10) My Dry Wet Mess- Stereo Typing
We didn’t get a Tokimonsta album, a Teebs album, or a Comfort Fit album this year. The albums we got from Mux Mool and Flying Lotus did not meet my expectations. Then, in November, Stereo Typing appeared and somewhat made up for all that.
Continuing in that patented ‘wonky’ style the Brainfeeder label is known for, Stereo Typing is a solid display of this style of music done right. The tracks which feature vocal samples do them nicely (‘When we were wrong’,’Words I didn’t’) often using effects to make pitchshifts and echoing reverb. These effects are used well though, and don’t make the sounds stick out unnaturally.
Songs like ‘Clapping Ears’ make me have to do a double check to see that I didn’t put on Tokimonsta’s Midnight Menu. This may be my favorite track on the album because of the more upbeat style that it adopts. Once the song gets to the high pitched vocals, it has a familiarity to its sound that even on my first listen I could immediately identify with. With songs this catchy on the album I was surprised sites like Pitchfork and Tiny Mix Tapes did not make any mention of this album.
The following track, ‘A Wrong Number’, has moments that sound like Thundercat is guesting on the track. Being Brainfeeder, he probably is.
Not all of the tracks on this album are 10/10 hits sadly, though the ones that miss seem more to fail because of an over-experimentation which results in the tracks not making a cohesive album. ‘My warped tits’ and ‘Glue and the Love in it’ are the two that come to mind. Listened to on their own, they are solid tracks, but they do distract from the sound the rest of the album has going for it.
Despite that qualm, Stereo Typing is still a fantastic release and is worthy of such a high placement on this chart.
9) Divorce- Divorce
I imagine that many people will disagree with this album being called a top 50 album, let alone having it placed at number 9. Too bad. Divorce is a fantastic debut from a band who deserves all of the comparisons to Aids Wolf that they have been getting. The discord present throughout the album works perfect with the coarse vocals and harsh punk instrumentation. This whole album feels like the exhibition of a band in the process of destroying itself.
The album’s starting track, ‘Cunts in a Circle’ is not a very inviting listen: reverberating screams over a chanting guitar riff. The sound is slow and brooding, almost acting as a warning sign. Then, as the tapping of ‘Snob Value’ comes in, the album confirms to the listener that this will not be a friendly listen.
It is only after conquering the first two tracks do Divorce give us ‘Aids of Space’, a cohesive, punk freakout with both good writing and execution. Both ‘Bill Murray’ and ‘Pencils Giant Pencils’ continue this excellent abrasive punk sound.
‘Coat your throat’ starts side B of the album, starting again with heavy, unforgiving feedback. Though it should be clarified that these droning tracks do not distract from the album; on the contrary, the buildup tracks like ‘Coat your Throat’ create work splendidly to ready the listener for the frenzy of tracks like ‘Stabby (Stabby) Stab’(my favorite track on the album). Obviously ‘Stabby Stab’ is my favorite track, as I am a huge no wave saxophone enthusiast. Divorce show on this track that they can combine aspects of that seamlessly into their style of playing, and I only wish they would do it more.
‘Dreglegs’ may be the lowpoint on the album, but I was never a fan of chugging guitar riffs. Fortunately, those lessen as the song goes on. The vocals do really save this track.
Then, with ‘Never Try Anything New At Least Once A Day’, the 9 track album is complete. This final track is the bands most complicated song on the album, and fittingly it is the longest. Its introduction reminds me of XBXRX, though the rest of the sound supersedes anything XBXRX created. The vocal work here is perfect. It is tough and punitive and some of the fiercest female vocalings I have heard in a while.
So if you try this album out and cannot get into it, put it on when you work out or are getting ready to quit your job. At first it won’t fit, but once it does, you’ll see that those other tracks were preparing the album to work all the better.
Listen to their bandcamp Here
Listen to their bandcamp Here
8) Billy Woods- History Will Absolve Me
This album falls into two of the three major pitfalls of rap albums. Those being: adding a random RnB love track (‘Blue Dream’) and having an overly political track (‘Pompeii’). Fortunately it at least doesn’t have any terrible skits.
After I just got done knocking two of the tracks on this album right off the bat, it may be surprising that this album is #8 for the year. That is because the other 18 tracks on this album are pretty great. The lyrics are often tongue in cheek, and the samples chosen are quite unique for a rap album.
As far as the lyrics go, they are often political, often racist, and are told by a narrator who appears to the listener destroyed by a life lived on the streets. He is misogynistic, nihilistic, and hates his home life. This is the character Billy Woods lives through on this album. Unlike other rap that often hypes drugs and alcohol, to Woods these seem on the back of his mind; constantly consumed, but too unimportant to really focus on. Wood’s would much rather discuss a benevolent God, or why he still wished he had used protection.
While many may find these lyrics abhorrent, I imagine they reflect little of the actual musician. Just as Johnny Depp wasn’t actually the largest distributor of cocaine in the U.S., Billy Woods isn’t really this dark but is creating a character and playing it out. Another sign that this is a character of Woods’ design is the references to MF Doom that appear within tracks on this album.
The beats on this are great. Samples range from ‘The Work Song’ by Nina Simone to Black and white films of Africa to newscasts of past wars and even some chiptune sounds. Many of the songs sample electric guitar, giving this album a harder hitting, more rock oriented sound.
One of the best parts of the sampling is the use of older audio clips from video footage. This recurs thoughout the album and helps set a unique tone.
After the short intro, Rojo comes in with ominous overdriven chants, tribal drums, and a freeform saxophone. If these are characteristics you like in albums, then you will be happy to find that this statement is pretty telling of Rojo on a whole.
After listening to this album a few times, I was left wondering how many artists make up Obnox. I was assuming 4-5 (with one of them doing only tambourine and other background fills). Turns out its one person: a Lamont ‘Bim’ Thomas, hailing from Cleveland, OH.
While the repetition of vocals may a downfall of this album (‘It makes me play with one hand’), it isn’t a problem which turns up more than a couple times, and it is the only fault I can place on this album. By the fourth track, ‘Esme Barrera’, Rojo really finds its sound. Obnox shows that he can do a slower groove, and does have the talent to provide a good vocal sound. Then ‘Marcy Mays’ kicks in, displaying that in addition to tribal sounds and slower grooves, Obnox can open a track in a style to rival the Boredoms.
‘Marcy May’ gives the listener a frantic, muddied guitar soon after, and one of the most awesome opening lyrics to grace a song (‘Rock and Roll is my birthright, man’). This track is an 8 minute opus and overshadows the rest of the album. It is one of my top ten tracks of the year and should be listened to as loud as possible while planning a night of debauchery. This song is proof that a lower recording quality does not mean a lesser song. This song profits from the inferior taping, and uses the static to its advantage. Obnox understands that sometimes with the vocals less is more, and after 2-3 sentences embarks on a six minute psych-instrumentation which ends collapsing in on itself into a minimalist tapping of drumsticks and screeching woodwinds.
The ensuing energy on the next track is a great surprise, as is the more spoken word approach used with it. There isn’t much to say about this track that hasn’t already been covered. Again frantic drums, synths, and saxophones all fit together perfectly, and in almost four-and-a-half minutes seem to end all too soon.
After a quick outro, this album is already over, and it leaves me wanting more. I look forward to his future releases and really hope he makes his way down to Columbus at some point in 2013.
6) Death Grips-The Money Store
While it may have been Exmilitary that put Death Grips on the map, I personally found this album to be both their most accessible and best work, a combination that is not usually the case with artists.
The Money Store is great because of its accessibility. Death Grips work to make music that will get listeners pumped. But how often does one want to get hyped alone? With the more approachable sound presented in The Money Store, Death Grips created an experimental album that could still be played in a weight room, at a college party, or while driving to a sporting event. Neither of Death Grips’ other albums would work with large crowds who have never heard their sound. It would be off-putting, and possibly frightening. With this album though, I can put it on with friends who only jam Top 40. I may get the occasional weird look, but they can put up with it, and often times enjoy it too.
Right from the start, buildup of ‘Get get get get got got’ tell the listener that they are going into an album that is more about excitement and less about depth. The first two songs perfectly personify this feeling. It isn’t until ‘Lost Boys’ that Death Grips slow down a bit. Even then, though, MC Ride’s voice forces the slower electronics to hold a certain amount of energy in them.
While the next few tracks are both enjoyable, the album ends side A on a great note; ‘I’ve Seen Footage’ has a beautiful sound. It was meticulously crafted, and the textures added into it work great. On top of this, this song is so catchy. Where Death Grips’ most off-putting feature is Ride’s voice, on this track, he makes his voice accessible to the average listener.
I could go on to review side B. I am not going to though. This album has gotten many reviews all over, so I’ll leave it at this: ‘Fuck that; is the only track I occasionally skip and I feel the album would have been stronger without it. Still, this album was my jam from the moment it came out, and I think it perfectly displays Death Grips sound in a way I do not think they will be able to repeat.
I have always been a fan of the Liars. I remember hearing their first few albums in high school and being shocked by their ever-changing sound. While their self-titled was their worst to me, their sound has changed twice since then. Here, the Liars give the listener a synth filled ambience. Many people called this the Radiohead album Radiohead should have made. In some ways, I agree.
WIXIW (pronounced ‘wish you’) works because Liars have again built a record around a uniform sound. While ‘No. 1 Against the Rush’ was not too promising of a single (I feel ‘Brats’ or ‘WIXIW’ would have been more appropriate anyway), the song sounds exponentially better when preceded by ‘Octagon’ and followed by ‘A Ring on Every Finger’. One often doesn’t notice the transitions between songs when listening to the record until it is time to flip sides (with the exception being ‘Brats’).
Angus’ vocals have improved vastly since They Threw us all in a Trench… and have become a strength of the band. These vocals, coupled with the two bands touring together, have garnered these comparisons to Radiohead. Where those comparisons end, though, is the experimentation found on WIXIW. Clips from their recording process included sampling the sounds of florescent light bulbs, using apples as resistors for pitches, and other absurd mini video clips. This shines through with the softness of the ‘drum’ clicks on some tracks, as well as with the mellow tone of all of the samples and synths throughout. It is amazing how accessible the sound is that they create on WIXIW while still experimenting. Liars could never have created a record of this quality during the times of They Were Wrong… (my other favorite Liars album, albeit).
4) WaMu- Viafuckt
This album spoke to me on many levels. I loved the dissonance, I loved the vocals, and I loved the style in which the songs were presented.
Despite my love for this album, I still haven’t listened to it allowed in front of my roommates or my fiancée. This album (technically EP) has a sound which, if unprepared, would be deplorable to nearly any listener. One needs to go into this expecting bursts of sound, a saxophone which sounds almost naively played, and a harsh violin (I think, not too good at naming stringed instruments).
This is an album which should be listened to through headphones. I also found its harsh dynamics great for doing research and writing memo’s (though I love listening to Coughs and AIDS Wolf during these tasks as well).
Each track on this album builds on the sounds presented before it. The first track may be quite off-putting, but because their sound remains so constant, a listener should be able to finally grasp the sound near the end of a listen. I imagine almost any listener would state that the final tracks are better than the first. While I do not agree with this statement, I feel if given ten more listens, that person wouldn’t either; it is just that this style is unique and needs to be adjusted to. If you are willing to make the adjustment, this is an extremely rewarding album that is both a challenging listen and one which is unwavering in its presentation throughout.
Listen to their bandcamp Here
The vocal patterns are immediately presented in a way that was unexpected. Right from the start of this album I was blown away by the vocalists presence on the album. She is confident in her delivery while presenting in a manner that makes use of a very unique delivery. It makes for some of the best vocal delivery I heard on an album this year.
On top of the amazing singing, the instrumentation is quite solid throughout. While breakdowns are often readily guessable, they are still presented stylistically. The guitar works well with the drums, and never on the album is there a moment where I felt the instrumentation was either lacking or poorly written.
Again, Consistency. This album displays one style of sound and plays it out throughout. The instruments stay consistent in playing styles, and the vocalist is consistent in her style of delivery. That is not to say it at all feels repetitive; quite the contrary. Each track feels fresh and unique and brings something new to the table. Whether that be the occasional deep talk presented by the vocalist or a random bass riff, Choochooshoeshoot remain inventive with their approaches and is successful because of it.
Slower parts, like the beginning of ‘Shameless Lechery’ create the right amount of tension for the moments they pick up. What’s more, the vocalist does great at controlling her tones to build higher and higher adding another level of tension and buildup.
This is one of the albums I am truly ashamed I do not yet own (I’m working on it), and highly encourage anyone looking to enter the genre of noise rock to look into this promising young band.
Listen to their bandcamp Here
2) White Suns- Sinews
What a powerful record. I had never heard White Suns until Sinews and what a strong impression they made on me. The opening track, ‘Fire Sermon’, is a beast of its own. Harsh tones, drumming swells, vocals that sound tormented and pained; this band knows how to put together a piece of music which stands out from the crowd. With the opening song being 7:27 long, with over 30 seconds being single high pitched tones, this band also isn’t afraid to show an unconventional sound.
After the uncompromising ‘Fire Sermon’ ends, the listener is thrown into ‘Footprints Filled’, an intense barrage of drums and guitar. Again the unique vocals appear, and again they capture the listener and demand attention. While the vocals are not well done, the sheer rawness in his voice more than makes up for the lack of tone presented.
And the album continues in this manner. Each track more uncompromising than the last. White Suns are determined to create music from harsh tones, each strung together in manners inconceivable, yet amazingly well crafted. This album is too harsh to define as noise rock, but remarkably well crafted in a way that automatically rules it from a simple tag as noise.
Had I not purchased their HQ tape series cassette until so late into the year, it too would have made this list. On that they show their ability to create improvisational pieces together. On Sinews they display their ability to create technically dense, sonically mind-boggling songs.
Listen to some of the album on their bandcamp Here
1) Misha Mishajashvili-2012
This is the most haunting album I heard this year, and after reading where the artist got his inspiration for the album, it became an even more intense listen. I will leave it up to you to look up the artists inspiration.
2012 is filled with melancholy mantras done by female vocals. It uses samples reminiscent of radio frequencies during war. The recording has an intentional crackle throughout,a technique which helps the Geiger counters and radio transmissions blend smoother.
The drums are mixed in strangely, as if recorded to loud. They always carry a strange vibration with them. Even the snare hits hold a very unique sound.
Misha Mishajashvili does a wonderful job of creating a sonic landscape that he can call his own. His sound is one which few try to create (see Emptyset- Medium) and no one has yet done as well. It is a constant sound of desolation.
This album was my favorite of the year because both of the emotion it was able to convey and the smoothness at which it flows. Not a single note feels out of place on this album. Tracks which open with foreign voices and choir hums create eerie, empty auras.
The drums also are arranged perfect for the sound presented. switching between surreal snare hits and tribal stylings, 2012 's drums sound more native and primitive, matching the primal sounds of the rest of the album.
I was saddened to see that Misha Mishajashvili did not give us a 2013 this January, and hope that this album someday gets a pressing.
Listen to their bandcamp Here
Download using the link they provide Here