Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 20 Albums of Musical Q3 - 2013

Last quarter I chose fewer albums that I thought were great, but wrote more about them. This time I have thrown the net a bit wider, but will keep the commentary lighter. As usual, July and August tended to quieter for releases than September, and a few cool records were released right at the eleventh hour on the 30th. In no particular order here are some gems I was listening to over the previous three months

Pet Shop Boys - Electric

These guys are like a luxury car, where you always get what you pay for. Aging gracefully and sounding every bit as relevant and elegant as synth bands half their age. "Thursday" sounds like it could fit seamlessly on Please  or Actually.

KA - The Night's Gambit

There are not a lot of spikes in energy, hype, or glossiness on this rap recording. Just a lot of well considered lyric play over level headed consistent beats and warm intelligent flow.

Moderat - II

Sophomore effort from the Berlin electronic collective. Walks that perfect line of slick and mechanical against with sunny grooves.

Franz Ferdinand - Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

It is not so much that the second and third FF records were bad ones, but they just never really seemed to capture the same energy and urgency of their debut. This one sounds re-hydrated and closer to their original form.

Holograms - Forever

Desolate, vacant, dark and dreary sounding Swedish post punk. So lovely. Yes please.

The 1975 - The 1975

I am not sure I will still be spinning this with the same regularity by end of year, but I described the songs at another point as being stitched together with sugar and cash. Fun 80's inspired pop from Manchester.

Superchunk - I Hate Music

Contrary to this album's cheeky title, I actually love music, and I really love Superchunk. They've never made the same album twice, but they've also never strayed too far from what makes them special. I believe the expression is "often imitated, never replicated.

Crocodiles - Crimes of Passion

I thought this was Crocodiles' second album, but it's their fourth. I thought they were from England, but their from San Diego. Aside from me not doing my homework and missing the boat initially, this the best Jesus & Mary Chain inspired fuzzed out pop has sounded in years.

Arctic Monkeys - AM

I have never disliked Arctic Monkeys, but I have always been a bit perplexed by the scale of their popularity in relation to the calibre of their output. This record, for me, sees them catching up to their rep. This is a mature and even keeled recording from a band growing into its slightly over hyped skin. Wonderful album.

Goldfrapp - Tales of Us

Golfrapp have also never made the same record twice. Not even close. I have tended to lean more toward the pop and disco side of their output, but this feels like the perfect album for not only where Alison fits into the modern musical landscape, but perfect for their tenure and age as well. A beautiful lush recording that will not receive nearly as much attention this year as it probably should.

Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

 In a mainstream pop music world overwrought with half witted trashy little manufactured American female pop stars, Ms. Monae is the freshest possible breath of musical, intellectual and stylistic air. This takes the potential she showed on her debut and expands on an eclecticism typically reserved for artists like Prince. This is a special recording by a special young recording artist.

Sebadoh - Defend Yourself

This is the first new album from Barlow & co. since 1999. It sounds like something they could have recorded in 1994, without the dated effect and lack of stay power so much mainstream 90's music vs. indie 90's indie music now suffers from. This is the album most fans of Sebadoh would want them to make in 2013.

Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe

This album reminds me of the Purity Ring album from last year, sonically but also and in the heavy handed and almost unfair hype bestowed upon it leading up to its release. A very pleasant and "now" sounding electronic pop album that may or may end up standing the test of time in the grand scheme.

Frankie Rose - Herein Wild

Herein Wild carries on very much where last year's Interstellar left off. That is with gorgeous dream pop and endearing delivery by Ms. Rose, with perhaps a bit more of her drum driven capability on some tracks. One of my favourite albums this year so far in this category.

Washed Out - Paracosm

I used to blindly latch on to anything released on Sub Pop. It still seems like a decent strategy for picking up on strong music. Paracosm doesn't break the mould from its predecessor but you can hear Greene's ambition growing and there is a larger proclamation of sound than one might have expected so soon after the debut.

Polvo - Siberia

I love Polvo. I love them so much. When they resurfaced four years ago with In Prism, it sounded like a grand declaration of unfinished business. Clearly that business has yet to be concluded. Siberia draws, as it should, from their classic 90's Chapel Hill scene sound (I always thought of North Of America as Halifax's Polvo fwiw), but with a renewed sense of technique and complexity without ever veering of into prog or unearned self indulgence. This is a classic indie rock band that plays better and writes more interesting songs than most classic indie rock bands.

Haim - Days Are Gone

I sheltered myself somewhat purposely from the ep's, singles and deafening hype these quirky young ladies have been shrouded in over the last year or better. Like The 1975, I am not sure as to how easy it will be for me to avoid filing this under disposable soon enough, but in the meantime, this is one of the most fun and respectably constructed pop albums released this year. I would say my hardcore music fan friends are split 50/50 on whether this is quality or mediocrity. I land mostly on quality. Well at least for now.

Delorean - Apar

Not as strong as 2009's Apiza in my opinion, but this album could be a synth pop sleeper in 2013. Unassuming so as to not get lumped in with some of the samey-er electro-pop, yet layered enough to raise have one raise an eye brow here and there.

London Grammar - If You Wait

The prevalence of young indie bands with cutesy and dreamy female vocals is a bit of a blessing and a curse right now. These guys have just enough awesome atmospheric weirdness thrown onto this recording to separate themselves from a lot of the records out there this might otherwise get lumped in with.

Weekend - Jinx

When bands start getting tagged with the "noise" label, it can mean a lot of things. I have never been big on sabotaging perfectly well crafted pop songs with unnecessary and gratuitous feedback. This band carries the noise label respectably, but on this record even more than their debut, you can hear a skill set for pop songs. Bad band name, but good fuzzy pop songs here, that have more in common with Bauhaus than most modern "noise" bands.