Sunday, December 15, 2013

Favorite Music of 2013

I listened to a lot of music in 2013, like I do most years... I didn't do such a great job keeping track in 2012, but I rectified it this time around. Narrowed down my 10 favorite albums, and 25 honorable mentions of tunes that I dug. I try to keep my tastes a little eclectic, and this year hasn't been an exception at all. Makes me a bit harder to peg, I suppose, and gives a broader sense of the sounds that are able to keep me in a giddy state. So with no further ado...

10. Ghostface Killah - 12 Reasons to Die
Wu-Tang's most prolific member bests his last best record. 12 Reasons to Die is not only more fully realized than Supreme Clientele or Fishscale, it is also more adept and thematically consistent. Ghost's bars are impressive, offering punchline after punchline of some of the best crime rap ever written by any MC, let alone Ghostface himself. All this matched by Adrian Younge's impressive first foray into hip hop production. While it's not as grimy or street as Apollo Brown's redux of the album, it is better suited to the grindhouse aesthetic and anything goes mantra of the album's protagonist: a small time hood that's murdered by his own crime-boss who is then reborn as an avenging killer bent on murdering the entire mob. It's heady stuff, schlocky, fun, and head noddingly intense.

09. Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven
If there were a movie adaptation of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Metabarons or Technopriests, I would hope for this album to be its score. It invokes feeling similarly to many of my favorite sci-fi scores, being both minimal and abstract while simultaneously feeling that it's bursting with elements and intricate composition. And it flows perfectly from beginning to end, peaking and coalescing like water, culminating in a crescendo of quiet and minimalism that contradicts itself. Not for casual fans in the slightest, it begs for a sense of experimentalism and need for disjointed sounds that all marry exceptionally.

08. Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
I didn't listen to much black metal this year. It's kind of flipped from militantly obscure to annoyingly trendy and accessible within recent years, and while I'm not opposed to such things in my music, I am opposed to black metal that's intended to be listener friendly. As a genre, it should be defined as the unsettling vortex of chaos and noise that its pioneers envisioned, leaving little doubt to its socio-politics or spiritual leanings. Not necessarily incessantly serious or dour, but at least scary, if nothing else. Inquisition has been plumbing the depths of musical depravity since 1989, and in Obscure Verses for the Multiverse have released a future classic. It is instantly unforgettable, challenging, and more brutal than just about any of their "American black metal" peers, made even more impressively as a two piece. Brimming with studio trickery, it's nevertheless relentlessly complex and layered with memorable riffage and brutal drumming that drives the album onward from the time you press play.

07. Chelsea Wolfe - Pain is Beauty
Moody, atmospheric, ethereal and hauntingly serene, Wolfe's latest exemplifies all of her talents amazingly. It's instantly less accessible than the previous album, but easier to follow than her esoterically grim and dour Apokalypsis. Pain is Beauty is both unsettling and soothing, a contradiction of emotion and composure. Quiet and robust, acoustically discordant and plugged in.

06. Bl'ast - Blood!
Not a new record, this is the result of Dave Grohl remastering a long lost reel unearthed by Southern Lord's Greg Anderson utilizing the world renowned Neve console. The tracks feature the only recorded material with Clifford Dinsmore (vocalist for the "new" Alice in Chains) and it is mind bogglingly intense, angry, blistering, and fresh as hell. If a listener didn't know the back story, this release could be as current as anything recorded by Off! Definitely the best Southern Lord release of 2013, an amazing listening experience as soon as the needle drops.

05. Prodigy & Alchemist - Albert Einstein
Mobb Deep's Prodigy rapping over beats put together by the Alchemist? Oh yes please. Albert Einstein is full of bangers, and the partnership between the two artists is one of the most uncannily natural pairings in hip hop today. Alchemist's production is all grim and gutter and Prodigy spits misanthropy as if he's narrating the cult of the street. He sounds just as hungry as he did on 96's The Infamous, with punchlines and wordplay way above par for their niche due to real world experience most can't front on, and production just as grimy. Needs to be copped.

04. Carpenter Brut - EP II
A complex ode to fantastical soundtracks and electronic music a'la John Carpenter, it's equal parts Escape from New York and Beyond the Black Rainbow, though lacking in Sinoia Caves' subtlety. Carpenter Brut is doing nothing but playing to a niche crowd here, and I freaking love it. Less accessible than Kavinsky, who I'm sure Carpenter Brut rue being compared to, this is an amazing project.

03. Carcass - Surgical Steel
I was skeptical when I learned that Carcass were getting the band back together. Swan Song was mediocre overall, with about 3 tracks standing above the rest of the trash they threw together for their finale. I avoided any sneak peeks of the album and didn't read any spoilers short of friends giving the horns of approval via Facebook or on Blogger. But I digress. The hype is well deserved as Surgical Steel flat out tops even Heartwork in terms of musicality, technicality, and just straight up face-melting heaviness and thrash chutzpah. Yep, I used chutzpah to describe the new Carcass LP... that's because I love it.

02. Run the Jewels - Self Titled
El Producto and Killer Michael Render individually released albums that both appeared on my best of list for 2012 so it shouldn't surprise anyone that paid attention that their first LP as Run the Jewels (an homage to LL's Cheesy Rat Blues off his last great album) is placed so high on my 2013 list. What makes the record so immensely enjoyable is how much El-P and Mike are clearly enjoying themselves here, making a fun slice of hip hop with no aspirations greater than being grimy as hell and giving a tracklist of straight bangers. Pretty sure that DDFH is the track that I listened to most from any genre and is just a sliver of why this album is so goddamn good.

01. Agents of Abhorrence - Relief
Grindcore is always breakneck, which many maintain is its most self-deprecating fault. Agents of Abhorrence would rather embrace that breakneck pace and innovate within the formula, making their tunes uncompromisingly brutal and misanthropic. It's unsettlingly discordant and relentlessly pissed... a fist in the face of formulaic grind and power violence, using weird timing and odd hooks and signatures, Australia's best grindcore band also released my favorite album of 2013.

Other mentions:

Esoteric & Stu Bangas - Machete Mode
Darkside - Psychic
Demigodz - Killmatic
Vastum - Patricidal Lust
Burial - Rival Dealer
Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus
Action Bronson/Party Supplies - Blue Chips 2
Czarface - Self Titled
Sex Prisoner - State Property
Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Consciousness
Nacho Picasso - High & Mighty
Guilty Simpson & Small Professor - Highway Robbery
My Bloody Valentine - m b v
Danny Brown - Old
Nails - Abandon All Life

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
The Haxan Cloak - Excavation
Cage Grind Noir - Pilots
Death Grips - Government Plates
Gesaffelstein - Aleph
Forest Swords - Engravings
Vatican Shadow - Remember Your Black Day
Ka - The Night's Gambit
Hank 3 - A Fiendish Threat
Dawn of Midi - Dysnomia


jackhammerWT said...

Not hearing any" studio trickery" on Inquistions newest effort unless you think reverbs,delays and multi-tracking is a trick. Which are tools used on all forms of musical recording. This album of theres sounds extremely organic and natural compared to their peers over triggered,layered and sound replaced studio magic. Killer review though and this two piece pulls it off live too,seen and heard with my own eyes.

aeric_7734 said...

Appreciate the feedback! By studio trickery, I only meant to allude to the layering effect they've used to achieve the sound of a full band. And that's not a complaint, either. I love this album, have been listening to it incessantly since it dropped. I would say based on what I've heard this year that Inquisition is easily the best US black metal band. And yes, their live show is incredible!