Monday, February 10, 2014

Bunny Gamer's Top Albums of 2013. Part Four: 25-11.

Finally winding down to the end of this long affair, here's the first half of my TOP 25 ALBUMS of 2013! It's been a ridiculously good year so it was pretty near impossible to pick what made it into the top 25 rather than the top 10, but please enjoy, check it out after the jump, and comment with any thoughts! 

25. Kanye West - 'Yeezus'
Genre: Experimental Rap
Country of Origin: USA
A lot has been made over the title of Kanye West's new album, or the lack of artwork, but in the end, the best part of Yeezus is how fucking intense it is. This is not the pop-rap Kanye is known for, these are intensely noisy, virulent, minimalist industrial tracks with some of Kanye's most angry and monstrous rapping thus far. While there are always a surplus of eye-roller lyrics on a Kanye album, Yeezus makes up for it with some of the most ominous production and memorable flow around. From the simple, frightening synth line of 'New Slaves' to the violent noise of 'On Sight' to the throat-shredding shrieks on 'I Am A God' to the controversial Nina Simone sample that 'Blood On the Leaves' builds on, every song on the record has standout moments which are almost impossible to ignore. Yeezus is a frightening, dark, and simply incredible record, and a high point in Kanye West's career.
Top tracks: On Sight; I Am A God

24. Coheed & Cambria - 'The Afterman: Descension'
Genre: Progressive Rock
Country of Origin: USA
Coheed & Cambria have been having a huge comeback lately, with two amazing albums in under a year. The 2013 second-half of the duology is slightly less immediate, but also notably more deep and complex than the first. The Afterman: Descension is filled with heavy guitars, powerful melodies, and Claudio Sanchez's trademark strange somewhat-high-pitched vocals, but more than anything it's simply filled with great songs. Coheed & Cambria are reaching new career highs, with some of the strongest, heaviest, and most varied songs of their career, and The Afterman: Descension is an exciting and deeply personal album which proves once and for all that Coheed are back.
Top tracks: Gravity's Union; The Hard Sell

23. Leer - 'Spring Break No Parents'
Genre: Twinkle Screamo
Country of Origin: USA
Leer are really something special, with their harsh, desperate vocals and noodly guitars. They're the wonderful product of what happens when the normally gut-wrenchingly tragic 'skramz' genre is put in the context of something pleasant and fun. Debut album Spring Break No Parents is bursting at the seems with wacky, catchy guitar lines and bouncy drums and bass, every moment feeling like a joyous space somewhere between a party and a breakdown. The album is at once emotive, powerful, and simply fun. The music is climactic and intense, occasionally sorrowful, but just as often, lovable and passionate. Leer are one of those bands who you listen to and can simple tell how much they love the music they make. Spring Break No Parents might only be their first full LP, but it's an amazing record in its own right, with a wide variety of moods and a remarkable technical proficiency, and I can't wait to see what the band do next.
Top tracks: As Cool As An Attempted Suicide; No Parents

22. The Knife - 'Shaking the Habitual'
Genre: Experimental Electronic
Country of Origin: Sweden
It's hard to believe that the Knife that we know today once created the electronic pop hit 'Heartbeats.' Since their first few albums, the sibling duo have evolved their sound tremendously, working into a dark, atmospheric electronic template, into minimal glitch, and are now presenting us with possibly their most ambitious and impressive album yet. Shaking the Habitual is an immense, abstract double-album of noise, twisted pop, lowercase, and a zillion other mixed up electronic stylings. The Knife's feminist politics ring loud and clear across the album, with ruminations on gender and oppression throughout the lyrics and artwork, and the music doesn't have any trouble keeping up, with its confrontational intensity and a taste for the radical. Karin Dreijer Andersson's vocals shift and snarl across the massive songs on display here, and the instrumentals range from ambient noise to catchy beats built from household sounds. The record really begins to open up and show its true colors when the divide between the first and second disc, a 19 minute lowercase track, slowly lulls you into comfort and dormancy, before the record comes right back around and reminds you that The Knife mean business. Shaking the Habitual is a monstrous listen, difficult and dripping with commentary and vitriol, but it is also a dense, intense, impressive, powerful, and deeply ambitious record, and one of the most exciting experiments of the year.
Top tracks: A Tooth For an Eye; Raging Lung
21. The Haxan Cloak - 'Excavation'
Genre: Dark Ambient/Experimental Witch House/Minimalist Electronic
Country of Origin: England
The Haxan Cloak's second album is a monster, plain and simple. It's almost explicitly a soundtrack to your death, personal, dark, and violent. It escapes the confines of electronic music and instead functions as a dark ambient nightmare, with viciously heavy bass, minimal beats, and the occasional frightening sample. As a whole, Excavation is a bare bones record built on nothing but atmosphere, and that's all it needs. Because this album functions as an effective masterwork of mood, filling the space with hollow caverns of sound, fearful expressions of loneliness and gloom, reminders of the inevitable end. The Haxan Cloak may be a member of resident witch house label Tri Angle Records, but what he has to offer is so much more than eerie beats and samples. Excavation is one of the most bleak and virulent albums out there, and indisputably the darkest record of the whole year. You'd be a fool to miss it.
Top tracks: Dieu; The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2)

20. Shone - 'Heat Thing'
Genre: Vocal Indie Post-Rock/Experimental Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
There was an awful lot of hubbub surrounding Shone when they first sprung to life--much of it surrounding the fact that the band features members of Brand New and ROBBERS. If you're coming here expecting a Brand New spin-off though, you may be sorely disappointed. Shone's debut album is a strange, complex, and emotionally layered work. The bizarre vocals may put off many listeners, but if you can enjoy them, there's an awful lot to Heat Thing. This is an album of throbbing drums, wandering guitars, and subdued climaxes. Shone's music is giant and subtle all at once, with the occasional catchy chorus, but built more around atmosphere and texture than structure. When the band are at their best, the instrumentals provide an ambient background for the off-kilter singing and propulsive drumming,  and Heat Thing is the kind of record that you honestly never want to really end. The more you listen to it, the more intriguing layers are revealed, and the more you can't help but fall in love with the abstract vulnerability, sorrow, and scale presented by Shone's outstanding debut record.
Top tracks: Kin; Piano Wire Number 12

19. IU - 'Modern Times'
Genre: Korean Pop-Jazz/Acoustic Swing
Country of Origin: South Korea
For awhile now, IU has been one of K-pop's strongest and youngest singers, with orchestral pop hits like 'You & I' and 'Good Day.' With her third full-length, however, IU is stepping away from standard Korean pop music, instead making something more akin to jazz or swing, with Latin guitar, big band accents, and her trademark wonderful voice above it all. Modern Times is full of bouncy acoustic guitars, smooth piano, and octave-jumping singing, and while it does occasionally venture into more standard pop territory (lead single 'The Red Shoes'), the record is primarily composed of fun jazzy numbers like 'Obliviate' or the occasional heartachingly beautiful and mournful ballad like 'Bad Day.' The more things change, the more they stay the same, as IUs voice is still the center of attention, but Modern Times is more about creating a smooth and original mood than big pop hits. This is a huge innovative risk for such a big K-pop star to take, and an absolutely excellent record in its own right.
Top tracks: 을의 연애; 싫은 날

18. マキシマムザホルモン - '予襲復讐'
Maximum the Hormone - 'Yoshu Fukushu'
Genre: Experimental J-Metal
Country of Origin: Japan
It's been a long six years since Maximum the Hormone's last album, so the simple fact that drummer Nao had her kid and the band is making music again is reason enough to celebrate. The fact that their newest record also might be their best is just the cherry on top. The band's combination of spastic metal, riffy hardcore, and guitar pop is just as exciting as it always was, and their disjointed songwriting has only improved over the years. The record is full of Maximum the Hormone's trademark quad-vocal assault, bouncy riffs and some of the catchiest choruses around. In the end, that's exactly what makes the band so wonderful--they're exciting and ridiculously memorable while still managing to be heavy and strange. These are songs that will beat you down and get completely stuck in your head while doing so from a band who have absolutely mastered making that exact type of song. Somehow, Maximum the Hormone have only further honed their craft and released one of the funnest albums of the year, and it couldn't be better.
Top tracks: 「F」; 中2 ザ ビーム

17. Kayo Dot - 'Hubardo'
Genre: Avant-Garde Metal
Country of Origin: USA
Toby Driver is such an absolute master of his craft. Ever since his early days with maudlin of the Well, and moving into his work with Tartar Lamb and Kayo Dot (among others), no one has made experimental metal as well as him. Working in elements of post-rock, ambience, hardcore, free jazz, black metal, and a zillion other styles, every album Driver's put out has been a free-form work of wonder. With all this in mind though, nothing has ever quite topped Kayo Dot's first record, Choirs of the Eye, so the fact that their latest 1.6 hour giant might actually be the band's best record yet is saying an awful lot. It's also the most 'metal' record they've released, full of fast-paced drumming, blistering guitar, and harsh screams, although this isn't to say that Kayo Dot's trademark orchestral experimentation is gone by any means. There's still plenty of wonder violin, saxophone, trumpet, horn, flute, and clarinet usage to satisfy any Toby Driver fan, while still pushing the boundaries of both traditional musical concepts and what the band themselves are capable of. Hubardo is giant, convoluted, confusing, abstract, and deeply satisfying. Every moment has purpose and every song has meaning and not a moment of its immense runtime feels wasted. This very well may be Kayo Dot's masterpiece, and that's something that shouldn't be missed for the world.
Top tracks: And He Built Him A Boat; Passing the River

16. letlive. - 'The Blackest Beautiful'
Genre: Post-Hardcore
Country of Origin: USA
There have been an inordinate amount of comparisons made between letlive. and genre mainstays Glassjaw. They aren't necessarily inaccurate comparisons, letlive. frontman Jason Aalon Butler certainly bears more than a passing resemblance to Daryl Palumbo, spasmodically jumping between impressive clean singing and ferocious screams, but the band's personal brand of post-hardcore is something that absolutely must be witnessed. The choruses are hugely catchy, the heavy moments absolutely unbelievable, and the song structures wonderfully convoluted. The Blackest Beautiful displays some of the most emotive songwriting and the most energetic performance of almost any post-hardcore band out there right now, with a total mastery of unpredictability and dynamics, with a perfect combination of beauty, melody, and violence. This is one of those albums which leaves an impression that lasts for weeks, but you instantly want to listen to again after finishing it, and every moment is simply perfectly orchestrated. This is what modern post-hardcore should sound like.
Top tracks: Empty Elvis; The Priest and Used Cars

15. Oneohtrix Point Never - 'R Plus Seven'
Genre: Synth Arp Ambient
Country of Origin: USA
After dipping his toes into the world of ambient drone, Daniel Lopatin has come back to put out what may be his best album yet. R Plus Seven is very similar to 2011's Replica tonally, crafted from subtle samples and perfectly-chosen old-school synths, but remarkably different in execution. The eerie, Yume Nikki-esque drones have been largely swapped out instead for arpeggios everywhere. The record is almost built entirely off of these, in fact, with repetitive, constantly moving synth melodies slowly building on themselves, introducing new elements, countermelodies, and background chords, hinting at something really special below the surface. Oneohtrix Point Never is as abstract as always, and the record frequently wanders away from him, evading melody altogether in favor of a meandering atmospheric core, but consistently, R Plus Seven always finds its way back to its strange, arpeggiated core. It's a confusing formula at first, almost off-puttingly mechanical and devoid of life, but as vocal bits and pieces and aching strings work their way into the mix, R Plus Seven reveals itself to be so much more than mixed-up synthwork--it is a masterpiece of an album, dripping with mood and full to the brim with beautiful, surprisingly personal moments. Every part of Oneohtrix Point Never's music breathes with sincerity and wonder, and it's hard not to simply look on in awe.
Top tracks: Americans; Still Life

14. Pharmakon - 'Abandon'
Genre: Harsh Noise
Country of Origin: USA
Abandon opens up with Margaret Chardiet shrieking until ringing noise overtakes her voice. This is pretty par for the course as far as Pharmakon's debut full-length goes. Chardiet is unique in the harsh noise universe for a lot of reasons--in a genre which is overwhelmingly populated by male artists making improvised sounds and putting out dozens of limited cassette releases that take them all of an hour to create, Margaret has built an explicitly constructed monsterwork of noise. Abandon is as meticulous as it is terrifying, and every shriek, every piercing noise, every frequency stab is placed just perfectly for maximum effect. Pharmakon also sets herself apart from other harsh noise artists in that this album never feels masturbatory, it never feels like it's simply noise. This record is built around building an atmosphere and mood, and that mood is absolutely horrifying. Every moment further compounds this mood of terror, skin-crawling and goosebumps-inducing. The fact is that no matter what you think of the genre, this is the most unique, atmospheric, and powerful harsh noise release around, and if you enjoy experimental music, you're deeply missing out if you don't give it a chance.
Top tracks: Milkweed/It Hangs Heavy; Pitted

13. Keaton Henson - 'Birthdays'
Genre: Sad Indie Folk
Country of Origin: England
Goddammit, Keaton Henson is so sad. His sophomore effort is full of some of the most devastatingly tragic songs around, and is one of the most personal and powerful albums around. The mid-album surprise when Henson works some more rock-oriented sounds into the music is a welcome change of pace, but for the most part, Birthdays is a collection of some of the most emotionally vulnerable songs out there, featuring little more than a clean electric guitar and Keaton Henson's trembling voice. His lyrics and expression are simply so incredibly on point, it's hard to imagine a record as deeply touching in recent memory as this one. Birthdays is a simple album, but it's built off of simply incredible songwriting, and proves to be one of the most personal, beautiful, and affecting records of the year.
Top tracks: You; Sweetheart, What Have You Done To Us

12. 凛として時雨 - 'i'mperfect'
Rin Toshite Shigure - 'i'mperfect'
Genre: Post-Hardcore/Mathy J-Shoegaze
Country of Origin: Japan
Rin Toshite Shigure have quietly walked the line between post-hardcore, J-rock, and shoegaze for a long time now, and i'mperfect may be their best album yet. Built from fast-paced guitar lines, virtuosic drumming, winding basslines, and a male-female dual-vocal assault of singing, shouting, screaming, and falsetto, the trio have made a twisted work of wonder. i'mperfect jumps around restlessly, constantly offering a giant chorus, crazy guitar part, or wall of noise to keep you on your toes. Rin Toshite Shigure play with instrumental tones as much as vocal, and the wide variety of guitar and bass effects keep the album exciting and subtle, perfectly complementing the constantly-shifting song structure. Soaring melodies, complex instrumentals and an endlessly driving energy help to make i'mperfect one of the most deep, unique, powerful and exciting albums of the year, and just further proof that Rin Toshite Shigure are in good company among the most exciting bands coming out of Japan today.
Top tracks: abnormalize; Missing ling

11. Danny Brown - 'Old'
Genre: Rap
Country of Origin: USA
Danny Brown is the best rapper of this decade, if you ask me. XXX was an immense record, and Old just might top it. Brown's abrasive voice might turn off newcomers, but I'm pretty convinced that if you stick with it, you're guaranteed to fall in love with this record. Old is (similarly to XXX) split into two halves, with the first 10 songs being more introspective and mellow, while the second half is more built around intense, exciting party tracks, which functions to color Side A with a distinctly tongue-in-cheek, ominous vibe, and tinges Side B with an undercurrent of darkness and criticism. As a whole, in fact, Old is an insanely dark record. Even the 'party' songs feel frightening, and despite regularly leaning towards the catchy and fun side of things, the production and lyrics serve as a consistent reminder that this is an album about the darker side of the world. Danny Brown raps about his life and little else, telling stories about the underbelly he's dealt with and the demons he faces, serving as a foreboding counterpart to the Kanyes of the world. He complements his simply excellent rapping and lyricism with some of the most textured, heavy, and immersive production around, which just serves to further bolster Old's appeal. As a whole, in fact, this is just an incredible record. Dark, atmospheric, personal, intense, real, and endlessly lovable, Old is likely the best hip-hop album to come out this decade so far, and simply a must-listen for any fans of the genre.
Top tracks: Side A (Old); 25 Bucks


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