When I decided to do a group of mini-reviews of albums from the last year, I thought to myself, "Well damn, now I have to pick what to talk about." Turns out I only listened to five or so albums from this whole year, so it wasn't that hard. I may have listened to others but they obviously didn't leave enough of an impact for me to even remember them. So here we go, the five albums Sol actually listened to this year!
The master surrealist filmmaker continued his new musical career this year with his second album,The Big Dream. I was a fan of his first album, Crazy Clown Time, despite the admitted rough edges. Lynch is not a natural born singer with his difficult, nasally, sometimes shrill vocals. That being said, the instrumentals behind the vocals build up one of the most darkly atmospheric soundscapes in any album I have heard. The songs generally flow between two styles: Lynch's version of the blues and far bleaker tracks with a distinct trip-hop sound. Whichever mode he is in, everything comes with a thick coat of reverb and that distinct, dreamy feel that David Lynch is known for. While this album is far more listenable than his last, it still takes some time to get used to. This album is highly recommended for anyone who likes the soundtracks to any of Lynch's movies, or fans of Massive Attack and Portishead. Avoid if you're looking for strong singing or songwriting, something conventional or anything happy.
One of the top artists at the legendary Ninja Tune label, Bonobo has a reputation for making some of the best breakbeat today. The North Borders does nothing to change that reputation. Between the slick beats, lush synths and a touch of natural instruments in all of the right places, this album is consistently calming and interesting. Only five tracks feature vocalists, but all of them blend perfectly with the mood of the album. This is an easy recommendation to make to anyone who generally enjoys music. Avoid if you just absolutely hate electronic music or good music in general.
While Front Line Assembly may not be known quite as well as other industrial acts, they have always been one of the most important. They never reached the same commercial fame as Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, despite being around since the early 80's in one form or another. 2013's Echogenetic is simultaneously a return to their synth based roots and a natural evolution of their sound. The band does away with the heavy guitars first introduced in 1994's Millennium and swaps them for EDM inspired heavy synth lines. The result is what I consider their best album in nearly twenty years. The vocals and lyrical content hasn't changed, but the use of dubstep and electro-house elements changes things up a bit. It's good to see the nearly sixty-year-old Bill Leeb still trying new things and keeping his band's sound fresh. There is an even balance of club-oriented bangers and slower, brooding tracks, but all of them are consistently great. Recommended for those who like dark EDM and industrial music. Avoid if you want happiness or quality lyrics.
I am a huge fan of Emika's eponymous debut album. I have listened to it many, many times and do not think a single track is weak on it. I was looking forward to the release of this album and nearly preordered it from Ninja Tune. I'm glad I didn't. Emika's strongest point is her skill at making clean, well designed audio productions. Hell, she was employed at Native Instruments, arguably the best known music software company in EDM right now, as a sound designer because she has a natural talent for that kind of thing. That's what made her first album is great. There are still signs of that in DVA, but unfortunately it seems that Emika has lost sight of that fact and has tried putting all of the emphasis on her songwriting and singing. She simply isn't that talented in those areas. She is a decent singer, but her lyrics and vocal style often borders on cringeworthy. It sounds like she wants to be the next Beth Gibbons, but ultimately it comes across as cheesy and really detracts from the album. There are some good points on the album, but I just can't bear the flaws this time around. I'll just stick with her first album and hope her third focuses on the sound design again. Also, her music videos are stupid. Recommended for people who like bass-heavy music and people who have a huge tolerance for silly lyrics and vocals. Avoid if you hate electronics and people who try really hard to be deeper than they really are.
Brace yourself, as Melt-Banana is something else entirely. Hardcore at its most hardcore, noise at its noisiest. If you listened to that track posted above, keep in mind that this is among their most accessible tracks. If that was too much, don't bother checking out any of their older stuff, as it is even crazier. The band themselves consider Fetch to be their "pop" album. It's insanity, noise, and surprisingly great technical skill among the members. It's almost a shame that they have put themselves into such a niche audience, because all of them are pretty amazing at their instruments and only a very small audience will ever appreciate them. I hated this album the first time I listened to it, but as I was going around showing people how bad this band is, I started to like them. Your mileage may vary. Recommended if you like being different, scaring your friends and family, and have an extremely high tolerance for high-pitched vocals, multiple layers of fast guitars, and general noisiness. Avoid you want to be known as normal.
There you go, the five albums that made me actually remember them for something. I mostly listened to music from the 90's in the past year. I might make a post talking about some of my hidden gems I found in the last year in a couple days. Now, what albums did you enjoy/hate from 2013? As always, I'll give something at least one listen before dismissing it, unless it's nicki minaj or some garbage that is sapping the intelligence from the general population.