Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2013. Part Two: 75-51.

As per the usual this year, my list is coming out a bit late. But that's okay, because it's still coming along! Please leave any comments and thoughts if something strikes you, and go right ahead and check out PART TWO of my albums of the year from 2013, after the break!

75. Autre Ne Veut - 'Anxiety'
Genre: Indie Pop/Progressive R&B
Country of Origin: USA
From the first BA-A-A-A-A-BY on 'Play by Play,' Anxiety insists that it's going to be something special. Autre Ne Veut's second full-length album is a mountain of midtempo jams and stunning vocals, but there's also so much more to it than that. Warped backing vocals, shrieking horns, so many small touches make Autre Ne Veut's music so much more than just a modern R&B project and instead turn it into a powerful and strange work of art. Anxiety is one of those rare records with an absolutely perfect title--underneath the catchy choruses and beautiful singing lies such an apt expression of nervousness, discomfort, and panic. This record is the fun soundtrack to uncertainty and worry, coated with a shiny and deceptively accessible sheen, and for this, it's genuinely one of the most special albums in its style.
Top tracks: Counting; Ego Free Sex Free

74. Grouper - 'The Man Who Died In His Boat'
Genre: Lo-Fi Ambient Folk
Country of Origin: USA
Liz Harris has been slowly evolving, experimenting with, and perfecting her own lo-fi brand of ambient music over the past few years, but Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill stands out as a uniquely song-oriented and folk-inspired fan favorite within her normally droney discography. On The Man Who Died in His Boat, Grouper has returned to this style and nails it perfectly. Acoustic guitars and soft singing form the centerpiece to the reverb-drenched record, and the mournful songs carry an absolutely perfect balance of melody and ambience. As always, Grouper's greatest skill is establishing a mood, and her knack for making beautifully sad music without a single moment being fully comprehensible shines brightly on her latest record. This is some of the most emotionally stunning semi-ambient music out there, and one of Grouper's best records yet.
Top tracks: STS; Cover the long way

73. Sigur Rós - 'Kveikur'
Genre: Industrial Post-Dreampop
Country of Origin: Iceland
Sigur Rós are a big deal, and veterans of a fistful of different genres, from their early ambient work to their influential post-rock mid-period to their indie pop foray and back to ambient with their last record. All of this makes Kveikur a bit of a confusing anomaly, because after a decade of progressively getting more and more accessible, last year's Valtari indicated a shift into a new ambient, blissful, artsy beauty that the band hadn't utilized in years. And then came Kveikur, roaring out the gates with massive bass, terrifying guitar shrieks, and a monstrously dark atmosphere. As the album progresses, it does get more uplifting, but from the first moment, Sigur Rós are determined to show a new, snarling, ominous side of them. Kveikur is one of the band's more vocal-oriented records, with songs that are really built to be songs rather than 'soundscapes' or anything like that, but this doesn't make it any less focused on building atmosphere--the difference is that this time around, rather than beauty, it's heavy, oppressive, intense, and a masterful change of pace for a band who are constantly expanding their sound.
Top tracks: Brennisteinn; Hrafntinna

72. capsule - 'CAPS LOCK'
Genre: Electronic/J-Pop
Country of Origin: Japan
Nakata Yasutaka may be a great producer in his own right, but he really shines when working with his own band. Electronic duo capsule have put out some of the most interesting, twisted, fun, and heavy electronic music to come out of Japan, and have showed no signs of slowing in recent years. That said, CAPS LOCK is a pretty huge change of direction for the pair, with minimal vocals and hooks, and a lot more bizarre, wandering bleep bloops. This does leave the album with less of an immediate impact than, say, MORE! MORE! MORE!, but there's a whole lot under the surface here. The album has a running theme of each song being connected to different keys on a keyboard, and despite the lack of pop power, there's a remarkable amount of depth on display. Synth lines twist and build, songs slowly work their way up until they crash and explode--this album is subtle, but it's also climactic and dense, and an exciting change of pace for capsule if you can go with the flow.

71. Zola Jesus - 'Versions'
Genre: Orchestral Gothic Art Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Zola Jesus has been a strange figure within the witch house world for quite awhile now. Her style fits within the genre beautifully, but her beats are somewhat less hollow and her fantastically throaty voice fills in the emptiness usually fostered by your average witch house artist. With Versions, she's finally decided to check out how much she can step outside the narrow confines of the genre, reworking her songs into orchestral-oriented pieces. And while this changes the atmosphere of her songs greatly, it doesn't lessen the impact one bit. Strings swell around her and driving beats push the songs forward as Zola Jesus's warm voice fills a somehow even larger space than it used to. This is a surprising and impressive reworking of past songs by a phenomenally unique artist in an already strange genre, but even to a Zola Jesus newcomer, Versions is a passionate and beautiful collection of songs driven by one of the best singers in the modern underground.
Top tracks: Hikikomori; Seekir

70. きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ - 'なんだこれくしょん'
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - 'Nanda Collection'
Genre: J-Pop
Country of Origin: Japan
If you're from America, Kyary is probably a bit of a 'my first J-Pop artist' the same way that SNSD are for K-Pop, but that doesn't make her any less awesome. While her second full-length lacks some of the perfect standout singles of the last one, Nanda Collection nails it in being consistently lovable and never boring. This is the rare standard J-Pop album which never wears out its welcome, and the Kyary+Nakata team keep things exciting at all times. If you dislike the cutesy vocals and giant fast-paced choruses of most J-Pop, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's latest album is certainly not going to change your mind any time soon (although many have been hooked in by her intense and surreal music videos over the years), but if you have an affinity for the genre already, it doesn't get a lot better than this.
Top tracks: にんじゃりばんばん; さいごのアイスクリーム

69. Bring Me the Horizon - 'Sempiternal'
Genre: Post-Hardcore/Metalcore
Country of Origin: England
I can't help but wonder how different Bring Me the Horizon's reception would be if they hadn't made their first album or two. The band has grown remarkably from their breakdown-oriented deathcore roots into the nuanced, subtle, and emotionally powerful force they are nowadays, but everyone seems to be stuck in 2006 regarding what they think of the band. With their fourth album, Bring Me the Horizon have finally started to perfect the post-rock influenced sound that they've been striving towards since their second record. Giant climaxes, powerfully sung and raspily shouted vocals, and subtly electronics-laden softer moments are strewn about Sempiternal, and every moment is all the better for it. There's still quite a few nods to the band's metalcore incfluence, with chuggy guitars cropping up on occasion and Oli's vocals verging on screams from time to time, but for the most part, this is a visceral and beautiful listen most easily compared to Deftones, both in style and its ability to contrast heavy, simple instrumentals with a desperate sorrow under the surface. With every album they've put out, Bring Me the Horizon have shown more and more maturity, tact, and power. I think Sempiternal might finally be the point where we say it's time for their detractors to do the same.
Top tracks: Can You Feel My Heart; Empire (Let Them Sing)

68. My Epic - 'Behold'
Genre: Progressive Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
My Epic's 2010 effort Yet was an absolute masterpiece of melodic post-hardcore, and the following year's acoustic mini-album Broken Voice did a great job of showing the band's versatility. Third full-length Behold sees the band back on track, making some of the most immense rock music out there. Giant guitar hits, driving drumming, and some of the most passionate singing out there make My Epic one of the best bands in their genre, and Behold only further cements this fact. Their brand of post-hardcore may be a bit overtly Christian for some people's taste, but beyond that is a mass of some of the most genuinely epic songwriting and soaring vocals out there. Their winding song structures and penchant for the gigantic helps My Epic stand head and shoulders above their peers, and Behold is just another step in the best possible direction.
Top tracks: Curse; Arrive

67. Selofan - 'Verboten'
Genre: Darkwave/Gothic Abstract Electronic
Country of Origin: Greece
I genuinely don't know what to write about Selofan's debut album. The dark beats and spoken female vocals are almost all that there is to the album, and I mean that in the best way. Verboten is deeply obtuse and hard to make sense of, extremely minimal yet completely chilling. The songs feel obscure and shrouded in a fog that doesn't quite function, logically. Verboten is an atmosphere album which is built around a song structure that isn't apparent to any listener, a goth album in the post-witch house world, and one of the most intriguingly strange records to come out all year. Selofan's work is the kind that you keep coming back to just in order to try and make sense of, and every time you come back you're sucked in by it a little more. Verboten is a dark, intense, confusing mess of an album, and it's near-perfect in just that. No one else out there is making music like this, and it's hard not to fall in love with it.
Top tracks: Love is a Mental Suicide; Verboten
66. Washed Out - 'Paracosm'
Genre: Dreampop/Chillwave
Country of Origin: USA
Washed Out just makes awesome, pleasant, blissful music. That's almost all there is to say about him. Relaxed beats and cheerful synths lazily drift in and out of his songs, while his laid-back (but still quite pretty) vocals mix in with the music. On his second album, Paracosm, Washed Out hasn't really changed up his formula much, but he has certainly perfected it even more. There's a subtle emotional power and majesty to Paracosm, and just letting the music wash over you is one of the most profoundly enjoyable experiences out there. Washed Out knows how to hit his listeners in all the right spots, and this is that special kind of music that almost feels like it wasn't created, it just exists, floating in the air in a perfectly sublime mass. It's hard to imagine an album that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do as flawlessly as Paracosm does, but chances are it's only a matter of time until Washed Out tops it yet again.
Top tracks: Weightless; Don't Give Up

65. Girls' Generation - 'Love & Peace'
Genre: K-Pop
Country of Origin: South Korea
Girls' Generation have always had a notably different sound on their Japanese-language albums compared to those based in their native Korea. Along those lines, Love & Peace, the group's third Japanese-language album, is notably more full of heavy, pounding beats and hot clubby songs than I Got a Boy from earlier this year. It's a bit less experimental, but the songs themselves are stronger for this, as there's a renewed focus on giant hooks and flawless dance tracks. Soaring choruses and fast-paced pop tracks are what Love & Peace is built on, and almost every song is memorable and exciting. The absolute mastery presented on the late-year highlight is just another reminder of why Girls' Generation are effectively the strongest group in modern K-Pop, and aren't going anywhere soon.
Top tracks: Beep Beep; Galaxy Supernova

64. Autechre - 'Exai'
Genre: Glitch/IDM
Country of Origin: England
Electronic duo Autechre have a long history of making supremely dense soundscapes out of their convoluted beats, and they've really only honed that skill over time. Their records have somewhat run the gamut from pleasant ambience and imagery to the more harsh, hectic, and barren. Double-album Exai falls into the latter category. This is not an easy listen, but it is a deeply impressive one. Exai is two hours of cold beats and sparse background keys, as dark and metallic and mechanical as it is memorable, chilling, and deep. Autechre's music is wonderful because invariably, if you get past the opening salvo of dense electronics, you discover a beautiful and eerie world, and Exai only continues the duo's knack for hiding expansive and evocative visuals and atmosphere below their tough outer shell. This is one of those albums that you need to really give a chance to, but if you do, it's hard to escape it unmoved.
Top tracks: irlite (get 0); spl9

63. Daft Punk - 'Random Access Memories'
Genre: Disco+Funk Revival/House
Country of Origin: France
I've received a lot of flak for this opinion over the course of the year, but I genuinely believe Random Access Memories is Daft Punk's best album by leaps and bounds. I never really understood the craze for the band, as their first three albums (especially breakthrough Discovery) have always struck me as somewhat uninteresting, samey house music. Now that I've got every Daft Punk fan out there thoroughly upset, let's dig into their 2013 comeback album, because man, Random Access Memories is just so ridiculously cool. The duo's reinvention of themselves as a throwback to old school disco/funk with a modern, processed twist is one of the most interesting things to happen in the electronic music world this year, and every song here delivers, from the pop-jam-of-the-year 'Get Lucky' to the bizarrely experimental 'Touch' to the excitingly epic 'Giorgio by Moroder' and 'Give Life Back to Music.' Every moment of Random Access Memories is nostalgic beauty, and the record is one of the most thoroughly pleasant and exciting achievements of the French duo's career.
Top tracks: Giorgio by Moroder; Doin' it Right

62. 385 - '人間'
385 - 'Ningen'
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazzcore
Country of Origin: Japan
Just about everyone I've spoken to about 385 compares them to Japanese avant-jazzcore legends Midori, and it's not an unfair comparison, to be honest. Both are female-fronted trios blending experimental jazz with spastic hardcore, and while 385 aren't quite as abrasive as Midori, their drum+bass+keyboards sound is still something remarkable to witness. On their debut record, 385 seem determined to both live up to their infamous predecessor and simultaneously step out of their shadow, with more bass-oriented funk influence and some of the most ear-piercingly harsh moments out there. While definitely one of those bands that comes heavily with a 'not for everyone' caveat attached, 385's introduction to the world is a ludicrously fun, visceral, interesting, and memorable record to the highest degree.
Top tracks: 恋がわからない; 精神を破壊する価値

61. Tim Hecker - 'Virgins'
Genre: Ambient
Country of Origin: Canada
Anyone who knows me probably knows how much I adore Tim Hecker. Ever since 2009's An Imaginary Country came out, he's been my favorite ambient artist, and he just keeps stepping his game up. His wonderful output really hit a peak with 2011's phenomenal Ravedeath, 1972, and now he's back with a notably more dense listen. Hecker's work has always been some of the more visceral, emotional gut-punches available in ambient music, and it really never ceases to amaze me how well he can string together organic drones and mixed up piano chords to make some of the most beautiful and utterly devastating music out there. Compared to his 2011 effort, Virgins is a confused, hectic, anxious work, but the sorrowful beauty that I fell in love with is still here in droves. There's a fair bit more structure than in Tim Hecker's recent output, but that doesn't make Virgins any less beautiful. Hecker's skill is something truly magical, ambient music that absolutely refuses to be left in the background, drawing your attention and stirring your emotions, begging you to cry along with him and just let yourself feel.
Top tracks: Virginal I; Stab Variation

60. frustrator - 'Anther'
Genre: Electroacoustic Chillwave/Vocal Lo-Fi Ambient Electronic
Country of Origin: USA
Enemies List Home Recordings has had a slow year. This is sad because they're by far my favorite label out there, but the good news is that the long awaited debut record by frustrator finally dropped this year, and it doesn't disappoint one bit. Acoustic guitar and ambient keys form a backdrop for the muffled beats and relaxed singing on Anther, and the whole record just oozes that perfect, reverb-drenched lo-fi aesthetic that Enemies List releases always nail so well. It's tricky to pin down what genre frustrator fits into, but the mood he establishes is unmistakable. From the first moment, Anther is a gorgeous, melancholic, relaxed work of visually evocative semi-electronic mastery. If you're a fan of Enemies List, you know you can trust them, and frustrator's debut doesn't betray that trust for a moment, and is one of the most impressive debuts to come out of the underground in a long time.
Top tracks: Nureyev; Witch Trials

59. The Weeknd - 'Kiss Land'
Genre: Dark Future R&B
Country of Origin: Canada
The Weeknd's official debut full-length has been remarkably polarizing. After a trilogy of phenomenally dark 'mixtapes' in 2011, the singer started gaining some real traction and notoriety, so naturally Kiss Land was pretty well anticipated. Upon its release, a lot of people criticized it for feeling somewhat more manufactured than Abel Tesfaye's previous releases, not having the same power, and just the general fact that Tesfaye has shown to not be that great of a person since becoming famous. But the fact is, The Weeknd's first album is a beautifully eerie work of atmospheric synths, ominously heavy beats, and some of the best singing imaginable. The record as a whole may run a bit on the long side, but even the worst moments are still impressive, and the great moments are thoroughly mind-blowing. It's difficult to compare The Weeknd's discography to each other, as every piece he's put out is unbelievably strong in different ways, but on a fleshed-out beauty and atmospheric level, Kiss Land might be the best thing the hedonistic singer has released so far, and he's only getting stronger.
Top tracks: Adaptation; Kiss Land

58. Perfume - 'LEVEL3'
Genre: J-Pop/Electronic
Country of Origin: Japan
The amount of albums on this list produced by Nakata Yasutaka should be pretty telling about how awesome he is. Even more impressive is the way that all of the artists that he works with are clearly produced by him, but thoroughly retain their own sound and identity. On Perfume's fourth full-length, they really feel like they've finally come into their own, shedding their standard J-pop skin and working in heavy beats, driving synths, and their usual cute, processed vocals over the top. The trio don't slack one bit throughout LEVEL3, with interesting harmonies, monstrously catchy choruses, and some of the heaviest instrumentals in the genre. With their latest album, Perfume have thoroughly shown that they're some of the best that J-pop has to offer, and they just keep getting better.
Top tracks: Spring of Life; だいじょぶない

Genre: Downtempo Electronic/Vaporwave/Instrumental Cloud Hip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
The vitriolic hate with which FRIENDZONE discuss the sexist origins of the term that their name came from singlehandedly makes them a duo worth respecting, but then you listen to their music, and it's just beautiful. Their first real full-length, is a masterpiece of perfected downtempo beats, breathtaking vocal samples, upbeat synth lines, and stunning atmosphere. DX is one of those electronic albums that grabs on and reminds you of why life is worthwhile, insists that there is beauty in the world, and then keeps doing so for every moment of its runtime. FRIENDZONE got famous for their production for artists like Main Attrakionz and A$AP Rocky, often being considered the poor man's Clams Casino, but with their first real release on their own, they've shown that they are so much more than that. DX is some of the most perfected instrumental electronic music out there, and every moment of it is miles beyond captivating. The twisted melodies and relaxed beats allow for a level of intimacy almost unimaginable for the genre, and DX never really lets up on this front. It's one of those records that fills the whole room and wraps around you, and you never want it to let go, and begs to be listened to over and over again until you realize you'll never get sick of it.
Top tracks: RETAILXTAL; 8AM

Genre: Experimental J-Metal
Country of Origin: Japan
DIR EN GREY are one of those bands who have persisted on my favorites list for longer than I can remember, and they aren't hopping off any time soon. As they've progressed farther and farther down the experimental metal side of things and let their music get more complex and heavy, they've only become more impressive, and their latest EP is nothing more than a continuation of this trend. The fact that six out of seven songs on here are reworkings of older tracks makes me hesitant to rate THE UNRAVELING too highly, but even with that in mind, every piece on the record is impressive and unique. Some songs stick fairly closely to their originals, while others are nigh-unrecognizable, and each song stands on its own well, whether or not you're familiar with the original. THE UNRAVELING is clearly intended as a special treat for long-time fans, but the twisted songwriting, emotive melodies, amazing instrumentation, and Kyo's endlessly impressive vocals help make it a remarkable listen no matter how familiar one is with DIR EN GREY's output.
Top tracks: Unraveling; かすみ (Kasumi)

55. The Drones - 'I See Seaweed'
Genre: Experimental Post-Rock/Progressive Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: Australia
The Drones have been around for an awfully long time now, but I See Seaweed is arguably their masterpiece. Full of 6-9 minute twisting opuses of songs, almost every moment of the album masters tension so perfectly it's hard to fathom. Twinkling piano and textural guitars hover over the strong rhythm section as the bass and drums hold down the core of each song, while singer Gareth Liddiard's slightly off-center singing raises the music from an impressive post-rock jam into a hugely emotive, devastating, gut-punch of an album. I See Seaweed is subtly intense, not a moment of it feels obvious, straightforward, or expected, but every second is powerful, climactic, and uniquely hard-hitting. With their seventh full-length, The Drones have created one of the most interesting and subtly masterful albums in their genre (whatever the hell that even is), and I adore every beautiful, sorrowful, raging moment.
Top tracks: I See Seaweed; They'll Kill You

54. Jenny Hval - 'Innocence is Kinky'
Genre: Experimental Pop/Indie Noise/Progressive Singer-Songwriter
Country of Origin: Norway
Jenny Hval is just ridiculously cool. Her voice is piercing and intriguing, her music runs from guitar-based indie rock to synth-oriented inverted pop songs to harsh noise spoken word pieces. Innocence is Kinky defies genre norms in a wondrous way, bouncing from style to style and never being certain exactly how each one is supposed to sound. Jenny Hval's latest album is a remarkably open-eyed examination of gender identity and sexuality in the world, and it is a gleeful hodgepodge of catchy, emotive, scary, and Hval is at her best when she's quietly speaking over her deceptively simple instrumentation, conjuring bizarre indie pop out of thin air, but when she wants to get noisy or melodic she does so in a delightfully just-left-of-center manner. Innocence is Kinky should hopefully serve as the world at large's introduction to one of the most interesting and unique female performers out there, and it's truly a wonder to behold.
Top tracks: Innocence is Kinky; Death of the Author

53. Ensemble Pearl - 'Ensemble Pearl'
Genre: Drone/Ambient Doom
Country of Origin: Japan/USA
Ensemble Pearl is as close to a 'drone doom supergroup' as you could imagine, with Stephen O'Malley of sunnO))), Bill Herzog of Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter, Atsuo of Boris, and Michio Kurihara (primarily of Boris and Ghost collaboration fame). However, considering the remarkable cred of the various members, Ensemble Pearl is a much more laid-back album than one would probably expect. The group's debut record is less built on giant droning and feedbacking guitars, and more structured around subtle atmosphere, some minimal drums, and the textures the instrumentalists are capable of creating. As a whole, it's a record more about the ominous feeling than simple overt droning heaviness, and it's all the more successful for it. The songs have progression, and on occasion even remarkable beauty (especially in the case of mid-album highlight 'Wray'), and never feel stagnant or uninteresting. The world built in the sounds of Ensemble Pearl is one of tense mastery, and I can't wait to see more work by this amazing new group.
Top tracks: Island Epiphany; Wray

52. Baths - 'Obsidian'
Genre: Vocal Downtempo Electronic/Futurepop
Country of Origin: USA
Baths has made a pretty large stylistic turnaround between his first full-length, Cerulean, and now. Sure, there was a bit of a b-sides album between his two records which hinted at a shift in tone, but Obsidian is decidedly more dark and discontent than anything Baths has put out up until now. As always, Will Wiesenfeld's music is based off of twisting, beautiful beats and instrumentals which his emotive voice over the top of everything, and while his falsetto is still the same, the instrumentation surrounding it is decidedly more claustrophobic and disheartening. But despite the lack of the overwhelming glee that surrounded songs like 'Hall,' Obsidian still feels like a sublime and brilliant album from one of the best electronic musicians out there. It is a heavy, intense, and deeply affecting release, and proof that Baths can do anything he sets his mind to.
Top tracks: Earth Death; Phaedra

51. Croatian Amor - 'The World'
Genre: Ambient/Drone
Country of Origin: Denmark
All I really need to say about Croatian Amor's latest full-length is that it decimates expectations and notions of what ambient music is capable of, period. The World is eerie, beautiful, and deeply evocative. The thick droning ambience and hazy synths that surround the record are so perfectly tuned that it's hard to imagine a real human being making this music. This is the kind of flawlessly visual music that the ambient genre needs more of, weighed down with memories and fraught with images of fire and love. The World jumps beautifully between the frightening and the inspiring, with some moments conjuring a deep terror while others offer a blissful expanse. Croatian Amor's work is obscure and shrouded in an opaque haze of otherworldly synths and simple beauty, and there's nothing else like it out there. This is hands down some of the best ambient music I've heard in years, and you'd be a fool to miss out.
Top tracks: LA Hills Burn at the Peak of Winter; New Year



  1. Just wanted to tell you, I really love the lists you've been pumping out over the years. I looks forward to the rest of the 2013 top list. I've wanted to ask you.. ever heard of Die Antwoord? I'm sure you have. I'll disregard personal opinions on them but I wanted to know if you've ever looked into (Ninja's) Watkin Tudor Jones past? Please check out The Constructus Corporation as well as Max Normal and Max Normal.TV. He has other earlier projects but I'll leave you to look them up. To me, this man is an rap-genius enigma and I really wish his early 2000's material took off.

  2. Thanks! Always awesome to hear that someone likes and looks forward to these things, comments are always much appreciated. I've definitely heard plenty of Die Antwoord, always felt like they were a bit of a gimmick band, but Ninja has always impressed me with his rapping, so I'll definitely pick up what you mentioned, that sounds awesome!