It’s my favorite time of year. No, not Christmas- it’s time for top-albums-of-the-year. This year I’m going off the pop-culture grid, avoiding all music blogs, focusing on my favorites albums. This way you’re privy to lesser known albums not part of the music elite consensus. You may love these or hate ‘em but at least it’s something different.
Eligh and Amp Live
‘Therapy at 3’
Eligh’s ‘Grey Crow’ was last years best rap album- ‘Therapy at 3’ is this years. Since the ‘90s, Eligh’s been blowing minds with his rapid flow and intelligent lyrics. But recently he really stepped up- came out as an opiate addict, a secret he kept from his Living Legends crew, and got sober. Now his music is better than ever.
‘Grey Crow’ was primarily produced by Eligh, this time he enlisted Zion-I’s Amp Live. A wise choice- Amp Live’s UK bass music, electro hip-hop style suites Eligh perfectly. Songs vary from melodic, grimy, even dubstep. Lyrically, this album is full of heart-felt, inspirational tales and real-life struggles.
It irks me to no end that Eminem is crowned ‘best white rapper’ when Eligh exists.
Graphic designer and producer Scott Hansen, a.k.a Tycho, has been steadily building on his winning formula of 70s nostalgia, warm synths and crisp beats, culminating with ‘Dive,’ his best yet. Like Boards of Canada before him, Tycho has added acoustic guitars and goes further with live drum sounds. A meticulous attention to detail sets ‘Dive’ apart from the pack. Song titles perfectly capture the images they invoke- ‘Daydream,’ ‘A Walk,’ ‘Coastal Break.’ Put this on, relax, and let your subconscious drift down memory lane.
Justin Broadrick moves further away from his metal roots to beautiful melancholy. ‘Ascension’ is a slow burn- tidal wave riffs, buried, sad-man vocals and whispery synths. The majority of songs are achingly slow with a feeling of isolation. However, there are moments or triumphant rock, like the Jawbreaker inspired highlight ‘Sedatives.’ Many critics weren’t feeling ‘Ascension,’ but they probably weren’t in the mood. Its rainy-day bedroom rock for the broken hearted.
‘Smoke Ring for my Halo’
Kurt Vile has gone from lo-fi hipster to singer/songwriter with impressive results. I discovered ‘Smoke Ring for my Halo’ late in the year but it’s quickly become one of my favorites. ‘Jesus Fever’ encapsulates everything that makes Kurt Vile so special- simple acoustic guitars, unassuming beats, distinctive vocals and ear-worm lyrics. Tom Petty-esque timelessness mixed with Elliot Smith poignant poetics equals an album worth returning to.
‘Passed Me By’
This is deep. As in a submerged submarine or black hole deep. Like Scorn and Shakelton, Andy Stott takes dub into extremely dark, dense and bleak places. Songs include slow churning, chest rattling sub-bass, polyrhythmic drum patterns and eerie effects. This isn’t club music- more like sensory depravation tank music.
We’ll end this list on a high note. SBTRKT makes fun, poppy, future bass music. Fans of dubstep, electro and mainstream pop can all agree on SBTRKT. ‘Wild Fire’ is my favorite song of the year. Crisp beats, a boomin’ bass line and fantastic vocals from Little Dragon. There’s a simplicity and high-gloss sheen that I appreciate. Nothing wrong with some accessible, dancy electro-pop. This is an album that will bring underground dubstep heads and Rihanna fans together. Bringing people together is a beautiful thing. The moniker should be ADD rather than SBTRKT.