Having missed the official deadline on accounts of sheer drunkenness and stupidly managing my time over Christmas, I wasn’t even really going to bother putting this out; but hey, my ideals of posterity married with the fact that I really did listen to too much music last year to not post anything (plus that I’m stuck at work with pretty much nothing to do as everywhere else is still closed until next week) have won out, so here goes:
Top 5 Mixtapes Of The Year
5. Government Plates by Death Grips
Not strictly a mixtape, but the guys did release this for free online as per the same label-scolding remit that saw the proliferation of their previous album NO LOVE DEEP WEB in late 2012; and it still trades in the wonderfully-bonkers catharsis that characterizes their previous releases too.
4. The Abstract & The Dragon by Busta Rhymes & Q-Tip
More of a compilation in that Busta and Q-Tip had been in the studio together previously to record one of the most underrated tracks of last year in “Thank You” and then decided to put together a celebratory mixtape of past endeavours spanning a good twenty-years just because they had so much fun.
3. Tree House by LE1F
The second mixtape of the year from queer-dancehall rapper LE1F takes a more sultry cue than his previous work, trading in the psychedelic electronics for something a little more accessibly sexier; it’s not very often homosexual desire gets such sensual treatment in hip hop, you know?
2. Run The Jewels by Run The Jewels
Two MC’s who can’t seem to get enough of each other, El-P and Killer Mike follow through after the former single-handedly produced the latter’s 2012 album R.A.P. Music with a combustible collaborative mixtape that justly saw some of the best reviews of the year.
1. CUT 4 ME by Kelela
A mixtape so good that label-runner and good friend Kingdom saw fit to take it down from the Fade To Mind website and actually make people buy it rather than download it for free; you should have heard “Bank Head” already, and rest assured the remainder of this promising singer’s debut cut is just as prodigious.
Top 5 Compilations Of The Year
5. Think And Change from Nonplus+ Records
A compilation featuring some of the most cutting edge dance music to see release over the past year, collating cuts from the likes of Four Tet, Joy Orbison, dBridge and SCB into an at-times galvanizing package.
4. Saint Heron from Saint Records
As curated by Beyoncé‘s über-hip little sister who has since found herself at the forefront of this new kind of hazy nu-soul/R&B, this collection features swoonsome choices from some of the more head-turning new artists of the trend (Kelela herself appearing twice on the set, alongside the likes of Jhené Aiko and Cassie among others).
3. After Dark 2 from Italians Do It Better
A seventy-nine minute-long calling card of beauteous synth-pop from songwriter/producer Johnny Jewel; for those still panging for a sequel to the Drive soundtrack, this should sate their appetites most welcomingly, featuring work from Jewel’s own Glass Candy project, as well as wares from Chromatics and Appaloosa.
2. Late Night Tales: Röyksopp from Late Night Tales
The prolific Late Night Tales series of after-hour grooves and mixes from established musicians reached a pique in 2013 with this contribution from the Norwegian electro-pop masterminds, a truly intoxicating mix featuring the likes of Vangelis, Thomas Dolby and XTC, as well as a couple of tracks from the guys themselves.
1. School Daze from Dark Entries/Honey Soundsystem
A moving reminder that Giorgio Moroder wasn’t the only electronic music pioneer from the 1970s, as producer Patrick Cowley receives a post-humous tribute dedicated to his instrumental b-side experiments as well as his compositions for various gay porn flicks of the time.
Top 5 EP’s Of The Year
5. Mr Jones by Nina Kraviz
A not-so-short-and-sultry treat from Miss Kraviz after dropping her auspiciously-noticed eponymous debut album last year, featuring more of her celebrated brand of spacey beats, pummeling bass and sexily-disembodied vocal samples.
4. Saa by Saa
Debut release from up-and-coming electronic-R&B duo hailing from both the UK and Norway, this self-titled EP manages to summon up some of the more sonically-enveloping songs you’re likely to have never heard from all of last year.
3. Trust by Gold Panda
Before the long-playing follow-up to 2010′s critically-revered debut album Lucky Shiner dropped in the latter half of 2013, UK producer Derwin Schlecker released this starkly pretty bauble of a collection; Half Of Where You Live really should have sounded better on the back of this.
2. In Your Care by Bright Light Bright Light
The UK’s Best Kept-Secret Of A Popstar returned to the fold late in 2013 with this valuable cache of intelligently-written pop, entirely typical of the man responsible for one of the most criminally-ignored debut albums of last year.
1. Rival Dealer by Burial
The closest thing to perfect that any music release of 2013 came to being, Will Bevan continues to enthrall with his patented brand of industrial soundscapes, dusty beats and tortured vocal samples, this time however offering up something close to redemptive solace and light amidst the gritty darkness.
Top 5 Comeback Albums Of The Year
5. the minutes by Alison Moyet
Tapping wunderkind pop extraordinaire Guy Sigsworth to help birth your first album in six years is one of the better ways of saying you’re getting back to your electro-pop roots something sharpish, and Moyet’s return to the synth-ey mold really was something to get all smiley about on its release last spring.
4. Shaking The Habitual by The Knife
Having not released anything together in seven years, perhaps a bit too much electro-pop goodwill may have ended up riding on Karin and Olof’s fourth album; many were thoroughly discombobulated when it finally arrived (especially when their live show hit further heights of bemusement), but there’s still no denying the album’s powerfully-punky spirit.
3. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Many are still reeling from how off-puttingly sincere and reverent helmet-heads Thomas and Guy-Manuel’s LP is as a throwback to the past glories of yesterdecade disco, despite downloading “Get Lucky” in their millions when it first came out; others like myself still find the whole thing rather sweet and moving though.
2. Tomorrow’s Harvest by Boards Of Canada
Tipped off by a genius rabbit-hole campaign that had fans encyclopedically-noting developments until Warp relented with an official release date, Scottish brothers Michael and Marcus’s first album in eight years finally arrived in all its analogue-based, serene-yet-apocalyptic glory.
1. The Next Day by David Bowie
The most high-profile and laudably recognized comeback of the year however belonged to the former Mr. Stardust, who brushed aside rumours of ill-health due to lack of public appearances with the fact that he was actually making his first album of new material in ten years, and it was still full of as much blood, feeling and iconoclastic majesty as we’ve come to expect.
Top 5 Debut Albums Of The Year
5. Drone Logic by Daniel Avery
The first UK dance music producer to find his way on to this list is Mr Avery, who has been giving deep-house techno-heads plenty to rave about over the past few years via numerous remixes and singles, only to launch his debut album in fine style with some of the more luminous notices of the year.
4. Soul Music by Special Request
Otherwise known to his friends as Paul Woolford, his double-disc debut album is one of those grand everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affairs that manages to stick much more of what it throws at the listener than it likely should with regards to its myriad genre influences in grand-yet-laser-focused style.
3. Engravings by Forest Swords
The last UK prodigy to find their way on this list is Matthew Barnes, an electronic producer who deals in soundscapes a lot more bucolic than most (he recorded this LP outside in his garden, apparently) and infused with plenty of English Gothic imagery that nonetheless makes for a head-turning listen at the very least.
2. Woman by Rhye
This half-American/half-Danish singer/songwriter/production duo managed to get tongues wagging enough last year with a couple of their minimalist soul-pop singles last year before dropping their premier LP early last year; so ornate, so sad, so mournful, and still so very beautiful.
1. Echoes by CREEP
However, the best debut album of the year was one that was hardly noticed by anyone, despite featuring enough of a starlit guest roster (Sia, Lou Rhodes, Tricky, Romy Madly Croft from The xx) and some gorgeously-arranged post-trip-hop electro-pop to gain at least some traction. Hopefully it will be discovered to greater effect in 2014; it and the sister-DJ/production duo who created it certainly deserve to.
Phew… And breathe.
Not quite done (hence the Pt. 1 in the title); but give me a while to catch my breath and I’ll get the rest done in a little while.