

    Again, it's another release that proves that electronic composers are the superior musical minds in the modern world. It all sounds so simple but if only it really were. It's very minimal, and just a tad repetitive, but as an atmospheric piece it's pretty bulletproof.

    Instrumentally, Laurel is jumping forward by leaps and bounds, expanding her sound to include some pretty flippin' wonderful chromatic percussion. Honestly, by the time she gets around to putting out another LP, it's probably going to be a game-changer.

    It's just really nice to not even be able to complain about anything, neither personally nor objectively. It's everything that needs to happen to music and it's actually happening. What a treat, now what do we say?

    *all together*

    Thhhhhaaaaaaaank yyyyyyyoooooouuuuuuuu.










    43
    Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni ba - Jama Ko


    This is flippin' awesome.

    The song structure is impeccable, it's borderline perfect even. It lacks any sort of obligation to meet, something that most modern Western music greatly suffers for. It's almost pure expression and I love it.

    Instrumentally, it's unreal. It's everything all at once, but it totally works. It's like quintuple helixes, eternally weaving in and out of each other, creating something genetically unique. I've heard more than the standard amount of 'Eastern' music but hardly any with this amount of sheer competence dripping from every note.

    It lacks an ego and that is so refreshing. It's probably because there isn't some Mali hype-train following him, and there is no Western Africa version of Pitchfork to jerk off on the pedestal they built for him. It's a record that just exists and that's awesome.

    It is objectively better than most of the music that's been released this year thus far. If you're one of those knuckle draggers that pays for music before you buy it, this is one record that won't give you buyer's remorse. It's an entire hour of unadulterated quality, so you'll probably listen to it twenty four times straight when you first pick it up.

    The orotund one has arrived, Captain.










    42
    Savages - Silence Yourself


    A few days behind on sleep, I sat down at the computadora and literally thought, "Fine, what's the next piece of crap to review?" And thank heavens this was it.

    Post-punk is a few decades past any sort of evolution but also happens to be one of the few genres not requiring it, as it's based entirely on introspection. Despite this, Savages first effort manages to put a different-enough spin on conventional tropes.

    The prominent bass is here, the crisp drums are here, the male/female vocal duets are here (yay!), and the lyrics point inward. It's all here, but it's mixed much deeper than most post-punk releases. Most have this nice crunch gain and grain to them, this is pretty smooth and sharp. It's a treat, let me tell you, a band that actually knows what they're doing.

    I think the vocal comparison to Geddy Lee is a bit unfounded, considering the whole, you know, gender thing. I hear the similarities sonically but the phonetics couldn't be more different. Instrumentally, it warms my heart it does. Every nail on every head. The guitar on Waiting for a Sign is just the best. And the all-around jazz of Marshal Dear? To die for.

    Structurally, these compositions are pretty solid. They're conventional enough to draw in a crowd and unique and fluid enough to get them to stick around.

    They could use a bit of evolution in their unique sound though, it's not quite enough to separate themselves from their peers. Don't get me wrong, they stand out with this record but they haven't earned the distance they're capable of yet.

    Check it out, keep your eye on them, I'm thinkin' they put out a pretty phenomenal sophomore effort in a year or two (hopefully the latter).

    [Author's Note:] Husbands is definitely Song of the Year material.










    41
    How to Destroy Angels - Welcome oblivion


    We live in a world where the new Nine Inch Nails album is worse than the How To Destroy Angels debut. Let that sink in for a second. Not that there's anything wrong with HTDA, but Nine Inch Nails?

    This has a super nice atmosphere to it without getting super annoying and cliche. They could have easily gone the dark'n'glitchy route and preached about the federal reserve and all that, but they went with some slightly vague introspection and it actually worked. Huh, go figure.

    The best tracks tend to be the ones already released last year on the An Omen EP but the 'subpar' efforts are ridiculously far off, so it's not like you get giant plateaus of quality then crap, quality then crap.

    And I for one really appreciate Mariqueen's vocals, I don't understand the complaints. She certainly sounds a billion times less try-hard than Trent these days. She doesn't snap into the American Idol show-stealing and she isn't stumbling through anything above mumble-core.

    It sounds like an interesting extension of their work on The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo scores, for better or worse. The lyrical content suits the spare composition rather well, and the general expanded song structure is more than welcome with the atmosphere they're trying to pump out.

    My name is Jesse so this is where I point out how cool it would have been to throw a tuba or trumpet under some of this. Oh yeah, that would have been cool. And some strings too, that would have actually worked. Sparingly, of course, but not out of the question. Really, there's not much that it does wrong, if anything, and doesn't really have any spine-crippling faults. Granted, it's not particularly earth-shattering but it does just fine.

    But let's just be honest: good basslines=good album.

    [Author's Note:] Hey look, it's an album that's over an hour long that I didn't give a bad review, mark it on the calendar.










    40
    Bibio - Silver Wilkinson


    YEP. YEP. WE HAVE CONFIRMATION. THE TARGET IS BEAUTIFUL AND WE HAVE A DIRECT HIT.

    This is Bibio's best work in quite some time. Holy crap, this is ace. For the love of God, don't let the plaid twentysomethings get ahold of this one.

    Instrumentally, it is so pure. The worst two words a human can utter in succession is 'real music' but this record definitely encroaches on the territory of objective worth.

    Vocally, it is so anti-ego I can't even stand up straight. The vocals aren't added over the composition, they're mixed in with it. Oh heck yeah. It is so unabrassive all the while being ever so imposing. Totally quality from the top to the bottom of the tracklist.

    Atmospherically, nothing even comes close, certainly not from any of the albums released by other artists so far this year. This is extraordinarily cohesive and coherent. The dialectics are second to none, blooming profusely between tracks.

    I adore releases that are this melodic with exceptionally minimal composition. It is a faultless approach: give them what they need, but only just. Like the bass on this album, dear Lord, it is so flippin' perfect. And most of the time it's only two alternating notes. On a standard rock release that would be lazy and contrived but in minimalism its entirely ethereal.

    Even when he lets some electronics meander around in his work, it still works all the way from a practical to a conceptional level. It's no Aphex Twin work, settling for something a bit more basic, but it works in the pieces phenomenally. The sampling is pretty neato too.

    À tout à l'heure is a bit too single-y for my taste though, it feels like it was thrown in there to bring up the average BPM as opposed to having anything before or after it justify its inclusion. Business Park erases it's errors though, allowing the record to end on a great note.

    Other than that slight mishap this is phenomenal, you owe it to yourself to check it out.










    39
    Sister Crayon - Cynic


    Sister Crayon is the best.

    This EP, not too hot-on-the-heels of Bellow further encapsulates the band in an unpoppable bubble of self-contained talent. They can't be touched.

    They continue to have the most groovy un-groovy songs around. The bass is totally fine but all the other instrumentation is trying to fracture it, in the best possible way. So yes, instrumentally, they're still top notch if not a little better.

    Vocally, Lopez is still all too wonderful. She nails the monotony but easily rises to more eccentric notes and conquers a very jagged range. It doesn't hurt that the lyrics aren't super stupid either.

    It's not like they took a very extreme detour from the sound of their last album but this EP does more than enough to excite partakers for their next LP effort.

    Being honest, Other alone is better than most full releases this year.










    38
    TOKiMONSTA - Half Shadows


    I have no idea what this chick thinks she's doing but our wedding is next month, if you're in town. We hope you can make it.

    She is pretty much single-handedly righting the wrongs of k-pop, and she's not even Korean. This isn't superficial, cripplingly synthetic, or depressingly derivative. It's not the most original electronic music the world but at least it's unique.

    This is like Flying Lotus meets Amaze 88, it's all kinds of niiiiiiice. There's this really dark atmosphere and tone to it, almost like an OFWGKTA release but with a slightly sharper blade to it. It's very apparent that the young lady cut her teeth in live shows.

    The sampling and production cuts are at least interesting, which is more than can be said about pretty much all modern electronic (thanks to Garageband and the death of crate diggers). I give her an album or two before she's pasting together some seriously inventive melodies out of nothing, heck, she's almost there already.

    This is so nice. These are the sort of electro-dance albums that need to be climbing their way up the charts, none of this Disclosure crap.

    I think she needs to slightly refine her sound a bit (a similar observation could be made about her previous album, though that admirably had a different sound than this one). By no means should she ever just start humping genre tropes but finding what makes a Tokimonsta record a Tokimonsta record should be a priority for LP3. Because she has the talent, the competency, and the general approach down, we just need to hear that unique twist. I've got faith in her, she's already almost there.

    This is one for both all points on the spectrum. It's by no means the number one album you need to listen to, but it really wouldn't hurt.

    Nice vocals though, especially for a dance album.










    37
    Wale - The Gifted


    The first track is called Curse of the Gifted, where Wale shows us that, while he obviously isn't humble, he is kind of talented.

    Let's just get this out of the way right now: this is an hour and ten minute hip-hop album, so it's not getting a superb review. But it should also be known that this is immensely better produced and composed than most hip-hop albums.

    I really walked into this just knowing that it would be absolutely terrible, I am so happy to be so wrong. This is some straight-up Marvin Gaye-lovin' hip-hop, which I am all about. This is infinitely better than the average 'too long' rap record. Finally.

    Soul-hop, let's get more of that. This album proves it works. The melodies are sharp, the rhythm is strong, the combination can't be topped. Granted, the kids these days (or any days) don't really approve of anything that doesn't condone their desire to hump anything they can, so it's not like this'll ever actually take off. But still, this is solid.

    This isn't one of those 'better than it should be' albums, this is objectively sound. The structure is battle-tested, the composition is a billion times less cliche than one would expect, there is some serious songwriting going on here.

    Lyrically, it's not even close to the stupidest thing in the world. It's totally fine even. It doesn't get misogynistic or trivial or just downright primitive, there are actual dimensions of emotional depth. I know right? This is actually pretty good!

    The sampling is also just as brilliant as it is terrible. The soul samples are totally amazingly awesome but throwing in Tears for Fears doesn't work at all, especially that song (all of you instantly know which I'm referring to). But, more often than not, the good makes up for the bad.

    It's no Shabazz Palaces but it would be nearly bulletproof if the duration wasn't so extended. Each song is beyond totally fine, there's just too many included on the record. It really begins to drag towards the beginning of the second half (which coincidentally contains some of the dumber subject matter) but it's not like the entire record is ruined because of it.

    It's sort of a tossup whether or not you should check it out, but you might as well if you have an hour of free time. Jerry Seinfeld is technically on it as well, so take from that what you will.

    [Author's Note:] I just want you to know that I struggled with every fiber of my being not to make an “EEEEEEEEEEVE!” joke.

    But honestly, I am physically addicted to LoveHate Thing. It's like finding a new Marvin Gaye song.


    [Author's Note:] For the love of all that is holy, the fact that a Wale record is this high up on this list is proof that this is the worst year in music in a decade or two.










    36
    Jacques Greene - On Your Side


    This barely qualifies but I'm glad it does, as it's another promising EP from the Montrealais house producer.

    He teams up with How to Dress Well on the title track and the result is rather good. Good enough that you're wondering why this guy hasn't put out an LP yet, even. The percussion is very nice and all of the other elements seem to bounce around it very well. It's a club track in only the loosest sense, at the composition wouldn't be completely out of place on an Active Child record.

    Faithful is quite cool too. It has a really, really competent neo-soul feel to it that doesn't fall victim to the same cliches other tracks like it do. The vocals aren't too flashy and it somehow manages to not only stand up but sprint on a very simplistic song structure that would be so easy to criticize for its repetitiveness if not for the brutal fact that it just plain works, marvelously too.

    We end on Quicksand and it proves to be a surprise, as it's actually pretty good too, meaning this is a rather faultless EP. Which is odd, especially considering there isn't even an LP anywhere on the horizon. It is free of any prominent lyrics, but the vocal samples used for atmosphere are very well done and add a familiar-yet-necessary tone to the record's conclusion.

    Definitely pick it up, it's a very concise and potent sampler to this guy's sound and provokes a sentiment you'll probably echo: where's the LP?











    35
    Vampire Weekend -
    Modern Vampires of the City



    This is the best album Vampire Weekend have ever made. But, when you break it all down, it's still just a Vampire Weekend album.

    Their albums used to be defined by the fact that about one third of the songs were phenomenal and the other half sucked crap through a bendy straw (technically speaking), it's very refreshing that this one sends that rainy cloud packing.

    But again, it's music for arts students. It's hardly a practical album in any context. What are you supposed to do with it? Listen while you're driving to the coffee shop? This is music for people that give a little much of a crap about coffee.

    Percussion-wise, they've always been great and continue to impress. I'm quite fond of artists that use non-percussion instruments to bear the brunt of the rhythmic duties.

    Lyrically, I've never had a problem with Ezra. He's a clever wittle guy but sometimes pretentious as balls, not so much the latter on this release though. And man, I really love the pitch altered vocals, takes me back to simpler times.

    It's nice enough to recommend but again, it's a Vampire Weekend album. What are you supposed to do with it? Keep it in your fedora so you can scoff at people that listen to Coldplay? I don't know, I don't get out much.

    But, if for nothing else, I'm really glad this album exists for the simple reason that it spawned this. Laughing at the shot of him adjusting the head is the reason for my existence.

    [Author's Note:] Son of a... I'm pretty sure Diane Young is one of the best songs of the year by a country mile.










    34
    Local Natives - Hummingbird


    These cats had a pretty cool debut album. They lost their bassist between LPs, though it doesn't seem to have crippled the band as this is a super little record. You know what, it was even worth the wait.

    This is what sophomore efforts are supposed to sound like, this is just a large helping of competence with a side of artistic integrity. The music is incredibly accessible but just as unique.

    Vocally, this is way too good. It reminds me of Robin Pecknold in some ways but not in any aspect that would suggest cheap imitation. It's nice and very finger-printy.

    Instrumentally, it's actually more than decent. Especially for an 'indie' record. They're playing with some interesting sound combinations, and while it'd be untrue to say that they're entirely original, the execution is certainly unique.

    There were so many moments where I literally said aloud, "Man, that was great" and was sincerely genuine about that excitement. That is beyond rare for a reviewer as jaded as I am.

    This is just pure quality, all the way through. Again, it's rare, but I'm going to personally endorse this record. I wouldn't go as far as labeling it 'objectively superior' or anything like that, but it is irrefutably one of the better albums released this year.

    There's not much to say. There's nothing of significance that holds it back, it's ultimately a supremely competent experience, and there is an ultimate lack of pandering to a modern audience. This is what it's supposed to be like, people.

    I suppose this is one of those reviews that can really only be ten paragraphs long. The album doesn't break convention and usher in a new age of music, but it's fantastic nonetheless.

    One of the rare times that an already great band tops their debut with a sophomore release that they can make an entire career out of.










    33
    Hebronix - Unreal


    Daniel Blumberg isn't in Yuck anymore!?!



    Look, I'm going to be honest: 2013 has been crap so far. The year's half over and the best albums of the year aren't really that good. If Yuck were to come out tomorrow, I can say with confidence that it'd be at the top of the list in December by a few miles.

    Blumberg has a very special touch to his work that...you're still looking at the gif, aren't you? Fine. I'll wait.











































    You done? Glad you could join us.


    Blumberg has a very special touch to his work that really lends itself to some objective value. He's very genuine with his work, neither the lyrics nor general composition feel very forced. His Oupa work really reinforces this notion. Slow, somber piano ballads are hard to pull off without a noticeably contrived twaaaaaaaang. But he did it, and you know what? I think he did it again.







    (I bet I'm really winning the kids over with these Don Knotts jokes)

    This is what I'm talking about when I want musicians to have some balls with their conventional music. Dan sets this fiesta off with a ten minute slow jam. That takes balls. "Put your catchy single first". That's what they tell you. Nuh-uh, not here.

    This guys is playing with some genuinely competent song structure throughout the entire record. None of this 'verse-chorus-verse' crap, he's changing the section based on what the atmosphere and tone call for. Again, you want a citation, you got one.

    He's a very self-aware singer, I like that. He knows his limits and only really pushes them to prove a point. He's an honest singer, it's nice. No American Idol winner (hyuck hyuck hyuck) but he'll do.

    Instrumentally, and therefor compositionally, it's a solo album. Not a band. So it's not quite as 'full' as the standard release, for better or worse. Usually drawing more from the former. It really does make one long for the good ol' Yuck days, but that's the past. Also known as nostalgia. Also known as gross. Also known as yuck. Whoa, full circle irony, how convenient.

    In terms of duration, it could be reigned in a touch. It's only forty five minutes or so, but each song averages about six or seven minutes. Whether or not they actually benefit from being that long, eh, it could use some reigning in.

    But hey, it's nice. Not only is it free from basic errors, it's even doing some things right! That's more than can be said about most releases this year. You listen to a song like Garden and it's like, "Holy sweet mother of God, somebody actually knows how to mix percussion stems."

    It's kind of scary, this guy insists on simply rebranding himself every release and still manages to change his sound competently through each new alias. I'm pretty sure he's definitely the first artist to ever do that ever. Hey, where's that blonde chick-I mean-yeah definitely check this out, top notch stuff from DanBloo. So good it's scary.






    But what would be really scary is if I tried to end on another Don Knotts picture.
































































    32
    Kavinsky - OutRun


    This is such a weird bastardization of cultures. Not a 'mixing', mind you.

    A French house DJ with a Russian name mixing Japanese arcade music with a 1980s American film soundtrack approach. It's like, at what point do you just stop accepting genuine innovation. I'm a huge proponent of hip-hop and remix culture, but you can't just cherry pick every little thing and call the final product your own.

    It's weird that I have to say this only now, as Kavinsky has been around for a long time but only just got around to putting out a debut album. For those of you that don't know, several(?) Kavinsky songs were featured in Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive film. No, not that song. Not the human bean one.

    It's interesting though, because he used to be an actor and has plenty of other filmmaking friends. So you can really hear the desire for any of these tracks to be used in a film. They're structured not unlike a score and each have a separate yet cohesive atmosphere. It works, it really does.

    But it's this weird sort of 'it works'. This isn't the same case that we had with Sebastian, which was a colorful, chop-and-paste playfulness. Nor is this completely original. It's half-sampled, half-composed, which is interesting. It both gives him too much credit and nowhere near enough. It's genuine but also contrived. It's a rough thing to work through.

    It's a concept album though, which is always more than welcome. It's a dumb concept that doesn't have any arc, but it works. Guy crashes his Ferrari Testarossa and then comes back to life in 2006 as a zombie DJ. Again, a dumb concept but it's better than no concept at all. There's not really a narrative through the songs that supports the concept (aside from Nightdrive, which very blatantly advances the 'plot' of the album in the best possible way) but the atmosphere supports it, at least mostly.

    It's fine, it's pretty good even. It's not the best 'electro' album of all time (maybe not even the best of this year) but it's worth a proportional amount of time to that of your acceptance of the genre. Or some other pretentious endorsement, I don't care, make one up for me.










    31
    Kool A.D. - 63


    Not that the 'previous' effort was bad, but 63 is much, much better than 19. This is the Kool A.D. we signed up for.

    Normally, the very last thing you want on an album is more than one producer but there's about a thousand on the typical Kool A.D. mixtape and it's always more of an attribute than a handicap. It gives a sense of eccentricity to the collection, it never really gets boring and certainly doesn't sacrifice substance for entertainment.

    It's not as zany as it's mixtape brothers but it's still super humorous while actually being good. It's obviously not a comedy record but it has some genuinely levitous moments spread out through what basically amount to be rather somber compositions. This really does sound like the most Madvillainy-y thing he's ever put out.

    This really is the record that most hip-hop artists think they're putting out. It shows that experimentalism doesn't have some weird obligation to insuring that the final result is 'dark' and 'mysterious'. There's more original sample work on this record than pretty much 90% of all hip-hop that's ever existed. That may sound like a bold claim but it's not like there haven't been a thousand stupid rap albums released every week for the past twenty years.

    This is just really good. Maybe not 51-tier but it's definitely one of the best releases of this year.

    Lyrically, he might even be improving. There's some genuine philosophy lurking under the surface of most of his prose, not there hasn't been before, but not to this level. And the featured artists are actually good and actually add to the atmosphere, that's rare.

    And seriously, let's just acknowledge Amaze 88 for a second. The guy is quickly working his way up the hip-hop production ranks. He's like a Madlib Jr., for better or worse. Here's hoping he gets more work, he actually deserves it.

    Pick it up, drop it down.





    In Memoriam


    The world endured some great loses this year, Thom Yorke's remaining credibility being one of them. But let's take a moment to reflect on the others we lost.


















    The Jonas Brothers

    2005 – 2013

    The Jonas Brothers are one of those bands that prove you're an idiot. Imagine getting bent out of shape about the fact that they represent(ed) modern pop music. It's all really trivial, right?

    They were a flavor of the month band, just like all the others. It's not worth losing your mind over, trust me. Just let it happen. Stop getting so worked up over 'the death of music' every five minutes, it really isn't a big deal.
























    Swedish House Mafia

    2008 – 2013

    Not really a loss here. Honestly, if you break it all down to the core, they really just made music for pornos. Even saying that they're a dime-a-dozen would be giving them too much credit.



















    Romanthony

    1967 – 2013

    I still strongly oppose the existence of Too Long but I'm not going to pretend like little me didn't spend many hours listening to his work on the track which opens that album.

    I wish he was a little more prolific but maybe that just adds to the charm.























    Chi Cheng

    1970 – 2013

    Crap, it's always the bassists, isn't it?

    Dang, this sucks. It could have been worse but it's certainly not a situation to celebrate, at least he's not living a sub-standard life anymore.




















    Sic Alps

    2006 – 2013

    Hey I got an idea, how about we take any band with even a sliver of promise and have them break up before they ever do anything substantial?

    It's so common that I don't even have time to cry.
























    Turntable.fm

    2011 – 2013

    Are you kidding? This is absolutely asinine.

    You're going to take what is arguably one of the most pure music outlets on the planet, close it down to monetize the model, and then try to get me to buy a shirt in memory of it?

    Piss off, this is so flippin' stupid. I can't believe you've done this.

    Don't even bother grieving over this, we're hangin' out over at plug.dj, pop on in and show us what you're listening to.

























    My Chemical Romance

    2001 – 2013

    WHEN I WAS.




    A YOUNG BOY.




    I am very concerned about the state of music now, as we've just lost yet another band for angsty fifteen-year-olds to listen to. I'm not going to act superior and act like we never covered I'm Not Okay, but I'm not going to act like I didn't feel like I needed to take a shower afterwords either.

    They were totally okay for what they were: music for deviantART.
























    Ray Manzarek

    1939 – 2013

    I know I make fun of high schoolers that like The Doors but, either for a millisecond or a lifetime, everyone is a high schooler that likes The Doors. I was. I still have my Doors shirt. I haven't worn it in years, but maybe someday when I'm feeling like I belong on Rodeo Drive (for whatever dumb reason), maybe I'll throw it on again.































    Mars Volta

    2001 – 2013

    I'm really handling all of these post-ATDI breakups really well.
























    Gauntlet Hair

    2010ish – 2013

    Let this be a lesson for you, kids: if you ever put energy into liking anything, it will die.



























    Donald Byrd

    1932 – 2013

    Life is like this really sucky party and all of your friends start leaving and for some reason you just can't get away from the punch bowl.






























    Trevor Bolder

    1950 – 2013

    Mmmmm. Feel that? Feel that sting? Yeah, at least you're feeling something. That's a good burn, let it sit.

































    Bobby Rogers

    1940 – 2013

    lol everyone I have ever loved is dead lol

































    Jim Hall

    1930 – 2013

    Go read Hailey's. She can give you more insight than I can.

    Man, 2013 really was just the worst.































    Lou Reed

    1942 – 2013

    You used to be able to tell how big of an idiot someone was based on what Lou Reed t-shirt they were wearing.

    A man who understood what battles were fighting, he will be missed.

































    Henri Dutilleux

    1916 – 2013

    If there were anything that could possibly be said about this, I would have said it here.
















    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (60 - 45 and Gig Report)

    22. Dez. 2013, 9:41

    Albums of 2013




















    60 – 46











    60
    Still Corners - Strange Pleasures


    I spent about an hour looking at this album cover, "This is a Joy Division reference. I need to somehow figure out how to ingest enough illegal substances that I can eliminate the massive positive bias from something so insignificant."

    Well I'm proud to say, after a metric ton of tea sweeteners, that this has earned an objectively favorable review.

    It is a very simple album, instrumentally, and it really twists its composition to take advantage of that. It's like Beach House, but entirely less pretentious. It's like Memoryhouse meets Beach House. Speaking of which, enough with the 'house'. Props on the name, Still Corners.

    Lo-fi dream pop is a really hard genre to screw up. Both of the standard tropes contradict each others in ways that produce something at least slightly unique every time. Granted, it is a pretty definite sound, but each artist puts a nice little twist on it that's hard not to appreciate. Because at least they care somewhat enough to differentiate themselves from their peers. I'm looking at you, 2010s guitar-rock bands.

    It doesn't have the most amazing atmosphere though. It sounds sort of similar to a Chromatics record but not as competent. Make no mistake though, the acoustic guitar instrumentation in this is a slight breath of fresh air. This album is by no means perfect but it's far from, "Oh another one of these then? Put on some tea Hailey, bring me ten or twenty packets'a'Splenda."

    This really is quite good. It's not insanely original, which is okay, but I can't exactly sing its praises long enough to qualify as a dissertation. If this came out a decade ago, I'd be all over. Proposing to it and starting a family, you know, the whole deal. But now? It's like looking at girls in their twenties when you're forty. Yeah, it's appealing, but dude, how are you even going to have a conversation?

    It's good, check it out. It's probably not this years best album of the sort, but it doesn't do its genre a disservice. You know, unlike pretty much everything else released this year.










    59
    His Electro Blue Voice -
    Ruthless Sperm



    Ew, what are those? Are those worms? Gross! I love it.

    So listen, this is a 'noise-rock-meets-post-punk' release, so it has some preconceived notions against it before you even bother listening to the songs. But let's not pretend that they're unwarranted.

    I would call this noise rock, and it's great. It's fun. But it tends to pull more out of that well than the post-punk one, which is fine, as long as you know that going in beforehand.

    But honestly, when this is good, it's amazing. Spit Dirt is one of my personal favorite songs that I've heard all year, same with The Path. Objectively, there are more than a few faults, but emotionally, holy cow, yes please, I'll take two scoops. Oh no, are those some krautrock sprinkles? You shouldn't have!

    If I've told you kids once, I've told you a thousand times: there is no point in even attempting a career in popular music if you can't compose competent basslines, this album proves it. The album is inherently worth something, and the bass notes give it objective value as a musical work.

    Are these cats from Italy, is that true? I can picture it, yeah. The whole thing has a very 'pissed-off-but-bouncy-Southern-European' vibe to it. Some grit in your Mediterranean salad, I like it. Douse it in asbestos and send you on your way: condoned.

    I think, in regards to competency, it's hard to beat. It's very aggressive but constantly keeps its audience in mind, so as not to become recklessly self-indulgent and apologetic, "You just don't GET IT, man." It has a very fun, if subtle, 1980s vibe to it. Almost early 1990s too, you can hear a little shoegaze in here. This is nice, there's experimentation without dilution.

    I'm just really proud of these kids and think we should all hug them.










    58
    Washed Out - Paracosm



    Ernest Saves Summer.

    Personally, Within and Without wasn't the best album of 2011 but it was definitely one of my favorites. And it's really nice to see that he's absolutely done a bang-up job and progressing his sound.

    The guy can write a melody, more often than not. When he misses, it's not so bad really but when he hits, it's hard. This, technically speaking, is his best work yet. And, considering his past releases, that means something. The songs aren't quite his best but the cohesion is top notch.

    Chillwave was almost one of those genres that never escaped the year it was created. It's hard to progress something so specific but Washed Out is one of the few artists that have given the genre some longevity. It's worth at least a small round of applause.

    Some of the songs, just in pure composition, meander and don't really go anywhere for far too long. They aren't ambient and they're not electro pop, but they try to be both, instead of just bein' supa chill brah. Not a huge complaint, but it is sort of a tenant of the genre to abide by the tenants of the genre.

    I'd still recommend WIthin and Without over this, only because of the general differences in compositional approach. It's not like this is bad, certainly not, but it's just doesn't hit certain standards he's hit before. But again, this is probably his best album.










    57
    Kool A.D. - 19


    When it comes to conventional-yet-experimental hip-hop, it's hard to beat Kool A.D. Because he's out of Das Racist (booooooooo), he's free to release a few mixtapes every year that don't need to conform to any of the standard genre tropes (yaaaaaaaaaay).

    This isn't as good as 51, that's just obvious. But it's not like it's bad or even average, the sheer off-the-wall value of this alone is worth the listen. It very frequently harkens back to the ol' Das Racist days of making a good song out of the most dull subject matter imaginable.

    Lyrically, I'm personally a fan. He's very blunt with his humor and he's always been advancing a better-than-average poetic meter. This release is far more satirical and comedic in nature but that doesn't change the fact that it's pretty honest.

    To be honest, I don't think most people are going to like this. But being even more honest, that's pretty irrelevant. The songs are competent and they are, in their own ways, experimental and unique. There aren't other hip-hop releases this year that sound like this and it would be difficult to recreate what you hear here. It's very individualistic and yet also made to be enjoyed by all, which is what music is supposed to be.

    The composition, as with most of his work, is so simple but not in an insulting way. It always builds up to a point, a happy medium, between 'too much' and 'not enough'. It's nice, in this decade, to get a rap release that isn't completely and utterly overproduced.

    There's about a thousand pop-culture references it could benefit from removing, but half of them are punchlines so take from it what you will. And you will take from it.

    [Author's Note:] “Girls love me because I act like Garfield (swag)” is easily my favorite lyric of the year.










    56
    Nosaj Thing - Home


    I don't know what to do anymore. I just threw up a few minutes ago and don't really know why. It feels like I just hugged a nuclear reactor, my eyes are kind of wobbly. I haven't slept since grade school and nothing is quite as funny as it used to be.

    Maybe it's me. I don't feel more cynical, jaded maybe, but not pessimistic. It just seems like I woke up one morning to find that everyone on the planet simultaneously lowered their standards. Maybe that's growing up, maybe that's what being in your twenties means, being lost in that land between the age when everything is great and new and accepting how terrible everything is by your mid-thirties. That tends to be when most people get married anyway.

    I just have a hard time understanding people, and it kind of hurts. I don't understand the fascination and desire to repeat everything. They keep telling me that originality isn't possible, but is that more of a defeatist mantra than a realistic one? Surely it can't be impossible to make something new, maybe extremely difficult but surely not impossible.

    It's just the same thing over and over. Wake up, review a few albums. It used to be fun, eons ago. But then it just hits you like a ton of bricks: no one really cares about anything. No one really cares. And those that do don't care for the attention. But that self-respect and dignity does nothing to stop the overwhelming wave of the most pathetic drivel that people call 'art' these days.

    It's all the same. Time signatures. Keys. Key changes. Arpeggios. Consonance. Dissonance. Beats per minute. Bass and treble, treble and bass. Basslines. Quarter notes. Melodies. Harmonies. General dialectics. Cover art. Production. Mixing levels. Mastering. Kilobits per second. Band names. Band photos. Interviews. Opinions. Style. Genre. Tone. Timbre. Subject matter. Prose. Assonance. I'll be honest, there's really only about three good albums every year. And even those aren't exactly amazing.

    Everyone just seems so content to just 'express themselves' the same exact way everyone else expresses themselves, and have the balls to still call themselves 'individuals'. A bunch of collective individuals, that's what we have right now. Shared opinions, mutual interests, bonds. And it's all just so much fun.

    You know, I really do think it's possible that a man can be an island. I really do. I think there can be bridges and cruises that take you to and from that island, but I really do think a man can be an island. I don't think they can be made one, but certainly some are born that way. But it's a world for continents, this one. An island has become something of a novelty, something for wealthy people to go look at and mess around on once every quarter. But again, what do they say, "It's got a one-of-a-kind view."

    I know there's still people out there, walking around between groups. Groups are hogging all the bandwidth though, or so it seems. An island eventually finds another island, never lasts though. Car wreck, suicide, the specifics aren't too important. At least they died an island.

    I don't know. What's the point. I'd suggest giving more islands guitars but it wouldn't change the fact that they're still hopelessly outnumbered thanks to the Internet and recording industry culture. On one hand, it's really depressing but on the other, no big loss.

    Whatever, it's all opinion. That's what they tell me. Grow up big and strong and you can have opinions of your own some day. Then, when you find that special someone, you both can have your opinions and not get anything done for the rest of your lives, save birthing another opinion spawner into the world. Nice house out in the country, white picket fence, a little opinion swinging on a tire swing out front. The stuff dreams are made of. And that, they assure me, is not an opinion.

    Enjoy it, it's all so much fun. Nothing's getting done, efficiency's been thrown out to dry, but have fun. It's all about you and fun. Time having fun isn't time wasted, no matter how slothfully it's spent. We're all in this together, let's have some fun. And after that we'll have dessert, because we've earned it.

    As long as you're having fun, that's what matters. Then, sometime down the line, when you're lying there on your deathbed and all your little opinions are staring at you and asking you if you enjoyed life, you can tell them with a clear conscious that you did, because it's not like you know any better. It's not like you ever pushed yourself or made yourself sick, because that wouldn't be fun.

    What's the point of putting yourself in a box, that's not fun. What's the point of biting off more than you can chew for the sole purpose of igniting a baptism by fire, that's not fun. What's the point in being uncomfortable, that's not fun. Why do anything if it's not fun. Life is supposed to be fun, to hell with getting anything done.

    If it makes you feel good, do it, because it's all just opinions. Repeat the same jokes and hokey inspirational quotes over and over and over again. Why not. Who knows, maybe you'll get your own talkshow, that's what audiences want, stuff they've heard before. Everyone wants to feel included. Don't challenge them. Don't talk down to them. No, you need to accommodate and exemplify them. Everyone, all of them. Trust me, they'll thank you for it. Exalt them.

    It's all about finding your own path, but don't go blazing your own. No, that takes work and remember that work isn't fun. Oh no, it's all about the stuff. Work is only what you do so you can get stuff. Because stuff is just the best. Stuff makes you who you are. The stuff you do and the stuff you like is how you get friends. Don't turn around and gaze inward, that's hard (not fun). It's all about the stuff. Press that button to like the stuff you like, so you know what people you should like. For the love of God, don't do anything you don't like.

    Hey, this sounds just like that other thing you like. Now you have two things to like! Whoa. But wait, look, there's another thing that sounds just like the other two things. It's practically identical! Three things to like! This is fun, I like art now. I hope it never changes, I wouldn't like that. Sell me things I like. Work (which isn't fun) exists solely to fund my purchases of things I like, to perpetuate my fun existence. I need to be sold things I like. I need like things to feel emotion. I need to be sold my emotion. I like opinions, they're fun. Might have a few of my own some day.



    You know, this really isn't a bad album at all, in fact it's quite good. I just feel really lightheaded and might vomit again before the amended 7:30 PM bedtime. Go pick this up, it's about as good as his last one (pretty good).



    [Editor's Note:] Let me explain where this probably came from.

    In July, I believe it's quite obvious that J+H put something out into the world, so he was probably feeling very anxious in the aftermath of that.

    Near the end of that month, he finally completed his 'self-aware' drummachine software, something he's been working on for longer than I've known him. He was contemplating whether or not he should release the code for free or keep it a secret, so he was probably feeling very stressed and anti-financial at this point.

    Just some context so you don't think he's any crazier than he already is.

    Though, I'm not going to lie, he did win two awards for this review. I don't know how he does it, but I'm glad he does. :)











    55
    Ulrich Schnauss -
    A Long Way to Fall



    Ulrich Schnauss, along with maybe Fennesz and Jon Hopkins, is one of those artists that has surpassed the pinacle of modern music. His work is so minimalistic yet posses such simplicity that they really lack fault. His large portfolio is such a deadly weapon and this release is yet another silver bullet in his gun.

    Schnauss is a man who understands song structure and how it must be constantly evolving to truly make an impact. That's a really rigid concept to try to persuade to adopt a fluid consistency, but he somehow manages to win the argument every time.

    When creating Euro-ambient, it is far too easy to fall into something very pretentious and self-indulgent. Schnauss yet again manages to avoid this and I believe it is due to the vocals. He tends to have the least-cliche electronic vocals accompany his compositions so it doesn't turn into one of those "we are all children of the stars" messages.

    This release in particular feels a bit more glitchy than his past albums, which is an interesting little curve to throw on the pitch. Because of this, I wouldn't say the overall mood and tone is a bright and optimistic one but a grey and realistic one. Not to say that it isn't a happy one, oh no, one listen to Like a Ghost in Your Own Life and you're going to be hugging everyone you come across.

    Getting back to tone, Schnauss has managed to take a very cliche feeling or emotion on paper and turn it into something irrevocably unique in execution. That really is an accomplishment, especially in this day and age.

    As for silver bullets in proverbial guns, this is yet another prime piece of evidence that electronic musicians truly are the superior composers of this era. It may be very simple composition, but it is nowhere near the drivel of boy meets girl, chord meets chord. It's pure emotion and lends itself well as something to be reacted to, not reacted for. It doesn't need to be defended, which is why we'll close with this: best album of the year so far, easy.










    54
    Foals - Holy Fire


    Foals are easily one of the absolute best bands making music today.

    Though I'm more of an Antidotes kind of guy than a Total Life Forever one, it is safe to say that the band has a bulletproof discography. This album reaffirms the notion.

    The band's guitar work continues to be both the most simple instrumentation and some of the most unique in the modern era. It's very technical and 'plucky', instead of resorting to indulgent solos every five seconds. It is a most welcome departure from the norm. It's like cyber-surf rock, there's no such thing as too much of that.

    Vocally, it's not as crazy-fun as Antidotes but it works. It's a little more generic than it should be, but far from radio-pop land so it's nothing to worry about. Philippakis still has a nice enough voice to do whatever he wants to and there's a significant chance it'll work. In conjunction with the guitarwork, it continues to create a killer experience.

    I guess it's kind of hard to write about Foals. This is par for the course for them, but that only means it's absolutely fantastic. They didn't have any immaturity to grow from, crude instrumentation to learn from, or cliche habits to break. They've always been pretty phenomenal and continue to be so.

    Even though they have a very distinct 'sound', the record isn't repetitive. To be fair, there aren't many pop-math rock bands to dull and fade the genre (yet?) so they can get away with murder in a way. They've got a playground of a sonic landscape to explore where there aren't many missteps.

    Late Night is a great example of how their song structure has evolved though, stair-stepping the elements for a great building effect. It's one of the older tricks in the book, but not too many even read that page.

    I would strongly listening to their discography in chronological order, but this record definitely earns a strong recommendation.










    53
    Gauntlet Hair - Stills


    They put out my favorite album of 2011 and have returned to shake up the already-unstable genre borders their sound occupies.

    The sound is less guitar-driven and the vocals are about fifty octaves lower than their last record. The whole thing is a bit more 'adult contemporary' than their last effort, at at least as much as it could be. The typical Gauntlet Hair approach mixes with this new genre endeavor in really interesting ways, especially regarding song structure. The structure is all there, but not immediately apparent, which is a huge plus.

    The whole atmosphere really should anger anyone who liked their debut album but it's just so hard to hate such a competent change in direction. They really did fix their bass too, which wasn't even a problem. Everything has been very subtly tweaked and improved between releases, which is exactly what should happen. It's really difficult to pick out the faults it has.

    Maybe it doesn't reach some of the heights that the last record did, but it hits deeper lows, which is a fair compromise. The instrumentation is more diverse as well. Gauntlet Hair was more of an exercise in screaming youthfulness, this is a bit more somber, which is fine. I won't go see it live, like I did the last record, but that doesn't mean it isn't nearly as good. The songs have more variety, it's not like this is worse. In fact, I'd argue that the first record had better songs, the second is a better album.

    There's not much to say, they're still a super unique outfit. The album is only half an hour long, doesn't overstay it's welcome, and doesn't sound like anything else released this year. Not to mention the fact that it's at least pretty good. Personally, I prefer the first record but this one is objectively better.










    52
    Foxygen - We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic


    I'm just sitting here, wondering why this isn't a bigger deal.

    Have you guys even heard In The Darkness? What even is my life.

    This album is what indie was supposed to be. Yes, it invokes many sounds from the past but it's still largely experimental and unhinged. A lot of it sounds like a crappy knock-off soundtrack for a Wes Anderson film but it almost entirely escapes how stupid that would sound.

    There are some very obvious Mick Jagger vocal comparisons that one could make, but they're entirely self-evident so what's the point in discussing them.

    This is music for stupid people who actually think that REEEEAAAAAAAALLLLL music is dead and the worst part is that it's actually good. The song structure is impeccable and the instrumentation is very diverse, so classic rock fans might feel a bit lost in that regard but stay for the familiar atmospherics.

    It all feels very try-hard but again some how manages to escape criticism through its competency. This is their first LP so some things can be overlooked but if they trying pulling some of this crap on any future releases we'll have to hold their feet to the fire a bit.

    Listen to it, it's fine. Give it to your girlfriend, I don't care. Just get off my lawn.










    51
    Inc. - no world


    Oh...snap...this is, uh...well...uh, this is actually pretty good. I, uh...wow.

    It's all very, very simple. But, and this is rare, that's a great thing. It doesn't take many risks, this is true, but holy crap does it have an exceptional batting average because of it. Every track is totally fine, good even.

    Repetitive? Yes, absolutely. But, not terribly so. It's not an atmospheric piece (pffffftttt, get out of my house) but it all really works rather well.

    Guys! You know what would make this amazing? Saxophones. Holy crap. And some flippin' rhythm guitar! I'm not saying that I should have produced this album but...who produced this album?

    It has this really cool 'Los Angeles might actually matter' vibe to it, which is, uh, incredibly difficult to actually pull off without looking like a massive douche. These are people that understand that California actually doesn't have any water and that scares them. You know, not sub-human scum (a.k.a. most Californians).

    It's great, though, given the choice, you really should listen to the new Classixx LP. It does everything this album does, but a hundred billion times better. Not that there's anything wrong with this album, nope, nothing at all. Straight up groovy, babe.



    [Editor's Note:] hahahahahaha SHUT UP

    (I'm from San Diego and he gives me shit about it every chance he gets haha)











    50
    These New Puritans -
    Field of Reeds



    Talk about subtle, holy cow.

    Let's get the obvious out of the way: the instrumentation is sublime. Beyond good, great, and even stupendous. No problems there.

    Problem number one, go to their last.fm page. Look at those tags.

    ...this ain't no post-punk I ever heard. And I have quite possibly heard all of it. 'Art rock'? Oh for sure, but not post-punk. Nuh-uh.

    Let's talk about the pacing, because it's going to throw more than a few people off. it's slow. Really slow. But it's not repetitive and it's quite competent to be honest. It's just a really slow burn. It's not a series of quick explosions, it's like putting a cigarette butt against your wrist. It's completely wrong but oh so right.

    Though, I'll be perfectly honest, what is this record attempting to do that Wild Beast's Smother didn't already accomplish. This is much more subdued than even that album, but the general ideas aren't expressed as effectively. Just go check out Smother, not like I don't say that every five minutes anyway.

    But this album is good too, it really is. It's like a miniature little art symphony. It's hard to recommend with such a lowbeat tone but hey, you might(?) like it.










    49
    HAIM - Days Are Gone


    On paper, this review should really just write itself. A band of twentysomething sisters releases a debut album inspired by Fleetwood Mac. But then they had to actually go and make it unique and good with a hard bias for R&B as well.

    This is how genre mashups are supposed to work. It very competently pulls from its inspirations and combines them in a very unique and organic way. It doesn't feel like a genre exercise, and that should be appreciated.

    There's a very distinct understanding from the sisters Haim about what their songs actually are. There's foresight just oozing out of this. Every track is about four minutes long, accomplishes something different from the others but also maintains and pushes an overall record identity, breeding cohesion. I have to say, it's thorough.

    Anyone with half a brain is going to hear the Eagles (specifically Joe Walsh) influence on this, and for once it's not incredibly trite and condescending to the listener. It's got that overtly-romanticized, rose-colored-California vibe to it and it actually works because they don't spend forty minutes talking about banal and stupid crap.

    It also doesn't have a single shred of 'GIRRRRRRRL POWWWWWWEEERRRRR!' to it and benefits immensely from the lack of distinct gender boundaries. It's respectful to the listener, never pulling the rug out from under you and replacing it with a soapbox. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with a feminist work, it just needs to be consensual and honest.

    Let's be honest though, this thing draaaaaags like nobodies business. Holy cow, it's a great atmosphere piece but you'd have to be utterly delusional to think it isn't at least a little repetitive. It doesn't go as far as overstaying its welcome but it certainly isn't the least bit brevitous. The decent variety of instrumentation definitely helps but only so much.

    It is a superb little debut album, with enough of a spark to excite any and all for the inevitable sophomore effort.










    48
    µ-Ziq - Chewed Corners


    Man, I could really go for a new Aphex Twin LP right about now.

    This is pretty good, it really is. µ-Ziq, in my opinion, has always struggled with not getting the recognition he deserves. But he may not have that problem again as there are few electronic records better than this one this year.

    Despite all his knob twiddling with Richard, I don't feel like this is particularly innovative, especially compared to he previous works. It sounds exactly like what you'd expect an ambient/'IDM' album to sound like. Obviously that sounds really nice, but it's always a bit more fun to get something unexpected. And in 2013, the only way to deliver outside of expectation is innovation.

    This would have been really good if it was released a decade ago. Wait, when was Drukqs released? Ah, 2001, that's right. So this would have been really good if it was released two decades ago. I don't even know, as good as this is, if it's as good as the latest Squarepusher effort.

    The problem is that I can't give a great review to any album still trying to use a certain 808 effect, you know which one I'm talking about. Crappy rap albums still use it all the time but I'd expect better from Paradinas. It's filler, it can't honestly be the best sound for an artist to use.

    It may appear as if I'm giving this a really rough time but I just expect more from a µ-Ziq release. This is a perfectly fine album, it's really good, but it lacks a complete kick in the pants that all his other works have. Other than that though, it is beyond dandy (especially the piano-driven tracks and The Alan Parsons Project tribute song).










    47
    The Field - Cupid's Head


    This isn't the typical approach The Field takes and, though it wasn't broken or tired before, it works marvelously.

    It all feels a bit more convectionally based, which is not the most insanely original approach but it's certainly not cliche at all, it takes way too much work for it to be trite just yet.

    As with all this work, it is an entirely atmospheric piece and it works rather well. It's nice to get an album of 'background' music (with emphasis on the inverted commas) that isn't over an hour long as well.

    I think the title of his last work, Looping State of Mind, is a pretty apt description of what the appeal of his work actually is. If you're sitting down to 'listen to some music', it's going to be rather lackluster, because it's not really designed to advance as strongly as the average 4-5 minute song. Instead, it exploits a 'catchy' pattern of loops and repeats it for about ten minutes, which sounds like a great technique to utilize at Guantanamo Bay but it's actually a really enjoyable listen, always is.

    It's background music in the best possible way, there's competency and complacency behind it and that's all you really need in such a scenario. Listen to it while you read long Wikipedia articles, it works.

    Though I think it'd be fun, just as experiment, if he put together a 'collage' album where he's only allowed to use loops for about two minutes and then has to refresh them. I'm not saying what he does is bad, quite the contrary actually, but I get the sneaking suspicion that he might be selling himself a bit sort in regards to his own abilities.

    It's quite good and an improvement over his already-good last LP.










    46
    Danny Brown - Old


    It's nice to hear a hip-hop album that's actually attempting to be a hip-hop album and not just another blatant 'let's sell pop to white kids who want to be black' collection of radio singles.

    It's not particularly mind-blowing, but it's competent enough to hold it's own. It's an hour long, which still isn't okay, but it doesn't completely muddy its own waters. At least not often.

    On one hand, this is amazing. Wonderbread never ceases to blow my mind in the most magical way possible. I love that we live in a universe where this song exists. And the production on most of the tracks is great, unique, and not completely self-indulgent. It has a leg-up on most other albums in its genre.

    But on the other hand, it really is a bit too much too often. I love the fact that they're all super-quick two minute songs that just fire at you like a Gatling gun, but they never take a second to reload and it overheats. All they had to do was cut maybe three songs tops and it would be so much more cohesive and coherent. We'd really be cooking then.

    Lyrically, ehhhhhh, it's fine. We're not getting any crazy stream-of-consciousness madness but it's not like it's just, "Yeah, uh, uh, yeah, sex, yeah, uh, yeah, uh, girls too, yeah, uh, uh, yeah, money, awww yeah, uh, uh." Brown as some fun and/or interesting little tidbits and limericks about Detroit and it's nice.

    The variation-but-familiarity between each tracks instrumentation is nice as well. It's all quite obviously built for this album but each song has it's own little soul (or lack thereof, when it's appropriate) and it feels more like a room full of characters from the same family than just variations on the same song structure, over and over for an hour.

    It's fun, it's unique, and it has artistic perspective. There's a vanishing point here, that's a big deal. It's definitely worth at least a dozen listens.










    Shows of 2012


    There are fewer things in this world that I hate more than concerts, but here's how some of the few I attended this year went.









    Most Average Gig of 2013
    Fleetwood Mac -
    Pepsi Center -
    June 1, 2013






    Finally, some real music.



    Say it with me, on three.

    One!

    Two!

    Three!

    Circle-jerk!

    Not to the extent I thought it would be, but the sentiment remains.



    I'm not going to lie: it's really hard for me to go to a 'classic rock' concert without having contempt for everyone there. The baby boomer generation simply refuses to stop celebrating itself until the last of them exhales for the final time, which won't happen for a few more decades at least. And when they go, they won't take all of mankind's self-righteousness to the grave with them but they'll certainly remove a good chunk.

    I like Fleetwood Mac, I do. I got a little pissed off one time when someone compared something Hailey and I did to Fleetwood Mac but I've gotten over that for the most part. I genuinely enjoy covering some of their material as well, which isn't something I can say about most other artists.



    We arrived in our seats a few minutes before the show and some guy totally ate it, tripping on one of the seats and soaking three rows of people with his cheap-yet-overpriced beer. This proved to be the most exciting moment of the evening, thanks to the troglodytes in charge of the Pepsi Center sound systems.

    I swear to God, I may have never been to a show where any and every channel was more washed out than the one before it. I couldn't understand a Godforsaken word that any members of the band were saying or singing. And I'm not making a 'Stevie Nicks is a goat' joke either (don't be talking crap about Lykke Li's mom). It ruined the entire show, blending all the flippin' sounds into some bullcrap funnel just so it all sounded loud.

    No, seriously, it's very upsetting. The bass was crap, the drums were way too loud, and the vocals were just all over the place. The band did just fine but you wouldn't know as the entire experience was like listening to someone replace amps with standard iPod headphones.

    Plus, I'm not sure Fleetwood Mac understand their material anymore. Rhiannon isn't supposed to be some giant soaring anthem like we're a bunch of piece-of-crap 1980s hard rock fans. And they did some really odd things to the structures of their work, over-exaggerating their intros and totally downplaying the outros, which really didn't give the songs punch they require.



    And please, for the love of God, stop performing without Christine McVie. There's literally no point in stumbling through the crowd-favorite material if you're missing a pretty vital part of the lineup.

    You can stop reading here if you want to.

    If anything, this concert made it all the more disheartening to think about Hailey and my performance anxieties. I just can't imagine performing our crap forty years from now, to a bunch of peers our age that are blinded into thinking we're somehow more worthwhile than whoever current artists are doing just because they've attached some sort of sentimental value to our work. Honestly, I can't imagine a nightmare any worse than performing Fashion Police State, a song that requires a guitar to be smashed at it's conclusion, at sixty years old. Now more than ever, this Fleetwood Mac show convinced me that quitting the music game in a few years, before losing the jitteriness of our youth, is the correct decision.

    Better to burn out than fade away, for sure. Every show is worth a lesson, there it is.

    [Author's Note:] Don't let this subpar review count as any indication as to whether or not we'll continue doing Fleetwood covers or not, Straight Back is too much fun.












    Best Gig
    of 2013

    Grizzly Bear -
    Ogden Theater
    (w/ Regal Degal) -
    August 6, 2013






    A young lady in front of us literally fainted when Grizzly Bear played Colorado in Colorado. It's not like you can blame her.

    Before we start, I'd just like to point out that this is the very first time either Hailey or I have seen an artist touring an album that we named 'album of the year' (she didn't go to this show though, she was in NEU YOARK). Weird, right?

    Ogden Theater, some like it, some don't. It's fine. Parking is an abomination (this is the first time I ever had to find parking myself) but that's not really that big of a deal, considering it's in one of the friendlier neighborhoods of Denver. The inside of the building is basically a sauna, but that's not a big deal because it's easy to cool off with the gallons of sweat being splashed on you by all the other members of the audience. But I don't hate the Ogden, I'd just rather repress some of the memories there (om nom nom, if you're keeping score at home).

    And I would not have guessed that the average age of Grizzly Bear fans is sixteen years old. I remember when we reviewed Horn Of Plenty nine years ago (nobody loves Deep Sea Diver more than I do), back when these kids where literally seven years old. What is going on anymore. I figured that I'd be at least seven or eight years younger than everyone there, surly the average fan was about twenty years old when Yellow House came out. I guess not.



    So let's talk about the opener, Regal Degal. No one knew anything about them. No genre, no tone, nothing. Turns out they're from New York. Which, being honest, is probably the most significant reason Grizzly Bear chose them.

    It's not that they're bad, they're just a little rough around the edges. And not in an endearing way. The band members themselves are kooky and crazy and it's great. The drummer is awesome. But overall the music is just too much too often. It's constant and barraging and not in an appealing way. I bet the actual albums and EPs are fine but they need at least two other members, a rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist, to actually fill out their sound.

    Now let's talk about Grizzly Bear for a second.



    I'm not just bringing up Mumford & Sons to slag them off (though I loooooove to do so and it's alwaaaaays necessary) but it must be said that Grizzly Bear are the anti-Mumford & Sons, or vise versa.

    It's really easy to come to conclusion that Grizzly Bear is full of nothing but solo multi-instrumentalists on your own, but seeing them live just drives this point home. Every member of the band was playing at least four different instruments throughout their set, usually combining a few during a single song.

    There is a severe lack of try-hard and self-absorption in their music that is sadly lacking from every other band that picks up an acoustic guitar and attempts harmonic melodies. Grizzly Bear has the perfect amount of familiarity in both their 'sound' and song structure. The case could be made that every song of theirs sounds the same, and they do, but in a massively complimentary manner. They have a tone and an atmosphere all their own and too many other artists (British boys in overalls come to mind) fail to see that this is due to competency in instrumentation rather than copy-pasting song structure and composition.



    The setlist comprised of mostly songs from Shields but Veckatimest was represented as well with a few Yellow House cameos as well (I wasn't dumb enough to expect any Horn of Plenty appearances). It is incredibly refreshing to see how a competent band handles live instrumentation though, they pulled some magic out of their hats more often than not.

    Seeing purple light blooming around Chris Taylor while he completely wails on the saxophone during What's Wrong is probably one of the top twenty best live music moments I've ever seen. The band has an incredibly synergy and bulletproof song structure composition that they can just go nuts and experiment all they want. When they started to close out the night with Sun in Your Eyes, the lights were going bonkers, everyone was screaming into their mics, Taylor was jamming with his sax, and even Aaron Arntz was busting out his trumpet.

    Everyone there was pretty much under the assumption that it was going to be one of the better concerts they had ever been to, even the jaded fiftysomethings, and by the end of the night a consensus was silently made: it was. To be fair though, that was one of the best crowds I had ever been in. They may have been young enough for me to change their diapers a few years ago but they were super well-behaved and didn't have their heads suck up any stupid hero-worshiping butts.

    This is what happens when you tour your best album so far, the setlist is too good to suck. It would have taken a lot of work to make this show suck. One of the drums broke during a song and, while they fixed it during the break, Ed Droste was up there singing Rihanna songs. It was great. The venue was insanely warm and they commented on it a few times, but that still didn't stop them from screaming their harmonies at a mile above sea level. They're just one of those bands, you know, a good one.

    Being perfectly honest, I wouldn't like to go to a Grizzly Bear show where they didn't perform Colorado, but I guess that's just a perk of living here (Ed said they're obligated to perform it when they're here). But yeah, it was one of those self-evidently good shows. People who weren't there know what they missed, so there's not much of a point in me droning on and on about it.

    Definitely try to catch them this tour. They mentioned they wouldn't wait another six or seven years to come back to Colorado so catch 'em if you can next time they swing by. Heck, I might even see 'em again. Yeah, me, voluntarily going to a concert.

    It didn't help me feel better about November but it did help me accept it.

    And by god if Adelma isn't the best thing in the universe.







    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (75 - 61)

    19. Dez. 2013, 5:25

    Albums of 2013




















    75 – 61











    75
    Active Child - Rapor EP


    Pat Grossi is one of the best artists in modern music. His composition is so conventionally-appropriate but his instrumentation is absolutely incredible. It doesn't matter what the approach is, he brings an insane level of competence to his work.

    Everything has a wonderfully operatic-meets-tribal-meets-R&B approach to it. Some brief moments are way too poppy and synthy but the overall atmosphere remains pretty ridiculously strong. It has a very gothic-meets-1990s-adult-contemporary vibe to it, which is just plain fun to even think about let alone actually listen to.

    This is what EPs are supposed to be. This would never work as a fully-fledged EP, there's not enough substance here. But the approach is right. It's different from his normal style, he's experimenting. Some of it works, some of it doesn't. And that's totally fine, this is the arena to separate what you want to put your name on and what was an acceptable failure.

    It doesn't waste your time, that's all there is to it. It's only twenty-two minutes and he spends it deviating from his normal procedures a bit. It's efficient and, when it comes to EPs, that's priority number one. He checks this off fairly quickly and then just goes on down the list, hitting all the marks.

    You can only release good LPs like You Are All I See if you put out EPs like this. There has to be some sort of release, some alleviation of the back-pressure building up. He's lifting with his knees now so that he can throw a sedan at you on his second LP.

    It's worth a listen or two. Again, a little too poppy to sustain itself (I think some Chad Valley rubbed off on him when they were touring together), but a fine effort nonetheless.










    74
    Jason Isbell - Southeastern


    Most country albums are utter crap, it's really nice to get a decent one every once in a while.

    Lyrically, the vocabulary and way he structures his sentences, also known as prose, is better than average for sure, I would contend. A lot of people think that prose can't exist in music because of a so-called adherence to rhythm, but that's a debate for another day, especially since country lyrics are super dependent on rhythm. But whatever, the guy has a decent enough sentence structure.

    The instrumentation isn't the most cliche thing ever released. There's not any blatant steel guitar abuse and he isn't drawreereererering his vocals into the deeper tones of the guitar.

    It doesn't necessarily just drive the same old tropes into the ground either. I mean, sure, some of the 'classic' country charm is there but it's not a flippin' cow-tippin'-tractor-festival-thrown-by-my-wife-in-honor-of-AMERICA exposé. It's a country album, but it's not every country album.

    The instances where he confront death and divorce is pretty much why this is worth listening to. He actually confronts some things that don't make you feel all warm and fuzzy but that aren't completely unrealistic or contrived either. It's not like people don't die or get divorced (Isbell both, eventually). I appreciate him for that. He makes an effort to enrich your life with the fifty minutes you indulge him with. Kind of honorable, I suppose, if you're into that sort of thing.

    You know, it's nice. Some little indie rock piece of crap could release this album and all the little college kids would be all over it. Yeah, it's country. No, it's not particularly innovative or original. But it's good, it really is.

    And he's not even the worst guitarist either.










    73
    Jon Hopkins - Immunity


    Jon Hopkins > everybody else.

    The guy writes some of the best basslines around. His instrumentation is remarkably clever. His compositions are brutally simple. But it gets worse: this record proves that he simply doesn't know how to not improve infinitely between releases.

    This is arguably his best work yet, as a whole, while still being radically different from everything he's ever done. The single compositions may not be the best he's ever worked with but the overall record is entirely more cohesive and challenging than any previous efforts of his.

    For a new listener I would recommend Insides or his work with King Creosote on Diamond Mine over this but that certainly isn't a fault of this album. This is just much more subtle and convoluted than I'd want to suggest to a casual partaker.

    It's not quite up to the standards that material by Andy Stott or even Tim Hecker is emanating but it's certainly a noble effort, not that a composer with this much talent would put out an inferior product on purpose.

    Even the more convectionally-approached tracks have a very ambiguous and competent feel to them, which a nice mix of electronic backgrounds and stringed foregrounds. Which, as evident by every idiot with Garageband, isn't a simple or easy technique to get away with.

    It's hard to find an objective fault this carries, frankly it might not carry any. It's not quite ambitious enough to be amazing as it could have been but that doesn't prevent it from being really good.










    72
    The Pastels - Slow Summits


    Take My Bloody Valentine, drop the tempo way down low, and replace the electric guitars with acoustics, you now have The Pastels. The formula continues to work wonders on their fifth LP.

    I guarantee if you play this at any pretentious coffee shop (which is all of them really), the patrons would definitely adore this, thinking the band is full of twenty-year-olds, despite the fact that they've been making music for over three decades.

    There are some super sincere melodies on this, very light and nimble. The last thing you could say about the composition is that it's contrived, everything is just so simple and necessary. There's no extraneous contributions that muddy the experience. It's bare bones and always relevant.

    Vocally, it's stupendous, though that's to be expected on a Pastels record. The harmonies, while not totally original, are immaculate and the lead vocals definitely 'get the job done'.

    Instrumentally, there's a saxophone on an acoustic shoegaze record, so yeah, it's a billion times better than the average release. The guitars bounce off of each other rather well, as well. The drums are nice and sharp too. This sounds as good as the average high school band thinks they sound.

    It's not a very challenging record, but in the best possible way. It has an inarguable structure to it, it's not cocky but confident. Pop has a lot to learn from Slow Summits.

    Check it out, everyone. Literally anyone and everyone could listen to this, as it's at least somewhat coherent to a universal music preference. Plus, it's like half an hour long, not a huge chunk of your life to donate to maybe finding a new favorable album.










    71
    Eskimo Joe - Wastelands


    Let's just skip the personal experience, shall we? Please, I insist. No, really, cut it out.

    This is their sixth studio album and it's nice to hear that they're still rather competent and willing to change their sound to an extent that it necessitates a new album but not a name change.

    Eskimo Joe have always been really flippin' good at song structure. They have a somewhat conventional sound but the way they bend and rearrange basic composition components is worthy of remark. They've always been a pop rock band so it's nice that they continue to put a little slant on everything. It makes it all, you know, worth listening to.

    I don't know. Nothing is 'supposed' to be anything, but this is what radio-rock is supposed to be. There are what look to be little cracks and crevices at first but are later revealed to be fingerprints. There is a unique touch to basic pop tropes here, it's nice. It's not wasting anyone's time, which is always a rare plus.

    Plus all you monkeys with a REAL instrument fetish will love it, the whole thing is coated in the standard drums+bass+guitar+voice frosting. But don't worry, the instrumentation is a little more varied than that for, you know, people older than fourteen.

    It drags in a few parts, sure. It's a radio-rock album that's forty-five minutes long, it's more than bound to have some pacing issues. They don't come close to derailing the entire experience but I'm obligated to at least pointing out that they're there.

    You know what? Listen to it. In fact, you could just listen to Disgrace as a sampler. It's nice, right? Yeah, check out the whole record. It really is pretty decent, in a great way.

    I don't know, I just don't think it needs to even be defended. Nope, not in this house. This house. No God. Not an argument. Not in this house. The argument over god continues, in this house. ALL OF US STAND AND POINT OUR FINGERS AT THE GROUND. STRAIGHT DOWN!



    I'm...I'm so sorry. Please forgive me, I insisted we not bring it up.


    (Sorry about the IMF, boys. You know, the other one.)



    [Editor's Note:] hahaha oh god.

    He didn't say why this is awkward which means I'm not allowed to, but just know that the fact that both Hailey and Jesse reviewed this album is pretty much the funniest thing in the world. Let's just say that J+H's cover of this song is really well-known for a couple of reasons.

    hahaha this is great











    70
    Drake - Nothing Was the Same


    Okay, look, we have two things to talk about here.

    One, Drake is an amazing punchline to someone's musical preferences, but he's not inherently worthless. He's really easy to poke fun at and deserves most of it, but he's also much, much better than like...ninety percent of the modern hip-hop scene. "OH YOU DON'T GET IT J-DAWG, LISTEN TO THESE OTHER UNDERGROUND RAPPERS!" Trust me, I do (I cut my teeth on Souls of Mischief, MF DOOM, Dr. Octagon, Black Star, and J Dilla mind you), and what are they doing? Anything new? No. Sure, they're performing objectively superior material, but it's derivative. At the very least, Drake makes slightly-better-than-average pop music.

    But the problem is that Drake thinks he's Marvin Gaye. Obviously he can think whatever he wants, because artists aren't inherently their art, but that concept of filling the same cultural niche is beginning to permeate his compositions. Which, uh, is not, um, okay. It's not a matter of 'preserving' the 'legacy' of another artist, it's about keeping an ego in check with the quality of the art it is responsible. Kanye West can do whatever he flippin' wants, because the results are self-evident (or so you would think), but Drake really isn't doing anything of any sort of societal significance, so any insertion of his ego into his composition is, well, I don't mean to be impolite, but it's laughable.



    There, we got all that dumb context out of the way, let's get to the point.



    This isn't bad. It's decently self-aware, if a little-way-too-long, but at least it builds a pretty competent atmosphere throughout. It's not completely terrible, you have to admit.

    And his melodies are nice enough to, they are. They're not insanely unconventional, but all the pieces are there. Don't act like you're 'better' than it. Don't get me wrong, we refused to review his last one but that was due to mostly extraneous situations (we don't like being told what to do). But again, I've never been 'above' giving Drake a decent review. Remember those first two singles he released way back when he first started? Admit it, they were pretty decent.

    As with any of that 'this is an atmospheric record, gurl', it gets a bit repetitive. I'm telling you people, just shut up and listen for a second: your LP doesn't have to be an hour long. This isn't a pissing contest, get the metrics out of here. Make it as short as you possibly can and start counting your cultural accolades. Every medium needs to take some medicine from Dr. Vonnegut, "Start as close to the end as possible."

    But, with all this defense, let's be fair: The Weeknd is about a thousand times better than Drake will ever be. Drake is better lyrically (lol, what am I even typing) but Weeknd is a much better composer (no seriously, someone stop me from typing). Any Abel LP, and his work with Drake, are pushing hip-pop further than anything Aubrey does.

    ...I am a really big fan of Sampha though, so it's hard to fault Drakes collaborative ear. Though a hip-hop song sampling another hip-hop song is a bit much, let's be frank.

    It's a decent album. I don't really know if it's his best, because I don't think it's useful for any human being to spend their time or brainpower actually categorizing and ranking Drake albums, but it's not a bad album at all. It's cohesive and self-contained and that's more than can be said about most of this year's albums.

    But really, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, and the cows have come home, and the universe goes through it's looming heat death...he's still just Wheelchair Jimmy.







    ...and really, has he ever put his name on a song that wasn't built around a minor key? I mean, come on, it's fine, but let's spice it up a bit next time, yeah?










    69
    Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe


    I'm telling you right now: you get Julianna and Justin Vernon in the same room and you'll get your album of the year. Seriously, I'm counting the days.

    I like to make films, so atmospheric pieces are my jam. Though, understandably, they're not everyone's. So take all of the praise I give this album with a grain of salt, because the composition is notably sparse. There's nothing inherently wrong with that though, kiddos.

    To be perfectly fair, most of the songs hit the exact same beats, which is not okay, at all. It is insanely repetitive, I will concede there. But the problem is that every song is really, really good.

    She has a wonderful voice and has a strong sense of how she wants to present it thematically. Some moments drift a bit too close to 'oh how sweet, the protagonist of the dumb indie movie has just realized that his best friend is actually in love with him and he loves her too' but, for the most part, we got us some straight up ethereal rock up in here.

    I wouldn't recommend actually talking to other people about this album though, you're just going to end up sounding like a stuck up little git that smells their own farts. Yeah, it's sort of like talking about Sigur Rós. Great artist, but it's a shame we all live on Earth.

    Honestly though, she really needs a collaborator. Her work and tone and touch is fantastic but it needs some variety, badly. Check this out, and her remixes and covers, and then please write her a letter to team up with someone. I want her to do her own thing, just with someone else.










    68
    Tim Hecker - Virgins


    Tim Hecker, objectively, is one of the best artists of our time. He has trouble with cohesion though, which is required to make a good album. Well, being far, I should say that he had trouble with cohesion.

    Before we start, it needs to be said that if Tim Hecker can make a forty-five minute album, anyone can make a forty-five minute album. There's simply no excuse anymore. He makes ambient drone music, people. If there was one genre that excluded him from that rule it would be this one, yet he still adheres to it. And the album is all the better for it.

    Similar to his bud Oneohtrix Point Never, he's improving with every release. Ravedeath, 1972 was great but it wasn't incredibly cohesive or coherent, not enough to widely endorse anyway. But this is a very nice and concise little experience, one that Hecker is becoming more and more adept at creating.

    I'm trying to word this in the least annoying way possible and I think 'unsettlingly beautiful' is as close as I'm going to get. There's something very foreboding and abrasive about it but, at the same time, it's all very peaceful and inviting. It's like walking through an old, abandoned Russian palace, it's so intriguing and fascinating but good luck getting anyone to tag along with you.

    I would be very interested to hear Hecker attempt a film score. He makes very emotional music without resorting to gimmicks, all while not composing anything that would greatly detract from any visuals accompanying it. It's an interesting proposition, I highly doubt anyone would be opposed to at least giving it a chance.

    The instrumentation, typical of a Hecker release, is phenomenal and the general song structure is quite nice too. He really knows his crap, every track here is a successful mood piece. It's hard not to recommend this out to people. It's certainly not for everyone but it'd hardly hurt to try.










    67
    Pusha T - My Name Is My Name


    As if it needed to be said again, Mr. West sure can produce a record, holy crap.

    Numbers on the Boards is a very convenient microcosm for the argument that this is one of the better hip-hop albums of the year. It is brutally simple and completely competent.

    But again, I don't understand what it is about modern hip-hop and their insanely unhealthy obsession with featuring other artists on every single one of their tracks. Can't you just do something for yourself for once. Sure, it works when there are like three or four featured artist featured on every other track, it builds a nice little motif vibe, but this? It's just like the last Daft Punk LP. Could you guys, you know, just like, I don't know, make some music by yourselves for a second? You know, for giggles and uh, cohesion or whatever.

    But really, let's break it down. It's a modern hip-hop album. Every song is at least 'good'. The entire thing is only forty-five minutes. It's not really that hokey. It's slightly forward-thinking. Come on, let's be fair, there aren't many records this year hitting all those marks. This really is a pretty good album. I know, I'm kind of surprised too.

    This really shouldn't be the first album anyone listens to but it's certainly not one to be ashamed of. It could do with a few more actual fingerprints on it but at least it isn't mind-numbingly conventional and generic. It could use some obvious work on the lyrics but it's fine, totally passable. I mean really, 40 Acres Feat. The-Dream has an inverted chorus. That's good enough for me.

    You know what? Listen to it. I know! It's weird! I'm actually recommending something! What year is it? 2013? Nah, couldn't be!










    66
    Younghusband - Dromes


    So it's basically an acoustic Slowdive meets The Jesus and Mary Chain? Well, at the very least, you can't say the combination is unnecessary.

    Let's be frank: this is pretty flippin' great. These cats not only know what they're doing, they're doing it well. Any and every aspect of this, while not wildly original, is insanely competent.

    The harmonies are really nice, the drum-work is both well-produced and well-composed. Each track is different from those around it while also contributing to strengthen the atmosphere as a whole. I'm telling you, it's a very noble effort.

    It's not the most unique sound though. It's certainly not trite, cliche, or boring but I'd definitely like them to push the envelope on their sophomore LP a bit more. They clearly have talent and good heads on their shoulders, let's start making good use of both. Realistically, I can't tell the difference between this and a The Globes LP.

    An absolutely fantastic debut though, it's largely inoffensive enough to be able to recommend to pretty much anyone and everyone.










    65
    The Haxan Cloak - Excavation


    Regardless of your religious beliefs, this is what the creation of the earth sounded like.

    It is almost super pretentious but totally gets away with anything it bothers to attempt due to it's entirely unobtrusive nature. It's a lot of fun, it plays with drone and dark ambient motifs in some semi-interesting ways. Imagine if the score to the Transformers films was actually good.

    There are moments where it's a bit too sparse and little too wrapped up in itself. Then again, the guy is a visual arts student so that's a pretty common criticism for trying to create 'visual sounds'.

    It has some interesting instrumentation for sure, hardly trite or cliche at all. Nothing exists for shock value or perpetuates an Lynchian repetition, so it's certainly a few steps ahead of most modern artists trekking through the genre.

    But again, it's pretty cool. I can't say it's pretty good because there are certainly a few handfulls of other artists that achieve the same effect a little more competently and efficiently, but it's pretty cool.

    But seriously, get this guy to do your film scores. He knows what's up. Don't make me use Miste. I have to do it if you don't.










    64
    The Strokes -
    Comedown Machine



    Despite my best efforts, I have yet to tire of The Strokes.

    They have not and will not release an album better than Is This It but don't have a single disappointing record to their name.

    Heck, they don't even sound that original (anymore, that debut certainly had its own place in the world). But there's a certain sense of sincerity to what they do, almost like they can arguably called one of the least pretentious bands around.

    This is a rather average Strokes album. There aren't any super-obvious singles and not every song could be called the best of the collection, but it has an undeniable cohesion and coherency that the band's work has always had.

    Even when the songs should be a mixture of the most irritating sound in the world (One Way Trigger definitely comes to mind), they still manage to pull themselves from the nosedive and insure the song's value with a decent vocal melody at least.

    Instrumentally, come on, it's the same as it's always been: if it's analogue we'll send it through the guitar amps but if it's synthetic we'll mix it in later. I swear, their studio engineers must have the easiest job in the world. It's a great approach and it continues to work for them, though I'd be interested in what it'd sound like if they went the analogue route with the synth as well (you know, just for kicks, not like I'd know anything about that, shut up).

    The second half of the album takes on a very 'solemn party' attitude and I love it. It's a ballsy choice and it totally paid off. I wouldn't call the band 'anti-risk takers' but it's nice to hear them really stretching some limits that no one even requested be stretched. It's anti-anti-punk if you don't think about it too hard.

    Show your friends Is This It, and if they ask what the band is up to lately then you have this to show them. Certainly not their best, and they've never been worse than good. Thanks for another one, guys.










    63
    My Bloody Valentine - m b v


    Whoa! What year is it?

    I get to review a My Bloody Valentine album?

    A new one?

    And what a delightfully appropriate time to do so, I am beyond tired and sleepier than you can imagine.

    It's safe to say that I'm a pretty flippin' big fan of shoegaze. It's hard, if not impossible to find an album that means more to the genre than Loveless. It's certainly not the best but it's definitely the most influential, for once in a good way. Following it up, twenty two years later is this album.

    Kevin Shields wasn't spending his hiatus twiddling his thumbs, contributing some ace material to Lost in Translation to help add some cohesion to the film's musical accompaniment. Taking a page out of the atmospheric playbook, he has once again led his squad into a very jagged dreamscape, and how lucky we are to finally have the visa allowing us to join them.

    It's interesting how this is probably going to end up being one of the better shoegaze albums of the year. It basically humps and exaggerates all of the standard stylistic choices without accomplishing anything we'd call new. Then again, shoegaze is essentially just dubstep played by guitars.

    It's really hard to find faults with legends doing what they do best. The vocals are super ethereal and comfortably warm while the instrumentals are sharp and protrusive. They're doing 'it' how it was meant to be done: with competence. Slowdive and Cocteau Twins aren't putting out albums anymore so this is essentially the only example of an exhibit breaking out of the museum that houses it.

    It's an absolutely wonderful album. Do yourself a favor and try it out at least once. If not this, then Loveless. It's not for everyone but in the least arrogant way possible. It's content with itself and that's all that can be asked of it.










    62
    Depeche Mode - Delta Machine


    When I was just a wee lad, the Violator CD that Jason gave me was probably my most prized possession. The only reason I don't hold them in as high regard as I grow older is because there's only so much room to give to any one band, especially after all these years. But I'd never say they've disappointed.

    The band has consistently put out music that is much better than it should be. On paper it's dumb dance/synth pop music but in execution they actually manage to insert some sincerity to it, which is a killer combo. Pop with heart is always a tricky combo to get right but when it is executed properly there's little that can be said against it (aside from dumb instrumentation I suppose).

    With this album, Depeche Mode have shown that they are essentially the anti-U2. They haven't sold their soul yet and are improving upon the formula that gave them success, instead of merely rehashing the same equation every three years.

    Gahan's voice is still the only suitable vocal accompaniment to Gore and Fletcher's simplistic instrumentation. Each song feels like a nice stadium anthem without leaving a bitter taste of conformity behind.

    No, there isn't anything close to a Everything Counts, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again, or Personal Jesus here but that's okay. Though Depeche Mode is definitely a band that should have important singles on their albums, they certainly get by without any on this release. It's cohesive and more than the sum of it's parts, and that's all you really need.

    One easily compliment to slap on this record, however annoying it may be, is that it is mixed and produced rather well, especially the bass elements. If I'm complimenting the production, odds are there isn't much wrong with a record.

    There are about a billion other Depeche Mode albums you should check out before this one, but it wouldn't hurt to give this a spin.

    [Author's Note:] HOLY CRAP, the fact that a new Depeche Mode album is this high up on the list just shows you how terrible of a year this was.












    61
    Franz Ferdinand -
    Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action



    This is pretty good. Not worth starting a war over (debatably two), but good nonetheless.

    I've always liked Kapranos' vocals and they're just as good as they've always been. The song structures aren't quite they used to be though. Every song tends to repeat the same points as those before them. The instrumentation varies, which is nice, but at the end of the album you just sort of reflect with, "Hmmm, that was all just the same song over and over again, wasn't it."

    It's quite good though, being honest. It's mind-numbingly repetitive but still worth more than the average album. The guitar work and vocal twists are fun, the overall tone and atmosphere isn't hopelessly unoriginal, and even the lyrics aren't bad. So, despite the fact that it's just a single song approached in several styles, it's impossible to give it a bad review.

    The basslines are nice too, which is probably what sells the album. You couldn't have a guitar-hooky album like this without golden basslines. You know, I bet this would even be a good live show. They'd really have to mix it with songs from their previous albums so people don't catch on to the gimmick, but it'd actually be fun. I'm not going to go, but you know what I mean.

    Yeah, go ahead and check it out. Start with one of their earlier releases, sure, but this is certainly not half bad. Or even a quarter.

    I mean, honestly, if you even kind of like listening to an electric guitar, just get this. Just do it. It's no Jimi or Eddie but it's fun and jagged.





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (90 - 76)

    17. Dez. 2013, 10:25

    Albums of 2013




















    90 – 76











    90
    Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II


    Their debut was quite a little trip and so is this, though it doesn't appear as if they addressed some of their faults.

    The lo-fi production may be a really adorable selling point for the youth that are as young as their IQs but the rest of us are just saddled with a subpar listening experience. It's not like it's completely unlistenable, but for Pete's sake, just do your flippin' job and mix it right. The producer isn't in charge of the experience, that's the band's job. Or at least it used to be, back when it was real music (Jesse typed, trying to stifle a grin).

    Song structure-wise, it's lovely. Absolutely wonderful, they're very good at constructing their movements. It all falls victim to the shoddy production but whatever.

    It's important to remember that this band is from Portland, so there's really only a certain amount of credibility you can give them. It'll take them a bit longer to grow up and learn how to not noodle around aimlessly for forty minutes.

    This is really nice, just like their debut, but it lacks the competency to actually ignite the sparks it produces. Please, guys, just give us one LP with 'normal' production. Just for kicks, see if it works (it will).










    89
    Rokia Traoré - Beautiful Africa


    Oh yeah, this is too good.

    This is some straight up, multi-cultural bliss right here. The background vocal harmonies are to die for, the instrumentation is evocative, and the entire tracklist just breed cohesion.

    The percussion is so crisp it's about to crack. The bass is so competently done it's insane. Her phonetic meter is so cleverly intertwined with the composition that I can't help but get really excited about it. It almost has an Eastern Asia-approach to it but remains firmly rooted in this quasi-Afro-European percussion scheme, it's a delight.

    There's not really anything to mark it down for. It's not the most insanely original album of the year but it certainly is fresh enough to rub off on you. The super long track durations are even a valuable asset, how often can you say that?

    A very, very nice album that you should give to anyone trying to become a musician, so they can pop their delusional Western bubble and learn that there's no such thing as 'real' music.










    88
    Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen


    New album already? It's a good thing the last one was fantastic or I'd be worried.

    There's just something about the sheer tempo that Veronica Falls likes to push for that is incredibly addicting. They're like a weird Celtic folk/punk outfit and there frankly isn't enough of that. It remains to be seen whether this album or their debut is more effective at putting folk's head on a pike but who knows, maybe we'll get lucky and it'll be both.

    The songs on this album are a bit slower and melodic than those on Veronica Falls but still retain the same amount of heart, which is nice as that's a tricky thing to do (especially on a sophomore release). I think the debut has stronger song cohesion but Waiting for Something To Happen easily takes the prize when it comes to album cohesion, it's all very cleverly woven together and very tightly at that.

    Actually, it kinda pisses me off how good the chorus vocals are. They're flippin' awesome, it's not very original but absolutely not cliche. It's an interesting take on punk-gaze.

    Because it lacks the really fiery, sharp tempoed tracks of the debut it isn't as exciting overall but it's easily the better of the two releases. They are off to a great start of a career.










    87
    Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito


    I don't get it, is the album art supposed to be dumb on purpose?

    I used to like Yeah Yeah Yeahs until I saw Where The Wild Things Are for the second time. I used to be like, "Yeah! They're expressing themselves!" whereas now I'm like, "Yeah! They...have nothing worth expressing but are doing it anyway...huh..."

    The older I get, the more all this 'indie' rock sounds exactly same. Even a song like Sacrilege, with all it's cool neo-gospel elements, just sounds stale.

    I'm going to give this a good review, because it really is inventive, but I just can't do it anymore. I can't grind up any more multisyllabic adjectives for releases that all bleed into each other far too much. Maybe it's a sign of my age, but I'm losing the fire. Then again, it's not my obligation to keep the fire lit, that duty falls to the artists. But since we live in postmodernism, they obviously can't be bothered to give a crap about anything not immediately relevant to their petty interests.

    The percussion work is great. Vocals are nice. Lyrics are dumb. Guitar work is okay. Bass is lazy. You know, it's all standard indie rock procedure.

    It's all the same. You can call it a 'genre' all you want but at the end of the day it's all the same.

    Say what you will about The Strokes. They're never going to make an album as good as their debut, but at least they don't keep rehashing 'New York indie rock' every few months.

    Whatever, one of the better releases of 2013. It's not like you'll give a crap a few years months days from now anyway.



    [Editor's Note:] The full review is only a few more paragraphs than this. If there were every any doubts about the appeal of having a J+H review in a publication, the fact that we were able to sell this review for a high amount to a prominent publication should eliminate them.

    Email me if you want a link to the full one, for some reason.

    You'll have to forgive Jesse, he was a bit "pissy" in June ;)











    86
    Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip - Repent Replenish Repeat


    What? That's not the flippin' album art, is it? Oh that is ridiculously cool.

    For those that don't know for some reason, Angles ranked very high on our Best Albums of the 2000s list back in 2009. That's because it is. Despite the explosive debut, their sophomore effort was rather dull. Rather boring. Rather pointless. But is this, their third LP, a return to form?

    Eh, kind of.

    Part of the appeal of Angles was Le Sac's very unique way of skewing very well-known and basic samples. That was part of the fun. The instrumentation and composition on this is pretty good, but not insanely unique, like what they're capable of.

    Pip is still good though. He doesn't have quite the same chip on his shoulder that he used to, unfortunately, but he's still a clever little guy. His alliteration is incredibly fun, as usual, and his perspective is still refreshing. It's nice.

    Look, I understand and encourage artists to progress and evolve, but it's not supposed to be into a more homogenized sound. It sounds quite generic, which can't be said about any aspect of Angles. It's not a case of 'they old stuff was so much better brah', because we literally just gave Pip a good review for his solo album last year, but this just isn't cutting any kind of mustard at all.

    Don't get me wrong, this is a fine album, but who in their right mind would actually recommend this to a new listener over Angles? It's just not up to that level. I get that it's different, I like that it's different, but it's not as good. It isn't.

    Lyrically, it's great. I love the modern romantic thematics, it's great. Composition/instrumentation/production is totally great too. But it's not enough, they aren't hitting bars that they themselves raised. It's a totally great album but it's just not going to cut it.

    I would definitely recommend you listen to it, but only after indulging in Angles a few hundred times.



    [Author's Note:] Entity is my flippin' jam though.










    85
    The National -
    Trouble Will Find Me



    The National was one of those bands that was destined to be pretty decent up until the release of High Violet. Their work preceding it is nothing to shake off, but that is a near-impeccable album. This record, their sixth, doesn't reach quite the same heights but it certainly continues the tradition of quality.

    In terms of song structure progression, it could use some work. All of the songs just sort of meander through little hills as opposed to jutting in-between any daring peaks. It's not that it's uneventful, it's that the distance between A and B is hardly substantial.

    Instrumentally, The National have always been a bit more admirable than their peers. They're like a chamber rock band but infinitely less pretentious. The string sections are always wonderful but maybe half a horn department would add another layer to their composition (Jesse? Suggesting brass? No way).

    But again, and I throw this compliment/complaint at them every time they put out another effort, every song sounds like it is supposed to play over the credits of an 'indie' movie. They all do. They're not pretentious but there's an extreme lack of dynamic progression in their execution. Again, it's all good, but it's just lacking that last little push, that last little 'umph' to be great.

    Not that it needs to, but it really doesn't differ greatly from the other bullets in their discography either. It's not like you could just remove any of these tracks and slot them into their previous albums, but the general effect and atmosphere this provides is basically identical to all of the others.

    It's good, listen to it. Do listen to High Violet first, though.









    84
    Janelle Monáe -
    The Electric Lady



    A double-soul-concept-album? Hold me, I think I'm going to cry.

    Wonderful girl, wonderful hair, wonderful music.

    It's really hard to even describe how amazing this is without sounding obvious and simple-minded. Her voice, as always, is absolutely remarkable. It peaks, it valleys, it is the all and everything. There won't ever be a Monáe release that disappoints vocally.

    The instrumentation is ever-so-competently varied and consistent. Jazz, soul, rock, electro. Glossy, raw. Somebody knows what they're doing, there is a obvious aspect of effort painted onto this.

    The song structure is a definite strongpoint as well, it provides a solid foundation but remains featherlight enough to be swept away wherever the instrumentation takes it. This is how songs are supposed to be. Change your bars before they change you, that's how it works. Break it down, half-time, quarter time, it sounds scary but just do it. Trust me, slow down to go fast. (I do have a problem with the chord progression of Look Into My Eyes but whatever)

    Lyrically, it walks a tight rope. It's somewhat average but there are more than a few moments of bliss. It's a bit too-watered down, trying to please the masses, but each instance of Monáe taking a stand or approaching from a unique perspective yields fruitful results. No poetry, sure, but far better than eighth grade language arts class.

    Duration-wise, ehhhhhhhhh, it wears. The interludes help, along with the overtures, but even then...an hour-plus is a bit much in this case. The featured artists help immensely. The peaks are wonderful but the valleys are basically crevices, it's hard not to get stuck and become forced to wait it out.

    But again, this is how albums should be attempted. It's ambitious but also well-aware of its own context. The percussion's role in the seamless transitions between songs is worth noting as well, as it's done rather well and clever enough to draw attention to something that exists to mute attention. Nice, nice.









    83
    Thundercat - Apocalypse


    If Flying Lotus signs someone, they're usually worth a listen. Or ten. Or, in this case, a few million.

    This guy is a bassist. Not a guy that plays bass, a bassist. An artist of the bass. This is more than evident on this record. He is quoted as saying:

    “I do believe that hip-hop can be the new jazz, and I’m helping create that”.

    No, I'm not crying. I'm just really happy.

    That is an incredibly arrogant thing to say. Or at least it would be, if he wasn't actually succeeding at it. Arrogance is just failed confidence I guess. But really, if this guy wanted to boast, after an album like this I would allow it.

    Lyrically, it's totally fine. Instrumentally, it displays both variety and cohesion. The song structure is all sorts of fine. Not 'fine' in an 'okay' way, but like, beautiful fine. Like, this is fiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

    Atmospherically, the guy knows what he's doing. Just step aside, he can handle it. The songs soar and dive and weave their way through some pretty tricky concepts. Then again, welcome to jazz. It's like soul-jazz up in here, it's nice.

    It does lack a certain variety in its tone but that's understandable for a sophomore release. Not excusable but not enough of an issue to derail the entire thing. It's sort of like a convectional Flying Lotus album without the strong thematic bonds, one could argue. The one writing in particular, I suppose.

    But this is the kind of pseudo-experimentalism I can get behind. It's ambitious without being pretentious. It's nice, an artist admitting that they can't push every aspect so they only push a few, albeit pushing them very well.

    Check it out, it's fun and it actually means something. What a novel concept.










    82
    Mountains - Centralia


    Not bad, not bad.

    The ambient-drone scene these days tends to be rather dull so it's nice to see someone liven it up a bit (at least as much as the genre parameters will allow).

    The thing is, as I write this, I haven't slept in a day or two. But this isn't making me drowsy, which is a very interesting achievement for a release of this nature. It has a, dare I say, competency to it that makes you actually want to continue listening. And with track lengths this ambitious (for the most part), again, it's an accomplishment.

    I just know Terrance Malick is lathering himself with baby oil listening to this album, it's got that kind of vibe to it. Even the 'quicker' songs have this very peaceful yet significant atmosphere to them. Listen to this while you watch The Fountain. Oooooowwweeeee, that sounds like a party.

    It is quite remarkable how 'fresh' the whole thing sounds, there's not really a dull moment. And it is the kind of album where a dull moment would be more than permitted. It's constantly interesting and evolving, it's great.

    Definitely check it out. It'll be kind of annoying if any of these songs ever pop up in 'indie' films, but we'll live.










    81
    The Ruby Suns - Christopher


    "Well, why did you say you came from Never Never Land?"

    "New Zealand."

    "But you guys said you flew here!"

    "On a plane, Dave. A plane."




    Kiwi bands are usually worth listening to. It's always a worthwhile amount of weird. It's pretty fun when one attempts a pop album.

    This is definitely a bit more on the experimental-pop side of things, which is always a nice little dichotomy. Lord knows we could use a few more dichotomies, especially when they produce results as interesting as this.

    What makes the entire thing actually 'listenable' is the fact that these young men clearly know what they're doing. In Real Life is an insanely fun little diddy that I would love to see chart in the states. It's like a little acoustic-y MGMT.

    Some of the vocals effects are a little detracting but others are super etheral and necessary, so it balances out in the end, if not siding slightly with 'better than average'. I think they sampled Kirby's inhalation sound on one of the tracks, so there's that too, if that's what you're in to.

    It is somewhat repetitive though, which isn't a great asset for a popish release. Each song on its own is fun enough though, so it's not like it just cranks out the same beats track after track after track. The steel drums are kind of stupid, but they don't pop up that often.

    Check it out, it's fun and zany and actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. Rare, I know.










    80
    The Dodos - Carrier


    Covering The Season remains one of the favorite things we've ever done as a band.

    This is sort of a hard album to review because the subject matter is so obviously dealing with the death of Chris Reimer. I'm not a fan of artists release two albums in three years but they definitely had to make a statement.

    This is much, much better than No Color. It is extraordinarily heartfelt and the melodies are exceptional. There's actual songwriting here and I love it. It has a neat alt-math vibe to it, which actually works given how somber it is for the most part.

    At point it strays a bit too close to the 'barefoot singer-songwriter' atmosphere but the fact that it's a full band effort gives it some nice depth and perspective and saves it from 'feels' land. It doesn't ever devolve to a riff-rock wankfest either, and that's always nice.

    Is it anywhere near Visiter? Nah, not even close, but it's still a good little record.










    79
    Oliver Wilde -
    A Brief Introduction to Unnatural Light Years



    For some weird reason, definitely not pertaining to the artist name, this was really hard to find. Which is worrying, as it would be incredibly unfortunate if the world missed out on this record.

    It's not the most original sound in the world, but no one is pumping it out as competently as Mr. Wilde here.

    Both lo-fi and shoegaze are very difficult genres to actually get right, but this little LP manages to nail them both down pretty sufficiently. There are very few ways these days to use sampling and play an acoustic guitar that don't make you look like a massive douchebag but this guy, again, manages to prove his worth in a new and exciting way.

    But make no mistake, as amazing as this debut album is, it's still a debut album. It has pacing issues but he is very lucky that they preserve the atmosphere as opposed to tearing it down. You really want each and every track advancing your LP as far forward as possible, the worst it should be is promoting stasis, which this falls into a few times. But again make no mistake, this record is as bad as it could ever be, which is: pretty great.

    I really hear some sort of weird The Avalanches vibes here, even though they aren't even close to the same sound or genre or approach or have any similarities whatsoever. But the atmosphere just feels very similar. Where The Avalanches promote a very upbeat/uptempo approach, Wilde goes down a very downbeat/uptempo path. They're good sister albums, that's for sure (then again, Since I Left You both stands on its own and goes well with literally anything).

    Instrumentally, lyrically, structurally, and all-around-sonically, it's great. Wunderbar. It's just those little pacing issues. Little placebos here and there, where there definitely needs to be some sort of piece filling the niche, but maybe not quite the particular piece he is using. Is this up to authorial digression? As with everything, absolutely, but not forget the fact that authorial intent isn't a free pass from objectivity.

    It's nice though, it doesn't put on those rose-colored glasses and start praising nostalgia. Which, forget the genres it occupies, is flippin' rare as balls. Personally, I really appreciate not being sold the lie that one time is better than another, so while this isn't exactly checking off all of my boxes I definitely respect the crap out of it for respecting me, the listener.

    There are many artists that I worry for, on account of what direction might be taken on their sophomore record as opposed to what direction they're capable of. I'm not all too worried about Wilde here, he really can expand and tighten this sound into something special because it's hardly a crowded field he finds himself in. He's planted some wonderful seeds so far and what has bloomed already is especially marvelous.



    [Editor's Note:] I had to cut some important things out of this one but I think that if you listen to J+H's cover of Sugar Hiccup while reading this review, you'll understand it better.

    Or go listen to it anyway hahaha











    78
    Daughter - If You Leave


    I was so excited to give this a bad review. You can imagine how disappointed I am with how wonderful this is.

    I think modern folk-tards tend to forget how important a good bassline is. That's where this excels, it has actual competency. I know, a modern folk-ish album that doesn't insult your intelligence, what are the odds?

    There's a simpleness in the lyrics too, it's not pretentious at all. And it doesn't pander either. Name a modern tenant of folk music and this doesn't adhere to it. I love it.

    I have no idea what I'm supposed to say. Over 'here' is everything wrong with indie-folk, but way over 'there' is Daughter. How they doin' that? How? It's like they're the only millennials not stupid enough to write between the lines.

    Are you under thirty years old and want to make a modern indie-folk bullcrap album? Listen to this first. This is what you're supposed to be doing. Something honest and genuine, and it's really hard to fake that when you're all getting your beards caught in your flannel and blaming it on your mandolin.

    It's a bit too downtempo overall, but it picks up enough every once in a while to justify more than a few listens.

    Seriously, musicians, get your act together. When something this average is completely obliterating its peers, there's something wrong with the state of music. It's not the industry, it's not the fans, it's not pirating. It's you. Learn how to write a song and get off your styrofoam pedestal. Don't ask for a pat on the back, just do it because, oh I don't know, maybe because you want to.



    And drum work on some of these tracks is hysterical. So there's that too.










    77
    J. Cole - Born Sinner


    So when did we all decide that sampling other hip-hop songs in hip-hop songs was okay? Because it's not.

    The genre is both the most exclusive and most inclusive there is, with zero regard to contradicting itself. It's all so self-celebratory, that's why it's still being held back. The genre requires so much lyricism but none of the artists are lyricists, you can see where the problem arises from. It's a bunch of young people thinking that you only need to rhyme the end of a few lines to be good. I mean honestly, 'flow' is prose. That's a problem, an across-the-board issue with all new hip-hop artists.

    Compositionally, it's impossible to be accepting of standard hip-hop albums. This is totally fine, definitely not even bad, but when you have other artists actually composing original melodies and harmonies it's really hard to argue for such a standard sound.

    Unlike their rock counterpoints, I think hip-hop artists get better with age. Once they actually, you know, grow up, you know, beyond the practice of glorifying anything and everything they find their penis doing, they usually actually make the most honest and genuine music on the market. The older men and women actually learn something about the world and try to pass it on, which is noble. The youngins' are mentally limited to giving such an unhealthy amount of attention to material gains. It's abstract vs concrete.

    This album, his third, is actually pretty decent. The production is totally good enough, barring the lazy 'hip-hop-inside-of-hip-hop' sampling. The songs with samples from outside sources are great. The problem is these stupid, inconsequential words he's saying. There's a few nice moments about slavery and the relationship to the modern black man and issues of fame and all that, but the rest is, "I'm so cool, my city is so cool, everything is so cool and fly and jiggy and yeah it's kind of funny that the slang is outdated but not when you realize that it's just a generational exercise of copy-pasting exaggerated meaning onto mundane words for the purpose of deluding relationships between old and young people."

    I've probably reviewed not only a thousand albums just like this, I probably reviewed them all last week. Seriously, what happened to the human race in the summer of 2013 where they all felt the need to release uber-bland hip-hop records? There's only been about two good albums, I guess we were just spoiled last year.

    It's fine, it's better than average. But not by enough to boast.










    76
    Laurel Halo - Chance Of Rain


    So I guess Laurel is just going to keep putting out an album every year? And she thinks this is okay? And they're all going to be really, really great? And she thinks this is okay?

    Oh Lawdy, it's just becoming more an more apparent, even to those that have already accepted it: electronic musicians tend to be the better composers of our era. Seriously, the percussion on this thing? Talk about subtle. Yes please, I'll take two scoops.

    When all those crappy postmodernists in the 1970s and 1980s were calling themselves 'composers', this is what they thought they were making. You can say she's on the shoulders of giants all you want, but at least she's actually standing. She's pulling her weight, and then some.

    Granted, she still has yet to write a song as wonderful as Constant Index but that's not to say that these tracks aren't more than a little competent themselves. I'm just going down the days until she goes full Aphex on us and starts cranking out impeccable releases faster than we can handle.

    The instrumentation sounds a bit like Quarantine but not in a derivative way, there's definitely a skew to the numbers here. It has more of an ambient atmosphere to it, but not a safe or inviting one (not that she ever made one that was). It is, in a perfect world, what the last Tron score should have been. It really does feel very deeply rooted in it's own ethos, which is kind of neat.

    I don't know. I think that she's easily, by far-and-away one of the best modern musicians without question, but she really has yet to make her first crater in the musical landscape. Right now she's just sort of landscaping, with a backhoe. I mean sure, it looks nice, I love what you've done with the place, but lets light the wick and blow some fossils into the sky next time, yeah?





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (105 - 91)

    15. Dez. 2013, 9:36

    Albums of 2013




















    105 – 91











    105
    Frankie Rose - Herein Wild


    I don't know why we keep reviewing Frankie Rose albums. I'm not complaining, as they're all pretty decent, but it just struck me how odd it is.

    As far as I know, this is her most well-produced album. Not that there's anything with the gritty garage sound, but this effort sounds much more sturdy and defined. It's nice, it's not glossy and sterile but doesn't sound like every other crappy indie record. Well, you know, not completely.

    I'm trying to remember everything I've ever said about Rose's records, just so I don't say anything repetitive or obvious. She's quite good with coming up with familiar-yet-unique song structures. I wouldn't doubt she comes up with the structure before the instrumentation, it all just sounds 'reversed-engineered' so to speak. It alludes to competency so I'm all for it.

    Her vocals are solid too, as with the general atmosphere of the tracks. She takes some nasty little production tricks and turns them into assets too, and the tracks blend together very nicely as a result. It's fun because it doesn't feel like an album that's stuck in 1992 or 2002, and that's pretty flippin' rare for an indie rock album.

    I don't know, is this her best LP? I think it might be. It feels much more dream-poppy than her other efforts, and it actually works. It really plays off of that 'wistful high school juniors' vibe without being sucked into stupid nostalgia and romanticizing a world that never existed. It's really rare for a Brooklyn artist to not be completely insufferable, so this is quite a remarkable little record.

    It's not like I was dreading it, but this is much better than I thought it'd be. She has some fun little battles on this, interesting ones that haven't really been beaten to death by her peers. It is so incredibly far from ever being considered original or groundbreaking or even stupendously amazing, but it is a couple billion miles away from ever being dubbed 'bad'. It's much better than the average indie rock album, though that really isn't saying anything at all.

    And it's only about half an hour long. She's an inventive little girl and it all works rather well. So it's settled: you might as well pick it up for at least a spin or two.










    104
    O'Brother - Disillusion


    Pwog wock, aw yisss.

    It's more like a prog-post-rock album though, which is fine. For as simple as it is, it's actually pretty fun.

    Right off the bat, it's definitely not their best work. I really admire them for progressing their sound as they continue on (what bands are supposed to do) but this isn't quite up to the same level their other releases have been.

    This just sort of falls in with all the other hard-rock tropes though, it really isn't committing that much energy to the 'prog' label. Which is fine, it really is, because this is decent enough to stand on its own merits.

    But it's very generic, keep that in mind. It is your standard post-rock/modern prog-rock record. They could throw in a marimba or glockenspiel but nah, it's the standard, indie rock 'guitar+bass+drums+vocal' equation. It works fine, but it's nothing special.

    Vocally, it's decent, same with lyrically. The compositions are good enough and the song structure isn't bad. It's not a bad album though, give it a spin if you're in to this sort of thing. Cool melodies though.










    103
    Emancipator - Dusk to dawn


    Ah, right, another electro-nature guy. Well let's get on with it then.

    It's pretty good. It's not very original but it's also not very easy, so it almost cancels out the derivativeness.

    The synthetic strings are pretty good, which isn't a very compliment you can give to most 'chillout' records. The piano work is pretty decent too. The percussion is rather lazy and trite, but it's not a particularly grave offense in this case.

    But this sounds just like The Flashbulb, which sounds exactly like a thousand other artists. This is what happens when you give an entire generation their own laptops, they don't take the time to actually listen to the music that exists in the world before daring to create their own. It's lazy and the final product reflects that.

    It's not that it's bad, it's totally fine, it's just that it has no fingerprint. You couldn't pick this out of a lineup if your life depended on it. Combine this with the fact that all of the instrumentation sounds like it was ripped from other artists' distinct sounds, it's not the best combination.










    102
    Elvis Costello And The Roots - Wise Up Ghost


    Ladies and Gentlemen, look, it's that collaboration everyone didn't realize they desperately wanted.

    Elvis Costello is a fine lyricist and The Roots are insanely competent composers. This is a match made in heaven. The result isn't as exciting as the concept but it's not a shameful effort.

    The songs all meander and dry up before they go anywhere but boy is it a sweet grove before that evaporation. I don't really hear much else but Costello and ?uestlove here though, where's all that signature Roots adventurism? This just sounds like a really good backing band instead of a pioneering venture with two fantastically proven artists at the helm.

    It's a bit of wasted potential. Don't get me wrong, it's a totally fine record. It's not bad at all, but it isn't anywhere near objectively good. It's a fun and worthwhile collaboration, that's obvious, but the fruits aren't fresh. They aren't rotten but it's certainly a bit bruised.

    This would have been amazing if both artists just went nuts. This record is a great example of what happens when you compromise. Never compromise, collaborate. I don't want to hear watered-down concepts, give me the potency you're capable of. Again, by no means is it a bad album, but it could have been so much more.

    Every song on this should have been as inventive as Come The MEANTIMES. A folk/soul blend would have been amazing. But it's weird blend of flat-folk and flat soul, neither of which work at all, obviously.

    The second half of the LP is much better than the first, that's something I can concede on. It feels like The Roots didn't really have much input on the first six songs but then were finally allowed to put in as much effort as Costello was on the latter half. Which is sad, but at least we got half a dozen decent tracks out of it.

    I really think they'd benefit from a more experimental sophomore album. If they cross paths again, let's pray they record it.










    101
    Gesaffelstein - Aleph


    The guy helps on Yeezus and then decides to release his debut LP shortly after. Good business move, you have to give him that.

    As a guy who grew up listening to a bit of French House, this hits all the right marks. But as a guy who likes listening to music that actually goes somewhere (often contradictory, I know) this isn't really hitting anything else.

    There's this massive pretension France has had with its electronic artists for quite some time now. Guys, you're making modern disco. That's all it is. I get it and I like it, but stop pretending like it's anything more than sweaty bass thumps with some slightly-innovative approaches to melody over it occasionally.

    It's not that this record is a victim of hype, it's that it tried to create its own. If a publication builds up the latest Arcade Fire album and then the record fails to deliver, that's not the artist's fault (though in that instance it actually was, but forget about that for a second). But the problem is that this album and its artist had some little moments where they talked themselves up. It's not hard to do, and boy is it tempting, but look what happens when it doesn't pay off.

    This is good, it is. But is it better than the last Sebastian record? Nah. That's the issue, if you want to make house music, it has some pretty strict genre tropes that you need to adhere to. It'll give you super brief pockets of air to innovate in and if you fail to carve out a niche, you're just average and unremarkable. No matter how competent you are, you have to make a difference with all that steam built up behind you.

    The instrumentation and atmosphere on this album are great, it's super cohesive and competent. But they're really nothing you need to listen to more than once. Honestly, it's pretty generic. It's hard to say that when it's done as well as it is, but it simply doesn't do anything special to differentiate it from every other like-minded release.

    Is it less gimmicky than the Kavinsky record? Sure, absolutely even. But is it any more innovative than that LP? Nope. Less so, even. And there's where we stand. He's more competent than most, but watered down his approach too much to make a name for himself. At least he didn't make a bad name for himself but, when boiled down, what's the difference?

    And it's wwwwwwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy too long, that too.










    100
    Sam Smith - Nirvana EP


    The fact that this is better than the Disclosure record he was featured on is pretty tasty. The fact that he even goes as far as covering the song he was featured on and improves it drastically is so rich I'm getting a stomach ache.

    It's not like it's amazing or anything, but at least he has a nice voice. It feels like a very rip-offy version of something The Weeknd or Drake would produce, but it's not exactly super cliche either.

    It's four decent tracks, each showcasing a little versatility from the artist. It's nice. There's a bombastic club track and then an acousticy soul song. There's a live track and then an electro one. It just makes sense. It's what EPs are supposed to be.

    There's not really much to say. It's super competent and concise. Maybe it's not the most original thing ever, but it's far from overplayed or uninspired. It goes above and beyond the call of duty in terms of earning anticipation for his first LP. I would recommend waiting for that record, whenever it comes out, but I definitely wouldn't be opposed to pointing you in the direction of this EP, if you're asking (by reading this, you are).










    99
    Tyler, the Creator - Wolf


    It's important to remember that Tyler is still basically just a kid. He's still trying to find his place in life and, as much as he'd like to try to convince you otherwise, he still has a low enough ego to work with.

    It's important to point this out because this album is obviously Tyler's best work to date. The instrumentation alone is leaps and bounds over what he has been using in the past. He stated that he wanted to spend more time on beats than the rapping and that decision has yielded more bountiful results than one might expect.

    Lyrically, he has 'matured' a bit, shying away from simple statements intended to do nothing but offend or get attention. He's far from enlightening but it is hard to deny the pure entertainment value his words have. He's a clever, clever guy for sure. It's nice to hear him explore issues like deaths of family members, his father's absence, and other heavy topics instead of the usual 'I had sex with a girl once, lol, ODD FUTURE'.

    It's nice that most of the Odd Future hype has died out so we can just focus on the releases as they arrive.

    As for the record's cohesion, it could be better. The songs are great but partaking in succession doesn't really grant the listener an experience that is greater than the sum of its parts. It's a tricky beast with a hip-hop album but it's certainly been done before.

    If you must introduce a friend to Tyler, do it with this record. It is far and away his best and though it isn't in the same arena as channel ORANGE, it's one of the better Odd Future records overall.










    98
    Yo La Tengo - Fade


    Yo La Tengo are a hopelessly consistent band in the best possible way. They crank out quality tunes every time they step up to bat. It may not be a homerun but it's rarely anything less than a double.

    It's an interesting approach to bookend the album with two six minute jams, but it definitely works in this. Like two big brothers protecting all their smaller siblings from leaking out. Again, interesting.

    It's not the most eclectic collection they've released, but if someone hadn't heard one of their releases before maybe you should show them this first as it's a really nice representation of the band. Maybe. I'm having a hard time recalling the specifics of their other albums and can't be bothered to see what my old reviews say, so let's pretend I'm making a good point here.

    It's all just really nice. Throw it on and then chillax a bit, I dare you.










    97
    Nine Inch Nails -
    Hesitation Marks



    I really like when an artist stops making music because they've run out of things to say and then not put out another album until they do. The return record usually results in something that's, well, good.

    Reznor tends to just knock it out of the park with everything he attempts and he's usually attempting to tackle a new angle with each release, so it is nearly impossible to discredit him. This album, while not quite as rage-ifying as the others, is totally fine.

    It's a bit cluby and a bit poppy, but it works. It's very 'I've won an Oscar since the last one', kind of sterile too. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's bland but it certainly doesn't appear to take any risks. Which, you know, tends to be a prerequisite for a NIN album.

    I think Trent should just stick to full-on minimalism from now on, it tends to suit him more. I'm not saying 'older' people can't make music, but he's more mature now than he was when making the previous records and this new mindset requires a new approach. Because these 'aggressive' but also 'hooky' perspectives on composition really don't work after thirty five.

    The songs all take turns hitting the same points, too. Yeah, I got it, cool little post-IDM drums and vague atmospherics. I got it, trust me Trent, I got it. Not that this is all bad, but it certainly isn't objectively good.

    You know what, I might as well just recommend any other NIN album. I mean really, Everything? What? Did I miss a memo or something? This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for a NIN record, not a Reznor one.

    If this was released as a How to Destroy Angels LP, you people would be crapping all over it.










    96
    Moby - Innocents


    Holy crap, Moby is almost fifty. That is worth at least double take, totally omitting the fact this is actually pretty good.

    To be fair, Moby's never gravely faultered, the world basically just invested all his relevance in the 1990s. He's still been making some pretty decent music through all these years, and this continues the trend.

    It's very 'hooky', which works well with the quiet little interludes that some songs serve as. He's not the best composer on the planet but he sure is competent. Really, he delivers the good every time.

    Some parts are way too pop-y (The Perfect Life (with Wayne Coyne) being the most obvious offender) but there isn't really anything on here that massively derails the experience. That's the risk you take with collaborators though, you better be building a flippin' solid-as-balls atmosphere if you're bringing in reinforcements. It all works here though, for the most part.

    If anything, I think Moby has earned the right to experiment a bit. I'm not being agist, but maybe he's a bit too old to want to really push himself? But I think he can afford to, if he wants to. Something really gritty and abrasive would be pretty good, as he already can create a pretty competent melody out of nothing. Just a suggestion, Mobs.

    But yeah, it's good. Check it out. You should probably check out some of his earlier work but I suppose this wouldn't be the worst place to start. Maybe not the most convincing, but it works.










    95
    Bloc Party -
    The Nextwave Sessions



    Bloc Party isn't exactly at the top of my 'Most Proud Of' list at the moment.

    Silent Alarm is one of the most important albums of the last decade. Their latest, Four is a steaming pile of crap. This EP consists of material that wasn't good enough to appear on Four. So yeah, not really the cream of the crop.

    The songs alternate between 'This is exactly why they used to be the best' and 'this is exactly why they're now the worst'. Rachet is abysmal. Obscene is fantastic. French Exit is okay. Montreal is fine. Children of the Future is just super blahhhhhhhhhhh.

    And now they're on an indefinite hiatus, after this. It's just so stupid. They're not a hard rock band, but for some reason they now think they are. They just have this weird habit now of writing terrible songs and mixing them into releases with a few incredible songs. Boys, that's not how an album is supposed to work.

    I just want to remind you that this is the band that did Signs. I mean really, most of this is better than Four, but that's not really saying anything at all, is it?

    What is the point in Bloc Party anymore? They want to take a break every five minutes, which would be totally fine if they were making important music still. But it's literally been almost a decade since Silent Alarm, the only thing they've ever done that was objectively superior. The rest is fine, sure, but it's been a very gradual decline in quality since then.

    Guys, break up or hook up with Paul Epworth again. Stop faffing about.










    94
    Young Man -
    Beyond Was All Around Me



    Okay okay okay, I'm putting my foot down: enough with the stupid band names. Enough. It used to be funny, I certainly had a laugh or two, but this it. No more. We're all on the same page, right? I'm serious, you're getting an earful next time, young man.

    Look, I could completely crap all over this but I'm not. As bad as it is, it shows promise. It displays potential. The issue is that he's on album number three, right? Yeah, I don't know about this. I was wondering how we missed reviewing his other albums, now I see why. There's not much to miss.

    To be fair, these days you can fart in a sock and smack it on your thighs and call it an album. It doesn't mean anything anymore. You can drop an album a week now. It's lost a ton of meaning. But, personally, if I were to, oh I don't know, put out an album, or two, or three, I might maybe make sure that they're slightly more significant than just 'this year's album'.

    It shows a lot of potential, this album. But it's incredibly comfortable and content with itself. It needs some hands around its neck. It needs to be broken up with. It needs a father that's never there. It needs at least one cloud in the sky. Heck, I wouldn't be totally opposed to it needing a compulsive drug habit.

    It's called 'drama' and I think all these tweens with their dead cabs and dream pop seem to have forgotten that. It's supposed to be art and a requisite of art is kinda having something at stake. I know it's an interesting 'theory', but it's sort of gaining momentum with, uh, you know, every great work in every medium since the dawn of time. Yeah, they're buying into it, weird.

    I don't know, it sounds like another twentysomething that wants to say something. Obviously he doesn't have anything to say, on account of the whole 'twentysomething' thing, but at least it's half a percent more intriguing than all the other crap out there.

    I don't know. I think it's fine, but not really for anyone older than thirteen. Both in terms of listening worth and songwriting ability. It doesn't do anything wrong, that can definitely be said. But that puts it at a C, 75%. Not doing something wrong isn't inherently worth something. The lack of evil doesn't equate to the presence of good. Oh, sorry, philosophy talk, forgot I'm talking to the dead cabby's audience. Whoops.

    It's fine. The album is fine. It is not a fine album, but what it's doing is fine. I just really, really wish this guy was fifteen years old so that I could understand what's going on in his head to think that this is something worth releasing in 2013. I mean whatever, 'all art is worth something' is the mantra these days I guess.

    Yeah, whatever, you kids have fun. Can't wait until you turn eighty, there's a couple hundred years of slightly more worthwhile music than 'make me feel good, life is fun' that I might be able to instant gram you on your epads or whatever.










    93
    Soap&Skin - Sugarbread


    One of these days you people are going understand how badly I want you to start listening to Soap&Skin.

    She hasn't put out an album since Lovetune For Vacuum (which rhymes, in case you didn't notice) but if she keeps producing quality recordings like this EP and Narrow then she can take all the time she wants.

    The title track is absolutely nuts and legitimately will scare the living daylights out of you, but boy is it groovy. She's one of the only singers that can get away with having a somewhat monotonous tone if only because she is capable of an insane range when she feels like beltin' out dem feels (somebody punch me). A nice sense of rhythm on this track as well.

    Me and the Devil leads me to believe that this young woman should attempt a film score as soon as possible, because she definitely has potential (she's no Alex Humphreys though). After listening to this, your eyebrows should be stuck in the 'I'm impressed' position (if this condition lasts for longer than four hours, go listen to some folk, that'll bring them down). FLORENCE+THE MACHINE have nothing on this girl.

    Closing out the all-to-short EP is Pray, a nice piano 'ballad'. It really puts the exclamation point on the concept that I'm going to need this lady to put out a sophomore album or I'm won't know what to do with my life.

    So please, listen to any Soap&Skin release. They're all good. Hurry up already, I've been spouting this since 2008.










    92
    The Flaming Lips - The Terror


    Oh hey, you ever listen to The Flaming Lips? Yeah they're okay I guess.

    The Terror is a bit more dark and distraught than their previous works, but not in a bad way. If there's a band that can pull off dark without being annoying it's the band that gave us Do You Realize?.

    The overall composition is much more sparse than their previous efforts as well, which is interesting. They tend to write more for a concert setting than anything so it'll be interesting to see how they incorporate these songs into the setlist. They aren't debbie-downers but they're not fit for balloon drops, that's for sure.

    The songs are perfectly fine on their own but I'm not sure they blend into an album context very well. They're all great mood pieces but when played back to back it's just a bunch of the same beats being hit over and over again. It's not repetitive sonically but emotionally, which is very draining for the listener.

    You Lust, the thirteen minute odyssey, is a super near little track but functions as a microcosm the entire album. It's a slow burner, that's for sure, and it's definitely not a piece to relax to.

    This is a very Rorschach-y album, it's hard to say who will and won't enjoy it and any reaction to it is certainly indicative of the listener's mental state. Eh, try it.










    91
    Charles Bradley - Victim of Love


    Now this is what I'm talking about. A professional James Brown impersonator writes and releases an album of original material and it's flippin' awesome. Welcome to music, kiddos.

    This could have easily just been another James Brown ripoff but this sounds more like a modern channeling of Otis Redding. His debut album is slightly better but this is nothing to simply brush off as subpar. This kicks butt.

    It's not even close to original but it nails its intention with one hundred percent accuracy and efficiency. The vocals are superb, the instrumentation is varied enough to stay interesting at the least, and even the general song structures aren't nearly as cliche as you'd expect. It's a nice, complete package.

    It's not very ego-driven either, that's completely out of the ordinary for modern soul albums. There are quite a few long instrumental breaks that don't feel indulgent or forced at all, which is a lesson a few billion teens and twenty year olds could benefit from.

    There are a few aimless moments, too many to ignore, that don't really go anywhere but they don't completely derail the entire record. It could do with some trimming as well but it's only forty-something minutes long so it's not like you have to make a day out of it or anything.

    Check it out for sure. Go listen to the 'classics' first but definitely give this a chance as well.





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (120 - 106)

    12. Dez. 2013, 16:18

    Albums of 2013




















    120 – 106











    120
    Kid Cudi - Indicud


    It's kind of weird to think of just how long Kid Cudi hasn't been making records. He seems like one of those guys that have been around a while but he only sprung up a few years ago, which shows on some of his more lackluster work. Not on this though.

    You people really need to realize that Pursuit Of Happiness (nightmare) really is an abomination, it's like the antithesis of Day 'n' Nite. But nooooooo, you listen to some of Cudi's fans reacting to Indicud and you'd think he depantsed the second coming of their white-boy, suburb branding of hip-hop.

    Look, Cudi is good, but he's not really 'good'. He's not really revolutionizing his genre. I mean honestly, what's one of the better tracks on this album is only 'good' because it samples some Father John Misty and, even then, he completely butchers it. He's not bad, maybe slightly better than average, but come on. This isn't Wu-Tang Clan, this isn't Shabazz Palaces, this isn't Death Grips, this isn't even Kanye West.

    The production is average at best, the samples are perfectly fine (maybe better than average). Lyrically, it's par for the course. It's as cohesive as it could be. The dialectics, in general, are completely shot. Overall, the album cover serves as a microcosm for the whole thing: trying to place order around something incoherent. Which would be a good concept, if the artist had any competence to pull it off.

    All these kids (not people - kids) think that just because something isn't played on the radio that it instantly gains credibility. It's probably not played on the radio because it's probably not good. And remember, this is coming from someone who would completely dismantle the entire public broadcasting of arts given the chance.

    I mean, come on, it's another one of those 'hour-and-ten-minute' hip-hop albums. Come on, stop that nonsense. The genre as a whole, usually, lacks enough variety to make any sort of extended duration sustainable. I mean...come on. Seriously. Honestly, I've said and written more than my fair share of things that I regret, but I have not, don't, and will never condone long hip-hop albums. They never work. You have to cut your track lengths down to like two minutes and then work on like fifty songs for four years to make the entire thing rational and worthwhile and actually, you know, effective.

    Cudi really isn't getting at anything, that's the problem. There's no over-arching theme here, which gets downright annoying when you have to put up with it occupying your attention for four percent of an entire day. Honestly, artists have really forgotten that if you want people to focus on your music, that requires time, and they aren't going to react too kindly to you wasting it with a grey ambiguity more fit for a Malick film than a mainstream hip-hop record.










    119
    Low - The Invisible Way


    I've been somewhat looking forward to this record ever since Hailey and Steven went to a Death Cab for Cutie concert last year and said that the new Low stuff was the best part of it. Then again, Death Cab suck hardcore so I can't imagine anything that wouldn't make a better impression.

    But this record proves to be worth the wait. What more could you ask for than a super nice-and-dreary record produced by Jeff Tweedy? Maybe a slightly higher average tempo, but other than that it's hard to imagine the album being any more competent than it already is.

    It is a Low record though, which means you aren't getting insanely memorable melodies. It's not a huge issue if you're throwing the record on for some atmosphere but if you're really trying to dissect the structure, you're not going to get much more than rhythm. Again, nothing wrong with that.

    Check it out, but don't pay it too much attention. Leave it on in the background, it's some good thinkin' music.



    I just really, really want to do punk covers of these songs.










    118
    Gregory Alan Isakov -
    The Weatherman



    You know those people who listen to some music and then tell you that it all sounds the same? And you're so frustrated because it so obviously doesn't? They just aren't understanding the intricacies and differences between the songs.

    In relation to that, inversely, I don't understand how folk gets off on every artist being a carbon copy of the one that preceded them. I really, really struggle to think of a genre more derivative than modern folk, I really do.

    In your head, imagine a folk album. Imagine it playing in your head. There, we're done. That's the review, it sounds exactly like what you just imagined. How fun.

    This is better than average, sure, but what does that mean? It doesn't suck, correct, but it hardly has any inherent worth. The composition is fine, the instrumentation is dull, and the general atmosphere has been run into the ground more times than the human mind can even fathom, which is probably why the genre is so popular these days.

    Let's talk about lyrics. Let's talk about what makes lyrics good. With folk, there is this terrible affliction that listeners are subjecting themselves to where they think that prose is the only measure of language's worth. What is this album's artistic statement? No, I'll throw you an even better one: if this album has an artistic statement, does it differ from the last ten thousand folk albums released in the last five years? Nahhhhhhhhhh.

    So many people think that I just get my kicks from slagging off on folk music. I like folk music, I love it when it's done with some competency. You have to understand, I come home and I have to review a few albums a day. Now imagine that the new hot genre is one that loves to emulate itself. It would get kind of annoying to have to come up with new ways to describe the same slothfulness, right? Now imagine you have to do that every day. For years. What patience I had is gone and I won't apologize for letting it go out of mercy.

    What's the point anymore. Again, it's not a matter of me not getting 'it', it's this delusion, this endless and incombatable delusion, that this is pure and genuine. There is literally no point in fighting it anymore, people get a cheap thrill from this and won't let anyone try to disprove it. But here's the problem: I don't have a choice in fighting it. This isn't going to be the last folk review this year, but they're all going to sound exactly like this. What's the point. I'm just killing time and taking up page space at this point.

    I'm just confused as to what you people want. I hear music I like and really enjoy thinking of ways that the particular genre it resides in can advance and progress. But all you new folktards are just so...complacent. It's like this is everything you'll ever want in life, this. I don't get it, it just seems slothful and sinful to me.

    I mean really, tell me where I'm wrong here. One of the tenets I've based my entire life and existence on is anti-complacency and I don't find that to be particularly outlandish. What's the point in doing anything if it isn't for good? There is nothing good about assuming that the current status quo is the 'best'. This is what history books are for. I guess it's hard to imagine many new-folk fans reading history books. They seem like more of the 'fiction is better than life itself' type.

    I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I think that there are many great genre blends with folk that advance the medium, but I really don't find it out of line to say that folk died a couple decades ago. Really, just think about it, country music genre blends are now more adventurous than folk. I would recommend hanging it up and finding another path, but you people are so deluded into thinking that this is the straight and narrow. Straight and narrow-minded, sure, but there isn't anything noble about this.

    If you listen to ten or fifteen albums a year and like this, that's fine. That makes sense. That makes you a modern music fan. But once you hit forty, sixty, hundred, hundred and fifty, you start to see patterns. And they're not particularly adventurous patterns. And they don't just repeat themselves every year, they simply don't change. You can debate with me on the merits of modern folk music, please do, I would love nothing more, but I'm going to need to see a résumé first. Listen to fifty albums from this year, or any for that matter, and it's going to be really hard to maintain the argument that the genre and its fans have any worth.

    Whatever. Listen to it, give it a spin, pick it up, whatever I normally say. If it makes you feel good, fine, that's good enough. Just stop fooling yourself into advocating any objective worth on its behalf. Read a book, listen to something written before the twentieth century, use your head for something more than a hat rack.










    117
    MS MR - Secondhand Rapture


    Oh this is nice, this is my jam.

    This is what happens when music students start a band. None of this four-chord, classic rock-emulating crap. It may not be the most original or experimental thing in the world, it's certainly better than being pumped full of the same old lies.

    You're a bit of a dolt if you think this is 'dream pop' but I couldn't think ill of anyone that actually listens to this though. This is quite nice. Not particularly amazing but certainly nothing to brush off.

    I like the vocalist. She stresses the right notes and simply bypasses the others. It's both efficient and emotional, I like it.

    And this instrumentation, why, that's nice too. This guy's a good producer. There's some nice synthetic horns, the drums aren't the worst thing I've ever heard, it's cool. Really simple, but cool. Effective.

    It may not be their style or approach, but I'd love to hear a darker atmosphere on some of this. Not like 'suicide inducing' but more ominous. The poppy aspect plays somewhat well with the tone but a more stark angle would be interesting to say the least.

    Lyrically, eh, it's okay. Decent enough. Not cringe-inducing at least, and in 2013 that's quite a bit better than average.

    It kind of drags on a bit in the middle, then again what forty-five-minute 'indie' album doesn't?

    It's definitely nice-enough. First album, shows potential, you know the drill.










    116
    Four Tet - Beautiful Rewind


    "no pre order, no youtube trailers, no itunes stream, no spotify, no amazon deal, no charts, no bit coin deal, no last minute rick rubin"

    A slow applause for Mr. Hebden. You've earned it.

    As for the record itself, well, this is really difficult. He's a very good musician and producer but his early work just seems to completely eclipse anything he touches anymore. It's no fault of this records, but in the grand scheme of things it's really hard to give this any passes when we know what the artist is capable of.

    One aspect of this record that is absolutely great is how all of the female vocals can be traced to a single source. It a wonderfully simple touch that helps solidify cohesion immensely. And the percussion all draws from the same well (as well), serving as a worth assist as well.

    But, again, it's just not up to bar. It's all good, but none of it great. It's become somewhat of a joke among Hailey and I to start covering Unspoken when we're messing around, as it's so simple but so good. That's really where Hebden excels: the middle ground between 'way too simple' and 'too cluttered'. It's all barebones and that's just enough.

    I understand not wanting to walk down the same trail twice, as I'd go as far as denouncing anyone who willingly does, but there's a spark missing in his newer work that his former creations thrived on. To the album's credit, it is a very quick forty minutes. It's nice. It starts up, dances a round a bit, and leaves, not even dreaming of overstaying its welcome. But really, we've seen these moves before, and at a much better party to boot.

    This album is fine, but you would be infinitely better off starting with his earlier LPs. There is magic in those that simply doesn't exist here. It is, however, more than good enough to excite any who listen to it for his next release, whenever that may be.










    115
    Earl Sweatshirt - Doris


    We've heard great things about you, don't disappoint us.

    Earl is often regarded as a figure that the guard has been passed to, and I wouldn't call that an inaccurate claim. He certainly holds more promise in regards to his genre than some of his peers, like Kendrick Lamar and the ilk. He's a wonderful lyricist, with great prose, and has some interesting approaches in terms of conventional instrumentation.

    This is pretty good, it's no opus though, which is kind of necessary at this point in his career. It has a great atmosphere to it and it doesn't settle for any of the blatantly lazy tropes that it could easily get away with. I'm not praising it for not being bad, just saying that it could manage a few cliches with all the unconventional aspects that would cancel them out.

    But there's a problem with modern hip hop. 6/8 of the artists out there are totally content with just rehashing the same old crap. 1/8 of them are at least attempting to change what is conventional in hip-hop, which is noble. Striving to change the status quo is great, it shows that effort was exuded. But then there are another 1/8 of them who just don't give a crap and are pushing the boundaries of the genre and trying to turn it into something more. Those are what we need, Earl needs to join that movement. Because right now, he's in that other 1/8 and, while it is definitely working for him, it feels like wasted potential. He's just spinning his wheels.

    I know that The Alchemist produced this, which is nice and all, but he really needs a producer that ruins his life for a few months. He needs to be pushed and poked and prodded, because he would benefit from it. This is a totally fine album but his third LP3 needs to be mind-blowing, otherwise what's the point? He's just another 2010s hip-hop artist. Granted, one of the better ones, but he could be so much more.

    The instrumentation is nice, though not exactly unexpected or deviating from the standard OFWGKTA release. The featured artists are actually nice and don't completely derail the record every twenty seconds, which separates it from most rap records. It's a nice little album.

    But we need more.










    114
    Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog -
    Your Turn



    Hold out your hand, child. This, this here...this is my jam.

    This is how daddy likes his guitar playing, haphazard and dangerous.

    The song structure on this record is probably the brightest jewel in its crown. It's very rigid with a relaxing delusion of looseness. It's like a really fun garage jam session but there's some rock solid theory backing it up, and I both appreciate and adore it for that.

    The lyrics are both amazing and annoying. There's a few moments where they just slide around like a puddle on the floor but more often than not they're like an icicle piercing your skull (in a good way (if there is one)). The album isn't loaded with lyrics anyway, so it's not like you're a slave to much prose.

    The instrumentation is superb, that's all there is to it. You got horns popping in and out, crazy fuzzy distortion over everything, non-invasive percussion, it's all here. Step right up, we'll find something for you.

    If you want to listen to an hour of cool-guys-jam-as-wildly-and-diversely-as-they-can, definitely pick this up. It's not the most, uh, comprehendible record of the year but just throw it on in the background and go to work. Play this is auto shops, yeah, that sounds like a good idea.










    113
    Sigur Rós - Kveikur


    Hey, do you listen to Sigger Ross?

    College kids: scum of the earth.

    I didn't think Valtari was that bad. It really wasn't. Not their best, sure, definitely even, but far from bad or even average.

    Then they put out this album and sit and giggle in the corner, "Tee hee, it's a bit harder and aggressive than our normal stuff, tee hee" and I'm like, "I listen to Von for fun. For fun. This is kid stuff, yo."

    This seems like a typical response to Valtari. People don't really understand quiet, subtle melodies so let's make them all loud and WHOA, in-your-face obvious. Because that's always the smartest thing to do, give a crap how something is received. Yeah, whatever, pay your bills, I get it.

    You know, this isn't bad. It's not. But come on, what is this? It's like a high school marching band tried to cover every Sigur Rós song at once. There's noting subtle or nuanced about it. What's the point? Come on, you know me, you know I adore the post-rock candylands they create with each release but this is just gibberish.

    At least we finally have a conclusive test to see if a person is pretentious or not. If you honestly dislike Coldplay but like this album, congratulations, you have no idea what you're talking about and our assistants will be out to your residence shortly to strip you of your credibility.

    You know things aren't exactly going to plan when this is the best thing Sigur Rós has done all year.










    112
    Elton John - The Diving Board


    This is so good it almost makes up for Almost Famous.

    T-Bone was right, making this a piano record was a fantastic decision. This is definitely one of John's better albums, his compositions are just as lovely as they've ever been and Bernie Taupin's lyrics haven't dulled even slightly. It's nice for a popular musician to release an album that isn't just stadium-rock filler.

    The song structures here are really something worth brining up. They continuously evolve and build and drop, all with such simplicity. It's more than appreciative, trust me. The artists are serving the needs of the song, not the other way around, and the quality reflects that.

    It's all very interesting, because using only three instruments for an entire album would surely become tiring for any listener if the songs weren't so competently written. There are nice moments of variety here and there, though it could do with some more. It's more than an atmospheric piece, but it just needs a few more sparks to actually ignite its full potential. It's not that it's boring, but there are a few saggy sections overall.

    In short: it shouldn't be the first record of his you listen to, but you should maybe take a listen or two, you might end up finding your song on it.



    [Editor's Note:] hahaha, oh my god. This kid is the king of double punchlines, jesus.










    111
    2 Ton Bug - It's A Wonderful Life


    Top Standup Comedians Working Today:

    1. Stewart Lee
    2. Bill Burr
    3. Joe Rumrill

    Rumrill also happens to be a member of the super flippin' awesome band 2 Ton Bug.

    Imagine punk rock meets the Magic School bus, the angst of being young while also delusionally peppy. It's a very abrasive magic show, let's just put it that way.

    The compositional value, while super simple, is immense due to the fact that everything is approached in such an uncompromising manner. The production, mixing, and general songstructure as a whole isn't sent down to standards and practices for tweaking. It feels, more than most releases this year, as if the final result is exactly what the band set out to achieve. You have to give them competence points for that.

    I'd love for the vocals to be mixed a little higher. I love how they bleed into everything else à la every shoegaze band ever, but for a record as punky as this one it might help if they were a bit more authoritative. It's not like the approach they took doesn't work though, it's still a fun little hoedown to have.

    I like independent punk releases like this because they're short and to the point. They don't spend an hour fluffing about with only twenty five minutes of actual compositional value. It's straight to the point, leave them wanting more. Twenty three minutes long, all of them at least good. That's a heck of a batting average these days.

    Check it out, it's free. But more importantly, it's good. Not insanely original but nowhere near a waste of time.










    110
    Christopher Owens - Lysandre


    Concept album? Concept album.

    Lysandre tells the tale of of the first tour of Owens' former band, Girls, on their first tour in 2008. It's a nice story that needs to be told at this moment, as Chris felt like breaking up the band last year.

    One thing you might notice fairly quickly is how short this is. It's not like the Girls material was super long but the total album durations were certainly much longer than the twenty eight minutes this gives you. But I mean this as a compliment, as this is just potent enough to send a message without overstaying its welcome.

    Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for woodwinds and brass, but I don't understand the stink everyone is raising over this album's instrumentation. It's really simple. There's a driving song, so he throws on some harmonica. There's a song about New York City, so he throws on some saxophone. It makes sense. It's not the ballsiest move, but it more than makes sense.

    You people have to understand, the guy is a model. Models, for the most part, don't exactly have the sharpest minds. I don't mean that as a prejudice generalization, it's just a side-effect of the job. If you want to write books on quantum theory, you have to become intelligent and articulate. If you want to be a model, your beautiful mom has to have sex with a handsome man and you have to make sure you never break your nose. That's about it. Owens is a model and can write pretty and sincere songs. That's worth something.

    Vocally, it's pretty bland. We have to stand up and hold hands in a circle and admit that to ourselves. This could have much better vocals. Yes, I understand that somberness is the prominent aspect he's punctuating, but Bruce Springsteen sings some somber songs while pushing the decibels at the same time.

    Overall, it's nice. Listen to it. Go ahead, it's less than half an hour. It's not going to ruin your day. It might not make it either, but that's up to you.










    109
    Atoms for Peace - AMOK


    I don't have heroes. But if I did, Thom Yorke would not be one of them.

    I feel the same way about Yorke as he does about global leaders: a disdain for abused power. He used to be 'it' and truly a bright beacon to help one find their way out of rough seas. Now, he's literally unrecognizable.

    As an older African-American once told me when I imparted some insight into my Radiohead listening history, I've "been listening to Radiohead for a long-ass time." There doesn't exist a recording of the band that I don't own (unless you count the Horserama tapes, I suppose). But, instead of siding on extreme fanboyism, this allows me to hold the band and their members to a higher standard than most.

    Thomas Edward Yorke's Radiohead career started out relatively harmless. Pablo Honey has some decent enough tunes on it. But Creep obviously took its toll on Yorke. Then we received The Bends, as if he was telling the world, "No, we can be better than what you've heard." And they were.

    But The Bends is relatively Brit-pop based, so where's the challenge there? What's the point in going down that road? The answers to these questions were answered by Yorke and Co. completely jumping the rails and taking us to the sounds of OK Computer. Yorke had an aura of contempt around him that screamed, "Don't settle for anything." That's why OK Computer is still so revered, it's the only album that's as blissful as it is bitter.

    But again, like Creep before it, Yorke didn't want to get pigeon-holed into a specific sound. So three years later, they relocated to a completely different audible world with Kid A. There was a sense of honor, a sense of obligation with this record. "We're not going to repeat ourselves, that would be amateur" it almost seemed to echo constantly.

    Then came Radiohead: unfiltered, also known as Amnesiac, where Yorke completely abandoned the archaic beliefs that lyrical and musical composition should be completely tailored towards initial and immediate audience cohesion. Just nothing but pure being, Yorke had finally reached the step where he could finally say, "I'm going to do my best and not water it down." And it completely worked.

    Itching to get out of EMI's clutches, Hail to the Thief was thrown together, combining the pure sensibilities of Amnesiac while also trying to build upon what OK Computer was striving for. It mostly worked, mostly because it was a gamble. Many songs were better than great and a few were worse than terrible, but it was okay because it signified Yorke climbing out on a limb and picking out some fruit we'd never tried before, only some of them had gone sour, but at least the intentions were pure.

    Fast-forward a few years, then we get In Rainbows, also known as Yorke asking himself, "Is Radiohead still relevant?" Of course, but that's not the point. The point was that Yorke had self-doubt and a mountain to climb. That means the songs were going to just be settled upon, they were going to have the ten best songs they had, recorded in the ten best ways. And it worked, again. The simplicity of The Bends meets the best moments from every album following that.

    But then came the moment where Thom snuck his foot into the threshold and threw all this into jeopardy: The King of Limbs. Don't get me wrong, I still maintain that it was one of the best albums of 2011 by far but don't even try to deny that it introduced us to a new Thom Yorke, and maybe not for the better.

    It's not necessarily a 'we can therefore we should' mentality that he's emanating, but it's still an attitude that I'm not going to separate from being born of arrogance. There's a definite lack of quality control. Just look at his hair, I feel like this is the Pablo Honey days all over again, where he's trying to sell himself as something he's not instead of shaving his head and flipping everyone off before he writes Pyramid Song in less than ten minutes.

    Yorke used to epitomize the notion that art is hard but art is worth it, and that meant something to me for a very long time. I'm not one of those stupid idiots that urges him to pickup a guitar every thirty seconds, because I know that he used to DJ in college so he's been doing electronic music for almost as long as piano/guitar driven works.

    But it just feels like he's completely lost touch with his entire life. I used to look to Thom as being the Neil Young of a generation. But now he's trying to emulate people half his age and at what point is someone going to grab him by the shoulders and cry, "Have you ever thought about the fact that you probably haven't even written your best songs yet?"

    I used to relate to Yorke almost completely based on the fact that he's hard on himself and wouldn't let anyone tell him not to be. I can identify with that, I'm all about that. But he very suddenly, almost overnight, slid into the completely toxic mentality of "It's all just subjective opinions, man, just do whatever you want because you're entitled to only do things for yourself. Who really knows what 'art' or 'music' are? It's all just opinions, brah."

    Our best case-scenario is that this is just a phase. My Thom Yorke is dead until the new one cuts his hair. That's when I'll know that he's back to taking things seriously. We'll get some serious music when this Yorke comes back to town. And to be honest, I expect him to return on LP9.

    On that note, let's get to Atoms for Peace, the album to bridge the gap.

    Look, I listen to a lot of electronic music. Probably not more than Thom, but a competitive amount. That's what was so interesting about The Eraser, it was so conventional while also having this other eclectic personality to it that it brought out when necessary. That being said, AMOK definitely improves on the entire atmosphere of what Yorke is trying to do if also removing a bit of the character.

    The Eraser is still a powerful-enough song that even when listening to it for the one-hundred-billionth time I still have to convince myself not to get embarrassingly emotional. There aren't any moments like that on here, but only an idiot would argue that Yorke's solo effort has a better overall atmosphere and a stronger cohesion than this record.

    Lyrically, it's definitely nice enough but not near the heights The Eraser hit. I once off-handedly told a young lady that she had an artichoke heart and had to assure her that I was just making a Yorke reference and not a romantic advance.

    Composition-wise, I suppose it's a nifty little album, but it really reminds me of what made John Talabot's ƒin such a good release. I can't fathom the sounds he made on that record, I can easily fathom what Yorke is doing on this one. In fact, it's not amateur, but it certainly isn't advanced or even intermediate synth-work. I know, I work with Hailey so I'm incredibly spoiled, but even on a pure album-reviewing stance, it's nothing special.

    Rhythmically, it's nice. Not "WHAT TIME SIGNATURE IS THIS!?!" good, but still nifty enough to provide a nice escape from constant complacency.

    I don't know, the entire thing is nice-enough. Not anywhere near disappointing but not nearly good enough to pull it close to any of his best works. The Eraser still takes the cake in my book, because it has very real flaws to it that add to character. This just has some competency issues. It's good, but it's not particularly unique like The Eraser was.

    Look, if you're a member of the church of Radiohead, I suppose St. Yorke can do no wrong and this will be your latest book of hymns. But if you're a rational and sane individual that has enough of a brain to admit that Amnesiac is objectively the best Radiohead album, then maybe you'll listen to this one or two times at most.

    Now, onto LP9, hopefully the last Radiohead album which could be something like Identikit, Lift, the Present Tense, Big Boots, Follow Me Around, Come To Your Senses, Skirting On The Surface, Burn the Witch, and Open The Floodgates before ending it all on True Love Waits. And then they'll have secured enough of a legacy.

    Or something like that. Then I won't have to give a crap what kind of haircut anyone has.

    [Author's Note:] Look, I'm not saying this is terrible or anything, but I'm not fond of what is happening with Yorke at the moment. I'm glad he's happy and having fun and moments like this are nice and all that...but this isn't a state he should be making music in.

    It's not that this state of mind is bad for all artists, just Thom. He tends to do better when he's under pressure (self-inflicted or otherwise). It's not healthy, but then again artists shouldn't be the pinnacle of health (says this guy and his imaginary MD).

    To be honest, I guess I just miss this Thom. That's my Thom.


    [Author's Note:] This does give me hope though. And this. More actual emotion and less kumbaya bullcrap and he might win me back over (like that matters).


    [Author's Note:] I think that the most accurate thing anyone said regarding AMOK this year was, “thom yorke is like the woman with a virginia ham under each arm, crying cause she hasn't got any bread”



    [Editor's Note:] Hailey and Jesse are indeed fucking pissed at Radiohead right now, which is very weird. I think Amok is fine but they took personal offense to it in some way I think. Be fair though, if Hailey is pissed at a musician, they're probably doing something wrong.










    108
    Iceage - You're Nothing


    Iceage are one of the few bands kickin' around today that just get it. They make incredibly convincing music and this album, only their second, firmly gives them a foothold for an effective career.

    The whole 'thing' about punk is not caring at all while also very much giving a crap. That's difficult to actually pull off. You either end up with a bunch of butt-scratching teenagers playing power chords and screaming off-key or you get a platoon of pathetic thirty year olds trying to sell their shoddy political agenda through a genre piece. But no, Iceage astutely walk this line on You're Nothing and provide a good, fun, and powerful experience.

    It's incredibly relieving to find that they didn't go through a sophomore slump in any facet, easily producing some of their best compositions to date on this record. It's fast, loud, and most important: competent. It has purpose and that's an underrated concept in music post-2000-whatever.

    And not to be racist or nationalist, but it's great that they're Danish. It's refreshing to hear a different breed of punk than the standard Hoboken highway trash. Maybe he just has a convincing voice, but an international angst machine is neat little vehicle and you're probably going to be persuaded into jumping onboard.

    Instrumentally, it's totally fine. I listen to Warsaw all the time so it's certainly nothing new (neither was Warsaw) but it is absolutely and undeniably effective. It has all the standard punk columns while still managing to support something slightly new and interesting. At a certain point you have to stop and think what more can you ask for, and if you're even entitled to.

    I'd still love to hear them try out some more piano work but this is far too fantastic an album to dismiss for any personal preferences.










    107
    Disclosure - Settle


    This is just so quaint, an electronic album for kids that aren't allowed to listen to The Knife.

    This is probably what Daft Punk fans thought Random Access Memories was going to be like. Completely mindless, incredibly derivative, and devoid of all substance. And that's just the first track.

    No balls, no balls. You can make the 'best' album in the entire world all you want, if there isn't a single risk involved then you're far from actually producing something of value.

    All of the featured artists are what makes this album even remotely listenable. Their vocal styles, at the most, spin a somewhat interesting take on club music. But not necessarily a good one or one that wasn't cliche about two decades ago. But again, they're the only saving grace.

    These two brothers are really something awful: wasted potential. Everything, all of it, has been done before in infinitely more competent ways. Take all the ingenuity from this entire album and it doesn't add up to even a fraction of the thought put into a single note of even a slightly-better-than-average electronic album. This is what people who are ignorant of electronic music think electronic music is.

    It's a bunch of crap because all you need to do is pull the vocal stems out of these tracks and any half-brained producer in the world could make some solid gold out of them. But this? What is this? It's almost even anti-intellectual, which is usually pretty self-evident for a dance record but this one seems to take comfort in the fact that its recklessly unoriginal.

    Attention spans, art-wise, used to be about a generation long but we've reached the point where everyone's stupid little brains get wiped every five years and they think everything is being done for the first time. This is so color-by-the-numbers you should be sippin' on a bottle of Elmer's when you listen to it.

    Whatever, listen to it, it's not the worst thing in the world but you need to get out from that rock you're living under if you think it's the best.










    106
    Kate Nash - Girl Talk


    Kate Nash is one of my favorite people on the planet. She is an incredible songwriter and generally nice human being. Rare traits for a musician.

    I don't have to lie: when Made of Bricks came out, I probably listened to Foundations for about thirty-six hours straight. I still listen to it at least a few times a fortnight. It's just everything a song is supposed to be and it's even better live.

    This new album, her third, is pretty nice. It's nice to see that she still gives a crap. It doesn't sound like her previous albums, which is another bonus. Though, to be fair, the atmosphere certainly doesn't play towards any of her strengths.

    Look, punk needs to be punk. You can't have any of this soulful introspection, do you know why? Because that's called post-punk. The lyrics in this are wonderful, they're better than acceptable. But, with the genre and atmosphere, it's all for naught. The clash is there, sure, but nothing comes as a result of it.

    But really, aside from this huge genre misstep, it's pretty decent. She can still write a song better than the half of them. There aren't as many heart-melting moments as you might be accustomed to on a Nash record, but there are more than a few.

    To be fair, with all my 'THIS IS NOT PUNK!" accusations, her vocals on Sister make me smile something hardcore. She doesn't give a crap on that one, I wish she tried the same approach on the other tracks. That would be ballsy, like we've grown accustomed to.

    It's a fine album, it really is, and I really don't want to be that guy, I really don't, but sometimes I catch myself watching older Youtube videos and trying not to sigh a bit.





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (135 - 121)

    10. Dez. 2013, 7:59

    Albums of 2013




















    135 – 121











    135
    Dropkick Murphys -
    Signed and Sealed in Blood



    It would be really hard for Dropkick Murphys to release something that wasn't at least really decent.

    It's not a concept album like Going Out in Style was, so I can't be completely enthralled by it but it certainly has a fun aspect to it. For the most part, it's a quick collection of fast little songs, which is an underrated concept nowadays in and of itself.

    Is really that different from their releases? No, not at all. To be fair, they don't have a cliche formula so this isn't a huge issue but any and every artist needs to take it upon themselves to advance their sound, regardless of opinion.

    It's a nice and fun listen, that's for sure.










    134
    Riton - Lost My Mind


    Oh Henry, you shoodn't 'av!

    Ed Banger records tend to be either the worst releases on the planet or some of the better ones, this falls somewhere in the middle. It's rather forgettable, considering what Sebastian or even Kavinsky are doing, though it's not like it's not still slightly better than most other 'club' releases this year.

    But, honestly, it's rather paint-by-the-numbers. Maybe, maybe if this came out in 1994 it would be a little more impressive but it simply runs too many standard tropes into the ground to actually be called even slightly unique or 'necessary'.

    Lyrically, it's beyond terrible so let's just not even discuss 'words' and 'how to use them'.

    Instrumentally, it's super lazy. There are some interesting song structures here though, you have to give credit where it is due.

    I mean, to be fair, it's totally fine. The record is just okay, but it has some serious faults barring it from being anywhere even remotely close to 'good'.

    Whatever, it's just a 2013 French house EP, there's not exactly a lot riding on it.










    133
    Patty Griffin - American Kid


    We've reached a point, as a global civilization, where we call something amazing just because it doesn't suck. And that's a bunch of crap.

    This is good, this is totally fine. High-five worthy, a totally competent album. But in what universe is this anything better than average? I swear, you kids need to stop being so impressed with everything. Seriously, it must be exhausting.

    She can sing, write, and play, all very well. Big flippin' whoop, so can everyone else. This girl has more wit than most, I'll give her that. But come on people, listen to a god-forsaken classical album once in a while. This is bush league, mostly everything post 1940s is bush league. Millions died in WWII but the most devastating casualty of all was standards.

    Lyrically, this is great. It's funny, it's sad, it runs the gauntlet of the emotional spectrum. A round of applause is due, seriously. But come on. That's about it. Don't get me wrong, it's a good folk album. It understands that lyrics have to be bulletproof for such simple composition, that's rare, and it deserves a massive thanks for that.

    Look, I'm not saying that you need to suffer for great art, but it usually helps. There is nothing at stake here, nothing. That's something folk has always suffered from. There's like five musicians every generation that understand that folk needs a plethora of dimensions to it, not just a first-person narrative over an acoustic guitar. It's just like soul music, your music is only as interesting as you are.

    Now, remember, the artist is supposed to be separated from the art. That's what rational beings understand. But, an artist is supposed to pour themselves into their art. If you've had such a dandy life with no unique perspective of the world, there is no point in you making music. I don't care if it makes you happy, I don't care if you know all the chords, there is no point in you making art. Because it just amounts to you doodling on the cave wall, while others are painting what they saw outside while fighting the sabertooth. Sure, you're entitled to your doodles, but don't pretend you're better or even equal to a new perspective.

    This is why I'm not supposed to know how something is being received before I review it, because I throw a childish tantrum about it. But come on you stupid idiots, what is this? This is your album of the year? Pffffffft, get out, and take your stupid 'it's all just opinions' with you.

    I mean really, there are musicians that sit in the dark for five years and lose all contact with the outside world trying to make good music. And they usually do. Because they give a crap about actually doing something. They're trying to make their name actually mean something. But this, this is just pleasant. Just pleasant. Nothing more. It has zero impact and will not earn any interest on it's artistic worth, which doesn't sit all too high to begin with.

    I swear to God, it's all post-modernism's fault. "Let's see what happens." Screw that, plan it out and make something new. I'm so sick of listening to all this crap every year, there's always an awesome handful of albums that truly understand what they're doing, and then there's a couple hundred piles of crap, defending themselves with "COULD=SHOULD, OPINIONS BRAH." Grow a pair and push yourselves. Think outside of the box that is your comfort zone, you bunch of spoiled brats.

    Whatever, the album's fine. That's it: fine. Not good, not great, not amazing, not perfect, not worthy of renown. Fine.










    132
    Justin Timberlake -
    The 20/20 Experience





    You know what's not cooler than a million dollars?



    JT don't misunderstand, don't misunderstand/
    What I'm trying to tell ya/
    In the corner of my mind, corner of my mind/
    JT it feels like we're running out of time.



    The song structure throughout is both super lazy and contrived but it still manages be a pretty nice little record. It's an hour and ten minutes, which is far too long for this to ever be called a great album, but it's nowhere near a worthless trip.

    But really, how big of a piece of crap do you have to be to actually enjoy Suit & Tie? I mean, sure, the percussion is neat, but everything about that song is every reason that people who value nostalgia should be exiled to Antarctica. It embodies all of the typical 'real' music 'values' and perfectly shows why they're inferior. It all makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

    On their own, each of the elements of this album are wonderful, but when put together they're slightly irritating. It's really does an amazing job of pumping out the most pretentious and irritating auras possible.

    At the end of the day, Justing Timberlake was in *NSYNC, no one with a functioning organ in their skull should be looking for him to reestablish the roles of convectional instrumentation in modern music. The guy works with Timbaland as well, it's not like this achieves anything higher than radiopop.

    The entire record is just a pantheon of missed potential. If Blue Ocean Floor was recorded with just his unaltered vocals and a nothing more than a piano, I would probably cry for a month or two. It's an overproduced album and that is not a statement of opinion. Just listen to Strawberry Bubblegum and please give me a convincing argument as to why this isn't an ultimately deceptive album in it's derivativeness.

    Don't get me wrong. I'm a twentysomething male, the concept of sex is innately interesting on some level. But sadly, I'm also an educated member of the twenty-first century, so I require a bare level of intellectual stimuli for any neuros to start poppin'. I am well aware that I'm not in this record's target demographic but, if you have even respond to this music with even the slightest twinge of self-respect, you probably aren't either.

    Plus some of the songs utilize vocal beatboxing in a totally serious manner.

    I gotta get me one of them fake tooths that double as a cyanide pill.



    [Editor's Note:] Again, just in case you didn't catch it the first time. Hahaha, it's not that subtle, you all need to step up your game.

    And have you noticed yet that all his reviews this year follow the same pattern? A very subtle transition from "It's not a bad record" to "it makes me want to kill myself" haha.











    131
    Sting - The Last Ship


    "So I was thinking I could just sorta sit down, you know? Like, 'Oh man, look, they're not making any more ships where I grew up. They're closing the shipyards, that's what the album's about."

    "Yeah, Sting, I know. I just don't really get what you're trying to go-"

    "And I'll sit there and I'll like, put my elbow on my knee and just rub my head like, 'Oh man...oh man...what happened...oh man...' You know, in a, like, angsty kind of way."

    "No, I understand what it is you're saying, but you're not listening to me. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should."

    "But I just thought...wait, is this about the accent?"

    "Well, you see, it's not that...yeah it is."



    If I was given the choice between making it so the Holocaust never happened or getting rid of the accent Sting uses in this album, I would immediately chose the former...but not without a quick stutter, as I think about how nice it'd be to live in a world without the latter.

    Seriously, holy flippin' crap, this thing could have been amazing without him totally screwing up the entire thing with the most hokey and unnecessary Geordie accent imaginable. It would be the single most pretentious instance of musical ignorance in the last twenty years if modern folk artists from the United Kingdom weren't heavily botching a two-hundred year old American accent and dialect already. Saved by the bell again, Stingy.

    I'm not even joking, these lyrics are incredible but why bother even coming close to praising them when they're sung through such groan-inducing exaggerations. Keep in mind, I like Sting, I listen to The Police all the time. But what is going on? He needs some 'no-men' around him, saying, "Uh, yeah, that sounds cool and all, but try singing how you actually sing."

    The arrangements and instrumentation are absolutely marvelous, but they're sung over by the same stupid accent. It's maddening, it's like watching a train derail in slow motion, twelve times in less than an hour. It just constantly ruins song after song, and they really would have been good songs too.

    Let's forget about the accept for a second, but only for a second. There are some tonal issues with this, not compositionally but structurally. Is this a Celtic-rock album or a jazz album? An old eastern seaboard folk album or a maritime orchestral movement? I understand that this is essentially the score for the musical Sting wrote but I don't see a whole a lot of cohesion here. It sounds like a boring collection of singles. None of the songs are boring, but they don't do each other any favors in the tracklist, that's for sure.

    It's okay, that's it. There's a whole dumptruck full of missed potential here, but at least the record stands on its own. It is competent, I'll give it that. But so are plenty of other records, so here we are. Just sitting, hands it laps, "Oh...well...that was nice I guess."

    The bookend melodies really are quite fantastic but it's just not enough.










    130
    Mogwai - Les Revenants


    Mogwai, the European Explosions in the Sky? Consider it.

    Now you know I be loving The Fountain and its score, so another film score from Mogwai is always appreciated. And they continue to deliver compositions that not only enhance the visuals they accompany but also stand on their own quite well.

    The instrumentation doesn't really stray to far from their comfort zone but at least the song structures do. There aren't any explosive moments like they usually utilize on their LPs. Which is a nice change I suppose, maybe not for the absolute best but at least it's a change.

    It's all very piano-driven, which is fine, especially for a score. But it occasionally becomes a bit repetitive. They throw in some chromatic percussion every once in a while but not nearly enough. To be fair, making a down-tempo album not devolve into repetition is difficult. Plus the fact that this is a score, so it can't really be marked down for pumping out and continually reinforcing a theme.

    It's good though. Not even close to an objectively good score that can stand on its own, but it's thorough and complete enough for what it is.










    129
    Tegan and Sara - Heartthrob


    My favorite thing in the entire world, my favorite thing, is that these young ladies want to criticize the music of Tyler, the Creator (which they're completely entitled to do) but then they go and make a record like this. It's not bad, but it's certainly not good enough to entitle superiority.

    The change in direction is commendable and all that, but don't kid yourself: it's really girly pop. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it is by no means important music. As in: there's no reason to actually watch a T&S interview and expect a profound statement out of either of them.

    I don't know, it's not dripping in competence. Every human deserves a certain amount of respect and credibility, but pop musicians deserve the least of each. It's not like this is even close to a terrible album but seriously, what is this crap? It's not synth-pop, don't kid yourself.

    All of these songs, all of these songs, would be better performed acoustically. All of them. I Was a Fool would probably be one of the best songs of the entire year if it was actually performed with some self-respect.

    The songwriting is fantastic but the execution is just terrible, just absolutely terrible. It's a shame when this happens, it's like three entire years down the drain.

    Whatever, no loss.










    128
    Mikal Cronin - MCII


    Oh yes! Self-expression! It's so important! Indie music! We can do this! Yes! Love and happiness! It's all here! Everyone and everything is so important! Ugh, yes! Life! Sometimes it get's hard but you just gotta power through! We're young! Smile! Live, love, laugh! Not all who wander are lost! You can do it! Art is magic!



    ...you know, I'm just so tired. I can't do it anymore. I don't get how you people do it. I don't understand why everyone doesn't just stand up and yell, "BULLCRAP!" and point at all these flippin' scum-of-the-earth twenty first century musicians who just keep jacking each other off with incredibly derivative work.

    It's exhausting. I need to start learning new languages just so I can continue criticizing the banality of music today without repeating myself.

    It's all the same.

    It's all the same.

    It's all the same.

    It's all the same.

    It's all the same.

    It's all the same.

    There, we did it. Those are six different reviews for the six different 'indie' albums that get spit out into the world every week.

    Honestly, I can not think of anything to say about this album. It's got that indie-garage-guitar-pop feeling to it, which it shares with a hundred thousand other albums released this year.

    Look, it's crap. You may really like it and adore what it does, and that's fine, but, objectively, it's garbage. It does nothing wrong but it makes literally no artistic statement at all, or at least one that hasn't oozed out of the mouth of every other pathetic moron in their twenties at least a billion times before.

    I get that people like music, and like to make music, and like to listen to music but it just feels like the entirety of Western first-world civilization has lost the concept of there being a purpose for art. Seriously, just because you're in a band and you play songs and people like you doesn't mean you're not crap. Honestly, people of Earth, please, there is not as much subjectivity in art as you'd like to think.

    It's all just so stupid. It all sounds the same. And then when it doesn't, it's even worse. It's either completely blown into pretension or shunned entirely. This whole species of hominids is just unbearable, I'd rather ask the orangutans about their thoughts on art.

    And people pay for this. I just...I just need to cry. People actually go to work and use their earnings to buy crap like this album and actually are delusional enough to think it's good. And don't pretend for a second that I'm out of line saying this. People's music preferences are largely established from what they were raised on or discovered at an early age, which means that they listen to what their parents did or what they have access to as a teenager. Just because someone likes something doesn't mean their parents weren't idiots and the place they grew up in wasn't full of them either.

    I can't do it. It's only June but I think this is the final straw. I don't think I can be nice about it anymore. Music is mostly objective. Fact. I could hardly care less that this fact is dwarfed almost entirely by the delusion of the opposite. Art is a thing, things have parameters. It is no different from food, at all. Music is exactly the same as food, there are rules. And any form of preference is just a evolutionary trait gained from the environment.

    I'm not getting on a soapbox here, not even one that I've gotten on before, but I just don't understand what it is I'm doing. I was commissioned to write a review for this. Why? WHY!?! It's the same exact album I've reviewed a billion times before. It is so unfair that I get paid to do this and some kid in Africa is killing and eating beetles to stay alive. It's bullcrap, all in the name of 'art is subjective.'

    Yeah, heads up, it sucks. Most art sucks, with an exponent. This album is a testament to that.

    Piss off and go listen to something that might change your life. Odds are that it probably exists outside your comfort zone, you ignorant dullards.










    127
    Andrew Cedermark - Home Life


    It's one of those records that you'll like if you know who Andrew Cedermark is and already like what he does, it's not going to win over anyone who doesn't.

    It sounds an awful lot like he's just restructuring and repurposing old Christian hymns. And not doing a very good job with it.

    The whole thing is just really standard-downtempo-2003-indie-rock. I get it, you know how to play guitar just like other people. Would it kill you to at least try to put some sort of spin on it? Financially, sure it might, but not artistically, brother.

    I know I've been doing this to you people all year but I'm sorry: what am I supposed to say? It's really average, and I've reviewed seventeen billion average albums. I've run out of things to say. There are only so many synonyms.

    What? It's uninspired? Does that work? Can I get away with using that one again?

    Train Window Man is a prime example of the promise this record squandered. It could have been cool and wafty and solemn but no, it's present and obtrusive and dull.

    It's just an average amount of average. It almost has something to say but then remembers that it didn't. No point, move on.










    126
    James Holden - The Inheritors


    Oh hey look, it's another album that Thom Yorke thinks he's making.

    This is pretty cool. It plays with some simple rhythms in some really interesting ways. If you're into that sort of thing, it's great. If you're not...well, why not?

    It's not that it's difficult, heavens no, but it is one of those abrasive and jagged releases that it might not be best to bring home to Ma and Pa. It's a lot of fun, but it ain't exactly pushin' the chords, if you know what I'm sayin'.

    Originality isn't exactly one of the strongest aspects tied to the record but it's hardly conventional. The percussion work is always interesting at the least and the instrumentation is varied enough to justify the hour-and-fifteen-minute running time. The general synthesized elements are pretty ridiculously cliche, but 'eh', it works.

    But this is really just worth listening to for the percussion, it's very fun. Then he throws in a saxophone and it's great! Sure, some of the tracks just sort of sit in the mud and don't go anywhere but for the most part, it's just a barrel of laughs.

    It's not really possible to 'recommend' this album, as it's a bit of an acquired taste and not really worth it once you acquire that taste. Sure, it's great, it's fun, and it's adventurous...but basically lacks a spine of any kind. It's not a huge loss, but it's rather unfortunate.










    125
    Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God


    Let's just put it this way: this is easily better than anything My Morning Jacket has ever done. And I like MMJ, but this is just an entire step up.

    It's got a cool, minimal, downtempo soul feel to it. An acousticy-electronic one too, it's pretty flippin' cool. The dude knows his sounds. This could have been an absolute mess but it's thankfully super well done.

    The songs don't drone on but they are bit aimless. It's somewhat forgivable though, as it's a semi-experimental record. Semi-experimental, so not completely forgivable.

    It does carry plenty of the faults that most My Morning Jacket records have though, along with those of their peers. It's just a weird amorphous blob of sound, there isn't and rigidity to any of it. Which is fine, but there's a certain point where 'mellow' ceases to be mellow and is just 'repetitive'.

    It's hard to offer any perspective or suggestion because, again, it's a conventionally experimental album. But it is remarkably average as well.

    It has this cool, funky, 1970s soul to it but it doesn't really do anything with it. That sentence had a few too many 'its' in it. But the record just doesn't really have any fingerprints on it.

    Whatever, if you know who Jim James is you'll probably like this.

    It's also pretty overtly Christian, if you're into/against that sort of thing you might want to keep that in mind.










    124
    Austra - Olympia


    A good portion of this sounds like it was ported over straight from Feel It Break, which would be a rough criticism if that wasn't such a good album.

    Stelmanis still knows how to structure a song though, you can't take that away. No matter how repetitive it could theoretically get, each song organically unfolds in a way that doesn't scream 'contrived' or 'unoriginal'.

    Most of the instrumentation on this is organic as well, the band shying away from synthetic sounds and opting for using 'real' instruments. It works, for the most part. The overall sound lies somewhere between full and sparse though, it doesn't quite pick its place as efficiently as their last record.

    To be honestly, I'm going to call this a sophomore slump. It's just missing that spark that separates it from other releases. It's not bad or even unoriginal but it would be quite the stretch to call it good.

    It has everything their last album had, but not put together in the same ways. There are no interesting clashes in sound. There's nothing to shock and wow you.

    And Katie doesn't have any cool yelling moments, that was a personal favorite aspect of the last record. She never gets loud. Not playing to your strengths, gurl.

    I'm diggin' the marimbas though, can't squeeze enough of them onto a track. And some of the vocal effects are even more competent than the work on the last album, which is unexpected as they were beyond good enough.

    Definitely check out Feel It Break and if you really, really adore it then maybe pick this up too. But we can pretty much all agree that it's not as good, right? Right.










    123
    Chrome Sparks - Sparks EP


    Every once in a while comes a release that I have to review.

    I was at an event with Hailey when Marijuana came on the speakers and we immediately ejected from the conversation we were in to find the person responsible for the music. Very shortly thereafter, Bandcamp visits were paid and here we are.

    Malvin is a very interesting percussionist and that can only be a compliment when paid to someone involved with electronic music. Your Planet, in terms of song structure, isn't even an actual song yet somehow manages to completely knock your subconsciousness out of the park. It's a remarkable feat, one that emphasizes competence.

    Marijuana really is something unique though. I absolutely despise that 808 sound that pops in occasionally but it has this really weird Blockhead vibe to it, with a tinge of Nicolas Jaar. It's a great masthead for the EP and maybe not even the best track.

    Cosmic Claps of Love is quite forgettable though. It's incredibly generic and sounds just like every other electro track from every other twentysomething douchebag DJ.

    The magic comes back a little with Send the Pain On thanks to the super delightful and oh-so-slow primary tribal percussion. I would absolutely love if he started sampling some old soul songs over material like this, that would be stellar on an another level entirely. Again, some annoying 808 claps, but okay.

    Gates To Heaven sounds really interesting a very 1980s, adult contemporary sort of way, not that I'm complaining. The instrumentation seems to meander inbetween these very hard and rigid beats, which is a very risky approach. It half works. It feels like it's struggling for a better melody though and it sounds so close to finding one but never really does. Which is sad, because it really could have been something wonderful.

    It all ends on a weird Flying Lotus-ish vibe with those stupid 808 sounds on Luxa Luna. It's not a particularly good track either. It's aimless and consistently confused. There's too much happening and it's happening all at once.

    In short, decent EP with an absolute knockout track in Marijuana.










    122
    Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. -
    Patterns EP



    I know I mention this every time it comes up, but they have the most insufferably hipster name imaginable. I swear to God, it doesn't get more mind-numbingly postmodern than this.

    As for the actual music, it isn't bad. It's always an interesting take on synth rock and this EP perpetuates the notion.

    The dynamics of the songs don't really work, but it's not lacking any competency. It's a bit too 'white twentysomethings in America' to be taken one hundred percent seriously but it's not like we're talking about 3OH!3.

    Lyrically and compositionally, it's better than average actually. It's not as if it's completely revolutionary or unconventional, but it certainly accomplishes what it sets out to do with more efficiency than its peers.

    It's a nice little EP from a decent little band, pick it up if you've got fifteen minutes to spare.










    121
    Wild Nothing - Empty Estate


    The guy does an awesome cover of Cloudbusting, follows it with one of the best albums of last year (Nocturne), and then puts out this EP. Good job.

    It's a bit more synthy than his previous efforts, and that's not necessarily a good or bad thing. The songs tend to waft around for a while, but not in the efficient way we've grown accustom to Wild Nothing songs doing. They aren't bland or aimless but it feels like there are little air-bubbles in the mold, preventing it from being truly strong. The song structure is a little lacking, you could say.

    But he tends to go for more of a 'mood' than anything. On Guyot is a superb little number that proves that this release should never be called anything worse than 'worthwhile'. The composition is super inspecific but the atmosphere is equally wonderful.

    I would strongly recommend Nocturne but this is most definitely a suitable companion piece.





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.

  • Albums of 2013 (150 - 136)

    8. Dez. 2013, 10:57

    Albums of 2013




















    150 – 136











    150
    Deer Tick - Negativity


    Country-rock is a very difficult genre to actually get right. There are more than a few pitfalls presented in the process of nailing both sounds and rarely are all of them crossed without losing a few members of the party. This record crosses most without trouble but certainly loses its way more than once.

    The instrumentation is insanely good and really suits the song structures for the most part. Compositionally, well, it's rather by-the-numbers. Along with the vocals. The lyrical content is pretty nice though, despite all this. It's a well-intentioned album, at least it feels like one, but is a bit too wrapped up in itself to take seriously by anyone just passing through.

    You have to be really careful with these 'we like to rock, HARD' artists. Deer Tick have never really fallen for that ruse, but they've come close more than a few times. There are moments here where you might frown to yourself and think, “Wait, when did I start listening to an album of snot-nosed sophomores?” The slower songs have great little artistic fingerprints all over them, but those higher-tempo numbers are moving a bit too fast to escape a very blunt label of 'GENERIC'.

    On paper, this would probably appear to be very try-hard, but it really isn't when you break it down in real time. That shows some form of competency, more so in execution than creation. It's more of a matter of in being 'not enough' than 'you stupid idiots, this is dumb.' For example, put some harmonicas on Just Friends. See what I mean? There are some quick little fixes to these songs, so they're nowhere near broken.

    But, and it's kind of a half-criticism that I didn't really even want to mention, but give me one good reason why I should listen to this and not Tom Petty. Because, let's be frank, the vocals are reason enough why I should just jump ship to the S.S. Hearbreaker. Not to mention that most of these songs, if we're being honest, are rather forgettable in the grand scheme of things. The same could be said of almost every song ever written, but I'm not sure any of these could ever be brought to an objective, 'this needs to exist' level. Sorry, it has to be said. As you may personally like these tracks, how important are they. You know, culturally? You know, as far as we can tell?

    It's okay. I don't know if it's even Deer Tick's best work, and it's not exactly super different from the rest of their discography anyway. Listening to it would be a good idea but skipping it might even be a better one.



    [Author's Note:] And you're never going to believe me, but Vanessa Carlton is on this. Yes, that Vanessa Carlton. It's a real triple-take moment for sure.










    149
    Deafheaven - Sunbather


    There has always been something really adorable about the double bass pedal. It like, "No one rocks harder than me...just let me get setup first, I need some help." At the moment of writing, I can't recall a time when a band used a double bass pedal and it actually helped them come across as something other than a pack of little girls. Then again, welcome to post-metal.

    The melodies are pretty good though, you have to give them that. I'm not saying that they should soften up and go all bullcrap-indie-rock on us but this would have been a steady little punk album for sure. But I don't really get off on telling bands what genre they should be in. It's just maybe not the most efficient genre for what they've composed here, that's all.

    Vocally, whatever. Same goes for the lyrics. I get it, it's pure emotion and all that. It's fine, it suits the instrumentation. I think it could have been mixed a little cleaner, but that's just me. It's more of a scratchy note than a rough fluctuation, and that's just two different standards I guess.

    It's nice. I'm a bit confused as to why it's currently, as of August, topping everyone's 2013 lists though. I mean sure, it's nice and decent enough, but it really isn't a very distinct album. It's competent, okay, but what is it even attempting to do? Certainly not something that hasn't been done before. Again, it's a totally fine album, but what am I missing here?

    Granted, it's not a genre I listen to all the time, but Hailey and I have had no problems giving 'heavier' records a buttload of praise. What makes this one special? I mean, to be perfectly fair, while the chord progressions are good they are uncomfortably cliche. I don't know what kind of world you people are living in where this is ALBUM OF THE CENTURY but I'd like to at least vacation there for a few days.

    Sure, check it out. Heck, send me an email, let's talk about it. Log in through your facebook and comment below (or captcha, I don't care), let's get a discussion going. Objective art exists, meaning objective standards exist, show me where this is exceeding them. Because to me it just sounds like another good post-hardcore album, nothing more.










    148
    Trevor Moore -
    Drunk Texts To Myself



    Trevor Moore is a brilliant comedy writer. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Hitler Rap is one of, if not the, best-written comedy songs of all time. But when it comes to composition, he's a little lackluster.

    Again, regarding subject matter this is insanely good. Lyrically, it's billions of miles ahead of just 'great'. He seriously knows his world history and is as awesomely assonant as you'd expect.

    But he needs a producer, or at least a studio engineer. Lyrically, vocally, and all around semantically he is more than good enough but the music itself needs to at least equal his lingual efforts.

    Maybe this should have just been a spoken-word record. Something like Tom Hanks Is An Asshole would be amazing without trying to force an actual pseudo-melody onto it. My Mom's A Bitch is definitely one of the top pieces of satire that needs to played to any young male between two and twenty years old (the Timmy Williams cameo is an awesome touch as well).

    Then again, Maybe It's Because is totally fine. That track completely works in every way. It's simple and effective. That's what this album needs more of, it's not even like he has a bad 'singing' voice. The problem is that he's a superb lyricist so it makes sense to channel that into hip-hop.

    The title track is basically how this entire thing should have been approached: Moore essentially doing standup while Reggie Watts sings a wonderful echo of the punchlines. The variety of genres is a welcome approach but doesn't exactly lend itself to a super cohesive experience.

    Though, to be fair, this is all much better than it should be. It's not amazing but it's so far from 'meh' that you might as well pick it up and give it a shot. It's rather abrasive as well, so keep that in mind.

    Also, anyone that honestly has a disdain for the personal lives of pop-stars might as well just do themselves and listen to Help Me.










    147
    I am waiting for you last summer - Edge Party


    Terrible band name, good music.

    Post-rock is an extremely volatile genre. Half of it is beyond terrible and the other is more than perfect, thank goodness this belongs in the latter group. Let's pray the car commercials don't come after them.

    Some of the compositions would benefit from a lower tempo but it's not like they're straight up rocking the 13/4. It get's really rock-y in some places too, which isn't a problem, but if they really want to hold onto this post-rock label then they might want to start toning it down a bit. But, again, it's not like any of these tracks are bad.

    I don't know, it's hard to expand. It's a bandcamp artist, so they're relatively unaffected (which is good). And they're a post-rock band, so the inability to be persuaded is a deliberate one (which is good). They're almost post-electro if you think about it, which I wouldn't recommend doing.

    The song structures, while not lazy in the slightest, are certainly repetitive to say the least. Borderline derivative even.

    I feel as if they're right there, almost there. The more I think of it, they technically are post-electro, maybe even post-rave. Or post-step. Or post-anything really. I don't know, it's a little vague. If only they were post-vague, now that'd probably produce some pretty good tunes.

    Check it out, support them, if only to fund their next effort (which hopefully contains some growth).










    146
    Fear of Men - Early Fragments


    [Author's Note:] Listen for a second. Technically this is a compilation, but it barely qualifies to be reviewed. The band hasn't released anything but singles as of yet, not even an EP, so this is technically more of a legitimate and genuine release than most bands' debut albums.

    You know what? This is actually decent. I know, against all odds, it's actually okay.

    It's another 'boy-girl-boy-girl' 'indie' outfit, but the sincere dreariness of it all actually saves it. It's very odd and should not work on paper, but it's nice that the execution isn't excruciating.

    The instrumentation is both competent and simple. It's never muddy or stepping all over its toes. It's all like a little four-way sparring match, as it should be.

    Vocally, it's a little more than decent. This lead singer has a legitimate atmosphere to her voice that sooooooo many others try to emulate but fail, spectacularly. Similar to Sister Crayon or Memoryhouse, the feminine vocals over largely masculine instrumentation works splendidly.

    A few hokey guitar effects don't quite work but none of them completely derail or ruin the songs. You know what this band really needs? A horn. Oh heck yeah, that'd be awesome. Just sittin' in the back, playing solid notes around the basslines. Oh heck yeah, get on that.

    It's nice. A rapid-fire burst of short little songs, hopefully a good indication of the quality they're capable of. Their debut LP should be more than bearable, at least.










    145
    Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky


    Cliche song structure? Terrible. A complete lack of song structure? Worse.

    This is the epitome of wasted potential. This is everything an album should be but completely organized improperly. As in: it lacks any sort of structure at all.

    Look, I get it, it's experimental. I adore experimental music. Given the choice, I'd listen to nothing but artists trying to push the boundaries of what music is instead of all this indie-pop-rock crap all year. But let's be fair, we're human beings with brains, we need coherence. Not the same old order, but an order nonetheless.

    It follow quite a few standard rock cliches. The typical bar length, the standard time signatures (for the most part), it's all here. But how sections are just smashed right into each other with little subtly is not exactly the most clever thing that's ever been done.

    She wants to do this 'super ethereal' thing but then she wants jarring transitions. Sit down honey, let me explain to you how auditory instincts determine the psychological reaction to your music, because you're not achieving what you're attempting.

    If I want to pump someone up and cause their heart rate to elevate, I'm going to play fast with very jarring transitions. Because it raises a heart beat. If I want to soothe someone, I'm going to play slow and carefully slide the transitions between sections in there. Because I don't want to break the moment. You can't have both.

    I'm not saying you can't have both because I'm being 'the establishment' or a 'traditionalist', I'm saying it because that's how life works. Not just art, life. You are a human being, if you want to make music for other humans you should definitely push the limits but also acknowledge the fact that not everything is a limit. This is why jam bands often don't work, they often have the opposite effect.

    This is what happens to music students, quite often actually. They understand and are taught music theory to such an extent that they freeze up and are unable to release anything that isn't radically different from what they were taught. Trust me, the same thing happens to film students. The problem is that this is an exclusive issue of self-indulgence. This isn't an album for us, this is for her. Which is fine, but then why release it?

    Pitchfork got ahold of this and now everyone likes to pretend it's worth something. It's interesting, at the most. Don't get me wrong guys, I get it. It's not exactly something that's hard to get, you can easily see what she's going for. But it is utterly and completely ineffective.

    The girl could do with a few krautrock lessons. There is complexity in simplicity, that's something she should learn, for the benefit of all of us. She has talent but boyyyyyyyyyyyyy is it squandered.










    144
    The Lonely Island -
    The Wack Album



    To be perfectly fair, for as much crap as The Lonely Island is responsible for there is an equal amount of quality comedy to their work.

    Jorma Taccone's hypeman persona is still amazing, despite the fact that it's been run into the ground. The basic structure of their songs is still very cut-and-paste but it's still completely effective. Being perfectly honest, they have had basically zero artistic progression but again, being honest, they're a bit too destructive to need improvement anyway.

    The most noticeable difference between this and Incredibad or Turtleneck & Chain is the production, which has taken a nosedive. They've always been pretty good with samples but the original beats are pretty lackluster to say the least. I know, it's a comedy album, but they used to be able to actually do this. Some of the 'old-school' beats are great but they don't make up for the overproduced garbage that they released as singles.

    Lyrically and conceptionally, it's pretty sound. It's funny enough, effective enough, and competent enough to at least hold its own for the forty-four minute duration. It's far from 'everybody should listen to this and will find it funny' but Gen Y'ers should at least find some nuggets of humor scattered throughout.

    I don't know, you might as well check it out. If you honestly want a decent comedy rap album, definitely check out their first two records. Especially Incredibad, those are my jams.










    143
    Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork


    Ah, right, riff-rock. This shouldn't take up too much of your time then.

    Simple composition isn't really the problem but it is a problem. Don't get me wrong, jam bands and guitar licks (he shutters as he types) are fun and all that, but they're not exactly admirable artistic traits.

    Though I don't like riff-rock personally, it's getting harder to argue its worth objectively. It's all about havin' a good time and letting go of your troubles, which...isn't exactly the most genuine and humanistic thing to do to your listeners. It's certainly not challenging or unique, that's for sure.

    Lyrically, it's fine. Vocally, it's fine. Truth be told, in most aspects, it's totally fine. Even song structure-wise. But compositionally, which is kinda important, it is inferior by nature. Which sucks, because it's pretty decent overall. There's more than a sting of lost potential. Then again, which of these sentiments doesn't apply to anything and everything Queens of the Stone Age has released?

    It really is pretty decent. You should probably listen to it, you might like it. But in the grand scope of the entirety of the musical landscape, it is dreadfully lazy and uninspired, a direct result of the genre it chooses to occupy. It's bluntly inconsequential.

    Just give us a pinch of experimentalism next time guys. I mean honestly, some of this would sound trite and cliche if it was released thirty years ago. If I Had a Tail sounds like something David Bowie put out about a decade before I was even born (then again, I tend to like most of that material, but you get my point).

    It's all fine, go ahead and listen to it, but remember: classic rock is classic rock, new rock doesn't need to try to muscle its way into that decrepit pantheon. It happened, quit tryin' to dig it up again.


    But really, DAE THINK ROCK IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYTHING!?!?!










    142
    Dadub - You Are Eternity


    2013 is shaping up to be a pretty great year for electronic music. This album may not be the spearhead of that idea but it's certainly a reinforcement.

    Ambient music tends to be really difficult to actually ruin so there's not much that this record does wrong, though it somehow manages to be a bit too preachy. If I was really into mushrooms and hung up on trying to explain how the global financial crisis was an attempt at a worldwide totalitarian conversion, I might like this. But I'm not, which probably means that I don't. And most aren't, which might mean most won't.

    There really is a right way and a wrong way to ambient music and I really used to think that it was pretty evident what had to be done to insure a quality release, but I guess it isn't. You can't really alternate between a few synth notes and maintain a monotonous beat and call it a day, that's not going to cut it. I don't want everything to happen, but something needs to happen.

    This sounds like something that modern-day Thom Yorke would be responsible for, and I really don't mean that as a compliment. It's just not very subtle and mind-numbingly repetitive. Don't get me wrong, I love mood pieces, but this isn't a good one.

    The second half of the album really picks up and is actually good but it's just not enough to make up for all of the banality that comes before it. Skip it, there are far better efforts out there, trust me.










    141
    Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends


    Anyone else feel like Portugal. The Man keeps making the same record over and over again? Well, not anymore, because they have Danger Mouse producing for them! Which means they sound like every other cool indie rock band. Hooray?

    Every time Danger Mouse touches a record it immediately transforms into something remarkably dull and banal. It's a weird, bastardized homologation of 'indie' ideals, for those dumb enough to fall for the ideology. This is some straight up The Black Keys bullcrap.

    It's music for commercials. That's all it is. Sure, it may carry some sort of sentimental value for the band but it's not like that makes it any more valid. It's music for people that have to constantly assure others that they like music. There's nothing here, no fingerprints, no bellybuttons, and worst of all, no character.

    I don't know how you all do it. Maybe I just have unrealistic standards, but it's not like they haven't been met before. Don't get me wrong, I 'like' this album but that doesn't exclude it from being label an objective piece of crap. It is, there is nothing of value here.

    But seriously, how do you all do it? You just go on, year after year, liking tons of albums released every year, despite the fact that ninety percent of them are utter garbage. Honestly, I think the itchiness to jump onto labeling a new album 'amazing' is conversely proportional to how many records one has listened to in their lifetime.

    This is so average. Like, the most inoffensive shade of gray you can conceive of. The people who think that 'oldies' or 'classics' are superior music to today's efforts are usually the ones creating the absolute worst albums. I mean come on, this is so middle-of-the-road I'm worried about oncoming traffic.

    Whatever. I like Portugal. The Man but this is just unacceptable. Don't lower yourselves to even liking this, you can do much better.










    140
    The James Hunter Six -
    Minute By Minute



    I am incapable of not wincing at 'band pics', despite seeing so many. Guys, find a better cover. Please. My eyes, my eyes.

    This is pretty neat. It's a bit too formulaic and antiquated but at least there's some competence to it. It's obviously one of those releases that wallows in the filth of nostalgia, but at least it doesn't get too dirty.

    I really do like Hunter's voice, it'd be cool to see him at least attempt to branch out to other genres. But he does a fantastic job on this record, as always.

    Instrumentally, it is super basic. No, seriously, super basic. Normally I feel mortally insulted when it's as 'paint-by-the-numbers' as this but they manage to curb that annoyance by avoiding pretty much anything that could even mistakenly be construed as pretentious.

    I don't know. Retro-soul isn't exactly an important or challenging genre, it's pretty self-evident when it's done right. In this case, it is. Pick it up if you're into that sort of thing? Or don't, it's not exactly something you haven't heard before.










    139
    David Lynch - The Big Dream


    Lynch just needs to get on with it and make a drone album.

    This is fine but it's exceptionally average, something Lynch should never be described as. What's the point, one of the best modern filmmakers taking time to make something as generic and uninspired as this.

    Honestly, there really isn't a simple aspect of this that hasn't already been done to death in vastly more creative ways. Don't get me wrong, the record is totally fine, it has very few flaws if any, but there is literally nothing unique about it.

    Lyrically, there are more than a few cringe-inducing moments. Lynch is a good writer, we know that, but lyrics sure aren't his forte. The most advanced literary device he utilizes here is the...well, the metaphor. Yeah, that's it.

    You know, why didn't he just make an atmospheric instrumental album? That would have been fine, good even. But this is just exactly the wrong combination. Simple, maybe derivative, composition and dull lyrics. There's no point.










    138
    Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu


    Great album or greatest album?

    Hailey's more well-versed in Souleyman than I am, but I see the appeal. They're Syrian pop songs. It just makes sense. It's all here. This needs to exist.

    Forget the fact that it's a pretty flippin' big deal for a Syrian artist to record their first American album, in 2013 of all years, this is just plain competent. All the pieces are here, well-built, and arranged in an interesting structure.

    Not even joking, Four Tet produced this. I'm telling you, it's just all here. It makes sense.

    The percussion is very well arranged. The melodies are thorough and well-intentioned. And the vocal work is great. The man has a ton of work to his name so none of this is particularly surprising. He knows what he's doing and he does it well.

    It's hard to really fault it for anything. I think the tempos are a bit too similar? That's kind of a stretch but I can see how someone would have a problem with it all blending into one another.

    Some of the more 'synthetic' elements are a bit cheesy, but when they're combined with the insanely convectional drumming patterns, it's almost like watching a 3D film. The whole thing just really pops in a way that most releases don't. I'm telling you kids: if you don't mix your drums well don't bother mixing the album at all.

    I'd recommend it, strongly. It's hard to recommend it to everyone but I would.










    137
    Majical Cloudz - Impersonator


    You know they're cool, obscure, and indie because they spell it with a 'j'. Whoa, is that a 'z'? Slow down there boys, I'm not up with the kids like I yoostah be.

    This is one of those 'experimental indie' releases, where it tries to be really different but ends up sounding really pretty much the same. Yeah, I get it, loops. I get it.

    I know you're tired of hearing it, but what's the point? They all just sound the same ('they' being every record ever released). It's not 'radio-friendly' or 'accessible', yeah okay. Give me a five dollar keyboard and I might be able to replicate the synth-voice keys this album is running into the ground. I mean honestly, the entire album is based on a cheap, crappy keyboard. Those are literally the only tones I hear on every track. Don't get me wrong, I've used crappy keyboards before but I wasn't dumb enough to record it.

    The lyrics are remarkably un-faceted and drier than (insert crass comment here). The composition is super bare-bones and not really even in an okay way. The general dialectics are, well, basically non-existent, and that's a (the) problem. If you're not creating something by smashing two things together, then you're not really creating anything, you're just playing footsie with two existing objects. Booooooooring.

    The minimalistic approach really does almost work though, that's the heartbreaking thing. A track like childhood's end is almost good. I get it, it's moody but there's little to no atmosphere to it. And what's the point of mood without atmosphere, that's what separates the boys from the older boys and the girls from the boys (and older boy superset).

    Whatever, I get it, you like it. It's not good though, it isn't. Get your pathos out of here, it's not a good album. It's not. It isn't. "It makes me feel something, isn't that what art is all about?" Yeah, that and crystal meth ya nut. Every car insurance jingle is art, yeah let's go, opinions for everyone. Everyone gets their own opinion, two if you're lucky, don't worry they all are worth the same.

    I plan on dying of old age but I'm just counting down the days, let me tell you. Loss of existence? A downer for sure, but a fair trade-off for no more indie albums.










    136
    The Fall - Re-Mit


    LP30, now that's lasting power.

    As far as Fall albums go, this is pretty nice. It has some very interesting synth work on it, which is really weird to say.

    Mark E. Smith is still a decent vocalist too, after all these years. I seriously appreciate all the hamming it up that he isn't doing. He's not like most modern post-punk singers where he puts his vocals into some easy-to-digest register. Much obliged.

    It's slightly repetitive, but not in a detrimental way, or even a 'let's suck up to the baby boomers' sort of way. It's not cyclical enough to be a mood piece and it doesn't repeat the same beats again and again, there are just a few concepts and principles it recycles throughout the songs.

    Eh, pick it up. It's far from the best Fall record and it's not like they have a 'worst' one.

    Man-oh-man, I miss John Peel though.





    For a sample of each album, click the picture below.