Favorite 30 Albums of 2013 (So Far)
From drifters and redeemers to maggots and wolves

Gobby
Lantern [EP]

[UNO NYC]

“After stockpiling the serious clout he earned from percussion contributions at a Hype Williams show and for turning out mad batches of beat production for the likes of Mykki Blanco, each fresh Gobby EP comes projected by a cadence of critical intrigue. But while his infectious stream of free releases have generated potent clumps of online acclaim, Lantern is by far his most pugnacious outing yet. Instead of arranging a flamboyant affection for borrowed content, Gobby has jerked every sample through a heinous obstacle course of footwork while flexing abstract technical flair and pissing into a ferocious wind of commercial hip-hop. This is Hulk Hogan let loose on Cash Money, mashing his rant out in the wildest depths of the k-hole. […] Whoever this elusive character might be, he continues to demonstrate a pliable cunning within the genres that inspire, even if his samples are regarded as sloppy seconds as opposed to choice cuts.” [full review]

GobbyUNO NYC

Inga Copeland
Higher Powers

[Self-Released]

There’s a great spiritual debt being waged in Inga Copeland’s Higher Powers mixtape. From its desolate beginnings of paying for hope with change, to submitting listeners to an empty and searing ting, Higher Powers immediately demands the audience’s attention, building a world around pronouns Inga addresses indistinctly. There’s direct reference to “places” and different cities during emotional change/follies/highing, but nothing for the listener to relate to out of the context of Inga’s internal perspective. Or maybe the “you” Inga is employing isn’t of a deity or god, but of a lover, someone who she has faith in making her both strong and worn. Perhaps Higher Powers, then, represent the works of monogamous romantic love for someone/-thing else, focusing entirely on the fluctuation between what is good and bad, and trying to find a sort-of conclusion within contradiction. Shit, less than that: could just be drugs, right? Straight up: Higher Powers. Feeling that rush of experiencing something somewhere, wherever, soaking in the scenic rays of this or that or over-there, breathing in the oh, wait I’ve been here before. Higher Powers are quite mysterious, eh? Like her previous works — her latest being Don’t Look Back, That’s Not Where You’re Going — Inga Copeland continues her love of broken pop, slimy dubbed-out basslines, and manipulated samples (@dee-dah-tah-tem). And she brings mad creative game. Follow Squeo’s lead: “download the whole thing right here: :o)

Inga Copeland

Fear of Men
Early Fragments

[Kanine]

“Fear of Men’s influences include Anaïs Nin, Sylvia Plath, Freud (Sigmund and bonus points for Lucian), Jean-Paul Sartre, and Walter Benjamin. They wear these influences lightly but perceptibly, a translucent second skin. Bookishness may be another common indie trope, but, The Smiths aside, in a world where lyrics run somewhere between afterthought and cliché, to see inspiration of this caliber not only declared, but making its way into singer Jessica Weiss’ surrealist-confessional vignettes, is a pleasure that, in light of the subject matter, feels like it should be coupled with the term ‘guilty.’ But let’s be clear, the guilt is that of voyeurism rather than elitism: Fear of Men, by their own account, take their work ‘as seriously as you can take pop music,’ and that feels as it should be. As does the fact that Early Fragments is what it says on the box: a compilation (adorably described as ‘reverse chronological’) of pieces somehow fully formed yet still in the process of coming into existence, even if that box has been shredded into pieces fluttering to the ground, a phrase reflected too in cover art depicting dismembered Classical statuary. Oh, but there was one other act, enamored of Classicist imagery, who sunk deep into the literature of transgression and brought back what they found for our delectation, wasn’t there?” [full review]

Fear of MenKanine

SAINT PEPSI
HIT VIBES

[Keats//Collective]

“SAINT PEPSI might be conforming to the stylistic tropes of various appropriation techniques while testing the water as a self-proclaimed vaporwave musician, but the album’s success lies in the producer shedding any micro-genre attributes while bearing a concrete idea as to what he wants his final product to sound like. Of course, these were fantastic songs before they were included here, but the way they have been mixed with programmable synths and drum patterns, and the manner in which the record has been sequenced as a whole, makes for a stunning accomplishment. Sure, it’s upbeat and fast-paced in most places, but there are a couple of slow burners on here as well (the turn-the-lights-down hum of ‘Together’ and the gorgeous flow of ‘miss you’), which give the album astonishing energy as it feeds into Allen’s dialogue. With HIT VIBES, SAINT PEPSI has not only found a winning formula, but he has raised the bar for contemporaries toying in a similar domain. At a time when the concept of the ‘remix’ itself is being remixed, a shimmering new milestone has been chiseled from the vapor, and with his newly formed collective New Generation, the artist responsible shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.” [full review]

SAINT PEPSIKeats//Collective

Burial
Truant / Rough Sleeper [EP]

[Hyperdub]

I’ve been trying to figure out why “majesty” is used so frequently by critics to describe the music of Burial. The word certainly implies a sense of beauty — and Burial’s work consistently possesses this quality — but I think that the connection goes even deeper. Burial’s music is majestic in the way that I imagine a dark, moss-covered, centuries-old cathedral to be majestic; to stand in the midst of its cavernous glory is to be confronted with something at once both otherworldly and awe-inspiring, something overwhelmingly grand and yet affecting on a deeply personal, intimate level. Never before has the producer’s music possessed more majesty than on this most recent release, Truant / Rough Sleeper. The EP’s two tracks — both of which unfold episodically — effectively expand on his well-defined aesthetic, exploring emotional terrain previously unseen in the producer’s oeuvre; up until this point, Burial’s work has been remarkably tonally consistent, relentlessly elegiac and introspective. While this ruminative quality still pervades Truant, moments on the EP prove that the same timbres and musical ideas that Burial has been developing for years can successfully communicate joy instead of melancholy, can reveal rays of light rather than obfuscate them. Truant / Rough Sleeper sees Burial sitting back and exploring the incredible depth — and, indeed, the sheer majesty — of what he has built.

BurialHyperdub

Colin Stetson
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light

[Constellation]

“I can’t avoid reflecting on why the process through which Colin Stetson makes his music is so inextricably tied to the music itself, for I think this must be what accounts for the surprisingly wide appeal of his music, regardless of its inherent difficulty. Like Hendrix, his relationship with his instrument becomes as important as what he expresses through it. Not everyone is able to digest profound works of poetry, but success in art is undeniable, even for the uninitiated, when the action is the poetry, when what’s expressed is the means of expression itself. If Colin Stetson creates art through an instrument that is the art, then his music becomes creation itself: in the same way that Pygmalion breathed life into his ivory love, Stetson very literally breathes life into his instrument, and in turn, like the statue transformed from stone to flesh, his music softens our hardened selves — it reminds us that we were once made, too.” [full review]

Colin StetsonConstellation

The Flaming Lips
The Terror

[Warner Bros.]

The Terror may be The Flaming Lips’ most concise statement to date. But it’s not clear whether they’re at the deep end of an oscillation or whether this is the logical end of all their work. There are few moments when love triumphs in the absurd back catalog, and when it appeared, Coyne always met it with questions and doubt. The Terror feels like certainty. It offers no hope but in terror: terror as joy beyond all reckoning, a junction of both fear and love, a purity that pours onto us after transgression. Coyne claims in the lengthy press material for the album that ‘the joy of life will not be at its zenith,’ that we must ‘go all the way in’ where we sense decay and smell shit, or ‘sit on the sidelines and watch.’ The greatest pain and the greatest joy might indeed be linked, or at least one may need to risk one for the rewards of the other. Don’t listen to this record hoping for new age tones of healing or a jubilant finale. ‘Sometimes what looks like the sunrise turns out to be an atom bomb,’ they said long ago. You will find no comedy here. Violence is always threatening, and the paranoia only deepens. But if you want to know what happens when the band that wrote ‘She Don’t Use Jelly’ finally abandons all hope and steps willingly into the darkness, here it is.” [full review]

The Flaming LipsWarner Bros.

Paisley Parks
Бh○§†

[Pan Pacific Playa]

“Over the past decade, a number of Japanese DJs and production crews have angled their sound towards Chicago footwork, juke, and Detroit jit. Throughout his terrific article on the expanding enthusiasm for it in Japan, DJ Fulltono discusses his obsession for the styles footwork encompasses. His fandom spans from 20 years of following the twisted path of Chicago House through ghettotech, while imitating the dance moves he saw on the net. It sets the scene perfectly for understanding why Бh○§† comes bound in such sweat-charged house bouts, as these like-minded practitioners follow the stylistic preferences of what Dave Quam once called a ‘mutation,’ which became ‘faster, uglier and even more hyper-localized’ as it ran its global course. […] Paisley Parks maintain a close relationship with the dancers who shimmy and shake to their rambunctious grooves, indicating an adherence to the principles of what they practice — this album is all about movement, which is quite spectacular when taking into account how knotty these tracks are to bounce to. But where it was once asserted that the Japanese were ‘chiming in’ to a conversation deemed otherwise out of their remit, they are now contributing to it substantially, not only in the international live bouts they engage in, but through producing some of the most mangled and addictive footwork to date.” [full review]

Paisley ParksPan Pacific Playa

Dirty Beaches
Drifters/Love Is The Devil

[Zoo Music]

Drifters/Love Is The Devil uses a similar format to David Bowie’s seminal Low (is there something in Berlin’s water?), but extends it to more than double the length, transforming Bowie’s withdrawal-inspired dystopia into the perpetuity of Hungtai’s personal diaspora. The success of this format leans heavily on contrast and juxtaposition on the second LP, and Hungtai’s inclination towards micro-symphonic, modern avant-garde heavily outweighs the corroded yet more traditional pop structures of the first LP. ‘We drift far, far from here,’ Hungtai croons as his last vocal contribution on the album in ‘Like the Ocean We Part,’ and in this, he seems to be suggesting why this contrast is congruous with the album’s overarching message: one’s surface self will always juxtapose one’s true, buried self, and to attempt to communicate with one’s buried self across this divide by way of language is utterly futile. Even more so, Hungtai implies that communicating your genuine, fated self at all through language is impossible, and at least partially proves this true through lyric-less yet devastating songs like ‘Love is The Devil’ and ‘I Don’t Know How to Find My Way Back To You.’ The concept of finding one’s way back is integral to the album, for the lasting effects of diaspora aren’t the result of one’s removal from their homeland, but of one’s removal from their recessed and permanent self — and then their being gated from that self. ” [full review]

Dirty BeachesZoo Music

Lucrecia Dalt
Commotus

[HEM]

“Wherever those influences stem from, the album is fascinating because its most cherished, spectral qualities are permitted to mingle with a textured friskiness, where the radiant sensuality of ‘Conversa’ is balanced alongside the jarring ploy of ‘Multitud’ and where the echoed finger clicking of ‘Esplendor’ is accompanied by a generous helping of vocal purr. Dalt’s voice sounds remarkable, by the way, particularly when pressing her darkest lyrics: ‘I’ve been doing deals with the devil,’ she confides over the subtle percussion underlay of ‘Turmoil.’ ‘Yeah, I’ve been doing business with the devil.’ Such moments amplify the Twin Peaks fixation somehow, that genial dicing of fine-spun skylarkery with outright horror, a portly fellow grooving down a school corridor and the announcement of Laura Palmer’s death on the principal’s PA system. Any feelings of warmth or comfort are kept at bay by the creepiness of what the material substantiates; it’s a difficult feat, but one that Dalt has achieved impeccably well. Commotus is an accomplished release that leads not towards a path of apocalyptic strife, but to a place both wonderful and strange.” [full review]

Lucrecia DaltHEM

Full list:

Pharmakon - Abandon (Sacred Bones)
Mohammad - Sakrifis (PAN)
Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety (Software)
18+ - MIXTA2E (self-released)
Portal - Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
L. Pierre - The Island Come True (Melodic)
Dean Blunt - The Redeemer (Hippos in Tanks/World Music)
Jenny Hval - Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon)
RP Boo - Legacy (Planet Mu)
Andrew Pekler - Cover Versions (Senufo Editions)
Nmesh - Nu.wav Hallucinations (AMDISCS)
Mark Templeton - Jealous Heart (Under the Spire)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away (Bad Seed Ltd.)
Foodman - Shokuhin (Orange Milk)
Jerusalem In My Heart - Mo7it Al-Mo7it (Constellation)
Tape Loop Orchestra - In a Lonely Place (Fracture)
Wolf Eyes - No Answer: Lower Floors (De Stijl)
Stara Rzeka - Cien chmury nad ukrytym polem (Instant Classic)
The Knife - Shaking The Habitual (Mute)
DJ Rashad - Rollin’ [EP] (Hyperdub)
Gobby - Lantern [EP] (UNO NYC)
Inga Copeland - Higher Powers (self-released)
Fear Of Men - Early Fragments (Kanine)
SAINT PEPSI - HIT VIBES (Keats//Collective)
Burial - Truant / Rough Sleeper (Hyperdub)
Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light (Constellation)
The Flaming Lips - The Terror (Warner Bros.)
Paisley Parks - Бh○§† (Pan Pacific Playa)
Dirty Beaches - Drifters/Love Is The Devil (Zoo Music)
Lucrecia Dalt - Commotus (HEM)

[Illustration: K.E.T. (click here for the full version)]

  

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