Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2013. Part One: 100-76.

It's a bit later than I wanted it to be, but hey, here's a new years present for you all! Many apologies on the lack of activity on the blog. Hopefully it'll pick up soon, but for now, enjoy the first part of my Top 100 Albums of 2013!

100. Kurt Vile - 'Wakin On A Pretty Daze'
Genre: Psychedelic Folk/Rock
Country of Origin: USA
Kurt Vile has always been a fascinating artist, and watching his ascent from lo-fi background folk into a full-blown psychedelic folk-rock star has been something truly remarkable. On his 2011 release Smoke Ring For My Halo it finally started to become clear what Vile really wanted to be doing with his music, and it seems that he's finally realized that goal. Wakin On A Pretty Daze is a vast, long-form, engaging and hefty record. On this record, Kurt Vile uses simple acoustic or clean guitar lines with some basic drum backing to create a bed for his throaty, off-kilter old-school-folk vocals, and somehow crafts endless masterful songs out of this basic formula. With multiple songs (including the opener) in the 7-9 minute range, this album can definitely look like a bit of a monster from the outside, but when listening, everything is just so pleasant and well-crafted that it never feels overlong or difficult. This album simply works.
Top tracks: Wakin On A Pretty Day; Too Hard

99. Colin Stetson - 'New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light'
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz/Experimental Saxophone
Country of Origin: Canada
Colin Stetson is most well-known these days as the saxophone player for Bon Iver, but his solo work is about as monstrous as it gets. For the third part of his New History Warfare series, Stetson continues to display his unique use of all aspects of his bass sax to create a truly terrifying and intense sound. Circular breathing allows him to create a neverending, constant swirl of deep tones as he clacks away on the keys of his instrument to add a percussive element. To top it all off, at times, Stetson will sing and scream through his instrument while playing to add an extra harshness or sense of melody, depending on the song. The occasional guest vocals of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon lend the record a bit more grounding and ease than previous outing, which does take away from the harsh, alien feel that makes Colin Stetson's work so magical, but it doesn't leave the record any less impressive. This is a vicious, gnarled record of some of the most unique and passionate instrumentation out there, and that's all there is to it.
Top tracks: Hunted; To See More Light

98. oOoOO - 'Without Your Love'
Genre: Witch House
Country of Origin: USA
After pioneering an entire genre in a big way, oOoOO quietly shrank to the background remarkably quickly. While his peers started to ride the witch house wave and blow up their eerie, atmospheric electronic jams, oOoOO released a few songs and an EP here and there, never really coming back to the forefront in the same way that he initially was. And yet, here we are--in 2013, it may be a little bit late, as the witch house craze has (sadly) died off and made way for new styles such as seapunk, vaporwave, and coldwave, but oOoOO has finally released his debut full-length. At first, one would think that a new record in a genre which has been dying for a few years now would be awkward, but the fact is that, similar to peers Holy Other, Clams Casino, and Balam Acab, oOoOO is a mystical producer capable of creating some of the most incredible soundscapes out there, regardless of whether or not it's still popular. Tweaked and affected vocal samples weave in and out of minimal beats and synth lines, entire worlds bloom and go dark within the open spaces of the songs on Without Your Love. Yes, this is still just oOoOO doing what he does, but the fact remains that almost no one can do it half as well as he can.
Top tracks: Stay Here; On It

97. Burial - 'Rival Dealer'
Genre: Future Garage/Post-Dubstep
Country of Origin: England
Let me start out by saying that I pretty much think Burial is a genuine wizard. Every single release that he produces is one of the most advanced, futuristic, and atmospherically powerful things around. His stuttering beats, gorgeous synths, and eerie vocal samples never fail to hit the spot. That said, his latest EP falls slightly short of the high water mark set by masterpieces such as Untrue and Kindred. On Rival Dealer, Burial has started to experiment even more, with more of a collage-like feel and some genuinely threatening, fast-paced segments. It's exciting to see the producer doing something new, but the songs can feel thrown together at times, and some of the heavier moments break up the mood a bit. Despite all that though, the best part of Rival Dealer still inspire and move the listener in such a uniquely powerful way that it's impossible not to fall in love. If you like gorgeous, eerie, and tensely unique atmospheric music, then you'd be doing yourself a massive disservice to miss out on this record.
Top tracks: Rival Dealer; Come Down to Us

96. Atoms For Peace - 'AMOK'
Genre: Downtempo Electronic
Country of Origin: England/USA/Brazil
Much has been made of the collaboration between members of Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, REM, and Forro in the Dark, but the first thing that anyone who knows anyone about Radiohead will realize when listening to Atoms For Peace's debut record is that more than anything, it's an extension of Thom Yorke's solo material. Ultimately, your feelings towards the Radiohead frontman will determine how you feel about AMOK, as it has Thom Yorke written all over it. For the fans though, this is a wonderful thing. Yorke's voice croons beautifully atop a bed of glitchy beats and soothing electronics, and the minimalist song structures build a sublime, cold atmosphere for the listener to get lost in. The lovely textures and lush atmosphere present throughout AMOK thoroughly make up for the mild sameyness, as this is an album to let envelop you, a record which moves the listener in the fact that it simply is.
Top tracks: Unless; Default

95. Fire! Orchestra - 'Exit!'
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Country of Origin: Sweden
There are a whopping 28 members in Sweden's Fire! Orchestra. That's absolutely massive, and at pretty much every point throughout their debut album, it honestly sounds like there could be even more than that. Exit! is a huge album, simply put. Simple basslines roll about while a fistful of drummers bubble below the surface, setting a wonderful backdrop for the shrieking horns, dissonant piano, and howling vocals that turn the record into something truly special. That's not to say that Exit! is all cacophony and viciousness, though. This album has plenty of subtle, beautiful, restrained moments, and the real magic is in the way that the outfit manage to weave their way between the gigantic, threateningly noisy passages and the nuanced, quiet moments. It's shocking that this is the first outing from Fire! Orchestra, as it is a genuinely shocking masterwork of modern jazz music, not to be missed.
Top tracks: Part One; Part Two

94. Bad Rabbits - 'American Love'
Genre: Funk/Alternative Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Bad Rabbits are one of the most purely enjoyable bands in the modern Western pop world. From the moment I heard their ludicrously infectious brand of funk-pop, I was pretty much hooked. Between the giant hooks, phenomenally soulful vocals, and ridiculously catchy synth lines, there's literally nothing to complain about on the band's long-anticipated debut full-length. Everything comes together in just the right way to make one of the most danceable, catchy, and purely FUN albums of the year. This is shame-free hooky pop music, completely lovable and built on integrity, excellent songwriting, and immense talent. I'm pretty sure it's impossible to dislike American Love unless you literally dislike joy.
Top tracks: We Can Roll; Dance Moves

93. Future of the Left - 'How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident'
Genre: Noise Rock/Experimental Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: Wales
How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident starts off with an explosion. Hyper-distorted, angular, start-stop guitars mar the music as the band's trademark bizarre vocals are shout-sung over the top. The occasional moment when the music comes together and forms a memorable chorus or something similar is almost a letdown when contrasted with how excellently idiosyncratic this album can be. Instrumentally, How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident feels like an overwhelmingly heavy album from an off-kilter metal band (although it does mellow out as it goes), but Future of the Left really manage to take things in their own direction with vocals and lyrics that could only belong to them. The trouble I'm having to accurately describe Future of the Left's sound should be all that most of you need to give them a chance if you haven't already, but the fact is that this is a band and album that defies categorization in such a gleeful and intense way that they're impossible to ignore, and you shouldn't be even trying to.
Top tracks: Bread, Cheese, Bow and Arrow; She Gets Passed Around at Parties

92. Justin Timberlake - 'The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2'
Genre: Progressive Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Justin Timberlake had quite the year. Besides a mass of successful songs and performances, he put out two albums this year, each unique and well-constructed in its own way. Sure, (spoiler alert) The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2 isn't near as solid or impressive as its earlier cousin, but that doesn't make it anything short of a fantastic album in its own right. 2 of 2 is significantly darker in tone and content than anything Timberlake has put out in the past, and has multiple long songs dipping into the darker sides of the club scene and working on building an atmosphere first and foremost over creating catchy hooks. The songs on here may be a bit overlong on occasion, and the few obligatory 'pop' tracks may feel a bit out of place, but the fact still remains that Timberlake is doing things solidly unlike any other pop artist out there right now. There is very little that compares to his dark beats and silky-smooth falsetto, and in the modern pop world, something this creative is not to be missed.
Top tracks: Only When I Walk Away; Amnesia

91. Old Gray - 'An Autobiography'
Genre: Skramz/Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
Old Gray are one of the most recent bands to come out of the screamo revival that's been going around lately, and they do it phenomenally. Bucking the trend of so many bands in the modern skramz world incorporating heavy post-rock elements into their music, instead Old Gray just write punishing, intense, and powerfully tragic bursts of emotional hardcore. An Autobiography is the band's first full-length record, but they already feel like veterans. The climactic instrumentation and the sometimes-melodic, sometimes-chaotic, always-desperate vocals coalesce in such a perfect way to make this simply one of the most remarkable skramz albums in recent memory. There is a tension and a passion here which is rare and impressive in anyone, let alone a band this young. An Autobiography should be on any screamo fan's list at the end of this year.
Top tracks: The Artist; Emily's First Communion

90. Midas Fall - 'Wilderness'
Genre: Vocal-led Post-Rock
Country of Origin: England
Midas Fall are giant and beautiful. Although their music has a strong basis in post-rock, sophomore album Wilderness blasts right out the gate with dark textures, gorgeous guitars, and Elizabeth Heaton's stunning voice. Wilderness is an album built on subtle guitar textures, rumbling drums, and an atmospherically unique take on the 'crescendocore' style usually employed by the band's peers. The inclusion of vocals in Midas Fall's brand of the genre really makes them stand out, and the basic emotional power behind the music also makes it difficult to dismiss. Giant guitar leads give way to achingly tender moments, all of this within a remarkably free and organic framework allowing for Midas Fall to explore their own take on a fistful of genres, none of which they want to define them. Wilderness might not be perfect, but it's damn close, and if this is any indication, Midas Fall are poised to make a destructive takeover soon.
Top tracks: The Unravelling King; Our World Recedes

89. Raum - 'Event of Your Leaving'
Genre: Ambient
Country of Origin: USA
Raum is the collaboration of Liz Harris AKA Grouper and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. For a lot of you, this will be all you need to know in order to go pick up their debut album. For those of you who don't immediately recognize those names, I'll tell you that this is a paring-up of two of ambient/drone music's most powerful and unique members, a beautiful album by two people who have made a career out of pumping out one beautiful album after another. Event of Your Leaving has tinges of both Grouper's lo-fi organic aesthetic and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's beautiful drones, but it clearly feels like a beast all its own. This is some of the most slow and contemplative ambient music out there, but it never feels boring. Raum have made a gorgeous album to soundtrack hours of staring at the stars and dreaming, and it's rare to give higher praise than that to even the best albums in the genre.
Top tracks: In Held Company; In Stellar Orbit

88. Parasitic Ejaculation - 'Rationing the Sacred Human Remains'
Genre: Slam
Country of Origin: USA
Since last year's Sickening Conduct EP, Parasitic Ejaculation have grown a pretty ridiculous amount. Their debut full-length sounds like it could have come out of a band who are many years their senior. Rationing the Sacred Human Remains is a technical, brutal, and crushing example of slam done right. The instrumentals are tight, the samples perfectly chosen, the vocals guttural as all hell, and the songwriting is complex while still accessible. The ludicrously on-point production helps to give the album a leg up against other brutal death metal albums, but even without that, the fact remains that these are some of the most solid songs to come out of the genre, period. It's difficult to avoid claiming Rationing the Sacred Human Remains as a pinnacle of the genre, but I wouldn't be surprised if a year or two down the line, Parasitic Ejaculation pump out something twice as impressive, considering the rate at which they're perfecting their craft currently. For now though, they've delivered a masterful slab of slam, and hopefully will continue to do so for years to come.
Top tracks: Esophageal Decay; Exuding Degenerative Cadavers

87. Girls' Generation - 'I Got A Boy'
Genre: K-Pop
Country of Origin: South Korea
Girls' Generation are pretty much the biggest deal out of every k-pop artists out there, and there's good reason for this. Every release the nine girls put out is solid in every way, and their Korean comeback album at the beginning of this year was no exception. I Got A Boy is probably SNSD's most varied album yet, with a multitude of songs comprised of tons of different parts, and fleshed out with bangers, dance tracks, ballads, and midtempo throwbacks. The nontet's fourth Korean-language album came with a solid reinvention of their image, and despite a bit of unfamiliar ground being tread, the group has come back just as strong as ever.
Top tracks: I Got A Boy; Express 999

86. Nyetscape - 'Nyetscape 3.0'
Genre: Post-Vaporwave
Country of Origin: USA
Vaporwave exploded in a big way last year, and just like many other recent flavor-of-the-year genres, it's already started to die out, leaving only the best to survive. Fortunately, one of those 'only the best' is Nyetscape, and on Nyetscape 3.0 the artist has really finally spread their wings and done something new with the genre. Confused beats bubble around swirling, unrecognizable samples and build into a vivid purple mass which finally relies less of the early-'90s nostalgia of the vaporwave of yesteryear and instead is simply built on creating strong atmosphere and melody. Samples and ideas swarm in and out of consciousness as a swath of synth ambience keeps everything slightly obscured and distant. This is what vaporwave was always pushing towards, a new form of broken ambient music. The genre may already be on its way out, but Nyetscape is here to stay.
Top tracks: Dogma; In [our] life 天使

85. A Lot Like Birds - 'No Place'
Genre: Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
A Lot Like Birds have changed a lot over the years. Their first album was winding, experimental, mildly post-rock-influenced, and sounded like nothing else out there. With the acquisition of singer Kurt Travis (who you may remember from mid-period Dance Gavin Dance), they become much more traditional modern post-hardcore, but with the band's third full-length effort, the strangeness has absolutely returned. No Place is a strange, intense, and vicious ride. On their newest album, A Lot Like Birds display some of the most insane instrumental work in modern post-hardcore, with blazing guitars and relentless, off-kilter drumming, No Place is impressive simply on a technical basis. But when you add in some of the strongest songwriting of the genre, spastic vocals, and an excellent sense of timing and dynamics, the record launches into the stratosphere. This album is hard to follow, twisting, confusing, and absolutely sublime--one of the best post-hardcore albums out there.
Top tracks: Connector; Next to Ungodliness

84. Electric Leaves - 'A Made Bed'
Genre: Indie Rock/Progressive Pop
Country of Origin: USA
With every release, Electric Leaves have only improved their already-phenomenal brand of atmospheric, catchy, artsy rock music. Comparisons to Radiohead or Bright Eyes would be easy to make, but the fact is that A Made Bed stands on its own as a deeply visceral release. Guitars and synths swirl around each other, backed by intense, mechanical drumming, as Luke Wiget's voice rests sorrowfully above it all. A Made Bed is oppressive and dense without ever being inaccessible, and the songs build on themselves beautifully to allow for some of the most satisfying emotional releases to come from this style of music. Considering how much there is to it, Electric Leaves' latest album is remarkably memorable, but still deeply textured, powerful, and rewarding in every way.
Top tracks: Summer is a Cigarette; Stronger

83. Beyoncé - 'BEYONCÉ'
Genre: Progressive Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Much has been made of the silent release of BEYONCÉ, and probably for good reason. Although Beyoncé is far from the first artist to release a big deal album with no announcement beforehand, she is the biggest to ever pull it off, and it helps that the album is just amazing. BEYONCÉ is a giant, abstract, dark pop masterpiece. Slow beats and eerie background synths set the backdrop for the artist's excellent singing and catchy choruses, but this time around it feels like more of an album built around atmosphere than hooks, and it's notably stronger for it. That's not to say that this album doesn't feel like Beyoncé, but there's an emphasis on dark ambience and slow, soulful jams rather than pop anthems, which lends the music a remarkable sense of weight. On the best songs here, Beyoncé builds her melodies around minimalist backdrops with little but the simplest instrumentals creating a soundscape for her to sing over, and in this aesthetic, she's set a new standard for pop stars looking to branch out.
Top tracks: Haunted; XO

82. Giles Corey - 'Hinterkaifeck'
Genre: Lo-Fi Folk
Country of Origin: USA
Giles Corey's self-titled album is one of my favorites of all time. Dan Barrett (also largely famous as one half of HAVE A NICE LIFE) knows how to communicate sadness like none other, and his knack for building a gorgeously unique and moving lo-fi atmosphere is a rare gift. In fact, the only thing keeping Hinterkaifeck from being as chart-toppingly stellar as Giles Corey's self-titled debut is that it's almost painfully short, and with only three songs it's difficult to sink into Dan Barrett's tragic world the way that you want to. Instead, Hinterkaifeck is a simple teaser of what's to come, a reminder that one of the best acts in the modern underground world still has it in him. In the end, these are three phenomenally beautiful, atmospheric, and utterly sad pieces of acoustic, spacious folk music from a man who has mastered that style to a frightening degree. It may not be satisfying, but god damn if it isn't incredible for the short time that it sticks around.
Top tracks: Winter's House; Guilt Is My Boyfriend

81. King Krule - '6 Feet Beneath the Moon'
Genre: Downtempo Indie Blues
Country of Origin: England
King Krule's first full-length record is one of the most purely relaxing albums of the year. This is stripped-down, heartfelt, beautiful music which runs purely on the strength of the songs and the pleasantness of sinking into a full album of King Krule's unique style. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is built off of simple beats, clean guitars, and Krule's strange-yet-emotive singing. This is a rainy night album, music to sooth your soul as you sip a warm drink and attempt to let go of your worries while seated next to the space heater on your floor. Despite its slight strangeness, King Krule's music is remarkably universal, and between the comforting atmosphere and simple, jazzy guitar licks, his debut LP is something that just about everyone can love.
Top tracks: Border Line; Has This Hit

80. Grave Babies - 'Crusher'
Genre: Gothic Post-Punk/Shoegaze
Country of Origin: USA
On their newest album, Grave Babies pretty much blast out full-force from the start. Overblown guitars, bizarre vocals, heavy synths, every moment of Crusher is contorted and intriguing. Goth music hasn't exactly been very relevant in recent years, but if this record is any indication, Grave Babies are bringing it back in a big way. The intense overdistortion of the whole album creates a confusing and oppressive world that the band build their twisted anthems around, but despite all of the overt harshness on Crusher, these songs are memorable and even at times catchy. In the end though, the highest praise this album deserves is that for all its stylization and even in spite of its fantastic songwriting, this is a record which is truly unlike any others out there in the modern music world, and that's really saying something.
Top tracks: Skulls; Count Cuts

79. The Fall of Every Season - 'Amends'
Genre: Progressive Post-Metal
Country of Origin: Norway
Say what you want about your Opeth and Between the Buried and Me, but on Amends, The Fall of Every Season has completely decimated the progressive metal genre. This is a crushing, slow, and powerful record of long songs and melancholy mood. The album effortlessly jumps between guttural heaviness and melodic beauty, but it never feels cheesy, unlike so many other bands in the genre. Instead, the slow builds, giant climaxes, and delicate breathers of Amends hint at a tact and knack for emotionality rarely seen in the progressive metal genre. The fact that all of this raw power came out of one man makes it even more impressive, but the fact is that no matter how you hear this record, it's an absolute tour de force of everything that metal music can be.
Top tracks: The Mammoth; Aurelia

78. Altar of Plagues - 'Teethed Glory & Injury'
Genre: Experimental Post-Black Metal
Country of Origin: Ireland
Altar of Plagues' third and final album is a force to be reckoned with. Mixing standard black metal blast-beats-and-shrieking with more nuanced, atmospheric sections makes Teethed Glory & Injury one of those records which absolutely goes above and beyond its base genre. This is a thick, monstrous, sludgy, and demonstrably terrifying album. Altar of Plagues deal exclusively in the darkest shades of grey, offering up some of the most viciously bleak music around, and never letting up for an instant. Sure, Teethed Glory & Injury is fond of throwing in some slower, subtler segments to break up the ferocity, but unlike their peers, these are never moments of beauty--rather, they are just an even more ominous form of the evil that this album entails. On their swan song album, Altar of Plagues have gone out with a vile, twisted bang, and have created what should be the new standard for black metal bands looking to experiment.
Top tracks: A Body Shrouded; Reflection Pulse Remains

77. Julianna Barwick - 'Nepenthe'
Genre: Vocal Ambient
Country of Origin: USA
On Julianna Barwick's newest full-length outing, everything feels right. Small piano lines twinkle about and strings swell and burst, but all of that is background noise for her beautiful voice. Layers upon layers of reverb-drenched humming and singing provide a cavernous space for listeners to inhabit. Nepenthe is wide open and minimal, a giant cave with nothing inside, an empty cathedral filled with a thousand voices of one singer. It certainly helps that Barwick's voice is heart-stoppingly elegant, but even without that, the melodies and strings and dozens of vocal layers coalesce in a way that's so hard to resist and so achingly gorgeous that you'd never want to. Nepenthe is not only an innovation in the ambient world, but an instantly accessible and deeply glorious world to step into over and over again, leaving an impression far greater than its runtime.
Top tracks: The Harbinger; One Half

76. Perfect Pussy - 'I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling'
Country of Origin: USA
Perfect Pussy's debut demo tape is one of the coolest releases of the year, plain and simple. From their don't-give-a-fuck attitude to the obscured, distorted beauty of their own take on the emotional hardcore genre, every moment of I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling just oozes cool. The overdriven guitars and yelps coming from their fantastically energetic frontwoman are all covered in a feedback haze, leading this tape to feel almost more like a noise or shoegaze piece than an emo album. However if one digs through the blanket of sound that covers every inch of Perfect Pussy's music, they'll find some ridiculously strong songwriting and ridiculously powerful music from a band who are already pushing the boundaries of punk, skramz, and doomy noise. If this is what their debut demo sounds like, I can't wait to hear what comes out of Perfect Pussy in the coming years.
Top tracks: II; III


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