It’s easy to get caught up in the present, but for the purpose of this post we ask you to take a minute to reflect on the not-so distant past. Without any further delay, Indie Current presents the first installment of our 2013 Year-End List. For the next couple of days, we’ll post the following three parts of the Top 100 Albums List, as well as lists featuring our top 50 EPs and our favorites songs of the year separated by hip-hop, rock, pop, electronic and remixed selections. Until then, enjoy these carefully curated record selections.
75. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin is Oneohtrix Point Never’s man behind the mask. The Brooklyn-based first-generation American with parents from the Soviet Union, stunned US with his 2010 debut, and this 2013 Warp Records release only expands on this genius. This experimental electronic album is fretful and forgetful, lucid and multiplicitous against a no-rhyme-for-reason scheme. The four-dimensional soundscapes of Oneohtrix Point Never are ever-moving, restless, chaotic and wonderful. Aside from releasing R Plus Seven, Lopatin also spent time scoring the music for The Bling Ring with Brian Reitzell. Strange.
74. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone
This Tennessee-based singer-songwriter has lived the life a traveling musician, struggling on her own to pursue a Dixie-south soulful antiquity. After two albums that fell by the wayside, she collaborates with Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) who produced and wrote several songs for the record. Songs like “Working Women Blues” and “Somebody To Love” immerse themselves in a wallowing, serene scenes of despair before pushing against the grain and opening up to a joyous conclusion. Pushin’ Against A Stone compiles an artist’s sorrows and passionate acclamations, formatted as a timeless and past-confronting through traditional rhythm and blues. The album’s title track is the beautiful fruition of these workings at their most invigorating, hallowing and electrified in its message of self-preservation.
73. Young Fathers – Tape Two
This Scotland-based experimental hip hop trio is a triple threat: powerhouse vocals, clever rhymes, and picks up right where Andre 3000 and Big Boi left off. The future-thinking productions and soulful predilections are diverse in their musical conquests, mirroring the multifaceted brainwork of The Gorillaz. This second “tape” is a vast improvement, a progression forward in developing their boundless influence while anchoring themselves steadfastly to hip hop.
72. Matthew E. White – Outer Face
Technically speaking, this debut record by Americana singer-songwriter was released in August of 2012 by independent record label Spacebomb records, but in January of 2013 it was re-released through Domino Records for the global market. So how could we resist? Matthew E. White is cool, calm and collected, an indelible mix of Iron & Wine and Raphael Saadiq, re-appropriating gospel themes for a modern kind of soul music. White doesn’t pack a huge punch with his vocals, they’re often hushed and whispered, like he’s singing with his eyes closed. It leaves lots of room for instrumental embellishments and layered arrangements, complex, melancholic vignettes in songs like “Gone Away” and “Will You Love Me.”
71. oOoOO – Without Your Love
This San Franciscan Tri-Angle Records one-man act is a perfect poster child for the avant-garde dark pop music collective. This record tackles the moniker of “witchhop” and breathes new life to the otherwise stagnant genre, cross-hatched and splintered beats littering a vacant soundscape. “Without Your Love” takes on Alice Glass-like, computer glitched vocals with rudimentary trap beats. Without Your Love glimpses into the troubled mind of Christopher Greenspan and returns mangled and estranged.
70. Money – The Shadow of Heaven
“You need to take your life in your hands, and piss on it. That’s what you do. Get beaten up more, make a fool out of yourself in public, and you become a good poet.”With Jamie Lee as their secret poetic weapon, Money are following in the footsteps of many other great Manchester bands such as Joy Division and Manic Street Preachers. Their musical influence, though, leans heavier towards the expansive, lucid-folk soundscapes of Grizzly Bear or Local Natives. “Goodnight London” is an extended, isolated piano mantra, yearning for a trans-atlantic voyage to New York but still terribly nostalgic for home. The mood is drastically altered on the following song, “Letter To Yesterday,” weary of the past and eager to embrace the tides of change. This debut record slow-moving, haunted yet amiable like Casper the Friendly Ghost.
69. Kelela – CUT 4 ME
Kelela Mizanekristos is a second-generation Ethiopian singer-songwriter who first made waves last year on the guest featured single “EFX” by Teengirl Fantasy. Her’s is the only intrusion of female vocals on the record, distinguished by its soulful musicality and future pop sensibilities. This year she dropped her own album, framed after the auxiliary producer-artist model made particularly popular in 2013 with progressive electronic dance music. This is the exact reverse of what acts like Disclosure are pulling off, however, inverting the form as a curatorial-based music project drawing from the minds of seven different producers. Each of the track titles are accompanied by a parenthetical producer credit, which further illuminates Kelela’s ethical integrity towards the creative process. The record itself is rambunctious, unabashedly sexual and hyper-experimental. More edgy and idiosyncratic than Alunageorge and less subdued and somber than FKA twigs (who might be her two closest musical contemporaries), Kelela is one hot toddy.
68. Fidlar – Fidlar
Southern California’s punk rock quartet Fidlar are an off-color group. They garnished fans with homemade music videos for songs like “The Punks Are Finally Taking Acid,” where they put their IDGAF philosophies on display for the world. Their self-titled debut album is raunchy, retro-nodding crudeness, uplifting in its outright defiance of all things proper and dignified. Actor Nick Offerman was featured on the music video for the closing track “Cocaine,” where a recently laid off drunkard roams the town in a beer-fueled pissing rampage (viewer discretion advised). The rest of the album is flecked with slovenly gems like “Blackout Stout” and “Whore,” restless and angst-ridden skate rock that stays dynamic and confrontational from start to finish.
67. Jacco Gardner – Cabinet of Curiosities
This Nordic, Amsterdam-based baroque pop multi-instrumentalist yearns for the mystical distanced past, hollow fragments of the psychotropic 60s. He recorded every instrumental track for the record by himself at his personal, solitary studio housed in the North Holland town of Zwaag (excluding the drums, played by Jos van Tol). Cabinet of Curiosities could be a concept album about dreams, the living unconscious, psychedelic warblings projected against a dark, forlorn bedroom wall. Jacco Gardner draws from acts like Grateful Dead and The Doors, preserving a very vivid sense of bewilderment throughout his debut record.
66. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Artist-producer Jon Hopkins was more than established before the release of his fourth album, the first studio release in four years, producing music for Coldplay on Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends and scoring films like Monsters and this year’s How I Live Now. His solo material is darker and more distressing than his side-projects, like sirens ringing at the presence of some impending doom. Immunity pushes electronic dance music to a new realm, articulating the intensity and euphoria of an entranced nightclub dancefloor. These tracks are impulsively cinematic, equal parts sedating and electrifying on songs like “Breathe This Air” and “Collider,” where emotionally-driven motifs come to fruition amidst pallidly warped production adornments. This release is surely his most penetrating and bombastic to date.
65. Machinedrum – Vapor City
For some thirteen-odd years Travis Stewart has made music under his experimental, intelligent-thinking electronic dance music artist name Machinedrum. This album takes risks, delves into fog-shrouded drum and bass lulls and veers away from his rhythmic house undertakings. Vapor City is strung together as more than just a collection of beats; Stewart is revealing images of ghostly, obstinate soundscape on each of the ten tracks. It could be a city, all broken up and disheveled, industrial arcs dividing the separate melodic locales. Syncopated compositions of phaser gun sequencers and fluttering dynamic range compressors are highlighted on addled dance grooves like “SeeSea” and “Rise N Fall.”
64. Millionyoung – Variable
Native Floridian Mike Diaz is the sole member of the post-tropical electronic project Millionyoung, and on this—his third studio album—Diaz more specifically proliferates his star-gazed, chillwave trappings, while delving into a more sophisticated hand at analog sounds. Variable borrows from hazy, retro-inspired electronic acts like Toro Y Moi and Washed Out, but the product is something much more singular, energetic and dynamic.
63. Everything Everything – Arc
This Manchester-based indie rock group do much to avoid the impression of solid genre labels. Their sophomore album is exhilarating, hypertensive alternative music with a multiple personality disorder. Vocalist Mike Spearman’s wavering high-registered timbre sits somewhere between David Bowie and R. Kelly, giving their closest musical contemporaries Alt-J a solid run for their money. Rhythmically sophisticated and voraciously progressive in mastering and producing techniques, Arc is an end-all-be-all of music, striving to instill a new norm for independent rock music.
62. Volcano Choir – Repave
Justin Vernon has spent the greater part of this year musically proactive outside his Grammy-winning solo project. He’s alluded several times to the fact that he may be done making music under his artist pseudonym Bon Iver, which, naturally, makes me quite sad. But then I hear albums like this and think that it might be for the best. In fact, Volcano Choir was under works before Bon Iver was even a forethought, a collaboration Vernon and Collection of Colonies front man Jon Mueller conjured up in 2005. This follow-up to the 2009 Volcano Choir debut is more idiosyncratic and distanced from the folk rock precursor, embracing a murky fusion of seat-toned instrumentals and electronic affectations. Repave is restless and enlivened, hopeful against all odds, open to transcendence.
61. Bonobo – The North Border
British artist-producer-musician Simon Green releases his fifth studio album with The North Border, enlisting singer-songwriters like Erykah Badu and Szjerdene for the record. Bonobo marries ambient, post-tropical rhythms with tumultuous synths and agitated bass lines. The album doesn’t invigorate the old tricks of the trade on Black Sands so much as explore a thematic progression of these influences. It leaves The North Border feeling dismayed and seemingly abandoned, but nonetheless provocative and hypnotizing.
60. Beaches – She Beats
This all-girl, Melbourne, Australia-based neo-psychedelic garage rock group is the most lucid, supersonic feminist rock group since 2012’s Tame Impala-subordinated Melody’s Echo Chamber debut. The tender, feminine vocals are trapped behind static-caked guitar pedal effects, a metal sheet of clammering, warbling noise rock. Instead they zero in on the music supporting the hazy, rose-colored atmosphere, breaching cultural and geographic boundaries on tracks like “Veda,” where traditional Western blues progressions are discarded. She Beats is fierce and fearless, aiming for sonic enlightenment through dangerously high decibels.
59. Nosaj Thing – Home
Los Angeles-based electronic musician Jason Chung devices a hip hip-inclined, forward-thinking take on experimental dance music, producing beats for rappers like Kendrick Lamar, Kid Cudi and Chance The Rapper. His sophomore album, released on Innovative Leisure Records, is constructed as a full-scale, strobe-lit landscape of barren, alternating moods. Everything sounds abstract and neon, trapped in a disintegrating video game visual.
58. Inc. – No World
Los Angeles brother duo Inc. are lo-fi, minimal R&B reincarnated from adult alternative music of the 90s like Sade or Janet Jackson. Deliberately reluctant beats and sombre melodies have tracks like “the place” and “5 days” oozing forth like slow, sensual earworms. The closing number, “nariah’s song,” is a rare instrumental digression, lilting and romantic as frigid jazz before dissolving into a minute of eerie silence.
57. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris
Odd Future affiliate Earl Sweatshirt makes his solo debut with the release of Doris, an empirical take on hip hop music, what aversions can be made to the disfigured model. Standouts like “Chum” and “Whoa” bear still fresh wounds from the rappers past, while relinquishing himself to this new role as bonafide celebrity. Tyler, the Creator, Vince Staples, Domo Genesis and several others coat the album with studded, disgruntled collection of guests verses, including the forceful speak-talk of Frank Ocean on the Channel Orange-reverent “Sunday.” This album confronts the grotesque trepidations of life and laughs in its face.
56. Bass Drum of Death – Bass Drum of Death
The self-titled, sophomore album by lo-fi alternative Mississippi duo Bass Drum of Death is hectic and disheveled, warped and inundated against gloomy garage rock vibes. Members John Barrett and Len Clark can hardly contain their intimidating retro-pop melodies, brash and tremulous in nasty percussive bouts and crooning guitar lines.
55. Mister Lies – Mowgli
Chicago-based rookie artist-producer Nick Zanca released his debut album via Lefse Records, an inspiration of insular, hip hop-oriented glitchy intelligent dance music and emotional dream pop. Mowgli can be brash and intense at some moments like “Dionysian” and “Align,” but the remainder of the record nestles comfortably in a swirling loop of hazardous rhythm and blues that conquers a jazzy outerlude on “Trustfalls.”
54. Alunageorge – Body Music
It’s easy to be forlorn or disillusioned by the producer-vocalist duo AlunaGeorge’s debut album. Beginning at TriAngle Records with their insatiably groovy dance jam “You Know You Like It,” the duo released a bevy of two-step, garage house singles that point to 90s R&B with reverent nod. The hype may have been exhausted by the release of the record, though, with so many of their previous singles inhabiting the space of their debut. Only “Your Drums, Your Love” and “Kaleidoscope Love” succeed in replicating the form of their 2012 demos and singles. The B-side of Body Music, however, seeks solace in the self-titled album track and closer “Friends To Lovers,” which rest on slower BPMs but, consequently, show off greater authenticity. Hype or no hype, AlunaGeorge’s debut is more than worthy of another listen.
53. Glasser – Interiors
The ethereal, avant-garde electronic project of Cameron Mesirow makes up one of the most compelling and evocative sonic creations of the year. Immediately, on the first two tracks “Shape” and “Design,” Glasser presents her sophomore album Interiors as complicated, rhythmically infallible and alluringly uncanny. The second half of the record is more subdued but manages to preserve that warbling effervescence, donning a more instrumental approach with found objects, eastern instruments, and jazz expressions.
52. The Stepkids – Troubadour
“Once upon a time in Connecticut,” mutters an old black narrator between empty banjo licks, before the sophomore album by The Stepkids erupts into a psychotropic synth-delirious explosion. The Connecticut-based trio fuses old-time soul, jazz and retro-funk expressions for a future-oriented, expressionistic kind of electronic dance music. Troubadour is troubled in its synthesis of sophisticated instrumental tracks and experimental production techniques, feeling not quite at ease among all the VHS-era nostalgia and predilections of musical modernity.
51. Portico Quartet – Live/Remix
This instrumental contemporary modern jazz and electronic fusion group from South London released a two-part follow up to their 2011 self-titled studio album. Live/Remix conjoins live recorded performances from 2012 and a series of edited and remixed tracks from artists like SBTRKT, Will Ward, and Luke Abbott. Despite not being a full studio album, this was surely one of the most elusive and immersive collection of songs to be released this year. Their electronic flourishes and instrumental, blues-based savvy are irrefutable and affectedly euphonious, rooted in an inclusively cosmopolitan sensibility.