Spiked Punch Best of 2013
1. Deafheaven - Sunbather: This album is a game changer. It’s a force; appropriating post rock builds, death metal chaos, hardcore screaming and screamo melodies it is this frankenstein success. I can’t get tired of it. The songs are experiences. This album is a classic. Mark my words. People will be citing this album as an influence for years and years.
2. Kanye West - Yeezus. As can be seen from Beyonce’s recent employment of the Death Grips “drop shit randomly” model, mainstream artists are given too much credit for taking risks that those in the underground have already taken. Death Grips again can be pointed to as the champion of the noise rap sound. Does that take anything away from Yeezus? No. It is still a challenging record. Cacophonous while bending the definition of what rap should sound like. The biggest difference between Kanye West’s effort and Jay Z’s is that Jay Z solicited the help of Timbaland, Swizz Beats, Pharell the men of the 00’s, while Kanye looked elsewhere: Evian Christ, TNGHT, etc. He showed in 808’s that he is not afraid to go against what the hip hop community expects. He is not bound to be a rapper or a producer, but instead is trying to be a musical anomaly. Trying to stand above the crop as a Michael Jackson like transcendent artist.
3. Danny Brown - Old. With this album danny tries to accomplish the what Kendrick Lamar did before him and toe the line between club bangers and reflective hip hop often cited by elitists a as “real rap.” To date there is only one album that comes to mind that accomplishes both of theses things simultaneously, Good kid, Maad City, but Danny Brown personalizes this model by splitting Old into sides. Side A focusing on the narrative, while Side B being full of trap bangers made to make drugged out kids at festivals jump. Both are good in their on respects. Danny seems perceptive and honest in the way he describes the struggles of being from Detroit in Side A and in Side B he’s equally comfortable letting his raps meld into these Trap Beats. He becomes less wordy, more repetitive. He shows the range of his talents and his understanding of how thee 2 styles of rap work. The one knock is that he couldn’t make them work simultaneously, but hey few can,
4. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual. There is no album that came out this year that is more ambitious than The Knife’s latest effort. This album is asking a lot of the listener, but it is a journey. It’s fun and then it’s unsettling. It’s purposeful, but it’s also chaotic. This album is a pop epic that can get incredibly catchy, but it also falls into drone. There are lulls that are there only to carry you to the next high. It also manages to come off as honest in a political sense, which is an incredibly hard thing to do especially the way they structure their lyrics as political statements. It’s hard to not be impressed with their handling of such a self conscious effort.
5. My Bloody Valentine - m b v - I don’t think any of us expected this to happen when it did. The greatest surprise was how in line this fell into their discography, It was easy to forget that it was over 20 years since the last MBV output. There is no other band that fully encompasses its genre like My Bloody Valentine does and in the age of shoegaze revival it was an interesting thing to see the fore bearers remind everyone why so many have tried to imitate them. They’re pretty and harsh. They still don’t shimmer like other shoegaze bands tend to. They eliminate the cheese that is so routinely jarring from that genre. The vocals still rise heavenly from the swirling guitars and the album ends with these chaotic pieces of noise that push their sound forward. Hopefully this is the start of a second wind.
6. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - The EDM world was in a state of shock when Daft Punk dropped this homage to 80s era funk and pop music. This is far from an EDM album. It’s incredibly catchy. They employ such interesting features so effectively. Their turn here is remarkable. Yes it has created a song made for the radio for ages, but fuck can you sit there and say it’s not a great song? There is a level of understanding and genuine love for the music the music that inspired this sonic shift by them. It keeps this album honest and it carries their purpose.
7. Iceage - You’re Nothing - By having this album so high I’m making a clear statement about my preference for the chaotic noise in post punk as opposed to the refined precision that is exhibited by a band like Savages (an album that would be in my top 25). I think You’re Nothing is jarring and challenging. The vocals are an acquired taste, but I happen to love how they come off the noisy racket the band produces. It just works so well.
8. Deerhunter - Monomania - The bar chord simplification of Monomania was such an unexpected turn for a band that seemed to get more and more pop and alt rock oriented with each effort. This album is not that whatsoever. They’ve toned down their musicality and instead favored a pop density that rings true to their roots and the scene they come from. They’ve gone from being sonic outliers of the Atlanta fuzz and garage rock to a band that has taken the lo fi so synonymous with that scene into hi fi.
9. Jai Paul - This album is a mess in the best sense. It’s raw and unpolished. This is due in large part to the unfinished nature of this product, but what comes off as impressive is that despite these limitations it still bangs. It’s incredibly lush and the sound is interestingly rounded out while seemingly being unmastered. Some of the songs are made for the floor and others are made for the bedroom, but this tonal inconsistency seems to work in the albums favor. The R&B and electronic influences coalesce to create a memorable trip through an album that encourages jumping around, but still makes you listen to every song.
10. Arcade Fire - Reflektor - The biggest rock band in the world made a dance album y’all. Helmed by James Murpy, Arcade fire’s reflektor isn’t a Talking Heads album (as was expected) nor is it a Bruce Sprinsteen album (as they’ve done before). It’s a long jam. Often repetitive and often hypnotic. The songs go long and try to say a lot while doing so. They’re trying to be fun and full while still carrying on their recent ambition of social commentary. The album isn’t as consistent as their previous ones and the songs might all run a little too long, but the band seems to be trying to do a live loop a la Talking Heads. This is a noteworthy experiment that surely won’t garner them the success The Suburbs did, but is still fun and still carries the robust epicness that is the Arcade Fire brand.