presents the Best Albums Of 2013

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It has been my annual tradition for years. Decades, even. A lot of albums have come through, some good, a few not so good. There were many that were very good. In alphabetical order, this is my list of the Best Albums Of 2013. (With the exception of one, each link goes to the original review I did for each album.)

Ancient Mith-And The Dead Shall Lie There (self-released)
Art Vandelay-Eye 8 The Crow (self-released)
Bill Baird-Spring Break Of The Soul (Pau Wau)
Barrow-Though I’m Alone (Mayfly)
Black Pus-All My Relations (Thrill Jockey)
Big Black Cloud-Black Friday (Eolian Empire)
BVDUB-A Careful Ecstasy (Darla)
BVDUB-At Night This City Becomes The Sea (AY)

Causa Sui-Euporie Tide (El Paraiso)
Christcide-Upheaval Of The Soul (Those Opposed Records/Hospital Productions)
clipping.-Midcity (self-released)
Copywrite-Carbon Copy’s Phony Art Pub Scam (Man Bites Dog)
Elvis Costello & The Roots-Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)
Czarface-Inspectah Deck + 7L & Esoteric = (Brick)
Destroy This Place-s/t (Bellyache)
Donchristian-The Wayfarer (self-released)
Earl Sweatshirt-Doris (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
Eight Bells-The Captain’s Daughter (Tartarus)
Orrin Evans-…It Was Beauty (Criss Cross)
Express Rising-s/t (self-released)
Factor-Woke Up Alone (Fake Four Inc.)
Foreign Exchange-Love In Flying Colors (+FE Music)
Free The Robots-The Balance (Elsewhere Studios)
Svarte Greiner-Black Tie (Miasmah)
The Heliocentrics-13 Degrees of Reality (Now Again)
Hobbyist-s/t (self-released)
Pat Hull-Shed Skin (self-released)
Jim Of Seattle-We Are All Famous (Green Monkey)
J-Zone-Peter Pan Syndrome (Old Maid Entertainment)
Kerbside Collection-Mind The Curb (Légère Recordings)
Klak Tik-The Servants (Safety First)
Kongrosian-The Exit Door Leads In (Aut)
Kyle Rapps-SUB (self-released)
Kylesa-Ultraviolet (Season of Mist)
LAAND-Electrical Landscapes (Aut)
Machinedrum-Vapor City (Ninja Tune)
Master Musicians Of Bukkake-Far West (Important)
Ross McHenry-Distant Oceans (First Word)
Monogamy Party-False Dancers (Good To Die)
Okkyung Lee-Ghil (Ideologic Organ)
Octo Octa-Between Two Selves (100% Silk)
The O’Farrill Brothers Band-Sensing Flight (Zoho)
Pelican-Forever Becoming (Southern Lord)
Poppy Ackroyd-Escapement (Denovali)
Powerdove-Do You Burn (Circle Into Square)
Pressed And-Stone Candles (Mush)
Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program-Back On The Planet (Brainfeeder)
The Remnant-Indian Summer (self-released)
Russian Circles-Memorial (Sargent House)
Shigeto-No Better Time Than Now (Ghostly International)
Mark Solborg Trio featuring Herb Robertson & Evan Parker-The Trees (Ilk)
Sorrow-Dreamstone (Monotreme)
Summer Cannibals-No Make Up (No Moss)
Tartufi-These Factory Days (self-released)
Justin Timberlake-The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
Tyler, The Creator-Wolf (Odd Future/Sony)
John Vanore & Abstract Truth-Culture (accoustical concepts inc.)
The White Mandingos-The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me (Fat Beats)
Wixel-Revox Tapes (self-released)
Whore Paint-Swallow My Bone (Load)
C. Spencer Yeh/Okkyung Lee/Lasse Marhaug-Wake Up Awesome (Mexican Summer)
Pablo Ziegler & Metropole Orkest-Amsterdam Meets New Tango (Zoho)
The Dann Zinn 4-Grace’s Song (Z Music)
Zorch-Zzoorrcchh (Sargent House)

As expected, I go all over the place musically. Jazz, metal, hip-hop, folk, ambient, electronica, noise, and much more. Only four of these albums are on major labels:
Elvis Costello & The Roots’ Wake Up Ghost (Blue Note)
Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (RCA)
Tyler, The Creator’s Wolf (Odd Future/Sony)

It would be too easy to say that major labels let me down, or maybe major labels are letting fans down. That’s not exactly the case. In fact, I’m excited when I see a major label release something as creative as Earl Sweatswirt and Tyler, The Creator, especially considering who they’re up against. On the flip side, independent labels are killing it, as shown by this list.

Again, did I listen to every single album released in 2013? No, that’s impossible. There’s a lot of music, albums, and artists I didn’t care to hear. On top of that, there are still albums I have still yet to listen to in full, such as Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple II, Greetings From Tuskan’s The Love From Afar, the excellent Godhead by Sandrider, Tracy Shedd’s Arizona, Tisziji Munoz & John Medeski’s Beauty As Beauty, and many more. To those who I haven’t listened to yet, I only apologize because there isn’t enough time in the day to listen to everything. In an optimized world, I would be a zombie and giving out thumbs for albums “I approve of”.

With that said, throughout the year I had hoped to come up with a Top 3, an absolute “best of the best”. Or at least I felt it would look good to say I had three top picks, and I did. As I compiled the list, I felt that I would’ve missed a few titles, so a Top 3 became a Top 5. Then all of a sudden I realized “wait a minute, I have to add this” and before a Top 10 became a Top 40, then a Top 50, I decided to limit things to an absolute Top 6, which I had to edit when I realized I foolishly omitted an important album. In no particular order, these are my Top 7 Albums Of 2013:

clipping’s Midcity
Okkyung Lee’s Ghil
Black Pus’ All My Relations
Whore Paint’s Swallow My Bone
Shigeto’s No Better Time Than Now
J-Zone’s Peter Pan Syndrome
Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience

  • I was very impressed by what Justin Timberlake presented on what would become the first of two halves. I think the second half of The 20/20 Experience, while decent and diverse, was a bit too much and at times felt like rejected tracks that should’ve been released as virtual B-sides or submitted for soundtracks. But the first 20/20 Experience album was brilliant.
  • J-Zone didn’t have to call his album a comeback because like LL, he has been here for years, but it was nice to hear a rapper who showed maturity, was not afraid to touch on ageism in hip-hop, and come out with one of the best albums of the year, for any genre.
  • Shigeto’s album could not have come with a better title: No Better Time Than Now. It stood out, and will stand out as a fantastic album come the end of the decade.
  • Whore Paint blew me away both musically and lyrically and out of the many rock albums, this one at times felt like a punch on the face, one that was gone without guilt or regret.
  • Okkyung Lee’s Ghil was one of the noisiest and chaotic albums of the year, and I listened to a nice mixture of experimental, avant-garde, noise, and harsh wall noise. This one sounded like there were intentions and all of them came true in what and how she did it.
  • Black Pus’ All My Relations was one of the other noisy albums that I favored, and I would say if there has to be an absolute Top 3 this year, Black Pus and Okkyung Lee would be within that list.

    Yet if there was one album that stood out from the rest, then that honor could only go to one and one album only.

     photo clippingMC_coverlrg_zps5fba4bfa.jpg
    The cover is almost self-explanatory. It’s nothing but a pile of audio tape, going back to the days when hip-hop was played on cassettes and one could find them on the sides of streets, highways, and freeways. If you were to assemble all of the discarded tapes across the nation, piece them together, add a beat and place in electronic mayhem, beats, and distortion, you may come up with what clipping. created with Midcity. It stayed true to hip-hop and its roots but it was also futuristic to the point where it felt like there was no future. They went above and beyond time constraints, they went around and behind genre specifics. No one in hip-hop is doing exactly what they’re doing, and everything else that tries to pass itself off as “more” or “better than” is not really listening. It’s a clusterfuck of sound, but it’s a dope and funky sound, a twisted and chaotic sound, and it managed to get them in the hands of Sub Pop Records, who signed them because of Midcity. clipping. proved that you could be original and not have to bow down to anyone in order to meet someones standards, they met and created their own. Who will follow? I hope no one, but I’m hoping that others will be original again to show why hip-hop, and musical creativity in general, is far from dead.

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