10. Slow Focus---Fuck Buttons
Fuck Buttons isn't really the kind of duo who cares a whole lot about subtleties; nearly every moment of Slow Focus is designed to pummel you into submission, filling every square centimeter of your eardrums with sound and motion. Album opener Brainfreeze wastes no time getting this point across, ripping into life with pounding percussion before ushering in a savage synth howl. As oppressive as the band's sound can be, there's also something celestial, almost god-fearing about the music they create. Hidden XS seems to stare up at the stars in mind-melting wonderment, while the goofy squeaks and stutters that open The Red Wing eventually build up into something massive and awe-inspiring. The instrumental outfit has no need for words; their unnerving bombast says more than enough.
No 2013 album captured the excitement, confusion, romance, and contradictions of growing up quite like Pure Heroine, and perhaps there's a reason. Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, the elaborately-named kiwi who records as Lorde, signed her record deal with Universal at the ripe-old age of 13, and only just turned 17 near the start of November. Her voice, smoky and wise beyond her years, relays youthful, rebellious daydreams that the teenager wrote herself, delivered over minimal beats. PH derives more than a little inspiration from mainstream hip hop, that genre's normative looped backings and brand-name roll calls forming a unique, unnerving bond with sing-song girl pop. As singular and fully-realized a debut as you're ever going to hear from a teen Top 40 prodigy.
Hype Starts Here's Most Criminally Overlooked Album of 2013, Static makes good on each and every single promise made by the duo's 2011 self-titled debut, then goes six steps further. While the disc maintains Cults' Phil Spektor-inspired girl-pop influence, this batch of tunes is decidedly more moody, lent muscle by an unexpected emphasis on the rhythm section. Check out how the steady drum rolls of I Could Never Make You Mine secretly power the track, or how the bass rumble of Were Before infuses the number with a brawniness that builds up to it's sing-a-long intentions in masterful fashion. Band figureheads/lovers Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion suffered a break-up around the recording of their sophomore effort, and while it's easy to read too far into that kind of thing, the desperation of We've Got It, as well as So Far's callous kiss-off, make avoiding such speculation nearly impossible. Emotionally stormy and musically assured, Static is one of the finer break-up LPs you'll ever get your mitts on.
Justin Timberlake is both a notable former member of the moseketeers, and the undeniable face of the entire Boy Band movement: needless to say, there's a cheese factor to everything he does from here on out. 20/20 wisely doubles-down on this fact, neglecting the standard come-ons of the airwaves in favor of an album characterized by matrimony and devotion. JT once again finds himself surrounded by Timbaland's impeccable production, nearly each song ballooning out past seven minutes, swelling and evolving with irrepressible kinetic energy. The disc is stocked with dance-floor-fillers (Don't Hold the Wall, Let the Groove Get In) and earnestly amorous offerings (That Girl, Mirrors) in equal measure, ten tracks that offer the pop icon an appropriately grand stage on which to perform. One of the finest, 'event,' albums in recent memory, Timberlake's long-awaited return to the world of music makes good on its hype, and then some.
Jai Paul sounds kind of like its album cover looks; technicolored, chaotic, over-stuffed, enveloping, and wall-to-wall fun. Uploaded to Bandcamp via an anonymous source this last April, Paul still neglects to call this 16-track offering a proper album, but if the mysterious Brit has a better debut LP up his sleeve, I'd sure like to hear it. Anything is possible within the confines of Jai Paul, from unforeseeable covers (Jennifer Paige's Crush) to songs introduced by gentleman lords (Track 12) and swinging swords (Track 13). Besides the two tracks previously released by Paul over the last few years (Jasmine and BTSTU), the, 'stolen,' files all remain unnamed beyond a simple number, though listeners will have little trouble relocating Track 3's seductive gallop, or the beach-based hum of Track 15. R&B for the unhinged, psychedelic schizophrenic in all of us, Jai Paul's debut probably wasn't supposed to greet our ears when it did, but let's call it a happy accident.
Producing a follow-up to a break-through record can prove mighty difficult, but it usually doesn't take 22 years. That's the span of time between My Bloody Valentine's now-canonical Heartless and their 2013 semi-self-titled comeback, only the groups' third LP, and an instant classic upon arrival. The band's sound is unlike anything else in the current musical landscape, hazy voices and undulating guitars pressing up against razor-sharp distortion, never more inviting than it is aggressive, or vice versa. Kevin Shields' airy croon wafts over nearly all the proceedings, resting gently atop if i am's billowy soundscape, gazing at the heavens on early single new you. Welcome back, My Bloody Valentine. Please, stay a while.
The Event Album of the Year! If expectations for their first LP in six years weren't lofty enough, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories set the bar even higher for itself, employing an expansive marketing campaign, lasting nearly an hour and fifteen minutes, and sparing no single expense where sound quality and production value are concerned. Thankfully, RAM delivers on just about every immoderate-sounding level, offering up an affectionate celebration of the band's idols and inspirations that sees no problem with giving Giorgio Moroder and Paul Williams the prime real estate over the likes of Julian Casablancas and Panda Bear. The manor in which Daft Punk ditches their pounding electronic sound in favor of 60's and 70's affectations might rub some fans the wrong way, but I personally can't help but RSVP to the duo's enormous party with an immediate and resounding, 'yes.'
Thebe Neruda Kgositsile is that rarest of things; a genuine prodigy within his field whose talents are impossible to ignore, even upon first listen. His debut LP has the kind of backstory (Odd Future linage, boarding school in Samoa, celebrity at the age of 19) that can overshadow the tracks contained within, but Doris simply doesn't allow it, 44 minutes of one thornily intricate verse after another, all on top of sinister, trunk-rattling beats. Even the disc's most sophomoric tracks (Sasquatch, Guild) feature all manner of complex wordplay, while album highlights like Hive and Whoa employ a level of literacy that would make an English major jealous. This all goes without mentioning the LP's beating heart, witnessed on the messy break-up song Sunday, as well as the unnervingly autobiographical Chum. It's not always wise to refer to kids as geniuses, but on Doris, Earl doesn't really give us a choice.
Do you remember the first time you heard Yeezus? (If your answer to this question is, "I've never heard Yeezus," please stop reading, and click on this link right now) I sure do, and I'm not likely to soon forget the sound of, 'the world's biggest rock star,' dismantling his previously established image limb by limb. Following in the footsteps of 808's and Heartbreak, Yeezus is a completely left-field offering from Mr. West, an album that defies easy genre categorizing by marrying Nine Inch Nails to Ratatat to Death Grips to... well... Kanye West. Clocking in at an explosive 40 minutes, no single track does justice to the feeling of experiencing Yeezus in its entirety, a perverse journey through the id of the universe's ultimate narcissist. A virtual poster-child for Parental Guidance albums the world over, West's latest is a sucker punch in the gut of mainstream hip hop's self-imposed limitations, a furious, sordid journey into the mind of this century's most confounding major artist.
I've always liked Vampire Weekend, but nothing could have prepared me for Modern Vampires of the City. The band's soul-baring third LP positively obliterates any previously established ceiling for these boys from Colombia, upping their emotional urgency ten-fold while maintaining much of the wikipedia-bred, know-it-all smart-assery upon which they made their name. Ezra Koenig has never been in such fine form, delivering lyrics full of existential dread (Don't Lie), devoted pleas (Everlasting Arms), and economic despair (Obvious Bicycle). While the initial stretch indeed provides riches galore, subsequent listens breath new life into both Finger Back and Worship You, the album ushered out on the wings of Young Lion's lovely, wistful flight. MVotC is an album built to last, comprised of songs that pop upon introduction, as well as those ripe for re-listens, a record that appeals to both the perfectionist and mess-maker inside of all of us.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2013:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2013: