20. Cupid's Head---The Field
Axel Willner doesn't write songs so much as he creates worlds, each number expanding endlessly, filling up more space and traversing more territory through-out their massive runtimes. Cupid marks the third straight release in which the producer has reduced the number of tracks, and inflated their average length, allowing for ever-mounting tension (They Won't See Me) as well as surprise epilogues (Black Sea). Describing The Field as dance music is a bit of a tough sell; while the project's pulse and rhythms often prompt movement, the urge to explore each track with your ears tends to take over by mid-tune. Willmer is a tour-guide first, musician second, exposing you to one new and exotic local after another.
19. New Moon and Campfire Songs EP---The Men
18. MCII---Mikal Cronin
MCII is the epitome of the all-killer-no-filler idiom, consisting of ten tracks that want nothing more than to kick back, rock out, and become immovably stuck in your head. How else do you explain Weight, the album's opener that gorgeously fuses pop and rock into one deliciously sun-kissed concoction. Perhaps more so than any other 2013 offering, Cronin's latest bares treasures that are only uncovered on subsequent listens, like the blast-off frenzy of Turn Away, or the lovely closer Piano Mantra. What MCII proves, above all else, is that Mikal Cronin can write a mean tune.
Another year, another slew of new Ty Segall projects. As a participant in five (!) disparate musical outfits, the singer-songwriter has released six albums since the start of 2012, spanning rock, punk, folk, blues, and anything else that can be recorded in lo-fi. For my money, the man's music is best when it's at its scuzziest, and Fuzz's self-titled debut is nothing if not that, raging relentlessly, begging to be played at full blast. Fuzz again pairs Segall with guitarist Charles Moothart, the ax-man who lent last year's Slaughterhouse both its snarling brutality, and intuitive hooks, the results here proving just as glorious.
Lush doesn't even begin to describe Woman, a woozy collection of love songs that brings to mind autumn's slowly falling leaves. Mike Milosh's wispy voice glides delicately over each new musical concoction, a lovely mist hanging above R&B instrumentation so mellow, you'd be tempted to call it soft rock, or even lounge music. The disc opens with the sound of violins and chimes, immediately alluding to the variety and beauty to follow, from The Fall's sturdy piano spine, to the timid horns that round out 3 Days. Everything here goes down smooth, the sultry sway of Rhye's debut disc swathed in soft affection and sensuousness.
My Morning Jacket may be on the downswing, but lead singer Jim James is just getting started. Regions is far softer and less arena-filling in its ambitions than any MMJ disc will ever be, tossing out big crescendos in favor of smooth, spacious grooves. As always, James has no problem filling up a room with his voice, but it's a welcome change of pace to hear it happen over such contented and sunny sounds (A New Life, Of the Mother Again). It won't make heads bang like It Still Moves or Z, but Regions' heart-on-sleeve songs of mellow gratitude and bliss are just as thrilling in their own subtle ways.
The first time that I actually saw Archy Marshall sing, I literally laughed out loud; how could this be the face behind King Krule? That was back in 2011, when the shrimpy British copper-top was only 16-years-old, and while the years past have indeed seen the young troubadour age, it still comes as a bit of a shock that someone still in their teens could make something as adventurous and full-bodied as 6 Feet. His raspy howl ever intact, Marshall tries on all kinds of musical clothes, from opener Easy Easy's guitar-pop, to Baby Blue's lazy waltz, to Neptune Estate's madcap multi-tracking. A unique talent with an established sound upon arrival, 6 Feet is just the first stellar LP of what I expect to be a long reign for King Krule.
13. My Name Is My Name---Pusha T
Back when Kanye West's, "That's why I stand by this n****," rant first made its way across the internet back in early September, it was easy to dismiss the speech as Yeezy Being Yeezy, but upon hearing My Name Is My Name, Kanye's excitement feels like the only proper reaction. The Clipse-alum's flow is in fine form, completely ignoring the faster-is-better ideology that permeates hip hop far too often these days in favor of highlighting his signature wheeze and rasp. The beats, as curated by Pusha's aforementioned advocate, are multi-faceted, but often lean towards cold, cavernous arrangements which allow the MC to fully bare his teeth. The leering Numbers on the Board and the brilliantly titled autobiography Nosetalgia stand as particular highlights, buy My Name is a winner through-out, 11 tracks that establish one of the genre's elder-statemen as here to stay.
Anyone who listens to Bon Iver knows that Justin Vernon is capable of creating something beautiful, but on Unmap, his debut as the frontman of Volcano Choir, the crooner seemed more interested in the willfully esoteric. While there's nothing wrong with that exactly, it's tough not to relish Repave's return to the foundation-shaking balladry that Vernon made his name on, the majority of the band's eccentricities having been sanded off over the past few years. Singles Comrade and Byegone show the expanse and power alluded to by the album's cover, while the glittering Tiderays and the sinewy Dancepack are no slouches in the supporting cast. If you've spent even an iota of your time lamenting Bon Iver's current hiatus, you owe it to yourself to give Repave a listen.
So Trouble Will Find Me turned out to be a grower; what album by The National isn't? While Sea of Love immediately sounded like one of the best tracks of the band's career, much of the album initially played into the Dad-Rock genre tag that the group had been beating back for years, Heavenfaced and Slipped being particular offenders. A few spins, of course, breathed life into the moody The is The Last Time, world-conquering Graceless, and the melancholy jubilance of Pink Rabbits, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The National is immune to knee-jerk reactions; give their songs a few more listens, and they'll win you over every time.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2013:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2013: