by Todd Hamm
on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 10:06 AM
2013 was a year. And like many years, it produced a wealth of music just begging to be numerically quantified and subjectively ranked by thousands of machine-brained keyboard jockeys. On the real though, I do value any chance to look back on—and give a little extra shine to—some of my favorite releases, and so long as you don't take this sort of list-making too seriously, it can also be a good chance to catch up on some stuff you may have missed the first go-round. Also, c'mon guys, you know you like lists! Here you go:
1. Mount Kimbie, Cold Spring Fault Less Youth An album with warm textures that has the power to grab hold of your every earthly emotion when the timing is right—King Krule plays a beautiful role in this. It was the most pleasing front-to-back album I heard this year.
2. Earl Sweatshirt, Doris Doris lived up to the massive amount of hype that surrounded it, and Sweatshirt proved that he was in fact the massively talented penman he'd lead us to believe before his disappearance. Moreover, he narrates his strange journey through the fucked-up world of pop culture and fractured family life so intelligently, and with such emotional maturity on this release, it's down right inspirational.
3. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City Somehow I was only a passing VW fan before 2013, but MVOTC proved that I simply wasn't listening hard enough. Ezra Koenig has the voice of an angel, and the lyrical talent of a very smart, naughty little angel. The production is flawless, and the songs take turns most radio-level bands don't have the imagination to dream up.
4. Tera Melos, X'ed Out Mathy, elastic, delicate, harsh: X'ed Out is all of these things. They are a wild tornado of noise forced through a star-shaped Play Dough dispenser. Endlessly entertaining, and non-toxic.
5. Queens of the Stone Age, ...Like Clockwork Historically one of my favorite (if not my most favorite) bands came back from a tumultuous, drummer-swapping period (during which forever badass frontguy Josh Homme actually died for a sec on the operating table) with a creepy, brooding album that roped in all of their best qualities. Nasty riffs and fits of energy, balanced with accessible melodies, and clever songwriting. Very few missteps on this one.
6. King Krule, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon The same age as Earl Sweatshirt, and just as witty, London's Archy Marshall used the Bandcamp/Soundcloud buzz found in 2012, and burst onto the international scene with the release of 6FBTM. His endearing—and often intense—oddball croak, and cool-as-ice jazz guitar cut right to your core. Marshall is an amazing songwriter with huge things in his future.
7. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels After the creative peaks and critical acclaim each of the artist's solo works and paired touring brought last year, this album-length collab could have come off sounding forced—if these guys (El-P & Killer Mike) didn't rap so extremely motherfucking hard. The two vets flex all over El-P's perpetually filthy production, raising the bar with each punch line, and coming away with some excessively potent material.
8. Botany, Lava Diviner (Truestory) Some would yell blasphemy at a direct comparison to Flying Lotus' 2012 masterpiece Until the Quiet Comes, but Botany's debut is in the same ballpark. It may not be quite as clean as FlyLo's joint, but it's highly innovative, and will take you places.
9. Thundercat, Apocalypse Bass master, and Flying Lotus partner-in-crime, Thundercat blended new techniques with retro flavor, and came away with a prime cut of genre-bending alien-funk.
10. Porter Ray, Blk Gld A captivating new voice on the Seattle rap scene, Porter Ray is slick, sensitive and street hardened at the same time. The guy has bars for days and days. Blk Gld was the young prince's finest of the three quality releases this year.
—The Next 10—
11. Kanye West, Yeezus
12. Akimbo, Live to Crush
13. Chastity Belt, No Regerts
14. Cock & Swan, Secret Angles
15. Mac Miller, Watching Movies with the Sound Off