Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2013. Part Three: 50-26.

Now's when things really start to get exciting. Unfortunately things have been exceptionally slow over here, thanks to my hard drive AND iPod dying around the same time, but I've still managed to relisten to all of these albums and continue to work on my list. So, without further ado, I present the first half of my TOP 50 ALBUMS of the year after the break! Please leave any comments and thoughts, and stick around for the last two parts, hopefully coming sooner than expected!

50. Anamanaguchi - 'Endless Fantasy'
Genre: Chiptune
Country of Origin: USA
Anamanaguchi just nail the chiptune/electropop game so well. Catchy bleep-bloops, some guitar for texture, gigantic melodies, the occasional vocal spotlight--they do everything just right. Endless Fantasy is too long for what it is, and you never really want it to end, because the whole thing is pure fun right from the start. This is a record packed to the brim with high-energy, fun-comes-first tunes which have no mission besides getting stuck in your head, and they do so phenomenally. Endless Fantasy just succeeds on so many levels: it's catchy, dancy, nostalgic, endlessly lovable, and even occasionally tugs on your heartstrings. But for every second of the record, it's unbelievably enjoyable, and it never gets old, and that's about the highest praise I could give Anamanaguchi.
Top tracks: Prom Night; Endless Fantasy

49. Sister Crayon - 'Cynic'
Genre: Dreampop/Modern Trip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
Sister Crayon seemed to sprout up right around the same time as Memoryhouse and have always kind of served as that band's more complex, emotive counterpart. On the EP follow-up to their first full-length, Sister Crayon have grown a remarkable amount. Cynic showcases a wealth of subtle drums, gorgeous ambient synths, and drop-dead beautiful singing. The more that Sister Crayon flesh out their own identity, the more they step outside of their bedroomy dreampop origins and bloom into a band rooted in evocative songwriting with an impressive mastery of tension. Cynic is just a hint at what the band is capable of, but even on its own, this is a powerful piece of wondrously-crafted female-fronted progressive dreampop.
Top tracks: Floating Heads; Other

48. Airs - 'Adore'
Genre: Post-Shoegaze
Country of Origin: USA
Airs rose up as one of the more interesting bands in the 'black shoegaze' scene, back when that was still a thing. In the time since, they've drifted more towards a slow, dramatic take on the shoegaze genre, with thick guitars, measured drums, and buried vocals. Adore is just great in this sense. It's an album buried under its own weight, fraught with melancholy and drifting through fog. Airs take the shoegaze format and absolutely drench it in a twilight of gloom, and Adore is probably their most well-established record yet, creating a simply stunning mood and filled with a powerful sense of importance for every moment.
Top tracks: Adrift; What You Were

47. Queens of the Stone Age - '...Like Clockwork'
Genre: Desert Rock
Country of Origin: USA
Queens of the Stone Age have simply released their masterpiece with their sixth full-length. For a band who are so easily written off, Homme and crew have stepped up their game a ludicrous amount. ...Like Clockwork is deliberately pace, thick, and huge. It's the soundtrack to walking through the desert in the middle of the summer, hazy and draining, frequently catchy but also slow and heavy. Josh Homme's vocals ring truer than ever before, flowing above the rest of the music as the sludgy bass and catchy guitars build an album which perfectly fits its dark red cover. ...Like Clockwork is a strange beast--a radio-friendly rock band building a dark, moody, crushing album, it is punishing and unrelenting in the best way. This is one of those records which begs you to have no expectations, and then fulfills all of them anyways. I don't think I can write off Queens of the Stone Age anymore, period.
Top tracks: Keep Your Eyes Peeled; My God is the Sun

46. The Circle Ends Here - 'The Division Ahead'
Genre: Post-Metal/Progressive Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: Italy
The Circle Ends Here blend crushing, thick, sludgy post-metal with the melodicism and dynamics of post-hardcore, and that's almost all that needs to be said about them. This is a band which has thoroughly mastered its craft, and that craft is something that few others are doing, let alone doing this well. The Division Ahead has a stunning power about it which is hard to match. Thick guitars and piercing screams build the album into a destruction work of art, violently heavy and staggeringly beautiful at the same time. The Circle Ends Here are one of those great bands who take the post-metal genre and propel it forward with new and impressive influences, rather than just becoming yet another Isis/Neurosis cover band. When the record calms down, it reveals a sense of melody and texture which is hard to top, and the band always seem to know exactly when to start building things back up again. The Division Ahead is an album of contrasts, and it is a gloriously heavy and satisfying affair in every way. I can't wait to see where this excellent up-and-coming band go from here.
Top tracks: Rift; Monument

45. Kitty Pryde - 'D.A.I.S.Y. Rage'
Genre: Cloud Rap/Indie Hip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
Kitty is pretty dang divisive. I've probably met just as many people who adore her as people who think she's one of the worst things to happen to modern hip-hop, but personally, I just can't get past the blunt power of lines like 'I love NY cuz there's so many bridges to jump off.' Kitty Pryde's newest EP features the same awkward, sometimes-powerful sometimes-wacky combination of atmospheric beats and laid-back rapping about life, relationships, and peeing in underwear that her work has always consisted of, but the instrumentals are stronger than ever, her flow is more interesting, and her lyrics are more relatable and exciting than ever. D.A.I.S.Y. Rage has a great variety of tracks, from the ambient and beautiful to the fun and silly to one or two genuinely heavy bass-oriented pieces, and there really is something here for everyone. Kitty still has a long way to go before she can be considered a truly great rapper, but D.A.I.S.Y. Rage is a huge step in the right direction, and a wonderfully lovable and emotive release from a brilliant young artist.
Top tracks: ☠DEAD❤ISLAND☠; UNfollowed

44. AMBER - 'Lovesaken'
Genre: Post-Metal
Country of Origin: Germany
Female-fronted post-metal from Germany is probably the coolest thing ever, I'm just gonna say that flat-out. AMBER's second release, Lovesaken, is an absolutely destructive force. Crushingly heavy instrumentation and vicious screams fill out one of the best post-metal releases of the year, there is nothing missing from Lovesaken to make it an absolute genre standout. Slow, heavy, and emotionally devastating, AMBER are raw and epic, working with thick guitars and gut-wrenching climaxes, but they still manage to find their own voice and unique power in a genre filled with bands all trying to do the same thing. Lovesaken points to a band who can truly forge a name for themselves in a landscape ruled over by a few famous bands and no one else, and for the time being, it's an immense and deeply impressive record for any post-metal fan.
Top tracks: Lost; Silent Lies

43. M.I.A. - 'Matangi'
Genre: Experimental Hip-Hop/Electronic Glitch Rap
Country of Origin: England
M.I.A. is one of the most interesting personalities out there. Somehow present and recognized in the world of popular music, Maya Arulpragasam is weird, harsh, difficult to listen to, and extremely politically vocal. Her fourth full-length just walks further down this path, with glitched-out vocals and hectic beats. Matangi is a noisy, violent, convoluted affair, and even the softer, more pop-oriented tracks are heated and strangely contorted, from her use of macbook sound effects in beat-making to her distinctly confrontational lyrics and presence. Matangi is far from the most palatable album, but it's still absolutely awesome, intense, and exciting, and the more M.I.A. does, the more impressive she becomes.
Top tracks: Bring the Noize; Bad Girls

42. Lady GaGa - 'ARTPOP'
Genre: Progressive Pop
Country of Origin: USA
Lady GaGa has gained an awful lot of hate and admiration over the past few years. Both are pretty thoroughly deserved, but her latest album ARTPOP sits apart from any of this. From the first track, twisted harmonies, ridiculously heavy beats, and bizarre song structures pulling influences from a massive variety of sources permeate the record. The album may be a little overlong, but it's also an extremely strong, consistent, and varied listen. GaGa herself may try a bit too hard to be weird and edgy, but ARTPOP stands on its own as a confident work of some of the best things that the Western pop world is capable of offering, from the strange-yet-heavy 'Aura' to the vicious 'Swine' to the hugely catchy 'Venus' to the emotionally vulnerable 'Do What U Want,' the whole record hits just right. Regardless of its creator, ARTPOP is a confident, immense, and virtuosic effort and the most impressive pop album of the decade so far.
Top tracks: Do What U Want; Venus

41. clipping - 'midcity'
Genre: Harsh Noise/Rap/Experimental Hip-Hop
Country of Origin: USA
The combination of harsh noise and rap pretty much instantly makes clipping an interesting group. Debut full-length midcity is full of interesting raps over insanely minimal beats or even straight-up noise, and clipping's ability to make interesting and even sometime catchy hip-hop songs out of electronic shrieks and static speaks volumes about the group's talent. What's even more remarkable is that the combination never really feels like a gimmick--this is quality rapping and quality noise, and the two work together in an exciting and enjoyable way, rather than being simply shocking and intriguing. In the end, midcity is a gnarled listen which is at once wonderfully dark and lovable, and clipping certainly look to have a promising future ahead of them.
Top tracks: loud; bullshit

40. Girl's Day - 'Female President'
Genre: K-Pop
Country of Origin: South Korea
Girl's Day have been quickly rising to popularity in the K-pop world. While they may lack some of what made a lot of groups in the genre so huge, they make up for it with simple, huge energy and massive hooks. Female President (a repackage/'special edition' of their album Expectation which was released earlier this year) is packed with fast-paced, ridiculously exciting tracks overflowing with fun and packed with big, catchy choruses. The four girls are all fantastic singers, and Female President provides a workout for their talent, showing off the group's capabilities in a wonderfully joyous way. As far as traditional K-pop goes, this is one of the strongest debut full-lengths by an up-and-coming group out there, and one of the most exciting, energetic, and lovable releases of the year.
Top tracks: Female President; Expect

39. the cabs - '再生の風景'
the cabs - 'Regenerative Landscape'
Genre: Math Rock/J-Shoegaze
Country of Origin: Japan
Bands like toe and te' have more than cemented Japan's reputation for pumping out phenomenal post-math rock bands, and the cabs just build on this fact. Their 2013 effort is brimming with impassioned singing, complex drumming, and noodly, hazy guitar and bass lines. The band sport an excellent ear for powerful melodies, and a perfectly-tuned sense of dynamics. Every song is an absolute treat, and the cabs are complex and deep enough to have something real to offer while still being accessible enough to be instantly lovable. The occasional furious outburst of screams and hectic guitar chords hints at a more raw, simplistic version of the band than what's on the surface, but in the end, this is an album of impressive musicianship, complex song structures, and wonderfully memorable melodies, and it exceeds all expectations in those regards.
Top tracks: すべて叫んだ; ラズロ、笑って

38. Jon Hopkins - 'Immunity'
Genre: Minimalist House/Ambient Electronic
Country of Origin: England
Immunity is Jon Hopkins's masterpiece. Deep beats and stuttering synth lines dot the record, and the occasional period of ambient beauty is just the cherry on top. Hopkins creates the kind of intimate electronic music that slowly evolves, with songs starting simple and morphing into a stunningly deep piece of heavy mastery over nine minutes. Considering its abstract, mechanical sensibilities, Immunity is surprisingly human, and the music on display here feels more vulnerable and lonesome than immune. Truly emotive electronic music like this is a rare beast, but Jon Hopkins seems to pull it off with ease, and Immunity should be a record that similar artists aspire to recreate for years to come.
Top tracks: Abandon Window; Collider

37. Dance Gavin Dance - 'Acceptance Speech'
Genre: Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
Dance Gavin Dance are practically more well-known for their member changes than their music at this point. After getting their original lineup back for one album, they kicked their clean singer out once again and swapped him in for Tilian Pearson (ex-Tides of Man), and it just so happens this was a great decision. Acceptance Speech is the best album the group have made in years, full of complex guitar lines, harsh screams, and fantastically high-pitched choruses. The record expertly jumps between heavy and catchy, at once bouncy yet intense. Just about every song has multiple big gut-punch moments as well as melodies determined to get stuck in your head, and every member of the band is firing on all cylinders, consistently showing their prowess. Acceptance Speech cements Dance Gavin Dance as modern post-hardcore legends, a band that can adapt to anything and are the absolute masters of their style. No fan of the genre should miss out.
Top tracks: The Robot With Human Hair Pt. 4; Carve

36. Fall Out Boy - 'Save Rock and Roll'
Genre: Pop Rock
Country of Origin: USA
Fall Out Boy have come a long way from the angry pop-punk band born out of the hardcore scene of the late-'90s/early-'00s. After releasing their best album (fight me) and going on hiatus, the group are finally back, and kicking all kinds of ass. Comeback album Save Rock and Roll is a perfectly intense, exciting, and fast-paced pop rock album, built off of immense choruses and Patrick Stump's unbelievably good singing. Fall Out Boy have always had a knack for writing catchy tunes, but the material on Save Rock and Roll dominates everything else they've done in this department, with tracks that are basically guaranteed to never get out of your head. Despite all this, the album still has an emotional heart, and has a lot to offer under the surface. But even if you don't dig that deep into it, this is a phenomenally produced, excellently performed, and perfectly written record of pop fun, and an amazing comeback for the band.
Top tracks: Where Did the Party Go; The Phoenix

35. Mount Eerie - 'Pre-Human Ideas'
Genre: Experimental Lo-Fi Folk/Ambient Drone
Country of Origin: USA
Just about everything Phil Elverum has released, either as The Microphones or Mount Eerie, has been just about perfect, which is a large part of what makes Pre-Human Ideas such a strange concept. The record primarily consists of songs from last year's Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, phenomenal albums in their own rights, but with the vocals digitally manipulated. Mount Eerie's abstract ambient folk takes on a whole new feel as the vocals over the top are autotuned, pitch-shifted, and processed. The already obscure songs feel even less human than before, instead becoming distant, sorrowful pieces of atmosphere. Pre-Human Ideas is an amazingly detached album, one of those records which lacks anything relateable on the surface but still manages to be deeply moving and touching. As strange of an idea as it is, it also completely works, and is just more proof that the man behind Mount Eerie can master just about anything that he sets his mind to.
Top tracks: the Hidden Stone; the Place Lives

34. K'an (坎) - 'Anima'
Genre: Ambient
Country of Origin: Italy
No matter how many times I listen to Anima, it's still hard to make sense of. This is one of those records that comes completely out of nowhere and totally stuns you from the first moment. This is music so purely and simply beautiful that, when you're listening to it, it's almost hard to imagine any other music existing. These are ambient synths and samples and crescendos that surround the listener and envelop them in comfort and sorrow. This is that magical form of ambient music which refuses to be background noise. Anima pushes itself to the foreground and takes your focus and your emotions along with it. Anima demands attention and commands such an immense power that it's impossible not to provide it. It's rare for any album, let alone an ambient recording from a newcomer, to have such a level of depth and beauty, and for that, this album should not be ignored. This is a heartaching, gorgeous, genuine, and intensely personal listen, and an absolute masterpiece of ambient music.
Top tracks: Arsons Beneath Eclipsed Waters; The Tree in the Garden of Limbs

33. Death Grips - 'Government Plates'
Genre: Avant-Garde Rap
Country of Origin: USA
Death Grips exist kind of outside any real standard perception of music or genre at this point. Their fourth album was released for free online with absolutely no announcement or expectation (not really the first time the group has done this, either), but beyond the simple shock of its existence, this is a fantastic record. Government Plates is a natural progression for Death Grips. It's minimal, noisy, and chaotic music based loosely in the electronic/rap world. MC Ride's trademark shouted raps are just as weird and harsh as ever, and the production duo of Flatlander and Zach Hill have created some of their weirdest tracks yet, full of scattered drums and glitched-out synths. It's not quite as confrontational as their first or third album, and not as catchy as their second, but Government Plates is strange and visionary, a work in terms of clarity and confusion, built off of mixed up songs, lost lyrics, and frightening raw power. In other words, this is just another step along the road to Death Grips achieving domination of the experimental music world.
Top tracks: Anne Bonny; Birds

32. Lorde - 'Pure Heroine'
Genre: Minimalistic Indie Pop
Country of Origin: New Zealand
Lorde blew the hell up this last year with 'Royals,' a perfectly crafted minimal pop anthem to poverty. Doubly shocking from the fact that she was only 16 at the time, upon dropping her debut full-length Pure Heroine, Lorde proved herself even more, with 10 excellently crafted tracks of simple basslines, downtempo beats, and jaw-dropping vocals. Despite how stripped-down the whole album is, just about every song is memorable, beautiful, and simply stunning. Lorde's voice is really something special to behold, with a wide range and a uniquely husky low-end, and her lyrics are remarkably mature and developed. On the whole, Pure Heroine is simply a wonderful album, a powerful mix of great melodies, hazy atmosphere, and excellent style. If this is how she debuts, I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Top tracks: Ribs; Royals

31. Julia Holter - 'Loud City Song'
Genre: Ambient Dreampop/Experimental Jazz
Country of Origin: USA
Julia Holter has a mesmerizing voice, but more than that, she makes mesmerizing music. Loud City Song runs the gamut from strange ambient electronic works to stand-up bass led jazzy tracks, build on hazy synths, squealing strings, and Holter's silky smooth voice. The songs are abstract but beautiful, complex but instantly comprehensible and relatable. The subtlety that runs throughout Loud City Song makes for an albums which only gets stronger and more impressive with every listen, as you peel back the layers and find something new that you didn't notice each time. But even on a first listen, Julia Holter's music is instantly appealing, comforting, and memorable. This is music for the simple sake of music, and it couldn't be better.
Top tracks: In the Green Wild; Hello Stranger

30. Weekend Nachos - 'Still'
Genre: Hardcore/Powerviolence
Country of Origin: USA
Weekend Nachos never cease to blow me away. Still was the one hardcore record that I was really, really excited for this year, and it delivered on all fronts. A short, punishing affair, the 12 songs on Still simply destroy heavy music. Fast-paced, furious, and completely over-the-top, this is what all hardcore should sound like. The guitar lines are memorable, the vocals ferocious, and the record unforgiving. Every once in awhile, it does slow down, but rather than give you a moment to breathe, this is just to pummel you with some of the heaviest, sludgiest stuff out there before jumping back into the vicious assault that makes up nearly every moment of the album. It's pretty hard to think of a better album to recommend to anyone who enjoys simple, punishing, and brutally heavy music. Weekend Nachos have perfected their craft, and Still is just one more reminder of this fact.
Top tracks: Satan Sucker; Wolves

29. My Chemical Romance - 'Conventional Weapons'
Genre: Raw Pop-Punk/Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
I feel like the only way you could not know who My Chemical Romance are these days is if you literally weren't alive, so I'll try to skip over the introductions and say that the band's farewell album just might be their best. Conventional Weapons, a series of five two-song 7" records released over the course of a few months, is simply a band doing what they do best. The nature of the release leads to an interesting phenomenon where the record really does feel like it's broken into a series of two-song suites, with a somewhat different style for each 7". Despite this, however, Conventional Weapons still has excellent flow and consistency, and the record feels wonderfully constructed from beginning to end. Angular guitars and Gerard Way's raw singing lead the band through ten songs ranging from the intense to the catchy to the mournful, and they nail every style with ease. In the end, Conventional Weapons is just a fantastic record, at once emotive and fun, and the perfect swan song for one of the great modern rock bands.
Top tracks: Boy Division; Burn Bright

28. Ash Borer - 'Bloodlands'
Genre: Cascadian Black Metal
Country of Origin: USA
Ash Borer have been my favorite black metal band for a long time now, and they really never cease to impress me. It's rare that a band can so consistently pump out one excellent record after another, and latest EP Bloodlands is no exception. The record continues Ash Borer's perfected craft of long, densely atmospheric pieces of Cascadian black metal, with tracks that build on themselves, grow and flow wonderfully over their lengthy runtimes, moving in and out of movements. From the quiet, ominous, clean guitars to the blast beats, shrieks, and tremolo picking, every moment of Bloodlands is simple, flawless atmospheric black metal, and just one more bit of proof that Ash Borer are the absolute best that the genre has to offer. If you like your music bleak, gnarled, and lo-fi, this goes far beyond a must-listen.
Top tracks: Dirge/Purgation; Oblivion's Spring

27. Glasser - 'Interiors'
Genre: Downtempo Vocal Electronic/Experimental Dreampop
Country of Origin: USA
Glasser makes really dang cool music. Her instrumentals are all twisted synth lines, stuttering beats, and her smooth voice sits beautifully atop it all. Her second full-length Interiors is dripping with little flashes of electronic brilliance, gorgeous melodies, heart-stirring takes on familiar feelings. Glasser's music flows like mercury, pooling into melodies, never sure exactly what state it wants to fill. The record is abstract and floating, it wanders through the space between sound and emptiness, and in the middle of all this, it's still filled with heart-achingly elegant and memorable songs. It would be easy to claim that Glasser is everything that I once hoped Imogen Heap could be, but her music is so much more than that. It's a mixed-up, magical venture through the kind of emotive power that keys, beats, and vocals can offer, and Interiors is an awe-inspiring, stunning, moody, layered, and simply fantastic record which anyone should be able to fall in love with.
Top tracks: Design; Forge

26. Paramore - 'Paramore'
Genre: Modern Pop-Punk/Pop Rock
Country of Origin: USA
With the loss of two of their founding members, a lot of people were worried about the direction Paramore would take with their fourth full-length. Looks like our worries were all for naught though, because Paramore is probably the best record the band has put out to date. It might be a bit on the ridiculously-long side with a whopping 17 tracks (even considering that there are a couple of interludes), but the band's self-titled is also a fantastically varied record with its fair share of sorrowful tunes, giant catchy pop numbers, and even the occasional heavy or shoegazey song. Paramore feels like simple pop rock fronted by Hayley Williams's utterly incredible singing at first, but the more you discover of the album, the more it reveals a fantastic level of depth and variety. Every song on here is an amazing standalone piece, but as a whole, this is one of the best records in the genre and an absolute career milestone. I'm excited to see if the group manage to top this, because as it stands, Paramore is an absolute masterpiece in every sense.
Top tracks: Ain't It Fun; Part II


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