hfb - Zones - 150+ albums to hear in 2014 so far
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MuppetFace

A Special Snowflake
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"Oh universe, sing in reverse."​
 
 
A backwards origin story:
 
Any original meaning passed down has been lost, and everything within has been rendered into incoherency like the liquid fat dripping from a cremated body. The diary of a something something. After an excruciatingly long game of telephone, it's come to this. Or so ancient forum-goers said. Thus the first music blog was born out of chaos. On distant shores Apollo squints as he eyes the slab and---suddenly griped by an overwhelming desire to express himself---plugs a lyre into his Sunn amp, inscribing his thoughts into the monument with a single mighty chord that reverberates through the ages. From the senseless rotary motion of primordial darkness comes a barren rock face bubbling up out of the amorphous grund, its monolithic silhouette outlined by the dim light of a million vacuum tubes.
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A few days ago I saw a documentary about a crematorium; the owner said big enough human bodies can start grease fires. That's true performance art. This, then, is a diary about cremations.
 
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I've been meaning to post a diary entry since last summer. For one reason or another though, I never got around to it. Over time I accumulated more and more notes concerning things I wanted to say. Over time I also became more and more indifferent toward audio equipment, and my growing inattention coupled with a backlog of thoughts that was nearly impossible to disseminate resulted in a thrown towel. The only thing I choose to salvage from all of it now is something I wrote about scents. It's been said that smell is the the most potent stimulant of memories, more than even sight and sound.  Seems appropriate then as a way to memorialize my chaotic musings from the end of last summer to this one.
 
People think I'm being intentionally weird when I talk about the way headphones smell; to me, it seems weirder to not notice something like that. Some headphones smell bad. These usually come from the sales forum. Leather that has been worn for a long time definitely has its own distinctive odor, and at times men's aftershave is bonded to it at the atomic level. This gives some used headphones a particularly masculine quality. On the other hand, fabrics can be far better suited to capturing the ancient moaning specter of bodily funk. Those little fabric headbands on older Stax models are particularly insidious; they end up losing all definition, turning into a twisted and pilled artifact resembling a mummy's pantyliner. That's usually the first thing I replace on vintage e-stats, as more times than not it reeks of several decades' worth of brow sweat and hair grease.
 
Of course, there are pleasant smells as well. Different brands make for different olfactory experiences fresh from their packaging. The original LCD-2 has an absolutely enthralling bouquet of wood and fresh leather. Sometimes I'll take it out of its box just to smell it. The Sennheiser HD700 and HD800 tend to smell a bit like flat pack furniture, a combination of plastics and synthetic fabrics with a hint of sawdust. They smell efficient and progressive. The Fostex TH600 and TH900 on the other hand have a very strange smell; if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say it was made by the artificial egg protein leather. Thankfully it's not a sulfury, eggy kind of stink but rather a somewhat spicy kind of musk. It's exotic and connotes luxury but in an old world kind of sense, like what I'd imagine an imperial palace to smell like minus the sweat of eunuchs. My absolute favorite type of headphone scent is the one present inside some IEM cases and smaller headphones like the Focal Spirit One. The smell is impossible for me to describe directly, but it reminds me of certain office buildings and museums that treat and recycle their air continuously. It might have a tiny hint of library and just a dash of gasoline too. It's a smell I associate with learning and the past.
 
 
 
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For me high end audio equipment was---and still is, to some extent---a fixation running parallel to music. It's functional art I enjoy in and of itself, and it provides a means of exploring sound. I've always harbored a certain degree of cognitive dissonance though because so much of what I listen to is produced in bedrooms or mastered by amateurs or just intentionally lo-fi. No file format or super DAC will change that. To that end, if there's one tip I can give audiophiles out there, it's this: the second most important link in the "audio chain" (after you yourself) is the recording and how it was mastered. The reason why vinyl records often sound superior to other formats is because they're culled from better masters.
 
Low fidelity doesn't bother me for the most part. I'm not prone to viewing recorded music in a Platonic way, as existing in an ideal state that's then made imperfect by anything that alters it. This seems to be a common audiophile perspective, and it even goes beyond the master copy when "live music" is used as a synonym for ultimate fidelity. There's nothing wrong with that. I just have a hard time relating. Recorded music is far more interesting to me in a contextual sense: whether it's on vintage speakers in a loft in Munich or crappy earbuds on a plane flying over Vegas as I turn twenty. Or part of a sound installation. With the emergence of DJ culture and sampling, the playback and manipulation of music has become a form of artistic expression in and of itself. Entire genres have emerged from the the pops and hiss of vinyl imperfections. Really, I'm increasingly interested in degradation in art as a whole. In cremations.
 
I still listen with my headphones. I also listen on decent (but by no means top of the line) desktop speakers. My favorite way to listen to music though by far is on my car's crappy audio system while driving in the morning before the sun rises.
 
 
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These days I feel much more inclined to write about audio / visual art. In that sense I'm not want for inspiration: this has been a pretty extraordinary year for new music releases. The rest of this post will be devoted to around 170 albums I want to share with you, my esteemed reader. Keep in mind this list is based on the year so far, and there are quite a lot of exciting things coming out in the four some months to come. So to start things off, I'll cover
 
 
My 30 favorite albums of 2014 so far:
 
 
0 3 0.  Badbadnotgood  -  III
Nighttime rendezvous in jazz clubs filled with mannequins posed in haphazard ways, all part of an alien experiment to see how people unwind.

 
0 2 9. Yagya  -  Sleepygirls
Legendary ambient techno master creates another perfect soundtrack to a rainy morning's commute, guiding electronics and particulate vocal samples like droplets hypnotically cascading down your car's windows.

 
0 2 8.  Alexander Turnquist  -  Flying Fantasy
Shimmering Appalachian dulcimer style guitar playing that celebrates the universe around us with wide eyed wonderment.

 
0 2 7.  Clipping  -  Clppng
Tales of cannibalistic women and armed robbery, as told by MC Daveed's monstrous flow and teeth rattling power electronics.

 
 
0 2 6.  Murmur  -  Murmur
Demented, lumbering death metal that covers King Crimson --- need I say more?

 
0 2 5.  Kemialliset Ystavat  -  Alas Rattoisaa Virtaa
Bizarre Finnish folk with electronic bleeps and bloops add in, not unlike a sonic representation of the Christmas tree and colorful barrage depicted on the album cover.

 
 
0 2 4.  Wovenhand  -  Refractory Obdurate
Rocking apocalyptic folk for bleary eyed mystics who await the coming dawn.

 
0 2 3.  Brock Van Wey  -  Home
The soundtrack to heavenly ascension, now available on your iPhone.

 
0 2 2.  Dead Congregation  -  Promulgation of the Fall
Like painting a baroque masterpiece with a giant club, this decidedly 'old school' death metal is brutal yet meticulously crafted by experienced hands.

 
0 2 1.  Sharon Van Etten  -  Are We There
A girl, a guitar, and the occasional drum machine all coalesce into track after track of beautiful songwriting.

 
0 2 0.  Moodie Black  -  Nausea
Epic, noise laden hip hop swirls all around you, spinning you round and round 'till you go down the drain.

 
 
0 1 9.  Panopticon  -  Roads To the North
The folk music of rural North America gives Panopticon's black metal a sound all its own, yet Roads To the North retains the genre's spirit of isolation and human insignificance amidst nature's majesty.


0 1 8.  Mr. Dream - Ultimate In Luxury
Kinetic garage rock fueled by anxiety dreams of teeth falling out and showing up late to tests, Mr. Dream's posthumous release is a piece of nervous cassette tape mastery.

 
0 1 7.  Tobacco  -  Ultima II Message
An alien race that communicates in broken acid beats uses this LP for their VHS tape rituals.
 
 
0 1 6.  Neneh Cherry  -  Blank Project
Soulful pop meted out through a wide variety of looping beats and sounds gives Neneh Cherry's first solo LP in nearly twenty years a scaled back but intensely focused quality.

 
0 1 5.  Atlas Moth  -  The Old Believer
Black 'n' roll that pits you against a pack of ravenous wolves but congratulates you afterward with a morphine drip.

 
0 1 4.  Xiu Xiu - Angel Guts: Red Classroom
While it still has several entry points, this LP is a noisy return for a man who can induce feelings of discomfort in listeners using intense self scrutiny.

 
0 1 3.  Millie & Andrea  -  Drop the Vowels
Urban electronica that meanders through grimy city streets carrying nothing but a smart phone with pictures of a closet shrine to its ancestors.

 
0 1 2.  Shabazz Palaces  -  Lese Majesty
Spaced out hip hop that ebbs and flows like the tide, its gravitational wonderment the result of subtle music making by moonlight.

 
0 1 1. Open Mike Eagle  -  Dark Comedy
One of the most relatable hip hop albums I've ever heard delivered through the brilliant bars and gymnastic flows of someone with a great sense of humor.

 
0 1 0.  Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks  -  Enter the Slasher House
Round up the gang of Sid and Marty Krofft puppets and go to a drive in movie that plays in a language no one knows.

 
0 0 9.  Cloak of Altering  -  Plague Beasts
Higher dimensional beings leave our existence a ruined crater in their wake as they go to war, mutants rip their own heads off, and sewer rats coalesce into huge knives and are fired like arrow from bows made out of contorted people.

 
0 0 8.  Freddie Gibbs & Madlib  -  Pinata
What might seem like an oil and water combination ends up being milk and honey as Madlib tailors his beats perfectly to Freddie Gibbs, and the result is a yummy dream come true.

 
0 0 7.  Casket Girls  -  True Love Kills the Fairy Tale
Any one of these neon soaked tracks could be another band's top single, and in a perfect world this would be playing on the radio in everyone's sky car.

 
0 0 6.  Step Brothers  -  Lord Steppington
This morning I wrote a love letter to this album and its left field beats, creative transitions, and metaphors within metaphors.

 
0 0 5.  Protomartyr  -  Under Color of Official Right
The perfect soundtrack to drinking beer in a warehouse until dawn is an LP that alternates between clean, hook laden post-punk propulsion and blown out in-the-red jams.

 
0 0 4.  Helms Alee  -  Sleepwalking Sailors
The tightest effort yet from a band who takes diverse, seemingly incompatible elements, bizarre angularity, and strangeness of proportion to form doom pop masterpieces of aching beauty.

 
0 0 3.  Isaiah Rashad  -  Cilvia Demo
This addictive debut album weds aggressive, impeccable flow to laid back atmospheric production, and in the process it manages to transcend the usual trappings of "southern hip hop" to create something that bumps from coast to coast.

 
0 0 2.  Hundred Waters  -  The Moon Rang Like a Bell
Hypnotic female vocals woven together with threads of beautiful instrumentation and dream-like ambiance to create something that stirs up the subconscious and causes me to feel certain ways without my really knowing why.

 
0 0 1.  Swans  -  To Be Kind
During a dinner party in hell, a sailor suit clad Michael Gira perversely mewls "I'm just a little boy!" and licks his all-day-lollipop for the entertainment of all the guests who reply in turn with canned laughter, the frequencies of which bring about the end times.

 
 
 
 
Other albums I've enjoyed this year:
 

>>Actress  -  Ghettoville
If the bare tracks of Zomby's With Love were about electronica's past foundation leading to new beginnings, then the stark production on Actress' Ghettoville conveys the opposite: a current musical landscape flattened and reduced to rubble, barren and no longer able to support life.
 
>>Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell  -  Check 'Em Before Your Wreck 'Em
Heavy rock, proto-metal, whatever you wanna call it... this stuff will kick you in the groin then drag you to the nearest cemetery, and it'll do it with some left over psychedelic panache and a weird glint in its eye.

>>Agalloch  -  The Serpent & The Sphere
Folk infused black metal that realizes the forest is a cosmic entity among the stars.
 
>>Alcest - Shelter
Now exorcised of any lingering black metal spirits, Alcest steps out into the daylight and delivers a surprisingly authentic-sounding early 90s shoegaze rock album addressed to the sun.

>>Alvvays - Alvvays
Impossibly catchy indie pop rock that's like a hazy stroll down memory lane with your high school crush.

>>Ambarchi / O'Malley / Dunn  -  Shade Themes From Kairos
An ever-changing body of abstract drone rock that shimmers with electronic bleeps and bloops, gallops with drums and tablas, and builds into a full-on doom mountain that reaches towards the Sunn O))).
 
>>Artificial Brain  -  Labyrinth Constellation
These days I'm not as much of a fan of tech death and grind as I used to be, but every so often I come across something that's too amazing to ignore; stunning musicianship is matched by a head-spinning pace, but what makes this even more appealing for me are the genuine melodies and hooks that are somehow integrated into the icy, alien maze of this album.

>>Atmoasphere  -  Southsiders
Slug ventures into fresh lyrical territory for hip hop duo Atmosphere's new LP, and the result is a successful rekindling of passion.
 
>>The Austerity Program  -  Beyond Calculation
Everyone who talks about these guys always mentions the drum machine in the same breath---putting it on equal footing---which is hysterical but pretty accurate as it forms such a huge part of their sound; on their latest album I can't even tell if there's a drum machine or if it's a person, but either way the music remains mechanical yet wild and organic at the same time, like a tree growing from a car's hollowed out shell.
 
>>Autopsy  - Tourniquets, Hacksaws & Graves
One of the most fitting album titles of all time.

>>Bear In Heaven  -  Time Is Over One Day Old
What seems like bedroom synth pop at first veers off into an almost bite-sized Vision Creation Newsun with trance inducing electro sun worship, making this album surprisingly medicinal in effect.

>>Behemoth  -  The Satanist
This daunting monolith of a record is making a lot of heads spin thanks to its ruthless and uncompromising approach to apocalyptic, blackened death metal.
 
>>Bohren & Der Club of Gore  -  Piano Nights
Jazz lullabies for listless winter nights.

>>Boris  -  Noise
Japanese heavy rock legends are back after last year's amazing Praparat with a more accessible album that serves as a nice overview of the band's different styles; it's kind of weird that they'd choose to make some of the best material of the recording sessions bonus tracks for the Japanese-only version, but then again, that kind of behavior is pretty typical for Boris.

>>The Bug  -  Angels & Devils
Dunno how this producer manages to get his synths sounding so creepy crawly---like some kind of monster---but it's awesome mid tempo accompaniment for a host of special guests including Inga Copeland and MC Ride of Death Grips.
 
>>Cakes Da Killa  -  Hunger Pangs
Flamboyant, aggressive, and electric sounding hip hop that feels like its constantly trying to tear its way out of the confines of its mixtape.

>>Chrome  -  Feel It Like A Scientist
Even with one of the duo's vital members gone and a sound that is no longer so revelatory, this new album manages to capture the dystopian futuro essence of what made Chrome so great in the 70s

>>Cloud Nothings  -  Here and Nowhere Else
Admittedly, I miss their earlier exuberance and snark, but it's still exciting to hear how this loveable band is evolving with longer, more structurally and emotionally complex songs.

>>Cormega  -  Mega Philosophy
Great flows, great lyrical content, and smooth production on this hip hop album that goes down to earth and even deeper.

>>Craft Spells  -  Nausea
It's hard not to fall for this overwrought bedroom virtuoso who keeps looking over his shoulder, as the music he makes doesn't just idolize the past, it longs to be there again.

>>CunninLynguists  -  Strange Journey Volume 3
Bump this in the whip and prepare to take off with some old and new school hybridizing hip hop that's truly out of this world.
 
>>Current 93  -  I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell (A Channel)
A veritable who's who of esoteric musicians makes this liturgical celebration one of this most diverse (and best) releases from David Tibet in a long time.

>>C V 3 1 3  -  Altering Illusions
Delicate beats sail on and on across icy seas of analog hiss, the inky black sky punctuated with shooting stars as luminous synths cut in and trail off into the night.

>>CyHi Tha Prynce  -  Black Hystori Project
"I'm pullin' chicks like Scorpion."
 
>>Cymbals Eat Guitar  -  Lose
Feverishly beautiful at times and painfully obnoxious at others, this LP unfolds like a young person's life complete with highs and lows and an aimlessness that coalesces into moments of profundity now and then.

>>Dama / Libra  -  Claw
Beach doom.
 
>>Daniel Bachman  -  Orange Country Serenade
Blues masters can conjure a shocking array of sounds from their instruments, and on this album a solo guitar creates a life's narrative in all its complexity and singularity, spinning hypnotic tales that are hard to shy away from once they reach your ears.
 
>>Dark Sky  -  Imagin
You're walking through a landscape that looks like this album's cover, and you're carrying a faulty teleportation device that periodically beams you to two different outer space nightclubs simultaneously as you travel across the grey rocks, the endless dark sky above you.

>>David Kilgour  -  End Times Undone (with The Heavy Eights)
Scuba diving with a nitrous tank, taking in the beautiful sights while light headed.

>>Deadbeat + Paul St. Hilaire  -  The Infinity Dub Sessions
For those who like actual dub in their dub techno: this has a somewhat different vibe compared to Deadbeat's other projects, almost dancehall-ish at times, but still atmospheric and icy enough though for those warm nights.

>>Deadmau5  -  while(1<2)
Normally I don't find this type of EDM all that compelling, so this project caught me off guard with its delicate drones and flowing ambient soundscapes
 
>>Dilated Peoples  -  Directors of Photography
Eighteen grainy photographs that tell both down-and-out and up-n-coming stories, ambiguous at times like Antonioni's Blow Up in the hood.
 
>>Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket  - In a Dutch Haze
Two psych rock heavyweights have a meet and greet that turns into a nearly hour-long guitar sting worshiping 70s core meltdown, and it's all captured on what has to be the most ridiculous hard rock artifact this year.
 
>>FaltyDL  -  In the Wild
It's hard for me to really get a sense of this artist's identity, as their albums have always seemed like chameleons, and this newest assortment continues that trend while displaying some really interesting ideas throughout its production.

>>FKA Twigs  -  LP1
Lots of soulectronica this year, but LP1's effortless R&B and penchant for understated but off-kilter, interesting production makes it stand out from the crowd.

>>The Flaming Lips  -  7 Skies H3
It's an interesting time to be a Lips fan: Wayne Coyne seems to have sustained a Phineas Gage-esque head injury or is---at the very least--having a midlife crisis that is turning him into a massive sleazeball, and at the same time the band's music has gone from beautifully life affirming to damaged and hostile, eschewing much of the playfulness that even their earliest, weird and noisy music hard; this particular LP captures moments from a 24 hour performance, so it has a certain palpable energy from the event coursing through its tracks.

>>Floor  -  Oblation
Like a heavier version of Torche, the underrated sludge rockers return with their third album in a million years, and it's their catchiest stuff yet.

>>Fked Up  -  Glass Boys
Candy shell coated hardcore music that will drag your rancid coffin smoking into sunlight.
 
>>Future Islands  -  Singles
Synth ballads for the indie set with some really interesting vocals from their frontman.
 
>>Gardens & Villa -  Dunes
A lovely, grainy Viewmaster trip through beaches and desert landscapes.

>>Gene The Southern Child  -  Southern Meridian
Over the years Southern style hip hop has turned up on the discographies of rappers from across the US, but lately it seems like the stream flows both ways thanks to artists like Gene who bring in outside influences and new styles of production.
 
>>Herzog  -  Boys
A summer's hard rock smorgasbord accented by moments of Mountain Goats-ish storytelling and topped off with several helpings of reckless abandon.

>>Heterotic  -  Weird Drift
A new age vision of the future from an 80s obsessed perspective with breathy vocals and electronic production that occasionally drifts into some midi-funk territory and is all the better for it.
 
>>Hiss Tracts  -  Shortwave Nights
Making the ordinary into something extraordinary, this collection of droning transmissions is composed of familiar bits and pieces that take on a new life when stretched and woven together into a sonic tapestry of sorts, and much like the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, these compositions find transcendence in the simplest of phenomena.

>>Honeyblood  -  Honeyblood
Somehow this manages to be a shoegaze rock album without much shoegazing.
 
>>Inventions  -  Inventions
Gorgeous soundscapes that range from bubbling pools of Fennesz-esque glitchtronics to delicate, foggy drift filled morning drives to loud sun baked drones with percussive accompaniments.
 
>>James Blackshaw  -  Fantômas : Le Faux Magistrat
Meandering pianos and shuffling post-rock dirges drift circles in the mist while Fantomas silently plays somewhere off in the distance.
 
>>Keiji Haino + Masataka Fujikake Duo  -  HARDを何十乗させたら光の粒が降り注ぐのか?
The hardest, most focused, overdriven and in-the-red psychedelic jamming put to wax this year bar none.
 
>>King Buzzo  -  This Machine Kills Artists
Twangy folk served up Melvins style that's best digested in small bites.

>>La Sera  -  Hours of the Dawn
Katy Goodman = one of my biggest rock crushes; this album = her most crushing as La Sera to date.
 
>>Lawrence English  -  Wilderness of Mirrors
A strangely beautiful world of underwater cemeteries rife with particulate debris and beams of sunlight dappling on submerged monuments, a world where the dead have risen from their crypts to gracefully float to the surface, set adrift in slow motion by a gentle breeze.

>>Liars  -  Mess
With each new record, the promise of the last turns out to be a lie as the band has moved on to another new sound entirely: now they've trade their previous stuttering IDM for blown out goth-tinged EDM, and the result is a fun, dark, distorted mess.

>>Little Dragon  -  Nabuma Rubberband
This year has been filled with 'soulectronica' (soul vocals + electronic production), but Little Dragon is one of the veterans at it, and on this latest LP that experience is apparent as they craft some of their most spacious and refined music to date, all the while keeping the playful tone that sets them apart from more angst ridden artists.

>>Lord Mantis  -  Death Mask
Writhing around in the cracks between death and doom metal, this grotesque entity is responsible for some of this year's most sadistic music.
 
>>Mac Miller  -  Faces
This guy was hard to take seriously at one point, but on this latest---rather massive---double mixtape he's making the most emotionally genuine music of his career thus far.

>>Mark McGuire  -  Along the Way
Equal parts guitar strings and Mass Effect, the music of Mark McGuire sounds like folk ballads from the far-flung future; so grab your spaceship and go on a road trip to see the beautiful landscapes made from FX pedal filters and loops.

>>Mastodon  -  Once More 'Round the Sun
Unlike most people who've listened to Mastodon, The Hunter was my favorite album of theirs since that Moby Dick album as it just combined so many ill fitting elements together (Ozzyish vocals, Torche guitars, Alice In Chains passages), but this latest effort seems to take that approach and make it more Mastodon-y and slightly more accessible to fans of their older sound.

>>Mayhem  -  Esoteric Warefare
The black metal old guard returns with their first new full length since 2007 and their best material since 1994.

>>Mellowhype  -  INSA
Like all Mellowhype stuff, this mixtape is immature and by no means perfect, but this time around it takes their dark and hazy sound to new levels of consistency and  proficiency.

>>The Men  -  Tomorrow's Hits
These men have sailed the stormy seas of guitar rock for several albums now, but on their latest the waters seem a bit calmer which---paradoxically---makes the tracks more rocking.

>>Merchandise  -  After The End
Lovely people-watching rock with a heavy lidded kind of pace.

>>Mick Jenkins  -  The Water
A wonderfully spaced-out and deep sounding hip hop mixtape from this up 'n' coming  wordsmith who draws inspiration from some of the best.

>>Misery Index  -  The Killing Gods
These grindcore veterans strike a nice balance between musical showmanship and visceral impact.

>>Mogwai  -  Rave Tapes
I can't help but feel warm and fuzzy whenever I think of these Scottish post-rockers who I discovered during my transition to college life, but this album has a strong nostalgic air regardless, and it's all thanks to prominently featured vintage synths, enigmatic samples, and a smaller scale than their usual production that nevertheless results in one of their most gorgeous statements yet.

>>Monarch!  -  Sabbracadaver
The tortured doom mongers from the Basque lands are back with another soundtrack to tectonic plates shifting, but sadly no new Hello Kitty style art of burning churches and skulls for the album's cover.

>>Morrissey  -  World Peace Is None of Your Business
Not for everyone---even some Morrissey fans---but those who get on its wavelength are in for a good time.

>>Motorpsycho  -  Behind the Sun
One of the most tragically ignored bands of the past 20 years returns with a proggy psych rock followup to last year's essential Still Life With Eggplant that harkens back to their earlier more uplifting sound.

>>Mount Eerie  -  Pre-Human Ideas
P. W. Elverum is constantly revisiting past albums as if under the spell of some repetition compulsion, and on Pre-Human Ideas he repurposes bits of Clear Moon and Ocean Roar to present them in an entirely new context: mapped out in Garage Band with synthetic instruments and robotic vocals.
 
>>Music Blues  -  Things Haven't Gone Well
Harvey Milk is one of my favorite bands of all time, so when one of its members puts out a solo LP I take notice; here Stephen Tanner presents an array of minimal, down-tuned doom rock vignettes that come together into a rather baffling whole, much like the collection of cigarette butts and alligator soap dish on the cover's sink.

>>Nadja  -  Queller
After a number of experimental releases dabbling in everything from grindcore to hip hop, the dynamic duo is back doing what they do best: making fuzzed out doom that sounds like cosmic mattresses colliding in space.

>>Naomi Punk  -  Television Man
Wrestle your TV into submission as you listen to this LP of noisy yet strangely melodic punk rock broadcasts --- y'know that's how I love 'em.

>>New Pornographers  -  Brill Bruisers
Colorful, bouncy, effervescent, thoughtful... simultaneously futuristic and nostalgic and overall pretty brilliant.
 
>>Nothing  -  Guilty of Everything
Doom rock with shoegazer fuzz that's mainly guilty of catchy songwriting.
 
>>The Oath  -  The Oath
This band taps a bewitching vein of distorted intros, vintage horror movie riffs, and spooky chick vocals to set them apart from the dime a dozen bands operating within  the same metal framework.

>>OOIOO  -  Gamel
Gamelan album of the year!

>>oOoOO  -  Without Your Love
The latest album from 'witch house' producer OOOoooOOoOOooOoOoo sounds haunted in a subtle way this time around, like ghostly images in a rear view mirror as opposed to fright night at an amusement park.

>>Ought  -  More Than Any Other Day
The Minutemen got kiwi rockers The Bats drunk on red wine from a box, and this is the underachieving son they produced.

>>Owen Pallett  -  In Conflic
If robots engaged in Socratic dialog with an orchestra, I think it might sound something like this.
 
>>P.S. I Love You  -  For Those Who Stay
Like forcing a bunch of smarmy indie rock scene kids to skydive while playing crunchy guitar solos.
 
>>Quilt  -  Held In Splendor
With this album you get 13 tiny K-cups filled with west coast psychedelic rock.
 
>>Ratking  -  So It Goes
Strap some rockets to your Jordans and fly through sewer tunnels while bumping this, one of this year's most propulsive hip hop albums, on your shouldered boombox.

>>Riff Raff  -  Neon Icon
People are still trying to figure this guy out (is he serious or not?), but who cares when he raps to dolphin noises.
 
>>The Roots  -  ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
Respected hip hop group puts on a theater production that tells a story of darkness and light.

>>Rustie  -  Green Language
Big, bright, and brash electronica suitable for crystalline entities.
 
>>Sage Francis  -  Copper Gone
No doubt about it: this album is a tour de force thanks to the MC's monstrous spitting ability, but beyond the rap battle bravado he conjures some genuinely touching sentiments about life and the way some choose to live it.

>>Septicflesh  -  Titan
Once again, they're made the perfect soundtrack to some ancient civilization's ruler going mad and forcing his people to build huge monuments to reach the gods above.
 
>>Serpentine Path  -  Emanations
The problem with musical 'super groups' rests on assuming that several highly talented individuals will necessarily work well together; on the contrary, these guys have cohered well over the course of two albums and have finally established their own style of death honed doom metal.

>>Skyzoo & Torae  -  Barrel Brothers
Two guys rapping their asses off track after track makes this album exhausting but impressive, and hearing how the MCs work together and play off their strengths is the biggest reward of listening.

>>Sofia Reta  -  Le Cuisiner
The most mysterious electronic album this year, created by an artist who lurks in the corners of the Internet, obscured by voice filters and ambiguous imagery within a complex, large, and oddly beautiful discography.

>>The Soft Pink Truth  -  Why Do The Heathen Rage?
A blasphemous record for those who worship black metal, this project turns the genre's notorious homophobia on its head as it turns classic (and not-so-classic) tracks into house remixes and dancefloor hits.

>>St. Vincent  -  St. Vincent
Taking the more rollicking parts of her last outing as a starting point and dialing things up from there, the pop super-songstress returns with her noisiest statement yet without abandoning the catchy paradigm that has come to define her work.
 
>>Statik Selektah  -  What Goes Around
Hip hop that will appeal to mainstream rap fans and 'backpackers' alike thanks to the  whip bumpability factor and the dynamic flows of guests like Logic.

>>A Sunny Day In Glassgow  -  Sea When Absent
Jogging through crashing ocean waves and projectile marine life forms the latest chapter in ASDIG's treatise on shoegaze-soaked pop.
 
>>Teebs  - E S T A R A
This electronica sounds so wet and alive, like everything is composed out of tiny liquid animals dancing and jingling a set of keys, which in turn are composed of smaller animals still in a never-ending inward cascade toward atomic grooves.

>>Teitanblood  -  Death
Imagine you discover an old, half broken television that can only tune in to one channel: hell.

>>Tempel  -  On the Steps of the Temple
Instrumental metal with copious blackened elements all framed in a monumental post-rock style.

>>Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra  -  ***** Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything
Epic post-rock compositions that utilize abrasive vocals as another instrument to add to the clamor.

>>Trans Am  -  Volume X
Throwback synth excursions featuring some really satisfying textures with grunt behind them.
 
>>Trepaneringsritualen  -  Perfection & Permanence
Darker sounding than a lot of metal bands out there, this experimental sound sculptor forges some truly infernal compositions out of electronic grime, loops, and nigh incomprehensible growls.

>>Trust  -  Joyland
A more bubbly, ecstasy fueled outing for a band that manages to convey a certain grimy honesty akin to looking into the mirror in a nightclub's unisex bathroom.

>>Twilight  -  III: Beneath Trident's Tomb
Evil cultists hammer away in their shops, preparing a colossus that will one day roam the countryside and pick up churches to shake their congregations out into its gaping maw.

>>Ty Segall  -  Manipulator
Ty is your connection for vintage-sounding garage rock, so meet him in the alley if you want the best stuff.
 
>>The Underachievers  -  Cellar Door: Terminus Ut Exordium
Finally, the official debut full length of this amazing hip hop group is here, and for the most part it delivers on what made their mixtapes so interesting and fresh.
 
>>Vampillia  -  The Divine Move /
This group is nearly indescribable at times, but they remind me of an Osakan noise band playing just about every genre of metal under the sun, only with some strong J-pop elements thrown in for good measure; the most baffling, bizarre, melodic, and not-even-metal metal album this year.
Note: More baffling still, these guys and gals have released two other full-lengths this year: My Beautiful Twisted Nightmares in Aurora Rainbow Darkness and Some Nightmares Take You Aurora Rainbow Darkness which are basically sister albums with many similarities. There are also a number of EPs this year too.

>>Vanhelgd  -  Relics of Sulphur Salvation
They smote each other not alone with hands, But with the head and with the breast and feet, Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. --Inferno, Canto 7.
 
>>White Fence  -  For The Recently Found Innocent
This album has such an authentic late 60s feel to it it's nuts, but unlike the band's previous efforts the production is a lot better this time around.
 
>>White Lung  -  Deep Fantasy
At first I didn't much care for this stuff, but after prolonged exposure I find myself coming back for more and more of its energetic alt-punk sugariness and frontwoman's off kilter delivery.
 
>>White Suns  -  Totem
Scans of the planet's surface reveals a primitive civilization who destroyed itself using large guitars hooked up to even larger amplifiers
 
>>Wife  -  What's Between
A Wong Kar Wai film makes love to a food processor resulting in a slurry of neon-lit streets, makeup, noodle shops, handguns, bedsheets, and pining lovers.
 
>>Wolves In the Throne Room  -  Celestite
Plenty of black metal bands have gone ambient, but here the USBM outfit sounds just as majestic and epic as they usually do, creating a soundtrack for rolling thunderstorms just before dusk and the starry skies just before dawn.
 
>>Wounded Kings  -  Consolamentum
Many worship at the altars of Sabbath or Vitus to try an sound more 'authentic,' but they end up making it druggier or proggier or more funeral-ier; the Wounded Kings on the other hand make it doomier by slowing down and creating an atmosphere many doom fans will hold near and dear to the void in their chests where a heart should be.
 
>>Wrong  -  Pessimistic Outcomes
From the dark recesses of some putrid dungeon come the tormented cries of a poor lost soul driven to madness by his unseen captors; these are the sounds that emanate from Wormed frontman Phlegeton as he pounds away at his drums, accompanied by the melancholic buzz of black metal guitars that consume everything in their wake.
 
>>YOB  -  Clearing the Path To Ascend
Even if Catharsis will always be my favorite album from these guys, their journey down the path of sonic enlightenment continually results in some of the best prog scented doom out there.
 
>>Young Widows  -  Easy Pain
Hard sound.
 
>>Zackey Force Funk  -  Money Green Vipers
Strangely addictive electro funk from Bandcamp with off-kilter vocals, stumbling beats, warbling synths and a really enduring vibe.
 
 
 
 
Best EPs, splits, etc:
 
>>Blut Aus Nord  /  P.H.O.B.O.S.  -  Triunity (split)
>>The Body  -  I Shall Die Here (EP)
>>Death Grips  -  N***as On the Moon (part 1 of their upcoming double album)
>>Girl Talk & Freeway  -  Broken Ankles (EP)
>>Graves At Sea  /  Sourvein (split)
>>Mournful Congregation  -  Concrescence of the Sophia (EP)
>>Necros Christos  -  Nine Graves (EP)
>>Perfect P*ssy  -  Say Yes To Love (EP)
>>Sofia Reta  -  Hearts of Yorke (EP)
>>Thee Oh Sees  -  Drop (EP)
>>Vampillia  -  White Silence (EP)
 
Best compilations:
 
>>Cold Cave  -  Full Cold Moon
>>Pye Corner Audio  -  The Black Mill Tapes
 
Best re-issues:
 
>>Bardo Pond  -  Shone Like a Ton
>>Lewis  -  L'Amour
>>White Hills  -  Glitter Glamor Atrocity
 
Honorable mentions:
>>Neil Cicierega's Mouth Silence & Mouth Sounds
Really cool mash-up albums that combine lots of cultural references in ways that shouldn't work but do.
 
 
.-*-..-*-.
.-*-..-*-..-*-.
 
 
 
 
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driver 8

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 >>Lawrence English  -  Wilderness of Mirrors A strangely beautiful world of underwater cemeteries rife with particulate debris and beams of sunlight dappling on submerged monuments, a world where the dead have risen from their crypts to gracefully float to the surface, set adrift in slow motion by a gentle breeze.
 
^ This stood out to my subconscious/peripheral vision as I was scrolling to see your next post (since I know I lack the time and focus to check most of this out now, is all) and I've been enjoying what bits of it I've heard on YouTube so far.  Thank you!
 
I'll make a point to listen to more of these in the future and post about the ones I really enjoy.
 
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warrenpchi

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Wow... :)
 
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Sorrodje

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So much music to discover ! Thks !

 
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shugog

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Hey man! What are your impressions on Opeth's Pale Communion?
 
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xylin6

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Avey Tare and Sid and Marty Krofft...
yeah i can see that connection..  always figured the kids from Animal Collective for Lidsville/Puf'n'stuff/Bugaloo fans.and no doubt Tobacco has some S+M Krofft in his private VHS reserves.
 
 
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daniel_hokkaido

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I thought that Ambarchi album featured Kyle Bobby Dunn for a mo. Ever hear of him Muppetface? 
 
Exquisite neo-classical drone. Def would sound good with electrostatics 
 
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Hey MF... do you write for Pitchfork?!?! :p j/k
 
Will definitely check out some on this list. Definitely interested in Protomartyr, Sharon Van Etten, the new Mastodon and a few others!
 
 
Thanks.
 
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anetode

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I'm loving these reviews, they have a sort of baroque Robert Christgau vibe to them.
 
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kurochin

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Strange. Most peeps do a "year so far" list sometime in June, but here we have on in September? Still awesome though, so much thanks. Some new stuff to check out. Weren't some of these (like DJ Sprinkles' comp of remixes) released in 2013, though?

I'm probably the only person who's heard the Shabazz Palaces album and not liked it. I get what it's going for, but for some reason it just doesn't gel with me. Also can't say I enjoyed the Morrissey (and I'm a fan of his), Neneh Cherry and Swans albums as much as you did. Actress and Teebs might've placed higher in my list (top 20 for Teebs, surely). Ditto for Keiji Haino & Masataka Fujikake Duo.

Props for not having anything from Norah Jones or Chesky Records on the list. =P
 
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Mr.Sneis

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I am so lame and blind I have never heard of a single one of these performers or their albums.
 
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Frank I

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Me neither but it is awesome to be offered some new stuff Ricky. I found Liquid Stranger from Mike Mercer and Alex Rosson gave me a copy and the electronica is consuming me it is awesome. Want to hear  some of these albums Muppet listed 
 
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