Monday, December 16, 2013
It wasn't particularly a great year for released music. too many stars failed top shine, too many divisive records. Was it a promising year--yes, definately. Here are the thirty (30) best records of a puzzling year. Already, I'm looking forward to the many mouth-watering albums slated for next year however.
Here is this year's list with a few original and borrowed quotes...
21. Queens Of The Stone Age 'Like Clockwork': "there's a lot of the Queens sound in this album, but there's also a lot of new ideas. This album, though, has the crew on top of their game. Never has a Queens album had so much nuance, diversity, power at times and subtle beauty at others. The composition is impeccable, the production is gorgeous, and the songs themselves paint a landscape of desolation and hopelessness."
22. Janelle Monae 'The Electric Lady': "continues her utopian cyborg concepts of its predecessors, while presenting itself in more plainspoken, personal territory in addition to experimenting with genres beyond conventional funk and soul music genres such as jazz, pop- punk and gospel, as well as woozy and sensual vocal ballads."
23. Protoje 'The Eight Year Affair': "Protoje offers up tales of love and faith here but most importantly, he’s creating a space for diversity…something the genre is slowly losing. There’s allusion to blues, dancehall, spoken word and jazz here, which is really saying something. In these moments, Protoje seems to be attempting to push the boundaries of his sound, even at the expense of potentially losing dancehall fans or those who favor more bass-heavy, upbeat reggae offerings. Such tracks best showcase Protoje’s versatility as an artist and his willingness to look beyond today’s Jamaican radio hits for songwriting inspiration — a trait with deep roots in reggae’s history."
24. Norwegian Arms 'Wolf Like A Stray Dog': "Norwegian Arms is a curious new duo, comprising of mandolinist/vocalist Brendan Mulvihill and percussionist Eric Slick (of Dr. Dog). The two combine mandolin with spare drums and flourishes of keyboard to present a new, buffed-to-shine take on folk-pop. It’s a brisk set they give us on Wolf Like a Stray Dog, from the frenzied rise-and-fall of And Then I Found Myself in the Taiga to the eccentric, snapping chaos of the title track to the sweet melodies of Tired of Being Cold. At its best, this set gives us a lively sound, one that gets the blood pumping without forgetting about deep hooks and solid choruses."
25. Haim 'Days Are Gone': "Along with the stunning My Song 5, which spikes its En Vogue homage with very current-sounding electronics, Let Me Go – a relentless, house-like pulse decorated with harmonies doused in dub-like echo – suggests there might be more to Haim in the future than mining the past. For now, Days Are Gone makes them seem an increasingly rare thing: a guitar band heralded as a sure thing, who still feel like a sure thing once you've heard their debut album."
26. Volcano Choir 'Repave': the multi-talented Justin Vernon may have downplayed future Bon Iver material but here with his other band, he continues to have an authorial stamp. A few tracks bear that out more than others, yet the album remains surprisingly cohesive, effectively splitting the difference between the fussed-over refinement of Bon Iver and the sometimes unfocused experimentation of Volcano Choir’s first album, 2009’s Unmap. It’s a balancing act that pays off.
27. Deerhunter 'Monomania': "Even at its most melodic, Monomania is still targeted by a severe fuzz undertone. Garage rock to the max. A bordering confusion by the time Leather Jacket II hit, which sounds similar to a deranged group of teenagers' first ever practice session with their instruments (that they bought dirt cheap from a local pawn shop; cocaine residue has infiltrated the wiring). Areas of melody are buried deep in these louder songs, but they are there."
28. Alice Smith 'She': "Smith works a nether region 'twixt Beyoncé and Norah Jones, no doubt why she wound up in major-label limbo after her eclectic 2006 debut. The equally adventurous follow-up lands in a new R&B world that embraces oddballs like Janelle Monáe and Santigold, whose stylistic freestyles Smith beat to market. She does sultry and cool well. "
29. Arcade Fire 'Reflektor': "Reflektor's sound is lush and imaginative, but never in a way that suffocates you with the fumes of its polish. It's limber and loose, as though the songs were performed live; the arrangements breathe, seethe, and sweat. As their detractors will be quick to point out, Arcade Fire's greatest crime in the past has been sometimes coming off too stately and self-serious but on the first half of Reflektor they often feel like they're deflating their own sense of grandeur. It's nice to hear a band that showed up on the scene quite literally dressed for a funeral now sounding like they're having (at least a little) fun."
30. V.V. Brown 'Samson & Delilah': Vanessa Brown previously recorded this album then scrapped it. If she was dissatisfied with it in its eary form, then she’s clearly elated with it now that it’s a novella for the famous biblical relationship between Samson and Delilah. Samson & Delilah is a brave work of art. One listen and it’s apparent that this is the sound of an artist breaking away from the shackles of the corporate music world’s cookie-cutter, pop star mold. Brown is holding the reins this time around and doing things entirely on her own terms.