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  1. Aheym 
Favorite classical 

The speedy 5/4 rhythm that begins “Aheym” has to be one of the most arresting openings to an album I’ve heard all year. People love to give modern classical shit for being dated, but this song was more attention grabbing to me than any modern metal, hip hop, etc. This album is a set of compositions by Bryce Dessner of The National fame. It’s truly great to see a contemporary artist able to bridge these clashing worlds in such an amazing way. When the cello breaks away from the back at :42 and begins filling in the few rests there are, I was sold. That moment manages to feel so hectic despite being somewhat simple, like the listener is being pulled from all sides. You can definitely tell that this music is approached with a bit of the rock music perspective. Then it all breaks down, leaving just an expressive cello introducing one of the themes. Pizzicatos come to join it, at odd rhythmic intervals which make this softer section of the piece retain its excitement. Then, once the violin takes over the theme, we get a lot of independent motion, and the hectic feeling returns, albeit in a more subdued form. Then there’s the great breakdown at 5:00, making a hollowed shell of the new idea that was coming in. Towards the end, the original theme is inverted in a way, making for a very poetic finish. Aheym means ‘homeward’ in Yiddish and I feel like this piece does a great job of realizing the story behind that word. In the homeward process through time, constants are kept, but warped, inverted. It truly feels like a homecoming journey, epic and emotional. The other pieces are similarly great, especially the choral opening of “Tour Eiffel” (which could have fit into The Tree of Life soundtrack) and the more excited moments of “Tenebre.” Overall, these pieces are powerful reminders that the popular and classical worlds of music should not be kept so separate. 

    Aheym

    Favorite classical

    The speedy 5/4 rhythm that begins “Aheym” has to be one of the most arresting openings to an album I’ve heard all year. People love to give modern classical shit for being dated, but this song was more attention grabbing to me than any modern metal, hip hop, etc. This album is a set of compositions by Bryce Dessner of The National fame. It’s truly great to see a contemporary artist able to bridge these clashing worlds in such an amazing way. When the cello breaks away from the back at :42 and begins filling in the few rests there are, I was sold. That moment manages to feel so hectic despite being somewhat simple, like the listener is being pulled from all sides. You can definitely tell that this music is approached with a bit of the rock music perspective. Then it all breaks down, leaving just an expressive cello introducing one of the themes. Pizzicatos come to join it, at odd rhythmic intervals which make this softer section of the piece retain its excitement. Then, once the violin takes over the theme, we get a lot of independent motion, and the hectic feeling returns, albeit in a more subdued form. Then there’s the great breakdown at 5:00, making a hollowed shell of the new idea that was coming in. Towards the end, the original theme is inverted in a way, making for a very poetic finish. Aheym means ‘homeward’ in Yiddish and I feel like this piece does a great job of realizing the story behind that word. In the homeward process through time, constants are kept, but warped, inverted. It truly feels like a homecoming journey, epic and emotional. The other pieces are similarly great, especially the choral opening of “Tour Eiffel” (which could have fit into The Tree of Life soundtrack) and the more excited moments of “Tenebre.” Overall, these pieces are powerful reminders that the popular and classical worlds of music should not be kept so separate. 

     
     
  2. Amok - Atoms for Peace
Grooviest of the year

Amok was the first record of the year I really attached to. It seemed somewhat disregarded by critics, but it seems to me that the main reason for that is the people that are still expecting the lyrical genius of Thom Yorke circa OK Computer / Kid A. Though Amok is no follow-up to either of those albums, it neither intends nor wants to be. This album is not focused on heady concepts or in depth poetry, its more animalistic, more about grooves. And I think it succeeds greatly in that area. Each song showcases Yorke’s idiosyncratic rhythms with staccato percussion always popping out in unexpected corners. Just try following the rhythm on the single “Default.” But Yorke is not just a calculating computer when it comes to his work; the percussion is merely the glittering skeleton that forms the frame for his emotional compositions. “Before Your Very Eyes”and “Ingenue” are very heartfelt, with his falsetto croon really emoting. His execution of the lyric, “If I knew now / What I knew then” really stuck with me for its sincerity. But these are not just soppy songs, the Flea’s influence over the band doesn’t allow for that. His funky basswork on “Judge, Jury and Executioner” and “Stuck Together Pieces” provides for a nice counterpoint to Thom as a whole. It’s not something I usually mention about recordings, but it’s unavoidable to speak on how together this group sounds as a whole. The mix of electronic and live playing forms an airtight presentation that I personally find very appealing. But more than all the details of Amok, it was the general affect that really made this one of the albums I returned to most this year. All of these songs just seemed like they were made with great pleasure, each one a work of love. When comparing interviews from Kid A to today, Yorke seems like such a closed off arsehole then. Nowadays he seems to take himself and his music a lot less seriously and the positive effects are plain to see: He seems much happier than before. Amok as a whole to me is a product of happiness. No longer is Yorke setting his artistic goals sky high. Instead, the goal seems to be to just have fun and let all of us join in. 

    Amok - Atoms for Peace

    Grooviest of the year

    Amok was the first record of the year I really attached to. It seemed somewhat disregarded by critics, but it seems to me that the main reason for that is the people that are still expecting the lyrical genius of Thom Yorke circa OK Computer / Kid A. Though Amok is no follow-up to either of those albums, it neither intends nor wants to be. This album is not focused on heady concepts or in depth poetry, its more animalistic, more about grooves. And I think it succeeds greatly in that area. Each song showcases Yorke’s idiosyncratic rhythms with staccato percussion always popping out in unexpected corners. Just try following the rhythm on the single “Default.” But Yorke is not just a calculating computer when it comes to his work; the percussion is merely the glittering skeleton that forms the frame for his emotional compositions. “Before Your Very Eyes”and “Ingenue” are very heartfelt, with his falsetto croon really emoting. His execution of the lyric, “If I knew now / What I knew then” really stuck with me for its sincerity. But these are not just soppy songs, the Flea’s influence over the band doesn’t allow for that. His funky basswork on “Judge, Jury and Executioner” and “Stuck Together Pieces” provides for a nice counterpoint to Thom as a whole. It’s not something I usually mention about recordings, but it’s unavoidable to speak on how together this group sounds as a whole. The mix of electronic and live playing forms an airtight presentation that I personally find very appealing. But more than all the details of Amok, it was the general affect that really made this one of the albums I returned to most this year. All of these songs just seemed like they were made with great pleasure, each one a work of love. When comparing interviews from Kid A to today, Yorke seems like such a closed off arsehole then. Nowadays he seems to take himself and his music a lot less seriously and the positive effects are plain to see: He seems much happier than before. Amok as a whole to me is a product of happiness. No longer is Yorke setting his artistic goals sky high. Instead, the goal seems to be to just have fun and let all of us join in. 

     
     
  3. Innocence is Kinky - Jenny Hval
Favorite vocal performance 
It is unbelievably preposterous that in the year 2013 AD, consenting sexuality is still something to be ashamed of, especially for women. It’s crazy that an artist simply speaking explicitly to an adult audience is considered provocative or progressive. But that is the world we live in and thus despite Innocence is Kinky being a long time in the coming, we should welcome it with open arms. This album is essentially a collection of anthems for the social movement of being honest. Any reservations the artist or the listener has are immediately shattered with the album’s opening lines, “At night / I watch people fucking on my computer screen.” The sexual perspective Jenny Hval shares on this record is immensely refreshing. And yet although this album would have sold me on lyrics alone, the music on here is top notch as well. I’d have to say that the vocal performances on here as well as the complex songwriting are some of the best I’ve heard all year. Hval’s voice is delightfully elastic, shifting between speech and singing while sliding up and down high notes, touching upon every microtone imaginable along the way. The manner in which she dissonantly comes in and out of tune is remarkable, showing an amazing control over her voice. Dissonance is key to understanding this record. It is utilized blatantly on nearly every song, providing a sonic shock factor to underline the verbal one. As the dissonance between notes clash with one another harmonically, Innocence is Kinky as a work and all of sexual honesty clashes with the repressive status quo of mainstream society. The album is masterful work of art which finds a perfect balance of music mirroring lyrics and vice versa. But more than that, to me this was an album I’d always turn to when confused about my own sexuality, those times I’d feel like I was the only kinky person in the world. Turns out I most certainly wasn’t.

    Innocence is Kinky - Jenny Hval

    Favorite vocal performance

    It is unbelievably preposterous that in the year 2013 AD, consenting sexuality is still something to be ashamed of, especially for women. It’s crazy that an artist simply speaking explicitly to an adult audience is considered provocative or progressive. But that is the world we live in and thus despite Innocence is Kinky being a long time in the coming, we should welcome it with open arms. This album is essentially a collection of anthems for the social movement of being honest. Any reservations the artist or the listener has are immediately shattered with the album’s opening lines, “At night / I watch people fucking on my computer screen.” The sexual perspective Jenny Hval shares on this record is immensely refreshing. And yet although this album would have sold me on lyrics alone, the music on here is top notch as well. I’d have to say that the vocal performances on here as well as the complex songwriting are some of the best I’ve heard all year. Hval’s voice is delightfully elastic, shifting between speech and singing while sliding up and down high notes, touching upon every microtone imaginable along the way. The manner in which she dissonantly comes in and out of tune is remarkable, showing an amazing control over her voice. Dissonance is key to understanding this record. It is utilized blatantly on nearly every song, providing a sonic shock factor to underline the verbal one. As the dissonance between notes clash with one another harmonically, Innocence is Kinky as a work and all of sexual honesty clashes with the repressive status quo of mainstream society. The album is masterful work of art which finds a perfect balance of music mirroring lyrics and vice versa. But more than that, to me this was an album I’d always turn to when confused about my own sexuality, those times I’d feel like I was the only kinky person in the world. Turns out I most certainly wasn’t.

     
     
  4. Lines – Julian Lynch
Favorite overlooked album of the year

This album feels like stepping into someone’s home. Maybe not as familiar as your own, but a lovely house, nice and inviting. Julian Lynch welcomes us in on the first song with a particularly delightful dissonance in the woodwinds introducing the friendly strummed guitar that stays throughout most of the album. The unconventional harmony and melody makes one think the composer knows a good bit of music theory. And yet Lynch is no Schoenberg, his compositions point towards complexity without every needing to alienate the listener or lose the cozy atmosphere. I could see someone putting this on as mood music in Bag End or Gryffindor commons. The song structure and “indie” affect give the music a calm warmness and yet the harmony and instrumentation bring in a touch of magic and adventure. Wes Anderson would make gingerbread houses to this music.

    Lines – Julian Lynch

    Favorite overlooked album of the year

    This album feels like stepping into someone’s home. Maybe not as familiar as your own, but a lovely house, nice and inviting. Julian Lynch welcomes us in on the first song with a particularly delightful dissonance in the woodwinds introducing the friendly strummed guitar that stays throughout most of the album. The unconventional harmony and melody makes one think the composer knows a good bit of music theory. And yet Lynch is no Schoenberg, his compositions point towards complexity without every needing to alienate the listener or lose the cozy atmosphere. I could see someone putting this on as mood music in Bag End or Gryffindor commons. The song structure and “indie” affect give the music a calm warmness and yet the harmony and instrumentation bring in a touch of magic and adventure. Wes Anderson would make gingerbread houses to this music.

     
     
  5. m b v - My Bloody Valentine
This is the most anticipated album of all time. Twenty-two years. Even hopes for a Beatles reunion were only possible for ten years. There has been people who have been waiting for this for the entire duration of my life. It’s absolutely crazy to think that there was no quick follow up to Loveless, with all of its immense popularity and with the way it absolutely ravaged the rock scene of the time. It’s easy to sympathize however, I’d imagine it quite nerve wracking to have to create something that could handle all the hype surrounding it. Even now, decades later, some still won’t enjoy m b v simply out of the inevitable comparison to Loveless. But you should not let yourself be one of those people. Why? Because m b v is good. Yes, good. It’s not going to spark up a new genre; it’s not going to be many people’s #1 record of all time; and it will never come close to the mythical being of Loveless. But it’s good. Were this any other band, that would be enough right? Of course, it’s impossible to divorce this record from context, but I think it is possible to purely experience m b v without having to put these two records on a scale. The dreary magic of these songs should be enough to take you out of the mindset of judgment. The blurry opening chords of ‘she found now’ do just that for me, placing me within the beautiful world of Lost in Translation, unconcerned with how the record could be rated on a 100 point gradient. On a one point scale, I’d give this album a one. 

The new production quality of m b v gives them a heaviness they’ve never had before. The rock songs rock harder; the fog surrounded the drearier songs has never been denser. Though the sounds of the nineties are focused upon here, the production lends it a modern feeling. There are also new timbres to be explored. On my favorite song, “if i am,” the lucid needle of a guitar tone pierces through after the second verse, a sharply quivering sound I’ve never heard out of the instrument. And don’t even get me started on the jet engine that runs through the entirety of “wonder 2.” Genre lines are also explored on m b v. Though this album is rooted in their brand of shoegaze, they explore noise rock on “nothing is,” alt rock on “new you,” and they even take on Stereolab’s version of their own sound on “is this and yes.” But none of this gets to what makes this album such a success. What I love about m b v is that it is able to wildly experiment with the sound of pop music without ever losing the functionality of pop. These songs get stuck in my head. I have them all memorized, know all their little moments. And most of all they never fail to make me feel. Their sense of delirium, of adventure and of pure beauty is never lost on me; it always feels like everything they’re trying to express is received in transmission. That’s a lot more than I can say for most records.

    m b v - My Bloody Valentine

    This is the most anticipated album of all time. Twenty-two years. Even hopes for a Beatles reunion were only possible for ten years. There has been people who have been waiting for this for the entire duration of my life. It’s absolutely crazy to think that there was no quick follow up to Loveless, with all of its immense popularity and with the way it absolutely ravaged the rock scene of the time. It’s easy to sympathize however, I’d imagine it quite nerve wracking to have to create something that could handle all the hype surrounding it. Even now, decades later, some still won’t enjoy m b v simply out of the inevitable comparison to Loveless. But you should not let yourself be one of those people. Why? Because m b v is good. Yes, good. It’s not going to spark up a new genre; it’s not going to be many people’s #1 record of all time; and it will never come close to the mythical being of Loveless. But it’s good. Were this any other band, that would be enough right? Of course, it’s impossible to divorce this record from context, but I think it is possible to purely experience m b v without having to put these two records on a scale. The dreary magic of these songs should be enough to take you out of the mindset of judgment. The blurry opening chords of ‘she found now’ do just that for me, placing me within the beautiful world of Lost in Translation, unconcerned with how the record could be rated on a 100 point gradient. On a one point scale, I’d give this album a one.

    The new production quality of m b v gives them a heaviness they’ve never had before. The rock songs rock harder; the fog surrounded the drearier songs has never been denser. Though the sounds of the nineties are focused upon here, the production lends it a modern feeling. There are also new timbres to be explored. On my favorite song, “if i am,” the lucid needle of a guitar tone pierces through after the second verse, a sharply quivering sound I’ve never heard out of the instrument. And don’t even get me started on the jet engine that runs through the entirety of “wonder 2.” Genre lines are also explored on m b v. Though this album is rooted in their brand of shoegaze, they explore noise rock on “nothing is,” alt rock on “new you,” and they even take on Stereolab’s version of their own sound on “is this and yes.” But none of this gets to what makes this album such a success. What I love about m b v is that it is able to wildly experiment with the sound of pop music without ever losing the functionality of pop. These songs get stuck in my head. I have them all memorized, know all their little moments. And most of all they never fail to make me feel. Their sense of delirium, of adventure and of pure beauty is never lost on me; it always feels like everything they’re trying to express is received in transmission. That’s a lot more than I can say for most records.

     
     
  6. Push the Sky Away

I feel like the spirit of Nick Cave’s new album is really encapsulated in the video for “Higgs Boson Blues.” The video is simple enough, nothing but performance footage of the song. Similarly, Push the Sky Away is a sonically simple album, with a raw rock band sound and hardly any electronic production flourishes. But with the video and the entire album, so much great content is produced within the old rock framework that it doesn’t matter. In “Higgs Boson Blues,” from the very start you can tell Nick Cave is hiding no tricks up his sleeve. He casually walks up to the mike and breaks immediately into song. There’s no dramatic intro, no glitzy pyrotechnics, just a band in a room. Instead, the drama is to be found within his voice. This is definitely one of my favorite vocal performances all year, with Cave pouring out bales of emotion into every lyric. The music video showcases this perfectly, with his exacerbated facial expressions of his already distinctive face being the main focal point. When he sings, “It’s hot! It’s hot! That’s why they call it the Hot Spot,” you can see the anxious tension creep its way into is voice and face. Eye-widening peaks in his song structures like this run all throughout Push the Sky Away and it’s one of the prime reasons I keep returning for more. 
The other main explanation would have to be the lyrics, which are easily some of my favorite all year. It’s absolutely astounding how he is able to find such poetry within the brothels of the world. His ominous groan of a voice is the perfect accompaniment to the dark subject matter here. It’s amazing how he can take the song most violently obsessed with the shuddersome lives of prostitutes, “Water’s Edge” and shuttle it to a place where it ends with such beauty in “It’s the will of love / It’s the thrill of love / Ah, but the chill of love is coming on.” While age is usually an obstacle for rockstars, Cave uses it to his advantage to further the sinister old man character of the album. There’s something quite unsettling when he speaks of the barely adult celebrity in the lines “The rainy days always make me sad / Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake / And you’re the best girl I ever had.” By finding beauty and inspiration in the devilish underbelly of society and sexuality, Push the Sky Away find itself amongst the most compelling records of the year.

    Push the Sky Away

    I feel like the spirit of Nick Cave’s new album is really encapsulated in the video for “Higgs Boson Blues.” The video is simple enough, nothing but performance footage of the song. Similarly, Push the Sky Away is a sonically simple album, with a raw rock band sound and hardly any electronic production flourishes. But with the video and the entire album, so much great content is produced within the old rock framework that it doesn’t matter. In “Higgs Boson Blues,” from the very start you can tell Nick Cave is hiding no tricks up his sleeve. He casually walks up to the mike and breaks immediately into song. There’s no dramatic intro, no glitzy pyrotechnics, just a band in a room. Instead, the drama is to be found within his voice. This is definitely one of my favorite vocal performances all year, with Cave pouring out bales of emotion into every lyric. The music video showcases this perfectly, with his exacerbated facial expressions of his already distinctive face being the main focal point. When he sings, “It’s hot! It’s hot! That’s why they call it the Hot Spot,” you can see the anxious tension creep its way into is voice and face. Eye-widening peaks in his song structures like this run all throughout Push the Sky Away and it’s one of the prime reasons I keep returning for more.

    The other main explanation would have to be the lyrics, which are easily some of my favorite all year. It’s absolutely astounding how he is able to find such poetry within the brothels of the world. His ominous groan of a voice is the perfect accompaniment to the dark subject matter here. It’s amazing how he can take the song most violently obsessed with the shuddersome lives of prostitutes, “Water’s Edge and shuttle it to a place where it ends with such beauty in “It’s the will of love / It’s the thrill of love / Ah, but the chill of love is coming on.” While age is usually an obstacle for rockstars, Cave uses it to his advantage to further the sinister old man character of the album. There’s something quite unsettling when he speaks of the barely adult celebrity in the lines “The rainy days always make me sad / Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake / And you’re the best girl I ever had.” By finding beauty and inspiration in the devilish underbelly of society and sexuality, Push the Sky Away find itself amongst the most compelling records of the year.

     
     
  7. Tape Two - Young Fathers

Young Fathers got me real stirred up with the reggae/hip hop of “Romance” last year. And this year is no different, with a souped up version of the same sound on “I Heard.” That song is especially emotional for me with the lyrics, “Inside I’m feelin’ dirty / It’s only cause I’m hurtin’,” that are expressed in such a way that makes them all too relatable. The other songs on here are great too, a fascinating mix of rap, pop, reggae and African music. Excited to hear what’s next for them.

    Tape Two - Young Fathers

    Young Fathers got me real stirred up with the reggae/hip hop of “Romance” last year. And this year is no different, with a souped up version of the same sound on “I Heard.” That song is especially emotional for me with the lyrics, “Inside I’m feelin’ dirty / It’s only cause I’m hurtin’,” that are expressed in such a way that makes them all too relatable. The other songs on here are great too, a fascinating mix of rap, pop, reggae and African music. Excited to hear what’s next for them.

     
     
  8. No slack in my mack

     
     
  9.  
     
  10. Like the video game I never had

     
     
  11. ✚P9084265

    P9084265

    (Source: outgun)

     
     
  12. Cloud Nothings
There was such a great sense of community within the crowd when we had to finish the lyrics to “Wasted Days” for them because the rain took the mic out.

    Cloud Nothings

    There was such a great sense of community within the crowd when we had to finish the lyrics to “Wasted Days” for them because the rain took the mic out.

     
     
  13. Presence - The Men

    Presence - The Men

     
     
  14. To Defy the Laws of Tradition - Primus
What if Christmas didn’t come this yearand no one paid for Christmas cheer?Who would cry the biggest tear,the child or the store?Why do brides wear virgin white?Most do not deserve that right.But to choose a color of their delightwould surely bring on the frowns.
These lyrics are remarkably straightforward and poignant. I too have always had a problem with tradition. On the one hand, it goes great lengths in keeping smaller sects close and together. But on the other, it goes even further in keeping different peoples apart and is generally just a huge retardant in terms of society’s progression. Though I wouldn’t happily part with much of the Jewish culture that has been part of my upbringing, it seems absurdly silly that some simple, outdated sentence of ours written thousands of years ago fucks over the majority of the gay community across the world. This is especially silly because the intention of the Christian Bible was to do away with most of our views but they decided to act as that one was their own. The practice of revisionism in the Jewish community is a somewhat noble one: Filtering out the bad while keeping the stuff to enable us to still bond. My only concern is whether or not it’s history they are rewriting, instead of just their lifestyle. For we should never forget how violent and stupid our past is, even though we should get rid of it in the present. Because if Jews do away with their history the only thing others will remember is the Holocaust. And this just enables Jews to play the victim, thereby justifying the ever so ironic atrocities they commit in Israel today. With both Primus and Judaism, I shall leave the bad and take the good. Both have songs of rebellion. I will attempt to carry on this tradition for my whole life. But were I to fully emulate either one of them, there would be no rebellion at all. Tradition can be the most blessed influence but do your own damn thing.

    To Defy the Laws of Tradition - Primus

    What if Christmas didn’t come this year
    and no one paid for Christmas cheer?
    Who would cry the biggest tear,
    the child or the store?
    Why do brides wear virgin white?
    Most do not deserve that right.
    But to choose a color of their delight
    would surely bring on the frowns.

    These lyrics are remarkably straightforward and poignant. I too have always had a problem with tradition. On the one hand, it goes great lengths in keeping smaller sects close and together. But on the other, it goes even further in keeping different peoples apart and is generally just a huge retardant in terms of society’s progression. Though I wouldn’t happily part with much of the Jewish culture that has been part of my upbringing, it seems absurdly silly that some simple, outdated sentence of ours written thousands of years ago fucks over the majority of the gay community across the world. This is especially silly because the intention of the Christian Bible was to do away with most of our views but they decided to act as that one was their own. The practice of revisionism in the Jewish community is a somewhat noble one: Filtering out the bad while keeping the stuff to enable us to still bond. My only concern is whether or not it’s history they are rewriting, instead of just their lifestyle. For we should never forget how violent and stupid our past is, even though we should get rid of it in the present. Because if Jews do away with their history the only thing others will remember is the Holocaust. And this just enables Jews to play the victim, thereby justifying the ever so ironic atrocities they commit in Israel today. With both Primus and Judaism, I shall leave the bad and take the good. Both have songs of rebellion. I will attempt to carry on this tradition for my whole life. But were I to fully emulate either one of them, there would be no rebellion at all. Tradition can be the most blessed influence but do your own damn thing.

     
     
  15. Strange Things - Big Black

    Strange ThingsBig Black

    (Source: spiraphobia)