A pop music emergence in my personal taste headline what was an
outstanding year in music. For me anyway. I like music. Honorable
Mentions to Vampire Weekend and The National.
I hated rap in high school. Not only the lyrical content, but the boring ass
background noise they were using to highlight their rhymes. It took finding the
best producers to finally break my reluctance towards the sound, with artists like
Nujabes and El-P proving that hip-hop isn?t always about the rapping, but rather
the complete package. Friendzone continue in that vein, creating a freestanding
soundscape of lush beats and hooks fully capable of telling its own story without
Retrograde is my song of the year for every single reason that this album is on this
list. It represents the strengths of Overgrown in their most pure. Blake?s sultry
tones spread over the cold yet gripping clicks that drive it forward, emptiness an
ally in the songs composition as much as every audible note. It?s a delicate
balance perfected on Retrograde, and while not as strong elsewhere, the plan
succeeds far more than it lets down.
Is Survived By
The fact that they can write songs longer than a minute and a half makes me feel
all warm and fuzzy inside. The punch of each song still remains, but it?s fully
fleshed out this time allowing for an expansion and honing of the ideas before their
disappearance. He?s still that verge-of-mental-breakdown narrator we?ve come to
appreciate but this time he sticks around to give us a longer picture into his mind,
making each theme that much more impactful.
The enigma is back with an EP less enigmatic as previous releases while still awfully
enigmatic. The anti-bulling theme works way more effectively than other artists
attempts (see: anyone else whose ever even tried it) and the tone shifts from prior
works sound natural. It?s hard to imagine Burial going down a path such as this one
with his music, yet these tracks are clearly only capable of being produced by
My review for this was panned
(http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/58940/Cloudkicker-Subsume/) for not telling
laying out what the music ?sounds like?, but I stand by the rest of the points I
made. Ben Sharp found the best parts of his discography and smooshed them
together, presenting a unique-yet-welcomingly-familiar blend of emotional
instrumental metal. Plus the song names are the best thing.
The Bones of What You Believe
Cute. Get that out of the way early. Take the all the rage 80?s synths and meet
them up with the current dance pop zeitgeist and you get Chvrches neat debut.
While some of the songs may weigh it down a little, the album is a perfect example
of when the highlights make you forgot the lowlights even exist. Turn on
Science/Visions during a late night car trip and tell me the night doesn?t awaken.
As much as hard rock is a maligned genre we can?t forget to acknowledge that
many of the most talented musicians are stuck in the restraints of the mainstream
cycle. That?s what made Fortress so pleasantly surprising, because Alter Bridge
take a step in the exact opposite of expectations, and display an innate knack of
excelling in whichever direction the decide to explore. Be that the doing of Mark
Tremonti or Myles Kennedy, it doesn?t matter, Alter Bridge are undoubtedly the best
the genre has had to offer in nigh a decade.
Flowers for my Father
As much as ?emo? and conscious rap can be looked down on by hip-hop purists,
sometimes you just have to give a man the praise he?s due. Flowers for my Father
(my review: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/55942/Sadistik-Flowers-For-My-
Father/) features the strongest production outside of El-P this year, and rhymes
schemes that would make many mainstays secretly hope for a ghost write.
Seriously that last verse on The Beast. Guys, I?m serious.
I?m such a fucking hipster wannabe. Two spots above Alter Bridge (yep) I have the
only black metal album I?ve ever been able to finish. And it?s because of all the
softened edges, the climaxes and twinkly bits holding the metal together, that this
was even accomplished. It?s a glorious combination of ideas that would typically
never even be uttered in the same breath, but here is done so seamlessly that one
would wonder why they wouldn?t have been married in the first place.
This album could be my anthem, mostly because I?ve always had the emotional
range of a 17 year old girl. And even 5 years removed from high school, tracks like
Tennis Court and A World Alone still resonate somewhere in my psyche. Maybe it?s
in the willingness to stand apart from the excepted norm of it all (in this case pop
music) that makes her music so relatable, but somehow Lorde keeps everything on
a level that even bitter twenty-somethings like myself can sing along about drinking
orange juice and feel perfectly content with it.
The 20/20 Experience
Hmm. Well, I, umm. Pop music has never been my thing, and this year I have fully
enjoyed and appreciated it for the first time, none more so than Mr. Timberlake.
Album is daring, explorative, sappy, fun, diverse, and catchy. It takes all of the
modern pop tropes and pushes them to the extreme. What Lorde steered clear of,
JT embraced. And then embraced them some more over and over again for 10
minutes. I fucking enjoy it because it?s fucking superb, and more artists should
follow Justin Timberlake?s lead towards a brave new world of pop.
Reach Beyond the Sun
Motivational and bleak to the point of excess, Reach Beyond the Sun is Shai Hulud?s
entire existence compacted and refined to perfection. Each line is a poignant
statement about the state of the world spoken (eh, screamed) with such
conviction that you smile and join the shout. It?s a collective rebellion against the
human race?s downfalls set to a melodic assault of guitars and drums, coalescing to
form a rallying cry unheard in metalcore in years.
|3||Captain, We're Sinking|
The Future is Cancelled
Emotionally titled punk rock has become a basis of contention among punk purists
and pop-punkers alike, each forming and dissolving bonds with bands based on
where they fit on the diverse spectrum of ?what?s too sugary??. Captain We?re
Sinking?s The Future is Cancelled rests somewhere in the middle and as a result,
everyone wants a piece. Much like fellow Scranton contemporaries The
Menzingers, Captain We?re Sinking takes heavy and nostalgic subject matter and
slams in home in an extraordinarily accessible package and stays far away from
cliché and overindulgence with ease much beyond their years.
|2||Run the Jewels|
Run the Jewels
There is no one in the hip-hop world having as much fun as Killer Mike and El-P.
Watch a video. Read some lyrics. Catch an interview. They completely
understand that they are killing it right now and they are having an absolute blast
sitting on top. It?s a mindset that first presented itself within the album (it?s an
album guys) and from there found forcing its way into fact. And they will verbally
berate and physically threaten you until you believe it to be true as well.
It?s obvious that Laura Stevenson?s music sounds good from the start. She can
sing, play, and write her way into many a head. It?s the listens beyond the first,
the twelfth, the thirty-second, that reveal just how endearing her creations truly
are. It?s odd how deeply personal and soul revealing Wheel sounds on the surface,
yet how utterly incomprehensible it remains when tried to squeeze for full meaning.
Delicately balancing between the two, the music presents lyrical snippets which
change, in meaning and impact, from one listen to the next to engage emotions and
trigger memories. Each listen turns the wheel over again, but each turn is a new
path around towards what is surely another new beginning.