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Top 10 Albums of Every Year Since 1960

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Special mention(s) for 2012:




Burial – Kindred



"Kindred" opens in the midst of a rainstorm that's plenty familiar to longtime Burial listeners—mournful chords against the sizzle of wet pavement. But we quickly realize those crashes aren't thunder: the whole city is shaking. The groove that Burial's still-unmatched drums and blown-out bass fall into pounces angrily at first, but the angelic voice that swoops in knocks the dissonance right out of the arrangement, even if just temporarily. At well over 11 minutes, "Kindred" is epic by almost any definition. But for a producer whose work is notable for its intimacy, the track finds Burial in a balancing act, embracing compositional enormity while still making you feel whispered to. "Loner" puts us as close to the floor as Burial ever has, even if we seem to be viewing things through cataracts. Where "Street Halo" similarly explored 4/4 beats, "Loner" exudes an agitated palpability that sets it apart. By "Ashtray Wasp," another 11-minute-plus excursion, we feel that presence begin to evaporate, those lonely, all-too-real streets once again encroaching on euphoria. The EP ends with the same distant booms and crackles that signaled its entrance, leaving us as forlorn and lost as Burial ever has. But the mourning is more tangible this time, as if instead of sharing a feeling, he's broken off a piece of what no longer is.









Burial – Truant



The year's first Burial release, Kindred, was his "biggest" yet—the tracks were longer than ever before, beefier, and packed an emotional wallop that was impressive even by his standards. He continues down the "epic" path apace, except where "Kindred" and "Loner" had cinematic builds, every time these two new tracks choose a path, they suddenly fall apart. "Truant"'s stirring chord progressions, roiling basslines and intricate vocal manipulation are a recipe for a Burial masterstroke, yet none of these things actually occur simultaneously. The theatrical motifs are separated by gulfs of percussive tumbles, the vocals dragged over a frayed canvas and climax is cruelly snuffed out. The 14-minute "Rough Sleeper" is much the same, but the track's midsection—wavering and tentative—has one of Bevan's most beautiful moments. As triumphant, otherworldly bells fly in from above, the rare note of celebration momentarily renders everything clear. The entire EP has built up to this moment, and it's heart-wrenching in an entirely different way than the rest of the Burial catalogue. Of course, all that majesty fades out into licks of static, before "Rough Sleeper" pulls itself together with some 2006-style roughshod wheeling. Listeners are left in the lurch as they try to piece together the past 26 minutes. Truant is a rather audacious move for an artist who could have easily relied on the same formula for years to come and still struck gold.







Jeremih - Late Nights With Jeremih



Like Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange, it’s a balanced synthesis of classic pop, soul and r’n’b (Jeremih has gone on record quite frequently at being heavily influenced by “true musician artists” like Stevie Wonder) with modern production. Though unlike Channel Orange, which very much fancies itself as an album album, with concepts, revelations, interludes and the year’s most infamous liner notes, Late Nights with Jeremih is content to simply be a session of great songs for twilight, most of which clock in at well under four minutes. It’s a collection that goes by as quickly as the late nights that it celebrates, but there are obvious stand-outs. Producer Mike Will has been combining dance music filters with heavy 808 beats for a while now, usually as a simple but effective way to create tension (see Gucci Mane’s ‘North Pole’, Future’s ‘Turn on the Lights’ , Juicy J’s ‘Bands a Make Her Dance’ and more), but on ‘773 Love’ he provides one of his best beats yet, immersing a crackly riff in warm low pass filters and slowly letting it emerge, while adding layers of synth so subtly that unless you really pay attention, you’ll never notice them. Jeremih gives easily his most memorable vocal performance of the album, changing tone between dramatic and casual (the way he sits back for the second chorus’s “7-7-3, 7-7-9, love” is just killer), before going acapella for the song’s close. When Will appears again, it’s on the slamming club jam ‘Girls Go Wild’, another Late Nights highlight. Elsewhere, Late Nights gets weird, though never loses track of the starlit feel that makes it work so well. There’s often post-production on Jeremih’s voice, usually filters or simple pitch-shifting, but on ‘Fuck You All The Time’, he duets with Natasha Mosely – herself also vocally manipulated – and a second pitched-down version of himself over a quiet, at times barely-there beat driven by finger-clicks and synthesised chimes. In the age of James Blake and the xx’s ultra-spacious music, it feels exactly how artists from the r’n'b world should be taking cues from the relative underground. Closer ‘Letter to Fans’, meanwhile, finds Jeremih getting misty-eyed over a beat that pairs trap-style “hey” shouts with finger-clicks, watery piano and little else. When the kick drum comes in, it’s practically transparent.







Rustie - Essential Mix



As is Essential Mix protocol, Rustie's mix runs just a little under two hours, which will prove a mind-boggler of a listen for many. But though it nearly triples Glass Swords' running time, it's also, weirdly, more compulsively listenable. If you have two hours to spare, take the plunge and find choon after gob-smacking choon. And if you got shit to do, that's fine-- just jump to any random point, listen for a bit, and leave wherever you like. Though it seems like all his fingers are on 10 different buttons at once, Rustie's Essential Mix is several cuts above because of how expertly paced and curated it is. The wide variety of material culled for this mix-- much of it unreleased-- can be divided into three large categories: dreamy, gold-glistened synth bangers, the type of bass-rattling beat workouts that shake fillings out of teeth, and a selection of R&B and hip-hop both new and not-too-new that's accompanied by Rustie's distinctive production touch.







Solange - True



Solange's first independent release, a seven-track EP for Grizzly Bear member Chris Taylor's Terrible label, follows the Top Ten album Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. As the gap was four years in length, True naturally sounds significantly different -- not much like her loose, Day-Glo throwback soul of 2008. Written and produced with Dev Hynes (aka Lightspeed Champion and Blood Orange), the songs have a diaphanous new wave via synth funk sound that is much closer to Little Dragon than the Dap-Kings. The lyrics detail a busted relationship and provide aching, wistful, and frustrated contrast to the animated and slowly swaying backdrops. The mournful closing ballad "Bad Girls" features an unsurprisingly chunky bassline from Verdine White, yet the drum machine and slightly decayed surface make the whole thing sound more like a 1984 Mtume demo (not a knock). This is a promising prelude to Solange's third proper album.










TNGHT is the duo of Hudson Mohawke and Montreal beatsmith Lunice—an intuitive pairing, given the musicians' mutual fondness for trance-dusted trap music. Their debut recording, a split release between Warp and LuckyMe, is a short EP—five tracks long, it only clocks in at 16 minutes total—but it packs plenty of punch. After the two-minute "Top Floor," which sounds like a ghoulish fusion of boom-bap and Dead Can Dance, they explode into full-on rave mode with "Goooo." With a keening, 8-bit lead, chanted whoops, death-spiral snare rolls and gabber-grade supersaws, it arrives like a low-rider plowing through the brostep tent. Upping the tempo to 160 beats per minute, "Higher Ground" feels like a fusion of juke and Southern bounce. Looped vocals and insistent claps play against rickety triplet rhythms and half-time swagger, with action-flick trombones pushing things to the brink. With "Bugg'n," they bust out a kind of half-speed grime, with pots-and-pans percussion and liquid bleeps that draw a line from Wiley's "Ice Rink" to Drexciya's underwater dominion. "Easy Easy" is similar: slow, spacious and profoundly fucked up, with gun-cocks and smashing glass punctuating what sounds like a chorus of delirious car alarms. It's a boisterous, bruising record, yet nimble where it counts, and way more clever than your average thuggish bombast.




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David Bowie - Aladdin Sane


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf0fmqWS-kI]David Bowie - Panic In Detroit - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TybKdYaeFUE]David Bowie-Drive-In Saturday (1973) HD - YouTube[/ame]


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qwabl180_I]David Bowie-Aladdin Sane (Full Album) 1973 - YouTube[/ame]


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Leonard Cohen - New Skin For the Old Ceremony


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sx83eIVkKyo]Chelsea Hotel No. 2 - Leonard Cohen - Singing - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqVvNpcX5HQ]Leonard Cohen - 'Take This Longing' - YouTube[/ame]




Captain Beefheart - Unconditionally Guaranteed


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr2G9j9Lvgc]Upon The My O My - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D79JaHynRQ]New Electric Ride - Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - YouTube[/ame]




The Velvet Underground - 1969: The Velvet Underground Live


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGiGQYSQjwg]Velvet Underground - Lisa Says live (1969) - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kym3xgrEISA]The Velvet Underground - What goes on (1969) - YouTube[/ame]



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David Bowie - "Heroes"


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3SjCzA71eM]David Bowie - Heroes + lyrics - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIT1YQe3KeA]David Bowie Moss Garden - YouTube[/ame]




Iggy Pop - Lust For Life


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLhN__oEHaw]Iggy Pop - The Passenger - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuBU3pzy7is]Iggy pop-Lust for life-Lust for life - YouTube[/ame]




Brian Eno - Before and After Science


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrZYP8SzlN8]Brian Eno - By This River - YouTube[/ame]


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Buzzcocks - Another Music In A Different Kitchen


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEBvQaa4azQ]Buzzcocks - Moving away from the pulsebeat - YouTube[/ame]


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aBn75vTrDs]Buzzcocks - No Reply - YouTube[/ame]



Pere Ubu - Dub Housing


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVkl1Xb46B0]Pere Ubu I Will Wait - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91KBuWqxE7g]Pere Ubu - Navvy - YouTube[/ame]


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Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wea8ZQ0II4g]Gary Numan - M.E. - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpBUmS5em0w]Gary Numan - Metal - YouTube[/ame]



The Fall - Dragnet


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3upVG_Bj3A]The Fall - Psykick Dance Hall - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUKfIbqw9HI]The Fall - Flat Of Angles - YouTube[/ame]



The Fall - Live At The Witch Trials


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4dP43KWaSU]The Fall - Frightened - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C5khyNAaxs]The Fall - Music Scene - YouTube[/ame]


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10. Beyoncé - Beyoncé


Easily her best album since B'day, it's among her most entertaining and sexually explicit work, yet it's substantive in every respect. Beyoncé co-wrote and co-produced all of the songs with A-listers like Pharrell, Timbaland, James Fauntleroy, Hit-Boy, and the-Dream, as well as emerging Detroiters Detail and Key Wane and the previously unknown Boots. There are deep references to Beyoncé's competitive showbiz upbringing and acknowledgments of her beloved Houston hometown. "Mine" and "Blue" involve vivid expressions regarding the turbulence and thrill of motherhood. Central track "***Flawless" opens with Ed McMahon's introduction of her preteen group on Star Search, incorporates the combative "Bow Down" and a portion of celebrated Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk on feminism, as well as a booming, quotable-packed victory lap. It concludes with McMahon's dismissal of her group, as if to say, "Yeah, but look at me now."







9. Forest Swords – Engravings


Throughout Engravings, a reverence for roots dub serves as his foundation. Its mournful first single, "The Weight Of Gold," faintly recalls the lonely atmosphere of Augustus Pablo's best work. The stunning "Irby Tremor" sounds like something from a Sublime Frequencies compilation—an aged artifact from some forgotten corner of colonial Asia. Tracks like that one lend a mystique to Engravings; it's hard to tell what's sampled and what's original, or whether the signs of age are real or manufactured. This is further confused by the marvelous "Anneka's Battle," where the Brighton singer's vocals are as distant and manipulated as any of the record's found sounds. Engravings' unique sense of rhythm might be its most engaging aspect. The record marches drowsily through each bar with hypnotic effect; on opener "Ljoss," the repetition melts into a heatsick swirl of reverb. And while Barnes never strays too close to dance music, there are references here and there, notably with "Onward," whose sharp angles stick out like an arrowhead buried in the soil. It's a rare moment on Engravings that feels like it was made by machine rather than by hand, as a piston slams at irregular intervals while the rest of the song drifts in and out. The album ends with "Friend, You Will Never Learn," a lengthy piece that rumbles through anguished vocals and plaintive pianos. It's one of the tracks that most resembles Dagger Paths, though somehow it's just more grandiose, more inspired. No one who's heard Dagger Paths will be surprised by Engravings, but that's not the point. What Barnes has done here is give us a full tour of a hidden place he only let us peek at before, a place that's even more breathtaking than Dagger Paths made it out to be.







8. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories


Daft Punk separate themselves from most contemporary electronic music and how it's made, enlisting some of their biggest influences to help them get the sounds they needed without samples. On Homework's "Teachers," they reverently name-checked a massive list of musicians and producers; here, they place themselves on equal footing with disco masterminds Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, referring to them as "collaborators." That could be self-aggrandizing, yet it's also strangely humble when they take a back seat to their co-stars, especially on one of RAM's definitive moments, "Giorgio by Moroder," where the producer shares his thoughts on making music with wild guitar and synth solos trailing behind him. Elsewhere, Daft Punk nod to their symbiotic relationship with indie on the lovely "Doin' It Right," which makes the most of Panda Bear's boyish vocals, and on the Julian Casablancas cameo "Instant Crush," which is only slightly more electronic than the Strokes' Comedown Machine. And of course, Pharrell Williams is the avatar of their dancefloor mastery on the sweaty disco of "Lose Yourself to Dance" as well as "Get Lucky," which is so suave that it couldn't help but be an instant classic, albeit a somewhat nostalgic one. Indeed, "memories" is the album's keyword: Daft Punk celebrate the late '70s and early '80s with lavish homages like "Give Life Back to Music" -- one of several terrific showcases for Rodgers -- and the spot-on soft rock of the Todd Edwards collaboration "Fragments of Time." More importantly, Random Access Memories taps into the wonder and excitement in that era's music. Daft Punk have never shied away from "uncool" influences or sentimentality, and both are on full display here. For the casual Daft Punk fan, this album might be harder to love than "Get Lucky" hinted; it might be too nostalgic, too overblown, a shirking of the group's duty to rescue dance music from the Young Turks who cropped up in their absence. But Random Access Memories is also Daft Punk's most personal work, and richly rewarding for listeners willing to spend time with it.







7. DJ Rashad - Double Cup



To varying degrees, genres like Jamaican dancehall, banging techno, ghetto-tech, and even hip-hop live and thrive outside the album format. Their primary audience consumes the music through live DJ sets, mixes on radio, mixtapes, mash-ups, and all sorts of mixed whatnot, and with the hyper dance music out of Chicago called "footwork", the bpms are so fast and the music is so minimal, a kinetic mix set in a club is the genre's best listening environment. DJ Rashad's previous work fits easily in this category, with his remix of "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" and his hit track "Teknitian" both being examples of pummeling, hectic, sample-packed miniatures. Bumping the two together will total up to four-minutes, while the average footwork DJ would weave his way in, and out, of these cuts in about a minute, minute-and-a-half tops. Flipping the script, Rashad's Double Cup might refer to the amount of "lean" the average footwork fanatic needs to drink to endure these often three-minute, sometimes even four-minute, bangers, and while drums still pound and tight loops still hypnotize, the producer's exploration of long-legged house music and other chilly genres helps make these new, comparatively epic track lengths quite necessary. "Show U How" sounds like a horribly scratched disco CD skipping in the most exciting way possible, and yet, Rashad pulls some soul out of the shards, dropping the beat in the middle of the cut and creating something decidedly for the home listener. Weekend tokers and couch-lock regulars can expect titles like "Pass That Shit" and "Drank, Kush, Barz" to be the broken, bud smokers anthems they promise, but it's the closing "I'm Too Hi" that takes the cannabis cup, crossing into a prog-rock territory stoned groove and a 7:41 runtime, plus a very necessary keyboard outro that sounds like water was poured down the back of a robot Bernie Worrell. Everything seems to be malfunctioning on the album, and yet, Rashad loves the genres he borrows from so much, he can't ignore the solid grip of acid house ("Acid Bit") or the sweet slide of R&B ("She a Go"). These sparking satellites all remain in their respective groove's orbit, making Double Cup footwork's most sensible and revisit-worthy album to date.







6. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation


"Creeping" and "funereal" aren't necessarily terms many artists would want associated with their music, but in the case of the Haxan Cloak (aka producer Bobby Krlic), they're not just accurate, they're complimentary. The Haxan Cloak's self-titled debut album traced the journey of a character who was dying, and there was a morbid beauty to its drooping strings, rattling percussion, and dragging tempos, all of which were shrouded in the subtlest electronic drones. On his first album for Tri Angle, Excavation, those electronics come to the fore as Krlic imagines what comes after death; while this overtly electronic approach is more in keeping with his new label's roster as well as other contemporaries like Demdike Stare, Krlic also makes it into a showcase for just how much he can do within his very specific range of moods. At times, the way Krlic artfully places his drones to convey a sense of claustrophobia and impending doom recalls Xela, another artist who borrowed from metal as well as experimental electronic music, and the huge drums and lower-than-low bass on "Consumed" are heavy enough to pound listeners six feet under. The Haxan Cloak often felt like it was a doom metal album arranged for a string quartet, which made it particularly unique since not many contemporary artists make such ominous music with that kind of instrumentation. Though Krlic downplays the strings on much of Excavation, they're still used potently, whether they're set to a slow, swooping beat that could be the swinging of a scythe on "Mara" or paired with a raw synth bass to queasy effect on "Dieu." Texture and percussion dominate Excavation, and that's also where Krlic's fondness for acoustic instruments expresses itself on these songs. He sampled the collection of orchestral drums and percussion at the Britten-Pears Foundation for the roiling sounds that punctuate the album; on "Miste," they ricochet around a sample of a shout that's so finely chopped that it never rings out fully. This ambitious sound design extends to the two-part works like the title track, where scraping textures expand into a fascinating tug-of-war between disorienting edits and kinetic rhythms. The album reaches score-like heights on "The Drop," a 12-minute tour-de-force that spans some of the Haxan Cloak's prettiest moments to some of its most foreboding before reaching a finale that's as inevitable as it is open-ended.







5. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual


On their fourth studio album, the Knife don't change their habits as much as they push themselves to extremes. Despite its 100-minute length and political overtones, musically Shaking the Habitual isn't as radical a change as Silent Shout's sustained dread was from its predecessor, the relatively cheery Deep Cuts. The DNA of "Like a Pen," "From Off to On," and "We Share Our Mothers' Health" remains, albeit in heavily mutated forms, in the album's double-jointed beats, writhing textures, and deep tones. Rather, the album's title describes the Knife's mindset, which is restless and swarming with ideas; they're challenging their audience with these songs, but first and foremost, they're challenging themselves. There is nothing comforting about this album, something suggested by the two songs issued before its release. "A Tooth for an Eye" turns the steel drums the Knife have used since the beginning into something anguished and alien as Karin Dreijer howls "ice, ice, ice." "Full of Fire" ratchets this tension up several notches, starting with distorted beats that sound like they're burning, then (d)evolving into mangled electronics while Dreijer insistently hectors and interrogates her listeners and herself: "What's the story?/What's my opinion?" Yet there's much more to Shaking the Habitual than even those singles could have suggested. It's more like a performance art piece than a collection of pop songs, underscoring how important their work on the Darwinian opera Tomorrow, in a Year was to their artistic growth. Dreijer is as much of an actress as she is a singer on these tracks, particularly on "Networking," where her chittering, echoing vocals evoke the spread of a virus or a hive mind turning on itself. Meanwhile, "Fracking Fluid Injection"'s juxtaposition of her cawing cries and increasingly violent, slicing percussion is far subtler -- and more nightmarish -- than merely expressing the earth's suffering as oil is pulled from it. Shaking the Habitual is often more scary than it is dark, a distinction that only a group like the Knife could make. Even "Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized," which taunts listeners with nearly 20 minutes of slow-building drones, doesn't just set an eerie mood; it's unabashedly confrontational, even if the Knife aren't as direct about it as they are elsewhere on the album. When they are direct about it, it makes for some of their most striking music, whether it's "Without You My Life Would Be Boring"'s pagan pop, the ferociously tribal "Raging Lung," or "Stay Out Here," a spine-tingling duet with Light Asylum's Shannon Funchess. Shaking the Habitual isn't as cohesive or accessible as Silent Shout, and after experiencing the whole thing, fans may not return to it often, but it's hard to deny that it's an often stunning work of art. Rawer yet more sophisticated than any of their previous music, it sounds like a skin being shed, and it's a testament to the Knife's skill that they make such formidable sounds so compelling for so long.







4. James Holden – The Inheritors


Holden has long been associated with various incarnations of trance, and he's still after that state, though he uses a different approach. The album is a collection of analogue workouts that buzz and heave through a vast spectrum of sounds, which Holden stitches together into a work of astonishing coherence. Just listen to the way Etienne Jaumet's saxophone freakout at the end of "The Caterpillar's Intervention" gives way to cathedral-like tones and scrapes of static on "Sky Burial." Or how the ambient swirl of "Illuminations" decays into the half-submerged cracklings of "Inter-City 125." "Seven Stars," meanwhile, is the sort of 3 AM catatonia that might have graced an early Nathan Fake LP, but sounds here like it's been left to bake in the heat until its melodies seeped away. The title track takes these distorted blasts and elongates them into a kind of burnt techno that almost resembles Fuck Buttons. All of these tracks eventually build toward the cathartic galaxy sprawl of "Blackpool Late Eighties." At eight-and-a-half-minutes long, it's by some stretch the record's longest track; it also sounds most like what fans of "A Break in the Clouds" might have thought Holden would sound like come 2013. It's peaceful and distantly serene, but with flickers of dissonance rubbing away at the edges. Those contrasting textures are part of what makes The Inheritors perhaps the year's most revealing and intriguing album yet.







3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest


The uneasy mood and tight arpeggios that dominate songs like "White Cyclosa" recall Oneohtrix Point Never as much as their own catalog, while the unsettled low end that wobbles on "Split Your Infinitives" nods to dubstep (of the Burial variety, not the kind that filled stadiums). Since that style's originators made music that was nearly as understated yet evocative as their own, it makes sense that Boards of Canada would borrow from them, but most of Tomorrow's Harvest underscores that the duo still exists in its own world. If The Campfire Headphase tried to move forward as well as recapture the feel of Music Has the Right to Children -- and ended up doing neither especially well -- then this album could be seen as streamlined successor to Geogaddi. These songs may even offer a more balanced journey than that album did as they move from gentle unease to simmering dread and back again; "Reach for the Dead," the track the brothers chose to introduce this phase of their music, does both. Attention-getting tracks like "Jacquard Causeway," which announces itself with an analog fanfare that harks back to '70s documentaries, and the strangely stately pop of "Palace Posy," which could be a hit single if Boards of Canada were into that kind of thing, are surrounded by vignettes that loom and lurk, like "Telepath"'s eerie muttering and "Collapse"'s far-off crashes. The most notable change on Tomorrow's Harvest may be that the past it evokes feels colder and less innocent than previous reveries; this time, looking back is as much about nostalgia as it is making sure the duo hasn't conjured up something creepy behind you on "Cold Earth" or "Nothing Is Real." This chilly refinement may make the album a more intellectual pleasure than Boards of Canada's earlier albums, but it's a masterfully crafted work that feels like a natural progression for them. While this might not sound particularly exciting on paper, the consistent excellence of Tomorrow's Harvest is as comforting as a collection of quietly menacing android fever dreams like these could possibly be.







2. My Bloody Valentine – m b v


For years, a follow-up to their 1991 masterpiece Loveless seemed impossible, and perhaps even unnecessary. What could live up to Kevin Shields' notorious perfectionism, never mind the expectations of rabid fans (some of whom weren't even alive when Loveless was released)? With a title that evoked years of scrawling initials on mixtapes and playlists, m b v answered those worries with a set of songs that felt immediately familiar. And, appropriately enough given the 22-year wait, many of these tracks are decidedly unhurried, and maybe even hazier than what came before. "who sees you" and "if i am" churn and hover, full of cloudy vocals and lingering guitars, while "she found now" recalls Loveless' "Sometimes" in its whispery bliss. Yet there are differences, too: m b v’s production is surprisingly direct and intimate, at times almost insular compared to Loveless' panoramas. "is this and yes," which jettisons guitars in favor of organ and brass that evoke Stereolab's regal serenity, is one of the most strikingly different songs in their catalog. Shields and company spend much of the album avoiding the rhythmic heft that made their previous music equally lush and propulsive. Instead, they save m b v’s loudest and most daring moments for last. "in another way" pairs a stair-stepping vocal melody with tones that approach free jazz in their dense clusters, while "nothing is" rides a pummeling riff and drums that are almost perversely loud, as if to make up for muffling them elsewhere. The most exciting moment is "wonder 2," which makes the jet engine comparisons to their music more literal than ever before, with rapid-fire beats and streaking sonics that suggest the song is being shot into space. More comforting than revelatory, m b v reaffirms that My Bloody Valentine are one of a kind; the subtlety to their melodies, instrumentation, and the way they blur together belongs to them alone.







1. Kanye West – Yeezus


This aggro-industrial earthquake with booming bass and minimal synths balances groundbreaking hip-hop lyrics ("New Slaves" is a bizarre, layered concept clash where high fashion, slavery, and "I'd rather be a dick than a swallower" all collide) with punkish, irresponsible blast-femy (during the draggy, trap track "I'm in It," West's melodious and melancholy voice shouts its dreams to the multitude, pleading "Your titties, let 'em out, free at last/Thank God almighty, they free at last" as if civil rights and booty calls were equally noble quests), and it all works in an astonishing, compelling manner. It's as if West spent the last year listening exclusively to Death Grips and Chief Keef and all the political, social, and musical contradictions became his muse, inspiring moments like the Keef and Bon Iver meet-up that fuels the mile-high hangover number "Hold My Liquor." "Blood on the Leaves" is recklessly bold as it uses Nina Simone's performance of "Strange Fruit" under its snide tale of ex-girlfriends, groupies, and date rape drugs; then there's the obviously volatile "I Am a God" ("Hurry up with my damn massage!/Hurry up with my damn ménage!"), which still outdoes its provocative title with a swelled-head manifesto plus an unexpected, Magic-Mike-meets-Aphex-Twin boom production courtesy of Daft Punk. Coming from the man who jumped on-stage and grabbed Taylor Swift's VMA award, or called the American President a racist during a nationally televised charity event, this angry, cathartic, and concise album (punkishly running 40 minutes), and its unconventional road to release seems like a personal quest for the next provocative, headline-making, and unforgettable fix. That's an unfathomable thing for most and irritating for many, but it's Kanye's unbelievable reality, so complaining about Yeezus being unrelatable is like complaining the sky is untouchable. At least he has decided to indulge his giant hunger with the help of art, and if anything, this is the moment he becomes a swashbuckling Salvador Dali figure, chopping down all that's conventional with highly imaginative work and crass, attention-grabbing attitude. Unlike Dali's separate delivery of the two, Yeezus is an extravagant stunt with the high-art packed in, offering an eccentric, audacious, and gripping experience that's vital and truly unlike anything else.









Honorable Mentions:




Disclosure - Settle


Cunning if not particularly novel synthesists, Surrey's Guy and Howard Lawrence draw from several styles and sub-styles of dance music -- house, garage, dubstep, bass -- and add pop appeal on Settle, their first album. The Lawrences began humbly with MySpace uploads of scruffy, sampling-enhanced dubstep tracks, but they quickly accelerated to making lustrous, impeccably assembled tracks with varied vocalists. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the duo released a trio of singles that fared no worse than number 11 on the U.K. pop chart: the soaring shuffle-tech of "Latch" (with a bursting, almost overdone lead from Sam Smith), the undeniable crossover house track "White Noise" (a perfectly timed partnership with upcoming duo AlunaGeorge), and the rush-inducing so-called future garage of "You & Me" (featuring Eliza Doolittle, something of a sequel to their fine remix of Jessie Ware's "Running"). Those hits appear here. Without them, the album would still be generous. Few tracks, however, will appease those who bemoaned the duo's departure from relying on sampled and treated vocals.







Earl Sweatshirt – Doris


MF Doom fans will be familiar with the style, and while the rumored Doom collaboration does not wind up on the final Doris, another obvious influence, RZA, is here, appearing on the aptly titled "Molasses," a slow, rich mix of Wu-Tang and Wolf Gang flavors. Mac Miller's recent embrace of the underground pays dividends during the bent and broken "Guild," while Frank Ocean influences Earl to sing his own blues on the great "Sunday" ("Nightmares got more vivid when I stopped smoking pot/And lovin' you's a little different, I don't like you a lot"). Underneath all this mumbled madness are some truly wonderful sounds -- much of it made by Earl under his alias randomblackguy -- as "Chum" runs like an underground indie suite of excellent ideas while "Centurion" twists a Krautrock and Can sample into something thug and stately. All that said, Doris is unsettled, messy, and takes a bit to sort, but there are codes to crack and rich rewards to reap, so enter with an open mind and prepare to leave exhausted.







Logos - Cold Mission



The sounds of classic grime—guns cocking, brusque brass and strings, whip-crack drums—are particularly fashionable in 2013. These are the building blocks that Keysound producer James Parker works with on his debut album, Cold Mission, but he drafts up blueprints rather than full songs. As a grime deconstructionist, he joins the ranks of Jam City and Rabit, but there's something uniquely vapourous about his compositions that turn the style's brutishness inside-out. He removes vital pieces of each song so the music feels bottomless, forcing the listener to hold onto other parts instead, be it an intermittent hi-hat or a dislocated bassline. By way of careful engineering, Logos has invented something new from familiar elements. For such a physically powerful record, it's striking how much silence pervades Cold Mission—in a way, it's the album's loudest element. For the first 20 minutes or so, small sounds punch through the chilly air before being sucked back into the blackness from whence they came. Shattering glass and other fragments create ghostly soundscapes through this opening run. There's something almost defiant about an album that takes so long to rev up. Even when it finally hits, around track number five ("Seawolf"), it's a crippled attack. This approach means every little sound hits with maximum force. Take the body-heaving shudders on "Menace," an intricate construction of synth brass and bounding drums that march in lockstep with some imaginary grid. It's downright eerie hearing all these disembodied sounds reanimated like this. Sure, he reuses the same elements throughout the LP—the drum samples in particular—but that's all part of the experiment. Cold Mission shows just how much variety you can wring out of a small set of sounds with enough creativity.







Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven



Aside from the opening track, "Boring Angel," Lopatin downplays the drones that made up the heart of his earlier work (and Replica, to a lesser extent) in favor of bright, briskly applied tones that, on the surface, seem like the opposite of his usual modus operandi. This fragmentation could be seen as a variation of Replica's choppy recontextualizing, though the results are dizzying rather than hypnotic: "Americans" hops from environmental sounds to zapping synths to cheery strings to choral vocals in what feels like the musical equivalent of a series of smash cuts. Similarly, Lopatin trades one kind of nostalgia for another: instead of evoking (and sampling from) the '70s and early '80s as his earlier work did, the brittle, sometimes cheap MIDI-esque sounds he sprinkles throughout R Plus Seven recall the late '80s and early '90s. The preponderance of choral pads on tracks such as the fittingly named "Still Life" give the album an eerie, uncanny valley-ish undercurrent, while "Along"'s mix of piping synth flutes, exotic percussion, and sax sounds like new age and smooth jazz run through a woodchipper. However, thanks to the light-handed arrangements, what could be cheesy or ironic more often than not feels forward-looking. Despite the dots and dashes of sound at any given moment, the album gives an overall impression of sleekness, and its subversive glossiness suggests that its tracks were made from pop songs that were shattered into shards that are as alluring as they are difficult to piece together. Occasionally, Lopatin tones down the hyperactivity a bit, resulting in highlights like "Problem Areas," which is carried by rubbery bass and a stairstepping brass motif, and "Zebra" and "Chrome Country," which both use warm-sounding synths to surprisingly emotional effect (even if the latter song tweaks the choral pad so violently that it sounds like it's shrieking). By conventional standards, R Plus Seven isn't a widely appealing crossover for Lopatin's new label. Yet in an almost perverse way, the playful spirit of these tracks and their lively sounds make for some of his most accessible work yet. For the most part, the album showcases Oneohtrix Point Never's restlessness and ambition in flattering ways; if it's equal parts mystifying and beautiful, it's also a puzzle well worth trying to figure out.







Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels



The deepest messages of Run the Jewels are the ones dedicated to figuring out just how many ways there are to threaten bodily trauma in the most over-the-top language possible while not actually coming across like some screwfaced shock-value manchild. It feels as though the options of either catching a bad one or riding with them are easier to decide between because the latter sounds like it'd be a hell of a time anyways. And there's this sense of friendly, unspoken one-upsmanship between the two MCs that keeps upping the stakes. It's a game of the dozens where the barbs are aimed outwards and funny-looking moms are swapped for an all-encompassing People Who Fuck With Us category. In the process, both MCs have both started to meet each other halfway personality-wise, though that wasn't a long trip to begin with. El's panic-attack rasp has grown into this fluid delivery that's become as immersive as his older hitched-timing flow was, spitting slick bars and doubletimes that make the acidic comedy roll out like his own take on vintage Ludacris. And Mike maintains his wrecking-ball mode, but twists it into moments of psychedelic delirium and over-the-top throat tearing, a man incapable of sounding nonchalant about anything getting the chance to turn that elbow-throwing flow into the narrator for a story about getting a lapdance on mushrooms (“No Come Down”) or turning it up to the breaking point on the grimy Tyson-isms of “Job Well Done”.





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Special mention(s) for 2013:




Arca - &&&&&



Alejandro Ghersi, the man behind Arca, sparks a deeply emotional response through decoded combinations of electronic sound. Technically, it brings to mind Brian Eno’s work with Microsoft in the early 90s, only instead of creating a six-second corporate jingle designed to be “optimistic, sentimental and inspirational” etc., Arca spins an impassioned tapestry through a series of personalities that weave and scratch their way through the mix. The trick is being able to achieve this both with and without vocals, and by producing a combination of frequencies that push any desired futuristic mood to the outermost limits. Ghersi seems to accomplish this effortlessly; he was, after all, chosen to co-produce four tracks on Yeezus, not to mention his gig alongside Holly Herndon in support of Atoms For Peace — such opportunities came on the back of just two EPs and a mixtape for DIS, without even the slightest hint of a full-length album in the pipeline. Although it exists as a single stream, &&&&& comprises 14 tacks that punch and crush their way through free-falling bass, Transylvanian keys, and metallic bullet-shell samples. Like a multifaceted 3D simulation of the double helix, “Knot” opens with gaping tones that launch into spiraling, crisp cut synths — it feels motivational, a sonic vessel for accomplishing even the most daunting of challenges, mirrored by the severity of a shuddering bass line. It’s an essential section in the opening half of the mix, which continues to embody futuristic dub qualities in the context of an intergalactic hip-hop beat tape. Arca’s stylistic preferences bring nothing new to the table, but the manner in which they have been approached gives them that feeling of whatever a term like “post-internet” might imply. Ghersi has spoken before about compiling cracked Sony drum samples to fashion his angle — found sound in the digital online junkyard — and his means of subverting traditional narratives such as a uniform Western romance go way back. But these methods remain etched into how he tackles dub flecked compositions with an abundant fascination for hip-hop aesthetics. As a standout fragment, “Anaesthetic” takes the tape into Stretch territory, with a rubberized synth that twists and creases its multiple vox loops. That first half compiles an incredibly hard hitting and wonderfully rich 12 minutes of Arca’s most captivating music to date, before the work is seized upon by an unexpected but equally gripping interjection.









Burial – Rival Dealer



Burial followed Truant almost exactly a year to the day with another mid-December EP that contains lengthy suite-like pieces. Compared to what preceded it, this is easily the producer's most emotional and story-like output. While it carries many of the expected Burial elements -- scuffed-up breakbeats, surface noise, near-silent passages, sampled vocalists made to sound angelic -- Rival Dealer is a significant departure. The break from one of the most frequently sampled funk tracks (the Soul Searchers' "Ashley's Roachclip") is utilized in furious, fits-and-starts fashion. Its urgency, as well as that of a deeper and harder-charging section that follows, is offset by an assortment of somber voices that outline a narrative while leaving much to the imagination. Fraught with turmoil and a handful of uncharacteristic elements -- such as an extended passage that resembles a love theme from a mid-'80s soundtrack -- the EP concludes with a section fromMatrix filmmaker Lana Wachowski's speech in response to being handed the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award. Regarding the acceptance of transgendered individuals, it provides an extremely touching conclusion to an emotionally wrenching work.









Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap



Acid Rap isn’t trying to be an alternative; it’s an attempt to encompass everything. There are shout outs, musical or lyrical, to practically every important Chicago tradition short of Thrill Jockey. It invites elements of classic soul, juke, gospel, blues-rock, drill, acid jazz, house, ragtime scat, and R. Kelly, Twista, and a young Kanye to the same open mic poetry night, where the kid on-stage is declaiming about what’s going unreported. Its genius is that he somehow makes this work.The structure is as expansive and freewheeling as any strange trip. Acid Rap is a less about the attempt to break on through than a way of describing the hallucinatory shades, transitory revelations, and cigarette burns of the journey. You can get off or on the bus at any juncture. There is no ideology or orthodoxy. No arbitrary binaries between conscious or gangster, apostle or agnostic. Freaks and free thinkers are accepted. Chance understands that those who are frightening are often frightened, too. He comes off as a guy who could find something in common with anyone but a high school principal. Chance mixes nostalgia with a nasal tone as effectively as almost anyone since the Pharcyde. He’s only 20, but “Cocoa Butter Kisses” laments the days of bright-orange Rugrats cassettes and Chuck E. Cheese pizza. It could come off like sentimental back-in-the-day cliché, but there’s a street-smart edge that holds the cheesiness in check. He puts Visine in his eyes so his grandmother won’t know he’s high, acknowledges his addictions, and invites Twista to play the smoked-out, speed-rap, O.G. Jedi.









FKA twigs - EP2



EP2 is technically the first release Tahliah Barnett issued as FKA Twigs -- she changed it from her nickname Twigs after learning of another artist using that moniker -- but it's still another set of haunting, evocative songs. Where much of EP1 was spare and whispery, its successor is downright lush. Acclaimed producer Arca (who also collaborated with Kanye West on Yeezus) helps Barnett build on the budding fullness of EP1 songs like "Breathe," and the the richer sonics enhance EP2's air of mystery. FKA Twigs' kinship with trip-hop is alive and well -- echoes of Tricky, Portishead, and Massive Attack, as well as more contemporary acts like Burial and the xx, resonate through all of these songs -- but Barnett's version is more nimble and abstract. Her beats are as decorative and expressive as they are rhythmic, punctuating and embellishing EP2's emotional complexity. Unlike so many of the artists who followed in the footsteps of trip-hop's pioneers and smoothed the style into attractive surfaces, FKA Twigs leaves it shattered and frayed. Even on "Ultraviolet," the closest EP2 comes to being merely pretty, a woozy sub-bass cuts through the track's delicacy with an ominous depth. If Barnett's music is denser than it was before, her lyrics are even more revealing, and the EP is at its most riveting when she lays her emotions bare. The aching that suffuses her music comes to the fore on "Papi Pacify," which teeters between pleading and demanding, and "Water Me," a strikingly sad, and beautiful, tangle of rejection and self-reliance. Barnett still only has a handful of songs to her name, yet the way she brings together vast spaces and dense sounds, as well as love and pain, makes it a stunning body of work.







Galcher Lustwerk - 100% Galcher



On paper, 100% Galcher is merely a podcast for Matthew Kent’s Blowing Up The Workshop series, but across the last six months it’s come to mean so much more. Originally designed as an un-mixed, hip-hop-style mixtape of unreleased material, New York-based producer Galcher Lustwerk decided to instead mix a year plus’s worth of tracks and stems into an hour-long set – one that we’ve come to treat as an album in its own right. For all 2013’s talk of deep-not-deep house, this is the antidote: evoking Burial’s post-rave drug mist, the painfully cool tragedy of Dean Blunt, the smouldering romanticism of Chicago house and the lost greyscale nights of House of Balloons, all shot through alabaster mist with chalk scraped across the lens. No other hour of music in 2013 made hooks this great seem this effortless – album or mix.







Jai Paul – Jai Paul



The gasping, crunchy beats of ‘BTSTU’ flutter throughout the collection of tracks. Paul’s knack for warm, pulsating basslines married with sweet, soulful vocals is what binds the 16 songs together. The heavy use of weird, quirky samples gives the tracks a playful feel, adding some personality to the man about whom so little is known, as do the blast of funk and the asiatic vibes, introudced in Track 2 ('Str8 Outta Mumbai'), that are recurring themes across the 16 tracks. Part of the reason people were so ready to believe that this was a genuine Jai Paul release is that it bears the innovative originality that tastemakers have been attributing to the producer for the last two years. The intricate sampling is fascinating, and at times the production is mightily impressive. Traditional song structure conventions play little role, and the rhythm shift from rattling skips on Track 3, to dusty electro ticks of Track 5 ('Genevieve'), to rumbling, gently throbbing bass of the new version of 'Jasmine'. There’s the same sort of exciting, courageous production ideas in play as there are on known tracks ‘BTSTU’ and ‘Jasmine’, so it’s understandable why people believed this was Jai Paul’s album.







Kelela - Cut 4 Me



After a featured role on Teengirl Fantasy's "EFX," vocalist and songwriter Kelela opened for Solange and subsequently bailed on her day job to focus on music. In May 2013, she appeared on "Bank Head," one of Ezra Rubin's characteristically sparse but sharp percussion workouts as Kingdom. Five months later, Kelela returned with this free download, released through Rubin's Night Slugs sister label Fade to Mind. It contains the extended mix of "Bank Head," as well as a pair of additional collaborations with Rubin, and the other productions come from artists within Night Slugs' orbit. While Kelela applied her touch to finished instrumentals -- she and the producers were never in the same room -- these pairings with the likes of Girl Unit, Jam City, Nguzunguzu, Bok Bok, and Morri$ sound natural. Kelela fulfills her desire to make what resembles a remix album with presumably straightforward originals left to one's imagination. Indeed, most of these tracks, typical of Night Slugs' predominantly instrumental releases -- skeletal and percussive, restlessly flitting between stealth and violent -- end up akin to updates of Colourbox's "Nation" and elements of the remix counterpart to Janet Jackson's "Control." Unlike most album-length remix projects, however, there's never any sense of a disconnect between the music and the vocals. Kelela's expressive and athletic voice easily slithers between and coasts over the beats. On "Enemy," she attacks beside hammering drums and cocking effects, while the set's last three tracks -- all shadowy slow jams -- get restrained, whispery turns that are as heated as the more aggressive moments. Earlier, she sweetly aches, "I need to feel you in my arms, all this mixed emotion breaks me down and makes me want to cry," yet she spits fire -- "You want it back?/I'll keep the best of me now" with equal skill.







Mssingno - Mssingno



The Goon Club Allstars label debuted with a pair of Wiley refixes from Moleskin and Samename, suggesting a commitment to grime old and new. But the producer responsible for their second record seems to be coming from a different angle. Mssingo arguably has more to do with road rap: he has worked with London's MC Cas on "Drugs Don't Work" (a reworking of The Verve with surprising emotional heft), and his percussion clearly looks to US rap for cues. Still, as both that Cas beat and the excellent "Brandy Flip" showed, it's the brilliance of Mssingno's heartstring-tugging pop hooks that define him. That and his restraint: though the opportunity is most definitely there, he avoids souping up his mixes to the nth degree or falling back on euphoric trance-trap clichés, instead allowing his loops to reach comfortable plateaus and stay there, working their way patiently into your affections. Mssingno's debut 12-inch is his finest work to date. "XE2" is the chief attraction, a brilliantly addictive sliced 'n' diced R&B anthem that steadily grows and grows. We get an understated beat in the second half, but the track never explodes into the 808 pyrotechnics you expected. "XE3," with its chipmunk vocals and shiny synths, ventures into giddy trance territory. The membranes of taste are dangerously thin here; fortunately Mssingo's chords and arrangement are perfectly judged. "Skeezers" and "124th" touch on more conventional rap stylings. The latter ought to be aggressive but it's softened by dense synth work and a huge, pillowy bassline; the former pairs Rihanna off against the twinkly, bell-like synths that are fast becoming Mssingno's trademark. These tracks lack a little in sonic delicacy, and in places their mixdowns could do with some finessing. But perhaps it's their immediacy that makes them so irresistibly charming.




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  • 3 months later...

-This is a really encyclopedic collection of albums. I don`t think people used to do this sort of thing before they could get music over the internet. For instance, I know alot of music, but I got it mostly from radio or tv (just the released singles) and I usually don`t get stuff off the internet. And I`ve never spent alot of money on music. In fact, every concert i`ve gone to has been free.

-The way you`ve arranged your thread is neat though. It`s like an old if/then adventure game programmed in BASIC.

You`d think there`d be more modern options, like being able to teleport to a coldplay hotel room and hear the members singiing in the shower. Geesh.

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-This is a really encyclopedic collection of albums. I don`t think people used to do this sort of thing before they could get music over the internet. For instance, I know alot of music, but I got it mostly from radio or tv (just the released singles) and I usually don`t get stuff off the internet. And I`ve never spent alot of money on music. In fact, every concert i`ve gone to has been free.

-The way you`ve arranged your thread is neat though. It`s like an old if/then adventure game programmed in BASIC.

You`d think there`d be more modern options, like being able to teleport to a coldplay hotel room and hear the band members singing in the shower. Geesh.

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